Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Last Call For The Criminalization Of Dissent

Some good news to end the evening for once: Arizona Republicans have abandoned their bill to turn protesting the Trump regime into a state felony after outrage spread across the country over the legislation.

The speaker of the Arizona House said he won't hear a bill that makes participating in or helping organize a protest that turns into a riot an offense that could lead to criminal racketeering charges, a move prompted by widespread criticism that the legislation sought to limit First Amendment rights. 
The measure passed last week by the Senate drew nationwide attention, particularly from civil libertarians, because it classified violent protest as an organized crime and said protesters who didn't initially intend to riot could still face criminal charges. That attention led Speaker J.D. Mesnard to decide Monday to kill it for the session. 
Mesnard told The Associated Press that people all across the country now believe that the Arizona Legislature is trying to enact a law that will suppress their First Amendment right to assemble. 
"It's gotten a lot of attention, and frankly whether it's fair or unfair, whether its accurate or inaccurate, at this point doesn't matter," he told the AP. "That's certainly not what the Legislature wants to be about — I know that's not what the sponsor wanted in the first place. The best way to send a very clear signal that we're not doing it is to not move the bill." 
The Republican House speaker controls the path of legislation through his chamber, so Mesnard's decision means the bill is dead
The Arizona legislation is the latest in a string of proposals in Republican-led states intended to crack down on protests. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard is pursuing legislation to make it clear that his emergency response powers apply to destructive protests, create new trespassing penalties and make it a crime to obstruct highways, a move prompted by protests in North Dakota over the Dakota Access pipeline. A recent Washington Post tally showed efforts in 18 states, with proposals like stiffer penalties for blocking highways to increased trespassing penalties on critical infrastructure.

Arizona's bill was the most egregious, and the intent was certainly to turn the state's next Black Lives Matter or immigration protest into an opportunity to declare thousands to be felons, throw them in prison (or deport them) and remove their right to vote.  Like most states, Arizona does not allow felons to vote, and if convicted of multiple felonies, that disenfranchisement is permanent.

But several other states are moving to criminalize mass protests.  Republicans in Arizona may have been defeated for now, but eventually this bill or something like it will be passed, and it will be used against people of color to disenfranchise. harm, or even kill.

More Buyer's Remorse In The Bluegrass State

Another month, another story of GOP voters here in Kentucky now terrified that they will lose their Medicaid expansion in the state, and are turning to Trump to beg to be spared.

Whitesburg, Kentucky, is a quiet town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains and close to the Virginia border – coal country. It has a population of 2,100 and a deep history of hard work and perseverance. 
“Around here you keep a job and you do as they say no matter what because you’ve got to work to survive,” said Mike Taylor, a former coal truck driver. 
Coal has been at the heart of the local economy for generations, but it’s also the root of health issues for many. 
Taylor was diagnosed with “Black Lung,” a deadly lung disease caused by breathing in coal dust, in 2015. He is on three different inhalers and uses an oxygen tank and a nebulizer machine. 
When he gained insurance through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, he began seeking regular care at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, a community clinic where his physician, Dr. Van Breeding, also happens to be his old high school classmate. 
“These people need care,” said Breeding, a primary care physician. “I take care of classmates of mine everyday … people who I went to kindergarten with who are disabled now, who can’t work. So imagine you’re 55 years old and you’re worn out.” 
“And these are the people who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act and these are the people who we can’t turn our backs on,” he added. 
Breeding believes the ACA is crucial to the health of his community. His father was a coal miner, he said, so he is all too familiar with the toll Black Lung disease can take. 
“We're seeing that it's a political war over health care and the collateral damage is the patient's health and life and the quality of life,” Breeding said. “Change the name if ‘Obamacare’ is offensive to Republicans, change the name, and call it what you will, but provide these people who are desperate, and I mean desperate, desperate for some type of health care.” 
Taylor said the health insurance he has under ACA not only saved his life, but also helped his brother-in-law and his former coworkers. 
“It’s a good thing to have it. The insurance,” he said. “I think they just need to reform it.”

But as I keep saying, these people voted for Republicans up and down the line, at the state level last year when they elected Matt Bevin in 2015, and again last year handing the state legislature over to the GOP and decimating the Democrats, re-electing Rand Paul, and giving Trump a 17-point win.

Now all of a sudden they're worried that when Obamacare was going to be repealed, it was going to affect them.  They never thought that would happen, that it would only be taken away from those people in order to benefit people like themselves, because they're good people.

Turns out of course Republicans only care about people making six figures or more.  Turns out when Bevin turns Medicaid into a program like Indiana's "skin in the game" plan where you pay the premium or lose everything, and on top of that funding is cut to shreds by Republicans in Congress turning it into a block grant, not only will the 450,000 people who got health insurance lose it, but hundreds of thousands more will get kicked off the program too.

Maybe by 2020 when the state's uninsured rate is back up to 25% or so, maybe people here will get it.

Sen. Udall's Balancing Act

New Mexico Dem Sen. Tom Udall has an...interesting...plan for solving the Supreme Court issue: talk a current justice into retiring, leaving seven on the high court, then confirming both Neil Gorsuch and Obama nominee Merrick Garland at the same time.

