Author: janozer

Trump Lies Yet Again (Regarding New York Times Story)

What’s become crystal clear in the painful 12 months that we’ve suffered through with Trump in office is that he lies by default and that any truth that makes it into his statements or tweets are purely accidental. He lies to inflame his base, he lies to feed his ego, he lies to attempt to diminish his enemies, he lies, he lies, he lies.

Here’s the latest in the form of a tweet.

So, Trump claims that :

  • The US bought phony secrets on Trump
  • For $1 million

Here’s what the story actually says.

  • The deal was made by American intelligence officials working through an American businessman attempting to recover secret hacking tools stolen from the NSA.
  • The Russian they were buying the information from promised “compromising material” on Trump, but was told, “they did not want the Trump material from the Russian, who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals.”
  • They paid a $100,000 first installment on $1 million, but the first delivery of materials had nothing about the stolen tools, and consisted solely of “unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data.”
  • The material was refused by the Intelligence officials and remained in Europe in the hands of the American businessman.
  • “The episode ended this year with American spies chasing the Russian out of Western Europe, warning him not to return if he valued his freedom.”

According to the Times story, “the Americans desperately wanted the hacking tools. The cyberweapons had been built to break into the computer networks of Russia, China and other rival powers. Instead, they ended up in the hands of a mysterious group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, which has since provided hackers with tools that infected millions of computers around the world, crippling hospitals, factories and businesses.”

So, the purpose of the operation was totally legitimate, the material on Trump totally incidental and refused by the Intelligence officials. The Times story specifically states, “The United States intelligence officials said they cut off the deal because they were wary of being entangled in a Russian operation to create discord inside the American government. They were also fearful of political fallout in Washington if they were seen to be buying scurrilous information on the president.”

What’s critical here is that Trump cites the New York Times story in his tweet, in essence saying that the story is factual. He’s not saying that the Times is wrong and the focus was entirely on obtaining negative materials on him. Rather, he’s totally misrepresenting (lying) about what the Times story actually says, secure in his belief that few if any of the 120,000 who liked or retweeted the story would actually read it.

So Trump lies, and in the process criticizes efforts made by intelligence officials to recover valuable NSA tools. Unfortunately, the most remarkable thing about this story is that it’s totally unremarkable. At this point, it would be more shocking if Trump actually told the truth.

(Author’s Note:  Image from the Daily Nooze)

Why Griffith Cares So Little About His Constituents (Hint: Follow the Money)

A recent letter in the Roanoke Times proclaimed “Griffith Represents Kock Brothers.” Easy enough to check, so I surfed over to and confirmed that Griffith received $6,000 from Koch Industries in 2017-2018.

Check the total received and you see that Koch has contributed $41,000 to his four campaigns, a tidy sum, but trailing Alpha Natural Resources, who through the company, their PAC (political action committee), and wealthy individuals, contributed over $61,000. Alpha is a coal producing company, so if you’re wondering why Griffith supports coal so aggressively, well, there it is.None of this was really that surprising. However, when I surfed down to the total source of funds, I saw the chart below. This shows that only $15,083, or 3.8% of contributions to Griffith come from small individual donors. The rest comes from PACs, and large individual contributors, which are typically employees of large supporting organizations and PACs. 

For perspective, when Republican Devin Nunes published the Republican memo regarding Trump and Russia, his Democratic challenger received over $100,000 of contributions, with most coming from small contributors. That’s over six times the amount Griffith has collected in two days.

So if you’re wondering why Griffith spends so much time working for coal, oil, and gas companies, and so little time proposing legislation that helps his constituents, now you know.  He serves for those who fund his campaigns.

If you want to remove Griffith, you’re going to have to support his challengers, with your contributions, with your energy, and ultimately with your votes.

Here’s the website for Anthony Flaccavento –
Here’s the website for Justin Santopietro –

Your New Tax Bill at Work (Deficit to Near $1 Trillion in 2018)

Two quick takes on the new tax code. First is from the Congressional Budget Office telling us that the deficit will sky back to near $1 Trillion in 2018:

“Because the tax legislation reduced individual income taxes for most taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service released new income tax withholding tables for employers to use beginning no later than the middle of February 2018. As a result of those changes, CBO now estimates that, starting in February, withheld amounts of individual income taxes will be roughly $10 billion to $15 billion per month less than anticipated before the new law was enacted. Consequently, withheld receipts are expected to be less than the amounts paid in the comparable period last year.”

