Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fake News Fox: After Quebec shooting, white nationalists, Twitter bots, and Fox News spread misinformation

Mod: Here is an interesting news item from a decent enough source called The Daily Dot. It appears that Fox News got its initial information on the Quebec shootings from some very interesting places. Neo-Nazis and the Russians being two. Fair and Balanced? You decide, as they say.

After Quebec shooting, white nationalists, Twitter bots, and Fox News spread misinformation (The Daily Dot link): In the small hours of Monday morning, false information presented as facts about the tragic mosque shooting in Quebec rapidly engulfed Twitter.

Fabricated details about the horrendous crime in Quebec City, which left six worshipers dead and more than a dozen others wounded, were promoted by an army of bots and high-profile right-wing commentators.

The shooter, they claimed, was a Muslim. First, a Syrian refugee; then, a man of “Moroccan origin,” as Fox News claimed in an article it quietly deleted around noon without correction. (A Moroccan man interviewed by police was actually a worshipper at the Cultural Islamic Center of Québec.)

However, the accused shooter is not a Muslim and he is not a refugee. He was born in neither Syria nor Morocco. The suspect is a 27-year-old white French Canadian named Alexandre Bissonnette, whom an immigration rights group has identified as a far-right internet troll. What’s more, Bissonnette’s Facebook “likes” include, among various celebrities and musicians, President Donald Trump and far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, in addition to a number of other figures critical of Islam.

But before police in Québec had offered any details about what occurred during the attack, RT News, a state-funded Russian media company, issued an alert that appeared on every page of its website claiming the shooter shouted “God is great” in Arabic while carrying out the murders. Fox News followed suit. The report was wholly unverified, originating from an anonymous tip provided to a Canadian radio station early Monday morning. (“Allahu Akbar” is one of the few widely known Arabic phrases in the West and, hypothetically, could have been shouted by the alleged shooter to mock his victims.)

While most Americans were still asleep, a misinformation campaign was being carried out on Twitter that largely targeted users who lean politically to the right. Pamela Geller, a right-wing commentator famous for her “Draw the Prophet” contests and a partnership with a prominent American white supremacist named Richard Spencer, is among the more well-known individuals who deserve credit for circulating the fake news of the Syrian refugee assailant. (Readers may recognize Spencer from viral videos depicting him getting punched in the face—occasionally to a soundtrack.)

In a series of tweets Sunday night, Spencer mocked the victims of the shooting while calling for the deportation of every Muslim in North America.

Among those circulating fake news about the shooting were accounts supportive of Trump and the visa ban he ordered on Friday restricting travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Many of the accounts appeared to have no regard for the truth and were instead seizing the moment to inspire hatred toward the Muslim victims. Others appear to be gullible bystanders with their own preconceived biases against non-whites.

The concerted spread of misinformation goes to show that even terrorist attacks targeting Muslim communities can be spun by white nationalists to inflame hostilities towards Muslims and refugees.

This was exemplified by none other than White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who inexplicably used the attack—once again, carried out by a Canadian citizen—as evidence of why Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries was necessary.

“It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the President is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said.

Far Right Media Cite Rumors And Fake News Outlets To Erroneously Report Canadian Mosque Attacker Was A Muslim (Media Matters For America link): A shooter opened fire at the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec on January 29, killing six and wounding eight more. On the January 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity ran through a list of past violent attacks allegedly tied to Islamic extremism, ending with “somebody, it’s reported, said ‘Allahu Akbar’” at the mosque attack, in an attempt to tie the attack to Muslims.

Hannity’s misinformation made it’s way through conservative media following reports from fake news purveyors central to the alt-right, Gateway Pundit and Prison Planet, both of which claimed the shooter had shouted “Allahu Akbar.” They cited a then-live-updating CBC report claiming a witness heard the gunman yell “Allahu Akbar” as he fired. According to the most recent reports, the suspect in custody is alleged to be an “obviously pro-Trump” 27 year old white French Canadian who has been described as an “anti-immigrant far-right ‘troll’.”

Hannity was not alone in using the eyewitness report to falsely insinuate a Muslim had committed the attack. Alt-right outlets across the internet parroted false reports that the attacker was a Muslim, or used the "Allahu Akbar" report to insinuate that he was. Gateway Pundit even attacked mainstream media outlets that did not repeat their Islamophobic fearmongering, claiming these outlets were “those who hid the truth,” and had promoted “alternative facts.” Fox News also initially reported the attacker “was of Moroccan origin” before correcting themselves, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer used the Quebec mosque attack to defend the administration's dangerous and "un-American" Muslim ban.

Republicans Begin to Break With President Trump (Time.com link): For the first time in his presidency, Donald Trump is facing significant criticism from Republican officials and conservative groups who are rattled by his ban on immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority nations, questioning his domestic policy agenda and worrying about what steps the New York billionaire might take next in the name of nationalism.

By Sunday evening, more than a dozen GOP members of Congress had spoken out against Trump’s executive order on immigration. Among them were an array of the party’s most influential figures. The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said the United States should not implement a religious test. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said the plan to strengthen vetting of refugees was itself not vetted. And the political and policy groups led by Charles and David Koch offered their first public criticism of Trump, whose candidacy the billionaire brothers found so unpalatable they sat out the 2016 election.

The wave of criticism marks the end of a startlingly brief honeymoon period for a new President who has been in office for scarcely a week, and even set the White House on defense as it backtracked on the ban applying to green-card holders. And while much of the blowback was driven by Trump’s immigration orders, the controversial plans he has on the horizon suggest the rest of his term could be just as rocky.

The emerging rifts come amid mass protests in cities around the U.S. against an executive order that would block millions of people from entering the United States. Legal permanent U.S. residents were detained at airports, refugees were trapped en route to the United States and judges from coast to coast stepped in to stop the unprecedented White House action. The chaos knocked the White House back on its heels and prompted Trump on Sunday night to release a defense of the policy.

Trump Going On Vacation This Weekend Confirms FAA (news.groopspeak link): President Donald Trump hasn’t been in office even 10 days and is already scheduling his first vacation to start this coming Friday. He will be taking a trip to his Palm Beach club at the Mar-a-Lago resort and stay there for the entire weekend.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Pope Francis Just Called Out Trump for Being an Intolerant Racist – Week 2 of the Trump Administration is Now Under Way

Mod: While most racists really are intolerant, for an American president to be accused of such unhappy things by the Pope is quite unprecedented. We are now one week and a couple of days into the Trump administration, and things continue to careen out of control. Here are four articles Kellyanne "Lulu" Conway would demand you not be allowed to read. 

