Thursday, January 19, 2017

Where The Hate Comes Screaming Down The Plain

Not to be outdone by Texas, North Carolina or Kentucky in January, Oklahoma Republicans are now in contention for the worst legislation so far in the very young year of 2017 as they attempt to enshrine compulsory anti-LGBTQ bigotry into state law.

In 2016, Oklahoma set a record for the most anti-LGBT bills introduced in one session, worsting Texas from the year before. Fortunately, legislative deadlines kept them from advancing, but now one lawmaker is back with what appears to be one of the most extreme “religious liberty” proposals any state has considered. 
Behind the measure is Sen. Joseph Silk (R), who has an extensive record of particularly anti-LGBT legislation and statements. He calls his new bill, SB 197, the “Oklahoma Right of Conscience Act,” but it explicitly enables discrimination against LGBT people — and possibly just about anyone else! 
SB 197 ensures that no one ever has to provide any services used in or to promote “a marriage ceremony or celebration of a specific lifestyle or behavior.” Additionally, such denials will be immune to any civil claim or governmental penalty. In fact, if someone tries to sue or the government takes an adverse action against the person who discriminates, that person will actually have a claim to “recover all reasonable attorney fees, costs, and damages” incurred as a result of the “violation.” 
The proposal seems to borrow from two other prominent pieces of legislation, Mississippi’s currently-unenforceable HB 1526 — which specifically enables discrimination against LGBT people — and the proposed First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which protects people who might discriminate against same-sex couples from any governmental penalty. Congressional Republicans are very optimistic about passing that bill given President-elect Donald Trump’s assurances that he would sign it.
Though the use of “marriage ceremony or celebration” seems to suggest that, like the other bills, SB 197 is designed to target same-sex couples for discrimination, the language is so broad that it could allow quite a bit more. 
There is virtually no limit to what “specific lifestyle or behavior” an Oklahoma wedding vendor could imagine to justify refusing service to a person. As written, the law would make it legal for them to discriminate against vegetarians, people with tattoos, people who tweet in ALL CAPS, people who are left-handed, people who enjoy shopping at Target, or people who enjoy the musical Oklahoma! a bit too much, as examples.

And again, the larger story is that Republicans are going to put the "First Amendment Freedom Act" on Trump's desk within the next couple of months, if not weeks, enshrining bigotry into federal law and almost certainly destroying state-level LGBTQ protections in the process.

It would be eminently unconstitutional, but given this regime, I fully expect that to no longer be the case for long.

The Creamsicle Cabinet

When Trump says "Make America Great Again" judging from his cabinet selections "America" is about 90% white men, a few white women, Ben Carson, Nikki Haley, and Mitch McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao.  With Trump reportedly tapping former Georgia GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, that means for the first time since 1988 there will be no Hispanic members in the Cabinet.

Donald Trump's Cabinet is poised to become the first since 1988 without any Hispanic officials — a huge disappointment for members of the nation's second-largest ethnic group — as reports indicate he'll tap former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for agriculture secretary.

Two Hispanic Texans were under consideration for the post: former U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, a San Antonio Republican, and Elsa Murano, a former Texas A&M president and former undersecretary for food safety.

"We're extremely worried. This is anti-democratic," Hector Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, an umbrella group of 40 advocacy organizations, asserting that Trump is undoing decades of progress toward more inclusion.

Ronald Reagan named the first Latino to the Cabinet in 1988 when he picked Texas Democrat Lauro Cavazos for education secretary. Cavazos, a former Texas Tech president, stayed on under George Bush. Every president since, from both parties, has had at least one Hispanic in the Cabinet at all times.

"Trump has not only been the most anti-Latino, anti-immigrant president in the history of the nation. By not including Latinos in the Cabinet he is just showing how he is planning to govern," Sanchez said, noting that Latinos now account for 17 percent of the U.S. population. 

Carson has zero experience in running an agency like HUD (and has said so), Haley has zero foreign policy experience (and has said so), and ironically the one actual person in the Orange Cabinet who is actually qualified to be there is Chao, as Dubya's former Labor Secretary, as an obvious sop to her husband.

I'm thinking that it's almost an accident that Trump's cabinet has any diversity in it at all.  Hispanic voters should definitely be thinking that.  And Mouth of Sauron Sean Spicer?

Asked Wednesday about the dearth of Hispanics in the Cabinet, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer called it more important to pick people who can do the jobs well.

