Thursday, March 24, 2022

Run Roughshod

Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post was not impressed by the hapless response by the media and Democrats to the behavior of Republican bullies.

The only thing more stunning than the off-the-rails Republican badgering and constant interrupting of Ketanji Brown Jackson at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Wednesday was the utterly inaccurate and inapt media coverage. “Tense.” “Heated.” “Confrontational.” “Tough.” Was that really the proper way to describe the hearings?

From much of the mealy-mouthed coverage of the circus, one would have a hard time guessing that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) angrily interrupted Jackson over and over again and shouted over hapless Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) as he lamely pleaded, “at some point you have to follow the rules.” (Was he not responsible for enforcing those rules?)

Similarly, from the media descriptions, one might not have understood the extent of the nonstop bullying from Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and his disgusting accusation that Jackson, a mother of two and circuit court judge, did not think child pornography was a “bad thing.” And one might have never imagined that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) plowed over the same debunked allegations about her being “soft” on child pornography defendants. Jackson, after hearing the same disingenuous questions repeatedly, eventually resorted to saying that she stood by her prior answers.

How is it that the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court was treated so shabbily? Let’s first dispense with the typical whataboutisms from Republicans. Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett M. Kavanaugh, during their confirmation hearings, were given the chance to answer questions without persistent interruptions. (And it was Kavanaugh who lost his cool, not the Democrats questioning him.)

Let’s also acknowledge the obvious: Cruz, Hawley and other Republicans operate as content providers for right-wing media, generating clips designed to upset and anger the MAGA base. They are competing to be the most aggressive in anticipation of possible presidential runs.

The rage machine exists because “normal” Republicans do not put an end to it. What if, for example, more than a couple Republicans denounced the mockery their colleagues made of a serious process? What if they acknowledged that Jackson is eminently qualified and voted for her?

It is not the fault of Republicans alone. Durbin failed to enforce the Senate Judiciary Committee’s rules, allowing members to constantly badger Jackson. While tough questioning is entirely appropriate, the obnoxious manner and utter irrelevance of topics (Cruz harped on a schoolbook on racism in an attempt to pull Jackson into an utterly inappropriate debate on critical race theory) suggested the judge was not entitled to the same level of courtesy and respect shown to other nominees.

Rather than intervene, Democrats on the committee went on with their prepared list of questions. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) made a strong objection, but outside the hearing room where most Americans would not hear it. “You had a Republican member who went way over the time allotted to him, ignored the rules of the committee, badgered the nominee, would not even let her answer the questions,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. I’ve been here 48 years.”

Not until Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the only African American on the committee, spoke did Republicans get their deserved pushback. He excoriated Hawley for his misleading line of questioning, reading from a National Review column that deemed his allegations “meritless to the point of demagoguery.” To Jackson, he said, “You have sat with grit and grace” and stressed that her “joy” would not be taken away from her. “God has got you!” His sermon-like tribute brought tears to her eyes, a rare show of emotion on her part.

The media might be able to curtail such haranguing if they accurately described what had happened. For reasons that confound me, reporters often play down the extraordinarily obnoxious behavior of Republicans, instead casting it as the normal back-and-forth nominees encounter. The refusal to call out Republicans for departing the bounds of civilized conduct allows the MAGA crowd pleasers to escape the judgment of average people who might be offended by their conduct.

The media in particular fails to convey the visual image of angry White men screaming and interrupting a Black woman, who dares not show anger for fear of being labeled unprofessional or lacking the correct temperament. Combined with the insinuations about her “softness” on child pornography and the hysterics on critical race theory, the aggression barely masked the Republican outpouring of White grievance.

It behooves Republicans who do not approve of this travesty to speak up. Meanwhile, Democrats should use their majority position to put an end to such conduct (cut off Republicans’ microphones or conclude the hearing until they act appropriately), and the media should not provide camouflage for it. The refusal to afford a historic nominee with respect she deserves and to denounce baseless accusations speaks volumes about our collective failure, still, to reckon with the original sin of racism.

