Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

The impeachment of Donald Trump is moving forward rapidly now, with House Democrats moving to bring two articles of impeachment against him by the end of the week.

House Democrats announced on Tuesday that they would move ahead this week with two articles of impeachment charging President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, as they accused him of violating the Constitution by pressure Ukraine for help in the 2020 election.

Speaking from a wood-paneled reception room just off the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leaders of six key committees said that Mr. Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, and his efforts to block Congress’s attempt to investigate, had left them no choice but to pursue one of the Constitution’s gravest remedies. The move will bring a sitting president to the brink of impeachment for only the fourth time in American history.

“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution, and to our country, the House Committee on Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment charging the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the panel’s chairman. He stood before four American flags and a portrait of George Washington.

“Our president holds the ultimate public trust,” Mr. Nadler said. “When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security.” 
The announcement comes a day after Democrats summed up the central allegations in their impeachment case against Mr. Trump: that he pressured Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals while withholding as leverage a coveted White House meeting for its president and $391 million in critical security assistance. His actions, they argued in a lengthy hearing at the Judiciary Committee, had placed the president’s personal political interests above those of the country, threatening the integrity of the election and national security in the process.

After more than two months of investigating the Ukraine matter, and a year of confrontation between the Democratic House and Mr. Trump, the impeachment process is now likely to unfold quickly. The Judiciary Committee plans to promptly begin debating the articles as soon as Wednesday, and could vote by Thursday to recommend them to the full House of Representatives for final approval. If the House follows through as expected next week, Mr. Trump could stand trial in the Senate early in the new year.
The Judiciary Committee planned to publicly release text of the articles later on Tuesday. While individual lawmakers will be able to propose amendments to the articles during this week’s debate and potentially force a committee vote on additional charges, they are not expected to substantively change.

By this time next week, Donald Trump could be impeached.

History is being made.  What the results of that history will be, even I'm not sure.

Firehose-Up Economics

Greg Sargent zeroes in on income inequality in America and finds that while wages for working-class Americans has gone up 50% in 50 years, in those same 50 years the wealthy have gotten massive gifts from lawmakers and the tax code.

The triumph of the rich, which is one of the defining stories of our time, is generally described as largely the reflection of two factors. The first, of course, is the explosion of income among top earners, in which a tiny minority has vacuumed up a ballooning share of the gains from the past few decades of economic growth.

The second factor — which will be key to the 2020 presidential race — has been the hidden decline in the progressivity of the tax code at the top, in which the wealthiest earners have over those same decades seen their effective tax rates steadily fall.

Put those two factors together, and they tell a story about soaring U.S. inequality that is in some ways even more dramatic than each is on its own.

A new analysis prepared at my request by Gabriel Zucman — the French economist and “wealth detective” who has become famous for tracing the hidden wealth of the super-rich — illustrates that dual story in a freshly compelling way.

The top-line finding: Among the bottom 50 percent of earners, average real annual income even after taxes and transfers has edged up a meager $8,000 since 1970, rising from just over $19,000 to just over $27,000 in 2018.

By contrast, among the top 1 percent of earners, average income even after taxes and transfers has tripled since 1970, rising by more than $800,000, from just over $300,000 to over $1 million in 2018.

Among the top 0.1 percent, average after-tax-and-transfer income has increased fivefold, from just over $1 million in 1970 to over $5 million in 2018. And among the top .01 percent, it has increased nearly sevenfold, from just over $3.5 million to over $24 million.

I’m emphasizing the phrase “after taxes and transfers” because this is at the core of Zucman’s new analysis. The idea is to show the combined impact of both the explosion of pretax income at the top and the decline in the effective tax rate paid by those same earners — in one result.

And the Trump Tax Cut scam made it all exponentially worse.  Since 2000, when Bush came in and crashed the economy and left Obama holding the bag, and then Trump came in, wages for the bottom 90% went up maybe 10%, and 20% for the Top 10-1%.

But the wealthiest Americans saw the same income growth as before. the Top 1% up 40%, the Top 0.1% up 50%, and the Top 0.01% saw their incomes rise by 90%, from $14 million to $24 million.

