Friday, May 26, 2017

Last Call For The Return Of The Steve

The unstoppable Steve M. notes that the Trump regime is hitting the mattresses after Donny's global embarrassment tour, and that means the return to power of Steve Bannon:

So Bannon -- who is allegedly "super savvy" -- is responsible for "misdirections" like trying to change the subject to Bill Clinton's decades-old sexual behavior after Trump's Access Hollywood tape broke. Here's my question: How effective was that misdirection effort? Apart from any Fox-addicted wingnuts you know, did you hear anyone talking about it? If so, was anyone talking about it for days and days? Whereas we all talked about the Trump "grab 'em by the pussy" tape for days and days -- longer, in fact. We're still talking about it.

My point is that Bannon might not actually change what most Americans are talking about. What he's skilled at doing is changing what right-wingers are talking about. And maybe that's worth it to Trump, because he seems to believe he can save his presidency as long as 80+ percent of Republicans still support him without question

So if you have even a glancing exposure to right-wing media, expect to hear a lot of names that make you ask, "Isn't this person completely out of power now?" Susan Rice. Valerie Jarrett. Donna Brazile. (Why, here's a story about Donna Brazile at Joe the Plumber's website right now.) Expect even more on Seth Rich. Expect terror scares and "knockout game" scares and Black-Lives-Matter-is-going-to-kill-all-white-people scares. The Russia investigations might strike more and more pay dirt, but your right-wing relatives won't even know.

Steve's right on this.  What you and I think about Trump is irrelevant as to whether or not Trump stays in power until the end of his term.  What the people who voted for Trump think of him -- and what those Republican voters can do to GOP members of Congress -- is now the only thing that matters.

As long as Bannon can keep Trump's numbers up among the faithful, he will survive politically due to the power of the office, and due to the cowardice of the GOP that brought him to power.  Nobody wants to be the "Traitor That Brought Down Trump" because they know good and well what they've been saying needs to happen to "traitors" in this country.

So why is that important?  Because of tonight's Friday night news dump.

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

The White House disclosed the fact of the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

This is pretty much as bad as it gets for Kushner right now. Neither the WH nor the Russians are denying this story tonight.

But it gets worse for them.

Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch once close to President Trump’s former campaign manager, has offered to cooperate with congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but lawmakers are unwilling to accept his conditions, according to congressional officials.

Mr. Deripaska’s offer comes amid increased attention to his ties to Paul Manafort, who is one of several Trump associates under F.B.I. scrutiny for possible collusion with Russia during the presidential campaign. The two men did business together in the mid-2000s, when Mr. Manafort, a Republican operative, was also providing campaign advice to Kremlin-backed politicians in Ukraine. Their relationship subsequently soured and devolved into a lawsuit.

Mr. Deripaska, an aluminum magnate who is a member of the inner circle of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, recently offered to cooperate with congressional intelligence committees in exchange for a grant of full immunity, according to three congressional officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly. But the Senate and House panels turned him down because of concerns that immunity agreements create complications for federal criminal investigators, the officials said.

Mr. Deripaska, who lives in Moscow, has long had difficulty traveling to the United States. The State Department has refused to issue him a business visa because of concerns over allegations that he was connected to organized crime, according to a former United States government official, which Mr. Deripaska has denied.

A lot of Trump's inner circle are going down and soon.  But Trump?  Trump's not going anywhere.

Not yet.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

As expected, the story last week that "a White House official in Trump's inner circle" was under FBI investigation now has a name attached to it: Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News. 
Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him. 
The FBI's scrutiny of Kushner places the bureau's sprawling counterintelligence and criminal investigation not only on the doorstep of the White House, but the Trump family circle. The Washington Post first reported last week that a senior White House official close to Trump was a "person of interest," but did not name the person. The term "person of interest" has no legal meaning. 
The officials said Kushner is in a different category from former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who are formally considered subjects of the investigation. According to the Justice Department's U.S. Attorneys' Manual, "A 'subject' of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury's investigation." 
Records of both Manafort and Flynn have been demanded by grand jury subpoenas, NBC News has reported.

I said last Friday that Kushner or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would make the most sense as the "person of interest" as they are the ones who have the major ties to Russian business interests if the FBI is playing follow the money, Kushner with real estate, and Tillerson with oil.

Still, it means the grand jury investigation into Trump and Russia now has reached Kushner.  Things are moving pretty quickly at this point, and it means the investigation is expanding, not "going away" like the GOP is claiming.

Meanwhile lawmakers want to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller, and soon.

A growing number of key lawmakers in both parties are calling on Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller to detail what specifically his Russia investigation is targeting, with one Democratic senator warning bluntly that failing to do so could jeopardize the criminal probe into President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the top Democrat on a Judiciary subcommittee, told CNN Thursday that it's possible Flynn is cooperating with the Justice Department -- and that Capitol Hill has not been kept in the loop. He warned that congressional probes that have subpoenaed Flynn for records could undercut Mueller's investigation if the former national security adviser is secretly working with the Justice Department as part of its broader investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and Trump associates during the campaign season. 
"There is at least a reasonable hypothesis that Mike Flynn is already cooperating with the DOJ investigation and perhaps even has been for some time," said Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

Pay attention to what Sen. Whitehouse is saying here.  Why would Flynn be cooperating with Mueller when he's not with Congress?

We know at this point that while Flynn is resisting congressional subpoenas, it doesn't mean he's not talking to Mueller, which actually makes sense.  If Flynn is trying to get a deal, things could start going south fast for Trump and the rest.  There's only one possible target that Flynn could deliver to make the FBI even begin to consider this, and it's Tang the Conqueror himself.

Question is does Flynn actually have the goods? And is everyone at the FBI willing to bet their careers on Flynn actually having enough evidence to bring down a president?

Either way, it looks like Trump's real boss is going to get his payoff soon regardless.

President Trump is weighing changes to U.S. sanctions against Russia
, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Wednesday.

"I think the president is looking at it," Cohn told reporters aboard Air Force One, when asked about the president's position on Russian sanctions. "Right now, we don’t have a position."

Drip, drip, drip, Donny.

Slamming Home The Point

So how did Montana Republican Greg Gianforte win last night's special election to replace Trump Interior Secretary' Ryan Zinke's House seat by 7 points, despite being charged with assault the day before the election?

I'm glad you asked.

One, Montana went for Trump by 21 points in November.  Gianforte ran and won by 7.  That was a huge swing away from Trump, but it wasn't quite enough for Democrat Rob Quist to get the win.  It should still worry the hell out of the GOP though.  13-14 point swings towards the Dems in the generic Congressional ballot means a huge Dem takeover in November 2018 if that holds.

