Saturday, September 23, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

What’s The Matter With Alabama?

It seems they’re about to elect a theocrat to the Senate to fill out the rest of the term of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

The man who has the edge to become Alabama’s next senator didn’t hedge away from his hardline socially conservative positions on Thursday, returning to his central campaign theme of a lack of godliness as a central reason for society’s woes.

Controversial former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore warned that America was falling apart because of things like transgender troops in the military.

“Our foundation has been shaken. Crime, corruption, immorality, abortion, sodomy, sexual perversion sweep our land. When we become one nation under God again, when liberty and justice for all reigns across our land, we will be truly good again,” he said in his first and only one-on-one debate against appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL).

The comments came shortly after he said he wanted to free the country and military from “political correctness and social experimentation like transgender troops in our bathrooms.”

Moore’s entire career has been focused on a hardline religious right philosophy — one that’s gotten him thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court twice, first for refusing to remove a statue of the ten commandments then a decade later for refusing to accept the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage. His Thursday statements are far from the only controversial remarks he’s had to say on the campaign trail.

One of my first blog posts here back in 2003 was about Judge Moore being tossed off the state supreme court after his stand-off with the Ten Commandments.  At the time I basically thought we were done with him.  But as any summer blockbuster that includes an evil villain will remind you, they have a way of coming back.

I know people who live in Alabama and they say it’s got some good things going for it, including the long-running Alabama Shakespeare Festival. But wow.  What are they trying to do, make Mississippi look good by comparison?

Yelling At Clouds

This cannot end well unless drastic means are taken.

Responding directly for the first time to President Trump’s threat at the United Nations to destroy nuclear-armed North Korea, its leader called Mr. Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” on Friday and vowed the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

The rejoinder by the leader, Kim Jong-un, who is about half as old as Mr. Trump, 71, added to the lexicon of Mr. Kim’s choice of insults in the escalating bombast between the two.

“A frightened dog barks louder,” Mr. Kim said in a statement, referring to Mr. Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in which he vowed to annihilate North Korea if the United States were forced to defend itself or its allies against it.

“He is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician,” Mr. Kim said.

What’s really scary is that Kim is pretty much spot on with his characterization of Trump; he knows a fellow authoritarian bully and bombast when he sees one.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mueller Is Making Them Very Nervous

Via the Washington Post:

The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering areas including the president’s private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under investigation, according to two people briefed on the requests.

White House lawyers are now working to turn over internal documents that span 13 categories that investigators for the special counsel have identified as critical to their probe, the people said. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, appointed in May in the wake of Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, took over the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians in that effort.

The list of requests was described in detail by two people briefed on them. Both insisted on anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation. Some details of the requests were first reported Wednesday afternoon by the New York Times.

The requests broadly ask for any document or email related to a series of highly publicized incidents since Trump became president, including the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn and firing of Comey, the people said.

The list demonstrates Mueller’s focus on key moments and actions by the president and close advisers that could shed light on whether Trump sought to block the FBI investigations of Flynn and of Russian interference.

The newest wrinkle is that former campaign manager Paul Manafort offered a Russian billionaire “private briefings” on what the Trump campaign was doing.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

The emails are among tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as they probe whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

I’m guessing that this was a requirement on the part of the Russians.  They were paying good money to buy off this election and they needed to be kept up to speed with how it was going.

Trump’s defenders are complaining that Mr. Mueller is going on a fishing expedition for anything that he can find that might possibly lead to a criminal indictment and it’s SO unfair.  Well, when Kenneth Starr did that with Bill Clinton, those same whiners were all in favor of it because they were sure that there was real corruption and murder and mayhem going on, and oh yeah, what about Hillary’s e-mails; did she steal the chocolate chip cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus, too?

At It Again

I can’t leave them alone for a minute.  The Republicans are trying again to kill Obamacare and a whole lot of people in the process.