Fun fact: Sen. Ted Cruz, who cared on about “critical race theory,” the 1619 Project and books about gender identity like a banshee in heat, sends his daughters to a school in Houston where those books are on the shelves of the library and are part of the curriculum. Hypocrisy much?

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Annals Of Hypocrisy — Fatal Consequences

From Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald, conservatives who claim to support the police show their true colors.

Gunther Hashida killed himself last week.

We don’t know why. At this writing, we don’t even know how.

What we do know is that Hashida, an 18-year veteran of the D.C. police force, is the fourth cop to die by his own hand after responding to the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol. What we do know, having heard testimony from four of Hashida’s colleagues last week before a House select committee, is that the cost of defending the Capitol was high, both in physical terms — bones broken, eyes gouged, skin split — and in emotional ones.

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, along with D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone, all used the same word to describe the emotional toll of that day: trauma.

Which brings us to another thing we know. Which is that none of the suffering these men endured seems to have made the slightest impression upon most so-called conservatives, or caused them to waver in their core mission to preserve, protect and defend Donald Trump. And there is no lie they won’t tell, no principle they won’t betray, no line they won’t cross, to do so.

Indeed, Tucker Carlson of Fox “News” actually snickered while mocking the officers’ emotional distress. His colleague, Laura Ingraham, accused them of “third-rate theatrics.” And a quartet of congresspersons — Gaetz, Gosar, Gohmert and Greene — sought to distract from the hearing with a simultaneous press conference about “political prisoners,” i.e., jailed rioters. They were driven off by protesters.

All this was about two days before Hashida was found dead. And while correlation is not causation, it does make you wonder.

In defending the Capitol, he and his fellow cops joined a great continuum of those who took personal risks to make and preserve America. They ventured — and often lost — blood, bone, sanity and lives for the sake of ideals that they felt justified the sacrifice.

By contrast, the only thing so-called conservatives are asked to risk is political position and the ire of Donald Trump. It seems a comparatively small price to pay in service to America. Which makes it all the more pathetic that most of them can’t.

It’s telling that people who were so fulsome in their outrage when a Target store was burned after the police murder of George Floyd, who were so righteous in their fury when Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police violence against African Americans, can muster so little empathy for cops who defended the Capitol — our Capitol — against the worst attack in over 200 years.

Is human compassion so hard for them? Is simple decency so foreign? Is courage such a stranger?

Apparently so. Many of us have lionized Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney for crossing party and ideological lines to support these cops — and that’s a sad statement. What they’re doing should not be heroic. What they’re doing — putting the country first — should be the norm.

Certainly, this is what police did on Jan. 6. Now, again, one of them has taken his own life. If you — police officer or not — are pondering that recourse, consider this a plea on behalf of those who love you, to get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

As to Gunther Hashida, again, we don’t know much. But here’s one more thing we do know: He was willing to sacrifice for this country and, now, so-called conservatives mock that valor. This cop deserved better.

They all did.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Annals Of Hypocrisy — Part Infinity

Never let it be said that Mitch McConnell can’t excel at being the world’s biggest hypocrite.  Via TPM:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said on Tuesday that recent comments made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging corporations stay out of politics projected “a whiff of desperation.”

The comments calling out McConnell’s shameless desperation amid the corporate protest over a restrictive new voting law in Georgia, come after the Kentucky Republican offered an about-face on Monday regarding the role of corporations in politics.

“I found it completely discouraging to find a bunch of corporate CEOs getting in the middle of politics,” McConnell said during a press conference in his home state on Monday. “My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics. Don’t pick sides in these big fights.”

The assertion comes after McConnell has routinely leveraged corporate power for political gain. McConnell’s campaign has for years lined its coffers with corporate donations and even outpaced other candidates in 2020’s election cycle for donations from CEOs of companies on the S&P Index, according to MarketWatch.