Two, Libertarian Mark Wicks got 6% of the vote.  If Wicks wasn't in the race at all, this would have been much closer.  Yes, Quist still would have lost as Gianforte got more than 50% +1 of the vote, but it would have been a 2-3 point win rather than 7-8.  And that would have been a complete shocker.  If you assume that Wicks got a healthy amount of anti-Gianforte votes that would have gone to Quist, Wicks definitely helped Gianforte.

Three, Dems gave up on this race far too early.

C'mon.  Quist was outspent almost 10-1.  And yet when Dems chose to spend money to help Dem Gov. Steve Bullock win re-election and stayed competitive on campaign spending, Bullock was able to beat Gianforte by 4 points even as Trump got a 21 point win in the state.

Dems abandoned Quist, period.  The money wasn't there.  The GOP money was and they won.  By the time the Dems realized they had a race on their hands, the GOP upped the money they spent on it again.

Yes, it cost the GOP $5 million to defend Montana's at-large House seat.  But they won.

Here endeth the lesson.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Last Call For Mitch's Big Punt

The House has passed Trumpcare 3.0, but the Senate may punt on repealing and replacing Obamacare with a disaster of a plan and put it off until 2020.

Senate Republicans are weighing a two-step process to replace Obamacare that would postpone a repeal until 2020, as they seek to draft a more modest version than a House plan that nonpartisan analysts said would undermine some insurance markets. 
Republicans -- in the early stages of private talks on the Senate plan -- say they may first take action to stabilize premium costs in Obamacare’s insurance-purchasing exchanges in 2018 and 2019. Major insurers have said they will leave the individual market in vast regions of states including North Dakota, Iowa and Missouri. 
A Senate plan is likely to continue subsidies that help low-income Americans with co-pays and deductibles, said third-ranking Republican John Thune of South Dakota. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Thursday the administration hasn’t committed to paying subsidies due in June -- which would create additional uncertainty for insurers as they set rates for next year. 
“There clearly has to be a short-term solution that works with the transition until some of our long-term policy changes can take effect,” Thune told reporters. “There’s got to be certainty in the marketplace.” 
The private Senate GOP negotiations include a 13-member leadership-controlled working group as well as almost daily closed-door discussions among all Senate Republicans. In addition, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has convened bipartisan talks with about a dozen senators.

How far this plan will get, I couldn't tell you.  If the Senate goes this route they can't use budget reconciliation, which means they'd have to get Democratic votes to pass it.  Whether the House GOP will go along with anything that the Senate Democrats had a hand in is again anyone's guess.

Stiil, as we've seen, the devil is in those details (and the CBO score).  We know the House plan as is will wreck health care for millions of families, and the plan is more unpopular than Obamacare ever was, even in the dark days of 2010.

And we all know what happened to the Dems in 2010 when they passed health care legislation.

We'll see.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

We already know that the Trump regime knew Mike Flynn was under FBI investigation for being a representative of a foreign government when he was hired by Trump as National Security Adviser, today we find out that, as long expected, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort remained in contact with Trump months after being fired for his Kremlin ties.

Months after the FBI began examining Paul Manafort as part of a probe into ties between President Donald Trump’s team and Russia, Manafort called Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus to push back against the mounting controversy, according to four people familiar with the call.

It was about a week before Trump’s inauguration, and Manafort wanted to brief Trump’s team on the alleged inaccuracies in a recently released dossier of memos written by a former British spy for Trump’s opponents that alleged compromising ties between Russia, Trump and Trump’s associates, including Manafort.

“On the day that the dossier came out in the press, Paul called Reince, as a responsible ally of the president would do, and said this story about me is garbage, and a bunch of the other stuff in there seems implausible,” said a person close to Manafort.

Manafort had been forced to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman five months earlier amid scrutiny of his work for Kremlin-aligned politicians and businessmen in Eastern Europe. But he had continued talking to various members of Trump’s team, and had even had at least two conversations with Trump, according to people close to Manafort or Trump.

While the people say the conversations were mostly of a political or, in some cases, personal nature, the conversation with Priebus, described by four people familiar with it, was related to the scandal now subsuming Manafort and the Trump presidency.

It suggests that Manafort recognized months ago the potentially serious problems posed by the investigation, even as Trump himself continues to publicly dismiss it as a politically motivated witch hunt, while predicting it won’t find anything compromising.

The discussion also could provide fodder for an expanding line of inquiry for both the FBI and congressional investigators. They’ve increasingly focused on the Trump team’s handling of the investigations, including evolving explanations from the White House, and the president’s unsuccessful efforts to get the FBI to drop part of the investigation, followed by his firing of FBI director James Comey. All that has led to claims that the president and his team may have opened themselves to obstruction of justice charges.

It wasn't the Watergate hotel break-in itself that sunk Nixon, but the increasingly stupid and paranoid efforts to cover it up that ended his presidency.   Understand that since Manafort and Flynn remain under investigation and have for months now before Trump's inauguration, that these phone conversations in January have almost certainly been recorded as evidence in that investigation.

In other words, it's looking pretty bad for Trump and everyone involved with him.  And that's just the cover-up angle.  The money laundering is separate and could take down Trump too.

He is facing both.

By the way, there's reason to believe that Reince Preibus might be the next domino to fall in this mess.  As White House Chief of Staff, he would have had contact with all the players in this little game: Flynn, Manafort, Carter Page, Jared Kushner, and of course Trump himself.  James Comey talked to Priebus in February, and Comey's notes on that conversation might be the nail in his coffin as well.

Of course if it isn't Priebus, it might be Jeff Sessions who's in trouble now, as he's facing new questions about lying about his contacts with our friends in Moscow on his security clearance paperwork.

It's going to get crowded in the dock soon, I would think.

But Her Emails, Con't

Well then, it looks like we just got one of the big puzzle pieces in the whole Russia/Trump affair late on Wednesday, and our good friends the Russians were definitely in the fake news business, so much so that they even got to the FBI and James Comey about the Clintons.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received a purported Russian intelligence document describing a tacit understanding between the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server
The Russian document mentioned a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter — a conversation that if made public would cast doubt on the inquiry’s integrity. 
Current and former officials have said that document played a significant role in the July decision by then-FBI Director James B. Comey to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election. 
But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable. 
The document, obtained by the FBI, was a piece of purported analysis by Russian intelligence, the people said. It referred to an email supposedly written by the then-chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.),and sent to Leonard Benardo, an official with the Open Society Foundations, an organization founded by billionaire George Soros and dedicated to promoting democracy.

The Russian document did not contain a copy of the email, but it described some of the contents of the purported message. 
In the supposed email, Wasserman Schultz claimed Lynch had been in private communication with a senior Clinton campaign staffer named Amanda Renteria during the campaign. The document indicated Lynch had told Renteria that she would not let the FBI investigation into Clinton go too far, according to people familiar with it. 
Current and former officials have argued that the secret document gave Comey good reason to take the extraordinary step over the summer of announcing the findings of the Clinton investigation himself without Justice Department involvement.

