Republican healthcare plan is “mean”? Every time you parrot Trump’s words you let the GOP off the hook.

“Mean” is when you make fun of someone’s shirt. This bill isn’t “mean.”

There’s this thing people are saying here recently and it needs to stop. Now. The thing they’re saying? The GOP “healthcare” bill is mean.

These were President Donald’s words on Tuesday.

“Mean” is reportedly the word President Donald Trump used Tuesday to describe the House GOP’s American Health Care Act, which passed Congress’ lower chamber last month. Per the Associated Press, “One source said Trump called the House bill ‘mean, mean, mean’ and said, ‘We need to be more generous, more kind.’ The other source said Trump used a vulgarity to describe the House bill and told the senators, ‘We need to be more generous.'”

Now everybody is saying it. Continue reading

Spotify’s “sponsored content”: payola by any other name…

by Amber Healy

SpotifyIt’s too soon to know whether the new “sponsored content” policy helps artists or harms them.

Payola is the practice—the illegal practice—of a record label paying a broadcaster to play a song or artist at a higher rate than other artists.

There was a massive scandal decades ago in which radio stations were found to accept bribes to favor this artist or that one. It brought down some of the biggest names in the then-fledgling industry, including Alan Freed, the man credited with coining the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll,” and Dick Clark.

But times have changed. Things are different. And there’s no law governing the use of cold hard cash to encourage streaming platforms to promote artists for the right price. It also indicates a change in practice for Spotify, which called for a halt to payola-type practices back in 2015. At that time, the Swedish company announced it would “explicitly prohibit” users from taking cash to include songs on its curated playlists, the Financial Times reported.

Tech Crunch first noted this week that there was a new opt-out feature on Spotify, titled “Sponsored Content.”

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Score one for the First Amendment: The Slants win

by Amber Healy

In writing for the entire eight-member US Supreme Court Monday morning, Justice Samuel Alito told Simon Tam and his band, The Slants, that they were correct in their fight and justified for refusing to accept that their name was disparaging to Asian Americans and therefore ineligible for trademark protection.

“The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech. Because the ‘Free Speech Clause… does not regulate government speech’…the government is not required to maintain viewpoint neutrality on its own speech. This court exercises great caution in extending its government-speech precedents, for if private speech could be passed off as government speech by simply affixing a government seal of approval, government could silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints.”

This was a case eight years in the process. Continue reading

US Supreme Court rules in favor of The Slants

The Slants

The Slants

by Amber Healy

In a unanimous decision Monday morning, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of The Slants, the Portland, Oregon-based band that’s been fighting for years for the right to trademark their name.

In a statement released by their publicist, bassist and band founder Simon Tam says that after the

“excruciating legal battle that has spanned nearly eight years, we’re beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court. Continue reading

Where is my tribe?

drums-2026535_960_720In the last two days I’ve been tone policed for being unkind, uncool, and tribal. Mind you, the single person doing the tone policing had nothing to say about what I signified. Typical of tone policing, it’s all about style over substance, the signifier, not the signified.

So I confess. Surprising nobody, I’m both unkind and uncool. Looked at across the great spectrum of human behavior where, oh, let’s say Hitler occupies one extreme, lacking in both kindness and coolness (well, there’s that whole fashion sense/propaganda style thing, but I digress), and on the other end there’s some saint or other noted for both kindness and coolness. Bono, maybe? I’m sure the tone police will pardon me for falling somewhere closer to the middle than not.

But am I tribal? Damned skippy. Let me tell you a little about my tribe.

We abhor political violence. Continue reading

Bay of Whigs – time’s up

us-flag-distressOn Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the United States Senate voted 97 – 2 in favor of sanctions against Russia, with one abstention, a majority so overwhelming that it invokes comparison to the congressional response to the Terror attacks of September 11, 2001. To say that the majority is veto-proof would be the very model of comedic understatement.

Early on the morning of Wednesday, June 14, 2017, the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, was shot while playing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia. Continue reading

Horror on Capitol Hill starts at home

Scalise ShootingAs a blogger, I’m generally accustomed to crickets. The last round of chirping silence? Entirely predictable. After all, I merely wished people to stop wishing other people dead on political grounds. Silly me. I thought, given how very topical it was, maybe some folks would actually try spreading the message. Don’t worry. If you reserve the right to turn a blind eye, you’re not alone. Not even remotely.

After this morning’s news of the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia? Ghouls on the left. Ghouls on the right. Continue reading

Democrats need a lesson in humility. Consider what Mike Dukakis learned.

Donald won. Hillary lost. Now the Democrats face what The New York Times called “a widening breach in their party.”

Fashion Consistent CandidatesPerched ever farther on the left is Bernie Sanders, perhaps still smarting from being stiffed by the Democratic National Committee while leading revival-style rallies of millennials and urging stiff resistance to the Donald agenda — and to the DNC’s approach to political reclamation. Then there’s the DNC and the party’s elected leaders demanding a more conservative, data-driven approach to finding votes where Hillary didn’t get them.

