Florida: House Appropriations Committee Rejects Weapons Ban, Votes to Arm Teachers

 

Despite the pleas of anguished survivors of the Parkland massacre, the Florida House Appropriations  Committee voted against a ban on assault weapons and voted to arm teachers. 

The $67 million “school marshal” program is the most controversial aspect of a House bill that imposes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, raises the age to buy any gun from 18 to 21 and gives police more power to seize guns from people who threaten themselves or others. Most of the money for the marshal program would be spent on training.

Oliva said the bill doesn’t address whether teachers would be provided guns or would have to buy them. He said that should be decided locally by school boards and superintendents.

The goal: 10 marshals (teachers trained to carry a gun) in every school, which would equate to 37,000 statewide. The state would cover the costs of background checks, drug testing, psychological exams and 132 hours of training. The bill does provide a one-time $500 stipend for those who volunteer to have a gun.

The bill also calls for spending $400 million to put a school resource officer in every school, improve mental health counseling and make public school buildings safer.

 

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Quick Takes: There Is a Reason Why Nepotism Is Frowned Upon

* The President of the United States made his son-in-law, who has no government or foreign policy experience and is up to his eyeballs in debt, his top White House advisor. What could possibly go wrong? Politico was the first to weigh in on that today.

Presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access.

* Next came this bombshell from the Washington Post:

Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.

Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said…

H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perception of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

* Paul Waldman comments on the shocking news that Democrats’ predictions about the GOP tax cuts are coming true.

Among the things Democrats pointed out was that even before the tax cut, corporations were making near-record profits and sitting on mountains of cash; if they wanted to invest, create jobs and raise wages, they already had the means to do it. They also observed that even before the tax cut passed, corporations were saying publicly that they intended to use the money for stock buybacks…

How many times do we have to play this game? When a new policy debate emerges, Democrats try to make an argument that has some connection to reality, while Republicans make absurd claims in the knowledge that even if they get debunked in the occasional “news analysis” piece, on the whole they’ll be treated with complete seriousness, no matter how ridiculous they are.

* I wish news like this came as a surprise, but in the Trump era, it doesn’t. That doesn’t make it any less deplorable.

Antisemitic incidents in the US surged 57% in 2017, the Anti-Defamation League said on Tuesday, the largest year-on-year increase since the Jewish civil rights group began collecting data in 1979.

Close to 2,000 cases of harassment, vandalism and physical assault were recorded, the highest number of antisemitic incidents since 1994, it said.

The rise comes amid a climate of rising incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in American society, according to ADL’s national director, Jonathan Greenblatt.

* Anyone who still thinks Trump will do something on common sense gun safety measures should remind themselves about the time he said this:

* Jennifer Rubin starts off by summarizing all of the ways that Trump has reacted to the Mueller investigation. Then she writes this:

The remarkable part of this is that none of it has slowed Mueller one iota. He’s proceeding with remarkable speed, building a chain of subordinates who appear ready to flip on their former bosses. None of Trump’s nonsensical tactics even register with Mueller, except maybe to confirm Trump’s corrupt intent to short-circuit the investigation. Mueller is a decidedly non-political actor by virtue of his job and temperament. Trump, for the first time since he was president (perhaps the first time in his life), has met someone he cannot distract, threaten, charm or discredit.

I’m not so sure that Trump’s patterns have ever worked that well with most people. But they certainly aren’t going to phase Mueller.

* Sometimes these kinds of comparisons are a good reminder.

So @BarackObama said a cop “acted stupidly,” and law enforcement got enraged, charged him with betraying them, his polls numbers tanked, he’s called a racist, but @realDonaldTrump calls a cop a “coward” and “disgusting,” and not a hint of criticism from law enforcement.

— Michael Eric Dyson (@MichaelEDyson) February 26, 2018

* Finally, on a lighter note, remember the days when this is how far Fox had to reach for a scandal?

Today @BarackObama had the nerve to say the White House “didn’t have a scandal that embarrassed us” as if we real Americans forgot about this: pic.twitter.com/0czIPDwdRZ

— Sebastian Murdock (@SebastianMurdoc) February 27, 2018

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Randi Weingarten Explains the Janus Case

This message was sent to all AFT members today from President Randi Weingarten:

 

“I don’t write emails to our full membership and activist community often, but the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case warrants it.

“The case is challenging the 45-year-old precedent that 23 states have used to determine wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of public employees’ jobs. As the Illinois solicitor general eloquently argued at the Supreme Court yesterday, these 23 states decided that, for labor peace and the efficiency of services, public employees can be represented by a union, and, as long as the union represents everyone, those who do not want to join may instead pay a “fair share” fee. This fee is meant to compensate the union for bargaining contracts and other services; nonmembers are not required to pay anything toward any political activity by the union.

“Yesterday, I was at the Supreme Court listening to the oral arguments in the Janus case. I listened as the right wing launched attack after attack on unions and on what collective bargaining gains for working people, those they serve and their communities. Indeed, Justice Sotomayor nailed the right wing’s argument, pointing out, “You’re basically arguing, do away with unions.”

Stand with us and tell us why you’re “union proud.”