Pope Francis Just Called Out Trump For Being An Intolerant Racist – Awaiting Twitter Rant (Bipartisan Report link): Pope Francis has probably been the most politically involved Pope ever, and his latest statements about President Trump’s new ban on Muslims is likely to leave The Donald in quite a tizzy.

It’s only been a matter of days since the ban on Muslims was enforced, and already its effects are being felt around the world. From angry Atheists who believe that all religious people are equally evil, to the devout Christians who actually try to practice what they preach, everyone is up in arms about the blatant discrimination against this very large group of people.

Finally, the Pope is reaching out to President Trump to say what every logical person is thinking. You can’t be a true Christian while rejecting refugees.

Pope Francis condemned President Trump while addressing a crowd of German Catholics and Lutherans:

“The contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.”

“This is not something I’ve read in books, but I see in the newspapers and on television every day.”

“The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,”

“You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25.”

“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help.”

Francis continued by saying that every country in the world should:

“Service to the poorest, the sick (and) those who have abandoned their homelands in search of a better future for themselves and their families.”

“In putting ourselves at the service of the neediest. we will experience that we already are united; it is God’s mercy that unites us.”

Pope Francis lending his voice to this matter lets us know just how important this moment in time is. America can either continue down the dark and dangerous path it is headed down, or it can retreat back to the somewhat respectable reputation it once had.

It Took Donald Trump 8 Days To Bring The U.S. To The Brink Of A Constitutional Crisis (Huffington Post link): It took little more than a week in office for President Donald Trump to thrust the nation to the brink of a constitutional crisis.

Late Friday, Trump issued an executive order forbidding millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of visitors and 500,000 legal immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Over the following 48 hours, massive protests erupted in cities and airports nationwide, courts temporarily blocked major parts of the order, the administration defied the courts and Democrats called for an investigation into the administration’s defiance. As the weekend drew to a close, an anonymous White House official proclaimed the whole episode a “massive success story.”

The federal courts thought otherwise. On Saturday night, a judge in Brooklyn ordered the Trump administration to stop deporting refugees and visitors immigration authorities had previously cleared to enter the country. Two judges in Massachusetts ordered that travelers who were legally authorized to be in the United States shouldn’t be detained at or deported from Logan International Airport for a period of seven days. A judge in Seattle halted the deportation of two travelers. And a judge in Virginia issued an order requiring the administration to allow lawyers access to lawful permanent residents — also known as green card holders — whom Customs and Border Protection agents had detained at Dulles International Airport on Trump’s instructions.

When federal judges rule, government officials — up to and including the president — are supposed to obey or risk being held in contempt of court. A government that ignored the courts would be able to violate the law and the Constitution at will. So for more than two centuries, the nation’s courts have had the last word on what’s legal and constitutional — and what is not. “We are and will remain in compliance with judicial orders,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Sunday evening.

But there was little indication that the Trump administration has fully complied with the court orders, or that Trump’s inner circle believed the administration had to do so.

Feds Defy Judge and Congressmen to Uphold Trump’s Orders at Dulles (Daily Beast link): Sunday was a day of strength for the Trump administration at Washington Dulles International Airport. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency tasked with keeping people from entering the U.S. illegally, successfully deflected a federal judge’s court order and stonewalled three members of Congress, in a display of executive branch muscle.

The night before, Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered CBP officials at the airport to let lawyers have access to legal permanent residents of the U.S. who were detained because of Trump’s travel ban.

It was a court order from a federal judge, which meant it was enforceable by federal law enforcement. But immigration lawyers at Dulles said it didn’t get adequately enforced. Instead, CBP kept the Dulles detainees––and it still isn’t public how many lawful American residents were held there, and for how long––from having face-to-face conversations with attorneys.

Who Hasn’t Trump Banned? People From Places Where He’s Done Business (The New York Times link): President Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries is being rightly challenged in the courts for, among other things, its unconstitutional interference with free exercise of religion and denial of due process. Overlooked in the furor is another troubling aspect of the situation: President Trump omitted from his ban a number of other predominantly Muslim nations where his company has done business. This adds further illegitimacy to one of the most arbitrary executive actions in our recent history, and raises significant constitutional questions.

The seven countries whose citizens are subject to the ban are relatively poor. Some, such as Syria, are torn by civil war; others are only now emerging from war. One thing these countries have in common is that they are places where the Trump organization does little to no business.

By contrast, other neighboring Muslim countries are not on the list, even though some of their citizens pose just as great a risk — if not greater — of exporting terrorism to the United States. Among them are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. A vast majority of people living in these countries, like the people living in the seven subject to the immigration ban, are peaceful and law abiding. But these three countries have exported terror to the United States in the past. They accounted for 18 of the 19 terrorists who perpetrated the Sept. 11 attack on American soil (an attack which was directed by another Saudi, Osama Bin Laden, with the assistance of an Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahri).

These countries, unlike those subject to the ban, are ones where Donald Trump has done business. In Saudi Arabia, his most recent government financial disclosure revealed several limited liability Trump corporations. In Egypt, he had two Trump companies registered. In the United Arab Emirates, he had licensed his name to a Dubai golf resort and a luxury residential development and spa. Some of these entities have since been closed, and others remain active.

A look at other nations with large Muslim populations only reinforces this troubling pattern. Turkey, India and the Philippines could all pose similar risks as the banned countries of origin that concern the president. Yet Mr. Trump has done business in all three places. They, too, are omitted from his list.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

The New Republic: Trump and the Republicans Are on a Suicide Mission Together

Mod: Pretty good accounting of the week old Trump disaster from The New Republic.

Trump and the Republicans Are on a Suicide Mission Together - One of the things supposedly driving President Donald Trump to distraction, in what should be a celebratory first week in office, is that he isn’t getting a honeymoon period from the media and the general public. “Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements,” The Washington Post reported this week, “and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.”

Trump is still widely disliked, as he was even the day after he defeated Hillary Clinton; the fact that he’s so unpopular contributed to the weak turnout at his inauguration; on Friday, reporters noted (accurately) that far fewer people attended his swearing-in than attended Barack Obama’s first inauguration; on Saturday, they noted (again, accurately) that a massive anti-Trump protest on the first day of his presidency was also better attended than his inauguration.

Trump hasn’t been able to let it go. His preoccupation with popularity hasn’t motivated him to do popular things, but it has driven him to manic outbursts about imaginary voter fraud and media conspiracies. An apparently typical digression about fraud and the popular vote during a meeting with congressional leaders this week “was greeted with silence, and Mr. Trump was prodded to change the subject by Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas,” according to The New York Times.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are at pains to maintain a façade of unity. But behind these conspicuous morale-boosting exercises, Republicans are doing a poor job concealing their awareness of how terribly this fledgling government is going. What they haven’t done is anything meaningful to change the trajectory. They have signed up for a suicide mission with Trump, without a complete understanding of what the purpose of the mission is, whether it will succeed, or how severe the collateral damage will be.

