House passes GOP tax bill.
Mugabe resisting calls to resign.
U.S. to lift ban on importing elephant trophies.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) apologizes twice for groping a woman in 2006.
Keystone pipeline springs a leak in South Dakota.
Via the Washington Post:
Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.
Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, said that Trump called him at his home in Zebulon, N.C., a few weeks after his 22-year-old son and two fellow soldiers were fatally shot by an Afghan police officer on June 10. Their phone conversation lasted about 15 minutes, Baldridge said, and centered for a time on the father’s struggle with the manner in which his son was killed — shot by someone he was training.
“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’ ” Baldridge said. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”
Trump’s offer of $25,000 adds a dimension to his relationships with Gold Star families, and the disclosure follows questions about how often the president has called or written to the parents or spouses of those killed.
Trump said this week that he has “called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make.” At least 20 Americans have been killed in action since he became commander in chief in January. The Post interviewed the families of 13. About half had received phone calls, they said. The others said they had not heard from the president.
It’s not that he hasn’t called everyone. It’s that he lied about it and also said that other presidents didn’t call when he did.
This pattern is in keeping with how he did business before he was elected.; he’d refuse to pay bills for services rendered. He’d make up all sorts of bullshit excuses and wait it out, thinking that the creditors would just give up and he’d get away with it. He still works that way.
Former Rep. Steve Israel sums up why we’re not going to do anything about guns ever.
First, just like everything else in Washington, the gun lobby has become more polarized. The National Rifle Association, once a supporter of sensible gun-safety measures, is now forced to oppose them because of competing organizations. More moderation means less market share. The gun lobby is in a race to see who can become more brazen, more extreme.
Second, congressional redistricting has pulled Republicans so far to the right that anything less than total subservience to the gun lobby is viewed as supporting gun confiscation. The gun lobby score is a litmus test with zero margin for error.
Third, the problem is you, the reader. You’ve become inoculated. You’ll read this essay and others like it, and turn the page or click another link. You’ll watch or listen to the news and shake your head, then flip to another channel or another app. This horrific event will recede into our collective memory.
That’s what the gun lobbyists are counting on. They want you to forget. To accept the deaths of at least 58 children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends as the new normal. To turn this page with one hand, and use the other hand to vote for members of Congress who will rise in another moment of silence this week. And next week. And the foreseeable future.
Not that I’m in the mood to get all smug and say “Told you so,” but Mr. Israel is saying what I’ve been saying after every mass shooting since I started this blog: Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and on and on. I grow tired of this repetition; of saying it.
I almost think that instead of coming back to the same points over and over again I should just provide a link to kittens falling into boxes or squirrels being ejected from bird feeders so you’ll have a place to go to until all the politicians with their “thoughts and prayers” and stories about the lives lost have moved on to the next distraction. Oh, look at the kitty. But then nothing really would change. We’d just keep doing this over and over.
I keep hoping that we will do something, and it’s beyond just hoping. I bring this up with every politician I meet; I make it part of who I vote for or against; I make sure that people who know me know that it’s the deal-breaker. It’s not because I wield so much influence; but no less than anyone else, either, and voices united — even against the gun lobby — will make a difference. The part I hate the most is that it doesn’t get noticed until there are body counts. And there are those every day.
So instead of just waiting, make your point and keep making it.
The story of how the FBI investigated a journalist who made a joke about fake news:
One Twitter user warned that she had reported me to the FBI and to Project Veritas — a right-wing organization led by James O’Keefe that stages elaborate stings of reporters, liberals and others; heavily edits its gotcha videos; and then tries to get those people fired.
Project Veritas did not contact me.
But the FBI decided a journalist’s joke was worth its time.
I seriously wish I was making this up.
Via CLW who knows how corporate management — and mismanagement — works — or doesn’t work.
How many of us have not faced that situation where a complete neophyte was made your boss? Someone put in charge of something about which their only understanding is from the outside?
Maybe their dad owned the company, or they had a freshly printed MBA. They made it worse by putting their drunken frat buddy in charge of your department.
Remember the resentment, the horror, the disgust? Did you cheer them on and root for their success? I’m guessing not. Maybe you didn’t actively sabotage, but I’m betting you didn’t just “get over it”.
You probably relished in the schadenfreude when that person suddenly realized the job was way different and far more complicated than they thought. But you did your best to stop them from screwing up the whole place because it’s where you worked and you needed that job.
We are living it.
Not only do you need the job, the company itself cannot fail because if it does, who’s the boss and what you did will not mean anything anymore.