"He has continued to seek out the best and the brightest to fill out his Cabinet," Spicer said. "We have 5,000 positions and I think you're going to see a very strong presence of the Hispanic community" among senior administration appointments and White House staff.

"I don't have any concern about diversity," he said.

It's pretty apparent you don't, guys.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

The Trump regime assumes power in less than 48 hours, and we have this bombshell from McClatchy's Peter Stone and Greg Gordon on the Kremlin possibly funding the Trump campaign.

The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said. 
The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry. 
The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said. 
Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.

That the Trump Organization as a front for Russian money laundering has long been a unifying theory in the story of Moscow's involvement with our elections, but this story intimates that multiple intelligence and law enforcement agencies took that possibility seriously for months.  Apparently this is a much, much bigger story than the January 6 report let on, and it definitely looks like FISA warrants were issued in conjunction with the investigation.

So again, we have serious evidence that our next president is a Russian asset.

What will anyone do about it?

Read more here:

The Big Orange Basement

It's only now that the prospect of "President Trump" is sinking in with his supporters and that he won't serve as any sort of check on unlimited GOP lunacy, with Americans only growing more and more horrified at him over the last two months.  As such, he'll be entering office Friday with the lowest starting approval rating of any president in recent history.

It has been 10 weeks since Donald Trump was elected president, and more Americans disapprove (48 percent) than approve (37 percent) of the way he has handled his presidential transition. They are split on his cabinet picks. Views divide heavily along party lines.

Just days before his inauguration, Donald Trump’s favorable rating (32 percent) is the lowest of any president-elect in CBS News polling going back to Ronald Reagan in 1981, when CBS News began taking this measure.

However, a majority of Americans are at least somewhat confident in how Mr. Trump will handle the economy, ISIS and U.S. trade policy. Fewer are confident in his decisions on foreign policy and illegal immigration.

President-elect Trump gets more negative than positive marks for the handling of his Presidential transition. Forty-eight percent disapprove of the job he is doing, while 37 percent approve.

Confirmation hearings for some of Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments are underway. Americans are divided over Mr. Trump’s choices for his Cabinet, similar to last month.

On both of these matters, views are highly partisan. More than seven in 10 Republicans approve of how Mr. Trump has handled his presidential transition and his cabinet choices. Most Democrats disapprove.

Evaluations of Mr. Trump’s cabinet appointees are more negative than those of his two immediate predecessors: seven in 10 Americans approved of the cabinet appointments of Barack Obama, and six in 10 approved of those appointed by George W. Bush. 
More broadly, Donald Trump will enter the White House with the lowest favorable rating of any president-elect in CBS News polling going back to Ronald Reagan in 1981. Thirty-two percent have a favorable view of Mr. Trump, while 42 percent view him unfavorably. In 2009, 60 percent held a favorable view of Mr. Obama, and just nine percent had an unfavorable view of him. George W. Bush had a 44 percent favorable rating in Jan. 2001, and Bill Clinton had a 45 percent approval rating. Ronald Reagan came into office with a 47 percent approval rating. Still, unfavorable views of Mr. Trump have declined since he was elected in November.

Trump is already in the low 30's and I think it's going to get worse for him from here.  Unfortunately, it also means things are going to get a lot worse for Americans too.

Still, expect Republicans to shout MANDATE while ripping the last 80 years of classic federal liberalism apart.  It's really too bad that the GOP will do unprecedented damage to the country and the wealthy will loot the treasury completely before voters will be able to do much of anything to stop them.

If we, you know, still have elections.

Heavens To Betsy, What A Mess

The Trump regime's pick for Minister of School Privitization Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a trainwreck of a choice whose only seeming qualification is that she donated millions to Republicans on the Senate committee overseeing her confirmation process.  Her hearing Tuesday was a disaster all around as she gave risible answers to questions from Democrats.

On Tuesday, Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s Education Secretary nominee, answered a question about the presence of guns in schools during her confirmation hearing by saying students need protection from grizzly bears.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D) asked DeVos, “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?”

DeVos said that is decision “best left to locales and states to decide.”

When Murphy asked her again, DeVos said, “I will refer back to Senator Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming … I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

When Murphy was a member of the House of Representatives, he represented the district including Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 elementary school students and six school employees were gunned down in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Murphy invited DeVos to come to Connecticut and “talk about the rule of guns in schools.”

When asked whether DeVos would support the president-elect’s plan to ban gun free zones, she said, “I will support with the president-elect does. If the question is around gun violence and the results of that, please know that my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.”

