If Kellyanne Conway had any credibility left, it may have evaporated after she invented the “Bowling Green Massacre” in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (2/2). She later argued that she “misspoke one word.” There were, in fact, two Iraqi refugees who lived in Bowling Green, Ky., who tried to send weapons to Iraq, but they never attacked anyone on US soil. “I should have said ‘plot’ or I should have just called them terrorists,” she explained to Fox News’ Howard Kurtz.

But Conway did not misspeak. In fact, Cosmopolitan.com revealed (2/6) that she used the exact same talking point in an interview given days previously. The magazine had not originally printed her quote referencing the “Bowling Green massacre,” but has shared it in the wake of her using it on MSNBC.

Here’s how Conway defended her argument that President Obama called for a “ban on Iraqi refugees” — which he didn’t actually do:

“He did, it’s a fact. Why did he do that? He did that for exactly the same reasons. He did that because two Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined ISIS, traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills and come back here and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.”

This version of the story adds more context to the fake story, with Conway suggesting that soldiers actually died at the “Bowling Green massacre.” Conway also suggested that the Iraqis returned to the Middle East for training, but there is no evidence that they ever did. They are now in federal prison.

Pressed for follow-up comment by Cosmopolitan, Conway again insisted that she misspoke. “It was a plot to massacre and they were Bowling Green terrorists. That’s what I should have said. I clarified.” She could not support her claim that they had traveled back to be trained, but stood by it.

But the fact that she invented the same story on two different occasions makes it doubtful that she misspoke. Indeed, even after being widely ridiculed for the MSNBC interview, she still tried to tie whatever attacks may have happened in Iraq back to Bowling Green. She tweeted (2/3), “The real lessons from Bowling Green. Who will cover? Who will care?”

The same day Conway gave the Cosmopolitan interview, she also referred to the “Bowling Green attack” in an interview with TMZ. “There were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined ISIS, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers,” she explained.

That makes three times that Conway “misspoke” to invent a tragedy that never happened. (Zack Ford, ThinkProgress, 2/6)

TRUMP BASELESSLY ACCUSES MEDIA OF COVERING UP TERRORIST ATTACKS. On the same day it was revealed that White House Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway repeatedly cited a made-up “Bowling Green massacre” to justify Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, the president suggested media outlets are intentionally suppressing information about real terrorist attacks.

Speaking at US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. (2/6), the president said, “You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

Following Trump’s speech, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the administration would provide a list of attacks officials don’t think have gotten enough coverage. “We’ll provide a list later,” Spicer said. “There’s several instances … There’s a lot of instances that have occurred where I don’t think they’ve gotten the coverage it deserved.”

Trump’s suggestion that media members are sympathetic to the cause of terrorists has been pushed by conspiracy theory websites like Infowars. There’s no evidence it’s true. But by accusing the media of clandestinely working on behalf of terrorists, Trump has escalated his ongoing attempt to delegitimize any outlet that covers him critically as “fake news.”

While Conway and Trump hector the media for not covering terrorist attacks both real and imagined — “It didn’t get covered,” Conway said of the massacre she concocted in her head—neither of them had publicly commented on a 1/29 mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that left six dead and was reportedly perpetrated by a white nationalist, anti-immigrant Canadian Trump fan. On 2/3, however, Trump saw fit to tweet about about a “radical Islamic terrorist” knife attack at the Louvre in Paris that injured one person.

A recent study concluded that a person in America is seven times more likely to be killed by a white nationalist than an Islamic extremist. Nonetheless, in the wake of the Quebec City shooting, Reuters reported that the Trump administration wants a federal counter-terrorism program to stop focusing on violent white supremacists and any other extremist group not comprised of Muslims. (Aaron Rupar, ThinkProgress, 2/6)

TRUMP’S TREASURY PICK SAYS HIS BANK DIDN’T ROBO-SIGN. COURT PAPERS SAY IT DID. Before Donald Trump picked him to lead the Treasury Department, Steve Mnuchin ran a bank named OneWest, which foreclosed on tens of thousands of homeowners under his leadership. After his Senate hearing, Bryce Covert noted at ThinkProgress (2/6) Mnuchin was asked specifically about the practice of robo-signing, which entails mortgage officials rapidly signing off on hundreds or thousands of foreclosure documents without verifying that the information is accurate or giving it a thorough review as required by law. Thus a bank can speed up the foreclosure process and, in some cases, get courts to let it take possession of a property without a full trial.

Mnuchin wrote in his written response, “OneWest Bank did not ‘robo-sign’ documents.”

Ever since then, however, the evidence has piled up that his bank did, in fact, engage in this practice.

A report released by progressive advocacy group Allied Progress (2/6) collected a number of court cases that accused OneWest officials of signing off on sloppy and even inaccurate paperwork in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Texas during Mnuchin’s tenure.

