Friday, March 3, 2017

He Won’t Go

When you have Richard W. Painter, the former ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush administration — the same people who outed Valerie Plame and the Justice Department’s purge of attorneys who didn’t toe the proper political line — telling the current administration that their Attorney General needs to vacate the premises, well…

No one has any delusions that the Trump administration will actually own up to Mr. Sessions’ lies of omission — and straight-up lies — to the Senate committee that confirmed him, and the Republicans are well-versed enough in IOKIYAR to brush off the facts as we now know them.  We also know that if Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch, the attorneys general under President Obama, had “liked” a comment by a Russian official on Facebook they would have faced years of hearings and banshee-level screeches for their impeachment.  That’s to be expected.  No one has such low standards for their own conduct and such high standards for everyone else as the Republican party.

So while Mr. Painter may have been the only lawyer in the Bush administration with a functioning and calibrated moral compass, I would be very surprised if Mr. Sessions didn’t serve out his term in office and even get awarded some gaudy medal of honor by the GOP for standing up to the accusations of lying and contempt of Congress no matter how truthful they are.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trump Gives Us The Creeps

Via the Washington Post:

The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, taking a stand on a contentious issue that has become the central battle over LGBT rights.

Officials with the federal Education and Justice departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday that the administration is ordering the nation’s schools to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years regarding transgender student rights. Those memos said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration, which is set to go to the nation’s public schools, does not offer any new guidance, instead saying that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges.

The administration said that it would not rely on the prior interpretation of the law in the future.

This is what happens when you let creepy people who are obsessed with the personal habits of absolute strangers take over the government.

What we really need are protections against those people.

They Put The “Duh” In Florida

Via Miami New Times, here is the latest evidence that my state is run by idiots.

The federal government is run by a despotic regime that dictates laws and hands down rulings wholly incongruous with the vision laid out by America’s Founding Fathers, say two Florida lawmakers. According to state Sen. Keith Perry  — a Republican who represents Alachua, Putnam, and portions of Marion Counties — and Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, the regime now running the United States constitutes an oligarchy of wealthy elites that “must be dismantled for the sake of our republic and for the continued empowerment of its people.

Who are those tyrants? Try the entire judicial branch of the U.S. government.

In December, Gonzalez filed a resolution in the Florida House, which, if passed, would urge the U.S. Congress to straight-up invalidate the judicial branch. And this morning, Perry filed a companion bill in the state Senate. The pair is asking Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution so that Congress can overturn any judicial decision. Under the crackpot bills, which are identical, Congress could overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions with a 60 percent vote.

Really.

“Florida Legislature respectfully petitions the United States Congress to propose to the states an amendment to the United States Constitution providing that any law, resolution, or other legislative act declared void by the United States Supreme Court or a United States court of appeals may be deemed active and operational, notwithstanding the court’s ruling, if agreed to by Congress pursuant to a joint resolution adopted by a 60 percent vote of each chamber of Congress within 5 years after the date the ruling becomes final,” Gonzalez’s resolution reads.

It sounds like these guys were not paying attention in their junior high school civics class that explained the basics of our constitutional system; you know, the part about the three co-equal branches of government that consist of executive, legislative, and judicial.

The legislators write that the judicial branch of the government has “taken on an increasingly activist role aimed at molding legislation according to the political beliefs of its members,” adding that such an activist posture tends to excessively consolidate power in one branch of government, and, as George Washington observed, such encroachments eventually create “a real despotism.”

They also add that federal judges tend to rule by “usurpation,” and then, staggeringly, complain that “the United States Supreme Court currently possesses ultimate and unchecked authority on matters of the constitutionality of the United States’ laws such that its opinion on such matters has the same effect as amending the United States Constitution.”

The two men don’t mention that this is, quite literally, the exact job of the U.S. Supreme Court. Nor do they mention that the federal courts have done nothing out of the ordinary this year, compared to other times in American history.

This morning, Perry didn’t cite Trump’s recent judicial smackdown as a reason for proposing the resolution. But the president’s influence is all over the text: Trump, too, has waged a war against the courts, the biggest check on his power, and would clearly be happier if pesky things such as the U.S Constitution, federal judges, and opposing legislators didn’t exist.

Perry, it seems, would rather we be governed by Trump alone. In the meantime, New Times is soliciting donations to send a few copies of the children’s A-Z civics book D Is for Democracy to the two lawmakers’ offices.

What we need now is immediate increased emergency funding for remedial civics education in Florida.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rounding Up The Usual Suspects

Via the New York Times:

Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.