The posture from the Kentucky lawmaker also comes after years of fiercely defending the funneling of corporate cash into politics, insisting that businesses have both rights to free speech and a right to boost preferred candidates to influence elections.

McConnell was the plaintiff in a landmark case against the Federal Elections Commission in 2003 challenging campaign finance reform that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and was an outspoken supporter of the 2010 ruling that ultimately defended corporate spending in politics.

This comes, of course, after his utterly shameless pirouette on Supreme Court nominations during an election year.

The GOP’s stance on boycotts and economic leverage is situational, as is all of their policies.  They were all for — or kept silent on — Trump’s calling out for bans and boycotts of any number of corporations that riled him, but carried on about how mean the progressives were to Chic-Fil-A for their anti-gay corporate donations and now the State of Georgia for bringing back Jim Crow.  So this new railing by McConnell is nothing at all new, and will be about as effective.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Today’s Chutzpah

Taking credit for a bill you voted against.

Before the House gave final approval to a $1.9 trillion stimulus package on Wednesday without any Republican support, Speaker Nancy Pelosi admonished Republicans for their opposition to the measure, declaring, “It’s typical that they vote no and take the dough.”

As if to make her point, Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, tweeted approvingly just hours after the bill passed about the $28.6 billion included for “targeted relief” for restaurants. His post did not mention that he had voted no.

“I’m not going to vote for $1.9 trillion just because it has a couple of good provisions,” he later told reporters.

Mr. Wicker’s post received an unwelcome reception on Twitter, prompting thousands of responses, many of them pointing out that he had voted against the measure, known as the American Rescue Plan.

A lot of Republicans are going to try to horn in on the credit, like they did with Obamacare and the 2009 stimulus, but I’m hoping that their next opponent in the 2022 race will remind the electorate that they voted against it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Now They Want Civility

Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to run the OMB, is running into trouble from the Republicans in the Senate because she wrote mean tweets.

Tanden is amply qualified for the job. She is not accused of failing to pay her taxes or hiring an undocumented household worker. She is not on the ideological fringes. There has been no scandal in her personal life.

Her supposedly unpardonable sin is . . . incivility. Specifically, she used intemperate language on Twitter.


Tanden has deleted the worst of her posts and apologized. Which is more than can be said for Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who in November tweeted this about Tanden and a clergyman who is now his Senate colleague from Georgia: “.@neeratanden’s tweets read like a @ReverendWarnock sermon: Filled with hate & guided by the woke left. Just as he’s unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate, she’s unfit to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.”

The sanctimony of Republican senators is newfound and rich, given how unstirred they were by the most powerful social media bully on earth leading their party from the White House for the past four years. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who has declared Tanden “radioactive,” said last June, after Donald Trump tweeted one of his egregiously false conspiracy theories: “You know a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”

Let it be noted that both Cotton and Cornyn stood by while the former guy ran roughshod over everyone on the Twitter machine.

What a bunch of hypocrites. And how unsurprising.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

It’s Not The Sex

I don’t care what someone else does in the privacy of their own home and life to get their rocks off, and if Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his wife need to have a hot 20-year-old pool boy to get to le petit mort, then knock yourself out.  But when you spend your life and scam millions of tax-free dollars from gullible and useful idiots to carry on like white trash in a hurricane to raise a stink about other peoples’ sex lives, then you deserve the karma and the mockery and the public shaming that comes with it.

Jerry Falwell Jr. agreed to resign as president of Liberty University on Monday, according to the university’s general counsel, after a series of sordid scandals rocked the school he has led since 2007.

Falwell, a real estate developer who became a passionate defender of President Trump, took over the Christian university his father helped found to evangelize the world in 2007. His leadership dramatically increased the school’s growth and clout, but critics increasingly worried he had lost sight of the university’s spiritual mission.

