Sunday, December 17, 2017

Israeli Messy Right Now

The UN Security Council is attempting to do something about Trump's explosive call to end the Middle East peace process and unilaterally declare Jerusalem the sole province of Israel, but there's not much the UN can frankly do, and Trump knows it.

The United Nations Security Council is considering a draft resolution that would insist any decisions on the status of Jerusalem have no legal effect and must be rescinded after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital.

The one-page Egyptian-drafted text, which was circulated to the 15-member council on Saturday and seen by Reuters, does not specifically mention the United States or Trump. Diplomats say it has broad support but will likely be vetoed by Washington.

The council could vote early next week, diplomats said. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Britain, Russia or China to pass.

Trump abruptly reversed decades of U.S. policy this month when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, generating outrage from Palestinians. Trump also plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

After the decision, Arab foreign ministers agreed to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution. While the draft is unlikely to be adopted, it would further isolate Trump over the Jerusalem issue.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the draft. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has praised Trump’s decision as “the just and right thing to do.”

The draft U.N. resolution “affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.”

Again, such a measure would be vetoed by the US (as any real UN Security Council measure holding Israel actually responsible for its collective punishment of Palestinians over the last several decades has been vetoed by the US, long before Trump) but I'm sure the vote will be 14-1 anyway.

The reality is that the UN can't really do anything that its five permanent members don't want done collectively, so there's no real will to punish the Trump regime politically, economically, or diplomatically (and certainly not militarily!)

 I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

At least one Democrat is warning that Donald Trump will fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller and that Republicans will attempt to end the House investigation against Trump at the end of next week after Congress leaves for the holidays.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said Friday that "rumors" on Capitol Hill suggest President Trump could fire special counsel Robert Mueller before Christmas, after Congress leaves Washington for the winter recess.

The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on Dec. 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller," Speier told California's KQED News.

Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that Trump was trying to shut down the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, pointing to the lack of interviews scheduled for the new year.

The New York Times reported Friday that the committee is scheduling its final witnesses of the year to testify in New York, despite important votes coming up in Washington, D.C., and confirmed no additional witnesses are scheduled yet in 2018.

"We can read between the lines I think," Speier said. "I believe this president wants all of this shut down. He wants to shut down these investigations, and he wants to fire special counsel Mueller."

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), also said Friday that he is worried that Republicans leading the committee are seeking to shut down the committee's investigation by the end of the year.

"Republicans have scheduled no witnesses after next Friday and none in 2017 [sic]. We have dozens of outstanding witnesses on key aspects of our investigation that they refuse to contact and many document requests they continue to sit on," he tweeted Friday.

The Department of Justice has repeatedly said that Mueller would not be fired short of misconduct but Trump backers have been setting the table for weeks attacking Mueller's credibility, and now a majority of Americans believe Mueller has a conflict of interest.  Trump will reportedly make his move after FOX News reported exactly such "misconduct" this weekend.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained “many tens of thousands" of Trump transition emails, including emails of Jared Kushner, transition team sources tell Axios. 
Trump officials discovered Mueller had the emails when his prosecutors used them as the basis for questions to witnesses, the sources said. 
The emails include 12 accounts, one of which contains about 7,000 emails, the sources said. 
The accounts include the team's political leadership and the foreign-policy team, the sources said.

Why it matters: The transition emails are said to include sensitive exchanges on matters that include potential appointments, gossip about the views of particular senators involved in the confirmation process, speculation about vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, strategizing about press statements, and policy planning on everything from war to taxes. 
“Mueller is using the emails to confirm things, and get new leads," a transition source told me.

How it happened: The sources say Mueller obtained the emails from the General Services Administration, the government agency that hosted the transition email system, which had addresses ending in “," for Presidential Transition Team.

Taking fight public: Charging "unlawful conduct," Kory Langhofer, counsel for the transition team, wrote in a letter to congressional committees Saturday that "career staff at the General Services Administration ... have unlawfully produced [transition team] private materials, including privileged communications, to the Special Counsel's Office."

In other words, the White House is officially saying that Mueller got these emails illegally, that the emails weren't germane to the investigation, that went too far to get them, that the emails were either leaked to him or stolen, and as a result the entire investigation is a fraud.

No doubt Trump will use this as his justification to fire Mueller next weekend, waiting for Congress to recess for the year so there's no opposition from Democrats.

The stage is now set as the right-wing noise machine is at full blast.

"The anti-Mueller rhetoric in conservative media right now is part of a feedback loop," Nicole Hemmer, the author of a book about conservative media, "Messengers of the Right," told CNNMoney.

"Conservative media personalities know Trump hates the investigation and wants it shut down," she said in an email. "They bash the investigation and Mueller, and when Trump sees that happening (say, on 'Fox & Friends') it reinforces his belief that the investigation is illegitimate and that he should do something to end it. The likely consequence is that this increases the odds of Trump attempting to fire Mueller."

Hemmer added: "We'll have to wait and see whether internal restraints within the White House — lawyers and advisers — are enough to stop him from doing that."

  What happens now depends on us.

Trump Cards, Con't

A few years ago the name of the person in the White House became synonymous with hope, diversity, inclusivity, equality. Obama still means that to millions across the country and the world today.

