Friday, November 17, 2017

Thursday, November 16, 2017

That’s The Matter With Kansas

What Sam Brownback has done in Kansas, Trump would like to do with America.

The statement was simple. Factual.

A Kansas spokesperson was acknowledging that the state highway department didn’t have the money to rebuild a dangerous stretch of Interstate 70 that had been the scene of multiple wrecks and a grisly motorcycle fatality caught on video.

“KDOT has lost a lot of money over the last few years,” the spokesperson said. “There’s just no funding at this point.”

Simple, yes. But in Gov. Sam Brownback’s cash-strapped administration, those were fighting words. Days later, the spokesperson was fired.

“Your article was the nail in my coffin for being the face of KDOT,” the spokesperson said in an email to The Kansas City Star.

The terminated employee, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, had learned what it meant to cross the line — the one where the state of Kansas doesn’t discuss public business with Kansans.

Kansas runs one of the most secretive state governments in the nation, and its secrecy permeates nearly every aspect of service, The Star found in a months-long investigation.

From the governor’s office to state agencies, from police departments to business relationships to health care, on the floors of the House and Senate, a veil has descended over the years and through administrations on both sides of the political aisle.

“My No. 1 question to anybody who opts in favor of nondisclosure is, ‘What are you trying to hide from us?’  ” said former Rep. John Rubin, a Johnson County Republican, calling Kansas “one of the most secretive, dark states in the country in many of these areas.”

What’s hidden are stories of regular Kansans who have suffered inside the silence.

In the course of its investigation, The Star found that:

▪ Children known to the state’s Department for Children and Families suffer horrific abuse, while the agency cloaks its involvement with their cases, even shredding notes after meetings where children’s deaths are discussed, according to a former high-ranking DCF official. One grieving father told The Star he was pressured to sign a “gag order” days after his son was killed that would prevent him from discussing DCF’s role in the case. Even lawmakers trying to fix the troubled system say they cannot trust information coming from agency officials.

▪ In the past decade, more than 90 percent of the laws passed by the Kansas Legislature have come from anonymous authors. Kansans often had no way of knowing who was pushing which legislation and why, and the topics have included abortion, concealed weapons and school funding. Kansas is one of only a few states that allow the practice.

▪ When Kansas police shoot and kill someone, law enforcement agencies often escape scrutiny because they are allowed to provide scant details to the public. The release of body-cam video has become common practice around the country after several high-profile, police-involved shootings. But in Kansas, a new state law is one of the most restrictive in the nation, allowing agencies to shelve footage that could shed more light on controversial cases.

▪ Kansas became the first state to fully privatize Medicaid services in 2013, and now some caregivers for people with disabilities say they have been asked to sign off on blank treatment plans — without knowing what’s being provided. In some of those cases, caregivers later discovered their services had been dramatically cut.

The examples, when stitched together, form a quilt of secrecy that envelops much of state government.

“Damn,” said Bob Stephan, a Republican and four-time Kansas attorney general. “That causes me concern. It’s very disheartening. … It’s gone crazy.”

This is what conservatives believe is the model of how a state should be run: into the ground and in the dark.

Plotting Soil

Two more women have come forward saying that Roy Moore hit on them when they were teens and he was not.  He is of course denying all of it and deflecting it by saying it’s all a conspiracy by the liberal media and Mitch McConnell — an odd combination to say the least — to keep God out of America.

But if the Democrats and all the forces who are aligning against a creepy pedophile running for the Senate were just making it all up and hiring actors to act it all out, they’re really good because it takes a lot of hard work and creativity to come up with such fiction.  It’s on the level of “Game of Thrones.”

The question then naturally arises that if they are that good at destroying one Republican senate candidate in Alabama, why couldn’t they do it on a national level?  If the forces of liberalism and the left-wing media were so crafty, how come Trump is in the White House and Hillary Clinton is on a book tour?  If the conspiracy truly worked, she would have won in a landslide, and if the dark forces that haunt the dreams of Alex Jones and Infowars were really in place, Trump would have become that old guy who sells reverse mortgages on late-night TV.

No, this is just reality, and you can’t make that up.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The First Line Of Their Obituary

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III remembers that lying to Congress comes with a penalty phase.

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday denied, again, lying to Congress about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. He said he had forgotten about a campaign round-table in which an aide played up his Russian connections and suggested arranging a meeting for Donald J. Trump in Moscow.