“This case isn’t about petitioner Mark Janus, it’s about defunding unions. It’s about who will have power in our country—working people or big corporate interests. That’s why it’s being funded by the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and other wealthy and corporate interests. First, they pledged $80 million to “defund and defang” unions. Then, the Kochs, after getting the Trump tax cut, upped the ante with $400 million to undermine public education and “break” the teachers unions. And now, with the Janus case, they are pushing to prevent workers from having a union at all. Why? Because unions are our vehicle to fight for and win a better life for people, and corporate interests see that as a threat to their power.

“Study after study shows that union workers have higher wages, better benefits, a more secure retirement and a voice in the workplace.

“Yesterday was about fighting in the Supreme Court, but we’ve been fighting on many other fronts as well—speaking out in the court of public opinion and, most important, making sure our members, families, friends and allies know what we are up against. That’s why, this weekend, workers held rallies in 30 cities and counties throughout the country to fight for our fundamental right to union representation on the job. And that’s why our locals have spent the last year engaging members in one-on-one conversations. This recommitment to one another has been catalytic and transformative, and overwhelmingly, our members want to be part of our union, and they know how important it is for them, their families and their communities.

“Tell us why you’re “union proud” and what it is you care about and fight for every day.

“This is a “which side are you on?” moment. Our country must not revert to a time when workers were systematically denied even the most fundamental rights—a voice and a better life.

“Now’s the time. Stand with us.”

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

P.S. Watch our video re-capping Janus actions over the last week.

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Trump Isn’t Protecting Our Elections From the Russians

What happens when you have a president who asked for and received help from Russia during his campaign? Will he have any interest in holding the Russians accountable for their actions? Will he lift a finger to prevent the Russians from doing the same types of things again to help his party in the midterms? Will he even worry that the Russians might lose interest in his party and just start trying to get Americans to go for each other’s throats?

These are questions Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) wants answered.

US Cyber Command chief Adm. Mike Rogers told lawmakers on Tuesday that he has not been granted the authority by President Donald Trump to disrupt Russian election hacking operations where they originate.

Asked by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed if he has been directed by the President, through the defense secretary, to confront Russian cyber operators at the source, Rogers said “no I have not” but noted that he has tried to work within the authority he maintains as a commander.

While he did not agree with Reed’s characterization that the US has been “sitting back and waiting,” Rogers admitted that it is fair to say that “we have not opted to engage in some of the same behaviors we are seeing” with regards to Russia. “It has not changed the calculus or the behavior on behalf of the Russians,” Rogers said about the US response to Russia’s cyber threat to date.

“They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior,” he added.

Sen. Reed, who is the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked similar questions to FBI Director Christopher Wray. The leaders of that committee also have privileges to attend meetings of the Intelligence Committee.

Reed, D-Rhode Island, also asked FBI Director Christopher Wray, earlier this month whether the efforts to counter Russia’s election activities in 2018 had been directed by Trump.

“Not as specifically directed by the President,” Wray responded during a hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee.

We are not deterring the Russians. We aren’t punishing them. Insofar as the intelligence community is working to protect our elections, they’re doing it on their own without any direction from the president. They haven’t received any additional authorities they might need for the fight.

I think they’re probably putting their careers in jeopardy just by acting like the security of our elections is important.

This is just one more piece of evidence of collusion, in case you weren’t already convinced.

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Suggestions That Trump Has Been Tough on Russia Are Based on Ignorance

Lately I’ve been following what conservative columnist Byron York has been writing about the Mueller investigation and the various conspiracy theories that are being peddled by Trump and his supporters in the right-wing media. He seems to have a direct line to what Rep. Devin Nunes is thinking and tends to play the role of what an uninformed person might assume a smart Sean Hannity would sound like.

York’s latest take is on the Trump assertion that he has been tougher on Russia than Obama. In a text exchange with a GOP lawmaker (read: Nunes) he asks for the best evidence that Trump has been tougher. Here’s the reply:

  1. Bombing Syria, Russia’s main client, and generally unleashing the U.S. military in Syria, including against Russians when necessary.
  2. Arming Ukraine.
  3. Browbeating NATO allies to increase defense spending.
  4. Adding low-yield nukes to our arsenal.
  5. Starting research and development on an INF noncompliant missile.
  6. Shutting Russia’s San Francisco consulate.

On #1, I would remind York that when Trump bombed Syria almost a year ago in response to their use of chemical weapons, he warned Russia ahead of time to prevent them from experiencing any casualties. For all we know, that could have established a pattern.

What is even more interesting about that list is that, other than #6, they all involve flexing our military muscles. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that for a lot of people, that is the only way to define “tough.”

York also attempts to summarize what Obama did with regards to Russia.

…some journalists cite the measures the lame-duck Obama took in December 2016 in retaliation for Russian attempts to influence the presidential election as a case-closed argument that Obama was tougher. “Thirty-five diplomats were expelled,” explained CNN’s Tom Foreman. “They imposed sanctions on Russian businesses and agencies that were involved, and they closed two Russian compounds here in the United States.”