According to the Washington Post, “The U.S. Treasury expects to borrow $955 billion this fiscal year. It’s the highest amount of borrowing in six years, and a big jump from the $519 billion the federal government borrowed last year.”

So, yes, Obama did borrow heavy to address the fiscal crisis and two wars Bush handed him but had reduced the deficit during his last six years. Republicans talk a good game, but deficits always seem to rise faster under their administrations, or when cleaning up messes from their administrations.

On a much brighter note, the much-heralded tax cut, which slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% (saving Apple $47 billion), and gave back an average of $51,000 to those in the top 1%, did result in a certain secretary getting $1.50 more per week in her paycheck. Join me in a slow clap.

Not surprisingly, after some reflection, Paul Ryan deleted his tweet about this fabulously fortunate woman already bearing her share of the benefits of trickle-down economics. Make America Great Again.

As we’ve said all along, the tax bill will deliver more money to the wealthy by raising deficits (borrowing money to give to the rich), while delivering next to no benefits to poorer people who really need the help.

Griffith Toes The Republican Party Line in Thoughtless Memo-Gate Blog Post – Is Anyone Surprised?

by Fayma Nye

Morgan Griffith’s blog post regarding Memo-Gate demonstrates his thoughtless regurgitation of whatever position the Republican Party directs him to try to cram down our throats. Entitled, Rogue Individuals at FBI Tilted the Scales of Justice, Griffith’s tagline sets the tone for yet another attempt by the majority party to create evidence of a grievous offense where none exists. The “evidence” offered and intended to “prove” the claim of “rogue individuals” and “political purposes” does exactly the opposite.

Read through to the last paragraph of the memo, and it contradicts its own assertions by stating (correctly) that Papadopoulos’ drunken bragging to an Australian diplomat about information the Russians had on Hillary Clinton is what triggered the Russia investigation. The diplomat contacted the FBI, and that, along with other evidence, convinced numerous attorneys and the judges on the FISA court that surveillance was, indeed, warranted.

Here’s what NPR had to say. “But what this line in the memo reveals is that the investigation was initially triggered not by the Steele dossier but by information about the activities of Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.”

The Memo Doesn’t Dispute Collusion

It’s also interesting to note that the memo doesn’t address, in any way, whether any collusion existed between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump and his minions have denied collusion from the start, but evidence of a clear connection have emerged as multiple Trump officials, including Popoadopulous and Michael Flynn have pled guilty to lying to the FBI about this very issue. It’s a thinly-veiled and frankly pathetic attempt to divert the Mueller investigation away from pursuing this critical issue that threatens to undermine our democracy (see Time Magazine, Donald Trump’s Lies Are Fatally Wounding Our Democracy).

Overall, the Republicans have become confident that their supporters will believe anything if they repeat it often enough, and Morgan Griffith’s comments are an example of this. Did he even read the memo through to the end? In his eagerness to “pile on” and revel in the sanctimonious glory of staking a claim on the moral high ground, he couldn’t take the time to read for himself the entire three and one-half pages.

Rather than prove their premise, the Republicans have shown, instead, that they have built an entire case on their lie that the FISA surveillance permit was granted based on the Christopher Steele dossier, which it was not.

Did Trump collude with the Russians? We still don’t know, and nothing about Memo-Gate offers proof one way or another. Sound far-fetched? Well, we absolutely do know that Trump’s son and son-in-law met with Russians claiming to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton, a meeting that Stephen Bannon (of all people), labeled treasonous. We know that Trump wrote a false memo on behalf of his son claiming that the meeting related to “a program about the adoption of Russian children.”

What Memo-Gate does prove is that Griffith and his Republican cohorts care more about protecting Trump than they do about the existential issue of whether the current president of the United States colluded with one or our principal enemies to get there. We in the VA9th deserve better.

Don’t be gullible. Make up your own mind. My mind is clear that if you simply substitute the words “Republican party” for “FBI” in the tagline, it reads true.

Read Griffith’s entire post here: Griffith: Rogue Individuals at FBI Tilted the Scales of Justice.

Read House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence memo and fact-checking comments here.

Flaccavento’s Rural Progressive Platform Highlighted in Yes Magazine Article

Many voters in the VA9th support Anthony Flaccavento because he has a realistic vision for how rural areas can pull themselves up by the bootstraps, not through food stamps and welfare, but through targeted investment. Flaccavento formalized his plans into the Rural Progressive Platform, upon which his candidacy is largely based. In a recent article, Why Rural America Isn’t a Lost Cause for Progressive Ideas, Yes! Magazine recognized the platform as a dynamic program that’s being adopted by candidates in other states like Pennsylvania and New York.