The curent occupant of the Oval Office, well his name has become a racial epithet, a promise of violence, a quantum of racism, a barbaric yawp of white supremacy, shorthand for what fate awaits non-Christian whites in the America that exists today.

Last year’s contentious presidential election gave oxygen to hate. An analysis of F.B.I. crime data by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found a 26 percent increase in bias incidents in the last quarter of 2016 — the heart of the election season — compared with the same period the previous year. The trend has continued into 2017, with the latest partial data for the nation’s five most populous cities showing a 12 percent increase.

In addition, anti-Muslim episodes have nearly doubled since 2014, according to Brian Levin, the director of the center, which he said has also counted more “mega rallies” by white nationalists in the last two years than in the previous 20. “I haven’t seen anything like this during my three decades in the field,” he said.

Peppered among these incidents is a phenomenon distinct from the routine racism so familiar in this country: the provocative use of “Trump,” after the man whose comments about Mexicans, Muslims and undocumented immigrants — coupled with his muted responses to white nationalist activity — have proved so inflammatory. His words have also become an accelerant on the playing field of sports, in his public criticism of black athletes he deems to be unpatriotic or ungrateful.

Officials at Salem State University in Massachusetts discovered hateful graffiti spray-painted on benches and a fence surrounding the baseball field, including “Trump #1 Whites Only USA.” An undocumented immigrant in Michigan reported to the police that two assailants had stapled a note bearing a slur to his stomach after telling him, “Trump doesn’t like you.” A white Massachusetts businessman at Kennedy International Airport in New York was charged with assaulting and menacing an airline worker in a hijab, saying, among other threats: “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you.”

In an email, the White House on Friday denounced the use of the president’s name in cases like these. “The president condemns violence, bigotry and hatred in all its forms, and finds anyone who might invoke his or any other political figure’s name for such aims to be contemptible,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said.

Still, it persists. Across the country, students have used the president’s name to mock or goad minority opponents at sporting events. In March, white fans at suburban Canton High School in Connecticut shouted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” as players from Hartford’s Classical Magnet School, which is predominantly black and Latino, took foul shots during a basketball playoff game. They also chanted “He’s our president!”

The visiting players and their chaperones interpreted the chants not as a sudden burst of presidential fealty, but rather as a slyly racist mantra intended to rattle. As if Donald J. Trump was the president of here, in white suburbia, and not there, in the diverse inner city.

“I’m not sure what politics has to do with basketball,” Azaria Porter, then the Classical team’s 16-year-old manager, told The Hartford Courant. “It was just annoying. It was like, O.K., we get it.”

In a world of internet meme culture and pervasive social media, Trump has become the most meme-able of things, code for all the overt discrimination and bias that is now allowed to be freely expressed in this country.

And he's proud of that fact, guaranteed.  This is what the name of the leader of our country means now, he's the leader of a twisted cult of hatred, not a name to inspire hope, but one to inspire fear.

Dirty Words Gone Dirt Cheap

The Trump regime is now telling American science agencies what they are allowed to do, what they are allowed to research, and most importantly what they are now allowed to say.

The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

The question of how to address such issues as sexual orientation, gender identity and abortion rights — all of which received significant visibility under the Obama administration — has surfaced repeatedly in federal agencies since President Trump took office. Several key departments — including Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, as well as Justice, Education, and Housing and Urban Development — have changed some federal policies and how they collect government information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

In March, for example, HHS dropped questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in two surveys of elderly people. 
HHS has also removed information about LGBT Americans from its website. The department’s Administration for Children and Families, for example, archived a page that outlined federal services that are available for LGBT people and their families, including how they can adopt and receive help if they are the victims of sex trafficking.

At the CDC, the meeting about the banned words was led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency’s Office of Financial Services, according to the CDC analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly. Kelly did not say why the words are being banned, according to the analyst, and told the group that she was merely relaying the information.

Other CDC officials confirmed the existence of a list of forbidden words.It’s likely that other parts of HHS are operating under the same guidelines regarding the use of these words, the analyst said.

Those whom the Trump regime deem undesirable are being disappeared from the government's language and from the government's programs.  The crowning achievement in all this will be the 2020 Census, where those who don't agree with the regime will erased from government records altogether.   Mass disenfranchisement done the easy way, and there's nothing to indicate that the GOP isn't doing this on purpose to justify government spending cuts.

And this is definitely a screaming signal of authoritarianism we now live under in America.  First they came for the LGBTQ, to paraphrase Niemoller.

Friday, December 15, 2017

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Robert Mueller is getting closer to the smoking gun in the Trump/Russia collusion matter, and that path goes through the data analytics firm that Trump was using in order to launder Russian intelligence.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the Trump campaign’s data operation in the months leading up to the election
, The Wall Street Journal reporter Friday. 
Mueller reportedly asked the data firm, Cambridge Analytica, to provide his investigative team with emails of employees who worked with the Trump campaign, according to sources familiar with the matter who spoke with the WSJ. 
The House Intelligence Committee, which is also probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power, also requested similar documents from the data firm earlier this year. Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, the people familiar with the investigation told WSJ. 
Mueller’s request for the emails was earlier this year, before it was widely reported that Nix was in contact with WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange in 2016. 
Cambridge Analytica began working for the Trump campaign in mid-May 2016 after former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon introduced Nix to then-candidate Trump. The firm provided the campaign with data, polling and research, WSJ reported.

