Thursday, October 19, 2017

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

I've talked before about the multiple mistrials in the case of Shannon Kepler, a white former Tulsa cop who shot his daughter's 19-year-old black boyfriend, Jeremey Lake, in cold blood and claimed self-defense.  Lake didn't actually have a weapon on him as Kepler claimed, but juries deadlocked three times when it came to murder charges.

Oklahoma state prosecutors settled for manslaughter charges instead on the fourth trial, and this week a jury found Kepler guilty and recommended a sentence of 15 years.

Jurors deliberated about six hours before finding ex-Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler, 57, guilty of the lesser charge in the August 2014 killing of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler's then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa. 
The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 20. 
Lake's death occurred four days before a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9, 2014. Michael Brown's killing touched off months of protests and became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, which decries police violence against minorities and calls for greater transparency from law enforcement officials, especially in cases of officer-involved shootings. 
The issue of race had also become an undercurrent in each of Kepler's previous three trials, with only one African-American being selected for each jury and accusations by civil rights activists that Kepler's attorneys were purposely trying to exclude potential black candidates. 
Another racial element had been recently added to the case when Kepler argued that he couldn't be tried by state prosecutors because he's a member of an American Indian tribe. A judge determined the fourth trial in less than a year could move forward in state court. Kepler says he's 1/128th Muscogee (Creek). 
Kepler's attorneys said the 24-year-police veteran was trying to protect Lisa Kepler because she had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Defense attorney Richard O'Carroll said Lisa had been in and out of a homeless shelter after her father forbade her from bringing men home into the house.

A white cop killed his daughter's black boyfriend because he knew he would never be convicted.  He was right on that as far of being convicted of premeditated murder, no Oklahoma jury would ever convict a white cop on murder one, a lifetime of police retaliation would be just the least of the jury's problems.

But manslaughter has a different burden of proof, and the jurors were willing to convict on that.  Whether or not Kepler ever serves a day in prison based on sentencing, bail and appeal, that's anyone's guess.

Cleaning House At The DNC

DNC Chairman Tom Perez is finally taking the axe to some long-time dead wood at the DNC, and of course nobody's happy about it.  But the reality is that DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison lost the fight to lead the DNC, and that means Perez gets to call the shots.  Now that Perez is finally doing that, people are pissed off.

A shake-up is underway at the Democratic National Committee as several key longtime officials have lost their posts, exposing a still-raw rift in the party and igniting anger among those in its progressive wing who see retaliation for their opposition to DNC Chairman Tom Perez.

The ousters come ahead of the DNC's first meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada, since Perez took over as chairman with a pledge earlier this year that he would unite the party that had become badly divided during the brutal Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton 2016 primary.

Complaints began immediately after party officials saw a list of Perez' appointments to DNC committees and his roster of 75 "at-large" members, who are chosen by the chair.

The removal and demotion of a handful of veteran operatives stood out, as did what critics charge is the over-representation of Clinton-backed members on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which helps set the terms for the party's presidential primary, though other Sanders and Ellison backers remain represented.

Those who have been pushed out include:
  • Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic chairman and longtime DNC official who ran against Perez for chair before backing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., lost his spots on the Executive Committee and DNC Rules Committee;
  • James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and prominent Sanders backer, is no longer co-chair of the Resolutions Committee and is off the Executive Committee, a spot he has held since 2001;
  • Alice Germond, the party’s longtime former secretary and a vocal Ellison backer, who was removed from her at-large appointment to the DNC; and
  • Barbra Casbar Siperstein, the first transgender member of the DNC who supported Ellison and Buckley, was tossed from the Executive Committee.

The moves exposed a rift in the partnership between Perez and his deputy chair, Ellison, who have publicly broadcast their "bromance" since Perez tapped the lawmaker for the post in a show of unity after their hard-fought race earlier this year for the party's chairmanship.

"I’m concerned about the optics, and I’m concerned about the impact," Zogby said of the changes. "I want to heal the wound of 2016."

"I understand the chair can do as he pleases, but still, it's all just very disappointing," Buckley said.

Germond has been on the DNC since the 1980s.