The new enforcement policies put into practice language that Mr. Trump used on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of “criminal aliens” and warning that such unauthorized immigrants “routinely victimize Americans,” disregard the “rule of law and pose a threat” to people in communities across the United States.

Despite those assertions in the new documents, research shows lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans.

[…]

Administration officials said some of the new policies — like one seeking to send unauthorized border crossers from Central America to Mexico while they await deportation hearings — could take months to put in effect and might be limited in scope.

For now, so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as young children, will not be targeted unless they commit crimes, officials said on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump has not yet said where he will get the billions of dollars needed to pay for thousands of new border control agents, a network of detention facilities to detain unauthorized immigrants and a wall along the entire southern border with Mexico.

But politically, Mr. Kelly’s actions on Tuesday serve to reinforce the president’s standing among a core constituency — those who blame unauthorized immigrants for taking jobs away from citizens, committing heinous crimes and being a financial burden on federal, state and local governments.

There will be legal challenges in court, there will be millions of dollars wasted, there will be families separated, and at some point someone’s going to pull a gun and start shooting, all to bolster Trump’s standing with a xenophobic base of voters that he cultivated carefully to follow him whether or not it violated the Constitution or the basic fact that this country was founded by people who came here from other places and the idea of “illegal immigrant” is based on bigotry and fear.

But it works great at campaign rallies in Florida, so there you are.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Flynn Is The Victim Now

Via Fox News:

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz told Fox News’ “The First 100 Days” Wednesday night that he would ask the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate leaks of classified information that led to the resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The Utah Republican told host Martha MacCallum that “no matter where you are on the political spectrum, you cannot have classified information migrating out into a non-classified setting.”

Chaffetz’s letter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz, which was also signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., described “serious concerns about the potential inadequate protection of classified information” and requested “that your office begin an immediate investigation into whether classified information was mishandled” in the Flynn case.

Flynn resigned Monday night after a series of media reports purportedly detailed his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about sanctions levied against Moscow by the Obama administration. The reports indicated Flynn had given Vice President Mike Pence “incomplete information” about the calls, leading Pence to deny discussion of sanctions took place.

By this weekend they’re going to blame all of this on Hillary and open up an investigation into just how she betrayed that patriotic American.

HT to Balloon Juice.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Short Takes

Appeals court rules unanimously against Trump’s executive order on immigration.

It’s a no-no: Conway gets schooled on hawking Ivanka merchandise.

Heavy winter storm cancels thousands of flights in the Northeast.

Russian airstrike kills Turkish soldiers.

Aretha Franklin announces her retirement.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Teachable Moment

The U.S. Department of Education does not, as the right-wingers tell you, dictate policy and curriculum to each one of the thousands of public school boards in this country.  The Secretary of Education does not, by law, have the power to tell a school board what it can or cannot do in the classroom any more than the Secretary of Transportation can dictate speed limits on city streets or country roads.  They don’t have those kinds of powers.  Their power, as with all federal departments, lies in their ability to allocate funds and decide who gets them and for what purpose.  That power is more potent than being able to dictate whether or not to teach “intelligent design” in a biology class.  In short, it’s money.

That is what is most disturbing to me about appointing someone like Betsy DeVos, a person with demonstrably no idea of how public education works but a very long history of how money works, as the Secretary of Education.  She has spent her entire adult life fighting against a system of state and local entities that she has no knowledge of other than what she reads in the papers.  She seems to have arrived at her views of public education based on the conservative knee-jerk reflex that anything funded by a government is inherently bad and wasteful and the truest way to be both American and productive is to embrace the profit motive.

That works in some cases; a bank is wiser to hire its own armed guards to keep an eye on the place rather than to solely rely on the local police who have other obligations as well as protecting a bank vault, and chances are the bank can afford it.  Private education is good — I’m a product of it from Grade 3 through my undergrad degree — but my parents could afford it for me and my siblings, and it did not supplant the local public schools in my hometown.  Nor could it.

Betsy DeVos cannot march into a local school district and tell them what to teach.  She cannot even take away the basic entitlement programs that fund education for the poor and disabled; those programs are written into law and can only be repealed by Congress.  But what she can do is decide whether or not to fund programs that reach beyond the local districts’ abilities to provide for more than just a basic education such as magnet school programs and outreach to parents to become better first teachers.  Her breathtaking lack of fundamental knowledge of how students are evaluated puts at risk programs that reach students who struggle in the classroom thanks to factors that have never been encountered by someone who has never walked into a public school.  And for every public school system that is struggling — and there are many — there are public schools in every part of the country — rural, urban, suburban — that are shining examples of just how well public education works, and a good deal of it is thanks to programs funded by the federal government.