What Donald Trump said about women was not “locker room banter.” It was bragging about sexual assault. Period.
I think that the sooner Bobby Jindal drops out of our field of vision the better off we all would be.
President Obama responds to the shooting in Oregon.
“America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love,” Obama said. “But as I said, just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America.”
Obama has had to respond to multiple mass shootings in his tenure. In his speech Thursday, he said that laws have been put in place to prevent other disasters — but not gun violence.
“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we work to make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them. To reduce auto fatalities, we have seat belt laws because we know it saves lives,” Obama said.
“So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations. Doesn’t make sense.”
Amen, Mr. President.
Horrifying — Boko Haram is using scorched earth in Nigeria; cities destroyed, people massacred.
Two dead, one injured in Belgium counter-terrorist attack.
Trade and travel restrictions against Cuba are being relaxed as of today.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoes concealed-carry bill.
Here are the very white and very male Oscar nominations.
JPMorgan Chase & Co, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, reported a 6.6 percent drop in quarterly profit as legal costs exceeded $1 billion in the wake of government probes, leading Chief Executive Jamie Dimon to claim banks were “under assault.”
JPMorgan agreed in November to pay $1 billion in penalties over its conduct in foreign exchange markets. Investigations into that and other areas of the bank’s business, including alleged manipulation of Libor interest rates, are continuing.
“Banks are under assault,” Dimon said on a call with reporters, responding to a question about legal costs.
“We have five or six regulators coming at us on every issue,” he said, taking a less conciliatory tone after admitting last year that he had a “tin ear” when dealing with officialdom.
However, while legal expenses rose to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter, from $847 million a year earlier, total legal costs of $2.9 billion for the year were far less than the $11.1 billion recorded in 2013.
Poor Jamie. He’ll have to sell off one of the houses in the Hamptons to pay for his lawyers. How can he live like this?
I have little more to say about the horrific attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo except to offer my deepest sympathy to the people who lost loved ones, to the injured, and to remember that those who would try to destroy free speech and mockery only makes us more determined to carry on speaking and mocking.
I never know what to say when something like this happens.
It doesn’t matter if it is in Pakistan or in Connecticut; if it is in the name of religion or tribalism, or if it is just in answer to the voices in the head of someone who is desperately ill.
Because we don’t know what to say, we search blindly for answers or we lash out and vow revenge. But more often than not there are no answers and vengeance does not renew or restore. So we just go on, putting it out of our mind until it happens again. And again.
The Washington Post has the list of the ten worst things the C.I.A. did in our name.
2. President Bush received his first briefing on enhanced interrogation techniques in 2006, about four years after the program started.
4. CIA interrogators threatened to harm the family members of at least three detainees.
7. When Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, tried to breathe during the procedure, interrogators held his lips and poured water over his mouth.
8. The Senate committee found a photo of what looked like a well-used waterboarding station at a site where there was no reported use of the technique. The CIA could not explain the presence of the waterboard.
10. CIA officers would “strip a detainee naked, shackle him in the standing position for up to 72 hours, and douse [him] repeatedly with cold water.”
Read them and weep.
Freshman Tea Party Congressman Curt Clawson of Florida mistook two senior State Department officials as being representatives from India.
In an intensely awkward congressional hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, freshman Rep. Curt Clawson misidentified two senior U.S. government officials as representatives of the Indian government.
The two officials, Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, are Americans who hold senior positions at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively. Although both Biswal and Kumar were introduced as U.S. officials by the chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, Clawson repeatedly asked them questions about “your country” and “your government,” in reference to the state of India.
Apparently confused by their Indian surnames and skin color, Clawson also asked if “their” government could loosen restrictions on U.S. capital investments in India.
“Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there,” he said. “I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”
The question prompted a lengthy pause and looks of confusion from State Department and congressional staff attending the hearing.
It’s extremely uncommon for foreign officials to testify before Congress under oath. Even so, it’s unclear if at any point Clawson realized his mistake, despite the existence of a witness list distributed to the various members detailing Biswal and Kumar’s positions. Clawson’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
During the hearing, he repeatedly touted his deep knowledge of the Indian subcontinent and his favorite Bollywood movies. None of his fellow colleagues publicly called him out on the oversight — perhaps going easy on him because he’s the new guy.
Actually, I hope his fellow colleagues didn’t call him out on it because they were having too much fun letting this idiot make a fool of himself on live TV.