One lesson of the Trump era in Washington is that Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare don’t fare well in sunlight. When these proposals are confined to internal brainstorming sessions and leadership conferences, they do O.K. But, once they are sent out into the world and exposed to proper scrutiny, they tend to shrivel up and die.

The latest G.O.P. effort, a piece of legislation put forward by Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Senator Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, will hopefully meet this fate. But nobody should take that outcome for granted. Republican senators have until September 30th to enact health-care reform with just fifty-one votes—rather than sixty—so the Party leadership is looking to ram through the Graham-Cassidy bill before the American public realizes how awful it is.

Rushing the bill through this way is about the only way it could pass. Several previous Republican bills were doomed by the Congressional Budget Office, which issued analyses detailing how the plans would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health-insurance coverage. By waiting until last week to finalize their bill, Graham and Cassidy didn’t leave the C.B.O. enough time to do a proper scoring before a vote is taken. (On Monday, the C.B.O. said that it would try to produce a limited analysis by early next week.)

Despite this cynical maneuver, there is no ambiguity about the terms of the Graham-Cassidy bill. It would roll back the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which has enabled about fourteen million Americans to obtain health-care coverage. Then it would subject the rest of Medicaid to substantial cuts by converting it to a block-grant program. By targeting the low-paid, the sick, and the infirm, the legislation would create hundreds of billions of dollars in budget savings; these could then be applied to Republican tax cuts aimed primarily at rich households and corporations.

The best part is that the GOP is fully aware of the load of deadly manure they’re shoveling, but they made a campaign promise to repeal Obamacare, and they’re gonna do it even if it kills somebody else.

Make the call.  Make your voice heard.

Powerless

Puerto Rico has been basically returned to the 18th century by Hurricane Maria.

Hurricane Maria delivered a destructive full-body blow to this U.S. territory on Wednesday, ripping off metal roofs, generating terrifying and potentially lethal flash floods, knocking out 100 percent of the island’s electrical grid and decimating some communities.

With sustained winds of 155 mph at landfall — a strong Category 4 storm and nearly a Category 5 — Maria was so powerful that it disabled radar, weather stations and cell towers across Puerto Rico, leaving an information vacuum in which officials could only speculate about property damage, injuries or deaths.

“Definitely Puerto Rico — when we can get outside — we will find our island destroyed,” Abner Gómez, director of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency, said in a midday news conference here. “The information we have received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything it has had in its path.”

The island was already suffering under financial difficulty, and now this.  The worst part is that no one here — or there — knows the extent of the damage because there’s no way to communicate with anyone other than via battery-operated satellite phones.

Add to that, Puerto Rico has been treated as a stepchild by Congress, and so far the Trump administration has barely acknowledged its existence as a U.S. territory.

Right now might not be the time to bring this up, but in the future this destruction and its recovery should be a factor in determining the statehood question — which I strongly favor — if only because the residents will be able to vote for president and that might be the shiny object that garners attention from politicians in Washington.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Still Not There Yet

AT&T keeps coming up with new ways to avoid telling me when I’ll get phone and internet back.  Yesterday in an on-line chat, “Ashley” asked for a contact number so they could text me when service is restored.  I gave her my cell phone number noting that “It’s a Verizon number.  They never went down during the storm.  Ironic, huh?”  She was not amused.

One the good news front, Bob and The Old Professor finally got power yesterday, ten days after the lights went out.  They still don’t have cable TV, but they have the internet and clean clothes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Getting Into Training

One of the benefits of being Officially Old is that I am now eligible for Miami-Dade Transit’s Golden Passport.  It allows me to ride the county’s Metrorail system for free, and for $11.25 a month, I can park at a nearby garage and take the train.  So instead of spending $30 a week on a tank of gas and driving 38 miles round-trip (not to mention fighting the legendary traffic of Miami), I will have a commute of 12 miles round-trip to the station.  The Metro Mover drops me practically at the front door of my office in the morning and a shuttle van drops me off at the station in the afternoon.  Meanwhile, my car is in a secure and covered parking lot.

I could get very used to this.