With Mueller now investigating Trump Organization money laundering of Russian cash and data laundering of Russian intelligence, it's no wonder that the false attacks on the FBI and Mueller as "biased" and "compromised" are coming in hard and fast this week.

The Republican Party has spent the last two days in a frenzy of indignation over the disclosure that an FBI agent who worked on the Clinton and Trump investigations (and has since been removed) sent texts to another agent, whom he was reportedly dating, criticizing Trump. The story was driven by the curious decision by Trump’s Department of Justice to leak partial excerpts of the texts. It produced sensational headlines like, “In texts, FBI agents on Russia probe called Trump an ‘idiot’; Messages could fuel GOP claims that bias tainted Clinton and Trump investigations,” (Politico) and “In Texts, F.B.I. Officials in Russia Inquiry Said Clinton ‘Just Has to Win’” (New York Times). 
The main problem with this pseudo-scandal is that nobody has ever previously expected FBI agents not to privately express political viewpoints. Indeed, to prosecute liberal bias at agencies that lean rightward and kept the Republican nominee’s very serious investigation private while publicizing the trivial investigation into the Democratic nominee is perverse in the extreme. 
There turns out to be another flaw in the “scandal.” The main agent in question also wrote text messages criticizing Democrats, reports Del Quentin Wilber. His messages included calling Chelsea Clinton “self-entitled,” and mocking Eric Holder. He wrote, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected.” Of course, we don’t know the context of that any more than we know it for the other texts. If the administration had leaked these texts instead or in addition, the narrative would have been completely different.

So it's smoke and mirrors as with HILLARY'S EMAIL SERVER SCANDAL™ but the con is starting to work on the American people.

A majority of polled voters say special counsel Robert Mueller has a conflict of interest because of his past ties to former FBI Director James Comey, according to the latest Harvard CAPS-Harris survey
When asked if Mueller has a conflict of interest “as the former head of the FBI and a friend of James Comey,” 54 percent responded that the “relationship” between the two amounts to a conflict of interest, including 70 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of independents and 40 percent of Democrats. 
Comey succeeded Mueller as FBI director and the two have been described as “brothers in arms” for their working relationship, which dates back to the early 2000s, although the extent of their personal relationship is unclear.

The Republicans have been wrking very hard this week to destroy Robert Mueller's credibility.  Indeed, the person who appointed Mueller to the post, current DoJ Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, testified this week before Congress that Mueller has Rosenstein's full confidence, but that story has been drowned by the noise machine.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation into whether President Trump’s team assisted Russian meddling in last year’s campaign, pushed back strongly Wednesday against Republican accusations that the probe is infected with partisan bias and steadfastly defended special counsel Robert S. Mueller III
“The special counsel’s investigation is not a witch hunt,” Rosenstein told a heated House Judiciary Committee hearing, specifically rejecting the phrase that President Trump has used to denounce the case. He said Mueller has managed the case “appropriately.” 
Rosenstein also said he would not fire Mueller unless the former FBI director had violated Justice Department guidelines or the law. “If there were good cause, I would act,” he said. “If there were no good cause, I would not.”

The Trump regime continues to set up the possible firing of Mueller.  This week has been the clearest evidence yet that such an attempt to undermine Mueller to the point where he "has" to be fired is underway.  Don't buy the nonsense, and spread the word that this is going on.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Last Call For The Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver

Looks like Paul Ryan is reading the GOP tea leaves in a post-Roy Moore future and is realizing he won't be Speaker of the House much longer and is pulling a Boehner and i heading for the exits.

Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018
Ryan was tiring of D.C. even before reluctantly accepting the speakership. He told his predecessor, John Boehner, that it would be his last job in politics—and that it wasn’t a long-term proposition. In the months following Trump’s victory, he began contemplating the scenarios of his departure. More recently, over closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform, while using his unrivaled fundraising prowess to help protect the House majority—all with the benefit of averting an ugly internecine power struggle during election season. Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intraparty debates over “micro-tactics," and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center. On a personal level, going home at the end of next year would allow Ryan, who turns 48 next month, to keep promises to family; his three children are in or entering their teenage years, and Ryan, whose father died at 55, wants desperately to live at home with them full time before they begin flying the nest. The best part of this scenario, people close to the speaker emphasize: He wouldn’t have to share the ballot with Trump again in 2020.
And yet speculation is building that, Ryan, even fresh off his tax-reform triumph, might not be able to leave on his own terms. He now faces a massive pileup of cannot-fail bills in January and February. It’s an outrageous legislative lift: Congress must, in the coming weeks, fund the government, raise the debt ceiling, modify spending caps, address the continuation of health care subsidies, shell out additional funds for disaster relief and deal with the millions of undocumented young immigrants whose protected status has been thrown into limbo. It represents the most menacing stretch of Ryan’s speakership—one that will almost certainly require him to break promises made to his conference and give significant concessions to Democrats in exchange for their votes. To meet key deadlines, he’ll have to approve sizable spending increases and legal status for minors who came to the U.S. illegally—two things that could raise the ire of the GOP base and embolden his conservative rivals on Capitol Hill. There is no great outcome available, Ryan has conceded to some trusted associates—only survival. “Win the day. Win the next day. And then win the week,” Ryan has been preaching to his leadership team. 
The speaker can't afford to admit he’s a lame duck—his fundraising capacity and deal-making leverage would be vastly diminished, making the House all the more difficult to govern. When asked at the end of a Thursday morning press conference if he was leaving soon, Ryan shot a quick “no” over his shoulder as he walked out of the room.

