Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Two Guys Named Steve

You’re already familiar with Steve Bannon, the white supremacist who horned his way onto the National Security Council the way a party-crasher jumps the line at the buffet.  Now meet Stephen Miller, another top adviser to Trump who lied his way through the rounds on the Sunday talk show circuit and, among other things, claimed that “millions” of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election and sternly warned America that the president’s powers “will not be questioned.”

According to Univision, the guy has been a racist and a jerk since high school.

Stephen Miller and Jason Islas grew up in sunny southern California in the late 1990s, united by their passion for Star Trek. But Miller stopped talking to his friend as they prepared to jump from Lincoln Middle School to Santa Monica High School.

Miller only returned Islas’ phone calls at the end of the summer, to coldly explain the reason for his estrangement. “I can’t be your friend any more because you are Latino,” Islas remembers him saying.

Islas recalled that Miller mentioned other reasons, which he considered “childish.” But that was his first sign of the change Miller would undergo when he was 14 years old: a political radicalization that defines his life even now as a senior White House adviser with direct access to President Donald Trump.

Miller, now 31, and Stephen Bannon, former executive director of the populist Breitbart website, have been described as the main architects of Trump’s immigration policies.

Several reports identified Miller as the brains behind the controversial executive order that temporarily banned people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. With Bannon, he also wrote Trump’s aggressively nationalist inauguration speech and in July wrote a draft of Trump’s acceptance speech to the Republican presidential nominating convention.


Univision Noticias spoke with several classmates who said Miller had few friends, none of them non-white. They said he used to make fun of the children of Latino and Asian immigrants who did not speak English well.

Early on, Miller began to write opinion columns in conservative blogs, the local press and the high school’s own newspaper, The Samohi. He also contributed at times to the national radio show of Larry Elder, a conservative African American, and once invited him to speak at the school.

Displaying his hostility toward minorities, Miller complained to school administrators about announcements in Spanish and festivals that celebrated diversity.

In his third year at the school, the 16-year-old Miller wrote a letter to The Lookout, a local publication, about his negative impression of Hispanic students and the use of Spanish in the United States.

“When I entered Santa Monica High School in ninth grade, I noticed a number of students lacked basic English skills. There are usually very few, if any, Hispanic students in my honors classes, despite the large number of Hispanic students that attend our school,” Miller wrote.

“Even so, pursuant to district policy, all announcements are written in both Spanish and English. By providing a crutch now, we are preventing Spanish speakers from standing on their own,” he added. “As politically correct as this may be, it demeans the immigrant population as incompetent, and makes a mockery of the American ideal of personal accomplishment.”

In that article, Miller also complained about his school’s celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the existence of a gay club and a visit by a Muslim leader.

It’s one thing to be an obnoxious asshole in high school; it’s part of growing up.  But to bring it to the West Wing?  Well, in this White House, it’s a feature, not a bug.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Godfather Part Four

Via the New York Daily News:

President-elect Donald Trump rang in the new year together with Joseph “Joey No Socks” Cinque — a convicted felon with ties to notorious Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, a recently released video has revealed.

Cinque can be seen in a video obtained by the Palm Beach Daily News, cheering loudly as a tuxedo-clad Trump runs through a number of campaign promises before the hundreds of guests attending the New Year’s Eve bash the President-elect threw at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Saturday.

“The taxes are coming down, regulations are coming off, we’re going to get rid of Obamacare,” Trump can be heard saying as an exuberant Cinque stands next to him, pumping his fists into the air.

Cinque’s Sunday appearance with Trump might raise some eyebrows.

Beyond a 1989 felony conviction for possessing nearly $100,000 worth of stolen artwork, Cinque “used to be friends with John Gotti,” according to a New York Magazine profile from 1995.

Cinque was also “shot three times and left for dead” in a 1980 incident that authorities described as “a hit,” according to the profile.

Further, Saturday’s Mar-a-Lago party was far from the first time Cinque cheered on Trump.