"It is quite unusual for a former party officer who has been serving on the DNC for like forever to just be left out in the cold without even a call from the chairman," said Germond, who was a vocal Ellison backer for DNC chairman. "So I assumed it had something to do with myself support for Keith."

"I understand that I fought very hard for Keith Ellison. And I understand that to the winners go the spoils," she added.

Zogby in particular has been a pain in Perez's ass for a year now, but his consolation prize is he remains co-chair of the party's Unity and Reform Commission, so his damage can be limited.  Backing a guy who's not even in the party means that maybe you shouldn't be in charge of said party's major committees, just saying.

Whether or not Perez can actually get anything done heading into 2018, we'll see.  I didn't have high hopes for Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the previous DNC chair and she failed to meet even that low bar. Hopefully he won't have his won organization strangling him from behind when Trump and the GOP are trying to destroy 80 years of classic liberalism in the United States.  I guess maybe that's too much to ask for.

Go figure.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

We've known for a while that the Trump campaign was actively benefiting from Russian social media manipulation, but Spencer Ackerman and the Daily Beast's crew have now connected the Trump campaign directly to a Russian propaganda outlet pretending to be the digital voice of the Tennessee GOP.

Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director and son, pushed tweets from troll accounts paid for by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign.

The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,” was operated from the Kremlin-backed “Russian troll farm,” or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast.

The account’s origins in the Internet Research Agency were originally reported by the independent Russian news outlet RBC. @Ten_GOP was created on November 19, 2015, and accumulated over 100 thousand followers before Twitter shut it down. The Daily Beast independently confirmed the reasons for @Ten_GOP's account termination.

The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment, “for privacy and security reasons."

And several times, including before and right up to the election, the Trump campaign helped spread tweets from the fake account.

Two days before election day, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a post by @Ten_GOP regarding Hillary Clinton’s email.

“Mother of jailed sailor: 'Hold Hillary to same standards as my son on Classified info' #hillarysemail #WeinerGate” the tweet reads.

Three weeks before the election, Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director, retweeted a separate post from @Ten_GOP.

“Thousands of deplorables chanting to the media: "Tell The Truth!" RT if you are also done w/ biased Media!” the tweet read.

President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. followed the account until its closure on August 23rd of this year. Trump Jr. retweeted the account three times, including an allegation of voter fraud in Florida one week before the election.

“BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida Please, RT,” the tweet read.

Trump Jr. also retweeted the account on Election Day.

“This vet passed away last month before he could vote for Trump.. Here he is in his #MAGA hat.. #voted #ElectionDay,” the account wrote.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn retweeted the Russian-backed troll account at least once. His son, Michael Flynn Jr., retweeted the account 34 times before it was removed from Twitter in August for its ties to Russian propaganda.

The account notably pushed for Flynn’s reappointment as Trump’s national security advisor, a job Flynn lost after press revelations that he’d lied about his telephone discussions with the Russian ambassador after the election hacks. It also repeatedly pushed Breitbart-backed talking points, including a fake news story about a gang rape in Twin Falls, Idaho that merited dozens of articles from Breitbart News.

And even though this was clearly a fake account, it had over 100k followers (mostly Russian bots of course) and was challenged and reported by the actual Tennessee GOP account @tngop, Twitter allowed it to continue even after being suspended in July. In fact, the @Ten_GOP account was operating up until six weeks ago when it was shut down by Twitter as part of the service's crackdown on fake Russian propaganda accounts.

But the larger story is that this account was specifically retweeted multiple times by the Trump campaign.  They knew to do it, and knew to retweet this particular account.  It's the most obvious evidence yet that the Trump campaign was an active participant in spreading Russian propaganda on social media, propaganda designed to help the Trump campaign win in 2016.

This one is big, guys.  And you'd better believe there's more evidence like this coming.

Bevin's Pension Deficit DIsorder

Today came the announcement of Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin's super double top secret plan to fix the state's unfunded pension liability problem, and since what Matt Bevin believes is that the problem is that "Kentucky state employees are people who should be paid and everything" his solution pretty much fixes that "oversight".

