Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Of Course He Would

From the Washington Post:

When President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to consider him, blocking the nominee until after the year’s presidential election.

He said then that “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” The tactic cost Garland his spot on the court.

With his party now in the White House, McConnell said Tuesday he’d try to push through any nomination that President Trump might make to the high court — even if it comes during an election year. Some saw that stance, which McConnell has signaled before, as disingenuous.

McConnell responded to the hypothetical question at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Paducah, Ky.

“Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position be on filling that spot?” an attendee asked, setting up a scenario that would mirror 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in February.

“Uh, we’d fill it,” McConnell said with a wry, tight-lipped smile.

I would expect nothing less than full-throated, unvarnished, and in-your-face hypocrisy from him.  I’d also like to see him with a case of explosive diarrhea on the floor of the Senate in full view of the C-SPAN cameras followed by an attack of rabid squirrels.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Preacher, The Pool Boy, and The Photos

Josh Marshall sums up the interesting story about Jerry Falwell Jr that involves a Miami Beach pool boy, a hotel, and some racy “personal” photographs with a Trump angle thrown in.

Let’s talk about this eye-popping story from Reuters which claims that back in 2015 Michael Cohen helped early Trump endorser and now-consummate supporter Jerry Falwell, Jr. make some embarrassing photos disappear. This is at least the third story Aram Roston has written on this saga (this one at Reuters, the earlier two when he was at Buzzfeed). Each has reported a series eye-popping or bizarre facts. But each has also read with the clear sense that Roston either knows more than he can write or believes there’s much more to the story than he can prove.

The news story begins in 2017 with a Politico Magazine story about the odd fact that Falwell and his family – royals of a vast Fundamentalist empire and head of Liberty University – were the owners of a tumble down, flea bag hostel in one of the seedier parts of Miami that Politico not inaptly termed a “den of vice” and later “Falwell’s gay-friendly flophouse with an on-site liquor store.” It’s a great piece, plenty of color and general WTF about how exactly the Falwell family owns this dive combined with various stuff about the financing, tax status and the legal and financial structure of Liberty University.

[…]

The gist is this.

In 2012 the Falwells travel to the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. There they strike up a “friendly relationship” with a 21 year old pool boy on staff named Giancarlo Granda. The couple is apparently very taken with Giancarlo and soon they’re flying him on private jets up to Virginia, providing him with financial assistance and eventually deciding to set him as a business partner in the new Alton Hostel business venture. Falwell, or technically his wife and son, put up a million dollars for a down payment on the property and then almost a million more on renovations. This was all because they “wanted to help Granda establish a new career and build a business.” They gave him an equity stake in the business in exchange for him managing the property even though he had no experience managing anything.

In other words, their staunch conservatism notwithstanding, the Falwells put together a kind of bespoke one-man social democracy on before of Miami millennial Giancarlo Granda for reasons that are less than clear.

Now, this all sent tongues a’wagging: morally censorious Liberty University chief poobah and his wife suddenly strike up a friendship with a pool boy on a trip to Miami and decide they like him so much that they were flying him on private jets and investing almost $2 million in giving him a start at life.

Now, the other thing Roston got into was Michael Cohen’s role. It turns out he’s the one who engineered Falwell’s endorsement of Trump in January 2016. The relationship goes all the way back to 2012, the same year Jerry and his wife met Giancarlo. In fact, not too long after the three of them meet in Miami, Trump was invited to deliver the 2012 convocation speech at Liberty University. Trump was there. Cohen was there. And Giancarlo was flown up for the event from Florida on the private jet. Giancarlo was actually introduced to Trump. Falwell and Cohen apparently stayed in touch going forward, usually checking in with Michael at Trump Tower when he was in New York.

Clearly there was a lot here already to get people wondering what was going on. But it was only in this new piece today where we got some critical new information, the first direct reference to possible extortion. In a call surreptitiously recorded by Tom Arnold, Cohen admitted that he’d helped the Falwells deal with an extortion scam. Someone was threatening to release compromising photos and Cohen made the problem go away.

There’s a lot more at the link, but suffice it to say that if you’re wanting to write a trashy steamy novel for poolside reading on your winter vacation, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more colorful story.