We're headed for disaster, and imminently.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Last Call For Meanwhile In Bevinstan...

The Supreme Court won't touch Kentucky's "Road to Gilead" abortion punishment law, so for now the women who go though the state's last remaining abortion clinic get a nice does of state-mandated mental anguish for being slutty slut sluts.

The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law, mandating doctors perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before they can perform abortions.

The high court declined, without comment, to hear an appeal brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the state's lone abortion clinic.

The Kentucky law, which requires a doctor to describe an ultrasound in detail while a pregnant woman hears the fetal heartbeat, was passed in 2017.

It was signed by Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican who lost his bid for re-election last month.

The ACLU had argued that the Kentucky statute had no medical basis and was designed only to coerce a woman into opting out of having an abortion. Defenders of the law said it represented a straightforward attempt to help patients make a well-informed decision.

The high court's action let stand the law which had been upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement Monday that the high court had "rubber-stamped" Kentucky's interference in the "doctor-patient relationship.”

Bevin may be out this week, but the damage from his four years will last decades.  I'm not sure how much Andy Beshear will be able to do to even save the state's last abortion clinic, and that's not counting the inevitable "leaving abortion rights to states to decide" decision dismantling Roe in six months.  Beshear's veto of an anti-abortion law would almost certainly be overridden.

After that, it's Gilead.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The long-awaited Justice Department inspector general report on the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Donald Trump is out, and while the report is pretty scathing on what the DoJ sees as "missteps" by the FBI, the report also concludes that there was sufficient evidence to open the investigation into Trump's Russian collusion.

The 434-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane, into the Trump campaign, and rejected the assertion that the case was opened out of political animus or that informants were used in violation of FBI rules.

It asserted, though, that as the probe went on, FBI officials repeatedly decided to emphasize damaging information they heard about Trump associates, and play down exculpatory evidence they found.

Conservatives and liberals alike claimed victory in the report — with Democrats saying it validated the Russia investigation while Republicans asserted it exposed serious wrongdoing.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the inspector general had “completely demolished” some of conservatives’ assertions about the origins of the probe, though his investigators did find some problems.

“Clearly, there was a legitimate, factual basis; in fact the FBI had a moral imperative to begin this investigation,” Blumenthal said. In particular, he said the inspector general had rebutted claims that Trump campaign advisers were illegally surveilled or entrapped, or that political motive was “in any way a factor.”
In a statement, Attorney General William P. Barr disagreed with one of the inspector general’s key conclusions, saying the FBI launched an investigation of a presidential campaign “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken. It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.” So, too, did Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, who Barr handpicked to conduct an investigation similar to that of Horowitz.

“Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.,” Durham said in a statement. “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), a strong Trump ally, said “this is not a good day for the FBI.”

“There’s more than enough evidence in this report that would suggest a major overhaul in terms of policies and procedures,” he said.

Meadows has a point, although Republicans surely didn't care about FISA reform until it was legitimately used on Donald Trump's campaign.

Oh, and the report absolutely concludes that the Russians hacked the DNC email server and laundered the emails through WikiLeaks, and it concludes it was done to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

So no, there wasn't any "deep state" anything, just overworked FBI agents who cut corners and who have already for the most part been disciplined if not already fired.

This should put an end to all this, but of course if Barr ends it here, he's fired by Trump, so he won't leave it where things are.

Count on that.

No Room In North Dakota

Just in time for Christmas, Bismarck, North Dakota is set to become the first local government to vote to ban all refugees as Burleigh County takes Dear Leader up on his offer of legitimized institutional, and systemic racism.

The county postponed a vote last week when more than 100 people showed up and overflowed the commission’s normal meeting space. Monday night’s meeting will be held in a middle school cafeteria to accommodate public interest that Chairman Brian Bitner said is the most intense he’s seen in more than a decade on the commission.

Though he declined to predict which way the commission would go, Bitner said he would vote against accepting additional refugees.