Falwell agreed to resign from the school’s presidency and board of directors Monday but then reversed course, according to a statement from David M. Corry, the university’s general counsel, telling his attorneys not to tender the letter for immediate resignation.

The school’s executive committee met Monday and plans to meet again Tuesday morning, followed by a conference call with the full board of trustees.

Opposition to his presidency had been growing but came to a dramatic head after two new reports about a young man Falwell and his wife befriended at a Florida pool, went into business with and who allegedly was sexually connected to the couple. One report painted Falwell as the victim of an obsessive affair, the other as an eager participant manipulating a naive young man. On Monday night, Falwell said that a Reuters report, which described him as having watched his wife having sex with another man, is false.

This sort of shenanigans is nothing new for televangelists and con men — often the same thing — and the number of them who have been caught in a love nest with rent boys and prostitutes is legion. It’s the hypocrisy and the fleecing of the flock that is the scandal, not to mention the fact that they have been able to do all of it while not paying a dime in taxes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Not Welcome At All

Noted in the Washington Post in the article about the tributes to Rep. John Lewis at the Capitol:

Trump, whom Lewis publicly clashed with and declared “illegitimate,” told reporters outside the White House on Monday that he would not be attending the memorial events.

Good. At least he’s being honest about his disdain for everything that Mr. Lewis stood for.

And it’s unseemly to be booed at a funeral.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Some Statement

I think it says a lot about the state of our nation when there are headlines and BREAKING NEWS banners on TV about one senator bucking his party and actually voting to convict Trump because of the evidence presented to him as a juror at trial.

In the wider world, Mitt Romey didn’t do anything that would warrant a Jimmy Stewart/Frank Capra movie; it’s not as if he really put his job at risk, and while I applaud him for showing what today could pass for courage in the face of the shitstorm he’s wrought, it shouldn’t be amazing or stunning that someone did the right thing.  What it does tell us is that the rest of his party and their anvil chorus of hypocrites and sycophants in the Orcosphere lack the moral stability of a honey badger and that they have no more foundation for moral clarity than a pimp.

What is really pissing off Trump and his horde is the fact that Sen. Romney stole their “perfect” exoneration moment away; they can’t say that every single Republican stood with Trump, and worse, he became the story, not Trump’s victory waddle around the Rose Garden.  And while I have always found the people who justify their actions based largely on their religious convictions to be both boring and suspect, I have to say that Mr. Romney’s testimony of faith sounds suspiciously like he’s been reading Faith and Practice, the Quakers’ owners manual, by risking material and earthly gains to take a stand based on something more than just political considerations.  It’s not what you wear on your sleeve but hold in your heart that really matters.

Like most of these kerfuffles, it will be over in a week and I’m very certain that in November the state of Utah will be solidly behind Trump and that Mr. Romney will be re-elected when he’s on the ballot again.  But for one news cycle, we saw at least a vertebrate moment in what is usually a sea of Jello and blubbering cowardice and mendacity.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Little Twerp Is Back

Ralph Reed, the flaming hypocrite of “Christian” family values, is peddling a new screed that instructs all true believers to back Trump because… oh, who cares.  He’s never been anything more than just a grifter and a con man who’s gotten by on his quickly-fading rent-boyish charm who, instead of selling Earth Shoes or swampland in Collier County, Florida, happened on the flocks of pigeons who will gladly fork over their savings for his brand of Jesus.

This little twerp made his name screaming about Bill Clinton’s penis and is now telling us that pussy-grabbing is “low priority” because he thinks he’s getting what he wants from Trump.  Apparently he’s crafty enough to sell this to the foolish and the weak, but not smart enough to know that Trump will use him like he has everyone else and then never look back.

He’s got nothing to do with god or Christianity.  He and Trump deserve each other.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Just Another Grifter

Amanda Marcotte in Salon explains why the news about Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his secret life as a South Beach hipster wanna-be and sex pervert won’t dissuade the Jesus-shouters from sending him money.