Sen. Tom Udall has an idea that could place both Judge Neil Gorsuch and Judge Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court at the same time. 
The Democrat from New Mexico presented the plan Monday morning to Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, as well as to Gorsuch's team of White House aides and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who's been attending Gorsuch's meetings with senators. 
His proposal is for Trump to meet privately with Supreme Court justices who are interested in retirement. If one of those justices decided they would be willing to retire, and if Trump promises to nominate Garland, President Barack Obama's unconfirmed former SCOTUS pick, in their place, then the retiring justice would submit a letter of resignation contingent on that promise. 
Then, both Garland and Gorsuch would be voted on simultaneously. 
It's a far-fetched idea, and Udall told reporters he got no response or comment from Gorsuch's team in the room. But he added that he's been talking to other senators about it. 
A spokesman from Gorsuch's team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If this sounds familiar, that's because we've seen this before, just not in this administration.

The idea closely follows a plot line from an episode of "The West Wing" television show. In season 5, episode 17, "The Supremes," a spot on the Supreme Court opens up and the White House works out a deal with another justice to retire so they can replace him with both a liberal justice while Republicans can get their pick of a more conservative justice. 
Jennifer Talhelm, communications director for Udall, told CNN that the senator did not get the idea from the West Wing, and that while he has maybe seen an episode or two, he doesn't watch the show. 
She said Udall has wanted to see Trump pick Garland all along, and his more recent idea came after he was speaking with a constituent who said they'd like to see both Garland and Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. 
Speaking to reporters, Udall also recalled the time that President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted his adviser Abe Fortas on the Supreme Court, so he persuaded Justice Arthur Goldberg to retire by promising him the position of ambassador to the United Nations. 
So what would be Trump's motivation to move ahead with this idea? 
"It's a good chance for Trump to try to unite the country," Udall said.

I can see the draw, but Republicans aren't about to go for this.  They know that Gorsuch will get confirmed, and there's an extremely good chance that either Justice Ginsburg, Breyer, or Kennedy will retire by 2020, giving Trump a second pick to tilt the court to a 6-3 conservative bent that would end legalized abortion, affirmative action, and maybe even same-sex marriage.  It would certainly continue the Roberts Court path of rolling back the New Deal and Great Society.

Udall makes a good pitch, and it's as good as it's going to get for Democrats.  But Republicans don't want to unite the country, they want to dominate it, and leave liberals and liberalism broken, bleeding, and crushed on the floor, without rights, without power, and without hope.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Last Call For Assurance Insurance

Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin takes to a FOX News opinion column to lead the charge of the Trump-era response to kicking tens of millions off health insurance: five weeks in, Trump is the best POTUS ever and you can just shut up.

On a larger scale, President Trump shares the desire of most Americans to see the failed ObamaCare law repealed and replaced.

Voters took note that ObamaCare was a massive and highly complex law with many layers of bureaucracy. It should be no surprise that replacing it will result in some vigorous debate and, at times, disagreement.

The president made a brilliant choice when appointing Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary. As a former physician and congressman, Secretary Price brings much experience and knowledge to the health care issue. Now that he has been confirmed, we can begin to build consensus on how best to accomplish replacement of this disastrous law. 
Finally, President Trump can elaborate on his economic agenda and the positive response by investors to his pro-business vision. 
In Kentucky, we are meeting regularly with business leaders who are encouraged about our state’s recent passage of pro-business legislation and who are now considering our state as a possible location for expansion. Likewise, President Trump’s commitments to tax reform and deregulation have encouraged investors to propel the stock market to new heights. 
The president’s address to Congress can provide investors with more specifics of his economic agenda and, in so doing, confirm the optimism investors have expressed.
The Trump administration can be proud of these accomplishments and the impressive array of additional cabinet appointments, including Kentuckian Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation.

The American people are not fooled by the media's non-stop negative narrative which is intended to overshadow the president's positive vision and his remarkable pace of significant achievements.

I mean, I thought Bevin was a small-scale grifter and basically in a protracted fight to fleece Kentuckians out of as much money as possible before he ends up getting investigated for fraud.  But he's hitched himself to the Trump Train and he's fully prepared to take the state careening into the canyon when the bridge to reality ahead is out.

Trump's "remarkable pace of significant achievements" is the most unerringly stupid thing I've seen written about the man so far.  Leave it to my idiot governor to be the one saying it.

Of course, it's Bevin who will take the guillotine when he gets done kicking a tenth of the state off Medicaid, but I'm sure he'll end up getting a nice job with either the Trump regime or with FOX News after his failed re-election bis in 2019.

Just Don't Deport The Good Ones, Donny

When Trump voters were more than happy to cast their ballot for the guy who promised to "get rid of the Mexicans" and all that?  They didn't mean get rid of the "good Mexicans", just the "bad hombres". Or something.

