Thursday, April 27, 2017

Last Call For Democratic Hardball

Dems are pretty confident that the House GOP's plan to sneak through Trumpcare on a Saturday vote is a dead bill walking, so they are upping the ante in a dramatic way.

House Democrats will oppose a short-term spending bill if Republican leaders attempt to expedite an ObamaCare repeal bill this week, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned Thursday.

Hoyer, the Democratic whip, spoke with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Thursday morning to warn him of the Democrats' position.

The threat is significant because GOP leaders will likely need Democratic votes to pass a short-term spending bill in the face of opposition from conservatives historically opposed to government funding bills.

"If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well,” Hoyer said in an email.

“Republicans continue to struggle to find the votes to pass a bill that will kick 24 million Americans off their health coverage, allow discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, and impose an age tax on older Americans. That's why they are trying to jam it through the House before their Members can hear from the American people this weekend about their opposition to this horrible legislation.”

The Democrats’ move comes as bipartisan negotiators in both chambers are getting closer to an agreement on an omnibus spending bill to prevent a government shutdown. If Congress doesn’t act before midnight Friday night, much of the federal government would shut down.

The reality is that Trumpcare 3.0 is going down in flames just as before, and Dems now have the leverage.  Paul Ryan doesn't have the votes.

An amendment released Tuesday night, authored by moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, appeared to placate conservatives who did not think the original AHCA went far enough in its repeal of Obamacare.

The amendment would allow states to apply for a waiver that would exempt their insurance markets from certain regulations created by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, if they can prove it would bring down costs.

The waiver, health policy experts argue, could have negative consequences for people with preexisting conditions and allow insurers to offer plans that cover fewer health needs.

The tweak was enough to get the conservative House Freedom Caucus officially on board with the bill, which could mean support from roughly 20 members who were against the original AHCA.

But the amendment may have alienated more moderate members of the Republican caucus and could leave the AHCA short of the votes it needs to pass. Only 22 GOP members can vote against the bill for it pass through the Republican-controlled chamber.

And guess what?  That number's already been exceeded.

Time to watch the fireworks.

Out Like Flynn, Con't

Looks like Mike Flynn may need that pardon sooner rather than later, as now the Defense Intelligence Agency would like to have a few words about the whole "being a retired 3-star General and taking foreign payments" thing.

The Pentagon’s inspector general is now investigating Michael Flynn over payments he received from foreign governments after retiring from the Army, according to documents released Thursday by the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. 
The documents also show the Defense Intelligence Agency warned Flynn after his 2014 retirement as the agency’s director that he was barred from accepting payments from foreign governments.

The intelligence agency informed President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser in a letter that, as a retired military officer, he was still subject to the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments. 
Flynn was notified in the letter that he was prohibited from the "receipt of consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria, or salary ... from a foreign government unless congressional consent is first obtained." 
In a letter dated earlier this month, the Pentagon's IG informed the House Oversight Committee it was investigating the matter. 
“These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the oversight committee’s top Democrat, said in a statement.

Flynn apparently ignored that warning and took money from Turkey.  Oh, and Russia too.  Trump may be able to get away with it, but Flynn?  Yeah, he's gonna need that pardon card.

And yes, it's very possible Sessions won't prosecute and the House Oversight Committee will conclude along party lines that there's nothing to pin on Flynn, and he'll get away clean.  He'll land on his feet and get a job somewhere in the right-wing noise machine, I mean hell at this point the Trump White House is hiring literally card-carrying Hungarian Nazis like Seb Gorka so Flynn ending up on FOX is fine.

Whether we choose to hold Trump and Sessions responsible for failure to prosecute and/or a presidential pardon is up to us, not them.

Just Another Trick In The Wall

Steve M. on The Wall:

I've started to believe that a lot of Trump voters didn't care about building the wall as much as they cared about being given permission to hate the people the wall would supposedly exclude. That's why they felt so much joy chanting about the wall and doing "Who's going to pay?" "Mexico!" call-and-response. They'd love to have it, but they were delighted just to be able to say out loud that they wanted it. They were in a safe space where saying that was not permitted, but encouraged. Even if Trump never gets the wall built, they'll always be grateful to him for that.

As a couple of Steve's commenters pointed out, for WWE Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee Trump, that's the definition of "political kayfabe" according to sociologist Nick Rogers writing in the NY Times.

Although the etymology of the word is a matter of debate, for at least 50 years “kayfabe” has referred to the unspoken contract between wrestlers and spectators: We’ll present you something clearly fake under the insistence that it’s real, and you will experience genuine emotion. Neither party acknowledges the bargain, or else the magic is ruined. 
To a wrestling audience, the fake and the real coexist peacefully. If you ask a fan whether a match or backstage brawl was scripted, the question will seem irrelevant. You may as well ask a roller-coaster enthusiast whether he knows he’s not really on a runaway mine car. The artifice is not only understood but appreciated: The performer cares enough about the viewer’s emotions to want to influence them. Kayfabe isn’t about factual verifiability; it’s about emotional fidelity.

Although their athleticism is impressive, skilled wrestlers captivate because they do what sociologists call “emotional labor” — the professional management of other people’s feelings. Diners expect emotional labor from their servers, Hulkamaniacs demand it from their favorite performer, and a whole lot of voters desire it from their leaders. 
The aesthetic of World Wrestling Entertainment seems to be spreading from the ring to the world stage. Ask an average Trump supporter whether he or she thinks the president actually plans to build a giant wall and have Mexico pay for it, and you might get an answer that boils down to, “I don’t think so, but I believe so.” That’s kayfabe. Chants of “Build the Wall” aren’t about erecting a structure; they’re about how cathartic it feels, in the moment, to yell with venom against a common enemy. 
Voting to repeal Obamacare again and again only to face President Obama’s veto was kayfabe. So is shouting “You lie!” during a health care speech. It is President Bush in a flight suit, it is Vladimir Putin shirtless on a horse, it is virtually everything Kim Jong-un does. Does the intended audience know that what they’re watching is literally made for TV? Sure, in the same way they know that the wrestler Kane isn’t literally a demon. The factual fabrication is necessary to elicit an emotional clarity.

If that isn't the best definition of the Trump era, I don't know what is.  Facts no longer matter because they're not supposed to, emotions do.  It's politics as showmanship, and there's no better showman around than pretend billionaire Trump.  It's politics as two-minute hate, and no emotion is easier to elicit than hatred of the Other.  Trump and the GOP base were made for each other.  We're not being governed, we're being played.

And the people love it.

StupidiNews!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Last Call For A Plan So Bad Congress Doesn't Want It

There's really no more proof necessary that the House Republican health care plan version...you know what, I can't even keep track at this point...the latest version, we'll call it, is so awful for ordinary Americans that House Republicans refuse to subject themselves to it. Vox's Sarah Kliff explains:

House Republicans appear to have included a provision that exempts Members of Congress and their staff from their latest health care plan.

