Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Last Call For Redneck Paradise

BuzzFeed's Jane Coaston gets it: the only thing that matters to Republicans in 2017 is "Does it piss off liberals, and how much?"  There's no better symbol of that than musician Kid Rock, who appears to be serious about his Senate run against Debbie Stabenow in Michigan.  The guy has zero credentials or skills other than making albums, but that doesn't really matter in the Age of Trump, does it?

Kid Rock says he wants to be Michigan’s next senator.

Some may think a man who recently sold his 8,300 square foot Balinese-style mansion in Malibu is an unlikely voice for the working people of Michigan, whose swing to the right helped send Donald Trump to the White House. But the author of hits like Black Chick, White Guy("his dick was metal / her pussy was a magnet”) can, in fact, represent the voice of a very specific Republican voter, whose political identity can be summarized as "wants to stick it to liberals."
Pissing off liberals is what the Republican party does best right now. If your political identity is any more conservative than that, you might have a hard time voting for Kid Rock, a supporter of the legalization of all drugs whose position on abortion is “it’s not up to a man to tell a woman what to do.” Take away the commitment to offending liberal snowflakes, and he’s basically Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, if Johnson had once briefly served as the lead singer for both Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.

Which is to say that Kid Rock is not really a conservative, or even someone who pretends to be one. And that’s just fine with many conservatives. As The Federalist put it, he may currently lack "a cogent list of reasons why he wants the job," but will benefit from "a blood connection through his baby’s momma with African-Americans” — as well as the fact that his Democratic opponent “resembles an overweight, scolding aunt.” Kurt Schlichter, of conservative news site Townhall.com, wrote that Kid Rock deserved to be elected to the Senate for the following reasons: He will annoy liberals, and he will also annoy conservative columnist George Will. "We’re past voting for the ideology," he wrote. "Now we’re ready to vote for the id."

"Vote for the Id" would make a pretty solid tagline for Republican politics circa 2017. The policy conversations and conflicts and basic premises that once governed conservatism — or at least appeared to — have been largely replaced by a set of principles built on the rock-solid foundation of irritating liberals.

After winning a presidential election with a candidate who had no serious conservative bona fides, the Republican Party has come to an important conclusion: Conservatism doesn't sell all that well. Telling Americans in desperate need of affordable health care that free markets will somehow sort it out someday is not a popular policy prescription — and Republicans have essentially given up on trying to enact those changes in the first place, settling instead for gesturing dismissively in its general direction. It turns out that many people, including President Donald Trump, kind of like Big Government, especially when a six-figure hospital bill is staring them down.

So amid the quagmire of the Obamacare repeal effort, Republicans are learning once more that being opposed to something is far easier than building consensus in support of something else. And fortunately for their party, plenty of voters also seem to enjoy focusing their searing anger onto other people and relishing in their apparent suffering, conservative values be damned. 

Once again, as long as the person in question is willing to run to make Obama voters suffer, Republicans will vote for them every time.  There's no hope in courting them by the left, they'll never vote for a Deocrat as long as they live.  But they'll vote for anybody with an R next to their name, anyone, even a faux northern redneck asshole from a millionaire family like Kid Rock, as long as their campaign promise starts with "I will make liberals angry, because screw them."

That's literally the only qualification you need to be a Republican and get 40% of the vote minimum in any election in America, and in about two-thirds of states, that's probably a win.

We'll see what happens in 2018.

Getting Hard-Pressed In The White House

New WHite House Communications Director Tony Scaramucci has one job as far as his boss is concerned (Donald Trump, not WH Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, which is a whole other issue actually) and that's to get heads for leaks to the press.  Scaramucci's first trophy is assistant press secretary Michael Short, along with his own credibility. TPM's Matt Shuham:

Shortly after telling a reporter that he planned on firing assistant White House press secretary Michael Short, White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said it was “unfair” that the public knew about the firing before Short did — even though Scaramucci himself was the source of the news.

The surreal course of events unfolded over a couple of hours Tuesday morning.

First, Politico’s Tara Palmeri reported that Scaramucci had told her, in her words, “that he plans to dismiss assistant press secretary Michael Short,” as part of his early war on White House leakers and other staffers deemed insufficiently supportive of President Donald Trump.

Short did not respond to TPM’s request for comment, but CNN’s Jeremy Diamond reported less than an hour after Palmeri’s article went live that Short had not been informed of his upcoming firing.

Fifty minutes later, Time’s Zeke Miller reported that Scaramucci said leakers were “unpatriotic” and that Scaramucci refused to confirm Short’s firing, saying it would be inappropriate to speak publicly about the matter — even though, as Miller pointed out, he already had.

Then, Scaramucci blamed “leaking” for the fact that reporters, and thus the general public, knew about Short’s potential firing before Short himself did, even though Politico cited Scaramucci as the source of the information.

In the stunning statement reported by Miller and The Hill, in which Scaramucci blamed leaks for his own actions, he seemed to “leak” yet again, putting forward the hypothetical, “Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic.”

As comical as Tony the Mooch is, what the White House is doing isn't funny.  Looking closely at yesterday's Washington Post story on Jeff Sessions is that Sessions himself says that investigations and possibly prosecutions are coming for leakers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will reportedly make an announcement about several criminal leak investigations within days.

Officials told The Washington Post about the forthcoming news from the Justice Department. The investigations will be centered around news reports containing sensitive material about intelligence, the report said. 
The news comes as newly-appointed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci publicly decried leaks coming from within the West Wing in his first week on the job and vowed to fire staffers who continue talking to reporters.

The impending announcement also comes as Trump grows publicly unhappy with Sessions, last week criticized the attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.  

If there's one thing that will get Trump off Sessions's back, it's Evil Keebler Elf announcing heads are going to roll over leaks, which Trump takes to Twitter to scream about two or three mornings per week these days.  We'll see where this goes, but my guess is that this is how Sessions keeps his job.

Until the next major leak about Mueller's investigation hits the Washington Post and New York Times, that is.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Here in Cincinnati, the political aftermath of the two mistrials of former U of C campus police officer Ray Tensing over the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Sam Dubose is coming to a head. Now that the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office has dropped charges against Tensing after refusing a third trial, Cincinnati Police have decided that County Prosecutor Joe Deters needs to be dismissed and odds are very good that Deters is in real trouble.

Cincinnati police officers have taken the extraordinary step of issuing a vote of no confidence in the county prosecutor and another that directed their union leader to withdraw from a group working to refresh the city's Collaborative Agreement. 
Both votes, taken late Monday, stem from anger at how Cincinnati Police Sgt. Shannon Heine was treated in the wake of her testimony in the trial of former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. She said under oath that she believed his actions were justified. 
A jury couldn't come to a unanimous agreement last week on murder or voluntary murder charges brought against Tensing in the fatal shooting of Sam DuBose during a traffic stop, resulting in a mistrial.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said his office was "blindsided" by Heine's testimony and that it changed the direction of the prosecution's case.