When it comes to the Obama administration, York limits himself to actions in response to Russia’s attempt to interfere with the 2016 election. If that standard were applied to Trump, he would have pretty much been left with nothing. For example, here is the testimony of NSA Chief Mike Rogers in the Senate today:

Explain: @NSA chief Mike Rogers told lawmakers he would need to be granted authority to “disrupt Russian cyber threats where they originate” by President or SecDef. Asked if he has been directed by President to do so, Rogers said “No, I have not.”

— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) February 27, 2018

WATCH: NSA Director Rogers on Russian cyberattacks: “I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here.” pic.twitter.com/vW4ECigiQF

— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) February 27, 2018

Nowhere does York mention that Obama rallied most of the globe around economic sanctions against Russia following their invasion of Ukraine. Given that so many countries, especially in Europe, depend on Russian oil imports, that was no small feat. However, to those who play from what Obama called the “Washington playbook,” nothing but military superiority matters.

While Vladimir Putin has relied on his military to defend Russia’s interests in Ukraine and Syria, it has been public knowledge for a long time that Russia’s flailing economy and relatively small military have been abandoned as tools for advancing their global agenda. For example, Max Fisher quoted from a 2013 Russian military journal article in which their strategy was outlined.

“The very rules of war have changed,” Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, wrote in the Military-Industrial Courier.

The Arab Spring, according to General Gerasimov, had shown that “nonmilitary means” had overtaken the “force of weapons in their effectiveness.” Deception and disinformation, not tanks and planes, were the new tools of power. And they would be used not in formally declared conflicts but within a vast gray between peace and war.

Putin already knows that his military is no match for ours, and that’s before we spend billions of dollars on things like low-yield nukes. As the general wrote, “deception and disinformation” spread through cyber warfare have taken the place of military dominance when it comes to the threat posed by Russia.

I suspect that Trump has his own reasons for not addressing the actual threat we face, not the least of which is that his election and presidency have all been about deception and disinformation, perhaps in collusion with Russia. Added to that is the illusion that foreign policy is all about military dominance—much as he sees “more guns” as the answer to mass shootings. But contrary to what York suggests, none of that represents toughness. Instead, it’s all based on ignorance.

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John Kelly Picks the Wrong Fight With Ivanka Trump

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s concerns about sending Ivanka Trump to South Korea are sound. As one unnamed administration official put it, “This isn’t like going to Italy. The stakes are far higher and more complex.” With a nuclear showdown looming and South and North Korea engaged in an unusual show of unity for the duration of the Winter Olympics, the peninsula is a minefield for even experienced diplomats and policy hands. Ivanka doesn’t have the right experience for the job, and there are unacceptable risks to putting her in a position where her words and actions could have far-ranging and even catastrophic consequences.

John Kelly was reportedly persuaded to shelve his objections on the theory that he had no way of winning a battle that would pit him against the president’s daughter. That was probably astute, as least in its predictive value for any likely outcome. Of course, if he was concerned enough about it, he could have made a stand and then resigned in protest if things didn’t go his way.

What Kelly did instead is give himself the worst of both worlds. He didn’t try to stop the trip and protect our national security, but he still allowed his concerns to leak out to the press where the president can now read about them. The result is that there are stories about “tensions” in the White House. CNN writes “the blurred line between staffer and daughter has long irked Kelly” and that “Kelly has grown increasingly frustrated with Ivanka Trump.” Kelly has supposedly complained in private about Ivanka “playing government” as if she was playing House.

This is self-defeating. If Kelly knows enough not to get in between the president and his daughter about the trip to South Korea, then he should know enough not to allow his displeasure with the trip become a major story. He should be at pains to prevent his aides and associates from broadcasting his frustration and displeasure with Ivanka and her role in the White House. If he feels that way, he should tell the president privately and resign if he can’t find some kind of satisfactory solution.

The way this appears, it seems like Kelly doesn’t have what it takes to confront the president in person, so he resorts to sending messages to him through the press. Either that, or he’s just trying to cover his ass in case anything goes wrong. This strikes me as dysfunctional and cowardly either way.

And it weakens him because it certainly does not avoid the problem he sought to avoid, which is getting into a battle we can never win. If I were Trump, I’d probably fire him over this incident. He’d be justified in doing so. If Kelly wants to object to something Ivanka proposes, that should be done in private. Trashing the president’s daughter in the press is not something that should be tolerated in a chief of staff, and that is true whether the daughter is Malia, Sasha, or Ivanka. In most cases, Kelly should salute and get with the plan when he loses policy and strategy debates, but he can also resign if he feels strongly enough about it. By doing neither of these things, Kelly is basically begging to get canned.

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Mercedes Schneider: NRA Chief Lobbyist in Florida Is Paid $206,000 Per Year to Work 5 Hours a Week

 

Mercedes Schneider writes here about the most powerful NRA lobbyist in Florida. Florida is a state that loves guns. And the lobbyist who has directed the NRA lobby is a 78-year-old woman, Marian Hammer.

Hammer is paid $206,000 a year to work five hours a week. Nice work if you can get it.

Schneider quotes from an in-depth article about Hammer, which appears in The New Yorker.

She does her own research into the NRA’s tax records.

 

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