Describing the program, Yes! details, “The platform outlines a framework for progressive values within a rural context through the lens of three central elements: land, livelihood and community. It provides progressive policy examples that cater to each of those elements, including increased investment in sustainable farming, ending policies that undermine organized labor, and expansion of rural health clinics and addiction treatment centers.”

Largely based upon the platform, the article relates that rural politicians around the country are “buying into a new way of campaigning…talking about raising the minimum wage, universal health care, debt-free college and investing in local assets, like natural landscapes and small business development, instead of industrial recruitment.”

What have the Republicans offered to date? Tax cuts for the rich, and the busted promise of trickle-down economics. In the article, Flaccavento disagrees, stating, “Trickle-down economics has been a disaster for most rural places, and we need a bottom-up alternative,” which is a common refrain in his campaign speeches. On his website, Flaccavento further elaborates. “Forty years of cutting tax rates for the wealthiest people and the biggest corporations has not led to widespread prosperity.  On the contrary, it has made a few people unimaginably rich, while diverting resources away from fixing serious problems and building real wealth.  Nowhere could this be more true than in Southwest Virginia.

As the Yes! article points out, Flaccavento’s ideas are taking hold in other races. One example is Emily Martz, who is running for office in New York’s 21st Congressional District, who Yes! quotes as saying, “We absolutely have the power to create jobs that can sustain families if we invest in our two biggest assets, which are our people and our natural resources.” 

Our current representative, Morgan Griffith, hasn’t promoted a single cause not motivated by his corporate donors or Republican policies as spearheaded by President Trump. He’s a parrot for the wealthy and the Republican party, not an advocate for the VA9th. We need a Congressman with the ideas, energy, and focus to help the VP9th prosper. As Flaccavento’s ideas gain national recognition and acceptance, it becomes clearer that he is the best choice.

Countering Republican Debate Tactics

For better or for worse, many of us find ourselves debating Republicans on Facebook and other forums. A brilliant video from John Oliver reveals the tactics used by Trump and his followers to distract and waste our time. I’ve embedded it below, and it will improve both your efficiency and effectiveness online.

If you prefer reading about it, Rolling Stone wrote about the video in an article entitled, Watch John Oliver Break Down Trump’s Three Dangerous Manipulation Tactics, which you can read or skim my thoughts below.

The three tactics are delegitimizing the press (Fake News), Whataboutism, and trolling. Here are some examples of how they’ve been used and some ideas on how to refute them.

Delegitimizing the Press (Fake News)

Republicans criticize every source of news that they disagree with. They don’t feel the need to cite alternative sources that contradict the facts, they just cry Fake News and act like they’ve proven their case.

On Facebook, I’ve had posters question, the Congressional Budget Office,, the Guardian, Wikipedia, and many other sources. The best policy I’ve found is to cite original sources whenever possible. So don’t cite Wikipedia, cite the source cited by Wikipedia. Same with Snopes, or the Washington Post, or CNN.

When challenged, I ask whether they have any reputable sources that they can cite to disprove the facts I’ve stated. If they don’t cite any sources, I stop responding to their claims. “I’ll be glad to address any facts that you cite with sources, but otherwise, I’ll just stick with the position that I’ve proven.” 


The next tactic is “whataboutism.” One frequent use by Trump after the election was to repeat the lie about Clinton giving 20% of the US’ uranium to Russia in exchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation, despite the fact that the claims are patently baseless, as detailed in this PolitiFact article.

The response is to steer the conversation back to the issue at hand. For example, “even assuming what you’re saying is true, which it’s not, you’re saying that it’s OK for Trump to have colluded with the Russians because Clinton did this?” The risk is that the Republican will claim a double standard, or that the media is only focused on the issue because it’s Trump.

The best thing to do here is to simply beg off. “I’m willing to talk about Trump’s many ties to Russia and the treasonous nature of the Trump Tower meetings (as Steve Bannon has pointed out), but I’m not going to respond to extraneous claims.” If you can then make an additional statement in support of your original argument, perhaps you can get the Republican back on track.

I’m not saying it’s easy, particularly when the claim is a whopper, but recognize that it’s a tactic, an attempt to divert your attention and wear you down. Don’t get sucked in.


The final tactic is trolling, or making provocative statements just to anger you and get a reaction. Call it another distraction technique. There are dozens of Trump examples, including his tweets about President Obama wiretapping his home in Trump Tower. The answer here is to just not engage. “Even if President Obama did wiretap Trump’s apartment, which I’m sure he didn’t, I don’t see how that’s relevant to discussing how the new tax bill benefits the rich.”