An internal affairs report released by the police department Friday found Heine did not deceive prosecutors, but the Citizen Complaint Authority also has received a complaint against Heine. It was filed by Al Gerhardstein, who represents the DuBose family, on behalf of the Black United Front. 
“I’m especially disturbed by Mr. Gerhardstein’s baseless accusations that Sgt. Heine conspired with the defense. That’s a huge accusation. There’s no evidence of it whatsoever, it’s just they did not like her opinion in that case,” Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 69 President Dan Hils said. 
Deters said Tuesday he remains committed to doing the best job as prosecutor he can and that "I have full confidence in the Cincinnati Police Department.”

The vote of no confidence is believed to be the first of its kind and was shocking because Deters has long enjoyed support from the law enforcement community for his tough-on-crime stances. 
The Tensing case was the first he lost while in the top job at the prosecutor's office, but he told the Enquirer he stood by his decision, despite criticism that he over-charged Tensing. 
The Collaborative Agreement refresh was championed by Mayor John Cranley to revisit the police-community agreement that is seen as a national model. Cranley brought back monitor Saul Green for an eight-month look at the agreement with the support of original signers including community activist Iris Roley, Gerhardstein and the police department.

Understand that the issue with Sgt. Heine's testimony is a smokescreen, the issue is that Deters dared to ever indict Tensing.  The police union is making it very clear that the collaborative agreement between the police, the City Council, the Mayor, and the black community is dead unless Deters is fired, and that's something Mayor Cranley can't afford to let crumble as he faces re-election.

That puts Cincinnati in a very bad place.  If the police union bails from the Collaborative Agreement, Cranley is toast and he knows it.

How long Deters survives as County Prosecutor is anyone's guess if the FOP has turned on him.

We'll see.

StupidiNews!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Last Call For McCain Saves Trumpcare

With 48 Senate Republicans voting yes to proceed on debate on a Trumpcare bill that literally none of them have even seen, GOP Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John McCain of Arizona stood holding the fate of the country in the balance.  Johnson of course voted yes, making it 49.

Guess what path "Maverick" McCain chose.

Senate Republicans voted Tuesday voted to open debate on repealing Obamacare, dramatically reviving an effort that many GOP lawmakers left for dead just a few days ago. 
The vote is a huge political win and turnaround for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans who've promised for seven years to repeal Obamacare if voters gave them control of Congress and the White House.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), recently diagnosed with brain cancer, entered the chamber to a standing ovation and cast the 50th Republican vote. GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke ranks to oppose the measure, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to break a 50-50 tie. 
All Democrats opposed the measure. Underscoring the significance of the vote, many senators sat at their desks for the vote. 
The vote is no guarantee that the fractured Republican caucuses can coalesce around a single health care plan. Now that debate has officially started, Republicans in the Senate lack 50 votes on a policy. Moderates oppose repealing Obamacare without a replacement, and conservatives don’t like the idea of significantly replacing it. 
The leading idea now is to repeal only a small portion of the health law just to get a bill to a conference with the Senate.

Of course that "small portion" will be restored in conference to be 95%-100% of the awful House bill, and then these same GOP "heroes" will vote for Trump again, and that will be it for millions of Americans and they lose their insurance and millions more will find care unaffordable in any way, with millions more going bankrupt.

But it doesn't matter to the GOP, as long as they get to erase the nation's only black president from existence.

Never forget that McCain was the deciding vote to proceed in the Senate with whatever the GOP passes and puts on Trump's desk.

The Bong Show Is About To Be Canceled

So all the folks out there who voted for Trump because he promised to leave matters of marijuana legalization to the states and you didn't trust Clinton to follow Obama's hands-off approach?  Jeff Sessions is about to seriously harsh your buzz, man.

The Trump administration is readying for a crackdown on marijuana users under Attorney General Jeff Sessions
President Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, is expected to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant.

Sessions sent a memo in April updating the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department of Justice Department (DOJ) component heads on the work of the task force, which he said would be accomplished through various subcommittees. In the memo, Sessions said he has asked for initial recommendations no later than July 27.

“Task Force subcommittees will also undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department's overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and priorities,” he wrote.

Criminal justice reform advocates fear Sessions’s memo signals stricter enforcement is ahead. 
The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center's Justice Program.

“We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”

Sessions sent a letter in May asking congressional leaders to do away with an amendment to the DOJ budget prohibiting the agency from using federal funds to prevent states "from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” said the letter from Sessions, first obtained by Massroots.com and verified by The Washington Post.

The real drug issue in America is opioids and big pharma's role in spreading them across the country with painkiller abuse, but the Trump regime wants to crack down on weed as an excuse to put more black and brown people in profitable private prisons.  That was always the plan, but hey, people voted for Trump because they bought his campaign nonsense like the suckers they were.

Also notice that Sessions isn't making any distinction between recreational and medical use of marijuana, that both are responsible "for the increase in violent crime" and that he wants the GOP Congress to unchain the DoJ to start a massive wave of federal prosecutions for pot.

In other words, we're headed back for the bad old days of the Reagan/Bush War on Drugs.

But hey dude, you were warned.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

More new developments this week on the Trump/Russia front as White House "adviser" and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner lawyers up to talk to Congress...behind closed doors and not under oath, of course.

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, spent two hours Monday answering questions from Senate investigators about his contacts with Russian officials, as the various probes into Russian interference during the 2016 campaign entered a new phase involving some of those closest to Trump.

After his closed-door questioning, Kushner spoke briefly to reporters outside the White House.

Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so,” he said. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses, and I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information.

“Since the first questions were raised in March, I have been consistent in saying I was eager to share whatever information I have with investigating bodies, and I have done so today,’’ he said. “All of my actions were proper.’’

Legal experts expect that all of Kushner’s answers to the Senate Intelligence Committee will be shared with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is conducting a separate investigation of potential criminal activity surrounding Russian meddling and key figures in the Trump campaign.

Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president “was very proud of Jared for voluntarily going to the Hill and being very transparent with every interaction that he’s had. He thought Jared did a great job and was very glad that he was able to go through that process and lay everything out and I think show the members of that committee as well as everybody else what a witch hunt and hoax this whole thing is.’’ 

There are holes in that statement Donald Trump could drive a fire truck through, frankly.  Kushner knows it, Congress knows it, and Robert Mueller knows it.  I'm betting Mueller knows otherwise.  What Kushner did say was that Donald Trump Jr. was basically the bad guy in all this, cavalierly tossing Trump's son under the Mueller bus and dusting off his hands.  As far as the White House is concerned, this is all over now, right?