Bears.  We have to have guns in schools because of bears.  Oh, but DeVos is far worse than just on guns in the classroom.

Since her nomination, DeVos hasn't said much publicly about her views on education—or whether she plans to defend the separation of church and state in public schools. (DeVos declined Mother Jones' request for an interview, but a Trump transition team spokeswoman replied in an email, "Mrs. DeVos believes in the legal doctrine of the separation of church and state.") However, in a 2001 interview for "The Gathering," a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy, she and her husband offered a rare public glimpse of their views. Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, "There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God's Kingdom."

Said Dick DeVos: "As we look at many communities in our country, the church has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity…[I]t is certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education."

Although the DeVoses have rarely commented on how their religious views affect their philanthropy and political activism, their spending speaks volumes. Mother Jones has analyzed the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation's tax filings from 2000 to 2014, as well as the 2001 to 2014 filings from her parents' charitable organization, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. (Betsy DeVos was vice president of the Prince Foundation during those years.) During that period, the DeVoses spent nearly $100 million in philanthropic giving, and the Princes spent $70 million. While Dick and Betsy DeVos have donated large amounts to hospitals, health research, and arts organizations, these records show an overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools and evangelical missions and conservative, free-market think tanks, like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center, that want to shrink the public sector in every sphere, including education.

This woman will be our next Education Secretary with a lifelong mission to completely dismantle public schools and replace them with private education and religious education.

I actually miss Arne Duncan.  And I hate Arne Duncan.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Last Call For Cryer's Remorse

There seems to be a whole heck of a lot of buyer's remorse for Trump among the demographic of white women who voted for him (by ten points I might add) and they're only now just figuring out what total control of women's rights in the hands of Republicans means: things like the end of Planned Parenthood here which bothers USA Today contributor Melody Forbes.

I voted for Donald Trump because I wanted to see change in our country. One change I didn’t want to see was access to health care at Planned Parenthood blocked. 
But Republican congressional leaders have already promised to do just that, with a provision to stop reimbursements for the health care Planned Parenthood provides. 
Just like one in 5 women across the country, I went to Planned Parenthood here in Arizona in my 20s for health care. I was newly divorced, unemployed and uninsured, and I needed health services I could not otherwise afford. 
These are services every woman needs at some point, and they are at risk. Vice President-elect Mike Pence and anti-women’s health members of Congress are pledging to attack Planned Parenthood and block patients from essential care, as they have threatened to do as many times as they could in last 10 years. The difference this time is that they think President-elect Trump, as a Republican, will sign the bill. 
It doesn’t make any sense for Trump, who said he would defend the American people from politics as usual, to sign a bill like this. Millions of mostly low-income people who rely on Planned Parenthood for essential health care like birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, well-woman exams and more, would no longer have access within their communities. And people who already face outsized barriers to getting care, especially people of color and people in rural communities, would face additional hurdles. A bill to defund Planned Parenthood doesn’t cross out a line in the federal budget — it stops people with Medicaid from being able to go to Planned Parenthood for basic reproductive health care.

Well all that is true, but Trump is going to sign the bill anyway because he's promised to do just that.

Yes, because as long as they do the abortion I am not for funding Planned Parenthood but they do cervical cancer work. They do a lot of good things for women but as long as they’re involved with the abortions, as you know they say it’s 3% of their work, some people say it’s 10%, some people say it’s 8%, I hear all different percentages but it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re involved with abortion, as far as I’m concerned forget it, I wouldn’t fund them regardless. But they do do other good work. You look at cervical cancer. I’ve had women tell me they do some excellent work so I think you also have to put that into account but I would defund Planned Parenthood because of their view and the fact of their work on abortion.”

So the question remains ma'am...why the hell did you vote for Trump if Planned Parenthood is that important?

So Long And Thanks For All The Net Neutrality

That the Trump team wants to get rid of net neutrality measures to protect consumers is a given and almost 100% assured at this point.  But remember, Trump is vindictive and destructive, so the real plan is to all but dismantle the FCC completely to make sure the commission never has power to actually do anything ever again.

President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is reportedly pushing a proposal to strip the Federal Communications Commission of its role in overseeing competition and consumer protection.

Multichannel News has what it calls an exclusive report that says the incoming Trump administration has "signed off on an approach to remaking the Federal Communications Commission." The plan, offered by transition team members appointed by Trump, "squares with the deregulatory philosophies of FCC Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly," who will take a 2-1 majority after Trump's inauguration on Friday, the report said.