After months of planning and closed-door negotiations, Gov. Matt Bevin and GOP legislative leaders on Wednesday released a plan they say begins to tackle Kentucky’s multibillion-dollar pension debt while honoring promises to retirees and public employees. 
As expected the plan calls for transitioning most public employees from traditional pension plans to 401(k)-like plans – but it does so in a much more gradual way than recommended by the Bevin administration’s pension consultant. 
New workers and teachers will go into 401(k)-like plans, but instead of immediately shifting current state and local government workers to 401(k)s, those workers would be able to remain in their current pension plans for 27 years.

Current teachers with 27 years of service also would be moved to the 401(k)-style savings plans. But their plans will be more generous than those of other public employees to compensate for the fact that teachers do not draw Social Security benefits.

To avoid a rush of teacher retirements, those teachers will be given an option of remaining in their current traditional pension plans for three additional years.
And both current and future workers in “hazardous duty” jobs like law enforcement would not go into the 401(k)-type plans. They would retain their current pension benefits instead. 
The plan also would bring legislators, who have more generous benefits, into the retirement system of other state employees. And it would end the ability of teachers to use accumulated sick days to boost their pension benefits – but not until July 1, 2023. 
And the plan would begin to pay for pensions under a new approach “that mandates hundreds of millions more into every retirement plan, making them healthier and solvent sooner,” a summary of the plan said.

“If you are a retiree, if you are working to be a retiree at some point, you should be rejoicing,” Bevin said. “... It guarantees by law that your pension is going to be funded. There will be no more kicking of the can down the road.” 
Some immediate response to the plan questioned Bevin's statement that all promises have been kept. 
"I think the plan includes some very harsh cuts to benefits," said Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. Bailey said the handouts summarizing the plan say cost-of-living increases for teacher retirement benefits would be suspended for five years and that teachers and other public employees will have to pay more for health care benefits.

So, cops and firefighters get full benefits, but teachers and other state employees get benefit cuts and have to pay more into the system in order to fund it.  The suspension of cost of living increases is pretty ridiculous.

Meanwhile, Bevin's too busy playing Good Cop, Bad Cop to actually get the plan signed into law.

Bevin has said all year that he would call a special legislative session in 2017 for lawmakers to pass a reform plan to set the state on course to pay off pension debts. Those debts are officially listed at more than $40 billion, but Bevin estimates them at more than $64 billion. 
The plan released Wednesday is only an outline of the bill to be considered. And Bevin did not say when that session will begin. 
“As soon as we are ready,” he said when asked when he will call the session. “There’s still a little ‘I’ dotting and ‘T’ crossing” before that announcement, Bevin said. 
The plan is much friendlier to employees and retirees than many of the highly controversial recommendations offered in August in a report by the administration’s Philadelphia-based consultant – PFM Group. It does not, for instance, call for raising the retirement age for public employees or the clawing back of any benefits earned by current retirees. 
“Nothing is changing for retirees," Bevin said. "They’re going to be getting everything they’re getting now.”

That's a lie, of course.  But the devil is in the details, and not word of those details has been written yet.

We'll see.

The Commander, Chiefly In Need Of A Soul

When it comes to basic empathy for human beings, Donald Trump's circuits are emotionally cauterized.

President Donald Trump told U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson's widow Tuesday that "he knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens, it hurts anyway," when he died serving in northwestern Africa, according to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens.

"Yes, he said it," Wilson said. "It's so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn't have said it."

The president called about 4:45 p.m. and spoke to Johnson's pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, for about five minutes. She is a mother to Johnson's surviving 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. The conversation happened before Johnson's remains arrived at Miami International Airport on a commercial Delta Airlines flight.

A top advisor later told Local 10 News "The president's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private."

Wilson watched as the widow, who is expecting their third baby in January, leaned over the U.S. flag that was draping Johnson's casket. Her pregnant belly was shaking against the casket as she sobbed uncontrollably. Their daughter stood next to her stoically. Their toddler waited in the arms of a relative.

There was silence.