West Frankfort, Illinois, overwhelmingly voted for President Donald Trump last fall, but now some residents are upset after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested and detained a beloved local Mexican restaurant owner. 
The New York Times reports that ICE last week detained Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, the owner of the La Fiesta restaurant in the town of 8,000 people located in southern Illinois. 
While residents in the town said that they were still supportive of the president’s moves to deport undocumented immigrants, they told the Times that the president should make more exceptions for people like Pacheco, who have not only been exemplary local businessmen, but also pillars of the community who take part in local charity events. 
“I think people need to do things the right way, follow the rules and obey the laws, and I firmly believe in that,” local resident Lori Barron told the paper. “But in the case of Carlos, I think he may have done more for the people here than this place has ever given him. I think it’s absolutely terrible that he could be taken away.” 
West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan similarly praised Pacheco as a “great asset” to the community who “doesn’t ask for anything in return.” 
And Richard Glodich, the athletic director at a local high school, wrote a letter in support of Pacheco in which he slammed ICE for arresting “a GOOD MAN that should be used as a role model for other immigrants.” 
The specific reason that ICE decided to target Pacheco for arrest is still unknown. ICE wouldn’t comment on the specificity of Pacheco’s case, and would only say that “every day, as part of routine operations, ICE officers target and arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws.”

Hey, Carlos made pretty good enchiladas and besides, it was the only Mexican restaurant worth a damn in town, right guys?

Look, Trump voters.  This is exactly what you voted for.  This is what you said you wanted, you wanted the wall, you wanted them rounded up, you wanted to stop them from "taking your jobs". Well now there's possibly some prime commercial restaurant space available in West Frankfort, so who's going to step up?

I have all kinds of sympathy for Carlos and his employees.  He clearly and obviously contributed to the community.  But guess what?  You voted to wreck that arrangement because you wanted "jobs" and you wanted "America first".  This is what you get.  We warned you guys over here on this side that this was what was coming for years if you put the GOP back in charge, and you said "Well, at least he's not that Clinton bitch."

Now all of a sudden there's so much buyer's remorse across America.  Reap that whirlwind, guys. There's a lot more of that crop coming to you, and soon.

Orange You Glad You Have A Budget Plan

The Trump regime's proposed budget is mostly useless, like all White House budget plans (since Congress actually writes the numbers) but it at least lets us know what the top priorities are for this White House.  Apparently that top priority is preparing for war, and a hell of a lot of it.

President Donald Trump is proposing major defense spending increases and big cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, State Department and other federal agencies in a proposed budget to be presented soon to Congress, said a person familiar with the plan.

The outline of the budget will be made public as early as Monday, according to two White House officials. They declined to comment further on what the budget may entail. Trump is scheduled to make an address to Congress on Tuesday night.

Congress ultimately determines how the federal government’s money is spent, and the White House budget is mostly an opening bid in what could be a protracted process to set a federal spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump’s first budget won’t touch entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare. It will instead focus on ways to produce long-term economic growth by slashing taxes, he said in an interview taped Friday and broadcast Sunday on Fox News Channel.

The New York Times reported Sunday evening that the budget will assume economic growth of 2.4 percent, below the 3 percent growth Trump has pledged. Mnuchin said that the administration thinks a combination of tax cuts and regulatory relief will lead to economic growth of 3 percent or higher. “We’re going to make sure this works,” he said in the Fox interview. “This is all about creating growth.”

The proposed cuts to the State Department are substantial, maybe as much as 30% (and even more draconian to the EPA.)  Meanwhile, the Pentagon will get a significant increase in funding at the direct expense of domestic programs.  Social Security and Medicare still have "third-rail" status, but other domestic safety net programs like Medicaid, SNAP benefits, child care subsidies, federal education programs like free and reduced-price school lunches?  They are expected to be gutted.

In other words, the very programs that Trump voters depend on the most will be the first to go in order to pay for more F-35s and nukes, and most of all, tax cuts for the rich.  Now, the Trump regime will say this will create millions of new jobs that will eliminate the need for social programs, but we all know that coal jobs and manufacturing jobs aren't coming back, so the reality is Trump is going to screw over his base and continue to blame that on those people for four years.

I'm betting the Ryan Austerity Budget isn't too far off from this, if anything it will have more domestic program cuts and less defense spending to allow for even larger tax cuts for the 1%.

But stay tuned folks.  The Age of GOP Austerity Cuts are coming.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Repeal And Repulse

The House GOP plan to repeal Obamacare is starting to take shape, and surprise, there's no "replace".  It's a disaster that will leave tens of millions with no health insurance, and tens of millions more with more expensive plans that cover far less than under the ACA.

Republican replacement plans for Obamacare would lead to significant declines in the number of Americans with health insurance coverage, according to an analysis presented Saturday at the National Governors Association and obtained by Vox.

The analysis was conducted by the health research firm Avalere Health and the consulting firm McKinsey and Company.

The analysis includes graphs on what the Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare’s tax credits, generally making them less generous, would do. They are based on the recent 19-page proposal that Republican leadership released about their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. In particular, they look at the effect of switching from income-based tax credits (which give poor people more help) to age-based tax credits, where everyone would get the same amount.

The report estimates what would happen in a hypothetical state with 300,000 people in the individual market that has also expanded Medicaid. In the individual market, enrollment would fall 30 percent and 90,000 people would become uninsured.

An additional 115,000 people in that hypothetical state may also lose coverage because they are enrolled in Medicaid and cannot find an affordable private plan.

