Thursday, January 19, 2017

Insider Trading

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services; the cabinet department that oversees healthcare.  He’s an orthopedic surgeon and a from-the-git-go opponent of Obamacare.  He’s also invested heavily in the medical devices businesses and he’s also introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to protect those companies from government interference.

He faced tough grilling in his Senate confirmation hearing from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on his stock purchases and possible insider trading.

Were this any average citizen, the Securities and Exchange Commission would want to have a word with him and his attorney, and were these normal times, he would be either rejected by the Senate or he would have the decency to withdraw his nomination.

But these are not normal times, and I fully expect him to be confirmed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ethics? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Ethics

Welcome to the new era of accountability.

Defying the wishes of their top leaders, House Republicans voted behind closed doors Monday night to rein in the independent ethics office created eight years ago in the wake of a series of embarrassing congressional scandals.

The 119-to-74 vote during a GOP conference meeting means that the House rules package expected to be adopted Tuesday, the first day of the 115th Congress, would rename the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee.

Under the proposed new rules, the office could not employ a spokesperson, investigate anonymous tips or refer criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the express consent of the Ethics Committee, which would gain the power to summarily end any OCE probe.

The OCE was created in 2008 to address concerns that the Ethics Committee had been too timid in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing by House members. Under the current House ethics regime, the OCE is empowered to release a public report of its findings even if the Ethics Committee chooses not to take further action against a member.

The move to place the OCE under the Ethics Committee’s aegis stands to please many lawmakers who have been wary of having their dirty laundry aired by the independent entity, but some Republicans feared that rolling back a high-profile ethical reform would send a negative message as the GOP assumes unified control in Washington. President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and has proposed a series of his own ethics reforms.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed the amendment to the House rules package, speaking out against it in the Monday evening conference meeting, according to two people in the room.

But the measure’s sponsor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), said in a statement that it “builds upon and strengthens” the current arrangement and that it improves the due process rights for the House members under investigation and witnesses interviewed in the course of OCE probes.

This will really make America great again.

Update: Well, that didn’t last long.

After a fierce public backlash, the House GOP reversed course and withdrew the rules change that would have gutted the Office of Congressional Ethics, according to members who were present at the emergency GOP meeting mid-day Tuesday.

We just have to be on their ass all the time or else they’re going to get away with more of this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

We’re Not Getting That $8 Million Back

With little notice the House Committee investigating Benghazi! has filed its final report and slunk away.

When it publicized its findings in June, the House Select Committee on Benghazi didn’t specifically blame Clinton for what it described as bureaucratic miscues and interagency blunders events that led to the Americans’ deaths.

But coming as Clinton was wrapping up the Democratic presidential nomination, the findings remained a hot-button issue through Election Day.

The committee remained in place, and it didn’t submit its official final report to the House record until last week, with Democratic members refusing to endorse it.

And another Clinton scandal goes the way of all the other ones: [poot]

What Do They Know?

It’s a pretty sure thing that if the CIA is going to conclude that they have evidence that Russia interfered with the election, there’s plenty more where that came from and they are holding back much more than they’re saying now.

Which means that they are very sure they have the goods on the whole story: who, what, where, and when.  And it could also mean they’re sending a not-so-subtle message to the incoming Trump administration not to mess with them: a leak here, a leak there, and the whole House of Cards comes tumbling down.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Not Qualified

Via The Hill:

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has told President-elect Donald Trump that he isn’t interested in serving as secretary of Health and Human Services, a Carson ally confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday.

Business manager and close friend Armstrong Williams said Carson won’t join the incoming Trump administration and would only serve as an unofficial adviser.

Oh, really?  Why is that?

“Dr. Carson was never offered a specific position, but everything was open to him,” Williams told The Hill in a phone call.

“Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”

The dude ran for president and at one point was at the top of the polls and now he says he has no business working in government?

Well, at least he’s honest about it and admits it, unlike the folks who actually won the election.