Local politicians, police officers and firefighters lined up to honor Johnson for his service and for the efforts and discipline that got the former Walmart employee to defy all odds and become a 25-year-old member of the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Johnson, who participated in a mentorship program Wilson founded in 1993, died during a mission fighting alongside Green Berets. Islamic militants ambushed them on Oct. 4 with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The team reportedly didn't have overhead armed air cover and was in unarmored pickup trucks. Reuters reported the lack of planning upset the French.

So Trump's response, two weeks after American soldiers were killed in Niger in an ambush, is "he knew what he signed up for" to a serviceman's pregnant, grieving widow.

Let that absolute lack of empathy sink in, folks.  He has no empathy because he's incapable of it.  He is incapable of empathy because his clinical narcissism is so pathological that he cannot process the basic human function of being able to emotionally relate to anyone other than himself, because that would require him to give a damn about somebody other than Donald Trump.

You might be able to get away with saying that this was a case of nerves, or early term jitters, except that lack of empathy has driven pretty much every decision Trump has made since attaining the office, and he's proven that lack of empathy again and again.

The man is a monster.  Like I said, pathological.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

The Senate investigation grows deeper as the focus shifts to former Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and now we learn from NBC News that this focus includes Flynn's son, Michael Jr. as well.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has requested documents and testimony from Michael G. Flynn, the son of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but has not received a response, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. 
The committee, which is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, is interested in Flynn’s work as his father’s aide and travel companion with Flynn Intel Group, the consulting firm retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn formed after he left government service, the sources said. 
Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner, of Virginia the ranking Democrat, declined to comment when asked about the matter Monday by NBC News. 
Michael G. Flynn’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, declined to comment. 
The younger Flynn, 34, accompanied his father on a 2015 trip to Moscow, where the elder Flynn sat next to Vladimir Putin at a dinner to celebrate Russia’s state-funded media network, RT. The younger Flynn can be seen in video from an associated event. 
Ultimately, the committee could issue a subpoena to Flynn if he doesn’t comply, but he could assert his right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 
NBC News reported last month that the younger Flynn is a subject of the criminal and counterintelligence investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is also interested in Flynn’s work with his father’s consulting business. 
Flynn responded on Twitter to the NBC News report, tweeting on Sept. 14: “I’m not the sub of any federal investigation.”

Mini Moscow Mike was already in Mueller's crosshairs, now the Senate wants him too.  The Flynns are neck deep in Putin's dirty business at this point and the only question in my mind, as with Paul Manafort, is how much damage they do to Trump before they go to prison.

I know, I know, that's when the pardons start coming in hot and heavy, but that leads to the Nixon road, and down that path is the end the of the GOP and a lot of unhappy billionaire donors.  We'll see where this goes but it's a race now to see who gets indicted first, the Flynns or Manafort.

Broken Bad, Or That's Not How Drug Czars Work

Over the weekend, both the Washington Post and CBS's 60 Minutes laid into Trump's nominee for drug czar, Rep. Tom Marino, for essentially writing a bill that made the DEA's job of tracking opioids and stopping massive shipments from drug companies impossible.

In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets. 
By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight. 
A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years. 
The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns
The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino,a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.

That was late Friday, followed with a devastating 60 Minutes piece on Sunday.  A DEA agent named Joe Rannazzisi who was fired from the DEA for criticizing Marino's bill as a deliberate effort to sink the DEA to help drug company profits blew the whistle on the department, in an interview with CBS's Bill Whitaker.

JOE RANNAZZISI: Addiction rate was still increasing. The amount of people seeking treatment was still increasing. It was all increasing. Still, the amount of prescriptions were increasing. And we started slowing down. 
As cases nearly ground to a halt at DEA, the drug industry began lobbying Congress for legislation that would destroy DEA's enforcement powers. That part of the story when we return. 
In 2013, Joe Rannazzisi and his DEA investigators were trying to crack down on big drug distributors that ship drugs to pharmacies across the country. He accused them of turning a blind eye as millions of prescription pain pills ended up on the black market. Then, a new threat surfaced on Capitol Hill. With the help of members of Congress, the drug industry began to quietly pave the way for legislation that essentially would strip the DEA of its most potent tool in fighting the spread of dangerous narcotics.