Monday, May 6, 2019

If You Can’t Win, Cheat

Last November, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4 which restored voting rights to felons who had served out their sentences.  There were no qualifiers in the amendment language other than excluding those convicted of murder or violent sex crimes, and when it went into effect in January, it had the desired result: a lot of people who had been denied the right to vote began to register.

Well, the Republican-dominated state legislature couldn’t let that happen, now could they?  After losing challenges to the amendment itself before the election, they decided to come up with qualifiers of their own.

The bill could disenfranchise more than half a million Floridians who have not completed restitution payments. (More than 80 percent of fines levied by courts in Florida from 2014 to 2018 had “minimal collections expectations,” according to the Clerk of Courts association, because defendants were too poor to pay them off.) Those with past felony convictions who have completed probation and parole began registering to vote in January, when Amendment 4 went into effect, and voter registration numbers have more than doubled from the same period four years ago. Now that could all come to a halt. “This is clearly an effort to undermine the will of the voters,” says Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “We are creating a two-tiered system and saying how much money you have can determine whether you can vote.”

The measure passed the Florida House last week, and the Senate approved a similar bill on Thursday.

It’s not just in Florida, either.

The move to gut Amendment 4 is part of a broader effort by Republican-controlled states to restrict access to the ballot after voters approved ballot initiatives in November’s midterm elections to expand voting rights and elected Democrats who supported policies like automatic voter registration and felon reenfranchisement. “There is an uptick in activity around measures to restrict voting access,” the Brennan Center for Justice states in a new report, with 19 bills restricting voting access moving through state legislatures in 10 states.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill on Thursday that could curtail voter registration drives by imposing fines of up to $10,000 on groups that submit incomplete registration forms, even though they’re required by state law to hand in any registration forms they collect. The law imposes additional requirements on registration groups, such as mandatory state training and limited time windows to submit registrations, and failure to meet these requirements is punishable by jail time. Civil rights groups allege that the law is an effort to disenfranchise black voters after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered 90,000 African Americans ahead of the 2018 election. Shortly after Lee signed the measure into law, the Tennessee chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights groups filed suit against state officials to challenge it.

The Texas state senate passed a similar bill, which would make it a felony—punishable by jail time—for a voter to provide false information on a voter registration form or cast a ballot when the person is ineligible to vote, even if it’s an honest mistake and the ballot is not counted. The Texas House of Representatives is now considering the bill.

I fully expect the Florida law to be challenged in court, but it’s obvious that the Republicans in Tallahassee and other state capitals where they are beginning to find themselves in a bind for their blatant rigging of the system: both Michigan and Ohio’s congressional districts that were gerrymandered within an inch of their lives by GOP legislatures have been tossed out by the courts.  (In a fitting bit of irony, an Ohio legislator who is a defendant in the case complained that this ruling is politically motivated and will only help Democrats win elections.)

This is just more evidence to add to the steaming pile already accumulated on the stable floor that the only way Republicans can truly win an election — even after they lose — is by cheating and changing the rules.

Friday, April 26, 2019

America Does Not Negotiate With Terrorists

We just pay them the ransom they demand.

North Korea issued a $2 million bill for the hospital care of comatose American Otto Warmbier, insisting that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay it before being allowed to fly the University of Virginia student home from Pyongyang in 2017.

The presentation of the invoice — not previously disclosed by U.S. or North Korean officials — was extraordinarily brazen even for a regime known for its aggressive tactics.

But the main U.S. envoy sent to retrieve Warmbier signed an agreement to pay the medical bill on instructions passed down from President Trump, according to two people familiar with the situation. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The bill went to the Treasury Department, where it remained — unpaid — throughout 2017, the people said. However, it is unclear whether the Trump administration later paid the bill, or whether it came up during preparations for Trump’s two summits with Kim Jong Un.

The White House declined to comment. “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration,” White House press secretary ­Sarah Sanders wrote in an email.

If Barack Obama had done something even close to that, the right-wing and Fox News would have had him impeached by sundown.  But apparently this is how the Art of the Deal works: send us a bill and we’ll talk.

I wonder how much money we’ve paid to the widows of Nigerian princes.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Speaking Of Hypocrites

Franklin Graham on Pete Buttigieg:

As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized.