The screaming unpopularity of Trump and the GOP right now is only going to plummet as Ryan has to betray the saps who voted Republican or the government shuts down and possibly much worse.  Either way, the Dems are looking better and better in 2018.

Oh, and Ryan knows what's going on with Trump and Pence. He knows damn well that he's third in line for the presidency and he's looking for the exits anyhow.  That alone should tell you something.

The Pope Of Kentucky, Con't

I talked earlier this week about Kentucky GOP state House member Dan Johnson, who was accused of (among other things) child molestation and arson in addition to being a racist so incredibly rancid that the Kentucky GOP disavowed him.  He was elected anyway last November and absolutely refused to resign.

But yesterday the Johnson story took an ugly turn as police say Johnson drove to a bridge and shot and apparently killed himself.

Kentucky State Rep. Dan Johnson, who was under investigation for alleged sexual molestation, died of a "probable suicide," the Bullitt County coroner said Wednesday night.

Bullitt County Sheriff Donnie Tinnell said Johnson drove onto the bridge over the Salt River on Greenwell Ford Road in Mt. Washington, parked on the north side of it and shot himself in front of his car. His body was found on the bank of the river, just past the bridge. 
Just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Johnson posted the following message on his Facebook page:

The accusations from NPR are false GOD and only GOD knows the truth, nothing is the way they make it out to be. AMERICA will not survive this type of judge and jury fake news . Conservatives take a stand. I LOVE GOD and I LOVE MY WIFE, who is the best WIFE in the world,My Love Forever ! My Mom and Dad my FAMILY and all five of my kids and Nine grandchildren two in tummies and many more to come each of you or a total gift from GOD stay strong, REBECCA needs YOU . 9-11-2001 NYC/WTC, PTSD 24/7 16 years is a sickness that will take my life, I cannot handle it any longer. IT Has Won This Life . BUT HEAVEN IS MY HOME. “PLEASE LISTEN CLOSELY, Only Three things I ask of you to do,if you love me is (1)blame no person,Satan is the accuser, so blame the Devil himself. (2) Forgive and Love everyone especially yourself .(3)most importantly LOVE GOD. P.S. I LOVE MY FRIENDS YOU ARE FAMILY ! GOD LOVES ALL PEOPLE NO MATTER WHAT ! 
The coroner said police were alerted after someone saw that Facebook post by Johnson. Officers then pinged Johnson's phone and found his body. 
On Tuesday, Johnson held a press conference at his church on Bardstown Road, where he denied the molestation allegations. According to court documents obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, the alleged molestation took place on New Year's Eve in 2012. The alleged victim, who was 17 at the time, told authorities that she was staying in a living area of the Heart of Fire City Church where Johnson was pastor, when Johnson, who had been drinking a lot, approached her, kissed her and fondled her under her clothes.

I do wish Johnson had faced justice rather than taking his own life, and that's all I'll say on the subject of his apparent suicide.  As far as the investigation into Johnson's misconduct, I'm not sure what will happen now with him gone.

We'll see how this plays out, but between this and former Kentucky House Speaker Greg Hoover's sexual misconduct and attempt to secretly settle the matter with taxpayer money and cover it up, the Kentucky GOP has a lot to answer for come November. 

Haley And The Comments, Con't

Nobody should be surprised right now that the White House is trying to simply wish away Trump's documented sexual misconduct.  He doesn't understand why this is still "a thing" and why anybody cares, after all he was elected and he won, this goes away now, right?  Of course, the answer is that the accusations aren't going anywhere.

Donald Trump sailed past a raft of allegations of sexual misconduct in last year’s presidential election.

Now the national #MeToo spotlight is turning back to Trump and his past conduct. Several of his accusers are urging Congress to investigate his behavior, and a number of Democratic lawmakers are demanding his resignation.

With each day seeming to bring new headlines that force men from positions of power, the movement to expose sexual harassment has forced an unwelcome conversation on the White House. In a heated exchange with reporters in the White House briefing room on Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders steadfastly dismissed accusations against the Republican president and suggested the issue had already been litigated in Trump’s favor on Election Day.

But to Trump’s accusers, the rising #MeToo movement is an occasion to ensure he is at last held accountable.

“It was heartbreaking last year. We’re private citizens and for us to put ourselves out there to try and show America who this man is and how he views women, and for them to say, ‘Eh, we don’t care,’ it hurt,” Samantha Holvey said Monday. The former beauty queen claimed that Trump ogled her and other Miss USA pageant contestants in their dressing room in 2006.

“Let’s try round two,” she said. “The environment’s different. Let’s try again.”