Besides restructuring FCC bureaus, the majority of the transition team wants to "eventually move functions deemed 'duplicative,' like, say, competition and consumer protection, to other agencies, particularly the Federal Trade Commission," Multichannel news reported. The story cites "sources familiar" with a recent meeting involving Trump officials and FCC transition team members. The Trump team has not made any on-the-record statements about specific plans for the FCC.

Pai and O'Rielly have already promised to take a deregulatory approach to broadband and telecom industries, and it's within their power to do so. But that doesn't mean the Trump administration could unilaterally reduce the FCC's authority in such a way that the changes last beyond Trump's presidency. Congress would have to be involved in a permanent reduction of FCC authority, though that isn't inconceivable as Congressional Republicans have previously said they'd like to overhaul the Communications Act that gives the FCC its authority.

The FCC transition team appointed by Trump has six people including three individuals affiliated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), namely Roslyn Layton, Jeffrey Eisenach, and Mark Jamison. The majority plan offered by the transition team "was said to dovetail with comments from Eisenach and Layton to Congress in 2014," which said FCC "functions are largely duplicative of those of other agencies," Multichannel News reported.

In other words, say goodbye to the FCC's power to protect American internet consumers as Trump will almost certainly assure internet near-monopolies, total lack of competition, and Americans paying some of the highest internet prices of any developed country.

But after all, that's what you voted for, right?

As Goes Ohio, Goes The White House

Trump's win in Ohio wasn't just impressive for a Republican, in more than a third of Ohio counties it was an historic margin of victory for a Republican president.

With the ascension of Donald Trump coming this week, we decided to look again at Ohio’s presidential election results — and stumbled across some amazing facts that perhaps shed a different light on his victory than what we’ve seen to date. 
In 22 counties — exactly a quarter of Ohio’s total — Trump rolled up the largest percentage of any Republican ever. Yes, that’s since 1856. 
So that’s higher than the Bushes, Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt and several Ohio GOP presidents — all the way back through Abraham Lincoln. 
In 11 additional counties, the Trump share of the vote was the second highest for a Republican in Ohio history. 
Seven of the 22 record-breakers were in southeastern Ohio.

Trump won the Ohio counties along the Kentucky and WV borders by huge margins, and that gave him the state.  He also flipped Montgomery County, where Dayton is.

While much of the focus since Election Day justifiably has focused on traditionally Democratic counties that swung Trump’s way, a pair of new story lines emerges from these numbers. 
One is that many marginally Republican counties went for Trump in a big way. For example, coal country neighbors Belmont and Monroe counties each gave Mitt Romney about 53 percent support in 2012. But this time, 68 percent of Belmont’s voters and 72 percent of Monroe’s went for Trump. 
The other is that numerous faithfully Republican areas went huge for Trump. Adams County, at the southern tip of the state east of Cincinnati, registered from 61 to 63 percent support for every GOP candidate from 2000 on — until last year, when it backed Trump with 76 percent. 
Even Mercer County, the western county that went for Romney with 76 percent, topped that mark with an amazing 81 percent for Trump.

It was a long time coming, but at this point Ohio must be considered a strong red state.  Democrats need to look to somehow securing North Carolina and Florida if they wish to win in 2020.   The good news is that demographics favors the Dems there and in Virginia, not so much in the Midwest anymore.

Outside Illinois and Minnesota, the Dems are in trouble.  They've been dismantled in the Rust Belt locally.  Hopefully Trump will go a long way towards people giving the Dems another chance. Hopefully.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Last Call For The Piggy Bank And The Sledgehammer

Trump's picks to fill his cabinet aren't even pretending anymore to be anything other than outright grifters.  Take HHS pick Rep. Tom Price, who has plenty of experience ripping off taxpayers by playing the ol' pick-a-winner game as a member of Congress.

Rep. Tom Price last year purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company, raising new ethics concerns for President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary. 
Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares last March in Zimmer Biomet, according to House records reviewed by CNN. 
Less than a week after the transaction, the Georgia Republican congressman introduced the HIP Act, legislation that would have delayed until 2018 a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented
Zimmer Biomet, one of the world's leading manufacturers of knee and hip implants, was one of two companies that would been hit the hardest by the new CMS regulation that directly impacts the payments for such procedures, according to press reports and congressional sources. 
After Price offered his bill to provide Zimmer Biomet and other companies relief from the CMS regulation, the company's political action committee donated to the congressman's reelection campaign, records show
If confirmed, Price will be a key player in Trump's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump last week said a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare will be submitted "as soon as" Price is confirmed. He will appear before the Senate health committee this week, but must also appear before the Senate Finance Committee. 
The new revelation is the latest example of Price trading stock in a health care firm at the same time as pursuing legislation that could impact a company's share price. The issue has become a major liability for the congressman after The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health companies while pursuing legislation that could impact them.