Comey had little choice, these people have said, because he feared that if Lynch announced no charges against Clinton, and then the secret document leaked, the legitimacy of the entire case would be questioned.

And that is the answer to the question of why Comey came forward with the news that Clinton was under investigation.  He thought he had to, because of Russian intel, which we now know was false.

Of course, this means that the Russians planted false info so "incriminating" on Clinton that Comey did all the work, torpedoing Clinton's campaign.  Even the FBI had figured it out by August, but by then the damage was done.  The second time Comey came forward on Anthony Weiner's laptop was the finisher, but that would not have been possible without the Russian hit job on Clinton that was first received by the FBI in March of 2016.

America was played.

We elected Trump as a result.  If this story is true, then this was most successful Russian intel operation in history, and arguably an act of war.

Trump must resign.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

Today's story on Trump/Russia misdeeds and the investigations into them takes us to see our good friends Zee Germans, who may be well more involved in Trump's possible Russian money laundering than previously thought.

Democratic lawmakers asked Deutsche Bank AG to hand over its findings on two politically charged matters -- its banking on behalf of now-President Donald Trump and trades from the bank’s Moscow operation that helped move some $10 billion out of Russia. 
Representative Maxine Waters of California and four other Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee asked the Frankfurt-based lender for its internal report about its conduct in the Russian “mirror trading” scandal. They also asked for any internal review of Trump’s business dealings with the bank, descriptions of which have surfaced in news reports. 
The lawmakers asked whether the bank’s loans to Trump, made years before the New York developer ran for president, “were guaranteed by the Russian government, or were in any way connected to Russia.” A copy of the letter sent to the bank was reviewed by Bloomberg News. 
Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the letter. Its shares fell on the news, sliding 1.1 percent to 16.93 euros at 4:39 p.m. in Frankfurt, the fourth-worst performance among 46 European companies in the Stoxx 600 Banks Index. 
As the minority party in Congress, the Democrats don’t have the power to force Deutsche Bank to make any disclosures. It’s not clear whether Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the chairman of the committee, shares his colleagues’ interest in the matter. Hensarling’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 
The same group of Democrats demanded in March that Hensarling hold a hearing to explore the bank’s conduct in the Russian mirror-trading scandal, as part of an effort to ensure that the Justice Department investigation wasn’t influenced by the lender’s relationship with Trump. No hearing has been scheduled. 
The mirror-trading scheme allowed some of the bank’s wealthy clients in Moscow to convert rubles into western currency through the simultaneous purchase and sale of publicly traded shares, investigators have found. 
The Democrats cited Deutsche Bank’s previous compliance failures, which have resulted in more than $6 billion in fines and penalties to U.S. regulators since 2015. Along with the internal review of the Russian stock-trading scheme, they are seeking any internal correspondence and communications related to loans extended to Trump and his immediate family members. The bank has made more than $300 million in loans to Trump, for the Doral golf resort in Florida, a Washington, D.C., hotel and a Chicago tower.

This is a huge, huge clue as to where the Trump organization stuff is going on Russia.  The money trail is going to be key here, and when they finally go full Capone on this asshole, it's going to be exquisite.

Follow the dirty money.  It goes to Moscow.  And Vlad is getting a hell of a deal with his purchase.

Meanwhile In Bevinstan

If you thought that Donald Trump was the only Republican regularly looking to get rid of newspapers who write critical stories, you should meet Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, no fan of either of the state's two largest papers.

Gov. Matt Bevin took to Facebook Live on Tuesday evening to blast a Courier-Journal story about his approach to the media, comparing reporters who have been ignored by his office to noisy insects. 
"They will beg to differ and that's their prerogative, but it is our option to disregard people that don't take their responsibility seriously in our estimation," he said. "There's only a handful of them. They make a lot of noise. They're like cicadas." 
In recent months, the governor's office has largely ignored requests for comment from some of Kentucky's major news outlets, including the Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WAVE 3 News, choosing to go on social media or do radio interviews with friendly hosts instead. Reporter Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville has even started a running tally of how many emails he and his colleagues have sent to Bevin's spokespersons without getting a response
The governor also has publicly criticized several individual reporters after they wrote stories he disliked. He didn't name names in his Facebook video on Tuesday, but he did single out the Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader as newsrooms that "don't actually seem to care about Kentucky." He noted that both news outlets are owned by companies based outside the commonwealth. 
Bevin, who was born in Colorado, raised in New Hampshire and went to college in Virginia, moved to Louisville in 1999. In 2011, he assumed the leadership of his family company, Bevin Brothers Manufacturing, a bell maker based in Connecticut. 
The reporters whose requests aren't returned "are not serious journalists," Bevin said, adding that Courier-Journal subscribers are throwing their money away. The targets of his criticism have included the Courier-Journal's Tom Loftus, a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. 
"Anytime a politician tells you not to read the work of watchdog journalists, it should raise a red flag," said Joel Christopher, the Courier-Journal's executive editor. "It's like the circus magician telling you to watch his hands." 
The governor did not mention any of Loftus' recent reports scrutinizing the $1.6 million purchase of the Anchorage home in which he and his family now reside. It is unclear who owns the company that purchased it. Nor did the governor mention stories the Courier-Journal has done on the state's ballooning pension crisis, a topic on which he says the state's media should focus. 
In an email late Tuesday evening, Herald-Leader editor Peter Baniak said: "The Herald-Leader has a decades-long record of reporting and writing about issues critical to Kentucky's future. We plan to do a lot more of that reporting and writing in the future. I'd invite the governor to read it."

By the way, Joe Sonka is serious about keeping track of the number of times Bevin's office has ignored a reporter's request this year:

So yeah, we have our own "chief executive who is bad with the media" problem here in the commonwealth.  Not going to get much better I would guess, either.

Laws, Martial And Otherwise

Speaking of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, it seems the drug-hating, murder-endorsing, police-arming leader has graduated from "strongman" status to full "dictator" this week with the declaration of martial law to deal with a terrorist attack on Marawi City in the southern part of the country.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Wednesday that he'll be harsh in enforcing martial law in his country's south as he abruptly left Moscow to deal with a crisis at home sparked by a Muslim extremist siege on a city, where militants burned buildings overnight and are feared to have taken hostages.

Duterte declared martial rule for 60 days in the entire southern Mindanao region, the restive third of the Philippine archipelago, Tuesday evening to try to crush Muslim extremists who have aligned themselves with the Islamic State group and occupied a hospital, jail and other buildings and battled troops in an audacious attack in Marawi City.

Martial law could be extended for a year depending on how long the problem could be quelled, Duterte said on board a plane en route to the Philippines.

"I said I would be harsh and I warned everybody not to force my hand into it," Duterte said. "I have to do it to preserve the republic."