The only other Russian contact during the campaign is one I did not recall at all until I was reviewing documents and emails in response to congressional requests for information. In June 2016, my brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. asked if I was free to stop by a meeting on June 9 at 3:00 p.m. The campaign was headquartered in the same building as his office in Trump Tower, and it was common for each of us to swing by the other's meetings when requested. He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time. As I did with most emails when I was working remotely, I quickly reviewed on my iPhone the relevant message that the meeting would occur at 4:00 PM at his office. Documents confirm my memory that this was calendared as "Meeting: Don Jr.| Jared Kushner." No one else was mentioned. 
I arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting. Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote "Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting." I had not met the attorney before the meeting nor spoken with her since. I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently. I did not read or recall this email exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers when reviewing documents for submission to the committees. No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted. Finally, after seeing the email, I disclosed this meeting prior to it being reported in the press on a supplement to my security clearance form, even if that was not required as meeting the definitions of the form.

Kushner hung Trump's own son out to dry, and it looks like he might even get away with it.  For now.

Oh, and it seems our pro-Russian House GOP friend Dana Rohrabacher has Russian problems of his own now.

A new complaint filed with the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control alleges that California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and his staff director, Paul Behrends, violated the Magnitsky Act when they tried to get Russia's deputy general prosecutor, Victor Grin, removed from the US sanctions list last year.

The complaint was filed by US financier Bill Browder, the founder of Hermitage Capital Management, who spearheaded the Magnitsky Act in 2012 to punish Russian officials suspected of being involved in the death of his accountant, Sergey Magnitsky.

Magnitsky uncovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme in 2008 when he was working for Hermitage that implicated high-level Kremlin officials and allies of President Vladimir Putin. He was later thrown in jail by the same Interior Ministry officers he testified against during criminal proceedings to punish those involved in the tax scheme, Browder said in 2015, and died in custody after being held for 358 days.

Browder's complaint rests largely on a Daily Beast report published last week alleging that Rohrabacher, a staunch defender of Russia and Putin, met with officials from the prosecutor general’s office in Moscow in April 2016. The report said he accepted a "confidential" document that Rohrabacher then used to try to undermine the Magnitsky Act on Capitol Hill.

"Changing attitudes to the Magnitsky story in the Congress ... could have a very favorable response from the Russian side," the document said, according to the Daily Beast.

Considering the House is expected to overwhelmingly approve even more sanctions on Russia today, Rohrabacher is not in a good place right now.  He's not Trump, he's not in the White House, and he's not going to be able to dodge things for much longer.

Eventually the truth comes out.




Gonna be a fun time ahead.

StupidiNews!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Last Call For Taking A Swing At 2018

Gallup's state average approval ratings for Trump for the first half of the year show an interesting trend if you divide them into three categories: states where Trump is above 50%, states where Trump is is the 40's, and states where Trump is under 40%.

President Donald Trump, who has averaged 40% job approval since his inauguration, received approval ratings of 50% or higher in 17 states in the first half of 2017. Residents in an equal number of states gave him approval ratings below 40%. In 16 states, his ratings ranged between 40% and 49%.
Consistent with the broader geographic patterns of Republican strengthacross the country, some of Trump's highest approval ratings tend to be in Southern, Plains and Mountain West states. His lowest ratings are primarily in Northeast and West Coast states.
The results are based on Gallup Daily tracking from Jan. 20 through June 30, including interviews with more than 81,000 U.S. adults. Gallup interviewed at least 220 residents in each state during this period, including 500 or more in 39 states. Gallup weighted each state sample to ensure it is demographically representative of the adult population. The full results for each state are included at the end of the article.
During the Jan. 20-June 30 time period, residents in West Virginia (60%), North Dakota (59%) and South Dakota (57%) gave Trump his highest approval ratings. Montana, Wyoming and Alabama all had average approval ratings of 55% or higher.

Looking at Gallup's map for this:

20170724_TrumpApprovalbyState@2x

The dark green states where Trump is above 50 are all states Trump carried in 2016.  The yellow states, where Trump is under 40%, are all states Clinton carried in 2016.  No surprise there.

But look at the light green states.  They're all the swing states of 2016: New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada.

But there are some interesting additions to that category, chiefly Maine, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, Mississippi, Arizona and Texas.  Clinton carried Maine statewide and one district and Nevada, the rest are states that voted for Trump.  Only in Mississippi and Missouri is Trump at a net positive, the rest, Trump has a higher disapproval rating.

In Michigan, North Carolina, Florida and Texas, Trump is at 42% and at least nine points underwater with majority disapproval.

Majority disapproval in Texas, guys.  That's going to help Dems in 2018.

I know it's way far out, but when's the last time that happened to a national Republican in Texas?

Some coattails, huh.

Meanwhile In Bevinstan...

Anti-choice nutjobs are once again laying siege to Kentucky's last abortion clinic in Louisville as GOP Gov. Matt Bevin wants to become the first governor to rid his state of abortion clinics in the Roe v Wade era.

Anti-abortion advocates began a weeklong series of protests Monday in hopes of shutting down Kentucky's last abortion clinic.

Protesters are gathered around the Gene Snyder United States Courthouse, where a hearing is set about a temporary buffer zone outside the clinic.

This week kicks off anti-abortion group Operation Save America's national gathering in Louisville. The gathering runs through July 29 and will feature protests in front of the clinic as well as a mobile electronic billboard depicting graphic images of abortion procedures. 
A federal police officer said he estimated 150-200 people in the area at the intersection of Sixth Street and Broadway.

Enoch Yoder, 26, traveled eight hours from Missouri to protest at the courthouse and clinic. 
"It's murder. Abortion is killing babies," Yoder said. "Plain and simple."

In May, 11 people were arrested in protests led by the anti-abortion group Operation Save America, after they blocked the entrance to the EMW Women's Surgical Center, 136 W. Market St.

As a result of the arrests in May, the U.S. Attorney's office in Louisville filed a motion on last week seeking to enforce the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which bars people from blocking access to reproductive health centers. 
The motion asked Hale to issue an order creating a buffer zone of about 15 by 7.5 feet in front of the clinic and asked that U.S. marshals and law enforcement officials be authorized to arrest anyone who violates the order.