The report estimates that coverage declines would be even higher in states that did not expand Medicaid — largely those run by Republican governors. There, the report presents an example of a state with 235,000 in the individual market. It estimates that coverage would decline by 120,000 people, about 50 percent.

Combined with Medicaid block grants, which would be billions in cuts to state Medicaid programs *on top of* eliminating funding for expanded Medicaid, you're getting the picture here: Republicans would not only take the state of insurance back to the Dubya era, it would be even worse because Medicaid would be gutted.

And this is why Republicans are terrified.  They know they're about to be burned at the stake for this.

Electing To Send A Message

Not only did Democrats keep the Delaware State Senate in yesterday's special election, but Stephanie Hansen won by an impressive margin, with pretty good turnout to boot.  Maybe Dems will start turning out after all.

In the most expensive special election in Delaware history ― a contest to decide which party controls the state Senate ― Democrat Stephanie Hansen was on track to annihilate her Republican rival on the back of extraordinary turnout.

The last time her opponent, John Marino, ran in this district, in 2014, he lost by just 2 points. Hansen’s 58-42 percent victory over Marino on Saturday ensured that Democrats will maintain control of the state Senate. It also notched a big Donald Trump-era win for a new generation of Democratic activists shocked into action by the November election.

“We turned back that win from Washington and made sure it won’t hit Delaware,” Hansen said in her victory speech Saturday night.

While Hansen’s campaign was focused on local issues, she saw a huge swell of support after nationwide Women’s March protests on Jan. 21. Protesters, many of them out in the streets for the first time, have been turning their energy toward local and state politics. The first major election since the uprising was Delaware’s.

Hansen’s campaign received huge support. More than 1,000 volunteers worked during the course of the campaign, and about 500 ― many from nearby states ― showed up Saturday for Election Day. Hansen received more than 14,000 contributions of less than $100 from small donors spread all over the country.

“That’s more volunteers than I’ve had in nine elections,” exclaimed state Sen. Dave Sokola (D), of Hansen’s Election Day workers.

“It’s overwhelming to see all these people,” said Kelly Wright, a resident of Hansen’s district. “It’s making me emotional to see that people come take a bus two-plus hours away.”

The turnout of volunteers made a huge difference as Hansen crushed her Republican opponent with unusually high turnout for a special election.

Democrats made the mistake of convincing themselves wins like these for the GOP in 2009 and 2013 were flukes, or just local anomalies.  Republicans aren't going to make that same mistake, and they are definitely going to be ready to fight back hard.   But with Trump at 44% and falling, Republicans are going to have a hell of a time doing that effectively.

Tie everyone to Trump, and the Dems just might come out ahead.

Sunday Long Read: The New Cold War

This week's Sunday Long Read is the New Yorker's tour de force on Putin, Russia, and the badly compromised Trump regime, the Obama administration, and Hillary Clinton.  It's an excellent recap of the last 18 months, and pretty good tool to see what's ahead for America.

The 2016 Presidential campaign in the United States was of keen interest to Putin. He loathed Obama, who had applied economic sanctions against Putin’s cronies after the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Russian state television derided Obama as “weak,” “uncivilized,” and a “eunuch.”) Clinton, in Putin’s view, was worse—the embodiment of the liberal interventionist strain of U.S. foreign policy, more hawkish than Obama, and an obstacle to ending sanctions and re√ęstablishing Russian geopolitical influence. At the same time, Putin deftly flattered Trump, who was uncommonly positive in his statements about Putin’s strength and effectiveness as a leader. As early as 2007, Trump declared that Putin was “doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period.” In 2013, before visiting Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, Trump wondered, in a tweet, if he would meet Putin, and, “if so, will he become my new best friend?” During the Presidential campaign, Trump delighted in saying that Putin was a superior leader who had turned the Obama Administration into a “laughingstock.” 
For those interested in active measures, the digital age presented opportunities far more alluring than anything available in the era of Andropov. The Democratic and Republican National Committees offered what cybersecurity experts call a large “attack surface.” Tied into politics at the highest level, they were nonetheless unprotected by the defenses afforded to sensitive government institutions. John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a former chief of staff of Bill Clinton’s, had every reason to be aware of the fragile nature of modern communications. As a senior counsellor in the Obama White House, he was involved in digital policy. Yet even he had not bothered to use the most elementary sort of defense, two-step verification, for his e-mail account. 
“The honest answer is that my team and I were over-reliant on the fact that we were pretty careful about what we click on,” Podesta said. In this instance, he received a phishing e-mail, ostensibly from “the Gmail team,” that urged him to “change your password immediately.” An I.T. person who was asked to verify it mistakenly replied that it was “a legitimate e-mail.” 
The American political landscape also offered a particularly soft target for dezinformatsiya, false information intended to discredit the official version of events, or the very notion of reliable truth. Americans were more divided along ideological lines than at any point in two decades, according to the Pew Research Center. American trust in the mainstream media had fallen to a historic low. The fractured media environment seemed to spawn conspiracy theories about everything from Barack Obama’s place of birth (supposedly Kenya) to the origins of climate change (a Chinese hoax). Trump, in building his political identity, promoted such theories.