JOE RANNAZZISI: If I was gonna write a book about how to harm the United States with pharmaceuticals, the only thing I could think of that would immediately harm is to take the authority away from the investigative agency that is trying to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and the regulations implemented under the act. And that's what this bill did. 
The bill, introduced in the House by Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, was promoted as a way to ensure that patients had access to the pain medication they needed. 
Jonathan Novak, who worked in the DEA's legal office, says what the bill really did was strip the agency of its ability to immediately freeze suspicious shipments of prescription narcotics to keep drugs off U.S. streets -- what the DEA calls diversion.

That was Sunday. So now, Marino is out as the nation's direction of drug policy today, his nomination pulled.

Rep. Tom Marino has withdrawn from consideration as the White House’s pick for drug czar following a bombshell report that he championed a bill that hindered federal agents from going after the Big Pharma firms that flooded the country with addictive opioids. 
President Donald Trump made the announcement Tuesday morning on Twitter. 
“Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar,” Trump wrote. “Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!”

Sure he's great.  But when Eric Holder warned that Marino's bill would make the opioid epidemic exponentially worse?

Obama did sign the bill but there was no debate in Congress.

Besides the sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill, few lawmakers knew the true impact the law would have. It sailed through Congress without debate and was passed by unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure reserved for bills considered to be noncontroversial. The White House was equally unaware of the bill’s import when President Barack Obama signed it into law, according to interviews with former senior administration officials.

Marino pulled a fast one...and note that his partner in crime is Marsha Blackburn, running for retiring Tennessee Senator Bob Corker's seat.  Suddenly that race got a whole lot more interesting.

Trump's Uncaring Reality

If you had any doubts that Trump is operating in a zone where reality simply doesn't exist anymore, read John Marshall's transcript of Trump's remarks on Obamacare from Monday.

Health care is moving along. That was a subsidy to the insurance companies and a gift that was what they gave the insurance companies. Take a look at where their stock was when Obamacare was originally approved and what it is today. You will see numbers that if you invested in the stocks, you would be extremely happy. They have given them a total gift. They have given them — you can almost call it a pay off. It’s a disgrace. That money goes to the insurance companies. We want to take care of poor people and people that need help with health care.

I’m never going to get campaign contributions from the insurance companies, but take a look at how much money has been spent by the Democrats and by the health companies on politicians generally, but take a look at the coffers of the Democrats.

The CSR payments have actually brought Republicans and Democrats together. We got calls, emergency calls from the Democrats and I think probably the Republicans were also calling them saying let’s come up with at least a short-term fix of health care in this country. And the gravy train ended the day I knocked the insurance companies’ money. Which was last week. Hundred of millions of dollars handed to the insurance companies for very little reason. Believe me. I want the money to go to the people, to poor people that need it. Not to insurance companies which is where it’s going, as of last week I ended that. We have a lot of interesting things to do. I’m meeting with Mitch McConnell for lunch and we will say a few words after that.

We need health care. We’re going to get the health care done. In my opinion what’s happening is as we meet Republicans are meeting with Democrats because of what I did with the CSR. I cutoff the gravy train. If I didn’t cut the CSRs, they wouldn’t be meeting. They would be having lunch and enjoying themselves. They are right now having emergency meetings to get a short-term fix of health care. Where premiums don’t have to double and triple every year like they’ve been doing under Obamacare. Because Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. You shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore. I said this years ago. It’s a concept that couldn’t have worked. In its best days it couldn’t have worked.

Donald Trump believes he is saving the country from mean ol' insurance companies and that he will be celebrated as one of the greatest presidents in history for saving America from Obamacare. He considers it dead, he considers the battle won, that we'll shower him with praise for unraveling the insurance markets by ending CSR subsidies.

He's bonkers. As Ezra Klein notes, Trump couldn't be doing a better job of sabotaging himself.

President Donald Trump's cancellation of Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction paymentswill increase premiums by 20 percent, cost the government $194 billion in higher subsidy payments, widen the deficit, destabilize insurance markets, increase the number of uninsured Americans, and cause chaos in health markets in the runup to the 2018 election. There is literally nothing in the health care system it makes better; it's pure policy nihilism. So why did Trump do it?