Bush-administration CIA director Michael Hayden said Sunday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was getting “emotional” about the Senate Intelligence Committee report that details the tactics they used to try to wring intelligence out of prisoners.
Citing specifically Feinstein’s line about not using such techniques again, Hayden told Fox News Sunday host Chis [sic] Wallace, “Now that sentence that, motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”
Wallace — who is far from a sympathizer for Senator Feinstein and her party — responded incredulously to the Director’s assertion that Sen. Feinstein’s emotions drove her to want a public report on the U.S.’s potential use of torture. “Forgive me because you and I both know Senator Feinstein,” Wallace said. “I have the highest regard for her. You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?”
Hayden did not respond specifically to Wallace’s question, but rather said simply that only portions of the report had been leaked but it did not tell the whole story.
What a steaming pile.
Watch this video and you will be renewed.
HT to Robert Bateman.
I can’t put it any better than this.
All I can think right now is how many moms have Christmas present hidden all over their house and were told this morning that their child is dead. How many of them will now look at a Christmas tree, knowing their child will not be there on Christmas morning to open the presents lovingly purchased and wrapped and hidden? How many of these parents struggled for years to get pregnant, and now their kid, because of some lunatic with an easily accessible gun, is dead? How many grandparents who waited for 30 years to have a grandchild, have plane tickets booked for the Holidays, and now need to change those plans and come up earlier to bury their grandchild.
I grew up in a small town where for about 25 months from 1969-1970, every month another couple had a child. These were my friends- Judd, Brad, Micah, Thad, Brian, Ryan, Kelly, Toni, Jodi, Kim, Cole, Ponch, Bert, Erik, Mark, Vicki, Stacy, Dee Dee, and so on. Sandy Hook was a small town, and an entire kindergarten class was wiped out. It would be like everyone who was born in that period in my home town never existed- killed in one horrific act of gun violence. My town would never, ever recover. Ever.
And then the residual trauma. How many of these families will survive? How many of them will be driven to divorce by the trauma. How many of the siblings will never, ever be the same? I talked to my mom on the phone, and she is just inconsolable and simply can not watch the coverage. She’s worried the parents will kill themselves.
This shooter and his easily accessed guns did not just kill 27 people. He ruined thousands of lives. And let’s not forget about the first responders. I don’t care how tough of a cop or a fireman you are, you will never be the same. We’ll have dozens of people with PTSD, leading to alcoholism and drug abuse and family problems.
I hold these people — and all of us — in the Light.
I was able to keep it even until I saw this. Now I’m a wreck.
Twenty-six people were killed, including 18 children, when a gunman opened fire in a Connecticut elementary school Friday morning, a law enforcement official said.
The gunman, who is dead, was a 20-year-old from Connecticut, an official said. He was wearing all black and was carrying two 9mm handguns.
The incident — the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history after Virginia Tech in 2007 — sent crying children spilling into the school parking lot as frightened parents waited for word on their loved ones.
“I was in the gym and I heard a loud, like seven loud booms, and the gym teachers told us to go in the corner, so we all huddled,” one student at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown told NBC Connecticut during its live broadcast. “And I kept hearing these booming noises. And we all … started crying.
“All the gym teachers told us to go into the office where no one could find us,” she added. “So then a police officer came in and told us to run outside. So we did and we came in the firehouse and waited for our parents.”
Two 9mm handguns were recovered from the scene, an official told WNBC’s Jonathan Dienst.
Three people were taken to nearby Danbury Hospital, a spokeswoman told NBC Connecticut. She would not elaborate on the ages of the victims or their conditions.
One of those taken to the hospital was a teacher who had been shot in the foot, the Associated Press reported, citing a dispatcher at the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
The Newtown Bee reported that one child, apparently wounded, was carried from the scene by a police officer.
I hope that the first NRA defender who says that this could have been prevented if the kids and teachers at the school were armed rots for eternity in the lowest circle of Hell, even if I don’t believe there is such a place.
Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.
Following the attacks, the Taliban threatened vengeance, as the insurgents often do after Western actions they depict as atrocities. A Taliban statement posted online on Monday denounced the killings, saying they were the latest in a series of humiliations against the Afghan people and denying that any Taliban fighters had been in the area.
Coming after a period of deepening public outrage, spurred by the Koran burning by American personnel last month and an earlier video showing American Marines urinating on dead militants, the possibility of a violent reaction to the killings added to a sense of siege here among Western personnel. Officials described growing concern over a cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission and has left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge.
What are we doing there?