“Free societies are often split because people have their own views, and that’s what former Soviet and current Russian intelligence tries to take advantage of,” Oleg Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general, who has lived in the United States since 1995, said. “The goal is to deepen the splits.” Such a strategy is especially valuable when a country like Russia, which is considerably weaker than it was at the height of the Soviet era, is waging a geopolitical struggle with a stronger entity.

And that's where we are today, a country so hopelessly fractured we remain on the verge of breaking down into a new, far more frightening configuration.  The GOP spent years tearing the country apart. All Putin had to do was find two ends on either side of a tear to grab on to, and to pull as hard as he could.

What will survive the Trump regime?  I couldn't tell you.  But it sure as hell won't be the America I thought we were in January 2009.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meet The New Chairman

As expected, the final vote for chair of the DNC came down to former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison with Rep. Pete Buttgieg dropping out over the weekend. It was a close vote, but in the end, Perez won the battle.

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez has defeated Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee in a blow to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the progressive wing of the party.

Perez won with 235 votes on the second ballot, with 218 votes needed to reach a majority. He fell just shy in the first ballot, totaling 213.5 votes.

The win came after Perez failed to clear the threshold required to win the first vote by only one ballot.

Vice President Biden and other key figures from the Obama administration supported Perez, who backed Hillary Clinton in the primary.

Sanders and many of his allies backed Ellison, the first-ever Muslim elected to Congress and a star on the left. Several Ellison supporters told The Hill this week that they are unsure if they can back Perez.

The race to become the next Democratic Party leader split along establishment-grassroots lines and in many ways mirrored the divisive 2016 presidential primary between Sanders and Clinton.

The mainstream Democrats won out again.

Perez, the 55-year-old son of Dominican immigrants, becomes the party’s public face and chief spokesperson in charge of staking out Democratic opposition to President Trump.

I had some problems with Ellison, but he answered a lot of questions over the last month that I had about him and to his credit he stayed in the fight cleanly, without making it personal (and realizing that, you know, Bernie Sanders isn't a Democrat, and the people in the party are.)  To me, he proved that he really did care more about the party than his own ambitions, and like Perez, I would have been happy with either as chair.

Perez's first act was to immediately (and very, very wisely) appoint Ellison as deputy chair, but needless to say, the pressure is already on Perez to deliver immediately on the way to 2018.  If the Dems keep losing ground, Perez isn't going to have a honeymoon at all, and there will be calls for him to resign and turn operations over to Ellison sooner rather than later.

Anyhow, ball's in your court, Tom.  Be ready to play.  The country needs the Dems back in action, immediately if not sooner.

New tag: Tom Perez.

The Panic Is Setting In

Town halls full of pissed off constituents were dropped on Democrats like atom bombs in 2010 as the backlash to President Obama's election took a six-year toll on the party and gave the country to the Republicans.  Now in 2017, five weeks into the Trump regime, the GOP is learning the hard way that when you're the dog that actually catches the car you've been chasing, you're the first one to get run over.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said on Friday that a special prosecutor needs to lead an investigation into the alleged ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Issa made the comments to talk show host Bill Maher on HBO. Maher asked about allegations of Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Issa initially said House and Senate committees would investigate, and then Maher asked about the idea of an independent counsel handling the matter instead of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“You cannot have somebody — a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee,” Issa said. “You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office — not just to recuse, you can’t just give it to your deputy, that’s another political appointee — you do have to do that.” 
Issa then went on to explain why he believes such an investigation is needed, criticizing Putin.

“There may or may not be fault,” Issa said. “But the American people are beginning to understand that Putin murders his enemies, sometimes right in front of the Kremlin, and then suddenly the cameras don’t work there. He’s murdered people and taken down using cyber warfare in Georgia and Ukraine. This is a bad guy who murders people who runs a gas station with an economy the size of Italy but is screwing up things all over the world that we’ve been doing ‘working with.’ Now we have to work with them. We don’t have to trust them, and we need to investigate their activities, and we need to do it because they are bad people.”

For Issa to crack this early in the proceedings is a sure sign that much worse information about the Trump regime is coming out, and soon. He's not only throwing Trump under the bus, but Jeff Sessions and the whole pro-Putin machine as well.

Issa's wealth and political power are considerable, having led the House Oversight Committee before Jason Chaffetz (who he's also throwing under the bus here.)  If he's calling for a special prosecutor, he's not just scared -- he's terrified.

Issa won't be the last Republican to call for a special prosecutor on Russia, either.  Count on that.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

And the other shoe drops on the Priebus/FBI interference story: it wasn't just Priebus who was trying to kill the Russia story by trying to get the FBI to disavow their investigation, but a full-court press by multiple Trump regime staffers and Republicans in Congress to talk news outlets into burying the Russia talk completely.

The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House.

Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.

The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories on the alleged contacts with Russia.

The White House on Friday acknowledged those interactions with the FBI but did not disclose that it then turned to other officials who agreed to do what the FBI would not — participate in White House-arranged calls with news organizations, including The Washington Post.

Two of those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity — a practice President Trump has condemned.

The officials broadly dismissed Trump associates’ contacts with Russia as infrequent and inconsequential. But the officials would not answer substantive questions about the issue, and their comments were not published by The Post and do not appear to have been reported elsewhere.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed that the White House communicated with officials with the aim of contesting reporting on Russia, but maintained that the administration did nothing improper. “When informed by the FBI that [the ­Russia-related reporting] was false, we told reporters who else they should contact to corroborate the FBI’s version of the story,” he said.