But even as Mr. Sessions remained hazy on the details, he was adamant that he had swiftly rejected the aide’s suggestion.

“I have always told the truth,” Mr. Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee, adding that he stood by his previous testimony because “I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports.”

Translation: “I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known I’d get caught.”

I seriously wonder if Mr. Sessions and the rest of the people who work for Trump have thought beyond next week and realize that the first line of their obituary is going to include the notation that they devoted a part of their life to working for a scandal-plagued authoritarian regime that will remain a stain not just on their lives but on the nation.  That these years, no matter how many, will be seen by historians as one of the darkest times in our democracy; where accused pedophiles have a real shot at being in the Senate because they’re a member of a political party.  That’s the stuff of tinpot dictatorships, not Western civilization.  (I was going to say “banana republics” but even they don’t want to be associated with a cut-rate narcissist.)

When this is all over, how many of them are going to tearfully beg for forgiveness for their gob-smacking attempts to normalize serial lying and demonization of entire populations and genders for the sake of winning an election and riding on a tricked-up 747?  And for what?  Trying to wipe out the memory of America’s first black president as if he was the aberration and what they seek is the real white straight Anglo-Saxon Christian nation that never existed in the first place?

Mr. Sessions and the rest know what they’re doing.  They know full well that they’re going to be remembered as part of this blatant attempt to obliterate the past.  And without any tinge of self-awareness, they will be proud of it.

Here We Go Again With Obamacare Repeal

They keep trying and trying

On Tuesday, after weeks of agitation from President Trump and hard-right lawmakers, Senate GOP leadership signaled for the first time that it is amenable to inserting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate into their tax overhaul bill.

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful, and that’s obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters, indicating that the policy could be inserted during the committee markup process as early as this week.

The office of Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate leadership team, confirmed to TPM that the final Senate tax bill would include the mandate’s repeal.

Yet rank-and-file lawmakers said a final decision has not yet been reached, and cited concerns that mixing health policy into an already controversial tax reform process would lose the votes Republicans need to pass the bill.

Adding to the confusion, minutes after McConnell’s declaration, the Republican chair of the Senate Finance Committee marking up the tax bill refused to acknowledge the news.

“No one needs to be talking about the individual mandate at this point,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said in the hearing, adding that he thought discussion of the policy was a “distraction” and “a waste of time.”

Which means that 13 million people would lose their subsidies for buying health insurance and no longer be able to afford it, but hey, if that means a few billionaires get a tax cut, it’s worth it, right?

Money Talks

Via Buzzfeed:

On Aug. 3 of last year, just as the US presidential election was entering its final, heated phase, the Russian foreign ministry sent nearly $30,000 to its embassy in Washington. The wire transfer, which came from a Kremlin-backed Russian bank, landed in one of the embassy’s Citibank accounts and contained a remarkable memo line: “to finance election campaign of 2016.”

That wire transfer is one of more than 60 now being scrutinized by the FBI and other federal agencies investigating Russian involvement in the US election. The transactions, which moved through Citibank accounts and totaled more than $380,000, each came from the Russian foreign ministry and most contained a memo line referencing the financing of the 2016 election.

The money wound up at Russian embassies in almost 60 countries from Afghanistan to Nigeria between Aug. 3 and Sept. 20, 2016. It is not clear how the funds were used. At least one transaction that came into the US originated with VTB Bank, a financial institution that is majority-owned by the Kremlin.

Russia says that it was for the purpose of helping Russians living abroad vote in parliamentary elections in September 2016.

Yeah, right.  Hey, looking for some really cheap property in Florida?  I know a guy….

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pressuring Sessions

It would appear that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is giving in to Trump’s attempt to use the Department of Justice to go after his political enemies.

The department, in a letter sent to the House Judiciary Committee, said the prosecutors would examine allegations that donations to the Clinton Foundation were tied to a 2010 decision by the Obama administration to allow a Russian nuclear agency to buy Uranium One, a company that owned access to uranium in the United States, and other issues.

The letter appeared to be a direct response to Mr. Trump’s statement on Nov. 3, when he said he was disappointed with his beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and that longstanding unproven allegations about the Clintons and the Obama administration should be investigated.

It has been demonstrably proven that Uranium One is another of those right-wing conspiracy theories on the level of the pizza parlor pedophile ring, but Sessions is going along either out of an attempt to be a complete toady to Trump or, and this is doubtful, to put to rest the bullshit.  I’d go with the former.