The issue is, as Jessica Mason Pieklo reminded us back in May, that the Trump regime doesn't want to  enforce federal laws that have been on the books for almost 25 years to protect physical access to clinics.  Operation Save America is merely the reboot of Operation Rescue, the religious assholes who precipitated the murder of abortion provider Dr. David Gunn in Florida in 1993.  It's led by Rusty Thomas, who is a real piece of work:

Pay attention to Thomas’ framing here around Saturday’s Louisville siege. “We never go to protest anything,” said Thomas in his interview with the Courier-Journal. “We are ministers of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and we go to proclaim through word and through Godly action, his great truths and his great Salvation and also to confront our national evil and national sin called abortion and … to rescue these children who are being led to slaughter and provide for them a defense and a voice.” 
Thomas and other activists calling themselves ministers is intentional. It is an attempt to invoke legal protections around communications like anti-choice activist Angel Dillard successfully did to protect her jailhouse communications with Scott Roeder—who was associated with Operation Rescue—in her trial for threatening Dr. Mila Means, the abortion provider set to take over Tiller’s practice following his murder by Roeder.
It’s also an attempt to paint their activities as “religious exercise,” to advance their likely claims that attacking clinics is part of their right to full “civic engagement.” 
Saturday’s siege by OSA was a test on several fronts: It was a test of local law enforcement to advance the group’s philosophy of the “lesser magistrate” doctrine. That doctrine, which is rooted in conservative Christianity, argues law enforcement officers are justified in opposing policies or orders they consider unjust or morally wrong. Roeder used a variation of the lesser magistrate doctrine to argue Tiller’s murder was a “justifiable homicide,” because it prevented the doctor from continuing to provide abortions. Robert Lewis Dear, the man who has admitted to holding siege a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood and killing three, suggested in his legal competency hearing last year that heintended to raise a justifiable homicide defense as well if he ever stands trial. And anti-choice activists, including OSA, argue that it supports local officers’ failure to endorse noise ordinances or trespassing laws in situations like Saturday’s and other protests. 
The attack on the Louisville clinic was also a test of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who has made no secret about his goal of closing it. The clinic—the last in the state—currently remains open by federal court order, after the governor helped push regulations designed to close it. Bevin has met with OSA leadership, and they consider him an ally. As a result, the group has focused its efforts in Kentucky
In fact, Thomas told the Courier-Journal the group would be back in July: “That is a tremendous opportunity before you all to become the first surgically abortion-free state in the United States of America and so, we’re praying Kentucky will lead the way out of this blood guiltiness that’s upon the land.”

Kentucky is the test.  If any clinic is going to get shut down, it will be this one, in this state, by this governor.  The Trump regime won't lift a finger to stop it.  Whether the courts will is anyone's guess, but I'm betting that Thomas and his cult think they can get away with it.

Humiliate, Reince, Repeat

Jonathan Swan and the gang over at Politico 2.0 are publicly asking how long White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus will put up with Donald Trump crapping all over his loser ass.

A much-discussed question at the top of the White House: just what magnitude of indignity would it take for Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to resign?
  • President Trump knew that appointing Anthony Scaramucci as communications director would humiliate Reince, who fought hard against it.
  • Scaramucci was smuggled into the meeting with the President on Thursday so Reince wouldn't know about it. Trump had already taken pains to hide the discussions from his Chief of Staff, knowing Reince would try to foil the move.
  • Trump also knew that inserting a line in the press release saying Scaramucci would report directly to the President — doing an end-run around Reince — was perhaps an unendurable public humiliation.

The reality is that the various factions in the White House (Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump Jr., etc.) are all fighting for power as the old man's ship spirals down the drain, but Swan admits frankly that as incompetent as Preibus is, there doesn't seem to be anyone else who actually wants the job.

And why would they?  Even Politico 1.0 is hard-pressed to find an answer to why, but the who may already be known.

Reince Priebus took the punishing job of President Donald Trump's chief of staff with the idea that he would stick it out for at least one year.

Six months in, with one of his top allies in the West Wing — press secretary Sean Spicer — on his way out, Priebus is in defensive mode, his role diminished and an internal rival hogging the limelight.

Trump's decision to bring Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci into the role of communications director shows the rising power of political outsiders and the diminished influence of establishment figures — which Priebus, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, epitomizes.

One White House official and two outside advisers said that while Scaramucci was brought into the White House for the communications job, he's considered an internal candidate to eventually succeed Priebus as chief of staff. There are also a handful of outside candidates.
The unexpected hire has raised questions of whether more shake-ups are coming, even as the White House has tried to downplay its internal discord. The instability has made it difficult for the administration to fend off questions about ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia and to move forward an embattled legislative agenda.

When the DC news guys are openly speculating on who your replacement is going to be as White House Chief of Staff, odds are pretty good you've already lost the job.

StupidiNews!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Last Call For A Problem Of Coumpound Interest, Con't

Last week I talked about how America's actual President, Vladimir Putin, was getting upset with his satrap Donny over his failure to return two Russian compounds in the US back over to Moscow, both undoubtedly used for spying on America.  The Russians were threatening unspecified "actions" to be taken, especially after the Senate overwhelmingly passed new Russian sanctions last month.  Up until now, those sanctions have been stalled in the House.

But it looks like there's some congressional sausage getting made after all: Democrats will get their sanctions on Russia, not to mention review power over the Trump regime's new deals with Moscow in exchange for new sanctions on North Korea...as well as harsh new sanctions on Iran that will almost certainly sink President Obama's nuclear deal with Tehran.

The House and Senate have reached a deal on a bill that would impose new financial sanctions on Russia and allow Congress to review and veto any attempt by President Trump, or any other president, to independently ease those sanctions in the future. The Senate, looking to punish the Kremlin for meddling in last year’s presidential election, passed a version of the bill by a nearly unanimous margin in June, but it has been stalled in the House for weeks due to procedural issues, pressure from industry groups, and a White House bent on weakening the proposed congressional-review power. On Saturday, however, negotiators from the House and Senate ironed out a deal that did not include the changes the Trump administration wanted.

In addition to the measures against Russia, the bill includes new sanctions on Iran (over its ballistic-missile tests) and North Korea (over its nuclear program). It also somewhat eased the concerns of the oil-and-gas industry, which worried that American companies would face an impossible amount of red tape if they attempted to partner with Russian businesses.

The tweaked bill will likely receive a full vote on Tuesday and is expected to pass with wide bipartisan support, setting up a possible veto from the president. Trump has never seemed overly concerned about appearing friendly with Russia, though it’s worth pointing out that any presidential administration would object to an attempt by Congress to weaken its power to ease sanctions or deal with foreign powers. The New York Times reportsthat “two senior administration officials said they could not imagine Mr. Trump vetoing the legislation in the current political atmosphere,” but Trump’s ability to exceed the limit of imagination is already well-established at this point.

If Trump does veto the bill, it will be interesting to see if Republicans in Congress are willing to override him. Even if the bill become law, it remains possible that GOP lawmakers won’t challenge Trump’s possible attempts to ease the sanctions — though members of the House’s majority party won’t be the only ones who get to call for such a review. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer declared on Saturday that he was pleased with the legislation, which “ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions.”

Democrats get what they want on Russia, Republicans get what they want on Iran, and everyone's happy with sanctions on Pyongyang for its ICBM testing.  I'm more than a bit annoyed that Democrats are carving off yet another piece of Obama's legacy that they refuse to defend as payment to this illegitimate regime, but that's where we are right now.