The new Republican amendment, introduced Tuesday night, would allow states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on pre-existing conditions
. This means that insurers could once again, under certain circumstances, charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

Republican legislators liked this policy well enough to offer it in a new amendment. They do not, however, seem to like it enough to have it apply to themselves and their staff. A spokesperson for Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) who authored this amendment confirmed this was the case: members of Congress and their staff would get the guarantee of keeping this Obamacare regulations. Health law expert Tim Jost flagged me to this particular issue.

A bit of background is helpful here. Obamacare requires all members of Congress and their staff to purchase coverage on the individual market, just like Obamacare enrollees. The politics of that plank were simple enough, meant to demonstrate that if the coverage in this law were good enough for Americans than it should be good enough for their representations in Washington.

That’s been happening for the past four years now. Fast-forward to this new amendment, which would allow states to waive out of key Obamacare protections like the ban on pre-existing conditions or the requirement to cover things like maternity care and mental health services.

If Congressional aides lived in a state that decided to waive these protections, the aides who were sick could be vulnerable to higher premiums than the aides that are healthy. Their benefits package could get skimpier as Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement may no longer apply either.

This apparently does not sound appealing because the Republican amendment includes the members of Congress and their staff as a protected group who cannot be affected by this amendment.

Oh and it gets better: that state waiver excepting the ban on pre-exsting conditions?  States have to opt-in as a default, which means the House's latest version of Trumpcare would allow states that implemented Obamacare but who are now controlled by Republicans dismantle protections for people preventing them from being charged extra for pre-existing conditions simply by doing nothing for 60 days.

House Republicans and their staff would of course remain protected.

But not the vast majority of Americans.

Fun, huh?

You're Outta Touch, I'm Outta Time

If these ABC/Washington Post poll numbers are true, then the Democrats have a massive problem on their hands heading into 2018, and it's one they'd better figure out how to solve, and fast.

Sunday’s Washington Post-ABC News poll did not contain a lot of surprises. President Trump remains historically unpopular, but the GOP almost universally supports him. Most voters still do not believe that Trump has the temperament to serve effectively as president. And like past presidents, respondents are split on whether Trump is keeping his promises. So far, so expected. 
But one finding in Sunday’s poll is a departure from past polls: The vast majority of Americans now think the Democratic Party is not “in touch with the concerns of most people in the United States.” The current number — only 28 percent think the party is in touch — has been noted elsewhere, and that number is concerning enough on its own: It’s 10 percentage points less than the number of people who think Trump is in touch and 4 percent less than the number who think the GOP is. But what hasn’t been commented upon is even more worrying for Democrats: In 2014, 48 percent of voters felt the party was “in touch,” a 20-percentage-point collapse in just three years
Yes, just three years ago the country was split down the middle about whether Democrats understood voters’ concerns, while only a quarter of voters thought the same about Republicans. Any reckoning of where the party goes from here has to account for this change in the public’s image of the blue party. Worse, it’s likely that the collapse has mostly come among independents and Democrats themselves — three quarters of independents and nearly half of Democrats think the party is out of touch, which can’t help turnout. Politics should not be about blindly following poll numbers, but when so many of your own supporters are rejecting the direction Democrats are moving, they may want to reconsider the course.

People understand that the Republicans are the problem right now.  What they don't believe, and overwhelmingly so, is that the Democrats offer more than zero solutions.  Right now more people believe Donald Trump, a possibly senile reality TV star who regularly lies whenever he can, is more in touch with America than the Democrats.

That's a problem.

That's not true, and not fair, but politics over the last 25 years hasn't exactly been fair, has it?   Dems need to get it in gear, and being mired down in internecine fights between factions since July hasn't helped.  It's time to get a unified message out there, and right now.

Luckily, I'm thinking that the Trump regime is the best ally for the Dems here, by constantly screwing up they'll start to become losers that nobody likes.

We'll see.

Meanwhile Here In Bevinstan

Since Republicans in Washington can't wreck Medicaid fast enough for Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, his plan is to take the nation's most successful Medicaid expansion under Democrat Steve Beshear and turn it into some crazy deal involving coupons and rewards, because your health care should completely be like your grocery store loyalty card.

From a glance at Bevin’s proposal, it’s easy to mistake the “MyRewards” idea for an expansion of coverage. The changes are described as “benefit enhancements” in a new, detailed implementation proposal from the consulting firm Deloitte. 
Bevin’s plan is in fact a benefit cut. Kentucky’s Medicaid program currently includes vision and dental. If you’re eligible for Medicaid in Kentucky, then you’re eligible for coverage of regular tooth checkups and eye exams under state law. 
Bevincare would “enhance” Medicaid benefits by taking several of them away. You will lose the security of knowing your eye doctor and dentist will see you when you need them, and gain the exciting new opportunity to earn chits toward the cost of those same services. 
But to accrue those chits, you must live by Bevin’s rules. MyRewards points accumulate based on the enrollee’s participation in job training, health screening, smoking cessation, volunteer, and educational programs, at the rates listed below: 
CREDIT: Kentucky HEALTH Program Requirements Specification 
Bevin’s behavioral incentives effectively convert his definition of good character into a state-enforced moral code which everyone who can’t afford health insurance must follow — and whose compliance the state must monitor. 
This requires building a massive database about people’s individual behaviors, and then keeping it up. Never mind that it’s massively expensive, it also feels very invasive,” former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Andy Slavitt said in an interview. “I’m not sure the government should be tracking if I put on five pounds, or if I’m advancing in my job, or what grade I got on my GED exam.”

It's weird, it's almost like the notoriously "libertarian" Bevin has a plan set up to make a government program so invasive and obnoxious that people won't want to put up with the hoops required to stay on Medicaid.  Why, it's almost like the GOP response to legal goods and services that they don't think the poor deserve is to make the requirements for getting it so impossibly high that few ever bother with the attempt.

Now if you want Medicaid services, you have to check in with Kentucky and sign up for job skills coaching, community service, job searching and more.  After all, the real goal isn't to get you healthy, the goal is to get you to the point where you no longer qualify for Medicaid and are no longer the commonwealth's problem.

We've got to gamify health care, after all.  And if you can't actually perform these activities, well, too bad.  No vision and dental coverage for you, in a state that already has one of the worst dental coverage rates in the nation.  Good job!

But that's the new game in town here in Bevinstan.