“The overwhelming public opinion is so clear to me, that I think if you vote for it, you’re not going to be reelected if you choose to run again,” he said.
Trump’s executive order this fall came as he had already proposed cutting the number of refugees next year to the lowest level since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. He declared that refugees should be resettled only in places where the state and local governments — counties — gave consent. Since then, many governors and counties around the country have declared that they would continue taking refugees.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum said last month that North Dakota would continue accepting refugees where local jurisdictions agreed, and his spokesman said the governor saw it as a local decision. Soon after, Cass and Grand Forks counties, which are home to the state’s largest city, Fargo, and third-largest city, Grand Forks, respectively, declared they would continue taking refugees. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said refugees were needed to boost the city’s economy, and that 90% were fully employed within three months of resettling in his city.

But the idea was quickly opposed in more conservative Burleigh County.
Among the opponents was Republican state Rep. Rick Becker, of Bismarck, an ultraconservative who took to social media to criticize the program as unrestrained and a possible drain on social service programs, schools and law enforcement, though the county said it doesn’t track any costs directly related to refugees.

“This isn’t about skin color,” said Becker, a plastic surgeon and former gubernatorial candidate. “In the past, nobody had any say whatsoever. Now we have something that should have been in place decades ago.

“Now, if they want to accept them, they can, and if they don’t want to they shouldn’t,” he said.

Burleigh County won't be the last county to ban refugees, either.  Far from it.  This is Donald Trump's America, where your huddled masses can go live in the cities, and we can continue being racist assholes, right?

Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken said the city government has no say in the matter, but he sides with those who want to stop taking in more refugees.

“Right now it’s a blank check and that equates into a lot of questions,” Bakken said of the number of refugees that could be placed in the area. “We have burgeoning school enrollment, veterans’ needs, homeless needs, and Native American needs

“This isn’t about heartstrings, this is about purse strings,” he said.

Shirley Dykshoorn, a vice president for Lutheran Social Services, which handles all of North Dakota’s refugee resettlement cases, said her agency used to handle about 400 cases per year, but that number dropped to 124 in fiscal 2019, which ended in September. The program has been in existence in North Dakota since 1948.

LSS settled 24 refugees in Bismarck in fiscal 2019, after settling 22 in fiscal 2018. Dykshoorn said Burleigh County had been projected to get no more than 25 refugees annually in the coming years.

“We always look at the capacity of a community to handle these,” she said.

I’m trying to understand the basis for believing how 25 people will dramatically change the fabric of a community,” she said. “What does it say to the rest of the country when a county where your capital city is located would choose not to participate?”

If it was 25 millionaire white supremacists, they'd be welcomed, of course.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Last Call For Wag The Dog

I haven't talked much about this week's shooting at Pensacola Naval Air Base in Florida because the investigation is still ongoing and I don't trust the Trump regime when there are Saudi nationals involved, as the suspect appears to be.  People did get killed here, and that's a significant story.  But with Trump facing impeachment this week, it's very clear that some in the regime wants a "terrorist attack" story to bludgeon Democrats with.

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said that Friday's shooting at a naval base in Florida "appears to be a terrorist attack." The gunman was a member of the Saudi Air Force and an aviation student at the base.

"To me, it appears to be a terrorist attack," O'Brien said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "I don't want to prejudge the investigation, but it appears that this may be someone that was radicalized, whether it was here or it's unclear if he's got any other ties to other organizations."

The FBI identified the shooter as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21. The gunman opened fire in a classroom at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday, killing three sailors and wounding two sheriff's deputies.

Alshamrani was killed after exchanging gunfire with the sheriff's deputies.

President Trump and top law enforcement officials have declined to say whether the shooting was terrorism related. A U.S. official told the Associated Press that Alshamrani and three others watched videos of mass shootings during a dinner party he hosted a dinner party earlier in the week.

O'Brien said the FBI doesn't know if Alshamrani was acting alone, but from what he is seeing in public reports, "this looks like something that's terrorism, or akin to terrorism." The Saudi government, he added, has committed to fully cooperating with the investigation.

"This is a guy who may very well have had said some things on Twitter that suggest he was radicalized," he said. "He went out and killed a number of Americans, so my point is it looks like terrorism."

A second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force, Alshamrani was a student naval flight officer of Naval Aviation Schools Command.

The Navy identified the three sailors killed in Friday's attack as Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21.