Monday, November 7, 2016

FBI Director Comey: “Never Mind”

Via the Washington Post:

FBI Director James B. Comey said Sunday that the bureau had completed its examination of newly discovered emails connected to Hillary Clinton — an inquiry that had roiled the presidential race for nine days — and found nothing to alter its months-old decision not to seek charges against the former secretary of state for her use of a private email server.

In a letter to congressional committee chairmen, Comey said investigators had worked “around the clock” to review the emails. The investigators found that the emails were either duplicates of correspondence they had reviewed earlier or were personal emails that did not pertain to State Department business, government officials said.

So after nine days of hysterics from the Trump campaign and pundits and bed-wetting and hand-wringing by the usual suspects in the Democratic Party headquarters, it’s all for naught.  Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

The damage, however, has been done.  Millions of votes were cast between the announcement on Friday, October 28 and Sunday, November 6, and commercials cut by Trump and his supporters with dark grainy images of Hillary Clinton “UNDER ANOTHER FBI INVESTIGATION” were shown and are still running.  Even though the polls didn’t show movement away from Clinton in the last few days and the race did its natural tightening as all races do as the finish line approached, the only people who truly benefited from this clusterfuck were the folks at the cable networks who set the advertising rates for the breathless BREAKING NEWS segments.

The losers are both campaigns, the FBI, and in particular Director Comey who won’t be able to get a free lunch in Washington again for the rest of his term.  The Republicans won’t trust him because they think he caved to pressure from the White House and the Clinton campaign, the Democrats won’t trust him because he clearly made a hash of the whole investigation starting back in July when he held that press conference to announce the original findings — maybe he should have just sent an e-mail? — and he’s clearly influenced by the partisan factions in the agency who have it in for the Clintons.

The rest of us just think that for whatever he’s got going for him as a director, he’s completely tone deaf and unaware of the fact that the FBI has a long history going back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover of meddling in politics and his actions have just reinforced the impression he’s a hack.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Only Weapon They Have

There’s growing talk among Republicans in the Senate that they won’t consider judicial nominees from a President Hillary Clinton ever.

This all started when Antonin Scalia died last February and the GOP immediately announced that they would hold off consideration of a replacement until, to them, they got a real president in office.  But now that the likelihood is that the Democrats will once again win the White House, well, they won’t allow anyone to be considered.  So they’re going to uphold the Constitution by shitting on it.

Why are they being so confrontational?  Does it not occur to them that someday the tables could be turned and the Democrats would do the same thing to a Republican president?

I think there are a couple of reasons why they think they can do this.  First, they know that the Democrats wouldn’t be such assholes, and if they were, the Republicans would be all over them, screaming like banshees about “defying the will of the people” and weeping crocodile tears about how those meanies are stomping on “the rule of law.”  We saw this kind of sanctimony when the merry band of adulterers and whoremongers were impeaching Bill Clinton so we know they’re capable of it.  Nothing gets you on Fox News faster than righteous hypocrisy, and the more blatant the better.

Second, I think upyernoz at Rubber Hose makes a valid point: the Republicans know that it will be a while before there’s another Republican president.

Currently, the Republicans are at a real disadvantage whenever there is a high turnout election like presidential elections are, and the electoral map gives the Democrats an inherent advantage each presidential election (i.e. the Blue Wall) Those disadvantages are bound to get worse for the Republicans as demographic trends are decreasing their core voters’ share of the electorate while increasing the share of minorities who tend to vote Democratic. The Republicans could try to change the map and make a play for those minorities by catering to their concerns (as the Republican’s autopsy report for the 2012 election advised them to do), but this election has pretty clearly demonstrated that the Republican base won’t tolerate that. So what that leaves them with is a losing hand in every presidential election for the foreseeable future.

Once you assume that Republicans probably won’t recapture the White House, the premise behind compromising on Supreme Court and other judicial appointments evaporates. The growing Republican opposition to letting any Democratic nominees on the court is part of the realization of Republican weakness in the Presidential race.