At a glance, Trump is an odd star to hitch a wagon to. He’s extremely unpopular at a time when he should be about as popular as he’ll ever be. The latest national poll, from Quinnipiac University on Thursday, found that only 36 percent approve of the way Trump is handling his new job, while 44 percent disapprove (compared to 59 percent approval and 25 percent disapproval for Barack Obama).

Had Trump spent the first days of his presidency calming nerves and behaving graciously, he might be on the upswing, but instead, he did the opposite. Everywhere you look below the surface, Republicans show signs of discomfiture with Trump’s temperament and the rickety state of his government. Consider:

- Republicans are ducking and hiding from questions about Trump, and being evasive when they answer. “I’m just not concentrating on [Trump’s false voter fraud claims]. I’m looking at the policies he’s putting forward, and they look good to me,” said Senator Shelly Moore Capito.

- When confronted with the fact that Trump claimed to be working with him on a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, incoming House and Human Services Secretary Tom Price wisecracked, “It’s true that he said that, yes.”

- Of Texas’ 38 members of Congress (most of whom are Republican), none would full-throatedly endorse Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.

- Senators like John McCain have criticized Trump’s promise to renegotiate NAFTA and to keep an open mind about torture.

- Palace-intrigue stories sourced in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico—all sourced to the White House—portraying Trump as a fragile, erratic, television-obsessed snowflake.

The pattern that emerges is clear: Members of the White House are concerned enough about Trump’s capacity to do the job that they’ll leak to prominent reporters, but they’re not concerned enough to muster the courage to tell Trump the truth, or to resign. Congressional Republicans are concerned enough about the things Trump is doing that they’ll signal independence from or displeasure with Trump, but not concerned enough to use real power to stop him, or to keep him honest.

Mod: For the rest of this article click here.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

So the Republicans are not going to Repeal Obamacare?

Mod: The Republicans are not having too easy a time getting rid of Obamacare. They might not be able to repeal it at all. After all, taking away the health care of 20 or so million people is not going to sit well with the voters. There is also the matter of a secret tape that just emerged where GOP leaders are heard admitting some of these very things. Damned if they do, and damned if they don't! 

Secret Recording of GOP Lawmakers Reveals They Lied to the American Public (Groopspeak.com linkThe Washington Post has obtained a secret recording of a closed-door meeting between Republican lawmakers – and it reveals them expressing serious doubts about how they are going to live up to their promises to the American people of getting rid of Obamacare, while at the same time initiating a replacement without creating chaos.

In the recording, a number of concerns were raised, but chief among them was how they were going to do this in a way that wouldn’t hurt them when the next election comes up.

What’s most striking about the conversations, however, was that key Republicans admitted that they didn’t know what to do as far as a replacement plan is concerned.

They discussed how to prepare a plan – a plan that they should have already figured out. Keep in mind – they have been talking about repeal and replace for quite a long time now, but they still don’t seem to have their agenda sorted out.

According to the Post, they are still determining how to avoid damage to the health insurance market, how to keep premiums affordable, and how to get away with defunding Planned Parenthood without it hurting them politically.  Congressman John Faso (R-N.Y.) touched on this latest point:

“We are just walking into a gigantic political trap if we go down this path of sticking Planned Parenthood in the health insurance bill,” he said. “If you want to do it somewhere else, I have no problem, but I think we are creating a political minefield for ourselves — House and Senate.”

The recording took part during a Republican Party policy retreat in Philadelphia. It’s not sure who sent the recording to the Post yet. It was sent to several news outlets from an anonymous email address. The Post took the extra step of confirming the recording by calling their offices, though, and it is legit.

“The fact is, we cannot repeal Obamacare through reconciliation,” said McClintock in the meeting. “We need to understand exactly, what does that reconciliation market look like? And I haven’t heard the answer yet.”

Rep. Tom MacArthur even expressed Democratic sentiment, and agreed with the notion that the GOP’s plan would eliminate health coverage for 20 million Americans, even those covered under Medicaid:

“We’re telling those people that we’re not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them.”

Republicans promised their voters that they would replace Obamacare immediately and are trying to take steps to do that – but the truth is they can’t. Speaker Paul Ryan has already stated that they won’t repeal without a replacement plan. This recording proves they aren’t even close to establishing a way forward yet.

Behind closed doors, Republican lawmakers fret about how to repeal Obamacare (Washington Post link): Republican lawmakers aired sharp concerns about their party’s quick push to repeal the Affordable Care Act at a closed-door meeting Thursday, according to a recording of the session obtained by The Washington Post.

The recording reveals a GOP that appears to be filled with doubts about how to make good on a long-standing promise to get rid of Obamacare without explicit guidance from President Trump or his administration.

The thorny issues with which lawmakers grapple on the tape — including who may end up either losing coverage or paying more under a revamped system — highlight the financial and political challenges that flow from upending the current law.

Senators and House members expressed a range of concerns about the task ahead: how to prepare a replacement plan that can be ready to launch at the time of repeal; how to avoid deep damage to the health insurance market; how to keep premiums affordable for middle-class families; even how to avoid the political consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood, the women’s health-care organization, as many Republicans hope to do with the repeal of the ACA.

The concerns of rank-and-file lawmakers appeared to be at odds with key congressional leaders and Andrew Bremberg, a top domestic policy adviser to Trump, who have laid out plans to repeal the ACA using a fast-track legislative process and executive actions from the administration. However, these leaders acknowledged in Thursday’s meeting, as they have before, that Obamacare cannot be fully undone — or replaced — without Democratic cooperation.

That and other aspects of the unfinished GOP plan prompted several wary lawmakers to urge their leaders to move more deliberately — even as the Trump administration appears to be moving ahead with repeal. Thursday, the White House ordered federal health officials to immediately halt all advertising and other outreach activities for the critical final days in which Americans can sign up for 2017 health coverage through Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

The administration partly retracted that directive on Friday, allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to continue to contact people eligible for ACA coverage by email, text and automated phone calls, and reviving use of a HealthCare.gov Twitter account.The new directive also allows airing of some ads if the government would otherwise lose the money it paid for them upfront.

Mod: Poor swamp creatures.

AP-NORC Poll: Broad worries about potential health care loss (Associated Press link): Though "Obamacare" still divides Americans, a majority worry that many will lose coverage if the 2010 law is repealed in the nation's long-running political standoff over health care.

