Thursday, July 30, 2015

Last Call For NCIS: Ukraine

I can't imagine why Vladimir Putin would want to stop a UN international tribunal investigation into who's responsible for shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH12 over Ukriane last year.

Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Wednesday that would have set up an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing a Malaysia Airlines passenger airliner last year in eastern Ukraine. 
Eleven countries on the 15-member council voted in favor of the proposal by Malaysia, 
Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ukraine, while three countries abstained: China, Angola and Venezuela. A resolution needs nine votes in favor to pass and no veto by Russia, the United States, China, Britain or France. 
Flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014 with 298 passengers on board, two-thirds of them Dutch. It crashed in Ukrainian territory held by Russian-backed separatists. 
"Those responsible may believe that they can now hide behind the Russian Federation's veto. They will not be allowed to evade justice," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the council. There were 39 Australians on board flight MH17.

She said Australia, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine would now seek an alternative prosecution mechanism.

Good luck with that.

Actually nailing Russia with evidence of an act of war? That won't be tolerated. And Putin continues to gain territory in Ukraine and laugh at the world.

Guess we'll have to crash the price of oil again.

The Donald's Last Laugh

Bloomberg News decided to actually talk to some of these GOP primary voters about why Donald Trump appeals to them, and their answers are exactly what you'd expect.

A Bloomberg Politics focus group of 12 Republican and independent voters who are supportive of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy shed light Wednesday night on the billionaire's swift rise to the top of the GOP field, and confirmed that his brash, “You're fired!” style and lack of experience in politics is more of an asset than a liability.

“He says it like it is,” said Jessica, a data analyst, during the focus group in the first-in-the-nation primary state, conducted by Purple Strategies at St. Anselm College in Manchester. “He speaks the truth.” 
He's willing to tell you his opinion,” Andrew, an educator, said. “So many other politicians won't take an opinion.” 
Many said Trump's success in the business world appealed to them.

“Business, we need business and I like his roughness,” said Danielle, a financial-planning consultant, adding, “He's just tough, we need someone tough.” 
“Donald Trump is strong,” Nick, a home inspector, said. “He carries a sentiment and frustrations that I think a lot of Americans are going through and feeling right now. He's the one that's able to articulate that, and bring those frustrations to light. I believe him when he talks.” 

Of course Trump would be successful.  He's a billionaire.  Billionaires aren't stupid or lazy, otherwise they wouldn't be billionaires, now would they?  He's as American as they come.  Wealth is morality here.

Even as the group praised Trump's directness, some worried it could be his undoing in the race.

“I think potentially, he could cross over with some inappropriate comments,” said Andy, adding, “And it would very much concern me if he was the nominee.” 
“I could see him being a hothead,” Fred, a tax preparer, said.

Trump's remarks about whether McCain, the Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, should be described as a war hero rubbed some in the group the wrong way.

“I thought that was disrespectful,” said Jean, a banker. “Regardless of whether he [McCain] was technically a war hero or not, it was disrespectful.” 
As for Trump's characterization of undocumented immigrants as “rapists,” however, many in the room said it didn't bother them.

Why should it?  Trump doesn't like those people, and neither do Republican primary voters.  Those people are poor, lazy, dirty criminals, not like GOP primary voters, who are real Americans.  And they're tired of candidates tiptoeing around nationalism and racism rather than just admitting that the prospect of becoming a majority minority nation scares the hell out of them.

The GOP is the party of white privilege, and there hasn't been anyone in American history better suited to representing the base than a rich, obnoxious, loudmouth billionaire who has marketed himself into a worldwide brand and can say and do what he wants, and only gets more popular for it.

Though Trump's considerable wealth—which the Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates at $2.9 billion—resonated with those who participated in the focus group, many seemed to regard him as being on the same page as ordinary Americans.

“He's like one of us. He may be a millionaire, which separates him from everybody else, but besides the money issue, he's still in tune with what everybody is wanting,” Janet, a former dog breeder, said.

Trump is "like one of us".  They all want to be him.  And they will vote for him.  He's not going anywhere, folks.

The Kochs Go Shopping

Since the Koch Brothers effectively have their own Republican party apparatus now, when they command 2016 candidates to come running in order to whore themselves out, the candidates at this point are just haggling over the price.

Four leading GOP presidential candidates – Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker – are traveling to a Southern California luxury hotel in coming days to make their cases directly to the Koch brothers and hundreds of other wealthy conservatives planning to spend close to $1 billion in the run-up to the 2016 election. 
The gathering – which also will include former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, but notably not Sen. Rand Paul — is hosted by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the umbrella group in the Kochs’ increasingly influential network of political and public policy outfits. It represents a major opportunity for the candidates at a pivotal moment in the presidential primary.