An Associated Press report from this spring showed that the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, a company owned and operated by Cinque, has awarded more than a dozen of Trump’s golf courses, hotels, casinos and private clubs with so-called “Star Diamond” awards “of true excellence in hospitality.”

The same report also found that about half of the roughly 30 people listed as “trustees” to the company are Trump friends or business associates.

Trump, meanwhile, was listed on the company’s website as its “ambassador extraordinaire,” and he even appeared in a 2009 tribute video to Cinque in which he said, “There’s nobody like him. He’s a special guy.”

But when asked by reporters about Cinque in May, Trump denied knowing anything about him or his criminal past.

“If a guy’s going to give you an award, you take it,” the President-elect said at the time. “You don’t tend to look up his whole life story.”

“Michael, we’re bigger than U.S. Steel.”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

No Remorse, No Apology

Mike Pence said he cannot defend Mr. Trump’s comments, but “I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people.”

Except he did not express remorse and he did not apologize. The only regret he has is that he was caught, and he said “I apologize if I offended anyone.” No, one does not put conditions on an apology. Neither does one blame their behavior on someone else or rationalize it by citing someone else’s behavior. That doesn’t work when you are 10, and it sure doesn’t work when you’re 70, regardless of whether or not you are running for president. Bill Clinton’s behavior twenty years ago is not an excuse for being a pig ten years ago, and if Mr. Trump wants to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for her husband’s behavior, then should we not hold Melania Trump accountable for her husband’s? No.

Mr. Pence doesn’t deserve any wiggle-room. He knew what he was getting into when he signed up for this gig, and if he didn’t, then he’s willfully ignorant of Mr. Trump’s long history of misogyny, he’s too dumb to play dead in a cowboy movie, or he’s willing to sacrifice his hard-core Christian morals for political gain. That’s opportunism, not leadership.

Mr. Trump has stated he “will never withdraw.” Leaving that Freudian softball aside, what does that tell us about the character of a person who asks us to place the fate of this country and the world in his hands? At this point, I don’t think he should be granted the power to run a college fraternity; they have rules now about that kind of behavior. If you’re too boorish to run a frat, there’s always playing piano in a brothel.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

“The Business We’ve Chosen”

It’s hard to imagine someone being in the real estate and casino business and not crossing paths or making connections with organized crime.  It’s part of the business.  So I suppose that’s why it’s no surprise that David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter at Politico, would be able to track down Donald Trump’s connections with people who are, to quote Hyman Roth, in the business we’ve chosen.

In his signature book, The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump boasted that when he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City, he persuaded the state attorney general to limit the investigation of his background to six months. Most potential owners were scrutinized for more than a year. Trump argued that he was “clean as a whistle”—young enough that he hadn’t had time to get into any sort of trouble. He got the sped-up background check, and eventually got the casino license.

But Trump was not clean as a whistle. Beginning three years earlier, he’d hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano. That story eventually came out in a federal investigation, which also concluded that in a construction industry saturated with mob influence, the Trump Plaza apartment building most likely benefited from connections to racketeering. Trump also failed to disclose that he was under investigation by a grand jury directed by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who wanted to learn how Trump obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan.


No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.

It would be really naive to think that we’ve never had a president with at least acquaintances with organized crime: think JFK and his Las Vegas Rat Pack buddies as well as his father’s business dealings going back to the Prohibition era.  But Mr. Trump’s deal-making and business past is on a whole other level.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Short Takes

President Obama welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to the White House.

Michigan Gov. Snyder released more e-mails related to Flint’s water crisis.

Trump supporter charged with assaulting protestor.  (Yes, he was wearing a brown shirt.)

Senate votes 94-1 to pass bill to combat drug abuse.

Brazil seeks to arrest ex-president for graft.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Down Ballot

If the Republicans are worried that Donald Trump may make things awkward for their candidates out in the state and local elections, there’s at least one local party official who is showing that Mr. Trump’s magic can be spread down ballot.

The newly elected chair of the Republican Party in the county that includes the Texas Capitol spent most of election night tweeting about former Gov. Rick Perry’s sexual orientation and former President Bill Clinton’s penis, and insisting that members of the Bush family should be in jail.