I mean they're not even pretending anymore.  No wonder Republicans are so eager to get rid of ethics oversight and independent watchdogs.  The Trump era is going to make Republicans stinking rich as they profit directly and indirectly from legislation for corporate lobbyists at the expense of taxpayers.

But really, Hillary something something emails, so we had to elect them, right?

Brazile Nuts

I guess it was a requirement, but here we have Donna Brazile apologizing for the DNC's catastrophic screw-up in 2016 as the party still searches in vain for someone who manages to meet the bar of "not as much of a screw-up as Debbie Wasserman Schultz".

Donna Brazile, the outgoing interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, kicked off a series of “future forums,” which will select her replacement, by apologizing for the party's 2016 defeats.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it: We failed,” Brazile said. “We made some serious mistakes and some strategic errors. We got cocky about our invincible blue wall, and then we saw it crumble because of just a few thousand votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.”

Brazile was elevated to interim chair after the release of emails stolen from the DNC effectively forced Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) from the role. Wasserman Schultz, who was then facing a stiff primary challenge for her South Florida congressional seat, became a villain for supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who blamed her for a late-skewing and limited schedule of primary debates.

But the well-liked Brazile came under fire from another set of stolen emails, including two she'd sent to Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, informing him that CNN — where she was a political analyst — had shared possible primary debate and forum questions with her. That ended her time at CNN.

In her Phoenix remarks, Brazile defended the DNC employees who had spent the second half of 2016 being exposed by hacks.

“Let me just say how proud I am of the DNC and all the staffers who lived through that,” Brazile said. “They were attacked and harassed every day — often attacked by the people who should know better.”

Brazile also condemned the online conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a young DNC staffer who was fatally shot last July in Northwest Washington, had been killed in a DNC coverup.

Russian hackers, she said, had ended up enlisting the media in a campaign of sabotage.

We failed under extraordinary circumstances,” she said. “If you are an American, you are a victim of a hostile attack, a murderous dictator who wanted to affect the election. They hired an army of trolls to spread lies and distract from the real issues.”

Which is true, and as I've said before the notion that the DNC screwed up and the Russians helped the GOP can both be simultaneous factors in Clinton's loss.  But my benefit of the doubt for whoever replaces Brazile will at this point be zero.  Whoever does get her job will need to start delivering immediately on getting the Senate back in 2018, or we're not going to have a country much longer.

Schumer Makes The GOP An Offer

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has made it crystal clear: If Republicans repeal ObamaCare without immediately implementing a plan to replace it, Democrats will not help them out of a pickle down the road.

Senate Democratic sources familiar with Schumer’s thinking say he will not engage in any negotiations to pass a watered-down version of the landmark healthcare reform law if Republicans unilaterally force its repeal first under special budgetary rules.

“That’s not a close call. They’re doing something so extraordinary reckless. You cannot reward hostage taking,” a Democratic senator said. The Democratic senator said.
Republicans have refused to work with President Obama for six years to come up with fixes to improve the law because they wanted to heighten its unpopularity and score political points.

Now, even if the GOP can secure a repeal through the budget reconciliation process – which requires only a majority – they’ll need support from at least eight Democrats to hit the 60 votes needed to pass repeal legislation.

The senator said Schumer’s view and the prevailing view in the Democratic Caucus is that they should not lift a finger to help Republicans out of a political mess if they repeal the healthcare reform law without having a replacement ready to avert severe market disruptions.

The spoiler is that the GOP has nothing of the sort.  In fact, they don't have a replacement at all, and haven't had a replacement for the six years that they've been trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.  Schumer is making the right call here: let the Republicans completely own getting rid of health coverage for tens of millions of Americans, and let them completely own trying to replace it.

Of course Republicans will never replace Obamacare, no matter what magical unicorn bullshit Donald Trump is pushing, so it's up to Schumer to make sure that they know up front whatever to try will need Democratic help, which means Chuck is in the driver's seat. We'll see. 


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