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said troops raided the hideout of a top terrorist suspect in Marawi on Tuesday, sparking a gunbattle that prompted the militants to call for reinforcements from an allied group, the Maute. He said dozens of gunmen occupied city hall, a hospital and a jail and burned a Catholic church, a college and some houses in a bold attack that killed at least two soldiers and a police officer and wounded 12 others.

Several militants were killed in the fighting in Marawi city in Lanao del Sur province, about 830 kilometers (520 miles) south of Manila, but others continued to lay siege to the largely Muslim city of more than 200,000 people, officials said, adding that power was cut in the city in the chaos.

"The whole of Marawi city is blacked out, there is no light, and there are Maute snipers all around," Lorenzana said in the news conference in Moscow, which was broadcast live in the Philippines.

Ahh, but if you're going to be following the "martial law to deal with Muslim terrorists in a rogue province" playbook, you learn from the guy who wrote it.

Duterte met late Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he is counting on Russia to supply weapons for the Philippines to fight terrorism.

"Of course, our country needs modern weapons, we had orders in the United States, but now the situation there is not very smooth and in order to fight the Islamic State, with their units and factions, we need modern weapons," he said, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Why would Duterte want to deal with Trump to buy weapons when he can go directly to Trump's boss Vlad?  That's who's really in charge of the US right now.  Sure as hell isn't Donny calling the shots these days, he can barely survive the trip overseas without sending in Ivanka and Jared to cover for him.

And so it goes.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Last Call For But Her Emails

Truns out that yes, media coverage of Clinton's email server was a factor in costing her the race, as many have said before.  CNN's Chris Cillizza will admit that it was an issue, but being responsible for the breathless coverage is not something he's going to cop to.

Not only did "email" dominate the conversation around Clinton, it dominated the entire conversation in the race. From October 23 on, Trump is barely talked about -- an amazing feat for someone so willing to make news. 
This study will be used by liberals as evidence that the media's unnecessary focus on Clinton's email server cost her the election. 
I'd agree that Clinton's email server played a decisive role in deciding the election. But I wouldn't agree with the idea that the media is responsible for it. 
After all, it was Clinton who never seemed to grasp the seriousness of the issue and how it eroded the public's already shaky confidence in her. Her inability to do those things meant she was never able to put the story behind her. And then the Comey announcement came, which undoubtedly surged the issue back to the top of many voters' minds. 
Whatever the reasons, when people thought of Clinton in the final weeks of the race, they thought of her emails. And that was a very bad thing for her.

What makes Cillizza an asshole, even now, is that we know good and well that her email server wasn't an iota as bad as what Trump is doing now, with billions in graft for his empire and a regime drowning in corruption, with new revelations weekly, if not daily since the firing of James Comey.

But her emails, right?

I know. 25 years of Clinton Derangement Syndrome is a hard habit to kick, but 63 million still voted for her.  Go figure.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

We already know that the Trump regime and AG Jeff Sessions consider anybody but white men to be a threat to the homeland, so what will they do given overwhelming evidence that America's white supremacist terrorist movement is only becoming stronger and more dangerous now that it is going to be left largely unchecked by a Justice Department that is wholly uninterested in stopping them?

A man accused of shooting his two roommates Friday in a Tampa Palms apartment told police he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with the men until he converted to Islam then killed them because they showed disrespect for his faith. 
The revelations weren't over. 
Officers found a garage stocked with bomb materials as they arrived to investigate the double homicide, leading to federal explosive charges against Brandon Russell — a Florida National Guardsman and admitted neo-Nazi who kept a framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on his dresser. 
Russell, 21, was the man Tampa police officers found crying outside his door Friday evening when murder suspect Devon Arthurs led them back to the apartment that the four had shared in an affluent suburb north of the University of South Florida. Russell, wearing camouflage, had just returned from National Guard duties. 
Police went to the apartment in the Hamptons at Tampa Palms after Arthurs, 18, told them he fatally shot his roommates Jeremy Himmelman, 22, and Andrew Oneschuk, 18, according to a Tampa police report. 
While searching the garage, investigators found a cooler full of a white, cake-like explosive material known as HMTD, or hexamethylene tiperoxide diamine, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. Nearby, they found explosive precursors — chemicals that can be mixed to create explosives — including potassium chlorate, potassium nitrate, nitro methane and more than a pound of ammonium nitrate in a package addressed to Russell. 
Investigators also found electric matches and empty 5.56-caliber ammunition casings with fuses that could be used to detonate destructive devices once HMTD was added to the casings. The materials could be used to make a bomb, according to the complaint.
In addition, pagers carried by bomb technicians alerted them to the presence of two radiation sources. The complaint does not say whether they were connected to the explosive materials. 
In Russell's bedroom, investigators discovered Nazi and white supremacist propaganda including the photo of McVeigh, who was convicted and executed for detonating an ammonium nitrate and nitromethane fertilizer truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The death toll from the blast was 168. 
According to the complaint, Russell admitted to being a national socialist, manufacturing the HTMD and owning the precursors. He also admitted he is a member of a white supremacy group called the Atomwaffen, German for "atomic weapons." 
Questioned about why he had the explosives, Russell said he was in a USF engineering club in 2013 and used the HMTD, in part, to boost homemade rockets and to send balloons into the atmosphere. 
"Based on my training and experience, HMTD is too energetic and volatile for these types of uses," FBI Special Agent Timothy A. Swanson wrote in the complaint.

A guy who literally had a framed photo of modern America's most notorious domestic terrorist in his bedroom, belonged to a neo-Nazi group, had all kinds of explosives and bomb-making materials, and white supremacist propaganda where he lived,  And this guy was a zygote when Tim McVeigh attacked Oklahoma City.  Hell, I was the age he is now when that happened.

How many more of these skinhead New Reich assholes like Russell are out there?  Gosh who knows, Trump and Sessions are too busy harassing anyone darker than a paper bag.  Why would Trump go after the people who elected him, after all?

The fetters are off these guys.  Expect to see a lot more scenes like this where state and local law enforcement have to do the bulk of the work dealing with these guys, and remember Russell only got caught because he shot two of his roommates.  The cops had no idea otherwise.  The Feds under Trump and Sessions won't give a damn.

And that's going to be a disaster sooner rather than later.

How Bad Will The Senate Version Of Trumpcare Be?

David Leonhardt at the NY Times says that if you're expecting Senate Democrats to be able to stop Trumpcare from passing through GOP budget reconciliation tricks, forget it.  The only question is how bad the final Senate bill will be.