He also found time to call Hillary Clinton an “angry bull dyke” and accuse his county vice chair of betraying the values of the Republican Party.

“The people have spoken,” Robert Morrow, who won the helm of the Travis County GOP with 54 percent of the vote, told The Texas Tribune. “My friends and neighbors and political supporters — they wanted Robert Morrow.”

Morrow’s election as Republican chair of the fifth-largest county in Texas left several members of the Travis County GOP, including vice chair Matt Mackowiak, apoplectic. Mackowiak, a Republican strategist, immediately announced over social media that he would do everything in his power to remove Morrow from office.

“We will explore every single option that exists, whether it be persuading him to resign, trying to force him to resign, constraining his power, removing his ability to spend money or resisting any attempt for him to access data or our social media account,” Mackowiak told the Tribune. “I’m treating this as a coup and as a hostile takeover.”

“Tell them they can go fuck themselves,” Morrow told the Tribune.

Yeah, I think we can imagine what his response would be to Hillary Clinton’s call for love and kindness.

But hey, he tells it like it is, he says what he thinks, and he doesn’t suck up to the establishment to curry favor from the politicians.  Isn’t that the way of the new GOP?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Well, That Was Awkward

Via Raw Story:

While visiting lawmakers’ offices in Olympia with representatives from Planned Parenthood during Teen Lobbying Days, the group of Eastern Washington teens were stunned when State Rep. Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy) quizzed them over whether they had ever had sex.

Rachel Todd, a Planned Parenthood worker accompanying the kids, said that Dye asked them if they were virgins and indicated that one of them might not be.

“After she made the statement about virginity, all of my teens looked at me,” said Todd. “And I said, ‘You don’t have to answer that. You don’t have to answer that.’”

Failing to get a response, Dye shared some of her own views on marriage and sex.

Oh, I’m sure the teens were all just dying to hear about that.

One student at the meeting, Alex Rubino, called her conduct “insane.”

“It seemed kind of insane for her to say that, especially on the record, to constituents,” said Rubino, who noted that her lecture to the students came “unprompted.”

Yeah, that just about sums it up.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bigotry Isn’t Cheap

If the state of Tennessee follows through with passing an anti-gay marriage bill, it won’t be cheap.  Via Towleroad:

A Tennessee House committee is set to consider an anti-gay marriage bill next week that could cost the state $8 billion annually if it becomes law.

As we mentioned last week, GOP state Rep. Mark Pody believes God told him to introduce the “Natural Marriage Defense Act,” because same-sex marriage is “wicked.”

For the good of the “public welfare,” Pody’s HB 1412 would declare the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges — which it compares to previous rulings upholding the constitutionality of forced sterilization and Japanese internment — “unauthoritative, void, and of no effect.” The Senate version of the bill, SB1437, was introduced by anti-gay GOP Sen. Mae Beavers, a Donald Trump supporter who incidentally agrees with his plan to stop all Muslims from entering the US.

Last week, in the fiscal note attached to HB 1412 and SB 1437, legislative analysts determined that if the bill were to somehow become law, the state could lose $6.5 billion in Medicaid funds, and $2 billion for food stamps and welfare, because the respective state programs would be out of compliance with federal law. Tennessee is already facing a $2.3 million tab for its legal fight against same-sex marriage.

The Tennessee House Civil Justice Subcommittee is set to consider Pody’s bill on Jan. 20. Pody told The Tennessean he plans to work with legislative fiscal analysts on reducing the cost of the bill, but plans to continue pursuing the legislation.

You have to have an unhealthy obsession with the private lives of other people if you think it’s worth giving up $8 billion.  I really think this should make the people of Tennessee seriously reconsider who it is that they elect to represent them.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Good Riddance

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) lost his bid for governor of Louisiana by double digits in a run-off on Saturday to Democrat John Bel Edwards.  Sen. Vitter has announced that he will not run for re-election to the Senate.