StupidiNews!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Last Call For We'd Blow It Up Again, Too

As we approach the Trump regime's first 100 days, a new ABC/Washington Post poll shows American voters would happily make the same November mistake again just to stop that Clinton bitch or whatever. WaPo's Aaron Blake:

I argued last week that anecdotal stories about disillusioned Trump supporters were overdone. The fact is that, on a broad scale, Trump supporters say they aren't disappointed. In fact, a poll showed they were more pleased than disappointed, by about 5 to 1:

...The Pew Research Center released a poll showing very little buyer's remorse among Trump voters. The poll showed just 7 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say Trump has performed worse than they expected him to. Fully 38 percent — five times as many — say he has performed better. 
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll confirms this — in spades. And, in fact, it shows more buyer's remorse for Trump's opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton. And were the 2016 election held again today, it shows Trump would avenge his popular-vote loss. 
While just 4 percent of Trump's supporters say they would back someone else if there was a redo of the election, fully 15 percent of Clinton supporters say they would ditch her. Trump leads in a re-do of the 2016 election 43 percent to 40 percent after losing the popular vote 46-44. 
That 15 percent is split between those who say they would vote for Trump (2 percent), Gary Johnson (4 percent), Jill Stein (2 percent), and either other candidates or not vote (7 percent). 
It's not hugely surprising that the losing candidate in an election would see this kind of drop-off. People don't like voting for losers, and if you look closely at polls after an election, some voters won't even admit to having cast their ballots for the losing candidate. The winning margin for the victor is generally exaggerated. 
But against the backdrop of stories about how Trump hasn't delivered what his supporters thought he would, it's notable how much his backers are sticking by their candidate, relative to his opponent. There is basically no real defection to the one candidate who could have delivered a different result.

So yeah, all those supposedly unhappy Trump voters here in Kentucky who are worried about losing their health care and him not bringing back coal jobs?  They'd have voted for Trump again in a heartbeat, knowing what they know now, because in the end America is completely cool with the racist asshole running a country of majority racist assholes.

As I keep saying the problem in this country isn't Trump, it's the people who voted for Trump knowing full well what he is, and especially the 96% of Trump voters who would still vote for him today.  They are the problem, and I want not a damn thing to do with them.

So can we formally dispense with trying to "win Trump voters" as Democrats?  It's not happening. They're a cult.  Let's worry about getting the 47% of people who didn't vote at all interested in saving their country instead.

Out Like Flynn, Con't

Ladies and gents, former Trump regime National Security Adviser Mike Flynn is in a significant amount of trouble with the House Oversight Committee and this could signal a shift into a new phase in the Trump/Russia investigation.

President Donald Trump's former national security adviser did not properly disclose payments from Russia and does not appear to have complied with the law, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings said Tuesday after reviewing Michael Flynn's application for a security clearance. 
Chaffetz and Cummings announced their findings to reporters on the Hill following a classified gathering of the committee in which they reviewed documents that Cummings described as "extremely troubling." 
"I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law," Chaffetz said, referring to whether Flynn received permission from the Pentagon or the State Department or that he disclosed the more than $45,000 he was paid for a speech he gave to RT-TV in Russia. 
The request comes after the White House declined to provide documents related to Flynn that the panel investigating him had requested, according to a letter obtained by CNN.
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short outlined in a letter to the House oversight committee how it would not complete the request from the panel, referring some requests to the Department of Defense, saying the office doesn't have custody of some of the other documents or simply stating "we are unable to accommodate" others. 
Whether Flynn properly disclosed payments from foreign governments on his security clearance application is the subject of a House oversight committee meeting Tuesday, as members reviewed the first batch of documents related to the investigation coming from the Pentagon. 
The committee is gathering Tuesday morning at the Capitol to review classified material provided by the Department of Defense in response to its March 22 request for more information on Flynn, according to MJ Henshaw, a spokeswoman for House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz. 
The committee has sent additional requests for information about Flynn to the White House, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. However, Tuesday's meeting will only include responses from the Pentagon.

So the Trump regime is stonewalling to shield itself, leaving Flynn hung out to dry, or both.  Either way, Flynn's facing a felony here, and if he really does have anything substantial to offer on bigger fish to fry, well this is how you force a plea deal to get it.

For Chaffetz to not even try to defend Flynn on this is a clear signal that what they've found is pretty devastating stuff here (no wonder Chaffetz is retiring from the House soon.)  I think this is where we start getting into the ugly stuff on the Trump/Russia connections.

Stay tuned.

Not Exactly Russian To Judgment

As Tim Mak at The Daily Beast reminds us, the Senate investigation into Trump's Russia ties simply doesn't exist, because there's nobody actually doing any investigation.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russia’s election interference is supposedly the best hope for getting the public credible answers about whether there was any coordination between the Kremlin and Trump Tower.

But there are serious reasons to doubt that it can accomplish this task, as currently configured.

More than three months after the committee announced that it had agreed on the scope of the investigation, the panel has not begun substantially investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, three individuals with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast.

The investigation does not have a single staffer dedicated to it full-time, and those staff members working on it part-time do not have significant investigative experience. The probe currently appears to be moving at a pace slower than prior Senate Intelligence Committee investigations, such as the CIA torture inquiry, which took years to accomplish.

No interviews have been conducted with key individuals suspected of being in the Trump-Russia orbit: not Michael Flynn, not Roger Stone, not Carter Page, not Paul Manafort, and not Jared Kushner, according to two sources familiar with the committee’s procedures.

“It’s either a real investigation or not,” said one individual with knowledge of the committee’s activities. “You have to have an approved investigative guide. You have to make it formal. Can you have a credible investigation with only seven part-time staffers, doing everything in secret?”

No full-time staff has been hired, no witnesses have been called or even interviewed, no actual investigation has even been started in three months, nothing has happened at all.  And since it's being run by the GOP, nothing will happen from it either.

So no, don't expect a Senate investigation to reveal the truth about the Trump regime being compromised by a foreign power any more than the House panel's work.  The fix is in and always has been.

And most of all, America simply does not give a damn enough to do a single thing about it.

StupidiNews!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Last Call For Public Enemy Number Un

It looks like the Trump regime is getting pretty serious about taking military action against North Korea, and soon.  First, Trump is pushing the UN Security Council for a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday the U.N. Security Council must be prepared to impose new sanctions on North Korea as concerns mount that it may test a sixth nuclear bomb as early as Tuesday.

"The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable," Trump told a meeting with the 15 U.N. Security Council ambassadors, including China and Russia, at the White House. "The council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

"This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem and it's a problem that we have to finally solve," he said. “People put blindfolds on for decades and now it’s time to solve the problem.”

U.S. officials have told Reuters tougher sanctions could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea's airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks and other foreign doing business with Pyongyang.

The State Department said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would chair a special ministerial meeting of the Security Council on North Korea on Friday to discuss ways to maximize the impact of existing sanctions and show "resolve to respond to further provocations with appropriate new measures".

Secondly, the entire Senate, all 100 members, will be briefed on North Korea on Wednesday.

All 100 senators have been asked to the White House for the briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday.

While administration officials routinely travel to Capitol Hill to address members of Congress on foreign policy matters, it is unusual for the entire Senate to go to the White House, and for all four of those officials to be involved.