On Monday morning, Politico published a major exposé on Jerry Falwell Jr., the religious right’s most influential supporter of Donald Trump and the president of Liberty University, an evangelical institution formed by his father, Southern Baptist minister Jerry Falwell. Writer Brandon Ambrosino paints a damning picture of the younger Falwell as a man unrestrained by his own religion’s teachings on sexual morality or any other kind of Christian ethics.

The laundry list of malfeasance and inappropriate behavior is impressive, “from partying at nightclubs, to graphically discussing his sex life with employees, to electioneering” and “directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains.”

The most titillating story, previously reported by the Miami Herald, concerns the fact that Falwell and his wife, Becki, seem to have have an interesting sex life involving sharing naked photos with other men — men who, likely not coincidentally, enjoy healthy levels of financial assistance from the Falwells and Liberty University. For instance, Politico reports that Falwell sent pictures of his wife in “a French maid costume” to their personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite. They also used Liberty funds to set Crosswhite up as the owner of a lucrative gym.

There’s a lot more of this sort of thing, making it quite clear that Falwell is a first-rate hypocrite who poorly hides a love of power, luxury and sexual freedom behind a facade of Christian piety.

But it’s foolish to imagine that any of this will affect Falwell’s political power or standing with the larger white evangelical community. The pretense that the religious right was motivated by faith and morality was dropped — or should have been — when white evangelicals flocked to vote for Trump in greater numbers than they did for George W. Bush, who if he was convincing about little else, was convincingly a man of faith.

Here’s the thing: The real purpose of the Christian conservative movement is to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy, full stop. As long as Falwell Jr. keeps that up — as his father did before him — his flock will stick with him just as they’ve stuck with Trump, a thrice-married chronic adulterer who has bragged about sexual assault on tape.

So calling out the Falwells for being flaming hypocrites and wondering why the so-called Christian evangelicals don’t turn on him is a waste of energy.  They’re just doing what they were hired to do, just as the late Jerry Falwell, Sr. did: maintain the white man’s death grip on power by whatever means necessary, and if it meant selling out their faith and their followers to do it, so what?  They never cared about them in the first place as long as the money kept coming in.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Trump And Evangelicals: Thick As Thieves

Via the Washington Post, a lot of evangelicals are just fine with supporting an adulterous misogynistic homophobic narcissistic con man: they’re in the same racket.

Trump enjoyed overwhelming support from white evangelicals in 2016, winning a higher percentage than George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. That enthusiasm has scarcely dimmed. Almost 70 percent of white evangelicals approve of Trump’s performance in office, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll.

Interviews with 50 evangelical Christians in three battleground states — Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — help explain why. In conversation, evangelical voters paint the portrait of the Trump they see: a president who acts like a bully but is fighting for them. A president who sees America like they do, a menacing place where white Christians feel mocked and threatened for their beliefs. A president who’s against abortion and gay rights and who has the economy humming to boot.

I’ve always known that those evangelical Christian preachers were less about spreading their mythology and more about controlling other people’s lives and picking the pockets of their flock, and they’ve been peeing on the campfire of mainline Christians ever since they realized they could get away with it.

Their hypocrisy is legion: they hate abortions but won’t support a child once it’s born (or gladly pay for their mistress’s abortion with a credit card to get travel points). They bemoan marriage equality and rights for the LGBTQ community because it threatens “traditional values,” but are proud to destroy their own family when it turns out they have a gay son or lesbian daughter or brother or sister or mom or dad by throwing them out. Or better yet, check their Grindr profile and hook up with “HotDiscreteMusclBoy” at the Courtyard by Marriott over by the interstate.

They’re all too happy to tell other people how to live their lives but do nothing to help their own community struggling with poverty and opiod addiction or domestic violence or mass shootings because “thoughts and prayers” are good enough.