The problem for Trump is that it's a Saudi "terrorist attack" story, and the Saudis, if they really wanted to hurt Trump right now, could make his life absolutely miserable. He has to proceed carefully.  Other Republicans, not so much.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said Sunday the deadly shooting at a Navy base in Florida should “inform our ongoing relationship with Saudi Arabia,” calling for an investigation with Saudi cooperation and for greater vetting of U.S.-based Saudi nationals and trainees.

A Saudi aviation student training at Naval Air Station Pensacola shot three people to death on Friday and wounded 11 others before he was killed by police. After the shooting, Gaetz, whose congressional district includes the naval base, called it an “act of terrorism.” Authorities have not confirmed that characterization.

On Sunday, Gaetz said on ABC’s “This Week” that he “directly delivered” a no-tolerance message to the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Princess Reema bint Bandar, when she offered her condolences. The princess, who condemned the attack on Twitter, assured Gaetz that Saudi intelligence will work with the U.S. government, the congressman said.

“We want no interference from the kingdom as it relates to Saudis that we have,” Gaetz said.

“And if there are Saudis that we do not have that may have been involved in any way in the planning, inspiration, financing or execution of this,” he added, “we expect Saudi intelligence to work with our government to find the people accountable and hold them responsible

Well, not too much cooperation, otherwise somebody might figure out Trump and especially Jared Kushner are in deep to the Saudis for billions...

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

House Judiciary Democrats were putting in another Saturday session to begin drafting article of impeachment against Donald Trump, articles that we could see presented Monday by the committee and could see a full House vote in a matter of days.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives met on Saturday to prepare for what could be the final week of their months-old impeachment inquiry that has imperiled Donald Trump’s presidency.

After emerging from an all-day closed door meeting, House Judiciary Committee Democratic lawmakers said they were still in the process of drafting formal charges, known as articles of impeachment, that the panel could recommend for a full House vote as early as Thursday. 
Representative Jamie Raskin told reporters on Saturday evening the committee had spent the day digesting information they received from the House Intelligence Committee and constitutional law scholars who testified before Congress on Wednesday. “So now we are in the process of putting the law and the facts together to begin to think about the next step,” he said. 
The lawmakers released a 55-page report on Saturday morning outlining what they see as the constitutional grounds on which articles of impeachment could be built.
In releasing the report, the panel’s Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler, said impeachment was the only way to hold the Republican president to account.

“President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security, and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain,” Nadler said in a statement. “The Constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment.” 
“Now we have the task of focusing on what the exact articles might be,” said Eric Swalwell, another Democratic lawmaker in the House Judiciary Committee, on his way out of Saturday’s meeting. 
The committee will hold a public hearing on Monday to consider evidence gathered in the inquiry.

House Republicans of course are screaming bloody murder.

Republicans have called for a full day of proceedings to examine their own evidence, including a 110-page report saying the inquiry had found no evidence of an impeachable offense. 
On Friday, the White House told Nadler it would not take part in the panel’s hearings and condemned the inquiry as “completely baseless.” Nadler, in turn, expressed his disappointment: “The American people deserve answers from President Trump.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, directed the committee to draw up the charges on Thursday after weeks of investigation into Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face the president in the 2020 U.S. election.

The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Pelosi has the votes for the articles.  It's not going to be a unanimous vote by Democrats, and zero Republicans will vote for them because they're all cowards, but she absolutely has the votes to pass them.

It's extremely likely by this time next week, Donald Trump will have been impeached and will be awaiting a Senate trial.  Unfortunately, that means Mitch McConnell can run a Senate trial however he wants, even if Chief Justice Roberts will be presiding.

That won't happen until January though, so we'll wee.

Sunday Long Read: Class Of 2000

The 2000 class of Minford High School in Minford, Ohio was the beginning of the opioid crisis in Ohio's most drug-ridden county, Scioto.  OxyContin had just arrived in town and these folks and many Millennials like them, it was the beginning of the end.