So this Trump-sucking grifter gets to define someone else’s faith?  This from someone who not only flaunts his religion but along with his fellow con artists Jerry Falwell, Jr, Pat Robertson, and any number of other so-called “evangelicals” who sold their souls and their robo-call operations for political expediency and exploitation of the foolish and the weak?  Are you fucking serious?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Monday, February 4, 2019

If He Goes, So Should They

I don’t know if Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will resign — the Washington Post is hinting at an unscheduled staff meeting this morning, so there’s that — and I am having trouble with him having trouble getting his story straight on the thirty-five-year-old yearbook picture.

But one thing I’m sure of is that any Republican that demands he quit should also insist on the resignation of Rep. Steve King of Iowa who displayed a Confederate flag on his desk and unapologetically defended being a white nationalist, or, for that matter, Sen. Mitch McConnell, who posed for a photo in front of a Confederate flag.  And while we’re at it, anyone in the GOP who still wonders about Barack Obama’s citizenship or blames the victims when a black man is shot by police for a busted taillight.

We’ll see what Gov. Northam will do to make amends, but he’s not alone in the room.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Nice Work If You Can Get It

From the Washington Post:

While many federal workers go without pay and the government is partially shut down, hundreds of senior Trump political appointees are poised to receive annual raises of about $10,000 a year.

The pay raises for Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, top administrators and even Vice President Pence are scheduled to go into effect beginning Jan. 5 without legislation to stop them, according to documents issued by the Office of Personnel Management and experts in federal pay.

The raises appear to be an unintended consequence of the shutdown: When lawmakers failed to pass bills on Dec. 21 to fund multiple federal agencies, they allowed an existing pay freeze to lapse. Congress enacted a law capping pay for top federal executives in 2013 and renewed it each year. The raises will occur because that cap will expire without legislative action by Saturday, allowing raises to kick in that have accumulated over those years but never took effect, starting with paychecks that will be issued next week.

Cabinet secretaries, for example, would be entitled to a jump in annual salary from $199,700 to $210,700. Deputy secretaries would be entitled to a raise from $179,700 to $189,600. Others affected are under secretaries, deputy directors and other top administrators.

The pay of Pence is scheduled to rise from $230,700 to $243,500.

There was no immediate comment Friday by the White House. A spokesperson for Pence also did not immediately provide comment.

The White House will explain it by saying that these people really deserve it because they are working very hard for the American people and that while the optics may be awkward, who can deny that they’ve earned it?  And besides, it’s the Democrats’ fault because they wouldn’t fund the wall… or the fence… or the slats.  Whatever.  Amirite?

And of course the Fox News people will defend it and the drooling base will buy the load of bullshit because America.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Good Housekeeping

Via the New York Times:

During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.

She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.

This is the real thing about undocumented workers: they are an essential part of our economy.  Not only that, they’ve risked life and limb to get here to do jobs that many so-called “real Americans” wouldn’t do such as make Donald Trump’s bed (that gives me the creeps just writing about it).

But they’re a convenient and easy target for political exploitation — they have no super PAC to buy their way to power — and so Trump can go to some rally in Alabama, rail about the hordes of illegals, and come home to nice clean sheets and a clean house thanks to Ms. Morales.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tax Free

According to the New York Times, Jared Kushner hasn’t paid federal income taxes for years.

That may outrage normal people, but to the Trump base, the MAGA crowd, and the rich-beyond-sanity club, they see that as a feature and want to get in on it.

Of course when the deficit shoots through the stratosphere and there are cuts to programs that might affect them, such as infrastructure (states rely on getting funds from the federal government to rebuild bridges and schools), they’ll complain about red tape and waste and fraud and abuse by bureaucrats.

And of course they say everyone should pay their fair share.  Just not them.  Or anyone like them.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday, April 9, 2018

Voicing Concerns

From the Washington Post:

Three Republican senators expressed concern Sunday about embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt amid growing scrutiny over his spending and management practices.

Sens. John Neely Kennedy (La.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Susan Collins (Maine) voiced worry about Pruitt’s conduct in interviews on morning television talk shows. Their comments came hours after President Trump defended Pruitt, writing on Twitter that he was doing “a great job.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) also defended the EPA head. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to comment on Pruitt’s situation but said he was certain the president had reviewed it.

The sharpest Republican criticism came from Kennedy, who said Pruitt ought to hold a “full-blown press conference” to address the criticism he has received.