A new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 56 percent of U.S. adults are "extremely" or "very" concerned that many will lose health insurance if the health overhaul is repealed. That includes more than 8 in 10 Democrats, nearly half of independents, and more than 1 in 5 Republicans. Another 45 percent of Republicans say they're "somewhat" concerned.

"No one should go without health care for even a day," said Wendy Narug of DeMotte, Indiana, a small town south of Gary. A political independent who leans Republican, Narug works caring for people with disabilities. She favors repealing the Obama health law, but not until Congress and President Donald Trump have a replacement ready.


Friday, January 27, 2017

News of Gabriel Engeland's Resignation Announced In Trinidad Colorado

Mod: This is what The Chronicle-News front page announcement of Gabriel England's impending departure to Sierra Madre looked like on Wednesday of this week (link). Which, judging by some of the advertising (and possibly related typos), just might want to consider changing its name to The Chronic-News. Only making a suggestion.

Mod: Obviously they are not afraid to let their freak flag fly in the City of Trinidad. I wonder, would The Mountain Views News accept such advertising? The answer, I suspect, is they might if it came with a check. The Chronic-News also published Gabe's resignation letter, which went like this:

Mod: In case you found yourself wondering, the price for an ounce of "Super Silver Haze 22% Sativa" in Trinidad these days is $99. Before the 5% sales tax is added, of course. Far less than what any similar product is going for on the streets of Sierra Madre. Or so I've been told. Have a far out Friday.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Federal Debt Projected to Grow by Nearly $10 Trillion Over Next Decade

Mod: Interesting article from the New York Times (link). As we have seen in the past, the self-styled party of fiscal responsibility has this remarkable tendency to borrow vast sums of money to float its own tax cuts, then spending it all just as fast as they can. But it has never been quite this bad.

Federal Debt Projected to Grow by Nearly $10 Trillion Over Next Decade (New York Times): After seven years of fitful declines, the federal budget deficit is projected to swell again, adding nearly $10 trillion to the federal debt over the next 10 years, according to projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The numbers reveal the strain that government debt could have on the economy as President Trump presses to slash taxes and ramp up spending.

The deficit figures released Tuesday will be a major challenge to House Republicans, who were swept to power in 2010 on fears of a bloated deficit and who made controlling red ink a major part of their agenda under former President Barack Obama.

Statutory caps imposed in 2011 on domestic and military spending have helped temper the deficit. But those controls are likely to be swamped by health care and Social Security spending that will rise with an aging population.

Now, congressional leaders will have to choose between their fealty to the cause of fiscal prudence and the demands of the new president, who wants $1 trillion in infrastructure work over 10 years, a surge in military spending and large tax cuts for individuals and corporations.

At a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, senators from both parties peppered Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Mr. Trump’s choice to be the White House budget director, with questions about how Mr. Trump intended to keep his promise to protect Social Security and Medicare while addressing the budget shortfall.

Mr. Mulvaney said that it would be his role to deliver hard truths to Mr. Trump. One of those truths, he suggested, could be the need to raise the eligibility age for Social Security, a proposal that is sure to be contentious.

“I haven’t been quiet and shy since I’ve been here,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “I have to imagine the president knew what he was getting when he asked me to fill this role. I’d like to think it’s why he hired me.”

He added, “I believe, as a matter of principle, that the debt is a problem that must be addressed sooner rather than later.”

The deficit is expected to shrink this fiscal year and next before increasing in 2019 and beyond. Deficits would cumulatively total $9.4 trillion from 2018 to 2027, the budget office projects. By 2023, the deficit would reach $1 trillion, and in 2027, a projected $1.4 trillion deficit would be equal to 5 percent of the economy.

Most economists believe that deficits are helpful when economies are in recession, but some say that when they are near full employment, as the United States economy is now, deficits should be kept below 3 percent of the economy to avoid a drag on investment — or worse, a financial crisis.

Mod: The rest of this article can be accessed at the link provided above.

Sales of Orwell’s ‘1984’ spike after Kellyanne Conway’s ‘alternative facts’ (Washington Post link): On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, called easily disproved claims made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer “alternative facts.”

A bewildered Chuck Todd responded, “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.”

While the phrase “alternative facts” reminded many of the terms “falsehoods,” “lies” and “untruths,” it reminded many others of George Orwell’s dystopian, politically charged novel “1984.” Not only were people inspired to tweet about that, they wanted to purchase a copy. By early Wednesday morning, the novel was the best-selling book on Amazon.com.

“We put through a 75,000 copy reprint this week. That is a substantial reprint and larger than our typical reprint for ‘1984,’” a Penguin spokesman told CNN.

Sales of the novel also enjoyed a marked spike in 2013 — one edition experiencing a 10,000 percent jump in sales — following the leak of NSA documents.

Carl Bernstein: Republican leaders privately questioning Donald Trumps mental state (Palmer Report link): Over the past few days since Donald Trump took the oath of office, his behavior has gone from his usual erraticism to something more objectively disturbing. He now appears to be basing White House policy around his own inability to accept that he had a small inauguration crowd and that he lost the popular vote.

Quite a large number of Americans have been questioning Trump’s mental state on social media. And now it turns out some Republican leaders are privately doing the same.

The bombshell came from legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who made an on-air appearance on CNN on Wednesday evening. He revealed that even as Republican leaders gather in Philadelphia for their retreat, they’re privately discussing Donald Trump’s mental state. According to Bernstein, one of the Republican leaders described Trump as “delusional.”

This means the GOP Congress has a real problem, because although anyone with clear eyes could see during the campaign that Trump had psychological issues, the Republicans had been hoping to use his presidency to ram through as much of their legislation as possible. But now it may be a different matter.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

City Council Meeting: The Fine Art Of Saying Nothing

To view last night's City Council meeting click here.

The video from last night's City Council meeting has been posted above for your viewing pleasure and enlightenment. For the record, the last time a City Council video was posted to the City of Sierra Madre website it was for the meeting held on December 13 of 2016. Meaning that you don't always get what you're paying for.

Two takeaways from last night's meeting. Both having to do with the same strangely content-free language the City Council likes to use these days.

The first example being City Hall is not going to raise your water rates, instead they are going to conduct a "Water Utility Rate Study." Don't get me wrong here, they are going to raise your water rates, but it will never be put quite that way. Rather this is going to be a cost adjustment based on a study conducted by an expert consultant paid upwards of $75,000 to create. Which the city will then take as an unquestionable justification to charge you even more for your water.

But just don't call it a water rate hike. The people you voted into office obviously do not want anyone saying something quite that crass. It could spook the herd and even interfere with a needed revenue flow increase. Rather it is to be referred to as "an adjustment based on actual hard costs."

Let's be honest, what they are saying here is also very much a sales pitch. But one that very few people will recognize as such, which is why it will probably be effective.