The Minford High School Class of 2000, in rural Minford, Ohio, began its freshman year as a typical class. It had its jocks and its cheerleaders, its slackers and its overachievers. 
But by the time the group entered its final year, its members said, painkillers were nearly ubiquitous, found in classrooms, school bathrooms and at weekend parties. 
Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in the state’s fight against opioids. It would lead Ohio with its rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. 
To understand both the scope and the devastating consequences of what is now a public health crisis, we talked to dozens of members of the Class of 2000. Many opened up to us about struggles with addiction, whether their own or their relatives’. They told us about the years lost to getting high and in cycling in and out of jail, prison and rehab. They mourned the three classmates whose addictions killed them. 
In all of the interviews, one thing was clear: Opioids have spared relatively no one in Scioto County; everyone appears to know someone whose life has been affected by addiction.

Purdue Pharma introduced its opioid painkiller, OxyContin, in 1996, when the Class of 2000 entered high school. Some students began experimenting, often combining prescription opiates with alcohol at parties. 
For many, what started as a weekend dalliance morphed swiftly into an all-consuming dependence. They swallowed opiates before school, snorted painkillers in the bathrooms and crushed up pills with a baseball on desks at the back of classrooms.

Ohio was Ground Zero for the opioid crisis, and Minford and Scioto County was the epicenter.  For decades now the area has been fighting addiction and the horrors it caused.

And it wasn't the cities, it wasn't the gangs, it was the pharmaceutical companies.

Corporate America destroyed a generation with painkillers and appetite pills.

Never forget that.

The Klep-Trump-Cracy Continues

Donald Trump is making sure his 2020 campaign is spending millions at Trump businesses and properties, meaning he's basically stealing campaign funds in broad daylight, and nobody will do a thing about it.

The Trump campaign is spending big money at the president’s properties, according to a review of Federal Election Commission data. Yet the records show that Donald Trump still has not donated any of his own funds to the campaign. That means America’s billionaire-in-chief has shifted $1.7 million from campaign donors into his private business. 
Forbes first reported on this arrangement one year ago, when documents showed that Trump’s companies had taken in $1.1 million of campaign-donor money. By the end of 2018, that figure had climbed to $1.3 million. Subsequent disclosures show that more than $450,000 flowed into the Trump empire from January to September of this year. 
The biggest beneficiary has been Trump Tower Commercial LLC, which controls the president’s famous Manhattan skyscraper. Trump still owns the entity, which has accepted $1.2 million in rent from the reelection effort and another $225,000 from the Republican National Committee. Since Trump became president, an estimated 1.6% of the tower’s revenue has come from either the RNC or the reelection campaign. The majority of Trump Tower’s income comes from Gucci, which leases 49,000 square feet of prime retail space on Fifth Avenue for roughly $21 million a year. 
In the basement of Trump Tower, a much smaller space now serves as an official campaign store, selling hats, T-shirts, signs and other memorabilia. The rent payments for that space could be flowing through an entity called Trump Restaurants LLC, which has taken in $87,000 of rent since Trump became president. On a price-per-square-foot basis, the campaign may be paying more for that basement space than Gucci is paying for its street-level location upstairs. Smaller spaces tend to command higher rates, but the payments have nonetheless raised eyebrows
The disclosures reveal one payment to Tag Air Inc., an entity set up to lease the president’s personal Boeing 757. It was the first time since Trump took office—and therefore gained access to Air Force One—that the campaign paid the president’s private aviation company. The amount was small, just $2,700, and the exact rationale remains unclear. 
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization ignored specific questions about the expenditures, instead issuing a general statement asserting that the transactions are legal. “The campaign pays fair market value under negotiated rental agreements and other service agreements in compliance with the law,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The campaign works closely with campaign counsel to ensure strict compliance in this regard.”

Again, all this is patently illegal.  Trump having his campaign spend millions at Trump properties is just a small part of his continual emoluments scam, lobbyists and government agencies are spending tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions at Trump properties, hotels, and restaurants.  Just what we know of Trump's government graft should land him in prison for the rest of his life, but nobody can prosecute him in office.

And of course, nobody in the GOP will call him on it, so he gets away with it.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Meahwhile In Bevinstan...