My favorite example from Facebook demonstrates all three tactics. In a discussion about healthcare (healthcare?!), a poster brought up that Hillary Clinton admired Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who in 1924 spoke to a group of KKK women about birth control and once supported Eugenics. This is a clear example of both whataboutism and trolling. As you can see, I bit and found a Snopes article that refuted her claim, to which she used the first tactic, delegitimizing the press, of course citing no sources.  

The best response would have been, “Even if what you’re saying is true, which I’m sure it’s not, this has nothing to do with health care. Let’s stick to that, shall we?” Next time I’ll say that, and avoid getting pulled down the rabbit hole.

Many of us fighting the good fight have full-time jobs, and all of us have better things to do than waste time debating inefficiently. Watch for these tactics, recognize them when you see them and respond strategically.

I’m not a huge Oliver fan, but this bit is brilliant. Take five and have a look and listen.

Time to Move On From Coal

Few things in life are more distressing than losing a job or profession. But nothing is more wasteful than throwing good money after bad, or raising hopes that will never be fulfilled. So it is with coal in the VA9th.

Pictures are worth a thousand words. What the Virgina Coal Extraction image atop the page tells us is that:

  • Despite what Morgan Griffith has inaccurately labeled Obama’s war on coal, coal production in Virginia peaked in 1988 and started its precipitous decline under George H. W. Bush.
  • Coal production and the associated jobs aren’t coming back, despite claims by Griffith and Trump.
  • The best assistance we can provide to former minors is to find alternative opportunities, not make empty promises.

As confirmation, in a recent study, Indiana University researchers found that “Current federal efforts to revive the coal industry will likely do more harm than good to fragile Appalachian communities transitioning from coal as a major source of employment.”  The study’s key conclusions were:

  • Rolling back environmental regulations will not lead to a significant resurgence of the coal industry because those regulations played only a minor role relative to slowing demand for electricity and a surge in cheaper, cleaner sources of energy.
  • Promising coal communities a return of their jobs has the potential to fill them with false hope, which can threaten the very progress that has been made in launching job training programs and other transition steps.
  • Government programs should focus on helping communities find and harness new economic and human development opportunities with a focus on health and education, professional growth, and public services.

It’s natural to feel empathy towards those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own. But the correct focus is on finding new jobs, not promising the return of jobs that will never come back.

Data Sources:

The chart atop the page is from David Roper, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech.

You can find data sources for the image here.


Net Neutrality in 60 Seconds or Less: Why Griffith Will Vote No

Griffith has taken $198,000 in contributions from telecom companies during his time in office; if net neutrality comes to Congress, which way do you expect he will vote? 

Net neutrality sounds like one of those techie issues that companies and politicians argue about but means nothing to you. If you have a Netflix account or watch a lot of YouTube, nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s a short description to get you up to speed.

What is net neutrality? Here’s a snippet from CNN. “The net neutrality rules were approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 amid an outpouring of online support. The intention was to keep the internet open and fair. Under the rules, internet service providers are required to treat all online content the same. They can’t deliberately speed up or slow down traffic from specific websites or apps, nor can they put their own content at an advantage over rivals.”

What just happened? The FCC just repealed these rules. The vote was on party lines, three Republicans voted to repeal, two Democrats voted against.

What does this mean? It means that internet service providers can prioritize traffic from their own media companies over third-party companies. This chart, from Business Insider, shows how potentially damaging that could be. For example, any of the internet service providers (ISPs) could throttle content from Netflix and YouTube, legally, so long as they disclose the practice. They could charge Netflix for fast access through their service, or charge consumers who access Netflix.

Here’s a snippet from CityBeat.

“For example, consider how ISPs in other countries that don’t recognize net neutrality protections, such as Portugal, are able to bundle popular internet services. Customers pay their ISP to access the internet and then an additional fee to access different bundles of popular content and services, such as YouTube, Hulu, Amazon or PayPal.”

So in addition to paying Netflix for Netflix, you’ll pay Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon as well. To track all of your watching data, these providers may deploy “supercookies,” without notification.

Who benefits? The large internet service providers.

How does this benefit consumers? It doesn’t. It makes the internet more intrusive, more expensive, may slow content from sites you like to watch and will increase the cost of innovation since new content sites will have to pay ISPs. Just like the Republican Congress voting to allow ISPs to sell browsing history, this benefits ISPs to the detriment of consumers.

