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Daily Reads: Should Al Franken Stay or Go?; Analysis Says Tax Bill Will Add Trillions to Deficit

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Should Al Franken Stay or Go?

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The punishment should fit the crime –> Yesterday radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of forcibly kissing her during a rehearsal for a staged skit and mugging for a photograph as if he were groping her as she slept. At The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg says Al Franken needs to go. “My first instinct is to say that Franken deserves a chance to go through an ethics investigation but remain in the Senate,” she writes, “but if that happens, the current movement toward unprecedented accountability for sexual harassers will probably start to peter out.”

Democrats and progressives are debating what consequences should befall the popular figure. The Nation’s Joan Walsh argues that Franken should survive unless other women come forward with stories that establish that this incident was part of a larger pattern of behavior.

And Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight that Democrats had an opportunity to take the moral high-ground by immediately cutting Franken loose — without costing them a Senate seat, as Minnesota’s Democratic governor would have appointed his replacement — but they already blew it by “punting” the question until a Senate ethics investigation is completed.

For the record, according to The New York Times‘ Adam Nagourney, Leeann Tweeden says that “as of now she does not think Al Franken should step down” because “people make mistakes.” But, Nagourney adds, “she said her opinion might change if other women come forward.”

31 times –> In a remarkable New York Times piece that required 18 months of reporting, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal discovered that the US military greatly overestimates the precision of its bombing campaign against ISIS and significantly underestimates the number of innocent civilians it has killed. Khan and Gopal conducted “the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since this latest military action began in 2014,” and found that the civilian death toll is “more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.”

210,000 gallons –> That’s the amount of oil spilled from a leak in the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota yesterday morning. Robinson Meyer writes at The Atlantic that a similarly sized spill in Prudhoe Bay, on Alaska’s northern coast, resulted in BP paying $100 million in damages in 2006.

Fourteen –> “As the days go by, the Las Vegas shooting lawsuits are piling up,” writes Rachel Crosby at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She reports that in “complaints filed Wednesday in Clark County District Court, 14 more people are seeking damages from the Oct. 1 mass shooting, which left 58 concertgoers dead and more than 500 injured.”

Their votes have been recorded –> Yesterday, House Republicans passed their tax bill, which would increase federal deficits by $1.7 trillion over the next decade in order to finance cuts that are sufficiently skewed toward corporations and the wealthy that many middle-class families would see an immediate increase in their tax bills. Now the effort turns to the Senate, where The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta say the road is likely to get much harder.

An analysis by the Center for American Progress finds that under the House bill, “the money used to give President Donald Trump and his family an enormous tax break would be enough to pay more than 20,000 teachers.”

Ed Kilgore reports for New York magazine that 12 of the 13 Republicans who voted against the bill “are from three-high tax states whose upper-middle-class citizens will be hit pretty hard by the bill’s partial elimination of the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT).” He predicts that this blue state Republican “revolt” could come back to haunt the party, depending on how differences between the House and Senate bill are reconciled.

As the Senate took up the effort in committee on Thursday, there was this remarkable exchange between Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who chairs the Finance Committee, over who would benefit from the Republicans’ bill…

Asylum-seekers are not illegal –> That’s what both US and international law says, but Ryan Devereaux reports for The Intercept that a new lawsuit charges that the Trump administration has engaged in “a systematic campaign aimed at turning away asylum-seekers” at the border, which he says is “linked to the embrace of hard-line immigration enforcement policies at the heart of the president’s rise to power.”

Best democracy the Koch brothers’ money can buy –> The Center for Public Integrity “investigated an array of organizations that have participated in legal challenges dating back 40 years that have resulted in a [campaign finance] system allowing unlimited sums to be pumped into modern elections,” writes CPI’s Lateshia Beachum. And while there are various players behind them, “throughout that history, Koch-backed groups have stood out as reliable, stalwart opponents of regulation of money in politics.”

One for Sinclair –> The FCC “rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold — potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies,” according to Brian Fung at The Washington Post.

Deadlocked –> According to CNN, “the federal corruption trial of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial Thursday after the jury reported it was hopelessly deadlocked.”

What’s he hiding? –> Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee say Jared Kushner “received emails in September 2016 about WikiLeaks and about a ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ and forwarded them to another campaign official” but “failed to turn over the relevant documents when they asked for them last month.” Kyle Cheney has more at Politico.

Katie Zavadski reports for The Daily Beast that Reza Zarrab, a Turkish businessman awaiting trial for allegedly dodging US sanctions, “was secretly removed from a federal prison and may be working with prosecutors” to “take down” Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.

Darren Samuelsohn reports for Politico that “special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is preparing to interview the woman who’s seen it all: Hope Hicks. She’s been part of Donald Trump’s inner circle for years, first at Trump Tower and then as an omnipresent gatekeeper and fixer who could get emails or other communications directly to the boss during the 2016 campaign.”

And with Republicans working hard to shift the conversation to their Hillary Clinton scandals, Eliza Newlin Carney writes at The American Prospect that their “renewed anti-Clinton fervor will do more to hurt the GOP than Democrats in the long run… Now in power but bankrupt of ideas or accomplishments, Republicans can no longer win by simply attacking the opposition.”

Head of community outreach” –> CNN reports that Jamie Johnson, Trump’s head of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security, “has said in the past that the black community is responsible… for ‘turn[ing] America’s major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual promiscuity,’ and “argued that Islam’s only contribution to society was ‘oil and dead bodies.'” He also told a conservative radio host that “diversity is simply a cloak to hide a far-left Marxist globalist ideology that seems to undercut and undermine every principle on which this nation was built.”

Shortly after the CNN story aired, Johnson resigned his position, according to The Washington Post.

Speaking of bigots –> “Twitter hasn’t quite figured out how it’s going to deal with white supremacists and hate speech on its platform,” writes Noah Kulwin at Vice. “But it’s going to start small: taking away blue checkmarks” that indicate an account has been verified by the social media company.

Zimbabwe –> We mentioned earlier this week that Robert Mugabe appears to have been deposed in a bloodless coup in Zimbabwe. At the HuffPost, Nick Robins-Early and Willa Frej offer a pretty good overview of what’s unfolding in the southern African nation.

Keystone narcs –> Detroit police officials expressed their embarrassment over an incident in which undercover police officers posing as drug addicts tried to buy narcotics from undercover cops posing as drug dealers and they all ended up in a huge fist-fight in the middle of the street. The somewhat comical story could have ended in real tragedy — guns were pulled during the fracas. Harriet Sinclair has more details on that one at Newsweek.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.



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