Wednesday's briefing was originally scheduled for a secure room at the Capitol, but President Donald Trump suggested a shift to the White House, congressional aides said.

Taken together, this seems like a move designed to look for an excuse to take military action based on a "provocation" from North Korea.  In other words, Trump has found the one person who can be baited easier than he can, and the results are going to be spectacularly bad.

Should North Korea make that nuclear test however, who knows.

Tom And Bernie Must Fight, It Is The Way Of All Things

If people somehow needed more proof that the Bernie Sanders Show Featuring That Tom Perez Guy Or Whatever Tour was an abject failure, this weekend both men appeared to not-so-subtly take shots at each other.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders apparently hasn't changed his message in the least, calling the Democratic party "failing" on CBS's Face the Nation.

“I think what is clear to anyone who looks at where the Democratic Party today is, that the model of the Democratic Party is failing,” Sanders told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Sanders cited President Trump’s win, the GOP-controlled Congress, and Republican victories in state legislatures as reasons why Democrats are in trouble.“Clearly the Democratic Party has got to change. And in my view, what it has got to become is a grassroots party, a party which makes decisions from the bottom on up, a party which is more dependent on small donations than large donations,” Sanders said.

Sanders, who ran for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, also emphasized the need for Democrats to connect to working-class and middle-class voters.

“The Democratic Party has got to take the lead, rally people, young people, working people, stand up to the billionaire class,” said Sanders.

“And when we do that, you’re going to see voter turnout swell. You’re going to see people coming in and running for office. You’re going to see Democrats regain control of the United States Congress.”

Nowhere in Sanders's message did he mention "black people, brown people, or women" which is I guess why he thinks it's failing.  Meanwhile, DNC chief Tom Perez fired at Sanders on Friday with a very clear statement on Democrats supporting a woman's reproductive rights.

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez became the first head of the party to demand ideological purity on abortion rights, promising Friday to support only Democratic candidates who back a woman’s right to choose.

“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said in a statement. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

“At a time when women’s rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country,” he added, “we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.”

Perez’s statement follows the DNC’s controversial embrace of Heath Mello, a Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, whose years-long history of voting against abortion rights in the state Legislature drew fire from progressives this week. Daily Kos, a liberal website that raises money for lesser-known Democratic candidates, pulled its endorsement of Mello this week after discovering his history on the issue, and NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue slammed the DNC for adding him to its cross-country unity tour.

“The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women — one of the most critical constituencies for the party — of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid,” Hogue said in a statement.

So yeah, the "unity" tour was a horrible idea because the guy who refuses to be a Democrat wants the party to change, and the guy running the party has decided that the Dems need to actually start standing for something, full stop.

And away we go.

Shutdown Countdown, Trump Edition

It's that time of year again, when Congress has to get its act together long enough to pass a budget or the government shuts down.  This time around in addition to the GOP being in control of the House and Senate, Trump's a factor too.  Given that Republicans can't pass their own legislation at this point, I'm fairly certain they'll find a way to screw it up.  They've got until Friday night at midnight, or the government shuts down on Saturday -- Day 100 of Trump's regime.

Congressional leaders and White House officials have steered the nation to the brink of a government shutdown that virtually all parties agree would be a terrible idea.

While lawmakers seem eager to forge a deal before government funding expires Friday, the Trump administration wants to use the deadline as a point of leverage that Democrats — and at least a few Republicans — do not believe they have, raising the prospects of a shutdown that had seemed unlikely.

President Trump’s team is straining to demonstrate progress on key campaign promises like money for a border wall and increased military spending, hoping to project success before Mr. Trump’s 100th day in office on Saturday. But any measure will require bipartisan support, and Democrats are unlikely to budge.

The standoff continues a Washington trend, as banal now as it is nonsensical to veterans of the Capitol: legislative cliff-jumping in the name of brinkmanship, frustration or some combination thereof, with no clear endgame.

The last government shutdown was in 2013, encapsulating an era of bitter partisanship and Republican opposition to President Barack Obama. The distinction this time is that the Oval Office, Senate and House are controlled by the same party.

The confrontation also comes as Mr. Trump has said he will reveal a “massive” tax cut proposal on Wednesday and has suggested advancing a retooled version of the health care bill that failed last month in the House.

In Congress, where the completion of even one major task at a time can overwhelm its institutional bandwidth, elected officials remain highly skeptical of their own capacity to juggle successfully.

The Trump factor comes in when you figure that he's desperate for a victory after the complete and utter failure of his first 100 days, and that victory is "getting money for his wall to keep brown people out." a shutdown on Day 100 would simply be the exclamation point on his "worst 100 days ever!" award.

The most likely outcome is a punt where we just get a continuing short-term bill as nobody seems to be eager to shut down the government at the beginning of a congressional term, especially after Trumpcare collapsed.  Surprise, nobody wants to go to bat for a guy with approval ratings in the mid-30's.

Still, time is running out and a punt is not assured.  And who knows if Trump would sign it without the border bill funding?

We'll see.

StupidiNews!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Last Call For Viva La Revolution

The French took to the polls today for presidential elections and, as the joke goes, are revolting.  But it's no joke here. The French liberal Socialists and conservative Republicans who have traded off for decades are now complete also-rans, and the French government will not be led by either of them I suspect for quite some time.

Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Front, is through to the second round of the French presidential election, where she will face Emmanuel Macron, the independent, who won Sunday's first round with 23.7 percent of the vote. Le Pen won 21.7 percent. It's the first time in French history that neither candidate from a major political party is in the second round runoff. It's also the first time a far-right candidate is in the second round since 2002 when Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, lost to Jacques Chirac.

Macron and Le Pen’s strong showings Sunday, which saw an approximately 77 percent voter turnout (slightly lower than the 79 percent who voted in the first round in 2012), signaled a rebuke of the political establishment that has dominated French politics for decades. Macron launched his centrist party in August 2016 after he quit his role in President François Hollande’s Socialist government, and despite the party’s youth it boasts a quarter of a million members. Meanwhile, Le Pen’s FN secured the most votes it has ever received in its nearly half-century history, surpassing the 18-percent first-round finish it saw in 2012.

Even Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate who ran under a movement called La France Insoumise, or “Unsubmissive France,” had his strongest performance to date. Though his last-minute surge in the polls wasn’t enough to propel him to the second round, he still managed to claim 19.5 percent of the vote, far surpassing the 11 percent he won during his first presidential bid in 2012.

Republican candidate François Fillon also earned 19.5 percent of the vote, tying Mélenchon for third place. The center-right candidate and former prime minister enjoyed a comfortable lead early on in his campaign, but support wavered in January after his candidacy was embroiled by allegations he misused public funds to pay his wife, Penelope, and two of their children for parliamentary work they are alleged not to have performed. Fillon denied any wrongdoing, although the launch of a formal investigation into both him and his wife prompted several of his Republican allies to quit his campaign.

Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, who came in last of the main contenders with 6.2 percent of the vote, also suffered from fissures within his own party. Despite clinching a decisive victory during the January primary, Hamon failed to command the support of Socialist party leaders, many of whom, including former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, endorsed Macron instead. This, paired with the deeply unpopular presidency of Hollande and the competition of similarly far-left Mélenchon, made the ruling party’s poor showing all but certain. The results prompted the losing candidates to urge their supporters to back Macron. Hamon said there was a distinction between a political adversary and an “enemy of the Republic,” referring to Le Pen. Fillon warned that Le Pen would lead France to “ruin.”

The Socialists and Republicans got only 25% of the vote combined.  They're both pretty much cooked.  Now we'll see if centrist Macron can hold against the onslaught of Russian election foul play, for if Le Pen's racist National Front party claims victory in two weeks, things are going to go very, very badly for the future of the European Union.

Less than a month before the fiercely contested French presidential election, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen was campaigning not in Nantes or Lyon but in Moscow, where she had an unannounced meeting with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. After exchanging pleasantries with Russia’s leader, a politician for whom she is not shy in expressing her admiration, Le Pen pledged that one of her first actions as president would be to cancel sanctions against Russia.

“A new world has emerged in the last few years,” Le Pen told VICE News and other journalists after the meeting. “It’s the world of Vladimir Putin, it’s the world of Donald Trump in the United States, it’s the world of Mr. [Narendra] Modi in India, and I think I am the one who shares this vision of cooperation, and not a vision of submission or a vision of warmongering, like the one which is put forward far too often by the European Union.”

Le Pen’s surprise trip to Moscow at the height of a raucous French campaign, in which she has been jostling for the lead with more traditional candidates Emmanuel Macron and Francois Fillon, was indicative of the outsized role Russia has played in the election, endorsing France’s right-wing candidates while smearing Macron. So was the knowing grin that crept onto Putin’s face as he told Le Pen on camera that Russia didn’t “want to influence” the vote in any way.

Putin’s smile couldn’t disguise the fact that Russia has financed Le Pen’s National Front party in the past and has been accused of surreptitiously backing her this go-around. Unlike Le Pen and the center-right Fillon, who have both called for closer relations with Moscow, the pro-EU Macron has been the target of smear pieces in Russian state media and cyberattacks that his campaign says originated in Russia.

We'll see if the French made the same mistake we did.  There's some hope that they have learned, but I'm thinking that the next two weeks are going to be brutal.  After all, Hillary was winning too, right up until she didn't.

Sunday Long Read: Not So Black And White

This week's Sunday Long Read is Ijeoma Oluo's profile of Rachel Dolezal in The Stranger and if you didn't read it last week, you should set aside a bit and digest it. Oluo paints Delezal as neither a sympathetic nor villainous person, but one who simply sees her goal of appropriating black culture and who can get away with it like nobody has.

I did not want to think about, talk about, or write about Rachel Dolezal ever again. While many people have been highly entertained by the story of a woman who passed herself off for almost a decade as a black woman, even rising to the head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, before being "outed" during a TV interview by KXLY reporter Jeff Humphrey as white, as later confirmed by her white parents, I found little amusement in her continued spotlight. When the story first broke in June 2015, I was approached by more editors in a week than I had heard from in two months. They were all looking for "fresh takes" on the Dolezal scandal from the very people whose identity had now been put up for debate—black women. I wrote two pieces on Dolezal for two different websites, mostly focused not on her, but on the lack of understanding of black women's identity that was causing the conversation about Dolezal to become more and more painful for so many black women.

After a few weeks of media obsession, I—and most of the other black women I knew—was completely done with Rachel Dolezal.

Or, at least I hoped to be.

Right after turning in a draft of my book on race at the end of February, I went to a theater to do an onstage interview on race and intersectionality (a mode of thinking that intersects identities and systems of social oppression and domination). But before going onstage, my phone buzzed with a "news" alert. Rachel Dolezal had changed her name. I quickly glanced at the article and saw that Dolezal had changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo. My jaw dropped in disbelief. Nkechi is my sister's name—my visibly black sister born and raised in Nigeria. Dolezal claimed that the name change was to make it easier for her to get a job, because the scandal had made it so that nobody in the Eastern Washington town of Spokane (pop. 210,000) would look at an application with the name Rachel Dolezal on it.

I'm going to pause here so we can recognize the absurdity of this claim: You change your name from Rachel Dolezal to Nkechi Amare Diallo because everyone in your lily-white town (Spokane is more than 80 percent white) now knows you as the Rachel Dolezal who was pretending to be black, so you change your name to NKECHI AMARE DIALLO because somehow they won't know who you are then. Maybe they'll just confuse you with all the other Nkechi Amare Diallos in Spokane and not think when a white woman shows up for the interview: "Oh yeah, it's that white woman who pretended to be black and then changed her name to NKECHI AMARE DIALLO." Also, even if there were 50 Nkechi Amare Diallos in Spokane—trust me, as someone named Ijeoma Oluo who grew up in the white Seattle suburb of Lynnwood—you'd have a much better chance of getting a job interview if you changed your name to Sarah.

By the time I finished my interview on that rainy February day, my cell phone indicated that I had a voice mail. It was The Stranger, asking if I would spend the day with Rachel Dolezal.

For two years, I, like many other black women who talk or write about racial justice, have tried to avoid Rachel Dolezal—but she follows us wherever we go. So if I couldn't get away from her, I was going to at least try to figure out why. I surprised myself by agreeing to the interview.

I began to get nervous as the interview day approached. By the time I boarded a plane to Spokane, which is a one-hour flight from Seattle and is near the border with Idaho, a state that's almost 90 percent white, I was half sure that this interview was my worst career decision to date. Initially, I had hoped that my research on Dolezal would reassure me that there was a way to find real value in this conversation, that there would be a way to actually turn this circus into a productive discussion on race in America.

But then I read her book.

Shortly after I announced the deal for my first book (a primer on how to have more productive conversations on race), a friend posted a link on my Facebook page. With a joking comment along the lines of "Oh no! Looks like Rachel beat you to it!" she linked to an article announcing that Rachel Dolezal would also be publishing her first book on race, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World. Throughout the week, at least five other friends sent me similar links with similar comments. A look through my social-media feeds showed that I was not alone. Black women writers around the country were all being sent links to articles on Dolezal's book deal—the memoir of a black woman whose claim to fame is... not being actually black.

Oluo is a fantastic writer, but more importantly she points out the core issue of the conceit here: Dolezal, now Diallo, is better and more successful at being black as a white woman than black women across the country, and while I can't say I'm surprised at this, I do have to say that the near absurdity of it all is at least thought-provoking if not rage-inducing.

We have a long way to go.