In short, they don’t need the White House to get what they want.  They have called the tune for the last six years through government shut-down, blocking judicial appointments, gerrymandering the House into guaranteed safe districts, and then blaming the Democrats for nothing getting done, knowing their constituents will not only believe it, they’ll keep re-electing the same people while they chant “Throw the bums out!”  It’s always somebody else’s bum they want thrown out, though.

The Republicans all say it would be wonderful to have one of their own in the White House.  But that would mean they would have to actually get things done, like create jobs, repair the infrastructure, reform the tax code, fix the immigration system.  It’s a lot easier to sit in the cheap seats and piss and moan; why ruin a good thing?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Derangement Will Continue

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told a Philadelphia radio station that the Republican intransigence against anything a Democratic president does, including nominations to the Supreme Court, will continue if Hillary Clinton is elected.

“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” McCain said on WPHT Philadelphia radio in an interview first flagged by CNN. “I promise you. This is where we need the majority.”

It didn’t take too long for Sen. McCain’s office to come out with “Well, he didn’t really mean that,” but there’s every reason to believe that he did.  Obstreperous obstruction has been the way of the GOP since January 20, 2009 and as far as they’re concerned, it’s worked just great: they managed to not only frustrate President Obama’s agenda as best they could, they blocked his judicial appointments, tried to repeal Obamacare nearly sixty times, and then turned to their base and blamed him for nothing getting done in Washington.

By the way, if things had worked out differently in 2008, we’d be looking at the last few weeks of the 2016 election pitting Hillary Clinton against Vice President Sarah Palin and her running mate, Ted Cruz.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Short Takes

R.I.P. Shimon Peres, one of the founding fathers of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The Senate’s attempt to pass a government spending bill was blocked.

Over 83 million tuned in to watch the Clinton-Trump debate.

Consumer confidence in September rose to its highest level in nine years.

The Houston shooter was a big fan of the Third Reich.

Elon Musk wants to launch a mission to Mars.

Tropical Update: Invest 97L is east of the Lesser Antilles and could head west.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

General Tech Support

Colin Powell sent Hillary Clinton an e-mail on how to get around the security apparatus for e-mails at the State Department.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, publicly released an email exchange in which former Secretary of State Colin Powell advised then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the use of personal email two days after she was sworn in as Secretary.

“This email exchange shows that Secretary Powell advised Secretary Clinton with a detailed blueprint on how to skirt security rules and bypass requirements to preserve federal records, although Secretary Clinton has made clear that she did not rely on this advice.

This email exchange also illustrates the longstanding problem that no Secretary of State ever used an official unclassified email account until the current Secretary of State.”

Full e-mail exchange between Powell and Clinton here.

Lock him up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Short Takes

Senate Zika bill blocked by Planned Parenthood fight.

Trump denies any wrongdoing in donation to Bondi campaign.

ITT Tech shuts down after USDOE cuts off student loan support.

Gretchen Carlson gets $20 million and apology in Fox sexual harassment suit.

Giant pandas no longer on the endangered species list.

Tropical Update: Invest 92L isn’t moving yet.

The Tigers lost to the White Sox 2-0.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

No Dessert For You

The GOP House leadership is trying to come up with ways to punish Democrats for their sit-in over the leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on a gun control bill after the shootings in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

One option that’s been floated is a resolution broadly stating a sentiment that such tactics shouldn’t be allowed and will be sanctioned somehow going forward. Others are hoping Republicans will publicly rebuke certain Democrats they say “intimidated” nonpartisan House staff members during the late-June incident.

The latter response was used to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) after he yelled, “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during a 2009 joint session of Congress. But this situation involves multiple lawmakers, so the same tack may not work.