The other takeaway comes from the hiring of Gabriel Engeland to take the place of Elaine Aguilar as City Manager of Sierra Madre. Who, by the way, was pushed out. Which is why the City Council is praising her so much now.

I am pretty sure Gabe (as he was referred to last night) could very well be a fine fellow who will do a remarkable job. There is no evidence to the contrary, or at least not yet. And they did lock him into a five year contract that, at today's prices, makes him something of a bargain. City Managers in this part of the world start at over a quarter million dollars a pop, and with far better benefits than this dude is going to get.

That they had to go all the way to the dusty south end of Colorado to find him is telling. Gabe is the happy product of a far less expensive municipal labor market.

However, rather than tell us very much about this new City Manager last night, the City Council instead chose to talk about how well they all worked together when making this choice, how enjoyable the process became for them, and generally what a fine job they did when selecting this guy. I'm sure they're relieved the whole thing is over, and obviously this wasn't an easy job. It could have been a disaster, after all.

But what about Gabriel Engeland? Do you, the Sierra Madre taxpayer, really know anything about this guy yet? Did you hear much last night that made you feel this was a wise choice? The City Attorney did note that he balanced the budget of Trinidad, Colorado. Apparently that's something not done there in a very long time. A local miracle of sorts for that little town of 9,000 or so souls.

But did anyone actually tell you how this was done? Here is a portion of an article that ran in a Colorado newspaper last year titled "Marijuana tax revenue keeps on growing" (link).

In a memo to the Mayor and City Council members, City Manager Gabe Engeland provided an updated look at marijuana-licensed locations and what the current legalized marijuana map looks like in Trinidad.

Trinidad currently has approved 16 locations for Marijuana, with nine of these approved locations open and operational,” Engeland wrote. “15 of the 16 approved locations include some type of ‘retail’ component in the license. In addition to this, the Planning and Zoning Variance Commission has either approved, or will have before them shortly, another 32 locations seeking to operate a marijuana business. In total, the number of locations in Trinidad which could seek formal Marijuana licensing from the City Council will be 48. 

“From a very high level, the projections and estimates staff had provided to Council in the third quarter of last year appear to be holding true. As an industry, marijuana sales are averaging between $1 million to $1.2 million per month, meaning the City is collecting, roughly, $100,000-$120,000 per month in sales tax revenue. Staff still believes, over the summer months this year, the sales will increase to somewhere between $1.3 million to $1.6 million, where they will peak, prior to settling at around the $1.1 million mark as the median number for 2016.”

Do I think this a terrible thing? No, of course not. A city has got to do what a city's got to do, and after all the stuff is legal in Colorado. As it now is in California, may I add. I personally think smoking pot turns people into idiots, but folks have the right to do as they please. Even give themselves an herbal lobotomy. None of that is my business.

But if public officials here are going to brag about Sierra Madre's new City Manager having balanced the budget of his previous city, shouldn't they also share how it was actually done?

Instead they talked about themselves and how they feel. Which is definitely a part of the fine art of saying nothing.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tonight's City Council: Water Rates Are Going Up? Again?

I suppose we need to come up with a name for it. The cycle that Sierra Madre's city government seems to be constantly (and consistently) involved in. One year it is raising taxes, and the next year it's water rates. One or the other, either of these two items seem to always be on the City Council's plate, and always on the agenda. Last April a UUT increase was put into place, and now, just like clockwork, water rate increases are again back under consideration. The never ending Sierra Madre Water Rate/Tax Increase Recycler. Your very best of friends for life it seems, the ones who are always coming up with interesting ways to ask you for more money.

Here is how this year's new and up-to-date version of the Ever Present Sierra Madre Water Rate Increase Recycler is kicking off (link).

Did you notice? The last water rate increases haven't even played out yet, and now new ones are about to be dropped right on top. Water rate increases on top of water rate increases. Stacked up like jumbo jets waiting to land at LAX. As far as the eye can see.

Of course, there are the reasons. There always are. No true water rate or tax increase can be conducted without it being properly marketed to the intended victims. That, of course, being the 11,000 or so people who live in Sierra Madre. The long-suffering customers of this badly rundown (and still dangerously dilapidated despite all of those previous rate hike infrastructure promises) municipal water company.

Whatever. I think you get the picture. Soon they will hire a $50,000 or so consultant, probably the same guys that screwed it all up the last two times. Then the City Council will sit in awe and wonder as the consultant shows them complicated charts and mind-numbing presentations that will claim to predict - and with Rasputin-like prophetic accuracy - the proper water rate revenue streams now and for all future times to come. Just like they did the last time. Except they were obviously wrong.

Then, in order to build a community consensus (or, more precisely, the appearance of one since most people don't have even the first clue about any of this) you will be told what you need to think at various public outreach forums. Tied, tried and justified.

Once that final box is checked off, all of this will be followed by a unanimous vote of approval by the City Council. Who will then thank everyone for their support and understanding, and with the utmost sincerity and humility, of course.

How much more do we even need to talk about this tiresome nonsense? It's not like folks haven't seen it all before. What is this, the fourth time in the last ten years? That same old song and dance, played out with basically the same people that rattle and hummed it last time? I'm sure you get the picture.

Tonight's City Council meeting kicks off at around 6:30. Click here for the YouTube live stream.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Sierra Madre's Newly Hired City Manager: So Who Exactly Is Gabriel Engeland? Prepare To Be A Little Surprised!

Gabe Engeland

Mod: You probably haven't seen The Mountain Views News report on Sierra Madre's newly selected City Manager since yesterday's big rain melted all of the pulpy piles of this city's woebegone weekly stacked down by the local liquor stores. So here is their publicity release-style take on the guy who is now about to replace Elaine Aguilar.

Mod: OK, so that is the air brushed version of this story. But since we're The Tattler, an independent news source that doesn't need to kiss the fanny of City Hall to stay in business, we set out to do a little searching around the Internet to see what we might be able to find. And it turns out Gabe Engeland had some interesting adventures in his previous City Manager gig. That being in Trinidad, Colorado, population 9,096 (link). First, something you might not have known about the colorful City of Trinidad.

In the Age of Caitlyn Jenner, Trinidad Is No Longer World's Sex-Change Capital (Westword link): Transgender talk is all around these days, with I Am Cait, the reality series that debuted Sunday on E!, showing the former men’s decathlon Olympic gold-medal winner as the woman she always knew she was. But the first episode didn’t cause much fuss in Trinidad, despite the fact that for more than three decades, this small city in southern Colorado was known as the Sex-Change Capital of the World.