The big scandal this weekend in the NKY is Kenton County Family Court Judge Dawn Gentry, who is apparently a refugee from a Scott Turow legal thriller in real life.

The judge is accused of seeking to or having sex with people she employed and appointed to a panel designed to help abused children. There are three people connected to those claims.

Katherine Schulz reportedly quit a panel the judge appointed her to after the judge flirted with her via Snapchat, pressured her to seduce the judge’s husband and asked her to join the judge and a former church pastor in a threesome.

That former pastor is Stephen Penrose, who the judge hired as her case specialist after she reportedly asked the former specialist, Meredith Smith, to resign. Then, Gentry gave Penrose a salary $10,000 more than Smith’s, according to payroll records The Enquirer obtained through a Kentucky Open Records Act Request.

"You hired Stephen Penrose because you were engaged in a personal relationship with him, not on the basis of merit," investigators wrote.

Penrose and Gentry were in a band together, too, called South of Cincy. Penrose played guitar and Gentry was the bassist. The band's Facebook page was taken down Wednesday evening after reports of the investigation surfaced.

State investigators claimed Gentry and Penrose had a personal sexual relationship. Gentry also "improperly delegated judicial functions," to Penrose, according to the charges.

The investigation also claimed that the two engaged in sexual activities in a courthouse office during work hours with Gentry's secretary, Laura Aubrey. Gentry also approved inaccurate time sheets for Penrose and Aubrey, according to the charges.

But it gets worse.

The state alleged the judge appointed attorney Delana Sanders to the panel in exchange for her husband Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders' support. The Sanders donated quadruple the amount Mike Hummel donated to Gentry’s campaign. Hummel was removed from the panel shortly after the election, he told The Enquirer.
The Sanders donated a combined total of $3,450. Hummel donated $750, according to public campaign finance records.

The state claimed Gentry coerced attorneys on the panel designed to help abused children to donate the maximum amount to her 2018 reelection campaign.

Gentry, a Republican, became judge in 2016 when outgoing Gov. Matt Bevin picked her to fill a vacancy. She was re-elected to a four-year-term in 2018.

The judge, according to the charges, also required panel members to serve on her campaign's finance committee and asked an attorney to put up a campaign sign while they were in court.

Ahh, but she's a Republican after all, and the whole point of Republican-appointed judges is to be reprehensibly cruel.

When people didn't do what the judge wanted, she retaliated, state investigators claim.

She retaliated against:
  • Former case specialist Meredith Smith for not sufficiently supporting the judge's campaign.
  • Attorney Mike Hummel for failing to make the maximum donation to her campaign and declining to campaign on your behalf by removing him from the panel.
  • Attorneys who did not support her campaign by delaying hearing dates for their cases.
  • School liaison officer Kelly Blevins for supporting her opponent in the 2018 election.

It seems Gentry wasn't honest with the commission about some of their inquiries.

"You failed to be candid and honest with the Commission in a previous inquiry regarding the appointment of Ms. Sanders and the firing of Ms. Smith and Mr. Hummel, as well as about the quality of Mr. Hummel’s work on the GAL panel," the documents read.

So had an affair on company time, took campaign money from her lovers, extorted her staff and attorneys who appeared before her, abused the power of her office to harm people who didn't do her bidding, and of course she was appointed by outgoing asshole Gov. Matt Bevin.

A real piece of work, this one.

Par for the course for the GOP though.

A Win In Her Corner

There are times when I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is obnoxious, but she absolutely scored a win over one of the biggest companies on Earth this week.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) slammed Amazon's announcement that it's building a headquarters in New York City, but touted the fact that it will not receive any financial incentives from the local or state government.

“Won’t you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway - *without* requiring the public to finance shady deals, helipad handouts for Jeff Bezos, & corporate giveaways,” she tweeted.

“Maybe the Trump admin should focus more on cutting public assistance to billionaires instead of poor families.”

The comments come after The Wall Street Journal reported that the tech giant has agreed to take new office space in Manhattan, a reversal from February when it announced it would not open a second headquarters in New York City.

Amazon said it had signed a new lease for a 335,000 square-foot space on Manhattan’s West Side, where it will take on more than 1,500 employees; yet in a silver lining for progressives, the move will not be accompanied by any special tax credits or other financial incentives.