It Was Always About Punishment Fantasies

Trump voters will remain Trump voters until they die because Trump embodies the one thing they want more than anything else: punishing Obama voters for ever daring to want an America where a non-white man was president  They will burn this country down rather than let that happen again. They will burn their own communities down, their own families and businesses and churches and everything as long as the people who made Barack Obama president are made to suffer a worse fate.

Trump will give them that.

That's all they will ever need from him.

Last October, three weeks before the election, Donald Trump visited Grand Junction for a rally in an airport hangar. Along with other members of the press, I was escorted into a pen near the back, where a metal fence separated us from the crowd. At that time, some prominent polls showed Clinton leading by more than ten percentage points, and Trump often claimed that the election might be rigged. During the rally he said, “There’s a voter fraud also with the media, because they so poison the minds of the people by writing false stories.” He pointed in our direction, describing us as “criminals,” among other things: “They’re lying, they’re cheating, they’re stealing! They’re doing everything, these people right back here!” 
The attacks came every few minutes, and they served as a kind of tether to the speech. The material could have drifted off into abstraction—e-mails, Benghazi, the Washington swamp. But every time Trump pointed at the media, the crowd turned, and by the end people were screaming and cursing at us. One man tried to climb over the barrier, and security guards had to drag him away. 
Such behavior is out of character for residents of rural Colorado, where politeness and public decency are highly valued. Erin McIntyre, a Grand Junction native who works for the Daily Sentinel, the local paper, stood in the crowd, where the people around her screamed at the journalists: “Lock them up!” “Hang them all!” “Electric chair!” Afterward, McIntyre posted a description of the event on Facebook. “I thought I knew Mesa County,” she wrote. “That’s not what I saw yesterday. And it scared me.” 
Before Trump took office, people I met in Grand Junction emphasized pragmatic reasons for supporting him. The economy was in trouble, and Trump was a businessman who knew how to make rational, profit-oriented decisions. Supporters almost always complained about some aspect of his character, but they also believed that these flaws were likely to help him succeed in Washington. “I’m not voting for him to be my pastor,” Kathy Rehberg, a local real-estate agent, said. “I’m voting for him to be President. If I have rats in my basement, I’m going to try to find the best rat killer out there. I don’t care if he’s ugly or if he’s sociable. All I care about is if he kills rats.”

After the turbulent first two months of the Administration, I met again with Kathy Rehberg and her husband, Ron. They were satisfied with Trump’s performance, and their complaints about his behavior were mild. “I think some of it is funny, how he doesn’t let people push him around,” Ron Rehberg said. Over time, such remarks became more common. “I hate to say it, but I wake up in the morning looking forward to what else is coming,” Ray Scott, a Republican state senator who had campaigned for Trump, told me in June. One lawyer said bluntly, “I get a kick in the ass out of him.” The calculus seemed to have shifted: Trump’s negative qualities, which once had been described as a means to an end, now had value of their own. The point wasn’t necessarily to get things done; it was to retaliate against the media and other enemies. This had always seemed fundamental to Trump’s appeal, but people had been less likely to express it so starkly before he entered office. “For those of us who believe that the media has been corrupt for a lot of years, it’s a way of poking at the jellyfish,” Karen Kulp told me in late April. “Just to make them mad.”

In Grand Junction, people wanted Trump to accomplish certain things with the pragmatism of a businessman, but they also wanted him to make them feel a certain way. The assumption has always been that, while emotional appeal might have mattered during the campaign, the practical impact of a Trump Presidency would prove more important. Liberals claimed that Trump would fail because his policies would hurt the people who had voted for him. 
But the lack of legislative accomplishment seems only to make supporters take more satisfaction in Trump’s behavior. And thus far the President’s tone, rather than his policies, has had the greatest impact on Grand Junction. This was evident even before the election, with the behavior of supporters at the candidate’s rally, the conflicts within the local Republican Party, and an increased distrust of anything having to do with government. Sheila Reiner, a Republican who serves as the county clerk, said that during the campaign she had dealt with many allegations of fraud following Trump’s claims that the election could be rigged. “People came in and said, ‘I want to see where you’re tearing up the ballots!’ ” Reiner told me. Reiner and her staff gave at least twenty impromptu tours of their office, in an attempt to convince voters that the Republican county clerk wasn’t trying to throw the election to Clinton.

As long as he's destroying what liberals like, they'll dance along with the flames as they immolate themselves.  They know that in America, white Trump voters can pick themselves up from the ashes far easier than Obama voters of color.

To rule in hell rather than serve in heaven.

Sunday Long Read: The Doctor Is Out

In case you missed it, our Sunday Long Read this week is a stellar piece of journalism by the LA Times on former USC Med school dean Dr. Carmen Puliafito, who left the university last year to pursue other opportunities. Some investigative reporting into why this happened turned up the Mr. Hyde side of the good doctor as he was self-prescribing some experimental treatments like "partying with co-eds" and "getting blasted on meth."

In USC’s lecture halls, labs and executive offices, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito was a towering figure. The dean of the Keck School of Medicine was a renowned eye surgeon whose skill in the operating room was matched by a gift for attracting money and talent to the university. 
There was another side to the Harvard-educated physician. 
During his tenure as dean, Puliafito kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them, a Los Angeles Times investigation found. 
Puliafito, 66, and these much younger acquaintances captured their exploits in photos and videos. The Times reviewed dozens of the images. 
Shot in 2015 and 2016, they show Puliafito and the others partying in hotel rooms, cars, apartments and the dean’s office at USC. 
In one video, a tuxedo-clad Puliafito displays an orange pill on his tongue and says into the camera, “Thought I’d take an ecstasy before the ball.” Then he swallows the pill. 
In another, Puliafito uses a butane torch to heat a large glass pipe outfitted for methamphetamine use. He inhales and then unleashes a thick plume of white smoke. 
Seated next to him on a sofa, a young woman smokes heroin from a piece of heated foil.
As dean, Puliafito oversaw hundreds of medical students, thousands of professors and clinicians, and research grants totaling more than $200 million. He was a key fundraiser for USC, bringing in more than $1 billion in donations, by his estimation. 
Puliafito resigned his $1.1-million-a-year post in March 2016, in the middle of the spring term, saying he wanted to explore outside opportunities. 
Three weeks earlier, a 21-year-old woman had overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena hotel room. The woman was rushed to a hospital, where she recovered. Police found methamphetamine in the hotel room, according to a police report, but made no arrests. Puliafito has never spoken publicly about the incident, which is being reported here for the first time.

And man, this story gets brutal from here. Puliafito was a party monster, heavy on both the party and the monster, and a woman nearly paid with her life as a result.  It's an astonishing account, and the Times spent months running this story down.