One Small Detail

Brett J. Talley, the lawyer who has never tried a case but somehow got a lifetime appointment to the federal judgeship, forgot to mention something during his vetting.

One of President Trump’s most controversial judicial nominees did not disclose on publicly available congressional documents that he is married to a senior lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office.

The nominee, Brett J. Talley, is awaiting a Senate confirmation vote that could come as early as Monday to become a federal district judge in Alabama. He is married to Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff to the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II.

Mr. Talley was asked on his publicly released Senate questionnaire to identify family members and others who are “likely to present potential conflicts of interest.” He did not mention his wife.

District judges often provide the first ruling when laws are called into question, decisions that can put them at odds with the White House and its lawyers. Last month, for example, judges in Hawaii and Maryland temporarily blocked Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

Mr. Talley also did not mention his wife when he described his frequent contact with White House lawyers during the nomination process.

Democrats have strongly criticized the nomination of Mr. Talley, a 36-year-old who has never tried a case and who received a rare “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association. His nomination advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday on a party-line vote.

In the real world, that’s a big oops.  In the Trump world, that’s a part of the deal.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Good Luck With That

Roy Moore is threatening to sue the Washington Post.

Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said Sunday that he planned to sue The Washington Post over a report that he pursued teenage girls, including a 14-year-old, when he was an assistant prosecutor in his 30s.

At a Christian Citizen Task Force forum here, Moore said the newspaper published false allegations — “for which they will be sued.”

He provided no details about what type of suit he planned to file or when he planned to file it.

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen, and if he does file suit, he’ll lose even if he’s lucky enough to find a judge that will let the suit go forward.  Moore is a public figure and a senate candidate, and that makes the bar of proving libel very high.

As they teach in Journalism 101, to succeed in a libel suit he would have to prove that the Post published the story with malice; i.e. they knew the allegations were false but ran with them anyway.  I can’t believe Moore doesn’t know this; for all his flaunting of the law as a judge he had to have studied torts at some point.

So it’s got to be a bluff or just red meat for the folks who will be voting for him no matter what.

Besides, if the Post really wanted to tank his campaign, they would have cooked up a story where he was hitting on a 14-year-old boy.

Intended Consequences

Some people forget that when you vote for a president — or don’t vote for the opponent because of a fit of pique — things like this happen.

Brett Talley, a 36-year-old lawyer whom President Trump nominated for a lifetime federal judgeship, has practiced law for only three years and has yet to try a case.

Before his nomination in September, he had been unequivocal about his political views. “Hillary Rotten Clinton might be the best Trumpism yet,” says a tweet from his account, which has since been made private. “A Call to Arms: It’s Time to Join the National Rifle Association” was the title of a blog post he wrote in January 2013, a month after a gunman in Newtown, Conn., killed 27 people before taking his own life.

Talley, who also writes horror novels on the side, moved a step closer to becoming a federal district judge in his home state of Alabama on Thursday. Voting along party lines, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Republicans outnumber Democrats, approved Talley’s nomination, which now goes to the Senate for a full vote.

Talley is the latest federal judicial nominee to draw scrutiny for what some say is his limited experience in practicing law and the level of partisanship he had shown on social media, on his political blog and on several opinion pieces he had written for CNN. He has also received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, which vets federal judicial nominees.

The vote on Talley’s nomination comes as Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continue to intensify efforts to place conservative jurists, some of whom are young, on the federal bench. As Trump said as he stood next to McConnell during a news conference in October, the judicial nominations are the “untold” success stories of his presidency.

“Nobody wants to talk about it. But when you think about it, Mitch and I were saying, that has consequences 40 years out, depending on the age of the judge, but 40 years out,” Trump said. “So numerous have been approved. Many, many are in the pipeline. The level of quality is extraordinary.”

Which means that Trump could be out of office next year, if not sooner, but the consequences of electing him will still be felt when my three-year-old grand-nephew is watching his child get married.

Talley isn’t the only one.  As the article points out, the Republicans are whooping through a whole slew of right-wing youngsters to populate the judiciary into the middle of the century, and given the actuarial tables and the natural progression of life, they could infect the Supreme Court as well.

So all of you who voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or held out for one more shot from Bernie because Hillary was too much of a centrist or whatever, thank you so much for having a pure conscience.  See how that works for you when the NRA and “religious liberty” are calling the shots from the federal bench and it’s easier to carry a gun into a school than it is to get a PAP smear.