They detest immigrants from other countries, especially the brown ones who don’t speak their language, which is ironic in the supreme because the messenger they believe is the son of their god was basically an anchor baby born out of wedlock to an immigrant woman who was most likely a person of color and couldn’t come up with enough money to afford decent health insurance.

And they’re happy to support and vote to re-elect a charlatan who embodies everything they purport to deplore because he’s conned them into thinking they’re gonna get rich. Isn’t there a passage somewhere in their book of fables about the love of money being the root of all evil? It’s just another lesson they completely forgot, along with the ones about love thy neighbor as thyself, feed and clothe the stranger, and judge not lest ye be judged.

I get it that they feel mocked and threatened for their beliefs. That’s because their beliefs are hateful, anti-democratic, and authoritarian.  It’s not surprising that they’re mocked and threatened: they brought it on themselves. Martyrdom only works if you’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good of humanity.  But if all you’re suffering for is being a controlling and vacuous gasbag, go ahead and drop dead for all anyone cares.

But, Karma, thou art a heartless bitch. It is a concept that transcends religious boundaries. It’s Newtonian: what goes around, comes around. At some point, sooner hopefully rather than later, both Trump and these sniveling Jesus-shouting bigots and hate-mongers will get their comeuppance. The sad part is that the lesson will be lost on them and they’ll come weeping and wailing about how they were so blind to be taken in by Trump and the preachers that went along with him and were in on it. It will be hard to refrain from mocking them. Maybe we should offer them “thoughts and prayers.”

Friday, July 26, 2019

Rank Hypocrisy

Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, got his tail all puffed up because the committee had the nerve to issue subpoenas for Ivanka Trump’s e-mails.  Remember, this is the dude who went on a rant about Hillary Clinton’s “33,000 missing e-mails.”

He got a schooled by Rep. Rashia Tlaib.  Enjoy.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Novel Approach

Following up on this post from May 8 about the interesting relationship with Jesus-shouter/con man Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his relationship with Giancarlo Granda, a young and enterprising pool boy from Miami, the Miami Herald is getting in on the story.

The sun was setting at the Cheeca Lodge resort in Islamorada when Jerry Falwell Jr. smiled for the camera, a national evangelical leader nearing 50 posing next to a young man he had met poolside in Miami Beach.

The photograph shows Giancarlo Granda, a handsome, 20-something pool attendant whom Jerry and his wife, Rebecca, 52, befriended at the Fontainebleau hotel in 2012, and within months, would set up as part-owner and manager of a $4.7 million South Beach hostel.

It was an unusual partnership: The president of the largest Christian university in the world, a school that prohibits gay sex, agreeing to operate a Miami Beach hostel, regarded as gay friendly, in conjunction with a “pool boy” with virtually no hotel management experience after they met at the storied Fontainebleau, a favored South Florida vacation ground for the Falwells. Yet there they were, not only business partners but mingling socially at Cheeca, an idyllic, exclusive resort in the Keys.

The relationship between the Falwells and Granda forms the backdrop of an improbable Miami story that is causing political ripples beyond South Florida. It involves a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, the “pool boy” as he is described in the lawsuit, the comedian Tom Arnold, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s now imprisoned political fixer, naked photographs — and a Miami father and son who say they were defrauded in a real estate deal then forced to change their names due to “threats.”

It’s a sideshow to the 2020 political campaign that’s just getting started with the first Democratic debate scheduled next week in Miami.

Falwell, 57, who took over the mantle of Liberty University following the death of his father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., has denied the suggestion that in 2015 he sought help from Cohen, who told Arnold in a surreptitiously taped conversation that he embarked on a mission to recover “personal” photographs involving the Falwells.

There’s a trashy romance novel in there, and I’m going to write it.

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

Random Thought

I’m not going to defend or excuse former Vice President Joe Biden’s alleged touching of anyone, but any Republican who calls him out for it had better be ready to be greeted with derisive laughter in light of who they have foisted upon us in the White House.

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.