The most gonzo part of the story is that Puliafito kept himself in one piece while doing benders that would make Keith Richards blush and still show up to work the next day...and he was fantastic as both a dean and as an eye surgeon, by all accounts.

It's a hell of a thing, doc.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo opines:

One issue I’ve touched on here and there in my posts on the Russia probe is my abiding sense that especially the younger generation of Trumpers: Kushner, Don Jr., et al. just don’t seem to grasp the magnitude of the trouble they’re in, or at least the magnitude of their legal exposure. I can’t point to any one piece of evidence. It’s more like every piece of evidence. The signs I’m going on are a mix of public evidence, things we see unfolding in the newspapers, and my own reporting. They just don’t act like people who get what they’re dealing with and are acting accordingly. 
The abiding sense I get is not simply that they don’t know the magnitude of the legal threat but that they don’t understand the nature of the threat either. Again and again they seem to think the legal vulnerability can be trumped by good news cycles or getting the press to focus on some other individual. They don’t seem to get that a big, sprawling federal investigation like this, untethered from the political chain of command and led by one of the top law enforcement professionals of his generation, trundles onward with a perfect indifference to whether you win the morning or kill it in 10 or a 100 different news cycles. Those things just don’t matter. And yet my sense at least is that Jared Kushner thinks he is helping himself by knifing his brother-in-law – as though if Don Jr is at the center of a media firestorm for a few days, Mueller will just forget about him.

See, for all of Marshall's points here, what Josh simply doesn't get is that Don Jr. and Jared both 100% believe the worst case scenarios for either of them will be a blanket presidential pardon.  They know that in the end, Trump simply won't let his eldest son, or his favorite son-in-law go to prison. Period.

Neither Jared nor Junior have paid any sort of legal price so far, and have been this dirty and awful.

Why would either one of them fear it now?   The old man will save them, and they know it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Meanwhile, our good friends at the NRA are in fact trying to either sell a whole crapload of guns on the notion of white fear of black people, trying to stoke a violent, deadly race war where millions of black people are killed by angry armed white people, or most likely attempting to do both.  Here's NRA TV host Grant Stinchfield and his guest Chuck Holton discussing Black Lives Matter and South Africa this week:




GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Our race relations are strained here in America after eight years of Barack Obama, but nowhere is near as bad as it is in South Africa where white families are being tortured and killed almost every day in racist violence. It is a warning for the United States that you will never hear from the mainstream media in this country. Veteran Army Ranger and Frontlines correspondent Chuck Holton joins me with more on this. Chuck, I know you’ve been looking into this, particularly doing some research, and really the things that we’re starting to learn are frightening and I guess it's not shocking that the mainstream media is not talking about this. 
CHUCK HOLTON: Right, you know the parallels between what’s happening in South Africa and the blatant racism and violence we’re seeing from people like the Black Lives Matter crowd, from people like Louis Farrakhan and his minions, is happening in spades in South Africa. The violence against farmers is being called for by government officials, it's being celebrated by politicians, and the scary thing is, it's kind of a warning for what could happen in the United States if we continue to let this get out of control, to go down this path of this racial tension, this racial hatred that is being forced on the American culture by the Black Lives Matter crowd.
[….]
HOLTON: This has to stop, and if you want to see why it has to stop, you look at South Africa. Over -- between three and four thousand white South Africans have been killed in the most horrific ways, brutalized, raped, tortured, drug behind cars, had drills taken to them. Some really horrific things.

If you had any doubts left that the NRA is a violent, armed advocacy group for white supremacy and black genocide in 2017, understand that this is propaganda that the NRA is happily willing to share openly, accusing Black Lives Matter of "forcing racial hatred" on America, and that "they must be stopped".

You would think that a group that supposedly advocated firearm training and open carry as a ncessity to preserve liberty would in fact be the champions of BLM and taking up their cause to protect them from a government that uses its power to kill them.

But this is the NRA, a firearms advocacy group that actually exists to sell firearms based on fear of black people and to openly advocate for their use in fighting a violent race war in the name of white purity.

The game hasn't changed too much in 400 years.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Things are starting to move fast on the Trump/Russia front.  First, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is out.

Sean Spicer, the embattled and increasingly invisible White House press secretary, resigned on Friday morning shortly after the president offered Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci the job of White House communications director.
The New York Times, which first reported Spicer’s resignation, writes that Spicer “vehemently disagreed” with Scaramucci’s appointment as his new boss, and that he quit in protest.

These developments appear to be the first steps in a long-promised communications shakeup at the White House, which has struggled to stay focused amid the unfolding Russia collusion story.

Scaramucci is a polarizing figure among the warring factions in Trump’s administration. According to Axios, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon opposed the appointment, while Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner supported it. As communications director, Scaramucci would be stepping into a position that has been vacant for several weeks since the resignation of Mike Dubke, a Spicer ally, in May.

Scaramucci is a fast-talking businessman, exactly the type Trump respects.  He's names Sarah Huckabee Sanders as the new press secretary, and Spicer gets to train his replacement through August.

But the White House wouldn't be getting rid of Spicer at this juncture if damage control wasn't the top priority, and they know they're going to have a hurricane or two worth of spin to put out. Spicer wasn't up to the job, frankly.  Something big is coming on the horizon, and that something may have been this major leak on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.


Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Jeff Sessions's perjury before Congress at his confirmation hearing involving the extent of his association with Trump's Russian buddies is basically the worst-kept secret in Washington, but this has now become the 90-ton giant robot in the room.

It's almost like the White House wants Sessions gone.  Oh wait, Trump does want Sessions gone, but the White House would rather not fire him outright.  They gave Sessions the chance to resign earlier this week after Trump's interview with the NY Times where he flat out said that he wouldn't have appointed Sessions if Trump had known Sessions would recuse himself on Russia.  Remember, this was basically the reason he fired Comey: perceived lack of personal loyalty to Trump despite his obvious misdeeds.

Suddenly there's a new WH Communications Director and this massively damaging leak on Sessions hits the Washington Post, along with calls from conservatives for Sessions to resign.

Don't need a PhD to put this one together, guys.  Trump wants somebody at the DoJ who will kill the Mueller investigation.  The Saturday Night Massacre 2: Orange Boogaloo is coming.

I mean hell, Trump himself is giving up the game.




Watch.

Of course, he'll need to get Mueller canned before the idnictments come.  I know I've said multiple times in the past that only the House can bring charges against a sitting president, and that it's up in the air as to if a federal grand jury can indict one, but hey, that depends on who you ask, and it's not the first time this question has been asked, either.

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

“The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades… amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

Just putting something out there.  Trump's damn well thinking about it, I guarantee you.