Oh, well. Good luck with that, Dems. Neither approach is destined for electoral redemption. Professional Democrats have tended toward elitism when selecting and supporting candidates. The national party assumed (as did virtually all media and pollsters) Hillary had an easy road covered with rose petals to the White House. The 2016 version of the Democratic Party continued its longstanding march away from those who had always supported it. The party’s elites oozed a “father knows best” attitude. Cockiness ruled after Donald became the GOP standard bearer.

Perhaps the Democratic Party, and especially the DNC, ought to consider … humility. Consider the example of Michael Dukakis as a Democratic candidate. No, not presidential candidate Dukakis of tank-driving infamy. Look at gubernatorial candidate Dukakis.

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Who really pays for cutting back rules limiting toxic emissions?

President Donald’s administrative minions, since day one, have been “reviewing” federal regulations they argue are so costly they curtail growth in American manufacturing, and worse, put American jobs at risk. Thus they are focusing on rules that govern environmental reviews in permitting processes and regulate impacts on worker health and safety.

Pollution Free ZoneIndustry groups oppose one particular regulation — the rule tightening ozone emissions under the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

According to a Reuters story by David Lawder, “The National Association of Manufacturers said the EPA’s review requirements for new sources of emissions such as factories can add $100,000 in costs for modeling air quality to a new facility and delay factory expansions by 18 months.”

According to Lawder, “Several groups argu[ed] this would expose them to increased permitting hurdles for new facilities, raising costs.” [emphasis added]

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The UK election: Another fine mess you’ve got us into

poundsinkingThe English have a fine word for the political mess it finds itself in at the moment–kerfuffle, which is defined as “a commotion or fuss, especially one caused by conflicting views.” Boy, if there was ever a kerfuffle, we’re in one right now.

Theresa May and the Tories, who were expected to have a 100 seat majority even as late as the morning of the election by some polls, actually lost seats, and its Parliamentary majority. The result of this is the Tories can’t form a government on its own, unless it tries to form a minority government (which has happened before in postwar history, under Labour in the 1970s). Jeremy Corbyn, who, if you believed the press and even many Labour politicians (cue Tony Blair), was expected to lead the party to electoral disaster, didn’t. In fact, the reverse occurred. Labour received 40% of the vote (as compared with the Conservative’s 42%), its best showing in years. It’s the biggest Labour Parliamentary gain since Clement Atlee.

So there is a lot of crow to be eaten around now, or should be, anyway. We could start with the pollsters, who were generally calling for a solid Tory victory, with one two exceptions. The YouGov poll was the most notable outlier, with its outright prediction of a hung Parliament, which is exactly what we got. It was rejected outright by practically everyone when it was released prior to the election, however. So, like the last two major elections (the 2015 Parliamentary election, and the Brexit vote) the vast majority of pollsters got it completely wrong. Continue reading

Open letter to Reza Aslan: come write for Scholars & Rogues

We can offer you one thing CNN can’t.

CNN has parted ways with Reza Aslan, whose “profane” anti-Trump tweets were widely criticized earlier this week.

In case you missed it, Aslan called Donald a “piece of shit” in a tweet reacting to Trump’s cynical travel ban grandstanding after the recent Manchester bombing.

At Scholars & Rogues, we’re not big fans of CNN, and this little dustup doesn’t change our minds.

So Reza, if you’re reading this, we’d like to invite you to come work with us at S&R. Continue reading

How do we earn loyalty? Or lose it?

Should I remain loyal to the men and women in the three branches of that government who have shown more loyalty to self and self-service than to the electorate?

Trump meets Comey at an Oval Office reception (Image Credit: Andrew Harrer / POOL / EPA)

The ousted director of the FBI sat in front of a Senate committee and told the panelists the president of the United States had demanded the director’s loyalty.

Meanwhile, Joseph Kennedy III, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, spoke about loyalty for two minutes on the floor of the House of Representatives. Kennedy pondered President Donald’s loyalty to the nation’s citizenry, asking whether the president “put his own personal and political interests above the interests of the American people.”

“Americans,” Kennedy said, “should never have to doubt the loyalty of our commander-in-chief.”

Given that loyalty has again entered the national conversation, I’d like to remind S&R readers of one man’s perspective about assigning — and retracting — loyalty. Here’s the post from February 2014: “A contrarian’s disheartened view of loyalty.”

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People want me dead

If that got your attention, okay, that’s clickbaity, but without a click, and it’s true. It’s not just paranoia. Indulge me a moment, if you’re inclined.