If the title seems unlikely, the story behind it is just as unusual. Stanley Biber, a hometown boy who became a general surgeon, thought he’d seen it all when he was a medic in Korea. But then one day in the late ’60s, he got a request he’d never considered: A social worker asked Biber if he could perform a sex-change operation. Biber talked to a doctor in New York who’d done the surgery, studied some plans from Johns Hopkins, and in 1969 did his first sex-assignment surgery at Mount San Rafael, Trinidad’s only hospital. Before Biber set aside his scalpel in 2003 — when the eighty-year-old doctor could no longer find insurance — he estimated that he’d performed some 6,000 sex-reassignment operations there. “I didn’t retire — I was forced to retire,” Biber told us at the time. “I’m in great shape. I work out every day; I out-lift the kids. But they wouldn’t insure me.”

Mod: Things hadn't always been that economically fine in Trinidad. But there was a solution coming, as you shall see. Sierra Madre also has it's challenges, so it is good to see there is a financial problem solver heading into town. But first, the Tragedy of Trinidad. This item ran on May 7, 2015.

Trinidad Hit Hard by Layoffs (KRCC.org link): Around 100 people are losing their jobs at the Pioneer Natural Resources branch in Trinidad. The Texas-based oil and gas company was the largest employer in the city, says Gabriel Engeland, Trinidad's City Manager, who adds that the layoffs are devastating both economically and socially.

"I think Trinidad now is really at a place where it has to find its identity," says Engeland. "If we’re not going to have the natural resource production in the area, then what replaces it? I don’t think we have an answer to that yet."

He says Trinidad officials are looking at impacts on the community, including everything from sales tax revenue to possible changes in school enrollment. In a statement, Pioneer Natural Resources says the layoffs are due to a drop in natural gas and crude oil prices. The company plans to offer severance packages and other services.

The statement says the company’s work in the Raton Basin will now be managed from its home office in Dallas, and that it's also closing its Denver office. Of the 70 employees there, about one-third will be offered relocation possibilities. In Trinidad, the layoffs represent nearly half of Pioneer Natural Resources’ southern Colorado workforce.

Mod: Help was on the way, however. As the groovier readers of this blog must know, Colorado citizens voted to legalize marijuana awhile back. And as the next four stories shall reveal, the City of Trinidad has today become the leading center of Colorado's marijuana trade. And Sierra Madre's newly selected City Manager, Gabe Engeland, was at the very heart of this green colored renaissance.

Engeland responds to developer’s recent comments about new ‘Pot Mall’ opening (The Chronicle-News link): When marijuana business owner Sean Sheridan commented in a Thursday, January 14 press release about the burgeoning number of legalized marijuana businesses now open or soon to be open in Trinidad, City Manager Gabe Engeland said Friday that he wanted to clear the air about some of the comments Sheridan had made. Sheridan’s press release and marketing for a “pot mall” was picked  up as a news story by two Colorado TV news stations  over the weekend.

While acknowledging that Sheridan, whose company has received City approval to open five marijuana businesses at contiguous addresses from 409 – 419 N. Commercial St., had the right to say what he wanted to say, Engeland said in interview in his office that he felt there were certain inaccuracies in some of the things Sheridan had written in his press release, and he tried to clarify the situation.

Sheridan wrote that, “With currently approved development plans the city is expecting to house more than one dispensary per 1,000 residents in 2016,” that is, 10 dispensaries in a city with a population estimated at 9,300 people. Engeland said some of the inaccuracies in the press release related to the specific numbers of marijuana businesses licensed in Trinidad.

“So some of the inaccuracies are around the total number,” Engeland said. “We currently have seven retail dispensaries operating. We have a total of 26 that have applied for a CUP (Conditional Use Permit), and out of those, 19 have been granted a CUP. So in addition to the seven that are operating, if the plans for all of the CUPS go through, Trinidad would be looking at 26 retail marijuana stores, which is actually higher that what he (Sheridan) put in here. In addition to that, that doesn’t include cultivation. So I believe we have, right now, a total of four cultivation licenses, with two more pending, bringing the total marijuana operations in Trinidad to 31, which is pretty significant for a town of our population.”

Colo. entrepreneurs have high hopes for marijuana mini-mall (The Santa Fe New Mexican link): On the first day the state of Colorado allowed the sale of recreational marijuana, Chris Elkins waited two hours in the freezing cold to buy weed.

“The line was down the stairwells, down the sidewalks, around the buildings, down the street,” Elkins, who had traveled to Colorado from Arkansas for a long-planned ski trip, recalled about that New Year’s Day in 2014.

“We’re all just standing out in the cold, shaking,” he said. As Elkins braved the winter weather with scores of stoners, the budding businessman saw an opportunity to cash in.

“Being an entrepreneur, I recognized that there’s going to be plenty of sales in this industry,” he said. “People are going to need to expand — that’s a difficult thing to do — and I took it upon myself to jump in the industry at that time.”

More than two years after that fateful day, Elkins and his business partner, Sean Sheridan, are making a run for the Colorado border.

The two commercial real estate developers are pushing a plan to open what they’ve dubbed the “World’s First Pot Mini-Mall” with five marijuana stores operating side by side under the same roof in downtown Trinidad, an old coal mining town some 12 miles north of the New Mexico state line.

(Later ..) Trinidad City Manager Gabriel Engeland said legal marijuana has already breathed new life into downtown.

“One of the goals of council was to rehab and make usable the buildings again and bring tenants again,” he said. “Retail marijuana, at least in these instances, has done that. I think that there’s the potential that it could be a catalyst. It’s just too soon to tell if the fuse is going down to a big boom or if the fuse is going down to a fizzle.”

While city officials are trying to transform Trinidad into an arts destination, Elkins and Sheridan want it to be known as the most marijuana-friendly city in the world, an idea that some residents and elected officials aren’t eager to embrace.

“I’m not comfortable with any more marijuana stores. I think we have enough,” said former Trinidad Mayor Joe Reorda, 81.

“We used to be called the Sex-Change Capital of the Nation. Now we’re going to be called the Marijuana Capital of the Nation,” he said. “I don’t know which is worse.”

Mod: Breathing new life into a moribund downtown? Well sure, why not? This next story went national, and comes from CNN. Fame came suddenly to Mr. Engeland.

Did pot money save small town from 'abyss of nothingness'? (CNN link): Anthony Mattie walks down Main Street confronted by a shell of the town he once knew. The retired state patrolman-turned-mayor pro tem stares at vacant building after building, his reflection bouncing off the empty glass storefront windows. The streets are lined with century-old facades, but not much more, except for a few cars slowly passing by. Still, Mattie maintains a sparkle in his eye and a boyish grin as he shares the plan to bring his town back to life -- thanks to marijuana money. "The abandoned Pepsi plant became a marijuana dispensary. People resurrected these buildings that were about to fall and collapse," he says.