While the rest of the country has been transfixed by Trumpian chaos, members of the Senate have spent the last two weeks talking about taking health insurance from millions of Americans. 
There is an alarmingly large chance that they’ll decide to do so. But if they do, they will almost certainly rely on a political sleight of hand to disguise their bill’s damage. Understanding that sleight of hand — and calling attention to it — offers the best hope for defeating the bill. 
The effort to take health insurance from the middle class and poor and funnel the savings into tax cuts for the rich is a little like mold. It grows best in the dark. 
That’s why Republican leaders in the House handled their bill as they did. They did not hold a single hearing, because they knew that attention would have been devastating.
Just imagine a hearing featuring the leaders of these groups, every one of which opposes the House bill: the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Hospital Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Lung Association, March of Dimes and AARP
The House also passed its final bill without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to estimate how many Americans would lose insurance. The C.B.O. will release that analysis tomorrow afternoon. There is no precedent, outside of wartime, for passing a bill this important in such haste. 
After the House did, many observers assumed the bill was too flawed to have much chance in the Senate. Republican senators, aware of the bill’s unpopularity, were careful to say publicly that they would start fresh. But the early signs suggest that Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus are actually mimicking the House approach.

In other words, expect the Senate to pass a bill exactly like the House did: with no public hearings, with no CBO score, and with no input from Democrats.  And considering Trump's planned budget is already going to destroy Medicaid anyway, the combination of the two will wipe out health insurance for tens of millions.

But of course, that's the point.  The GOP budget plan is lethal, trillions of tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, and trillions more in social program cuts for Medicaid, SNAP, college loans, and more on top of massive cuts to government departments that will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The damage will be done, and 2020 will be far too late to fix it.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

So apparently fired FBI Director James Comey was not the only intelligence chief Trump went after in order to kill the Russia story, he asked Director of Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA head Adm. Mike Rogers as well to interfere.

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

So yes, Trump asked both Coats and Rogers to lie for him, and they said "no".  From a legal standpoint, that's not good for him.  And speaking of Comey's memos by the way, those not only exist, but are in the hands of Russia probe special counsel Robert Mueller.

Robert Mueller -- the former FBI director now overseeing the Department of Justice's investigation into Russia's election-year meddling and contact with the Trump campaign -- has been briefed on the contents of some of the memos that former FBI Director James Comey kept to document his conversations with President Donald Trump, according to a person familiar with the matter.  
Additionally, he has already visited FBI headquarters, where he met with the counterintelligence agents who have been working on the case since last July, according to two people familiar with the matter. 
In one memo, Comey wrote that Trump asked him to end the FBI probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a person familiar with the matter. 
One source added that part of Mueller's investigation is expected to focus on obstruction of justice. In that case, Comey would be a witness and Mueller will likely interview him as part of the probe.

Ahh, but it gets worse: Paul Manafort and Roger Stone are cooperating with the FBI. And Mike Flynn?  He's not.

Two former associates of President Trump — Paul Manafort and Roger Stone — have turned over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee in its Russia investigation, a congressional source with direct knowledge told NBC News.

Earlier this month, the committee sent document requests to Manafort and Stone, as well as Carter Page and Mike Flynn, officials said previously. The requests sought information pertaining to dealings with Russia. Page has not yet complied, the congressional source said, and Flynn plans to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination as a reason not to comply with a committee subpoena, a source close to him has said.

And all this is just another Monday in Trumpland.

Texas Does The Bathroom Bill

Apparently incapable of learning from the NC GOP's multi-billion dollar mistake, Texas Republicans are playing "hold my beer and watch this" with their last-minute efforts to specifically legalize discrimination against transgender kids in public schools.

The Texas House voted late Sunday on a bill that will keep transgender public school children from using the restroom that matches their gender identity.

The measure, a Republican deal on the “bathroom bill,” passed the GOP-dominated chamber by a vote of 91-50. It needs one more vote to officially pass the House. If the Senate agrees to the measure, and Gov. Greg Abbott doesn’t veto it, Texas will become the second state in the nation to pass such legislation.

Debate was emotional and divisive, with Democrats likening it to a Jim Crow-era attack on defenseless kids and Republicans insisting the measure did not single out or target anyone.

“America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all,” said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat who has served in the House since 1972. “What’s wrong with treating kids with equality and not making them feel like they are second-class citizens?”

The measure would keep transgender kids from using multi-occupancy school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, unless no one else is present. If other children are around, they’d have to use a different, single-use restroom elsewhere in the school.

Currently, school districts and charter schools in Texas draw up their own plans for accommodating transgender students. Many tackle the issue on a case-by-case basis. After the vote Sunday, the Texas Association of School Boards called the measure a "a common-sense solution."

"The language captures in law a solution many districts already use locally, seeking a balance between ensuring privacy and security for all students and respecting the dignity of all students," TASB Assistant Director of Government Relations Dax González said in a prepared statement.

The bathroom language was amended onto another public school bill, one that requires schools to draw up natural disaster and emergency preparedness plans. Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, authored the amendment.

“There is absolutely no intent, and I would argue nothing in this language discriminates against anybody,” said Paddie. “We want to make sure we provide definitive guidance to our school districts.”

The fight over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights this year has been particularly divisive in Texas. Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, who heads the Senate, began pushing a bathroom bill last year, but House Speaker Joe Straus has called the effort unnecessary and damaging to business.

With the session winding to a close May 29, Patrick threatened to hold the state budget and another must-pass bill hostage if the bathroom bill wasn't approved in the House. The bathroom measure that passed Sunday was the product of that ultimatum, a proposal more limited than Patrick wanted, but palatable enough to receive the backing of a majority of House Republicans.

Imagine being a state lawmaker holding an entire state budget just to get legislation to force transgender schoolkids to use the wrong bathroom.  That's the hill you choose to die on politically.  That's how much you hate transgender kids, in order to force the government to legalize and codify that hatred, an abuse of power over which bathroom kids use in schools.

Never come at me again with "big government keeps interfering in our lives", Texas Republicans.


Trump Gets Out The Budget Chainsaw

As has long been rumored Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget is a fiscal bloodbath that will all but dismantle the country's social safety net with a staggering $1.7 trillion in spending cuts over ten years, nearly half of that to Medicaid alone.

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.

The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors. Many anti-poverty programs have elements that are run by both the states and federal government, and a federal order allowing states to stiffen work requirements “for able-bodied Americans” could have a broad impact in terms of limiting who can access anti-poverty payments — and for how long.

Numerous social-welfare programs grew after the financial crisis, leading to complaints from many Republicans that more should be done to shift people out of these programs and back into the workforce. Shortly after he was sworn in, Trump said, “We want to get our people off welfare and back to work. . . . It’s out of control.”

Trump’s decision to include the Medicaid cuts is significant because it shows he is rejecting calls from a number of Senate Republicans not to reverse the expansion of Medicaid that President Barack Obama achieved as part of the Affordable Care Act. The House has voted to cut the Medicaid funding, but Senate Republicans have signaled they are likely to start from scratch.