The decision to involve those officials could be perceived as threatening the independence of U.S. spy agencies that are supposed to remain insulated from partisan issues, as well as undercutting the credibility of ongoing congressional probes. Those officials saw their involvement as an attempt to correct coverage they believed to be erroneous.

The effort also involved senior lawmakers with access to classified intelligence about Russia, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees. A spokesman for Nunes said that he had already begun speaking to reporters to challenge the story and that, “at the request of a White House communications aide, Chairman Nunes then spoke to an additional reporter and delivered the same message.”

Unlike the others, Nunes spoke on the record and was subsequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal.

In other words, this isn't Bannon trying to get rid of Priebus or any court intrigue here, this is full-blown panic mode in the Trump regime, drafting both House and Senate Republicans to put heavy pressure on the FBI and journalists to make the Trump regime's ties to Russia disappear.

Needless to say, the Washington Post is not playing ball.

Time for that special prosecutor, folks.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Last Call For Trump's America

Ian Grillot, hiding behind a table, counted the gunshots. When he thought the gunman was out of bullets, he jumped up to pursue the man. 
But the man who opened fire inside Austins Bar & Grill about 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday night still had one round left, and he used it to shoot Grillot. The bullet went through the 24-year-old Olathe man’s hand and into his chest. 
“I guess I miscounted,” Grillot said Thursday from his hospital room, in a video released by the University of Kansas Health System. He had acted, he said, to try to stop a man who had just shot two other bar patrons, one of whom died. 
“I wasn’t really thinking when I did that,” Grillot said. “It was just, it wasn’t right, and I didn’t want the gentleman to potentially go after somebody else.” 
Grillot, a 2010 graduate of Olathe North High School, remained hospitalized in stable condition and is expected to recover. Employees at Austins Bar & Grill said they weren’t surprised that Grillot, a bar regular there to watch a basketball game, stepped up to defend the two men when another was spouting racial slurs at them. Grillot was known by some employees to be the calm guy to defuse tense situations. 
Grillot’s sister, Maggie, recounted the shooting in a Facebook message to update friends and others on his condition. 
“He tried standing up for two people who were being wrongly bullied,” Maggie Grillot wrote. 
Grillot was inside the Austins patio area when a man directed derogatory, racial statements at two men. At one point, suspect Adam Purinton, 51, of Olathe, was kicked out of the bar and then came back in “to open fire,” according to Grillot’s GoFundMe page.

Purinton is the Missouri man who allegedly shot Grillot and two Indian engineers at Austins while screaming "Get out of my country".  One of those engineers, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, is dead.  Purinton faces murder and attempted murder charges.  But it's Missouri, so hate crime charges?  Probably won't happen.

And if you're somehow expecting the Trump DoJ and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions to step in and do the right thing, well...

You've got another thing coming, America.

This is our country now.  You should be ashamed of it.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article134581204.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article134581204.html#storylink=cpy

Bannon Presses The War

Meanwhile at this year's CPAC, the yearly conservative hootenanny where Republicans hang out with their Bircher buddies, Trump regime propaganda minister Steve Bannon is happily declaring war on America's free press, vowing to exterminate anyone who doesn't agree with Dear Leader Donald.

Even Chris Cillizza is starting to catch on.

It's no secret that Stephen K. Bannon, the past chairman of Breitbart News and now a senior strategist to the president, is behind much of Trump's anti-media rhetoric. The idea of the media as the “opposition party” or the “enemy" — two phrases Trump has used of late to describe those who cover him — is pure Bannon. 
So, there was no reason to think that Bannon was going to be anything but confrontational with the media during a joint appearance with Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday afternoon. 
But, even by Bannon's standards, he seemed to ramp up his attacks on the media and offer a very clear message to political journalists: You think this is bad? Just wait. 
“It's going to get worse every day for the media,” Bannon said, insisting that the “corporatist” media would continue to see Trump pursue exactly the sort of economic nationalism that journalism allegedly despises. Then he added this call to arms: “If you think they are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.” 
The message from Bannon was unmistakable: The enemy of Donald Trump and those who think like him is not, really, Democrats but, in actuality, the media. And the only way to combat the media is to fight like hell against them on everything and anything. 
As I've noted before, presidents (and their staffs) always have an adversarial relationship with the press. The administration insists the press isn't telling the story of the White House right. The press complains about a lack of access to the key players in the White House. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. 
But what Bannon and, by extension, Trump are up to is something very different than simply an adversarial working relationship with the media. Bannon doesn't want to change the media. He wants to totally dismantle the media. He wants to break its back and leave it for dead by the side of the road. And he's not afraid of telling the media to their faces about that plan.

Why yes Chris, he does want to exterminate you.

Maybe you should start treating him like that's his plan before he starts rounding up journalists like yourself as enemies of the state for publishing leaks.

Just an idea.  Anyway, today the Trump regime started to make good on its threats.

The White House blocked a number of news outlets from covering spokesman Sean Spicer’s question-and-answer session on Friday afternoon.