One Republican source familiar with the ongoing discussions said Republicans’ intent is to maintain decorum in the future and “protect the permanent employees of the House, who the Democrats treated with contempt.” GOP leaders want to make clear that such actions are “not acceptable” and won’t be tolerated.

Perhaps a good talking-to will work.  I’m sure that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who led the protest and who has scars from beatings he received while leading civil rights marches in the 1960’s, will give in under the pressure and humbly beg pardon.  Yeah?  No.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Taking Them With Him

As Donald Trump’s fortunes continue to sink, he’s also dragging down the Republicans’ chances of keeping the Senate.

Via Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight:

Six of the eight Republican candidates for Senate are polling worse than they were before the conventions. Nothing has changed in Florida, according to the polls. And Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio is the only Republican whose fortunes have improved. (That may be partially because he has a massive fundraising edge over his Democratic opponent, Ted Strickland.) The biggest shifts have been in Illinois, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and in the latter two, the leader flipped.

Among the eight states, the most precipitous drop for both Trump and the GOP Senate candidate happened in New Hampshire, where Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte had led in most polls before the conventions. Since then, she has trailed in all fourpolls of the state that have been released. MassINC pollster Steve Koczela, who conducted one of the surveys in the New Hampshire average, had told me that Ayotte’s troubles are at least partially because of “how closely tied the Ayotte and Trump vote are” and that he saw that “as evidence that Trump is hurting her.”

Republicans have also seen their prospects worsen in Pennsylvania. Trump is now down 10 percentage points in the state, a headwind that may be too much for Republican Sen. Pat Toomey to overcome. Toomey, like Ayotte, had been leading in most polls before the conventions. But he has trailed in four of the five polls conducted since the conventions. Toomey’s slide, in particular, should worry Republicans. He has made it clear that he is not a Trump fan and has avoided appearing with Trump when he visits the Keystone State. And yet, their fates still seem tied. It may be that down-ballot Republicans can only do so much to keep themselves from getting swept up in an anti-Trump tide.

It’s too much to hope that the Democrats could pick up the House; the fix has been in since the Republicans gerrymandered all those safe districts after the 2010 census and they picked up all those state legislatures.  But the Senate is a different matter.  The Senate alone confirms cabinet appointments and Supreme Court judges, ratifies treaties, and basically keeps the House in check from doing crazy things like repealing Obamacare for the sixtieth time.

I’d love to have a clean sweep in November: The White House, the Senate, and the House all in Democratic hands, but two out of three ain’t bad.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Short Takes

Multiple deaths reported in suicide attack at Istanbul airport.

Deadly train crash in Texas.

Senate Democrats block G.O.P Zika “poison pill” bill.

Trump promises to confront China over trade pacts.

NASA’s Juno probe approaches Jupiter.

R.I.P. Pat Summitt, winningest coach in Division 1 basketball.

The Tigers beat the Marlins 7-5.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

There Goes $7 Million

The Republicans carry on about “government waste, fraud, and abuse.”  And to prove it, they throw $7 million down the shitter.

Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

The 800-page report, however, included some new details about the night of the attacks, and the context in which it occurred, and it delivered a broad rebuke of government agencies like the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department — and the officials who led them — for failing to grasp the acute security risks in the Libyan city, and especially for maintaining outposts in Benghazi that they could not protect.

The committee, led by Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, also harshly criticized an internal State Department investigation that it said had allowed officials like Mrs. Clinton, then the secretary of state, to effectively choose who would investigate their actions. In addition, it reiterated Republicans’ complaints that the Obama administration had sought to thwart the investigation by withholding witnesses and evidence.

Maybe they should send the bill to Fox News and the RNC.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Short Takes

House Democrats sit-in for a vote on gun control.

North Korea fires off two ballistic missiles.

Bernie Sanders: “It doesn’t appear I’ll be the nominee.”

Colombia and rebels agree to a cease-fire in 50-year conflict.

Michigan A.G. sues two companies over Flint water crisis.

The Tigers beat the Mariners 5-1.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016