Ahh, but the other $900 billion in cuts will be coming from annihilating federal programs that Trump voters know, love, and use, especially in red states already facing budget shortfalls from state-level GOP austerity cuts.

The proposed changes include the big cuts to Medicaid. The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn’t be learned. SNAP is the modern version of food stamps, and it swelled following the financial crisis as the Obama administration eased policies to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits. As the economy has improved, enrollment in the program hasn’t changed as much as many had forecast.

An average of 44 million people received SNAP benefits in 2016, down from a peak of 47 million in 2013. Just 28 million people received the benefits in 2008.

SNAP could be one of numerous programs impacted by changes in work requirements.

Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank, said that giving states the flexibility to impose work requirements could lead to a raft of changes to programs ranging from Medicaid to public housing assistance.

“One of the encouraging things about putting this in the budget is that states will see if it works,” he said. “States will try it.”

Oh yes, states will try it. Imagine Kansas's budget crisis only with tens of billions more in federal cuts over the same two-year budget period to have to make up.  By shifting the austerity burden to states, which by law have to balance their budgets, Republicans in DC are targeting high-population blue states like California, New York and Illinois for the deepest cuts, but also big red states like Texas and Florida will be hurt too, along with Medicaid-expanding Ohio.

Trump is siding with the House GOP austerity caucus.  What the Senate will actually pass, and whether Trump will still sign it if he doesn't get everything he wants, is anyone's guess.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Last Call For Fix Our Mess Yourself

Not sure which American paternalism towards the Muslim world will be worse, Dubya's "We have to fix this for you savages"post 9/11 or the Trump regime's official position of "OK we wrecked your countries when we tried to fix them so now it's completely up to you to do so, see ya."

President Donald Trump urged Arab and Islamic leaders on Sunday to unite and do their share to defeat Islamist extremists, making an impassioned plea to "drive out" terrorists while toning down his own harsh rhetoric about Muslims. 
Trump singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups. His words aligned with the views of his Saudi Arabian hosts and sent a tough message to Tehran the day after Hassan Rouhani won a second term as Iran's president. 
The U.S. president did not use his signature term "radical Islamic terrorism," a signal that he decided to employ a more moderate tone in the region after using the phrase repeatedly as a presidential candidate. 
"Terrorism has spread all across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land," Trump told leaders from dozens of Muslim majority countries representing more than a billion people.

"A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists. Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your communities, drive them out of your holy land and drive them out of this earth."

That's funny Donny, you could apply that last paragraph to Trump voters here.

Of course since the Trump regime is currently trying to do everything it can to piss off the world's billion or so Muslims and drive them from, you know, the United States, I'm thinking that most of the world's Muslim leaders will simply tell Trump to go get impeached so we can have Obama back or something.

I wish.

The Long And Winding Road Ahead

As much as it pains me to do it, Andrew Sullivan's analysis on where the country goes from here politically after arguably two disastrous weeks for Trump is correct, and that answer is "Trump, his regime and his cultish followers are going precisely nowhere".

These are, it seems to me, the two unstoppable narratives grinding our politics to a halt. The status quo in Washington — an unhinged, unfit, mentally disturbed narcissist as POTUS fast losing any faint credibility with even his own staffers — is utterly unsustainable. In a serious crisis, more than half the country won’t believe a word the president says. The White House is barely functioning; legislation is completely stalled; next week’s trip abroad will have everyone watching from behind a couch; the FBI and CIA are reeling; there’s almost no one in the State Department; no presidential due diligence is applied to military actions; the president only reads memos when his name is mentioned in them; a not-too-smart and apparently mute 35-year-old son-in-law is supposed to solve every problem in the country and world; and the press secretary is hiding in the bushes. No one has any confidence that the president couldn’t throw us into a war or a constitutional crisis at a moment’s notice. Nothing this scary has happened in my lifetime. 
And yet around 35 percent of the country still somehow views every single catastrophe Trump perpetrates on America and the world as either a roaring triumph or a huge middle finger to the elites, and therefore fine. For them, everything is sustainable. When Republicans can shrug off giving top-secret Israeli intelligence to the Russians, there is nothing they cannot shrug off. We are not talking about support for various policies here. We are talking about the kind of following a cult leader has. In poll after poll, around 80 percent of Republicans still approve of the job Trump is doing. Still. That’s why the GOP leadership, even as their agenda evaporates, are leery of taking Trump on. His hold on their own voters is tighter than theirs is. It’s tighter than Nixon’s because Trump has built a reactionary movement from the ground up and taken over an entire party. He can communicate with them in ways no other Republican can. And there is no way on earth he is ever going to go quietly, if he agrees to go at all. 
That’s why I have a hard time figuring out how this ends, even though it must end. Even if the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation hits some pay dirt, I can see Trump surviving if he cannot be proven to be directly implicated. He’s already setting up the case: He’s being subjected to an historically unprecedented witch hunt, remember? And there’s no institution or person he won’t blame or destroy in his bid to save himself. Just ask his former creditors. If he’s up against the wall, he will treat the Constitution the way he treated his banks. Or say the Dems manage to regain the House next year, and hold impeachment hearings. Wouldn’t that simply galvanize support for Trump as he fights back against the “deep state,” the “swamp,” the GOP, and what Hannity calls the propaganda media circus — and render 66 votes in the Senate to convict him a pipe dream? Part of me wonders if he’d quit even if he’s beaten in the next presidential election? Isn’t it always rigged when he loses? 
In some ways, I think the best analogy for Trump is O.J. Simpson. Even if we all know he’s guilty as sin, even if his own supporters see the flimflam behind the claptrap, even if the evidence is staring us in the face, he’ll never lose his core support. For 35 percent of the country, he’ll never be guiltier than the system he’s challenging. The best we can hope for is a Democratic House in 2018 and a grinding, grueling attempt to minimize the already enormous harm Trump has done in the meantime. We can pursue that outcome while hoping our cold civil war doesn’t get hot — because this is beginning to feel like the 1850s.

The reality is Trump isn't going anywhere without a critical mass of his own supporters abandoning him.  That will not happen, which is why as (as much as I hate to admit it) the talk of impeachment, criminality, and wrongdoing remains necessary but will simply not result in his removal.

What it will take for the Republic to rid itself of Trump, I cannot tell you.

Sunday Long Read: Canaan Able

It's been more than seven years since the massive earthquake flattened Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, seven years since the UN and US showed up vowing to rebuild and help 1.5 million displaced.  What followed was one of the largest humanitarian and foreign policy failures in history, one we would still be talking about today if it wasn't for the magnitude of the Haitian disaster being eclipsed by the other major humanitarian disaster of the Obama era in Syria.  This week's Sunday Long Read examines this legacy this failure as it still stands as a huge favela-like slum city outside Port-au-Prince, the ragtag, sprawling mess of the "city" of Canaan.