The crowded field of GOP contenders is competing aggressively for the support of uncommitted mega-donors as the campaign hurtles towards its first debates in what’s expected to be a long and costly battle for the Republican nomination. 
Freedom Partners’ annual summer conference is set for August 1 through August 3, and is expected to draw 450 of the biggest financiers of the right for sessions about the fiscally conservative policies and politics that animate the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch and many of the donors in their network. Most have the capability to write seven- or even eight-figure checks to the super PACs fueling the GOP presidential primary, and a significant proportion have yet to settle on a 2016 choice, or are considering supporting multiple candidates. That includes Charles and David Koch, as well as Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and hedge fund billionaires Paul Singer, both of whom will be represented at the conference by advisers, and a number of other attendees of past conferences whose 2016 leanings are being closely watched. 
The Koch operation is not expected to formally back any candidate in the GOP primary. But the Koch brothers and many of their donors can still play kingmaker roles. In addition to the massive checks many are expected to write to the super PACs aligned with specific candidates, they also serve as bellwethers for other donors.
These are the people that own the Republican party.  What the people in red states and caucus meetings and party conferences at the local and even state level want?  It doesn't matter in the least. These are the people who will buy the next GOP nominee and flood the airwaves with a billion dollars in ads to get you to vote.

And they expect a massive rate of return on their investment.  Most likely they will get it because they've already bought Congress.  But if they get the whole ball of wax, the Republic is done.

New Tag, and one long, long overdue:  The Powers That Be.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Last Call For Black Lives Matter

Here in Cincinnati this afternoon, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters announced the indictment of UC police officer Ray Tensing on charges of murder for the shooting death of Samuel DuBose. The video of Tensing's body cam will be the evidence that most likely sends him to life in prison.

Video of the incident shows Tensing approach the car July 19 and ask Dubose for his driver’s license, but the driver does not do so. 
Dubose insists he has a license and asks the officer to check his name to confirm, but he does not offer any explanation for why he cannot show his license. 
Tensing asks about a bottle he can see inside the vehicle, and Dubose hands him a bottle of gin. 
The officer asks him to be honest and admit if his license is suspended, but Dubose insists that his license is valid. 
Tensing then asks Dubose to unbuckle his seat belt and step out of the car, and the driver starts to do so. 
As he turns to unbuckle the seat belt, he apparently takes his foot off the brake, causing the car to move slightly. 
The officer then draws his weapon and fires immediately, killing Dubose.

That's it.  No warning, no reason, just point blank slaughter.  Because his foot came off the brake slightly.  For this he was sentenced to immediate death.

And then Tensing and the UC police department covered it up.

“He didn’t do anything violent to the officer, he wasn’t dragging him, and he intentionally pulled out his gun and shot him in the head,” said Prosecutor Joe Deters. 
The officer told 911 dispatchers immediately after the shooting that he fired one shot, fatally striking Dubose in the head, because he was “almost run over” during the traffic stop. Tensing said in the incident report that he was “dragged” by the vehicle
“He was making excuses for the purposeful killing of another person,” Deters said. “I’m not saying he’s smart, I’m saying that’s what I think he did.”

Tensing wasn't dragged.  Nothing happened to him at all.  He just executed a man in cold blood for no reason whatsoever.  Then he lied about it, Proseuctor Deters flat out said that without the body camera footage, there would have not been any charges.  Two officers backed up Tensing's outright lies about being "dragged" and the Cincinnati media ran with the narrative.

Until the bodycam video surfaced.  That video is going to put Ray Tensing in prison.  Without it he would still be a free man.  You will never convince me otherwise.

Enjoy your prison time, asshole.

Conway's Coal-ed Shoulder For Obama

Meanwhile, AG Jack Conway is trying to turn out Democrats for the Kentucky governor's race in November with this ad.

Yep, that's Jack Conway, bragging about how he sued that there Obama fella and stood up for (white) coal miners.

Sure makes me want to go vote for him in November.

Why, just ask Senator Alison Grimes.

The Coming Conflagration In Cincy

The recent shooting of Samuel DuBose by a University of Cincinnati campus officer has barely made national news, even in the era of increased awareness of police brutality and murder of black lives, but all of that is about to rapidly change here in the Queen City.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said he's confident police are ready for whatever happens this week after prosecutors release video of a fatal shooting by a University of Cincinnati police officer.