The senator’s years-old prostitution scandal and difficult relationships with several Republicans in the state proved to be too much to overcome. Vitter has had “high negatives” in political polling for years — meaning many voters have an unfavorable view of him — but that hadn’t kept him from winning campaigns — until now.

After winning re-election to his Senate seat in 2010, Vitter had been regarded nationally as one of those rare politicians able to survive an embarrassing sex scandal. But Louisiana voters apparently care more about the personal history of the next governor than a member of Congress. His connection to prostitution dampened enthusiasm for him, particularly among Christian conservatives, once his most ardent supporters.

Gov.-elect Edwards is a bit of a maverick in terms of being a Democrat.  He’s pro-life and pro-guns, almost a requirement to be a politician in the South, but unlike the Republicans, the Democrats allow for diversity, if not for the sake of it but for the reality of that’s what it takes to get elected in a state like Louisiana.

Edwards may have to govern in a bipartisan manner, not just by choice. The governor-elect has a serious budget crisis on his hands, and will need a two-thirds vote of the GOP-controlled Legislature for many of his proposals to fix Louisiana’s finances.

“I think that the Legislature and executive branch should cooperate fully,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, who is likely to remain atop the state senate in 2016.

But not everyone is excited to see Edwards head up the executive office. The Democrat makes many of the state’s leading business groups nervous. Edwards has not been supportive of the school choice movement, including charter schools and the state voucher program. Business leaders also believe he is more inclined to roll back their tax credits and incentive programs to fix the state’s budget problems than a Republican would be.

It’s not going to be easy for him, and one Democrat in the Deep South doesn’t mean a renaissance for the party, but at least the loathsome creature Vitter is gone and that’s good enough for now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Three Little Words

This is your occasional reminder that when you vote for a president, you’re also voting for the person who will select the next person to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.  And with people like this on the Court, it’s even more important to remember that.

“What minorities deserve protection?” he said rhetorically. “What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities?”

“What about pederasts?” he asked. “What about child abusers?”

“This is a deserving minority,” he went on, jokingly. “Nobody loves them.”

While I’d never wish harm to anyone, in the case of this little troll the vacancy can’t come soon enough.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In The Dictionary Under “Twerp”

You will find this little man.

“Look closely at this Hillary photo; isn’t that a Confederate flag behind her on the bookshelf?” D’Souza tweeted, above a black and white photo showing a young Clinton with a Confederate flag displayed nearby.

The image was almost immediately debunked as a doctored version of a Getty photo taken of Clinton while she was a student at Wellesley, in which no such flag appears.

He finally acknowledged that the photo was a fake but redeemed himself by mocking Ms. Clinton’s appearance.  Um, yeah, that’s classy.

The New York Times Magazine ran a profile of this pathetic soul in which he blamed his arrest, conviction, and incarceration on liberals, Obama, and everybody but himself for making him cheat on his wife, getting fired from his job, and demanding that he be let out of jail for summer vacation.

Friday, June 5, 2015

What A Creep, Ctd.

Mike Huckabee keeps on creeping on.

In a segment of “The Huckabee Report” that aired in January, the Republican presidential candidate had trouble reconciling feminists’ efforts to get a British tabloid to stop running photos of topless models with their efforts to draw attention to the double standard between displaying male and female nudity on platforms like the photo-sharing service Instagram. BuzzFeed News flagged the segment on Thursday.

“It’s getting harder to keep up with what you’re supposed to believe to be a good feminist,” Huckabee said, according to audio posted by BuzzFeed News.

He then named comedian Chelsea Handler — who’s repeatedly baited Instagram with topless photos — and singer Miley Cyrus as participants in the feminist “crusade to allow women to walk around in public shirtless, the way some men do.”

“So, are topless photos of women an offensive display of sexism, or an empowering blow against sexism?” he asked. “I have a feeling most men don’t care much either way.”

Ugh.  For a man who professes to be the moral compass for America, he sure is hung up on other people’s private lives and body parts.

Oh, and getting lectures from Mike Huckabee about feminism is like getting lectured about veganism by an alligator.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015