Holvey was one of four women to make her case against Trump on Monday, both in an NBC interview and then in a news conference. Rachel Crooks, a former Trump Tower receptionist who said the celebrity businessman kissed her on the mouth in 2006 without consent, called for Congress to “put aside party affiliations and investigate Trump’s history of sexual misconduct.”

“If they were willing to investigate Sen. Franken, it’s only fair that they do the same for Trump,” Crooks said.

And as I said over the weekend, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley's comments that Trump's accusers should be heard has now put a target on her back, I would expect she isn't much longer with this regime.

White House aides have warily watched the movement sweep Capitol Hill, opting to repeat rote denials about allegations against the president. The president’s advisers were stunned Sunday when one of the highest-ranking women in the Trump administration broke with the White House line and said the accusers’ voices “should be heard.”

“They should be heard, and they should be dealt with,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a CBS interview. “And I think we heard from them before the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.”

Haley’s comments infuriated the president, according to two people who are familiar with his views but who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. Trump has grown increasingly angry in recent days that the accusations against him have resurfaced, telling associates that the charges are false and drawing parallels to the accusations facing Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Of course, Roy Moore's denials (did/did not) work for Roy Moore, yes?  They were working up until now for Trump. Whether they will keep working, we're going to find out.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Last Call For Tales Of A Lesser Moore, Con't

If Republicans can lose in Alabama, then no GOP seat in Congress in 2018 should be considered even remotely safe. Five Thirty Eight's Harry Enten:

Democrat Doug Jones’s stunning victory in Alabama on Tuesday should send a shiver down the spine of GOP elected officials everywhere. Yes, Jones likely would have lost the special election for a U.S. Senate seat had his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, not been an extremely flawed candidate. But Moore’s defeat is part of a larger pattern we’ve seen in special elections so far this year, one in which Democrats have greatly outperformed expectations. If history holds (and of course, it may not), the special election results portend a Democratic wave in 2018. 
There have been more than 70 special elections for state and federal legislative seats in 2017 so far.1 We’re interested in each of those contests, of course, but we’re also interested in what the races tell us about the national political environment. To measure that, we compared each special election result to that state or district’s partisan lean2 — how we’d expect the state or district to vote in a neutral environment (i.e. an environment in which a Democratic and Republican presidential candidate would tie 50-50 nationally). 
So, in a neutral environment, we’d expect each special election result to match that state or district’s partisan lean. Instead, Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean in 74 percent of these races.


The Democratic margin has been 12 percentage points better, on average, than the partisan lean in each race. Sometimes this has resulted in a seat flipping from Republican to Democratic (e.g. in the Alabama Senate face-off on Tuesday or Oklahoma’s 37th state Senate District contest last month). Sometimes it has meant the Democrat barely loses a seat you wouldn’t expect a Democrat to be competitive in (e.g. in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District in June). Sometimes it’s merely been the case that the Democrat wins a district by an even wider margin than you’d expect (e.g. in Pennsylvania’s 133 House District last week). 
The point is that Democrats are doing better in all types of districts with all types of candidates. You don’t see this type of consistent outperformance unless there’s an overriding pro-Democratic national factor. 
And to be clear, although there have been more special elections on the state level, the pro-Democratic environment is quite clear if you look only at federal special elections. There have been seven special U.S. House and U.S. Senate elections so far this year. The Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean in all of them.

Gosh, what national factor boosting all types of Democrats in all types of races in all types of locations could be responsible for such over-performance?

It's a mystery, you guys.

Police Shootings By The Numbers

VICE News takes an in-depth look at the nation's 50 largest police departments and finds that police shootings are, quite literally, criminally under-reported by the cops.

An exclusive analysis of data from the 50 largest local police departments in the United States shows that police shoot Americans more than twice as often as previously known
Police shootings aren’t just undercounted — police in these departments shoot black people at a higher rate and shoot unarmed people far more often than any data has shown. Recent reform efforts have already worked to bring down police shootings, our investigation shows. Yet Attorney General Jeff Sessions is moving away from these reforms, to the dismay of advocates, experts, and some local law enforcement officials. 
VICE News examined both fatal and nonfatal incidents to determine that cops in the 50 largest local departments shot at least 3,631 people from 2010 through 2016. That’s more than 500 people a year. On more than 700 other occasions, police fired at citizens and missed. Two-thirds of the people cops fired at survived. 
In Los Angeles, an officer shot a 13-year-old boy playing with a replica gun, leaving him paralyzed. In Philadelphia, an off-duty cop shot his own son. Officers in Baltimore killed an off-duty colleague and struck three women with errant bullets while responding to a fight outside a nightclub. A cop in Seattle accidentally shot a teenage girl in the leg while drawing his gun; the teen was promptly arrested and jailed on an outstanding warrant.
Police shootings on the whole are rare, but experts say nonfatal shootings are just as important to understanding police violence as fatal encounters are. 
“We should know about how often it happens, if for no other reason than to simply understand the phenomenon,” said David Klinger, a former Los Angeles police officer and a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “How often is it that police are putting bullets in people’s bodies or trying to put bullets in people’s bodies?” 
After the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and other high-profile cases where police shot and killed unarmed black men, the Washington Post and the Guardian began keeping a running tally of fatal incidents. Then-FBI Director James Comey called the lack of federal data on police killings “embarrassing” and committed the agency to a new initiative to collect statistics from police departments. A handful of state and local agencies also made their data public. The Tampa Bay Times and the Texas Tribune counted all police shootings in Florida and the major cities in Texas. 
But just 35 police departments participate in the federal initiative today, out of 18,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies. And as VICE News found, some departments don’t have systems in place to track nonfatal shootings by their own officers. Others wouldn’t provide data on demographics or whether the people they shoot are armed, making it hard to judge why and how often cops use deadly force or the efficacy of reforms. 
Until now, there has never been a national reckoning of police shootings that includes Americans who are shot by cops and survive. 
VICE News’ investigation is the first attempt to count both fatal and nonfatal shootings by American police in departments across the country. The data isn’t comprehensive — it covers about 148,000 police officers who serve more than 54 million Americans — but it offers the most complete picture yet of when cops shoot and who they shoot. The national tally of police shootings beyond our data is likely far higher.