One theory goes that Trump does not believe the payments are constitutional when made in the absence of congressional authorization. This is a widely held view among Republicans, and it has received some affirmation from the courts. But coming in a week when Trump called freedom of the press “disgusting” and mused about yanking NBC’s broadcasting license in retaliation for a story he didn’t like, it has been a hard argument for advocates to make with a straight face. The other problem with this view is that Trump is not pushing Congress to authorize the payments and end any doubt over their legality — he is simply canceling them.

Which brings us to the second theory, which comes from Trump himself and is more plausible. Trump has long held the view that if he can inflict sufficient damage to the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will have no choice but to cut a deal — on Trump’s terms — to save it.

Except as a whole hell of a lot of people have pointed out Trump doesn't need the Democrats to do a damn thing to repeal Obamacare.  He needs Mitch McConnell, not Chuck Schumer, and the GOP still can't get that done.

So now Trump is convinced that in order to stop Trump from destroying health care coverage for millions of Americans, Democrats will help him and vote to take health care coverage away from tens of millions of people, because this is all the fault of Democrats.

Like I said, bonkers.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Playing The Panic Card

House Republicans are both freaking out over Trump and happy to fundraise off his problems, because that's how the modern GOP works in 2017.  The House GOP caucus is warning that Trump throwing them under the bus next year will put the Speaker's gavel in the hands of Nancy Pelosi, assuring Trump's impeachment in 2019, and at the same time they're using the opportunity to raise millions from Trump faithful as a necessary part of maintaining Trump's proto-dictatorship.

Top White House aides, lawmakers, donors and political consultants are privately asking whether President Donald Trump realizes that losing the House next year could put his presidency in peril. 
In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans inside and outside the White House told CNN conversations are ramping up behind the scenes about whether Trump fully grasps that his feuds with members of his own party and shortage of legislative achievements could soon put the fate of his presidency at risk. 
Donors who trekked to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in support of House Speaker Paul Ryan were treated to a slide show late this summer to fundraise off those very fears, according to multiple attendees. Among the slides: An overview of the Democrats who would be tapped to lead key committees if the GOP loses control, including Rep. Elijah Cummings as the head of the House Oversight Committee. 
To some attendees, the subtext was clear. If Republicans forfeit the House, Democrats will almost certainly create a spectacle that will derail conservatives' agenda and the remainder of Trump's first term -- a spectacle complete with a raft of new subpoenas, a spotlight on the Russia investigation and, many are convinced, impeachment proceedings. 
"When Democrats take control of the House they will absolutely move for articles of impeachment," one Trump confidant predicted. 
Alex Conant, a partner at GOP public affairs firm Firehouse Strategies, said Trump should focus on protecting his own party. 
"The number one thing Trump should be doing to save his presidency is helping congressional Republicans maintain their majorities," Conant said. "Instead he's allowing his allies like Steve Bannon to really undermine Republican reelection campaigns. It's just reckless and politically naive considering how devastating it would be to his presidency."

Of course all this is being coordinated by Steve Bannon and the White House.  The entire point is since that fear of liberals moving against Christian white America put Trump and the GOP in office in the first place, maintaining that level of hair-on-fire fear is vital to keeping the money flowing and keeping the GOP in power.

Which means Bannon and company think GOP voters are suckers who will soon be parted with their money.  Surprise!

Of course, the plan works too.  Playing the panic card worked in 2016, after all.

Breaking The NFL Salary Kaep(ernick)

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed from the league ever since he started taking a knee during the national anthem last year as a protest against policy brutality against black and brown folks.  Despite leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl five years ago, the team let him go at the end of the 2016 season and he hasn't been able to even get a workout with any team since.  But now Kaepernick is going to the courts, suing the NFL's team owners for collusion against hiring him in what could be a landmark sports labor case.

The move marks another escalation in the ongoing controversy over sports players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem. The protest movement that began with Kaepernick and a handful of other NFL players in 2016 was suddenly propelled this year after repeated criticisms from President Donald Trump.

The president's attacks, including his call for the NFL to fire players who refused to stand during the anthem, prompted displays of solidarity across the league, with many players, coaches and owners linking arms or kneeled during the anthem.