What happens next? The FCC decision can be challenged in court or Congress. But today, it is the new normal.

What’s Morgan Griffith’s take on net neutrality? When a constituent asked about it, he quoted the Republican FCC Commissioner that the FCC was “adopting a solution that won’t work, to a problem that doesn’t exist, using legal authority it doesn’t have.” The quote proved to be wrong, as net neutrality was upheld by federal courts in 2016. More to the point, Griffith has accepted $198,000 in campaign contributions from telecom companies during his time in office. If legislation does come up, which way would you expect him to vote?

Three Takes on the New Tax Plan

The big question in everyone’s mind should be whether the new tax plan will help us in the VA9th, either directly or indirectly. Several interesting observations point to no.

These comments highlight that at some point, 9th district voters need to ignore the party line and start voting for representatives who pursue our best interests. While there may be a few wealthy individuals in the district who benefit from the new tax plan, overall it’s a huge negative.

All district voters should be asking themselves, “what’s in this bill for me?” The honest answer is very little, if not nothing at all.

OK, on to the comments.

The first is from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. Here’s what the EPI said.

“After spending most of the year promising a tax cut for the middle class, Republicans in the Senate have joined their colleagues from the House of Representatives in reneging on this pledge. The bill passed today is nothing more than a giveaway to the richest households and corporations, period. It will raise taxes on many low- and moderate-income households, and the deficits it will leave in its wake will be used to attack Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—a strategy clearly telegraphed by both the Republican budget resolution from last month as well as by Senator Rubio more recently.

Besides lying about who would benefit most directly from the tax cut, defenders of today’s bill have also lied about the trickle-down benefits that will accrue to workers in the form of higher wages. Simply put, this bill will not raise wages for typical workers—but it will deny health insurance to 13 million workers, a measure Senate Republicans included to help contain the overall cost of giving large tax cuts to rich households and corporations. This bill is a scam through-and-through.”

The second is from the ChangeWave Investing newsletter which before now, has been very apolitical. In the December 5 newletter, author Josh Levine states (sorry, it’s a private newsletter, so I can’t provide a link,

“Growth is the key word for those promoting the tax plan. Proponents argue that by reducing the corporate income tax rate to 20% from the current 35% – along with a provision that allows some companies to bring back hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign profits at a lower rate than they otherwise would’ve paid – will translate to higher capital investment and wages. In other words, if the government taxes the rich less, the wealthy will save more, grow US capital stock and investment, and make workers more productive.

While such a tax scheme will ensure higher profits in the short run, thus giving a further tailwind to share prices, there is little evidence to support the case for trickle-down economics.

Fact is the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled from 10% to more than 20%, while income accrued by the bottom 50% has been almost halved, from 20% percent to 12.5%. There has been no growth at all in the average pretax income of the bottom half of the population over the past 40 years – during which trickle-down enthusiasts promised just the opposite.

Today corporate profits and cash balances are already near historic records, and the business cycle is in the latter stages with interest rates and unemployment at long-term lows. If anything, such a tax plan would be far better suited for an economy at its trough, rather than closer to a peak.”

The third is from a letter to the editor from Rebecca Jones in the Roanoke Times which adds a local bent.

“The TCJA is full of gimmicks which will negatively affect southwest Virginians. Any small tax cuts benefiting the middle-class will be temporary: most of us will see our taxes rise within a few years, and those earning the least will see the biggest tax increase. Tax cuts for large corporations will be permanent, with no guarantees whatsoever that these billions in tax cuts will be used to create jobs or increase wages. Recent history suggests these corporations instead will direct their windfall to stockholders, CEO pay increases, and stock buybacks.

The wealthiest Americans will benefit mightily from tax cuts and the estate tax repeal, while the middle class, small businesses, and colleges and universities will bear the brunt of the noxious effects of a plan crafted to satisfy GOP mega-donors.

For families with children, college and graduate students, and those with student loans, the TCJA repeals vital deductions, making it harder to afford college tuition and significantly increasing student debt. TCJA harms colleges and universities directly in ways which will make higher education much more costly and less accessible.

Shame on Morgan Griffith! Call him today and tell him we are too smart to fall for this con game!”


David Stockman on Fox News – Why Trump’s Tax Plan Won’t Work

Stockman was budget director for Reagan, and he brilliantly details why Trump’s tax plan won’t create jobs or stimulate the economy, holding off five Fox News “experts.” If you have only ten minutes to learn about the Tax Plan, watch this video.