That Poll-Asked Look, Con't

Don't look now, but six months into his term, yet another poll (this time Monmouth U) finds significant support for impeaching Donald Trump among its findings:

Nearly two-thirds of the public believes the Russian government either definitely (36%) or probably (29%) tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election
. Just over 1-in-4 say the Russians probably (18%) or definitely (10%) did not interfere. Given the premise that Russia did in fact try to interfere in the election, most believe this caused either a lot (47%) or a little (21%) damage to American democracy. Another 28%, on the other hand, believe that Russian interference did no damage to American democracy. This opinion is driven by a huge partisan divide. Specifically, 60% of Republicans believe that Russian interference in the election caused no damage at all to American democracy while only 28% of independents and 6% of Democrats feel the same. 
"We'd like to believe that concerns about external interference in our democratic processes would unite Americans regardless of ideology. But in an era of partisan tribalism, it looks like short-term political ends justify the means," said Murray. 
A majority (54%) of Americans are concerned that Trump may be too friendly toward Russia. This level of concern has been creeping up from 45% during the 2016 campaign to 48% in the first months of Trump's presidency, and 51% two months ago when Trump fired former FBI director James Comey. A similar majority (55%) of the public is concerned that other members of the Trump administration may be too friendly toward Russia. This number is up slightly from 49% in May. 
The public is divided on whether Pres. Trump pressed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, about that government's interference in the U.S. election when the two met in person earlier this month. Just under half - 46% - say it is either very likely (20%) or somewhat likely (26%) that Trump did this, while a similar number - 48% - say it is not too likely (22%) or not at all likely (26%). 
The public continues to be split on whether Trump's attitude toward Russia does (48%) or does not (48%) present a national security threat to the United States. This opinion is nearly identical to the May poll results, when 48% said Trump's position toward Russia poses a security risk and 46% said it does not. 
Over 6-in-10 (62%) Americans say the special counsel investigation into Russian interference should continue while 33% say it should be brought to an end. Two months ago, 73% supported continuing the related FBI investigation into Russia - before the special counsel was appointed - and 24% wanted it to end. 
Currently, 41% of the public think that Trump should be impeached and compelled to leave the presidency, while 53% disagree. The Monmouth University Poll asked the same question used by the Gallup Poll during Nixon's presidency. In July 1973 as the Watergate scandal started to unfold, just 24% of the public supported impeachment and 62% were opposed. Support for Nixon's impeachment was significantly lower six months into his second term as president than it is for the incumbent today. Interestingly, Nixon's job rating at that point in his tenure - 39% approve and 49% disapprove - was about the same as Trump's current rating.

And yes, I know I should take my own warning on impeachment: unless the Republican party magically reforms, it will never happen.  However, enough constituents saying that failure to vote for impeachment and removal will cost Republicans their jobs?  That's the only real way this happens.

Granted, that would take a majority of Republicans on top of Dems and independent voters, so we still have a long, way way to go on getting rid of Trump.  He's still not going anywhere currently.

Still, any poll where more Americans think Trump should be impeached than approve of his job in the White House does offer slim hope that the country can come to its senses.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Last Call For Bevin Gets Away With It

News flash here in Kentucky: Ethics Panel majority-appointed by GOP Gov. Matt Bevin dismisses all ethics complaints against GOP Gov. Matt Bevin. Shocking, I know.

A Kentucky ethics commission has unanimously dismissed a pair of complaints filed against Republican Gov. Matt Bevin over his purchase of a home from a friend and campaign donor. 
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission says Bevin didn't do anything wrong when he bought a house from Neil Ramsey, a friend that Bevin has appointed to the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees. 
However, the commission told Bevin he should let Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton decide whether to reappoint Ramsey to the board when his term expires to avoid a conflict of interest. 
The five-member commission includes three people appointed by Bevin and two people appointed by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. A spokesman for Bevin declined to comment, saying he would "let the dismissals speak for themselves."

And so the mystery of Bevin's multi-million dollar home sold to him by a friend for a fraction of the price becomes a moot point.  It's a good real estate deal if you can get it.

Trump Takes The Pole Position

We've seen this before: Donald Trump visits a foreign country, blesses its autocratic rulers, then a few weeks later those same rulers pull something obviously authoritarian.  In the case of Saudi Arabia, it was the tacit go-ahead to ostracize Qatar while giving Riyadh a pass on Sunni Wahhabist extremism.  Now it's happening in Europe, where in the wake of Trump's visit ahead of the G20 summit earlier this month, Poland's ruling party has now shifted to take over that country's Supreme Court.

Imagine a government deciding one day that the country’s supreme court is corrupt and needs to be purged completely. A bill is introduced that will force all of the court’s judges to retire and be replaced—and it is pushed through with lightning speed and without regard for procedures. Unthinkable? Yet this is exactly what is happening here in Poland, until recently considered one of the biggest success stories of democratic transition in Eastern Europe
This month the government’s most authoritarian tendencies were encouraged by the July 6 visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, and now a different sort of transition is underway—to what some call a “hybrid dictatorship.” 
For anyone who values the checks and balances essential to democracy wherever it exists, the events of the last few days present a frightening precedent. 
Shortly after Trump’s visit, which served as a ringing endorsement of the current illiberal government, the country is facing the most serious political crisis since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. 
The tensions between the government and the opposition have turned to unprecedented open hostility and threats; chaos and confusion reign in the parliament; and fears are widespread that the fate of Polish democracy itself may well hang in the balance.
The crisis started coming to a head last week when, emboldened by Trump’s visit and taking advantage of the summer holiday season, the populist government of the Law and Justice (PiS) party pushed through a reform of the judicial system and of the National Council of Judiciary (KRS), a body charged with nominating and promoting judges.

The amendment, widely considered unconstitutional and yet to be signed by president Andrzej Duda (also PiS), would give the government virtually unrestrained control over the body—and therefore much of the judicial system.
That wasn’t all, however. 
That same day a new, even more shocking law was introduced. Ostensibly aimed to eliminate corruption and the remnants of the old communist system from the judiciary, the bill amounts to a total purge of all 83 judges in the country’s supreme court, giving the minister of justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, a virtually free rein in appointing their successors.

And you can thank Trump directly for this.   After all, we did much the same thing here when Mitch McConnell and the GOP stole a Supreme Court nomination and nobody so much as batted an eye.  If America can do it, so can Poland.  After all, it's not like we're going to punish them.

Besides, it's what Putin wants.  And Trump makes sure Putin gets it.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

We talked yesterday about Trump's NY Times interview where he left the door open to firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller if Mueller didn't back off of Trump's business deals, that Trump considered it a "red line" and left it unsaid what fate would await the investigation if Mueller crossed it.  Well, turns out yesterday's late Trump/Russia news included new information implying strongly that the Mueller investigation of Russia has indeed now widened to include Trump's business interests.

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday that he was unaware of the inquiry into Trump’s businesses by the two-months-old investigation and considered it beyond the scope of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be examining.

“Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code,” he wrote in an email.

The Trump regime's response last night was breathtaking and instantaneous:  Trump is now floating a Nixon-style Saturday Night Massacre scenario where Trump fires everyone involved in the investigation and is even openly considering blanket pardons.

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people
. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.

A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office under Justice Department regulations that set rules for the job.

The president is also irritated by the notion that Mueller’s probe could reach into his and his family’s finances, advisers said.

Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face. His primary frustration centers on why allegations that his campaign coordinated with Russia should spread into scrutinizing many years of Trump dealmaking. He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.

Trump has repeatedly refused to make his tax returns public after first claiming he could not do so because he was under audit or after promising to release them after an IRS audit was completed. All presidents since Jimmy Carter have released their tax returns.

Further adding to the challenges facing Trump’s outside lawyers, the team’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, resigned on Thursday, according to two people familiar with his departure. Corallo did not respond to immediate requests for comment.

“If you’re looking at Russian collusion, the president’s tax returns would be outside that investigation,” said a close adviser to the president.

The NY Times is backing up the Washington Post on this, adding that the Trump legal team is looking for any dirt they can find in order to dismantle the Mueller investigation entirely without "firing" him...for now.

For weeks, Republicans have publicly identified what they see as potential conflicts among Mr. Mueller’s team of more than a dozen investigators. In particular, they have cited thousands of dollars of political donations to Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, made by Andrew Weissmann, a former senior Justice Department official who has expertise in fraud and other financial crimes. News reports have revealed similar donations by other members of Mr. Mueller’s team, which Mr. Trump’s allies have cited as evidence of political bias. Another lawyer Mr. Mueller has hired, Jeannie Rhee, represented the Clinton Foundation.

To seek a recusal, Mr. Trump’s lawyers can argue their case to Mr. Mueller or his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. The Justice Department has explicit rules about what constitutes a conflict of interest. Prosecutors may not participate in investigations if they have “a personal or political relationship” with the subject of the case. Making campaign donations is not included on the list of things that would create a “political relationship.”

The examination of Mr. Mueller’s investigators reflects deep concerns among the president’s aides that Mr. Mueller will mount a wide-ranging investigation in the mold of the inquiry conducted by the independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr during the 1990s. Mr. Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton began by reviewing an Arkansas land deal and concluded several years later with the president’s impeachment over a lie about a sexual affair.

By building files on Mr. Mueller’s team, the Trump administration is following in the footsteps of the Clinton White House, which openly challenged Mr. Starr and criticized what Mr. Clinton’s aides saw as a political witch hunt.

Of course, it didn't work then, and it's not going to work now.   The panic is starting to set in at the White House, and panicked people do stupid, stupid things.  But as I said before, this is the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end.  There's still a long way to go.

StupidiNews!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Last Call For Interview With A Ham Pyre

Somehow, Donald Trump went over to the "failing" NY Times and gave them an exclusive interview, and his army of lawyers were somehow not present in order to consider using a device that would instantly encase him in rubber cement in order to keep him from talking.  This allowed the Times to put Trump's words both on paper and to record the audio when asked questions, and frankly if anyone had any doubts left as to what Trump was planning to do as far as making Nixon look like a candidate for sainthood by comparison, those doubts were splattered all over the windshield of Trump's limo.


President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said. 
In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election. 
Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office. 
Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

While the interview touched on an array of issues, including health care, foreign affairs and politics, the investigation dominated the conversation. He said that as far as he knew, he was not under investigation himself, despite reports that Mr. Mueller is looking at whether the president obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. 
“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” he said. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.” 
Describing a newly disclosed informal conversation he had with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during a dinner of world leaders in Germany this month, Mr. Trump said they talked for about 15 minutes, mostly about “pleasantries.” But Mr. Trump did say that they talked “about adoption.” Mr. Putin banned American adoptions of Russian children in 2012 after the United States enacted sanctions on Russians accused of human rights abuses, an issue that remains a sore point in relations with Moscow.

I don't even know where to begin on this.  He never would have appointed Jefferson Beauregard Sessions if he knew Sessions wouldn't kill the Russia investigation, he left the door wide open as to firing Mueller, he thinks Comey is part of a huge conspiracy against him and he believes his son did nothing wrong meeting secretly with Russian money launderers peddling Clinton campaign dirt.

Also he's innocent, he says. Innocent!

This is bonkers stuff and should really fill us all with dread.  It will not be long now until Mueller is fired along with probably Sessions.

Then things get really ugly.

It's About Suppression, Con't.

Former Obama DoJ civil rights division head Vanita Gupta sounds the alarm over VP Mike Pence and Kansas GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the Trump regime's "election-integrity commission" and calls it what it is: massive federal voter suppression of Democrats.

The Trump administration’s election-integrity commission will have its first meeting on Wednesday to map out how the president will strip the right to vote from millions of Americans. It hasn’t gotten off to the strongest start: Its astonishing request last month that each state hand over voters’ personal data was met with bipartisan condemnation. Yet it is joined in its efforts to disenfranchise citizens by the immensely more powerful Justice Department. 
Lost amid the uproar over the commission’s request was a letter sent at the same time by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. It forced 44 states to provide extensive information on how they keep their voter rolls up-to-date. It cited the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the Motor-Voter law, which mandates that states help voters register through motor vehicle departments. 
The letter doesn’t ask whether states are complying with the parts of the law that expand opportunities to register. Instead it focuses on the sections related to maintaining the lists. That’s a prelude to voter purging
Usually the Justice Department would ask only a single state for data if it had evidence the state wasn’t complying with Motor-Voter. But a blanket request to every state covered under that law is virtually unprecedented. And unlike the commission, the Justice Department has federal statutory authority to investigate whether states are complying with the law. 
These parallel efforts show us exactly how the Trump administration will undertake its enormous voter suppression campaign: through voter purges. The voter rolls are the key. Registration is one of the main gateways to political participation. It is the difference between a small base of voters pursuing a narrow agenda and an electorate that looks like America.

Here’s how the government will use voters’ data. It will create a national database to try to find things like double-voters. But the commission won’t be able to tell two people with the same name and birthday apart. Such errors will hit communities of color the hardest. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of the 100 most common last names. 
Purging voters is part of a larger malicious pattern that states have employed across the country. Georgia and Ohio are being sued for carrying out early versions of what we can expect from the Trump administration.

I can't stress this enough, guys. Tens of millions of people will lose the right to vote before 2020 and most likely before 2018 if the Trump regime's little project comes to fruition here.  Whether or not they can get that right to vote back, well the Trump DoJ will make that as difficult as humanly possible.  The GOP will be able to count on winning elections for decades.  It doesn't take much, either.

We have to fight this with everything we have, or we are lost.

It's that simple.
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