Scott Pruitt’s antics and corruption would make Boss Tweed proud and the harshest punishment these senators can come up with is for him to hold a press conference?  Gee, we’re edging right up to cruel and unusual.

The GOP long ago forfeited the right to hold anyone else accountable, so when they try it again — “Clinton/Lynch/tarmac!” — they can just shut up.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Money Well Spent

Via the Salt Lake Tribune, your tax dollars hard at work:

Taxpayers paid for two hotel stays that former Rep. Jon Stanard, R-St. George, allegedly used for a tryst with a prostitute.

Greg Hartley, chief of staff for the Utah House, said Friday that records show the state paid for hotel rooms at the Fairfield Inn in Salt Lake City on exact dates that a call girl told the Daily Mail of London that Stanard paid her $250 apiece for two one-hour sessions of sex.

“We do have hotel receipts,” he said. Hartley provided copies, showing that the state paid $112.60 for each of the two days hotel charge.

Stanard resigned abruptly on Tuesday, two days before the British newspaper published its allegations.

I heard he resigned abruptly in order to take a job in the White House.

“Due Process”

Well, of course Trump is all in favor of “due process” and not “rushing to judgment” and giving “the benefit of the doubt” to the fine men who worked for him but have resigned from their jobs in the White House because of allegations of domestic abuse.

Oddly enough, though, he didn’t seem too worried about those details when he was talking about Hillary Clinton and her e-mails, or the Central Park Five, or just about anybody else that he doesn’t like.

I wonder why.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Annals Of Hypocrisy Part Infinity

Tony Perkins, the Jesus-shouting busy-body head of the severely irony-challenged Family Research Council, has no problem with Trump committing adultery as long as he does his bidding for God and separate toilets.

Perkins knows about Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claimed, in a 2011 interview, that in 2006 she had sex with Trump four months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. He knows of the reports that Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) was paid off to keep the affair quiet in the waning weeks of the 2016 election. He knows about the cursing, the lewdness and the litany of questionable behavior over the past year of Trump’s life or the 70 that came before it.

“We kind of gave him—‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins told me in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.

Weigh a paid-off porn star against being the first president to address the March for Life live via video feed, and a lot of evangelical leaders insist they can still walk away happy.

Evangelical Christians, says Perkins, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

Wait; I thought Obama was a weak-willed, lily-livered pushover.  But then again, Perkins should know all about bullies; he and his mob have done enough in the name of the Sky Faerie to earn a place in Hell.

What a fucking hypocrite.

Oh, and lest we forget, Charlie Pierce reminds us that 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Great Penis Hunt.  So in twenty years we’ve gone from hounding a president to the edge of impeachment for getting an illicit blow job to electing one who brags about it.  Yay.

Friday, January 12, 2018

You Said It

Since no one who has been following the news for the last couple of years was surprised in the least that Trump called Haiti and El Salvador and other places with a majority of non-white citizens “shithole countries,” the fun part was watching TV or reading online and finding out which commentators or journals would actually use the word “shithole” on the air or in print.

The Washington Post, which broke the story, shocked some readers by putting the vulgar word in its headline — a rare occurrence in the paper’s 141-year history.

“When the president says it, we’ll use it verbatim. That’s our policy,” said Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor. “We discussed it, quickly, but there was no debate.”

Such a comment made by the president, especially in front of several witnesses, is newsworthy, no matter how reprehensible it may be, said Ben Zimmer, a linguist and lexicographer who writes a language column in The Wall Street Journal.

“It was incumbent on media outlets to present what he said without extradition or euphemization,” he said.

That’s exactly what many of them did. In an unusual move, the word “shithole” was repeated in print and on air Thursday evening, in capital letters on the CNN and MSNBC headlines that appear on the lower part of the screen. Fox News censored the word with asterisks.

Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News warned viewers that the story would not be appropriate for younger viewers, while ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir said the president used “a profanity we won’t repeat.”

But CNN’s Phil Mudd embraced the expletive in condemning the president’s language, citing his Irish and Italian ancestry and the slurs once used against immigrants from those countries.

“I’m a proud shitholer!” he told Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer. “In the 1940s, we called people traitors because they came from a shithole country we call Japan. And we’re ashamed.”