Cranley said city officials are preparing for the video's release, as well as the conclusion of a grand jury investigation, in two ways: They are making sure police have the resources they need to respond to any protests or unrest, and they are reaching out to community leaders to prevent trouble from getting started.

"I think we're prepared," Cranley said Tuesday. "Everyone has the right to peacefully protest, but we will not tolerate lawlessness."

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said he expects the grand jury investigating the shooting to complete its work this week, at which time he will announce whether UC Police Officer Ray Tensing will be charged with a crime and also will release video of the incident from the officer's body camera.

Tensing shot and killed Samuel DuBose, 43, during a traffic stop on July 19. The officer stopped DuBose at Rice and Valencia streets in Mount Auburn for having a missing front license plate.

Many questions remain unanswered. The police incident report said Tensing was "dragged," but there was no mention of the dragging in the police dispatch call. Deters has refused to release video of the incident until the grand jury's work is done, saying it is part of the investigation.

Cranley and other city officials say they have not seen the video, but City Manager Harry Black said Monday he has been briefed on what it shows.

"My reaction is that it is not a good situation," Black said. "Someone has died that did not necessarily need to die."

The various reactions by Mayor Cranley, Police Chief Blackwell, and City Manager Black tells me that 1) the body camera video is explosively bad, and 2) that there's little question that Officer Ray Tensing is in a world of trouble.  For this administration to go into damage control mode before the video is even made public tells me Cranley, Blackwell, and probably the city council as well are all terrified of the city's reaction to this, and after the 2001 protests they are painfully aware of what can go wrong.

Cranley in particular is arrogant, even when he's beaten, full of bravado and noise. You have only to look at how he's the champion of Cincinnati's streetcar program after running on killing the streetcar two years ago. Now Cranley's acting like he's the voice of reason and is the one making the streetcar "work" when it would otherwise be a mess.  He's more than happy to take credit for "reforming" it these days.

But for Cranley to go into damage control mode publicly without being pushed by protesters and national press?  Cranley's not even attempting to fight this.  I don't think Cranley is overreacting at all, because I think the body camera video of the stop must clearly show that Tensing murdered DuBose.

Usually you have local governments prevaricating and qualifying things, "I can't comment on an ongoing investigation" or "We're still looking at all the evidence" or "You'll have to talk to UC President Santa Ono about this", and for Santa Ono to be openly talking about reforming the campus police rather than having to be forced into reforms and the defense attorney for the University saying that he expects an indictment is amazing.  Remember, 99% of the time police are never convicted of murder of citizens, especially black citizens, and the trial is just for show.

This is starting to look like it might be the 1% where justice actually happens.  The Cincinnati Enquirer is suing for the release of the video but the news now that the grand jury expects to wrap up this week is very strange and almost too orderly.  It's like the entire city administration is getting out in front of something horrific that hasn't gone public yet.  This just doesn't happen, even with Cincy's history of reform, and Chief Blackwell's crusade to make the police more accountable.  You always deny deny deny and circle the wagons, not, you know, do the right thing.

All we can do now is await the video's release later this week, and I'm betting it's going to put Cincinnati in a very, very harsh national spotlight.  But maybe that spotlight will see justice done for Samuel DuBose.

[UPDATEHamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters is holding a press conference on the DuBose shooting at 1 PM, followed by Mayor Cranley and Chief Blackwell giving a press conference at 2 PM.

University of Cincinnati is cancelling classes today starting at 11 AM ahead of the press conference, which means that that grand jury decision may very well be coming down this afternoon, plus the video.

More later today.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Last Call For Bevin's Break

Over at the Lexington Herald-Leader, Sam Youngman argues that the Summer of Trump could very well turn into the Winter of Jack Conway's Discontent here in Kentucky's governor's race.

There are reams of opposition research that McConnell's team unearthed but didn't need on their way to crushing Bevin in last year's primary. 
And none of that might matter one bit. 
It might not matter because Bevin, the man Trump said he would've fired, could well be holding a trump card of his own if a summer of social change becomes an autumn of angry conservative defiance. 
That card covers several issues — gay marriage, the Confederate flag and Planned Parenthood — but it's easier to just lump it into one category: The Obama card. 
If the Democratic strategy of continuing McConnell's attacks on Bevin is crystal clear, then so is the Republican strategy of tying Conway and every other Democrat running for office to a president who has never been well-liked by the vast majority of Kentuckians. 
This summer, that disdain has become a frenetic and vocal war cry as conservatives, believing their president is out to get them and that the country they love is becoming a permissive, socialist haven, are screaming at the top of their lungs for someone to push back. 
That's how Trump jumped to the top of most polls measuring the 2016 Republican presidential contest despite a history of supporting liberal causes and politicians and outlandish, controversial statements that could kill the Republican Party on the national level. 
But Kentucky isn't a national electorate. It's a conservative electorate and has only grown more so in the last 15 years. While the Trump school of politics is music to the ears of national Democrats, it's certainly not disqualifying in the commonwealth
Conway has been around state government for a very long time, gathering a deep knowledge of the state's laws, interests and needs, but he also has a scarlet D behind his name. 
It's an increasingly detrimental designation for a politician in Kentucky. 
As Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes found out last year, the liberal Democratic bases in Louisville and Lexington are not willing to sit idly by and watch as a Democrat tries to appeal to conservative members of their party.