It's in large part thanks to at least $800,000 in marijuana tax revenue. The green rush is bringing hope back to this once-booming coal mining town in rural southeast Colorado, just 11 miles from the New Mexico border, where generations of Mattie's family have lived. Residents pride themselves on the town's pioneer reputation and Wild West spirit.

"This is the place where Bat Masterson was the marshal. This is where Jesse James' gang did run. This is the place where Doc Holiday was a dentist and owned a brothel. This is the place," says Cy Michaels, a hotel owner and leader of the town's tourism board.

It was also home to one of the first places in the nation for gender reassignment surgery, earning it the unofficial title of "sex change capital of the world" in the early 2000s. But the doctor left, mines shut down and businesses closed, leaving the town searching for a new identity. So the city turned to marijuana, hoping to fill the economic void.

Compared with 30,000 in its prime, 8,200 residents live here now. But Mattie and others hope weed dispensaries, grow facilities and a high-scale commercial chocolate edibles company can be a shot in the arm.

"I expect that the sale of medical and recreational marijuana in the city of Trinidad is transitional," Mattie says. "That it gets us over this abyss of nothingness."

The town is in many ways an experiment that other cities across America are watching. They're only starting to see the good, the bad and the uncertainty that comes with a small town green-lighting weed. The town waded slowly into the controversial legal marijuana industry, waiting and only allowing medical marijuana business first.

"It's like tipping your toe in the water, testing the water," Mattie says. "And we said, 'Alright, this is not the big problem we maybe thought it could be.'"

In November 2014 the first recreational retail pot shop opened in Trinidad. Then, the money started flowing beyond expectations.

The $800,000 in tax revenue from marijuana sales in one year makes up just about 10% of the town's general fund, City Manager Gabe Engeland says. Mattie says they anticipated about $200,000. And so began the transformation of the town. With the marijuana tax money, the city spent $70,000 on a new fire engine, a pumper truck. Some of the money has allowed the city to expedite replacing old water pipes.

"About 60% of our water pipes were installed between 1890 and 1950," Engeland says. "They're edging towards catastrophic failure."

The city bought several rundown buildings in the heart of town with plans to convert them into live-work lofts and galleries, to attract artists and craftspeople to Trinidad.

It's money that's making a difference for this struggling town and a trend being seen across the state.

Mod: Anyone see any obvious parallels developing here? Old water pipes, a financially at risk and moribund downtown, the burning need for more (and more) tax revenue? Here with the answer Sierra Madre might be looking for is our final news item.

Marijuana tax revenue keeps on growing (The Chronicle News link): Trinidad’s legalized marijuana industry continues to be a major tax revenue generator for the city. As of April 30, 2016, year-to-date retail marijuana sales in the city totaled approximately $4.232 million, according to information shared by new city Finance Director Cheryl Navarette, who started in her new job in mid-March this year.

Navarette said those four months of sales revenue generated approximately $352,000 in city tax revenues. The city imposes a 5 percent sales tax on those sales, along with a 4 percent general sales tax. It also receives 1.5 percent in tax rebate revenue from state marijuana taxes, though the state rebate revenues have a one-month lag before the city receives them. That’s a total tax of 10.5 percent.

Last year, the city received approximately $891,000 in total retail sales tax revenue on marijuana sales of approximately $8.654 million. The tax revenue goes partly to the city’s General Fund and partly to the city’s Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Fund. The CIP Fund gets one cent from all city retail tax revenues, both for marijuana sales and all other retail sales.

In a memo to the Mayor and City Council members, City Manager Gabe Engeland provided an updated look at marijuana-licensed locations and what the current legalized marijuana map looks like in Trinidad.

Trinidad currently has approved 16 locations for Marijuana, with nine of these approved locations open and operational,” Engeland wrote. “15 of the 16 approved locations include some type of ‘retail’ component in the license. In addition to this, the Planning and Zoning Variance Commission has either approved, or will have before them shortly, another 32 locations seeking to operate a marijuana business. In total, the number of locations in Trinidad which could seek formal Marijuana licensing from the City Council will be 48.

This includes all types of licenses and not all of the 48 locations will have a retail component, though the majority will. This number also includes CUPs (Conditional Use Permits), which the Planning, Zoning and Variance Commission will likely declare expired during their May and June meetings. Staff anticipates three or four will be declared expired in May and an additional three or four will be declared expired in June.

“From a very high level, the projections and estimates staff had provided to Council in the third quarter of last year appear to be holding true. As an industry, marijuana sales are averaging between $1 million to $1.2 million per month, meaning the City is collecting, roughly, $100,000-$120,000 per month in sales tax revenue. Staff still believes, over the summer months this year, the sales will increase to somewhere between $1.3 million to $1.6 million, where they will peak, prior to settling at around the $1.1million mark as the median number for 2016.”

There’s much more to the legalized marijuana industry than just making money, whether it’s for the businesses, their employees, their investors or the City. Engeland talked about the social implications of the new industry in Trinidad, the conversations he had had with multiple parties about it and what its future might be in relation to the City during a Wednesday interview at City Hall. He said that despite the limit of 20 marijuana locations in the city, anyone who applied for a marijuana-related CUP before the May 1 deadline could get their CUP approved, which could result in their being more marijuana businesses in town than the market could support, with a related decline in City marijuana tax revenues.

Mod: That really is a remarkably large amount of tax revenue for so little a town. Can this be why Gabe Engeland has been brought to Sierra Madre to serve as the new City Manager? Because of his vast experience managing the small Colorado city now known by some as the Marijuana Capital of the West? Has the City Council here decided that in order to rescue Sierra Madre from its rotten water company and $60 million big ones in bond and CalPERS debt, it will throw a Hail Mary pass and try to become a leading marijuana retailing California city? Considering the above news stories, I really did feel the need to ask.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

So Why Would Trump Lie About This?

View video here.

Mod: Donald Trump, the guy who promised so many big changes, sure got awfully petty fast. Politicians do lie, and after they get into office they lie even more. No big deal, that is how life is. Everyone knows the rules, and they plan accordingly. But as Vladimir Putin so thoughtfully points out in the video just above, you still have to pick your battles. And lying about the size of the crowd at your presidential inauguration can be easily checked with modern innovations. Such as photographs. So why even bother? I guess if you are as thin-skinned as Donald Trump, crowd size really does matter. 

On 'SNL' even Putin makes fun of Trump's Inauguration crowds (USA Today link): The day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, Saturday Night Live opened not with Alec Baldwin's lip-pursing impression of Trump, but with a shirtless Beck Bennett as Russian President Vladimir Putin, addressing the American people.