Ocasio-Cortez was one of the leading opponents to Amazon’s move to the city, arguing that the city would shell out billions in incentives to attract the company and that the move would raise real estate prices beyond the means of local residents, forcing many to move.

The New York progressive claimed victory Friday, citing criticism she got for pushing against the move, which Amazon supporters said would attract thousands of jobs.

Indeed, the Trump regime lit into her saying she was personally responsible for destroying thousands of jobs...jobs that Amazon was going to create anyway 10 months later, and without the $3 billion extortion fee from a company that paid zero taxes yet again this year on $11 billion in profits.

Say what you will about AOC, but her victory was near total on this issue, and more Democrats need to stand up to massive corporations and say "no more" when it comes to taxpayer incentives on companies that don't pay taxes.

It's About Suppression, Con't

Republicans continue to whine about the "Do-Nothing Democrats" who "are fixated on impeachment" and "won't pass legislation" while House Democrats are perfectly capable of passing legislation and are doing so.

In fact, House Democrats are passing legislation that House Republicans refused to pass when they were in power, like the now long-overdue fix to the Voting Rights Act, gutted by the Supreme Court six years ago because John Roberts decided that racism in voting didn't exist anymore, and that Congress needed to take care of updating it for the 21st century.

That's exactly what House Democrats did on Friday, with the help of precisely one Republican (and Justin Amash and everyone else voted against it.)

Six years after the Supreme Court stripped key parts of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, America’s signature legislation protecting voters of color, the House of Representatives passed a bill meant to restore those safeguards.

In a mostly party-line vote, the legislation was approved 228-187. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), is a key part of Democrats’ agenda to expand voting rights. It would make it more difficult for states to discriminate against voters of color, and give the federal government a stronger ability to take action against states with a history of discrimination.
In a 2018 interview, Sewell bluntly described strict voter ID laws as “modern-day forms of voter suppression.”

“While we no longer have to count how many jelly beans are in a jar or recite all of the 67 counties of Alabama in order to be able to vote, we are seeing greater efforts putting restrictions on voting in the name of fraud,” she told Vox, referencing Jim Crow-era tactics used to keep black Alabamians from voting. She represents Selma, Alabama, a city that was at the forefront of the 1960s civil rights movement.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act is designed to restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were invalidated by the US Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. Way back at the beginning of the legislative session, it was initially tucked into HR 1, the sweeping anti-corruption bill that was Democrats’ first priority of the year. Lawmakers ultimately decided to break it out because Sewell and Democratic leaders anticipated the possibility of a long, drawn-out legal battle over the voting rights bill — potentially all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

The main argument of the Roberts Court decision in 2013 was that the formula for determining which states were subject to pre-clearance of state voter laws was outdated.  The new formula in the VRAA would be dependent on the number of voting rights violations in a state in a ten-year period instead of specific states with a previous history, and it would define what a violation was, giving substantial oversight power to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Amazingly enough, the pre-clearance formula would affect nearly all the states in the original VRA.

If Sewell’s bill were passed today, she would like the federal government to take a closer look at 13 states with a history of voter discrimination: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona, California, New York, and Virginia.

“We can’t unring the bell,” Sewell added. “What we’ve seen is that since Shelby, more than 30 states have imposed greater requirements for voting, and in a lot of those states, we’ve seen elections take place that have later been found to have had intentional discrimination.”

Naturally, this will never get a vote in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell will continue to say that the Democrats haven't passed anything in the last year.

I wish Democrats would do more to point this out.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Last Call For The Doc Stalkers

We've reached the point where anti-vaxxer nutjob assholes are treating pediatricians who vaccinate kids like anti-choice nutjob assholes treat abortion doctors: stalking clinics and offices and threatening them with harm.

In October, Dr. Eve Krief watched from the window of her Long Island, New York, pediatrics practice, as around 20 women gathered on the lawn.

Armed with signs and banners with messages like, “We spread truth not disease,” the women — a group of anti-vaccine activists from New York and California — had come to protest Krief over her recent support for the 2019 state law that removed religious exemptions for vaccines.