In Nevada, OneWest was named in a class action lawsuit against Lender Processing Services (LPS), a vendor it used to process documents, which was accused of a “massive” robo-signing scheme in the state that violated its Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The state’s attorney general also accused LPS of using teams of robo-signers who filed tens of thousands of false documents in 2011.

In New Jersey, OneWest was even banned from foreclosing for a year thanks to its robo-signing practices, along with five other banks. The ban was lifted in 2011 after a federal judge created a monitoring program for foreclosure proceedings because, he said, courts couldn’t determine which assertions were accurate.

The Allied Progress report comes after other evidence has surfaced that OneWest robo-signed documents. The Columbus Dispatch reviewed almost four dozen foreclosure cases in Ohio in 2010 alone in which the bank reportedly robo-signed documents, including three that were dismissed by a judge because of the practice.

One victim was Carla Duncan, as the Dispatch reports. One day in 2010 she found a note on her home’s door saying that her house was vacant and going to be boarded up, even though she was currently living there. She eventually found out that even though she was current on her mortgage payments, OneWest had started foreclosure proceedings on her home after it refused to allow a loan modification that had been approved by the lender that previously owned it. Court records showed that OneWest had relied on a robo-signer to do the paperwork.

Duncan was only able to get the foreclosure dismissed and keep her house after a five-year legal battle. The experience took a toll on her. “It’s almost like being raped, like being emotionally violated,” she told the Dispatch. “It got to the point that I was afraid to open my own door.”

The person who robo-signed foreclosure proceedings against Duncan did the same for countless OneWest customers. Erica Johnson-Seck, OneWest’s vice president for bankruptcy and foreclosure, said in a later deposition that she had signed 750 documents a week, spending just 30 seconds on each one without properly reviewing everything, along with eight other employees. Johnson-Seck said she moved so fast that she shortened her signature to just the letter “E.”

That E appears on dozens of mortgage documents in Maine that were processed in 2009 and 2010, according to the Portland Press Herald, a number of which were linked to foreclosures.

OneWest itself admitted that it has processed faulty documents. In a review it submitted to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in 2014, the bank said 5.6% of all its borrowers were due remediation for improper practices, including errors. That review came after a consent order that was issued by the Office of Thrift Supervision, which said that OneWest filed documents in which officials asserted they reviewed records when they had in fact not done so.

Despite all of this evidence that flies in the face of what Mnuchin told the Senate in his written responses, Republicans pushed his confirmation vote through committee (2/1), despite a Democratic boycott, by changing the rules. (Bryce Covert, ThinkProgress, 2/6)

TRUMP QUICKLY CHANGED HIS MIND ON DRUG PRICES. EXPECT THE SAME ON O’CARE. Donald Trump has apparently done some rethinking on his views of American drug pricing policy, offering confusing remarks that indicated he might not support Medicare negotiating drug prices, Sarah Kliff noted at vox.com (1/31).

“I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market,” Trump said after meeting with pharmaceutical executives (1/31). “That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what’s happening.”

This appears to contradict what he said a mere two weeks earlier, at a press conference in Manhattan. “Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists, and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs,” he said there. “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly.”

“This back and forth on drug pricing is suggestive of what to expect from the president on the Affordable Care Act,” Kliff wrote. “There too, Trump has made big promises that most of his Republican colleagues on the Hill have not. The biggest one is that he will come up with a plan to cover everybody and do it at a lower cost than Obamacare.”

OBAMACARE SEES 9.2M SIGNUPS. The Trump administration announced (2/3) that 9.2 mln people signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) for 2017 in the 39 states that use the federal HealthCare.gov platform, The Hill reported (2/3). 

The total appears to be slightly below the 9.6 mln sign-ups for those states from last year. Democrats have argued the Trump administration canceling outreach ads in the final week hurt enrollment. 

Still, enrollment appeared to hold fairly steady even as Republicans look to repeal the law.

The Trump administration did not release enrollment numbers for all 50 states, so it is not clear how the nationwide sign-up numbers compare to the Obama administration’s target of 13.8 mln sign-ups across all 50 states. 

The administration said it would release more information on nationwide enrollment in March. 

PRO-LIFE GOES BOTH WAYS. If Hillary Clinton had been able to protect a 27-point lead among Catholic voters in August, she would have been nominating the next Supreme Court judge instead of Donald Trump. Instead, 52% of Catholics ended up voting for Trump, a swing of five points from the 2012 election, and right-wing appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch got the nod.

Trump overcame the 27-point gap among Catholics that a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed the first week in August. Trump had feuded with Pope Francis in February after the Pope, returning from a trip to Mexico said of Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the Mexico border, “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. … I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that.”