And as Jack Conway increasingly goes down Grimes's losing path of "I will stand up to Obama" we're coming closer and closer to putting our own Trump in Frankfort.  It's a disaster waiting to happen and I don't think Conway has any clue that he's going to end up losing by double digits unless he gives Democrats in Kentucky a reason to show up at the polls.


Andead more here:

The one good thing going is that Bevin is going to be a nightmare and a national joke by the time the 2019 race rolls around.  Too bad the only thing standing between him and turning Kentucky into the next Kansas is Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who on a good day is still one of the most conservative Dems in the country.

I honestly see the next four years as "limiting the damage Bevin will do to our state" but after all, we elected Rand Paul rather easily.

Post-Racial America Update

Remember folks, overt, deliberate racism is a barbaric relic of the past present.

Witnesses at a birthday party in Douglasville, Georgia over the weekend said that festivities were interrupted when men waving Confederate flags threatened them and used racial slurs. 
Cell phone video obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution shows police officers holding back people attending a birthday party as white men in trucks with Confederate flags and other flags drive by yelling at them. 
“This is a child’s birthday party!” one woman shouts back. 
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the woman who posted the video on Facebook said that the men were armed and were on her property. She said that they threatened to “kill y’all n****rs.” 
“I don’t mind them riding with their flags but I don’t want them going around threaten[ing] people in their yard like they did mine or harassing folks either,” the woman explained in her Facebook post.

Kid's birthday party, mind you.

I'm sure they did something to deserve that.  You know, like being black.

This is 2015 and this is still happening, but it's probably Obama's fault or something, right?

Iran Out Of Excuses

WaPo's Paul Waldman asks the question everyone in the press should be asking of Republicans on the Iran deal: if the GOP gets its way, Congress rejects the Iran deal, and then overrides a veto by President Obama, what happens next?

You can argue that this deal should have been different, but when it comes time to vote on whether it should go forward, members of Congress will be choosing between two options, neither of them hypothetical. A yes vote means all the parties — not only Iran and the United States, but also the United Nations, China, Russia, and the European Union — implement this deal. A no vote, in contrast, doesn’t mean that some fantasy deal will fall from the sky. It means that the U.S. walks away from this deal, and it collapses
That also could mean that the existing sanctions regime collapses. We can keep our sanctions on Iran, but the reason sanctions have been so devastating to the country’s economy is that they haven’t just come from the U.S., but also from the United Nations, the European Union, and elsewhere. If those other sanctions were to disappear, Iran would get most of what it wanted without having to fulfill any obligations at all. And if they want to pursue a nuclear weapon, they could then go right ahead
So now that the deal is on the table and congressional votes are on their way, what Republicans really need to explain is not what sort of deal they might have preferred. We know their answer to that question — they’ll say they would have rather had a deal where Iran gives us everything we want, and we give up nothing. But that’s irrelevant at this point. What they need to explain now is why the U.S. pulling out of this deal — and what happens afterward — will be preferable to implementing it, imperfections and all. Do they think the Iranians will come crawling back and make further concessions? Do they think the rest of the world’s powers, which support the deal they helped negotiate, will just follow us and impose new sanctions in the hope that eventually that might lead to more negotiations (which, like these, would take years) and ultimately the fantasy deal where Iran capitulates? What precisely is the chain of events Republicans think will occur if we pull out? 
If they’ve given that question even a moment’s consideration, you wouldn’t know it to listen to them. But it’s what they ought to be asked now.

The chain of events inside Fantasy Iran Deal is actually pretty simple: Brave Republicans talk enough Democrats into abandoning the deal, it goes under, and Iran shows its "true colors" and the American people demand war and regime change.  And in 2017, under a Republican president and Congress, they get that war against God's enemies, because Onward Christian Soldiers.  That war is magically won in six weeks and the US, having disposed of a terror state, suddenly has everyone falling in line to appease our might.