Spicer decided to hold an off-camera “gaggle” with reporters inside his West Wing office instead of the traditional on-camera briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.

Among the outlets not permitted to cover the gaggle were news organizations President Trump has singled out for criticism, including CNN.

The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Daily Mail, BBC, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News were among the other news organizations not permitted to attend. 
Journalists from several right-leaning outlets were allowed into Spicer’s office, including Breitbart, the Washington Times and One America News Network.

A number of major news organizations were also let in to cover the gaggle. That group included ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Reuters, Bloomberg and McClatchy.

By the way, the news outlets excluded?  All have broken at least one major story on Trump and Russia over the last five weeks.  And as Bannon said yesterday, it will only get worse for the media from here.

Your move, media.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Trump/Russia story continues, this time with a CNN story that the Trump regime directly asked the FBI to publicly disavow its own ongoing investigation into the regime's ties with Russia.

The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN
But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate. 
White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14. 
The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations. 
Late Thursday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer objected to CNN's characterization of the White House request to the FBI. 
"We didn't try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth," Spicer said. The FBI declined to comment for this story.

So, at best, this is the Trump regime putting pressure on the FBI to publicly comment on an ongoing investigation in the regime's favor, when the rules exist expressly for the purpose of preventing such an obvious conflict of interest.  Worst case: Reince Priebus is guilty of outright obstruction of justice.  Democrats are not going to let this one slide.

House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers said the report was cause for bipartisan concern, renewing a call for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from an investigation into what he called "clear ties" between the Trump administration and Russian officials.

"The need for an independent, bipartisan investigation into these matters has never been more clear," he said. "The Trump team has clear ties to the Russian government—and we ignore those ties at our own peril."

Several other former federal employees blasted the actions as improper.

Former Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem blasted Priebus' reported actions as "so wrong" and "so desperate." Another Justice Department alum, Matthew Miller, called the interaction "beyond inappropriate," adding that it "veers dangerously close to tampering with an investigation."

Brian Fallon, former press secretary to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, responded to the story by alluding to the FBI Director's letter to Congress about reopening the investigation into Clinton's emails.

"On the plus side, this story means Comey is going to leak word of any attempt by Trump WH to meddle in his inquiry," Fallon wrote on Twitter Thursday.

I'm sure this will be spun by the usual suspects as Priebus simply trying to get Comey to put the "rogue Obama deep state leakers" in the FBI in line, but the expectation is clearly there that the regime expects Comey to make the Russia story vanish by ending the investigation, and soon.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Last Call For Bridge To Labor

Meanwhile, we know a bit more about Trump's quest for a new Labor Secretary, which is kind of difficult because rich CEOs are all terrible at convincing anyone they care about the guys making minimum wage.  It seems like Trump's next plan was simple: Pick a Republican who's such a loser, they'd jump at the chance.

President Trump offered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie the job of Labor secretary after a lunch meeting last week, Politico reported on Wednesday. 
The offer came as the president’s previous labor secretary pick Andrew Puzder’s nomination was in jeopardy. He eventually withdrew from consideration, and Trump quickly tapped Alexander Acosta for the job. 
Christie, who backed Trump’s presidential bid early on, served as the head of the president’s transition team until November, when he was replaced by Vice President Mike Pence
Still, the New Jersey governor and onetime GOP presidential candidate has been the frequent subject of rumors that he could be tapped for a post in the Trump administration. 
In an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly earlier this month, Christie said he was not offered a job in Trump’s administration that would have made him consider leaving his current post as governor. 
“The fact is that I wanted to be the governor of New Jersey, and if the president had offered me something that really was compelling me to get to Washington, I would have made the sacrifice to do it,” Christie said. 
And while he ultimately turned down the Labor secretary offer, that position was one of several jobs Trump has offered to Christie, according to Politico.

Actually, I'm fairly sure Christie my end up with a higher approval rating than Trump pretty soon. Go figure, even facing Bridgegate and a possible indictment and a GOP that hates him now, Christie still figures he's in a better position than Trump, at least good enough to turn the man down for a cabinet position.

Think about that.

Climate Of Disaster

Meanwhile, the worst flooding in a century in San Jose, CA has forced thousands out of their homes along the Coyote Creek.

Over the last two weeks, heavy rains pushed water levels at Santa Clara County’s largest reservoir into the danger zone, with officials warning it could overflow.

That happened over the weekend, sending massive amounts of water into the Coyote Creek, which runs through the heart of San Jose.

By Tuesday, the creek was overflowing at numerous locations, inundating neighborhoods, flooding hundreds of homes and forcing the frantic evacuations of more than 14,000 residents, who remained out of their homes Wednesday.

The worst flooding to hit Silicon Valley in a century left San Jose reeling and residents angry about why they were not given more warning that a disaster was imminent. Even city officials on Wednesday conceded they were caught off guard by the severity of the flooding and vowed a full investigation into what went wrong.

“If the first time a resident is aware that they need to get out of a home is when they see a firefighter in a boat, then clearly there has been a failure,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “There is no question that we’ll need to do things differently next time.”