The Bomb In Gilead

There's been quite a lot of talk about the television adaptation of Margret Atwood's seminal classic novel The Handmaid's Tale premiering this week on Hulu, and New Republic's Sarah Jones makes the argument that Atwood's dystopian story of America being turned into a prosperity gospel theocracy is closer than ever to merging with the dark reality of the Trump regime.

Set in the very near future, Hulu’s new adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale subtly updates Atwood’s dystopia. The execution of a gay woman in episode three seems inspired by a real Iranian execution. Played by Elisabeth Moss, Offred is more relatable than she’s ever been, with a motto (“I intend to survive”) destined for a thousand Etsy products. In the show, as in our moment, it is not just men, but crucially some women, too, who fervently wish for a society where women are no longer free or equal. Women known as Aunts initiate the Handmaids into their new roles; Wives terrorize Handmaids with little restraint. These women midwife Gilead into the world, though it’s not clear what they stand to gain from any of it.

Most contradictory and recognizable of all these female collaborators is Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), the wife of Offred’s commander. Before Gilead, she graced American television screens as a preternaturally blond evangelist. (Serena Joy was her stage name, a nom de guerre for the culture wars.) Even though she occupies the highest rank for a woman in this new world, she is now legally inferior to her sad-sack husband and, finding herself childless, has to employ Offred as a surrogate. Rage roils the edges of her ice-princess restraint. “She doesn’t make speeches anymore,” Offred notes in the book. “She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.”

America is rich in Serena Joys. One need look no further for her contemporary counterparts than Michelle Duggar and her daughters; or Paula White, the televangelist who allegedly led Donald Trump to Christ; or his aide Kellyanne Conway, who defends him as a “great boss” to women. The character Atwood invented is an amalgam of Phyllis Schlafly and Tammy Faye Bakker with a dash of Aimee Semple McPherson. The spectacle of the female fundamentalist celebrity is not recent, and she is not an anomaly. Her existence is proof of American fundamentalism’s durability, and a reminder that it could not thrive without the enthusiastic backing of women.

When Atwood wrote her novel, Schlafly had already established herself as one of America’s most visible and influential conservative women by leading a successful campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment. A committed Catholic, Schlafly hurled herself against feminism’s second wave with all the conviction of the activists she loathed. “The women’s libbers don’t understand that most women want to be wife, mother, and homemaker—and are happy in that role,” she asserted in 1972.

But like her fictional doppelgänger, Schlafly was no homemaker. She traveled the country; she appeared on television; she influenced policy. The world she wanted to build could not coexist with the world that allowed her career. These contradictions did not, however, trouble Schlafly’s supporters. She defeated the ERA by mobilizing them; her mostly female volunteer brigades harried legislators into rejecting the bill.

Women also propped up the career of a man to Schlafly’s right: the theologian Rousas J. Rushdoony. Whereas Schlafly was content to work within the Republican Party, Rushdoony preferred a purist approach: As historian Michael McVicar has recounted, Rushdoony lost a job at the Center for American Studies after attempting to purge its Catholics. This was further than most in the American right of the 1960s wanted to go, and so he labored in the fringes, formulating his vision of a literal Protestant theocracy. It was conservative women who came to his rescue: In 1965, Women for America granted him a stipend to continue his work—envisioning a society in which women would stay at home with their children, and apostasy and homosexuality would be punishable by death.

The dilemma of Serena Joy feels deceptively easy to resolve. She’s in this for power, and understands that it’s hers if she says the right things to the right audiences. Schlafly achieved international fame, and Conway has the ear of the president. With Gilead, however, Atwood reminds such women that they might not like the results of their labor; that by the time they come to regret it, the culture they helped create will have developed far beyond their control. Serena Joy is a warning, not only to her feminist antagonists, but to conservatives, too.

It's a stark but true warning: those who helped create the government we now exist under are only now finding out that it was never meant for them, and that has never been more true than for "powerful women".

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Last Call For Murthy's Law

Somebody in the Trump regime finally noticed that US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy was still on the job, so of course one of the last Obama executive branch holdovers had to be canned

America’s “top doctor” and an Obama-appointee, Vivek Murthy, was dismissed and replaced by the Trump Administration on Friday.

In a statement, the administration said it asked Murthy to resign from his post as Surgeon General after he helped with “a smooth transition.”

"Dr. Murthy has been relieved of his duties as Surgeon General and will continue to serve as a member of the Commissioned Corps," a White House statement read, adding that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price "thanks him for his dedicated service to the nation.”

The New York Times reported a somewhat different story: Murthy was asked to step down, refused, and was fired.

He’ll be replaced by Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, a nurse who currently serves as Deputy Surgeon General. (In an acting role for now, she will be the first non-doctor to take the post of America’s “top doctor.”)

Murthy’s early departure came as a surprise to the public health community. It's unusual — but not unprecedented — for a surgeon general’s four-year term to be cut short. Murthy’s term should have run until the end of next year.

The surgeon general’s office is in charge of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a team of 6,700 public health workers stationed across the US. Although he or she has little power to change policy, surgeons general have a history of creating unwantedcontroversy for the political leadership, and raising awareness about sometimes inconvenient or uncomfortable facts about public health.

Murthy, a graduate of Harvard and Yale University schools of medicine and business, holds views on gun control that are at odds with the new administration. When President Obama nominated Murthy back in November 2013, the Senate blocked his nomination for more than a year, particularly after the National Rifle Association criticized a letter Murthy had co-signed in support of gun control measures.

Murthy only got confirmed in December 2014 after some red-state Democrats who were losing their seats anyway decided to switch course and back him.

I suspect the real reason Dr. Murthy was fired was because the Trump regime demanded he put out a positive statement as the nation's top doc signing off on Trumpcare, not to mention toeing the line on the NRA and the uncomfortable truth of 30,000 plus firearm homicides a year being a public health issue.

I would suspect that he'll be replaced quickly by somebody who will be much less "problematic" with this whole "medical science" thing and will say whatever the regime wants them to say.

No Sanctuary From Trump, Con't

Jeff Sessions and the Trump Regime are upping the ante on America's most populous "sanctuary cities", giving the nation's largest local governments ten weeks to start complying with the DoJ's immigration orders or face tens of billions in federal grant cuts.

The Justice Department on Friday sent letters to eight cities, threatening to withhold federal grant money if they don’t demonstrate cooperation with immigration enforcement. 
President Donald Trump has promised to force “sanctuary cities” to follow the federal government’s lead on enforcement of immigration laws. Hundreds of jurisdictions across the U.S. limit to varying degrees their cooperation with federal authorities.

The letters were sent to New York City, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Milwaukee and Sacramento, as well as Cook County, Illinois. DOJ asked these local governments to provide documentation that they're complying with a federal law that requires information-sharing by local, state and federal authorities on citizenship and immigration status. 
If the nine jurisdictions don’t present documentation of compliance by June 30, DOJ said it may withhold or terminate funds under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which funds state and local criminal justice programs.