Still, Kaepernick remains unemployed. The grievance, filed Sunday night, alleges that NFL owners “have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.”

In a statement Sunday, his attorney, Mark Geragos said the complaint was filed "only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives."

"If the NFL (as well as all professional sports leagues) is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protests — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government," Geragos continued. "Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days as a nation. Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance."

The NFL has not yet commented on the complaint, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated previously that Kaepernick is not being blackballed.

I hope Kaep gets a nine-digit payout out of this, and then donates most of the money to fighting police brutality.  The NFL is going to find out that the legal discovery process is a hell of a thing, and if you think fans are upset now, wait until the inevitable evidence of collusion comes out in a court of law.

Pull up a chair.  This ought to be a good show.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Last Call For The Specter Of War

NY Times columnist Nick Kristof has returned from a five-day stay in North Korea and is convinced more than ever that the Trump regime is headed for a devastating military conflict with Pyongyang.

North Korea is the most rigidly controlled country in the world, with no open dissent, no religion and no civil society, and there is zero chance that anyone will express dissatisfaction with the government

Still, the conversations were illuminating. Ordinary North Koreans were unfamiliar with the name of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died days after being returned to the United States in a vegetative state after his detention in Pyongyang for stealing a poster. But they knew all about President Trump’s threats to destroy their country. That’s because the government wants them to know about Trump’s threats, because they bolster Kim’s nationalist narrative that he protects Korea from imperialist American aggressors.

Being on the ground in a country lets you see things and absorb their power: the speaker on the walls of homes to feed propaganda; the pins that every adult wears with portraits of members of the Kim family; the daily power outages, but also signs that the economy is growing despite international sanctions; the Confucian emphasis on dignity that makes officials particularly resent Trump’s personal attacks on Kim; the hardening of attitudes since my last visit, in 2005; and the bizarre confidence that North Korea can not only survive a nuclear war with the U.S. but also emerge as victor.

At one factory, we came upon workers doing their “political study.” North Koreans explained that they have political study for two hours a day, plus most of the day on Saturday, so I asked what they focused on these days. “We must fight against the Americans!” one woman answered earnestly. And then the North Koreans in the room dissolved into laughter, perhaps because of the oddness of saying this to Americans.

A visit humanizes North Koreans, who outside the country sometimes come across as robots. In person, you are reminded that they laugh, flirt, worry, love and yearn to impress.

A military officer greeted me with a bone-crushing handshake, and I asked if that was meant to intimidate and convey to the Yankee imperialists that North Koreans are muscular supermen. He laughed in embarrassment, and when we ended the interview, he was much gentler.

I left North Korea fearing that we are far too complacent about the risk of a cataclysmic war that could kill millions. And that’s why reporting from within North Korea is crucial: There simply is no substitute for being in a place. It’s a lesson we should have learned from the run-up to the Iraq war, when the reporting was too often from the Washington echo chamber rather than the field. When the stakes are millions of lives and official communications channels are nonexistent, then journalism can sometimes serve as a bridge — and as a warning.
Yes, we must carefully weigh the risks — physical risks and the danger of being used by propagandists — and work to mitigate them.

But I have a sinking feeling in my gut, just as I had on the eve of the Iraq war, that our president may be careening blindly toward war. In that case, the job of journalists is to go out and report, however imperfectly, and try to ring alarm bells in the night.

I wouldn't exactly call Kristof's column from January 2003 he links in he last paragraph there an objection to the Iraq War, rather more of a grim resignation of the reality of the mess he admits the Bush administration could (and did) cause.  But he does appears to have a much clearer objection to the North Korean drumbeat as there is no good military solution at this point, and no scenario involving US forces that doesn't lead to millions dead in South Korea.

And yet that seems to be where we are headed at this point.  Every diplomatic overture is crushed by Donald Trump's rapacious ego, China isn't doing very much to stop Pyongyang, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is openly telling people that diplomacy will continue "until the first bombs drop".

I'm hoping that the bluster will pass as Trump becomes embroiled in the fallout from the Mueller investigation and soon, but that too raises the possibility that he could order strikes to stay in power. At this point nothing would shock me anymore.

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