It's total lunacy, of course.  They can't say it because of precisely that reason.  But we know exactly what will happen should Republicans win the White House and keep Congress: war, plain and simple.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Lat Call For House Of Mirrors

So after all the noise in the Senate, the Sunday session, Ted Cruz getting on the Senate floor to call Mitch McConnell a liar, an agreement for six years' funding of the Highway Trust Fund and renewal of the Export-Import Bank...the House won't even consider the bill as majority leader Kevin McCarthy says Mitch better pass the GOP House version or highway projects across the country run out of money by the end of the week.

McCarthy’s decision leaves Congress with two possible paths forward.

The House could simply do nothing, leave town and hope that will force the Senate to swallow the five-month highway bill it passed two weeks ago. That measure does not include any Ex-Im language.

Another, less confrontational option would be to go smaller and send the Senate a two- or three-month highway patch, punting the issues of highway spending and Ex-Im until after Labor Day, when Congress returns from its summer recess.

Senate and House Republicans are on different planets when it comes to the highway bill.

Besides the fight over the Export-Import Bank, House Republicans prefer a shorter-term bill to buy time for negotiations with the White House on tax reform, which Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) believes could be used to pay for a full six years of highway funding.

The Senate bill, crafted by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), covers six years but only pays for three years of funding.

McConnell prefers the Senate bill because it would prevent a series of votes on stopgap measures this fall, and possibly in 2016, when the GOP leader wants to focus on helping his conference retain its Senate majority.

A majority of Senate Republicans have backed McConnell, and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) reacted to McCarthy’s comments by stating on the Senate floor that he is “very concerned about what the House is doing right now.”

McCarthy said the House would stick to its schedule and head home on Thursday.

Imagine that.  House Republican are going to wreck a must pass bill because they can.  Oh, and they'll blame Obama when they choose not to even vote on the Senate bill that was worked out very publicly over the last two weeks.

The only suckers here are the American people who thought that Republicans gave a damn about things like "roads" and "governance".

Rockin' The Doc Costs

Obamacare's mission to make health care more affordable has several key components. Making health insurance more affordable and increasing insurance availability, plus having more people on insurance to lower the cost for everyone is what most of the debate about Obamacare involves.

But a big chunk of that is the fact that health care costs aren't skyrocketing like they have been before the ACA was passed.  And as the economy improves, health care costs are remaining flat.

The price of health care has grown more slowly than core consumer prices—what Americans spend on everything except food and energy—over the past five years. It’s the first time that’s happened since record-keeping started in 1959. That’s a remarkable break from decades of health-care prices outpacing inflation, but consumers shouldering a greater share of their medical costs may not notice the difference.
Goldman Sachs economist Alec Phillips pointed out the milestone in a research note on July 22. His analysis uses a broad measure of health-care prices, including what health providers charge government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The price of health care typically lifts overall inflation, but in recent years it’s been an anchor weighing down overall price growth. What’s behind the slowdown?

Some of it is from government-dictated reductions in Medicare and Medicaid payments. Wage growth in the health-care sector has also been slow since the recession, Phillips notes.

But health care prices are in fact stabilizing.  The cost curve is being bent, as predicted.

Maybe it's time to start acknowledging that Obamacare works?

Naah.  We can't have that.

The Huckster Hucks Up Big TIme

The best part of Donald Trump's continued rise in the GOP polls (by showing America just how terrible the GOP base is when they respond positively to him) is that the rest of the pack wants in on the action too.  Behold, Mike Huckabee on the Iran deal:

Former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee blasted President Barack Obama on Saturday over the nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers, saying that by trusting the Iranians, the president "will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."

Nothing is out of bounds anymore.  Everything is permitted.

In an interview with Breitbart, the 59-year-old conservative television personality called Obama's foreign policy "the most feckless in American history" and dubbed the Iran deal "the most idiotic thing." "It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people," he said.

Huckabee entered the race for his party's 2016 presidential nomination last May, vowing strong U.S. support for Israel and declaring "Hell will freeze over" before Iran gets a nuclear weapon.

In Saturday's interview, Huckabee urged the GOP presidential hopefuls to simplify their message to the American people, and focus on "conservatism, limited government, more local government, lower taxes, and less regulation to people who sweat through their clothes every day and have to lift heavy things to make a living.”

Watch Huckabee's number rise sharply.  Watch the rest of the pack keep reminding America just what the GOP stands for in 2015.  He won't pay a price for accusing a sitting President of another Jewish Holocaust.  He will only benefit, because Republicans are awful, awful people.
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