For now, the DoJ is only demanding information sharing, including identities of undocumented immigrants that come into contact with local police, and not demanding that these immigrants be handed over to ICE.  Yet. But cities are taking this lying down, and they're prepared to make a legal fight.

Of course, Trump just put a fifth conservative on the Supreme Court, so it's a fight these cities may very well lose.  Once that happens, local police all over the country could become part of Trump deportation force.

No sanctuary, indeed.

What First Amendment?

In the Trump regime, First Amendment rights don't pertain to you, citizen.  They are there to protect Glorious Leader Trump from dissent, as Our Founding Fathers intended.  Make America Great Again, Amen and Hallelujah!

President Donald Trump’s lawyers argued in a Thursday court filing that protesters “have no right” to “express dissenting views” at his campaign rallies because such protests infringed on his First Amendment rights. 
The filing comes in a case brought by three protesters who allege they were roughed up and ejected from a March 2016 Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, by Trump supporters who were incited by the then-candidate’s calls from the stage to “get 'em out of here!”

Lawyers for Trump’s campaign have argued that his calls to remove the protesters were protected by the First Amendment. But the federal district court judge hearing the case issued a ruling late last month questioning that argument, as well as the claim that Trump didn’t intend for his supporters to use force. 
The ruling cleared the case to proceed into discovery and towards a trial. 
Thursday’s filing by Trump’s campaign lawyers asks the judge to pause the proceedings and allow Trump’s legal team to appeal the ruling to a higher court “before subjecting the President to ‘unique’ and extraordinary burdens of litigation.” 
Specifically, Trump’s lawyers want the appeals court to reconsider whether Trump’s calls to remove the protesters were protected speech under the First Amendment and whether it’s reasonable to construe the calls as an incitement to violence.
Trump’s lawyers point out that he explicitly urged his supporters against roughing up protesters, following his calls to “get ‘em out of here,” with the plea “Don’t hurt ‘em.” 
Trump’s lawyers also argue that he had every right to call for the removal the protesters since they “obviously interfered with the Trump campaign’s First Amendment right” by “vigorously expressing their disdain for Mr. Trump,” including by chanting and holding up signs depicting Trump’s face on the body of a pig, among other anti-Trump messages.

Guys, this is actual, textbook, literal fascism right here, by saying that the First Amendment, which clearly spells out that the government cannot take action to abridge the freedom of speech and peaceable assembly doesn't apply to critics of Trump because he is above the law and supersedes the Constitution.

This is literally, not figuratively, what authoritarian regimes claim as the basis of staying in power.

This is dangerous as hell, guys.  We're heading off the cliff here, because the next steps after this in the autocrat playbook are that since Trump and Trump alone who chooses whether or not to enforce whatever the judiciary has to say about this, the judiciary only matters when Trump says they do.

But hey...her emails.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Last Call For The Runoff Rundown

Now that the battle for Trump HHS Secretary Tom Price's seat is going to a runoff election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, it's time for Georgia's GOP state officials to do everything they can in order to make sure the seat doesn't fall to Team Blue.

That means refusing to extend voting registration for the runoff, of course.  Because the answer every time for Republicans to deal with demographic changes is always "stop those people from voting."

Five civil rights and civic engagement groups have filed suit against Georgia and its secretary of state for attempting to block registered voters from participating in a closely watched runoff election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

On Thursday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a complaint in the federal district court in Atlanta, arguing that the state is violating the National Voter Registration Act. That law sets 30 days before a federal election as the earliest permissible deadline for voter registration.

Georgia complied with the provision for the special congressional election held this past Tuesday. But because no candidate won 50 percent of the vote, there will be a second election on June 20 ― a runoff between the top two finishers, Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

Georgia election officials contend that the June runoff is simply a continuation of the special election this week, so they don’t have to allow newly registered voters to participate. The registration deadline for Tuesday’s election was March 20, and officials say anybody who registers after that day is not eligible to vote in the June runoff.

Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the voting rights project at the Lawyers’ Committee, argues that under the federal law, Georgia can’t set the registration deadline for the June 20 runoff any earlier than 30 days before that election ― that is, May 22.

“The case is actually a very, very simple case,” Rosenberg told reporters on a conference call Thursday. “Federal law specifically defines elections as including runoff elections.”

The National Voter Registration Act, passed in 1993, defines the word “election” based on the Federal Election Campaign Act. That 1971 statute defines an election as “a general, special, primary, or runoff election.”

Even though this is a "very, very simple case", by dragging their feet on this issue, Georgia Republicans can simply wait out the clock and continue to stop new voters in the district from registering.  Don't expect any help from the Department of Justice run by Jeff Sessions, or from a Supreme Court that just added Justice Gorsuch, either.  If the executive refuses to enforce the law, and the judiciary doesn't step in, does the law even matter?

Georgia Republicans seems to think not, and right now I'm not seeing anything that makes me think that they won't get away with this.

I would very much like to be pleasantly surprised, but as of right now, Georgia is getting away with this.

Running Government Like A Business, Con't

Meanwhile, while people are complaining about who Barack Obama takes a post-presidential vacation with these days as proof that the Dems are all about Wall Street, corporate America and the one percent are making it very clear who they want to remain in power.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Friday announced it raised $41.5 million in the first three months of 2017, its strongest-ever total for the first quarter following a presidential race. 
“Our record-setting fundraising pace has been fueled by grassroots enthusiasm for President Trump and the Republican Party,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said in a statement. 
“The RNC is in a strong position to make an impact in key races in 2017 and 2018 as we plan to take a leading role in preserving our congressional majorities and prepare to reelect President Trump in 2020.”

The RNC said it brought in $12.2 million in March, breaking its record for biggest haul in the March after a presidential race. The committee has $41.4 million total cash on hand. 
RNC Finance Chairman Steve Wynn said the robust totals are proof voters approve of Trump leading GOP majorities in both chambers of Congress. 
“Americans across the country are expressing their belief that their best chance for a better life in our country is with continued Republican control of the House, Senate and the White House under President Trump,” he said.

Spending millions to make billions is always a good investment as the Trump regime continues to leave hundreds of key executive branch positions vacant ranging from dozens of US attorneys to hundreds of State Department employees to scores of regulatory agency positions.

And with nobody minding the store, corporate America can happily keep on breaking all the laws it wants to knowing they'll never be enforced.  They're willing to pay millions to keep it that way, too.

So far it's working great.  Just ask the RNC.

Russian To Judgment, Con't


Federal prosecutors are weighing whether to bring criminal charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization, taking a second look at a 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents and investigating whether the group bears criminal responsibility for the more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cyber-tools, according to people familiar with the case.

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama had decided not to charge WikiLeaks for revealing some of the government’s most sensitive secrets — concluding that doing so would be akin to prosecuting a news organization for publishing classified information. Justice Department leadership under President Trump, though, has indicated to prosecutors that it is open to taking another look at the case, which the Obama administration did not formally close.