A city is made of two parts: the physical and the political. The physical comprises what people need to sustain life in a particular place; the political determines how they live it.

In Canaan, the physical forms each time someone claims a piece of land. If a plot appears unused, he might ask around to be sure. If the land is indeed already claimed, he offers a small amount of money for the rights to it. He hires masons to line the plot’s edges with concrete blocks; iron rebar flowers up from the corners. At that point, construction usually pauses, since most people migrating here lack enough money to build a house all at once. In the meantime, the foundation reinforces the claim until the builder can follow through with an actual home. It’s common to find goats and chickens grazing where bedrooms have yet to take shape, giving some plots the appearance of a sort of cinderblock petting zoo.

One morning, in a sector where a dozen or so of these concrete foundations were taking shape, I met up with Salma Simeus, whom I found walking one of his goats, straining to hold it back as it pulled toward a group that had begun devouring some nearby bushes. Simeus was born in Haiti’s agrarian central plateau, where, as a young man, he became attracted to volunteer work, raising money to help neighborhood kids attend school and organizing seminars to educate people about matters of health and disease. In 2000, he moved to Port-au-Prince to study at a local college, settling with his wife, Marie Celestin, in Tabarre, a sector tucked into the mountain that forms the backbone of the city. When the earthquake struck, he persuaded a nearby NGO to donate such staples as food and soap, which he immediately distributed to his neighbors.

Unlike others in Tabarre, the couple’s home wasn’t leveled by the earthquake. But after taking in so many displaced relatives and neighbors, their house became impossibly crowded. Rather than kick anyone out, Simeus and Celestin went looking for land on the eastern edge of Canaan, eventually landing in Onaville, where they moved into a zinc-and-plywood shelter built by TECHO, a volunteer NGO that had arrived after the earthquake. The TECHO structures were insufferably hot and prone to collapsing, but they were better than nothing. Soon enough, Simeus began volunteering for TECHO to create a list of people in need of shelter.

Celestin, meanwhile, began using her training as a nurse to help treat injuries and illnesses, advising people on such things as what medicines to buy, how to manage their diabetes, or how to prevent cholera. When one woman went into labor, Celestin delivered the baby.

Because of his and Celestin’s volunteer work, Simeus became a de facto leader in Onaville. He embraced the role, and began a campaign to beautify the area, which included getting a local artist to paint a mural and organizing residents to make street signs for the neighborhood’s dirt roads and alleyways.

“We wanted Onaville to be a grand village,” Simeus said as we watched a group of masons working on a foundation nearby. The idea was that it would serve as an example for other Haitian communities. “The garbage we throw on the streets here gets washed away to Miami,” he said, gesturing west toward the sea. “People see that, and that’s not the image we want.”

As time went on, international NGOs and agencies began offering funds to help beautify Canaan. The responsibility of trying to direct that money into Onaville fell to Simeus. Eventually he became a volunteer liaison between the NGOs and residents, conferring over one project or another. He became a man of many hats—or more precisely, many shirts: Once, between meetings, he took off his white Habitat for Humanity shirt and replaced it with a blue polo, then untucked a Red Cross lanyard from underneath. “Habitat doesn’t like you to have relations with another NGO,” he said. “I have an Oxfam shirt too.”

As Canaan takes on permanence, so does the corruption and despair revolving around the Hatian government and the NGOs running it...but there is still hope here among the rubble.

For now.

Gotta Grandfather In That Hate

While New Orleans may be in the process of finishing the removal of monuments to the Southern Age of Slavery, Alabama Republicans are making sure their Confederate symbols remain as beacons of feel-good white supremacy forever.

Alabama lawmakers of Friday approved sweeping protections for Confederate monuments, names and other historic memorials, as some Southern cities rethink the appropriateness of keeping such emblems on public property. 
The measure "would prohibit the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument" that has stood on public property for 40 or more years," it reads. Changes to names or memorials installed between 20 and 40 years ago would need permission from a new state commission. 
African-American lawmakers opposed the bill at every step of the legislative process, saying argued that solidifies a shameful legacy of slavery. 
"You say we are protecting history. We are not protecting history. We are protecting monuments that represent oppression to a large part of the people in the state of Alabama," said Sen. Hank Sanders, an African-American Democrat from Selma.
Supporters argued that the measure should protect all kinds of history — not just Confederate symbols. 
Sen. Gerald Allen, the bill's Republican sponsor, criticized what he called a "wave of political correctness" wiping out monuments to people he said were historically significant even if they had their personal flaws. 
The legislation would also apply to schools named to memorialize people. 
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey added an amendment, which lawmakers approved, to clarify that schools could change locations and do renovations, but not change names. The amendment came after lawmakers raised concerns that schools, which are often named for people, could not do renovations or relocate under the bill's directive.

And so it goes in a country of "freedom" built on centuries of slave labor.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Last Call For Hearing From The Rest Of Us

Leave it to Canadians at the Toronto Star to finally come up with the idea of talking to American black voters in purple state Virginia who didn't vote for Trump to see how they are faring.  What the hell do you have to lose, Trump asked black voters like myself during the campaign. Turns out the answer is "pretty much everything we had left."

He’s done more to divide. I don’t think he’s for any non-Caucasian people,” said Angela Taylor, 46, a risk manager having a Mother’s Day meal at a popular black restaurant in Richmond, the state capital. “I think he’s just totally against ‘coloureds.’ ” 
Black voters in Petersburg expressed strong displeasure with Trump’s widely criticized plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, a law that cut the uninsured rate among black people in half. 
I don’t like how he’s cancelling a lot of things without, really, a plan in store. You might not like it, but if you don’t have a plan, why would you cancel the whole thing?” said accountant Corey Young, 26, outside the dollar store that was one of the busiest businesses in Petersburg on a sunny weekend afternoon. “I don’t think he’s rational with his decisions. It’s pretty obvious. He’s just a wild guy. Loose cannon, man.” 
Some black voters suspected that Trump’s health-care overhaul is motivated more by a desire to erase Obama’s legacy than to improve Americans’ health. And they took issue, more broadly, with his unceasing stream of disparaging words toward Obama. 
“I have a problem with him always saying he has to clean up a mess from the past president,” said Sharon Jones, 52, outside the Richmond restaurant. “Once you become a leader you inherit, you just take over whatever’s there, and not throw other people under the bus.” 
Petersburg, a historic 32,000-person city once home to major tobacco plants, has been plagued by poverty, crime and a dysfunctional local government. There was intense concern there about the early activities of Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, a former hard-right Alabama senator who was once denied a federal judgeship over accounts of anti-black racism. 
In a rapid-fire series of announcements, Sessions has told federal prosecutors to seek the harshest possible sentences for drug crimes, pulled the federal government back from pressuring cities to reform police forces found to be violating citizens’ constitutional rights, and ordered a review of the reform agreements signed by the Obama administration. 
It’s almost like they’re blinded as it relates to various things that happen in the community involving law enforcement and minorities,” said Rodney Williams, 52, a small-business owner and former deputy sheriff who sits on the chamber of commerce in Petersburg. “That is an issue. For them to say it’s not an issue, it’s like: you are totally ignoring their pain.” 
“Just like when Reagan was in office. Low-level offences. It don’t make no sense, and it’s carrying on to this day,” said Frank Lightfoot, 58, a former offender who is now a Richmond college student. “Donald Trump’s doing this country a great injustice. He’s doing a bad job. And I think eventually he’s going to get impeached.” 
Trump’s 10-point “new deal” mostly consisted of his general policy platform. But it held out the promise of new infrastructure investment in black communities. Trump has not yet got around to infrastructure, choosing instead to focus on Obamacare and tax reform. In its place, he has issued a 2018 budget proposal that includes a $6-billion cut to Housing and Urban Development. 
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said in an interview that the “skinny budget, if adopted, would have a devastating effect on black communities.” 
He’s cutting anything urban — anything that’s helping the urban community,” said Keyonna Wright, 34, who works in nursing. “I just feel like it’s no acknowledgment as far as the urban community. Talking as an African American, I don’t feel like we’re going to progress any.”