I clearly do better when I just do not watch the news and keep my head buried in geekery. Because when I do start paying attention to news, I let myself get sucked in again. I check out the mainstream news not to find out what’s going on in the world, but what the MSM audience likely believes is going on in the world. Those are two different things. I look at partisan news so I can compare and see what they aren’t talking about. I watch the word games they all play. It’s disgusting. It’s like passing roadkill and rubbernecking because it’s mesmerizing somehow. And I’m just not inclined to buy what most are selling without giving it far more consideration than I’m usually willing to give it. No thanks, keep the pamphlet, not interested, thank you. Continue reading

What he promises, and what his budget does, differ markedly on fixing waterways

trump speechPresident Donald stood this week on the bank of the Ohio River before 400 steelworkers, coal miners, and construction workers with barges of coal parked behind him. Amid departures from his text to chastise those he called “obstructionists,” President Donald touted his plan to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the nation’s airports, roads, bridges and tunnels and all other elements of American infrastructure.

With barges as his background canvas, he told of lapses and collapses in the nation’s inland waterways. He cited a gate failure at the Markland Locks on the Ohio River that took five months to repair. He pointed to a massive section of a canal wall that collapsed near Chicago, delaying shipping. [See speech video.]

A release from the White House press office coincided with President Donald’s remarks. Regard inland waterways, the release said:

The infrastructure of America’s inland waterways has been allowed to fall apart, causing delays and preventing the United States from achieving its economic potential. According to [the American Society of Civil Engineers], most of the locks and dams needed to travel the internal waterways are past their 50-year lifespan and nearly 50 percent of voyages suffered delays. Our inland waterway system requires $8.7 billion in maintenance and the maintenance backlog is only getting worse.

Continue reading

Rep. Clay Higgins needs to be prosecuted

If a person cannot see how utterly un-American this is, I don’t know what to say. We have a Bill of Rights for a reason.Clay_Higgins_Official_Portrait.jpeg

Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins, an embarrassment to all things American and Christian, had this to say on Facebook Saturday by way of his ongoing campaign account, rather than from his official account [my emphasis in bold]:

The free world… all of Christendom… is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals. Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.
-Captain Clay Higgins

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Sports

Arab world cutting ties with Qatar: FIFA’s four-point plan

What should FIFA do now that the Arab world has had enough of Qatar’s bullshit? Double down, baby!

A number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region.

They say Qatar backs militant groups including so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies.

The Saudi state news agency SPA said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contact with the tiny peninsula of oil-rich Qatar.

Seriously – Qatar is so bad that Saudi Fucking Arabia is stepping away from them. Continue reading

Bill Maher: it’s not the words he used, it’s how he used them

Our fear of the “N-word” only makes it stronger, but Maher used it for a cheap laugh. This is not acceptable and he knows it.

Bill Maher stepped in it on his last show and now a lot of people are calling for his head. He (and HBO) have apologized, and for the moment it doesn’t look as though the network has any plans to sack him, although that could change.

At issue is this exchange between Maher and frequent guest Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb), who invites Maher to visit Nebraska.

Sasse: We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.

Maher: Work in the fields? Senator … I’m a house nigger.”

This sort of controversy isn’t new to Maher, who uses his position to poke – hard – at a range of prickly socio-political issues facing our society. Continue reading

Kathy Griffin badly miscalculated. Or did she? Enquiring minds want to know…

What did Griffin think was going to happen?

Kathy seems to have gone Fukushima on us. She lost her CNN gig and an endorsement deal for some kind of potty product (that she even had such a deal by itself tells you how far down the celebrity pecking order she was to start with), among other things.

Comedian Kathy Griffin tearfully apologized in a Friday press conference for posing with a fake bloodied and severed head depicting U.S. President Donald Trump, saying that she felt her career was now over and that Trump “broke” her.

“I don’t think I will have a career after this. I’m going to be honest, (Trump) broke me,” said Griffin, 56, a two-time Emmy-winning performer known for her deliberately provocative brand of humor. Continue reading

Don’t worry: The rich will save the federal government. No, really. Right?

Imagine you’re filthy rich. A one-percenter. You’ve got tons of investments and other sources of interest-based income. Yes, I know, you’ve got that vacation house in Aspen and that skiing chalet in Zermatt. But those, and the house in the Hamptons, are getting a little pricey for upkeep and paying the household staff a livable wage.

Image result for tax images creative commonsYou’re tempted to sell off some of those investments to bring in some cash because the market’s pretty good right now. Besides, your Bentley is now three years old. Time to replace it with a new, $310,000 Mulsanne.

But your  team of crack accountants tells you to hold off selling anything: “Remember, President Donald says he’s gonna push serious tax reform through Congress real soon.” In fact, the president’s treasury secretary said the new tax plan would be “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of this country.”

You, of course, salivate, thinking of all the money you’ll save if your top income-tax rate falls from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, to say nothing of the cut to 15 percent applied to all the businesses you own. (You know, of course, that team of crack accountants has for years kept you from paying anywhere near the top rate.)

So you indeed hold off selling. You tell all your one-percenter and one-tenth-of-one-percenter pals to hold off, too. So they do.

Continue reading