And yes, Jeff Sessions has already reversed many of these initiatives to the point where police shootings will only go far higher in the years ahead.

Black lives still matter, especially the ones that are taken by police and not recorded as such.  And there are many.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Last Call For It's Mueller Time

Panic mode is now settling in at the White House as Mueller is closing in on Trump and his family, and Trump's people know damn well their necks are on the block too. Trump's legal eagles are in way over their heads.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team of a dozen-plus lawyers and investigators have proven stealthy in their wide-ranging Russia probe. They have surprised the White House with one indictment after another, and summoned President Trump’s confidants for lengthy interviews. In the case of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort alone, court filings show, they have collected more than 400,000 documents and 36 electronic devices. 
Mueller and his deputies are, in the fearful word of some Trump loyalists, “killers.” 
Trump’s response, by contrast, is being directed by John M. Dowd, the president’s personal lawyer retired from a large firm who works essentially as a one-man band, and Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer who works out of a small office in the West Wing basement, near the cafeteria where staffers get lunch. 
Dowd and Cobb, along with attorney Jay Sekulow, serve not only as Trump’s lawyers but also as his strategists, publicists, therapists — and, based on Dowd’s claim that he wrote a controversial presidential tweet, ghostwriters. 
When Mueller requests documents, they provide them. When Trump reacts to new twists in the Russia saga, they seek to calm him down. When he has questions about the law, such as the Logan Act or Magnitsky Act, they explain it. And when the president frets that Mueller may be getting too close to him, they assure him he has done nothing wrong, urge him to resist attacking the special counsel and insist that the investigation is wrapping up — first, they said, by Thanksgiving, then by Christmas and now by early next year. 
As counsel for the world’s highest-profile client, every move and utterance by Dowd and Cobb has been scrutinized — and the criticism has been harsh. 
Many in the Washington legal community chide them as being indiscreet, error-prone and outmatched. They say public blunders — such as Dowd and Cobb casually chatting about their legal strategy on the patio of a downtown Washington steakhouse in September within earshot of a reporter — suggest a lack of discipline
Critics also question why, seven months into Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, they have not assembled a battalion of lawyers as former president Bill Clinton had when he was being investigated by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. And some Trump loyalists, spoiling for a fight, say the president’s lawyers should be combative rather than cooperative with Mueller. 
“There certainly have been gaffes,” said Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense attorney and Harvard Law School professor who has won praise from Trump for his television appearances defending a president’s constitutional prerogative to fire his FBI director.

“These are not the kinds of things that one would expect from the most powerful man in America, who has a choice of anybody to be his defense counsel,” Dershowitz said. “Well — almost anybody,” he added, saying that he is not interested in the job.

Nobody wants to come in to quarterback the 0-10 franchise, guys.   But Trump wants better lawyers, so he's going to get them from the Justice Department.

Not ready to fire Mueller outright just yet, Trump's lawyers are settling for the next best thing: a new special counsel appointed to investigate the Mueller probe...and Hillary Clinton. It looks like this will be Trump's move against Mueller, with GOP blessing. Politico 2.0's Mike Allen (also 2.0 revision):

Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night.

The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: "A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: ... The official's wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election." 
Jay Sekulow, a member of the President's legal team, tells me: "The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate." 
Unlike some other vocal Republicans, Trump's lawyers say they respect Mueller and trust him, and want to get to the finish line with him. 
In November, the WashPost reported: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia." 
Trump lawyers' strategy: Cooperate with Mueller, and insist publicly they have nothing to hide, and expect the president to be fully cleared early in the new year. 
Behind the curtain: Trump's non-legal aides seem way more nervous, and some tell me that they assume the end will be neither near nor pleasant. 
Be smart: Among Republicans, the argument that the investigation is tainted is picking up steam, including comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Friday: "I will be challenging Rs and Ds on Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 — not just Trump and Russia."

With Trump's lawyers now calling for that second special counsel, I expect it will be appointed soon in order to try to muddy the waters.  It was one thing for rumors about another special counsel and for Lindsey Graham to grouse about it on Twitter, but for the President's lawyers to officially take that legal position means that this will most likely be going forward, and Republicans will applaud it. Lord knows Trump's current legal team is headed for destruction.