We knew, overwhelmingly, what was coming for us.  That's why we voted against him, because we'd seen it before. We knew he was a liar, because we'd seen it before.  We knew he was selling snake oil to America, because we'd seen it before.  Most of all we knew he was going to rally white voters to his cause at our expense, because we'd seen it before.

We warned you of the coming screw job.  We told you it was going to come at our expense, and eventually yours too.

You made it happen anyway.   Rather than helping us up so we could be standing side-by-side, facing this together, you traded having our heads cut off so you could still stand above us when Trump's blade continued its arc and chopped you off at the knees.

Four months in there's serious talk of impeachment and incredible, outlandish examples of outright villainy daily, but we warned you this was coming.  Those warnings were pushed aside.

Do you believe us now?

Exciting New Frontiers In Political Expediency

Democrats should pay attention when trying to adopt Trump's message of "working class anxiety" in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania.  We've been told that this is the future of the Democrats, to copy Trump's message and adapt it to the blue side.  Only problem is when you live by that message, you die by that message.

Monessen Mayor Louis Mavrakis' outspoken support for Trump turned him into a media sensation. The 79-year-old former union organizer helped decode Trump's appeal in the Rust Belt on Sunday political talk shows and for major newspapers, where he was quoted saying things like: "If ISIS was to come to Monessen, they'd keep on going. They'd say someone already bombed the goddamn place." 
Trump himself made a high-profile visit to Monessen, a town of just 7,500, on Mavrakis' invitation. Trump stood in front of a wall of recycled trash to slam free-trade policies and promised to bring back good-paying coal mining and steel-making jobs. 
But Mavrakis' coup in getting Trump to town also helped lead to his downfall. 
When a group of residents protested his visit, they were led by Matt Shorraw, a local community activist whose family has been in the town for generations. 
"What bothered me the most was Trump's visit got our mayor a lot of press, but he basically used that press to say our city is a dump," Shorraw told NBC News.
Shorraw resolved to run for mayor, even though he had never held public office and was only in his mid-20s. 
On Tuesday, he narrowly defeated Mavrakis in the Democratic primary. And with no Republican on the ballot in November, Shorraw is all but guaranteed to be the youngest mayor in the town's history.

Here endeth the lesson.

The Rest Of The Battle Continues

Meanwhile, as the Trump regime thrashes its way across the landscape like Apep or Jormungan or that flying party from Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker books, it's important to remember that Republicans at the state level are still very much capable of causing more focused destruction, such as Iowa's state GOP ending all Planned Parenthood funding for family planning programs and causing four clinics to close this month.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said Thursday it is closing four clinics in Iowa in response to a bill passed by the Iowa Legislature's Republican majority that blocks public money for family planning services to abortion providers. 
Health centers will be closed in Bettendorf, Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City that have served more than 14,600 individual patients in the past three years, said Susana de Baca, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Eight health centers will remain open elsewhere in Iowa. 
De Baca said the impact will be devastating for Planned Parenthood's patients who have received family planning care in those four communities. It will be hardest on people who already face barriers to access health care, especially people of color, young people, poor people and rural residents, she said.

"Defunding Planned Parenthood will set a health care crisis in motion in Iowa. We will be watching and holding politicians accountable," de Baca said.

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signed a $1.7 billion health and human services appropriations bill last week that calls for the Iowa Department of Human Services to discontinue the federal Medicaid family planning network waiver, foregoing about $3 million in federal funding. Instead, the state will use about $3.3 million to recreate its own family planning network so that it can prohibit the funding of clinics that provide abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is Iowa's largest provider of abortions, although no taxpayer money is spent on abortions. The legislation cuts off about $2 million in public money to Planned Parenthood. 
Jodi Tomlonovic, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa, who had testified against the legislation, said the loss of services at the four health centers can't be duplicated by other Iowa medical providers. She said they lack the expertise and ability to accommodate a large number of additional family planning patients. 
"We are concerned this will have a severely negative impact on family planning services," Tomlonovic said. "You will see increases in unintended pregnancies, teen births, and abortions" as well as increases in sexual transmitted diseases and cervical cancer." 
But Iowa groups opposed to abortion were elated with Planned Parenthood's announcement. They predicted no reduction in health care services for women under the new legislation. 
“I would say this is fantastic news for women and families in the state of Iowa," remarked Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for Life. "We would say the services and care provided by Planned Parenthood in the state of Iowa were not what women and families deserved. We have said from the very beginning that there are many, many other qualified health centers that provide comprehensive health care for women."

That's an argument I don't understand, if the goal is to provide more women with more access to health services, why cut off what essentially has been one of the most successful public-private government health service partnerships around?

Oh yes, the goal isn't to provide services for women, it's to punish poor women for being "promiscuous sluts" while providing access for wealthy women to get what services they need privately.  But then why deny poor women family planning services, since Republicans obviously hate poor women having kids out of wedlock?

Same answer: women having sex needs to be controlled and limited only to those who can be fiscally responsible (and therefore morally and genetically favored) for reproduction.  Make it as difficult as possible for those people to outbreed Real 'Muricans in a Real 'Murican state like Iowa.  Besides, those little bastards grow up wanting services and.or wanting to vote, and we can't have that.

It really does all come back to making reproductive rights and making voting rights virtually impossible in order to control the politics of demographics, guys.  There's a reason the GOP is absolutely obsessed with stopping Democrats from being able to exercise either one.
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