It is not clear whether prosecutors are also looking at WikiLeaks’ role last year in publishing emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, which U.S. officials have said were hacked by the Russian government. Officials have said individuals “one step” removed from the Kremlin passed the stolen messages to WikiLeaks as part of a broader Russian plot to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors in recent weeks have been drafting a memo that contemplates charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization, possibly including conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act, officials said. The memo, though, is not complete, and any charges against members of WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, would need approval from the highest levels of the Justice Department.

The plan was always clear that in case of a Trump win, WikiLeaks would be formally outed as a Russian intel laundering operation, its usefulness over.  That happened a week after the election.

Despite all the news being generated by the change of power under way in Washington, there is one story this week that deserves top priority: Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. On Tuesday, the director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, was asked about the WikiLeaks release of hacked information during the campaign, and he said, "This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect." He added, "This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily." 

Everything since then has been theater.  The news that this turn of events was coming soon was foreshadowed last week when Trump's CIA Director openly called WikiLeaks a "hostile intelligence service."

Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo on Thursday denounced WikiLeaks as a "non-state hostile intelligence service," and he singled out Russia as one of the anti-secrecy organization's top collaborators. Pompeo is the latest top official in the Trump administration to note that Russia hacked into the emails of Democratic staffers with the intention of influencing the 2016 presidential election. Thousands of those emails were subsequently released by WikiLeaks. The intelligence community has concluded this operation was mounted with Vladimir Putin's approval and was done to benefit Donald Trump.

Pompeo's remarks were particularly striking because Trump praised WikiLeaks during the campaign and repeatedly referenced the emails it made public. In other words, Pompeo was saying that his boss encouraged an entity he now considers "hostile" to the United States. Trump has repeatedly referred to the Russia scandal as a hoax, yet Pompeo's comments are predicated on the assumption there is nothing hoax-y about the Russian attack on the 2016 campaign.

The very public plan now for Trump to go after Assange and company is all part of the game as well.  After all, he can't be helping Trump if Trump wants him arrested, right?

The obvious play by WikiLeaks and Assange is to now drop everything they have on Trump and Russia and burn Trump to the ground.  Maybe that actually happens, maybe Assange has a final card to play.  But my guess is that when that magically doesn't happen, and Assange ends up in Moscow sharing a flat with Ed Snowden, don't be surprised.




StupidiNews!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Last Call For Gang-Related

The most dangerous thing about the Jeff Sessions DoJ is the fact that he thinks designating criminals as terrorists is a good idea.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the MS-13 gang could be designated as a terrorist organization. 
Asked by Fox News's Tucker Carlson on Tuesday whether he thinks the designation would be helpful, Sessions replied, “I think so, perhaps. I believe it could qualify for that." 
"There are rules that I guess the State Department does to establish that," he added. El Salvador has already designated MS-13 a terrorist group. 
Sessions called the gang "one of the most violent gangs in the history of our country." 
“We can devastate this gang. We’re going after them," he said. "We’re not going to allow them to take over a block, a corner of our communities and terrorize people with this violence.”

Now MS-13 is definitely a dangerous and violent criminal gang, but legally designating them as terrorists opens up a Pandora's Box of unconstitutional actions that could potentially be taken against US citizens in US territory.  Once you define down "terrorist" as "a group of criminals" then all criminal groups become terrorists.  Being designated as one means you get the other for free.

Again, taking law enforcement action against MS-13 gangsters in the US is entirely different from deeming them terrorists and using possible military force against them.  And what about places where MS-13 exists outside of the US?  Do we invade El Salvador in order to stop MS-13?  Mexico? Guatemala?  Belize, too?

Yeah, this is all kinds of bad here folks, and we should definitely be concerned here.  Who gets designated as a terrorist organization next?

Considering we already have a domestic terror problem with white supremacists and sovereign citizens?  Why are we suddenly concentrating on creating fear of Scary Brown People as a terrorist threat?

Oh wait, I answered my own question.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Meanwhile, Reuters gives us another piece of the Putin puzzle pertaining to Russia's efforts to elect Trump and undermine Clinton.  The Russians knew exactly what they were doing, and they knew exactly how to accomplish what they wanted.

A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters
They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [en.riss.ru/], after the election. 
The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office. 
The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals. 
It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said. 
A second institute document, drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the seven officials said. 
The current and former U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the Russian documents’ classified status. They declined to discuss how the United States obtained them. U.S. intelligence agencies also declined to comment on them.
Putin has denied interfering in the U.S. election. Putin’s spokesman and the Russian institute did not respond to requests for comment.

The documents were central to the Obama administration's conclusion that Russia mounted a “fake news” campaign and launched cyber attacks against Democratic Party groups and Clinton's campaign, the current and former officials said.

So Team Vlad had a roadmap to push Trump to victory and to crush Clinton by damaging the legitimacy of the US election process, and they executed the plan well enough to get both goals done. The country got played like a fiddle and we're stuck with a semi-senile orange toddler with nuclear weapons, and a Republican party so corrupt that it's going right along with the Russian plan to continue to wreck the country.

And yet we still pretend that Donald Trump's election is a normal act.

It's not.

The Beaver Goes Home

GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz is going to be spending time with his family in 2019, so don't you dare tell me that the narrow Dems losses from special elections so far this year in districts that Republicans won last year by 20 points aren't scaring the hell out of Republicans who would be facing much tougher contests.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, the powerful chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told supporters on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to Congress — or for any office — in 2018. 
Mr. Chaffetz, 50, a Utah Republican who plainly relished his oversight role more under a Democratic administration, said he was ready to return to the private sector after more than 13 years in public service, calling his decision a “personal” one. 
“I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook. “After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time.” 
He said his decision was not based on either health or political concerns, adding that he was “confident” of his re-election should he have pursued it and retained support from Speaker Paul D. Ryan for his committee chairmanship

More than 18 months out from the election in the heavily Republican district, there were already possible signs of a challenging race in Mr. Chaffetz’s future. Kathryn Allen, a physician and political newcomer running as a Democrat, has already raised nearly $400,000 more than Mr. Chaffetz this year, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday — most of it from donors outside of Utah. And Mr. Chaffetz had also acquired a primary challenger: Damian W. Kidd, a lawyer and another newcomer who accused the congressman of caring more about himself than his district. 
Even with his announcement, Mr. Chaffetz left open the possibility of his return.“I may run again for public office,” he added, “but not in 2018.”

I'm sure Chaffetz will be back in some capacity in GOP politics in Utah sometime next decade, (maybe a primary run against GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who would be facing his fourth term in 2020?)  but the notion that he's not running for the hills after Tuesday's near-upset by Jon Ossoff in Georgia's 6th special election primary is completely laughable.

Expect to see a lot of House Republican retirements ahead of 2018.  Chaffetz here won't be the last by any stretch.
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