"Relax. I got this. Putin's going to make everything OK."

After joking that he wouldn't let anything bad happen to the United States ("it's the most expensive thing we've ever bought"), Bennett as Putin addressed Donald Trump, bringing up the size of the Inauguration crowds, which has already been a hot topic with Trump and his press secretary Sean Spicer.

"I'm glad to see so many people turned up to your inauguration," he said, showing a photo of huge crowds in Washington, D.C.

"Oh wait, that's the Women's March!" he cried as the audience cheered. "This is the inauguration," he added, and the photo changed to the sparser crowds from Friday.

Trump Accuses Media of Lying About Inauguration Crowd Size During Bughouse CIA Speech (Slate link): President Donald Trump went to the CIA on his first full day as president in what was supposed to be a symbolic gesture after his harsh criticism of the intelligence community over the past few months. The president may have spent the run-up to the inauguration criticizing the work of the nation’s intelligence agencies, but on Saturday he knew just who to blame for what he characterized as a misrepresentation of his views: the dishonest media.

“As you know, I have a running war with the media, they are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth and they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community,” Trump said as people could be heard clapping on the sidelines. “And I just want to let you know … it is exactly the opposite.” The truth is, he said, that “I am with you 1,000 percent.”

While standing in front of a wall that honors CIA agents who have been killed in the line of duty, Trump then went on to flat out lie about the size of the crowd at his inauguration and accuse the media of misrepresenting the facts to make him look bad. The president said the crowd “looked honestly like a million-and-a-half people,” falsely adding that “it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.” But instead of the crowds, the media showed “an empty field and it said we drew 250,000 people. Now that’s not bad, but it’s a lie,” Trump said. Later, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, took it further and said Trump had the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period.”

Trump Administration Goes To War With The Media Over Inauguration Crowd Size (NPR link): The Trump Administration spent its first full day in office taking shots at the media and arguing about crowd sizes at Friday's inauguration.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer delivered a fiery broadside against the Fourth Estate from the White House Briefing Room Saturday evening, claiming that reporters had engaged in "deliberately false reporting" in the past 24 hours since President Trump took the oath of office. And, after berating the press, he walked away without taking any questions. "Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," Spicer claimed.

He blamed new floor coverings on mall areas that "had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past the grass eliminated this visual." And Spicer claimed that fences and magnetometers going further back than ever prevented "hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the mall as quickly as they had in years past."

However, CNN reporter Ashley Killough tweeted out a photo showing that floor coverings had in fact been used at Obama's second inauguration.

Women's March
There Are More People At National Mall For Women’s March Than Attended Trump Inauguration (PoliticusUSA link): It isn’t even close. Trump’s inaugural is being blown away by a roar from the American people in resistance to what the new majority in the US government is planning on doing.

Donald Trump hailed a failed inaugural that was poorly attended and lacked enthusiasm. To use Trump terms, his inauguration was low energy and sad. The majority of voters did not vote for Donald Trump to be the next president, and that majority is demonstrating that while Republicans may temporarily control the federal government, it is the majority who are fighting back in America.

The AP reports that data suggests there are more people at the March than were at Trump’s inaugural, “Figures from transportation officials in Washington suggest more people may be on the National Mall for the women’s march than came for President Donald Trump’s inauguration. As of 11 a.m. Saturday, 275,000 people had taken trips on the city’s subway system. On Inauguration Day, 193,000 trips had been taken as of that time, and the rail system opened an hour earlier that day, at 4 a.m.”

Inaugural: Just a smattering of Trumpies.

Trump And His Press Secretary Flagrantly Lied On Their First Full Day In Office. That Matters. (Huffington Post link): On Saturday, President Donald Trump’s first full day in office, he gave a speech at CIA headquarters in which he lied about the size of the crowd at his inauguration and falsely claimed that he had never feuded with the U.S. intelligence community. Hours later, his press secretary emerged from the West Wing, lied about the size of the inaugural crowd and took no questions.

The most important news here is not the crowd size, or whether Trump feuded with America’s spies (he did), or even that the president and his press secretary lied. Politicians lie. What’s remarkable is that the president and his administration chose to lie, repeatedly, on their first full day on the job, about a relatively trivial ― and easily checkable ― matter.

Journalists should inform readers when the administration is not telling the truth. They shouldn’t credulously promote Trump and his team’s falsehoods in headlines and opening paragraphs, with the truth buried somewhere below. They should focus attention on the fact that the administration lied, not the content of the lie itself. Some media outlets did a good job of this on Saturday. Others didn’t.

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed, falsely, Saturday evening.

Here’s the truth, which exists even if the administration doesn’t want to admit it: Fewer people attended Trump’s inauguration than attended some previous inaugurations. Keith Still, a professor at Manchester Metropolitan University and expert on crowd estimates, told The New York Times that, based on photographs, he believed Trump’s crowd was about one-third the size of the group that gathered for Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.


750K Flock to Downtown LA for Women's March Los Angeles (NBC Southern California link): Some 750,000 people flooded the streets of downtown Los Angeles Saturday to march in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington, according to organizers for the event.

Event organizers for the Women's March-Los Angeles say the day is designed to unify communities and make a stand for "justice and equity for all."

The mission statement for the march reads in part, "We stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families -- recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country."

Mod: It might have been the Trump hats. Apparently even they weren't exactly true.

'It's made in Vietnam!' At inauguration, origin of red Trump hats shocks many (Reuters link): One of the biggest cheers President Donald Trump received from supporters watching his inaugural address on Friday was his call to "Buy American and hire American."

It was a moment rich in irony.

Many of those supporters were sporting Trump's trademark red "Make America Great Again" baseball caps that were made in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Some were horrified when they discovered their Trump hats were foreign made.

Rob Walker, 44, who had driven to Washington from Georgia with his wife Abby, 36, had stopped at a truck stop on the way to buy a "Make America Great Again" cap.

"Oh God, I hope it's not made in China," Abby said, flipping the cap over to check. She looked at its label. "China! Don't tell anyone!"

The Trump hats available for purchase on Trump's official campaign website are made in the United States and cost between $25 and $30, according to the label inside those caps.

But they are also more expensive than the $20 versions sold by street vendors in Washington on Friday. Joshua Rojas, 25 and Alyssa Young, 28, had traveled from Texas to watch the inauguration. Young was wearing a pink "Make America Great Again" hat.

"I loved it as soon as I saw it. I bought it right over there from one of the vendors for $20," she said.

So was it made in America?

"I don't know where it was made actually," Young said. "Let me check." She took off the hat to check the label.  "Oh no," she cried. "It's made in Vietnam!"

Mod: There is one born every minute.