For those who write dictionaries, the repetition of “shithole” on television and on the Internet was “the sort of thing we call a party,” wrote Kory Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam Webster.

You could actually see that the network news broadcasters were getting a bit of adolescent glee out of being able to say the word on the air without fear of reprisal from the FCC; it’s like they’re actually enjoying it.  (The folks on cable TV did too, but they don’t have to worry about government oversight.  They just had fun with it.)

As for the newspapers, even the New York Times, ever the Aunt Pittypat of decorum, allowed the word to be used full-tilt in the body of the story but kept it out of their headlines.  Oh my stars and garters.  (The New York Daily News didn’t use the exact word in their headline, but a picture is worth a thousand asterisks.)

It’s also fun to see how quickly he blew up all the carefully choreographed message from the White House that he was both in control and a stable genius.  The mad scramble came from people checking their betting slips on how soon he would do something to torpedo that meme: who had under 24, 48, or 72 hours?  (Meanwhile, Eric Greitens, the governor of Missouri, is sending a box of candy and a dozen roses to the White House for knocking his sex scandal into the “In Other News” abyss.)

Since it’s not a news flash that Trump is a bigot and a racist, the only thing left now is gauging the reaction to the fact that even his staunchest supporters can’t hide behind the dog whistles that he’s been hardly using since long before he emerged as a presidential candidate. He was sued for racial discrimination in housing in the 1970’s, so it’s not like we didn’t know.  Now we get to see how all the Trumpistas, especially the ones who railed about character counting during the Clinton years, explain to the rest of us that labeling entire nations as shitholes is “shocking” without alienating the base of the voters who agree wholeheartedly with him.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Obstructed View

We have yet to hear from the Justice Department on whether or not Trump can be indicted for obstruction of justice.  Remember that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has recused himself from the case so of course he’s not going to say anything publicly, but he’s certainly made his views known in the past about a president’s criminal liability, so we can rest assured that he will be consistent in his opinion.

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer argued Monday that, as the nominal head of federal law enforcement, the president is legally unable to obstruct justice. But the exact opposite view was once argued by another senior Trump lawyer: Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In 1999, Sessions – then an Alabama senator – laid out an impassioned case for President Bill Clinton to be removed from office based on the argument that Clinton obstructed justice amid the investigation into his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

“The facts are disturbing and compelling on the President’s intent to obstruct justice,” he said, according to remarks in the congressional record.

Sessions isn’t alone. More than 40 current GOP members of Congress voted for the impeachment or removal of Clinton from office for obstruction of justice. They include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – who mounted his own passionate appeal to remove Clinton from office for obstruction of justice – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who was a House member at the time.

In all, 17 sitting senators supported the obstruction of justice charge against Clinton in 1998 and 1999.

“The chief law officer of the land, whose oath of office calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, crossed the line and failed to defend the law, and, in fact, attacked the law and the rights of a fellow citizen,” Sessions said during Clinton’s trial in the Senate, two months after he was impeached by the House. “Under our Constitution, equal justice requires that he forfeit his office.”

So if that was the case then — Clinton HAD to be impeached — the same standard should be applied to Trump, right?

Of course not.  It’s totally different.  Y’see, Trump’s a Republican.  Case closed.  Move along.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Random Thought

Conservatives and Christian zealots applauded when a county clerk in Kentucky defied the law based on her religious beliefs, and they’re about to elect a senator in Alabama who ordered judges in that state to also defy the law based on his religious beliefs. But they got their tits in an uproar about a silent protest that breaks no law and is in keeping with various religious traditions including Mennonite, Quaker, and Amish.

What am I missing here?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Annals Of Hypocrisy

Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator and he got what he deserved by being fired by his own company.  Democrats who got money for their campaigns from him have denounced him and turned the donations over to charity.

Meanwhile the Republicans who took money from Roger Ailes and the Murdochs, sucked up to Bill O’Reilly, and still supported the pussy-grabber in the White House have been trying to play gotcha.  And because the media is obsessed with the notion that “both sides do it,” they’ll get away with their flaming hypocrisy.  Again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Harvey vs. Sandy

Not that anyone should begrudge giving as much help as possible to the people of Texas, but it is interesting to see how much the Republicans from Texas who voted against aid for recovery from Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast in 2013 now want a blank check from the federal government for recovery from Harvey.