Some of the protesters sat with signs, while others stuck anti-vaccine propaganda under car windshield wipers in the parking lot. Several approached parents entering the building with their infants, asking, "Are you vaccinating your baby?"

Krief had experience with these particular women. She recognized the group's leader, a local mother who had followed her to her car after a community meeting about proposed vaccine legislation a few weeks earlier. Krief said the bill's passage led to more intense protest from people who had been using the religious exemption to mask their personal preference not to vaccinate. They had also infiltrated her Yelp and Health Grades accounts, posting negative reviews, although they weren't patients at her practice.

But the in-person protests and the interaction with patients was another level.

"It's unsettling," Krief said, adding that her office is beefing up security measures in response.

For the anti-vaccination organizers, Krief’s unease was an indicator of their success.

“Needless to say,” one wrote on her Facebook page, “we rattled her cage just a bit yesterday with our presence.”


Anti-vaxxer nutjobs are becoming indistinguishable from anti-choice nutjobs.  Pretty soon they're going to be just as deadly.

Return Of The Red Rout, Con't

Meanwhile, things aren't going so well for Republicans in the House as the recent NC state Supreme Court ruling throwing out Republican super-gerrymandering has meant a new map for 2020 elections, and it's a map where Republicans can no longer hold on to 10 of 13 House seats without a majority of votes.

North Carolina Republican Rep. George Holding announced Friday that he will not seek reelection, saying in a statement that "newly redrawn congressional districts were part of the reason" for his decision. 
Holding, who represents the state's second congressional district, has served in Congress since 2013 and is a member of the House Budget, Ethics and Ways and Means committees. 
But, according to the Raleigh, North Carolina-based newspaper The News & Observer, Holding's GOP-leaning House district was redrawn into a district that now leans Democratic and the congressman had ruled out the possibility of challenging another Republican incumbent in 2020 to win reelection. 
In a statement on Friday, Holding said it has been "gratifying to work for the ideals and values that I, like many other Americans, believe in," and it is "with regret that I announce I will not be a candidate for Congress this election." 
"I should add, candidly, that yes, the newly redrawn congressional districts were part of the reason I have decided not to seek reelection," Holding said. 
"But, in addition, this is also a good time for me to step back and reflect on all that I have learned," the congressman said.

The new maps, while still heavily favoring Republicans, are slightly less egregious.  It's very possible that Democrats could win five or six House seats with the new maps instead of having half the state's Democratic voters gerrymandered into three districts.  Still, it's as good as the maps are going to get until next year's elections, and that's still two big pickups for the Dems heading into 2020.

Ahh, but Holding isn't the only Republican out this week.

Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) announced Thursday he will not seek reelection next year.

Graves, 49, said that after some reflection he decided it was time to “pass the baton,” but said he will serve out the rest of his term.

“As we all do, I'm entering a new season in life. An exciting season. So, the time has come for me to pass the baton. Now it's my turn to cheer, support and sacrifice for those who have done the same for me over the last two decades,” he said in a statement.

“With Julie near retirement and my kids now suddenly adults, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2020, and instead, join my family in their new and unique journeys.”

The Georgia Republican was first elected to the House in 2009 after having served in the Georgia House of Representatives. Graves — one of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) closest allies— sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and serves as the vice chairman of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

In his statement, Graves thanked his family and his constituents for supporting and motivating him during his time as a public servant.

“The whole of my service was built upon the contributions of countless people; sacrifices of my family, late nights and long days from dozens of dedicated staff members, friendship of my colleagues, generosity of supporters and encouragement from constituents,” he continued.

"Looking back on my years in the Georgia House and now nearly a decade in Congress, I am filled with gratitude. My record is a testament to the collective effort of many talented and special people. The opportunities afforded to me — a North Georgia country boy from a single wide trailer — were far beyond my wildest dreams.”

Graves is the 21st GOP lawmaker to announce their retirement in the 116th Congress.

Since Trump was elected in 2016, it's been a bloodbath for the House GOP.  They lost more than 40 seats in 2018, and retirements are up to 21 this cycle.

Everyone's running from Trump.
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