Trump attacked Pope Francis in return, calling the pontiff’s comments “disgraceful.” He added, “I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now with our current President.”

That swing in Catholic support from Clinton to Trump may be attributed to Trump’s promise to nominate a Supreme Court Justice who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. Also, Democrats failed to capitalize on Trump’s hostility to refugees and other immigrants, even as Pope Francis told a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany on 10/13, a few weeks before the election, he does not like “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.” He said the sin Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy. “You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” he said. “You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25.” This refers to Christ’s injunction to help the needy by such works of mercy as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger.

Democrats also have failed to argue that Republicans are not “pro-life” when they push for laws to shut down family planning clinics that provide abortions but also cut funding for birth control, food, housing, education and medical assistance for the working poor that would help take care of children who are forced to be born. At the same time, abortion rates have been nearly halved since 1980, as contraceptives have become more available, particularly since the Affordable Care Act required that insurance coverage include contraceptives.

Citing figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Neha Thirani Bagri noted at qz.com, during Ronald Reagan’s administration, from 1981-89, abortion rates hovered at 24-23 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44, ending at 24 in 1989. Under George H.W. Bush, from 1989-93, abortion rates fell from 24 to 23 per 1,0000 women. During Bill Clinton’s term, from 1993-2001, abortion rates fell from 23 to 16.2 per 1,000 women. Under George W. Bush, from 2001-09, abortion rates hovered at about 16 per 1,000 women for most of his time before dropping to 15 in 2009. Under Barack Obama, abortion rates plunged from 15 to 12.5 in 2013, the last year for which we have data. That’s the lowest rate since 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade established women’s right to choose.

A separate study by the Guttmacher Institute in January found that the of abortions in 20914 fell below 1 million for the first time since the mid-1970s, when abortion was legalized. There were 1.06 million recorded abortions in 2011, as 21% of pregnancies were terminated. By 2014 that number was 926,200, as 19% of pregnancies ended in abortion. Of course, for those who consider abortion to be murder, nearly a million abortions is still unconscionable. But if it is “pro-life” to force women to bear unwanted children, it is also pro-life to make sure that parents have a job with a living wage, housing, medical care and education to give those children the opportunity to succeed.

CABLE NEWS CHANNELS HIKE AD RATES FOR SHOWS TRUMP WATCHES. MSNBC and Fox News are capitalizing on Donald Trump’s TV watching habits, dramatically increasing issue-advocacy advertising rates in recent weeks as companies and outside groups try to influence Trump and his top lieutenants, Daniel Lipman and Anna Palmer reported at Politico.com (2/4).

The ad rates for Morning Joe have more than doubled post-election, according to one veteran media buyer. Trump, who reportedly watches the show most mornings, has a close relationship with Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, and they talk regularly.

Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor and other prime-time programs on Fox News have boosted their rates about 50%. Trump also is a frequent viewer of the network’s prime-time shows.

“The president’s media habits are so predictable, advertisers migrate to those areas,” said one media buyer.

One prominent D.C. consultant said some of his clients, including a big bank and major pharmaceutical company, were negotiating this week to buy ads on O’Reilly and Morning Joe because they knew they had a good chance of reaching the president. Trump has also been known to respond directly to what he’s watching on television and tweet statistics and topics he sees on-air. Those tweets often drive news coverage during the day.

Trump has been good for the three big news channels, as the media giants collectively boosted their ad revenue by 40% last year, according to industry data, Claire Atkinson reported in the New York Post (1/24).

That’s a stunning $394 mln in additional ad revenue, ad measurement firm Standard Media Index (SMI) reported.

The contentious campaign for the White House and Trump’s surprise election victory helped keep viewers on the edge of their seats for much of the year — and advertisers chased those eyeballs, to the benefit of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

The three cable news networks saw the average number of viewers tuning in all day grow to 4.91 mln, according to SMI.

That was up 15% from the 4.26 mln people who tuned into the three cable nets in prime time during the 2008 election, according to Pew Research.

OBAMA ERA ENDS WITH 152M AT WORK, INCREASE OF 9M. The American economy added 227,000 new jobs in January, Kevin Drum noted at MotherJones.com (4/3). Unemployment ticked up slightly from 4.72% to 4.78%, so the headline rate increased from 4.7% to 4.8%. The whole jobs report was a little strange, though, due to a whopping revision in BLS’s estimate of the total population of the country.

Without the controls, 413,000 people re-entered the labor force and the total number of people employed rose by 457,000. Those are both excellent numbers, even if they did cause the official unemployment rate to rise slightly. The labor participation rate rose from 62.7% to 62.9% regardless of the population revision, Drum noted.

Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees went up at an annual rate of 2.3%. By coincidence, that’s also the average annual increase for the entire Obama presidency. In an era of low inflation, that’s OK but not great. Altogether, this is the last jobs report of the Obama era and the starting point for judging the economic policies of the Trump era:

▪ Headline unemployment rate: 4.8%

▪ U6 unemployment rate (includes people working part-time but looking for full-time work): 9.4%

▪ Labor participation rate: 62.9%

▪ Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees: $21.84

S.D. GOP DECLARES ‘STATE OF EMERGENCY’ TO REJECT ETHICS REFORM INITIATIVE. South Dakota’s Republican-dominated state government literally declared a “state of emergency” to repeal a voter-approved ethics reform law after the electorate passed Measure 22, a ballot initiative that established a package of ethics and campaign finance reforms (11/8/16). Use of the emergency provision means repeal takes effect immediately and is practically immune from a voter-referendum veto. It would take twice as many signatures to initiate a constitutional amendment to restore the law as it would for a veto referendum, Stephen Wolf noted at DailyKos.com (2/2).

Measure 22 would have placed strict limits on lobbying, created an independent ethics commission, and implemented a first-in-the-nation public campaign finance system that would have given each voter a voucher to donate to their preferred candidates. These reforms passed by a 52-48 margin even as Donald Trump won a 62-32 landslide, indicating bipartisan support from the voters. Nonetheless, Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard claimed that voters were “hoodwinked” into passing the initiative.

HAWAII REPUBLICAN LEADER OUSTED FOR REBUKING TRUMP. State Rep. Beth Fukumoto (R) has been ousted from her position as minority leader in the Hawaii House of Representatives because she participated in the Women’s March in Hawaii and protested the Trump presidency.

Fukumoto, 33, said in remarks to the House, ”They told me they would keep me in this position if I would commit to not disagreeing with our president for the remainder of his term. Mr. Speaker, I’m being removed because I refused to make that commitment, because I believe it’s our job as Americans and as leaders in this body to criticize power when power is wrong.”

On 1/21/17, Fukumoto spoke at Hawaii’s Women’s March which coincided with millions of women and men protesting against Donald Trump around the world. She spoke about how she was booed and insulted by her party during the Republican National Convention “because instead of pledging to support my party’s nominee, I said I found his remarks were racist and sexist and they had no place in the Republican Party.”

Hawaii Public Radio reported the only Republican (out of 6 R’s in the 51-member House) to vote for keeping Fukumoto in her leadership role was Rep. Cynthia Thielen who said on the House floor: “God I am sorry to lose our minority leader, someone I so deeply, deeply respect — the face of Republicanism as it should be, but it won’t be any more.”

TRUMP’S NEW FCC CHIEF COULD HAVE BIG EFFECT ON INTERNET. Donald Trump named Ajit Pai the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (1/23). Pai was the senior GOP commissioner at the agency, serving since 2012 under previous chairman Tom Wheeler (D).

Pai taking the helm has net-neutrality advocates worried, Jeff Dunn noted at BusinessInsider.com (2/2).

Wheeler’s commission took an aggressive stance on regulating large internet service providers, but Pai’s voting record and past statements strongly suggest he will steer the agency in a more hands-off, pro-industry direction.

With a majority at the FCC, like-minded Republicans in control of Congress, and no need for Congressional approval to issue regulations (since Pai still has one year left on his five-year term), several hallmark rulings of the last commission are immediately up in the air.

• Expect the FCC under Pai to roll back the 2015 Open Internet Order, the landmark set of rules that enforce the net-neutrality framework in place today. Pai, along with current GOP commissioner Michael O’Rielly, voted against the 2015 Open Internet Order, claiming it was trying to “solve a problem that didn’t exist.”

It’s important to separate “net neutrality” as a concept from what net neutrality means in the context of today’s FCC turmoil. Simply put, net neutrality is the idea that all lawful traffic on the internet should be treated equally. An ISP cannot leverage its control over the network to discriminate against sites and services it deems inconvenient to its business.

Pai doesn’t necessarily disagree with most net-neutrality tenets, and has expressed his desire to protect a “free and open Internet” many times in the past. But he has a big problem with the way Wheeler’s FCC reclassifed broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. The argument there is that the internet is as much a public necessity as electricity or running water, and thus companies providing it need to be regulated as such.

This Title II classification is what Pai and most larger ISPs really want to dismantle. AT&T and Comcast said as much in separate e-mails to Business Insider, saying in general terms that they support an open internet, but think that can be enforced without utility-level oversight, as was the case before the 2015 Order. (Verizon and Sprint declined comment; Charter and T-Mobile did not reply to requests for comment.)

Pai himself reiterated the point at his first FCC meeting as commissioner (1/31). “I favor a free and open Internet and oppose Title II,” he said.

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2017


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