Luckily for Trump, if he does go through with this, he can rely on allies he can easily manipulate. Expect "both sides are now under investigation" stories and screaming by Trump that the FAKE NEWS isn't covering the second special counsel enough.  "Lock her up!" will be back in a big way in 2018 if what I suspect will happen does indeed materialize.

Most importantly, Republicans will say that Congress cannot act on Mueller's coming recommendations involving Trump/Russia until the second special counsel investigation is complete, and that will of course be long after the 2018 midterms next year.  It may not be done until after the 2020 election, even.  That's the best-case scenario for Trump under this.

It's very easy to imagine the Mueller probe relegated to political irrelevance in this fashion, especially if Trump manages to get his shooting war in Iran or North Korea next year, too.

Mueller doesn't have to be fired for the investigation to essentially disappear into the BOTH SIDES DO IT void of history.  Our press will most likely do it for us.

The Pope Of Kentucky

If you haven't heard the name Dan Johnson, you'd be forgiven.  But around Kentucky, the long-time preacher, self-promoter, political activist, avowed racist and now State Representative is in a lot of trouble.

Disavowed from the state GOP last year after making comically racist Facebook campaign posts, the people of Bullitt County south of Louisville elected him to the General Assembly anyway from the 49th state House district.  Johnson immediately filed legislation to outlaw abortion in the state and recently a bill to require pornography filters for all internet capable devices in the state that would require a $20 state fee to deactivate.  He's been a giant pain in the ass on the state since the word go.

But now Johnson is facing calls from both parties to resign after a new bombshell story that he molested a 17-year-old girl in 2012.

The Republican Party of Kentucky is calling on a GOP member of the Kentucky House of Representatives to resign from office following a news report Monday that revealed he was accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl in 2012. 
“Last October, after local media reports about reprehensible and racist posts on his Facebook page, we asked then-candidate Dan Johnson to drop out of the race for State Representative,” said Mac Brown, the chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky. “Following today’s extensively sourced and documented story from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, we once again find ourselves in a position where we must call for him to resign, this time, from the Kentucky General Assembly.” 
The Kentucky Democratic Party also called on Johnson to resign, saying “Kentucky families deserve better.” 
“Given the seriousness of these allegations, Rep. Johnson should step down immediately,” said Mary Nishimuta, executive director for the Kentucky Democratic Party. “This is indicative of a corrupt culture in Frankfort that the Republican party continues to accept.”
On New Year’s Eve in 2012, Dan Johnson, who was elected to the state House in 2016, allegedly forcibly kissed and digitally penetrated then 17-year-old Maranda Richmond, despite her asking him to stop, according to a report by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting
Johnson, who goes by the nickname “Pope,” is the “bishop” of the Heart of Fire Baptist Church in Louisville. He now represents the 49th House District in a portion of Bullitt County. 
Richmond, who belonged to the church at the time, told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that she saw Johnson as a “second Dad.” 
Richmond went to police about the allegations in April 2013, according to KyCIR. After Richmond and her father Cliff failed to get Johnson to confess on tape, the Louisville Metro Police Department closed its case without ever interviewing Johnson, KyCIR reported. 
The LMPD has since reopened the case, according to KyCIR. 
Richmond and Johnson could not be immediately reached Monday for comment.

Considering sexual misconduct allegations have already cost the Kentucky GOP the job of former House Speaker Jeff Hoover just a few weeks ago, I can't imagine how Johnson survives this.  Racism is acceptable here in Kentucky.  Assaulting a 17-year-old girl, not so much.

By the way that Kentucky Center for Investigating Reporting story on Johnson is one of the most impressive pieces of journalism that I've read in a long time.  It's also very graphic, and Dan Johnson is extremely repugnant as a human being, so you've been warned.

Johnson said earlier today that he has no intention of resigning and plans on running for re-election in 2018, and that only God can judge him or something, so good luck with your pet racist pedophile there, Kentucky GOP.

Tales Of A Lesser Moore, Con't

If Roy Moore wins today in Alabama, he will do so in large part because of black voter suppression by the GOP in the state.  I talked about this two years ago, where Alabama required strict voter identification starting in 2012 and then closed all the drivers' license offices in the state's Black Belt in 2015.  Voting rights activist Scott Douglas details Alabama's plan to rob thousands of black voters of their voices and votes.

In 2011, Alabama lawmakers passed a photo ID law, ostensibly to combat voter fraud. But “voter impersonation” at polling places virtually never happens. The truth is that the lawmakers wanted to keep black and Latino voters from the ballot box. We know this because they’ve always been clear about their intentions
A state senator who had tried for over a decade to get the bill into law, told The Huntsville Times that a photo ID law would undermine Alabama’s “black power structure.” In The Montgomery Advertiser, he said that the absence of an ID law “benefits black elected leaders.” 
The bill’s sponsors were even caught on tape devising a plan to depress the turnout of black voters — whom they called “aborigines” and “illiterates” who would ride “H.U.D.-financed buses” to the polls — in the 2010 midterm election by keeping a gambling referendum off the ballot. Gambling is popular among black voters in Alabama, so they thought if it had remained on the ballot, black voters would show up to vote in droves. 
Photo ID laws may seem innocuous. For many of us, it might be easy to take a few hours off from work, drive to the nearest department of motor vehicles office, wait in line, take some tests, hand over $40 and leave with a driver’s license that we can use to vote. But this requires resources that many rural, low-income people around the country simply do not have.