There are some fundamental elements of our democracy and capitalist system that should be left in the hands of public trust.  Defense, infrastructure, law enforcement, and education come to mind, and not coincidentally, each one of those elements makes life not just better but possible.  To defund public education and turn it over to venture capitalists is as ridiculous an idea as disbanding the armed forces and turning our national defense over to Blackwater.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

In A Nutshell

Why is Steve Bannon on the National Security Council?  Because, according to another Trump adviser, running a neo-Nazi website makes him someone you want whispering in the ear of the guy with the nuclear codes.

I think you need to look at what Stephen Bannon did in terms of building a media giant that has crushed its left-wing rivals in terms of a breitbart.com.

Breitbart.com is a media giant?  Seriously?  When you think of “media giants,” does a website devoted to white supremacy really measure up to something like NBC or Disney?  By that measure, Bark Bark Woof Woof is the size of the Miami Herald.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Fellow Travelers

No one who was paying any attention to the presidential campaign can say that they are surprised now that Trump is following through on his boasts and threats about what he would do when he became president.  The border wall, the Muslim ban, the reinstatement of the Keystone XL and DAPL pipelines, the backing out of TPP, the actions against Obamacare; it was all shouted from the rostrums across the country, and anyone who thought he would change his way of doing things — fast and without thinking about the consequences — just wasn’t paying attention.

He bragged that things would be different now, that he would shake things up so that even the rituals that every president goes through that require little thought, such as signing a proclamation for Holocaust Remembrance Day, were going to be done his way, not the old way.  So there was no mention of Jews dying in the camps because, as the White House noted, “everybody suffered.”

So it’s also no surprise that there has been a backlash to each of these actions and to the Trump regime in general.  We knew that it would spark dissent.  What we didn’t know and what seems to have caught the Trump minions by surprise is the volume, the mass, and the intensity of the rebellion and resistance.  The marches in the cities on the day after the inauguration were off the charts, and the immediate reaction by protestors at the airports when the ban on travelers from Muslim countries was announced was breathtaking in both scale and intensity.

One other thing that is not a surprise is the craven complicity of the Republican leadership.

Facing intense criticism and dramatic news coverage of chaos and protests at airports worldwide, several congressional Republicans on Saturday questioned President Trump’s order to halt admission to the United States by refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were not among them.

Ryan was among the first lawmakers on Friday to back Trump’s order, and his office reiterated his support on Saturday.

“This is not a religious test and it is not a ban on people of any religion,” said spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

No, it’s just a ban on people from countries with a lot of Muslims, which as everyone knows, isn’t really a religion like, say, Christianity, right?  (By the way, someone prominent in the Christian faith once said something about welcoming the stranger, but hey, that was a long time ago.)

It’s also no surprise that the Republicans would demonstrate such complicity towards these actions against immigrants; it’s not like they haven’t shown that hand at every opportunity, along with the rank hypocrisy of complaining about President Obama’s use of executive orders to save some wilderness acreage as “unconstitutional overreach” and stand by in silence as Trump basically stomps his way through the Bill of Rights.  But as long as they get their tax cuts and free rein on regulation reform, who cares about a bunch of brown non-Christians stuck at an airport in Europe.  It’s not like they matter, right?

It’s within living memory that the United States took such an attitude about refugees and immigrants from a continent where war was brewing and people were fleeing, trying to get to our shores and safety.  We shut them out then, sending many of them back to where they came from, their fates sealed.  Eighty years later we remember — at least some of us remember — what happened to them.  But today we have a White House that won’t even mention them by name.

Those who remained silent then were just as complicit in the destruction that followed, and those who remain silent today are no different.

Short Takes

Gunmen attack mosque in Quebec City, killing several people.

Trump stands firm over travel ban.

Protests erupt again nationwide over travel ban.

U.S. service member killed in Yemen commando raid on al-Qaeda.

Canada says refugees are welcome.

WTF: Propagandist Steve Bannon made full member of NSC.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Get Bent

Steve Bannon, the right-wing agitator who now works in the White House, is telling the mainstream press to shut up.

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.

“I want you to quote this,” he said. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country.”

Bannon railed against “the elite media,” whose failure to predict Trump’s election he called “a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away.” He told the Times that no “mainstream media” journalists who reported on Trump’s campaign were “fired or terminated,” apparently suggesting that they should have been, and decried them as “outright activists of the Clinton campaign.”

He did not name any specific members of the press in that diatribe, according to the report.

There isn’t a garden rake in the world that is big enough that he can go fuck himself with.

Thursday, January 26, 2017