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President Donald Trump speaks at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, an ethanol producer, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Conway dares jail sentence

Here we go again — saying something in the Trump world is "unprecedented."

U.S. Office of Special Counsel Henry Kerner — a Trump appointee — said Thursday it is "unprecedented" for his office to recommend that someone of White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway's stature should be terminated for serial violations of the 80-year-old Hatch Act. But that's exactly what he did, adding this:

"You know what else is unprecedented? Kellyanne Conway's behavior," Kerner said in an interview with The Washington Post. "What kind of example does that send to the federal workforce? If you're high enough up in the White House, you can break the law, but if you're a postal carrier or a regular federal worker, you lose your job?"

On Friday morning, President Donald Trump blew off U.S. law yet again, saying he will not punish Conway.

"Well, I got briefed on it yesterday, and it looks to me like they're trying to take away her right to free speech," Trump told Fox News.

For her part, Conway, too, has long blown it off. Last month she looked straight into the camera of another news organization and said, "Blah, blah, blah. If you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts."

The Hatch Act bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in the course of their official job duties. The law says federal employees must abstain from "any active part" in political campaigns. But Conway regularly and on camera brings up and denigrates Democratic political candidates and refers to individuals in terms of their candidacy — in effect, giving her boss regular free commercials.

 

Blackburn blocks free elections

What is not unprecedented — especially in Tennessee politics — is being unpatriotic while pretending to be patriotic.

Such was the case last week when Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, blocked an effort by Virginia's Democratic Sen. Mark Warner to pass a bill via unanimous consent requiring campaigns to report to the FBI any offers of foreign assistance.

"These reporting requirements are overbroad," Blackburn said of the need to report Russians and the like from offering "dirt" on a political candidate to his or her opponent. "Presidential campaigns would have to worry about disclosure at a variety of levels. So many different levels. Consider this: vendors that work for a campaign, people that are supplying some kind of voter service to a campaign. It would apply to door knockers, it would apply to phone bankers, down to any person who shares their views with a candidate."

Warner countered that Blackburn's reading of the legislation is "not accurate The only thing that would have to be reported is if the agent of a foreign government or national offered something that was already prohibited."

The block came after President Trump's comments Wednesday that he would consider accepting intelligence on a political opponent from a foreign entity, an outrage that Democrats rightly see as an invitation for foreign adversaries to interfere in future U.S. elections.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and the House have renewed calls to pass election security measures, with some telling Axios and other reporters that they see Trump's comments as "anti-American" and grounds for impeachment.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, responding to Blackburn's objection, said on the Senate floor: "How disgraceful it is that our Republican friends cower before this president when they know that the things he does severely damage democracy."

Schumer doesn't understand that Blackburn knows no shame.

 

Measles gains on common sense

Hooray for New York on its becoming the latest state to end religious exemptions for school vaccines. The vote comes as the state tries to get control of the nation's largest measles outbreak.

"We're putting science ahead of misinformation about vaccines and standing up for the rights of immunocompromised children and adults, pregnant women and infants who can't be vaccinated through no fault of their own," said Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman.

New York's law gives unvaccinated students up to 30 days to show they've started required immunizations. The state follows California, Mississippi, West Virginia and Maine in taking the action.

All states have laws requiring various vaccines for students, and all allow for medical exemptions. Many also grant parents the right to exempt their children from the vaccines for religious reasons, including Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

More than half the states in the country have reported cases of measles to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

But measles, which in the 1960s was largely eradicated thanks to the introduction of the vaccine, isn't the only danger.

The anti-vaccination movement has triggered a disturbing resurgence of other preventable illnesses, like chickenpox. And the 2017-2018 flu season saw the lowest vaccination rate — and the most deaths — in decades, with nearly 80,000 reported deaths, including more than 180 children. According to the CDC, 80% of the children killed by flu had not received the flu vaccine.

Call your state lawmakers and insist that they require vaccinations.

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