I work with poor, black Alabamians. Many of them don’t have cars or driver’s licenses and make under $10,000 a year. They cannot afford to pay someone to drive them to the motor vehicles or registrar’s office, which is often miles away. 
Photo ID laws are written to make it difficult for people like them to vote. And that’s exactly what happens. A study by Zoltan Hajnal, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, comparing the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, found that the voter ID law kept black voters from the polls. After Alabama implemented its strict voter ID law, turnout in its most racially diverse counties declined by almost 5 percentage points, which is even more than the drop in diverse counties in other states
The study controls for numerous factors that might otherwise affect an election: how much money was spent on the races; the state’s partisan makeup; changes in electoral laws like early voting and day-of registration; and shifts in incentives to vote, like which party controls the state legislature. 
In Alabama, an estimated 118,000 registered voters do not have a photo ID they can use to vote. Black and Latino voters are nearly twice as likely as white voters to lack such documentation. 
In other words, Alabama’s law is nothing but a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color. That’s why my organization, Greater Birmingham Ministries, with the help of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has sued the state to block the photo ID law. The case will go to trial in February. 
When the law was passed in 2011, it so reeked of discrimination that state politicians didn’t bother to submit it to the federal government for approval, as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required. For decades, Section 5 had acted as a crucial prophylactic, stopping discriminatory voting laws before any election. Instead the ID law remained dormant until June 2013, when the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling in Shelby County v. Holder suspended Section 5’s preclearance requirement.

It's all well and good to blame low black turnout for a Moore victory because that's going to be a factor in a spacial election like this, but people doing that without asking why that turnout is low are also part of the problem.

Moore's going to win, no doubt there, and GOP voter suppression laws were manufactured to keep just such a race from slipping to the Democrats.  It won't be the last, either.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Last Call For Chew On This, America

A third of Americans lack dental coverage, far more than lack health coverage, so here in the wealthiest, most prosperous country in human history, people like Shanda King camp out in parking lots a day in advance for a chance at getting their teeth looked at.

King, 41, couldn't believe it when a friend told her about the two-day mobile clinic held Saturday and Sunday at the Chua Viên Thông Tu Buddhist Temple in west Houston. Free medical care. Free vision screenings and prescription glasses. And, most important to King, free dental. 
This was the chance she'd been waiting for. To gain access to the Remote Area Medical clinic, she just needed to be one of the first 400 people in line before it opened 6 a.m. Saturday. 
King wasn't taking any chances. 
When she arrived at 4 p.m. Friday — a full 14 hours early — she was the first. Thirty minutes later, another car parked behind her outside the temple, a retired husband and wife who'd driven four hours from Dallas, hoping for new dentures. An hour later, another car pulled up, this one driven by a retail worker from Pearland who'd gone four years without new glasses. Then another, a 19-year-old construction worker from Dickinson who for more than a year had suffered the constant pain of an untreated toothache. 
By 3 a.m., a few dozen cars had lined up behind King, each carrying a story of despair.
Similar scenes play out every time Remote Area Medical arrives in a town. The Tennessee-based nonprofit, better known as RAM, has hosted similar clinics across the country, each time drawing massive crowds. In a country where more than 114 million people have no dental coverage — far more than the 28 million who lack medical coverage — RAM clinics and others like them are a lifeline for those most desperate for help. 
"There are tens of thousands of people in Houston who lack access to affordable care," said Stan Brock, who founded RAM in 1985 and, of late, has made headlines by inviting President Donald Trump to attend one of his events. "No matter how much we talk about improving our health care system, unless we add vision and dental coverage, people will continue to be in pain and suffering." 
King has endured her share of pain and suffering, but she didn't want to dwell on her past as she waited at the front of the line Saturday morning. She leaned back in her driver's seat and tried to sleep, but she couldn't. She distracted herself by reading on her phone or listening to the radio, but mostly she just sat in silence, daydreaming. 
She thought about what her life would be like after RAM's volunteer dentists implanted bridges and crowns in her mouth to replace the teeth that she'd lost to tooth decay. She imagined how she'd look without the "ragged smile" that has made her embarrassed to even smirk in public. King described the hopeless cycle that's led her here: Without a steady job and dental coverage, she can't afford to see a dentist; as a result, her teeth look terrible, which makes it harder to land a job. 
She doesn't blame employers for passing her over after they see the gaps in her teeth. 
"A person's smile is like a window into their soul," King said around 4 a.m. "This is a chance for me to regain that and to start letting people see me for who I really am. This is my big break."

I agree with Erik Loomis on this, there's no greater indictment of American late-stage capitalism than a government that prioritizes tax cuts for billionaires and corporations over basic dental care.  The great breakdown is coming, millions of us living on the same cliff as Shanda King are going to go over the edge and the America that will follow will not be a pretty sight.

Yes, right now they are willing to vote for Trump and even fight for him.  Whether they are ready to die for Monsanto or Merck or Apple on the streets in a Great Depression is another matter entirely.  Some will.  I'm betting most won't.
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