Late Wednesday, Assistant City Manager Dave Sykes said officials had learned that the information they had on the capacity of Coyote Creek channel was not accurate. He also said the city was working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to determine whether debris caused blockages that contributed to flooding.

“The creek spilled over the banks faster and higher than anybody expected,” said city spokesman David Vossbrink.

Residents told harrowing stories of water flowing into homes and flooding streets. Many had to be rescued by boat. Some said they were surprised they did not get urgent warnings about the extent of the flooding.

“They didn’t say it was going to go up as high as it did,” said Louis Silva, 48. He said that his possessions were swallowed up in the flood and that the city should have warned people about the scale of the disaster with a cellphone text alert or by knocking on doors.

“They should’ve put the footwork in to show the urgency of the situation,” Silva said. “It hurt everyone. ... When Mother Nature shows up, she shows up.”

Dawn Rogers, 47, said she was in the mandatory evacuation zone but decided to hunker down instead of leave. She watched as firefighters took a boat down the street to rescue residents in homes that were flooded.

By 1 p.m. Tuesday, residents were rushing to fill up their cars with priceless valuables.

It was scary,” Rogers said. “Being in a drought for all these years, you don’t ever think you’re ever in danger of a flood.”

Remember, the problem with climate change isn't just long-term temperature increases, but the appearance of more extreme short-term weather events (like floods) and medium-term ones as well (like California's four-year drought) and the occurrence of these events more often and in a shorter time space.  Going from a 100-year drought to a 100-year flood is a really, really good example of this.

Expect to see a lot more of this in the near future, especially with this regime in charge.

The Criminalization Of Dissent Continues

Republicans aren't wasting any time in their legislative response to protesters around the country as the party has been saddled with the most unpopular regime in modern history.  Now the GOP is moving at the state level to criminalize these protests and in Arizona at least the goal is to seize all assets of anyone involved in assembly.

Claiming people are being paid to riot, Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad — even before anything actually happened.

SB1142 expands the state’s racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others.

But the real heart of the legislation is what Democrats say is the guilt by association — and giving the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of everyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated. And what’s worse, said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, is that the person who may have broken a window, triggering the claim there was a riot, might actually not be a member of the group but someone from the other side.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, acknowledged that sometimes what’s planned as a peaceful demonstration can go south.

“When people want to express themselves as a group during a time of turmoil, during a time of controversy, during a time of high emotions, that’s exactly when people gather as a community,’’ he said. “Sometimes they yell, sometimes they scream, sometimes they do go too far.’’

Quezada said, though, that everything that constitutes rioting already is a crime, ranging from assault to criminal damage, and those responsible can be individually prosecuted. He said the purpose of this bill appears to be designed to chill the First Amendment rights of people to decide to demonstrate in the first place for fear something could wrong.

Join a protest, get rung up on RICO charges if anyone so much as breaks a window...even if it was not anyone involved in the protest.  Republicans will not tolerate dissent, and they will use the power of the state to crush anyone who disagrees with them.

But Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that chilling effect is aimed at a very specific group of protesters.

“You now have a situation where you have full-time, almost professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder,’’ he said.

“A lot of them are ideologues, some of them are anarchists,’’ Kavanagh continued. “But this stuff is all planned.’’

There’s something else: By including rioting in racketeering laws, it actually permits police to arrest those who are planning events. And Kavanagh, a former police officer, said if there are organized groups, “I should certainly hope that our law enforcement people have some undercover people there.’’

Once again, the next step is to declare liberal protest groups and organizations like Black Lives Matter as terrorists and enemies of the state.  These are the laws that will be used to justify that the full power of the state be used to obliterate anyone who fails to bow to Trump the Tyrant.

These laws will be used against American citizens.  They will be spread to other states, and I would suspect they will be implemented as federal crimes as well, and soon.

We're moving very quickly into the authoritarian era of America.  My prediction that the next major Black Lives Matter protest in a red state will be met with overwhelming, lethal force is all but a guarantee at this point.

This is happening in real-time, guys. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mitch The Turtle Gets Shelled

Sen. Mitch McConnell is definitely among the scores of Republicans running scared from constituents this week as people are showing up at town halls and other events to let the GOP know just how they feel about the Trump/Ryan plan to cut billions from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to give tax cuts to the rich.

But at a luncheon in Lawrenceburg yesterday, Mitch ran into the jet intake and got spit out into the wall going 200, maybe 250 MPH.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) got an earful from an angry constituent at a luncheon in Kentucky on Tuesday.

The exchange began innocently enough, with the woman saying she loved McConnell.

“Thank you,” he replied. “I needed that.”

But he wouldn’t thank her for what she said next.

The unidentified voter berated McConnell over jobs and health care, saying:

“The last I heard, these coal jobs are not coming back and now these people don’t have the insurance they need because they’re poor. And they work those coal mines, and they’re sick, the veterans are sick, the veterans are broken down, they’re not getting what they need.”

And that's true.  Mitch was not prepared for it.  And if people are confronting him, in Kentucky, and he's not even up for re-election until 2020?  Suddenly Republicans really are in trouble at home, guys. Things are moving pretty fast.  People are figuring out that Trump will never be able to keep all his promises, and there's going to be hell to pay.

Democrats found out the hard way in 2010 that this can happen.  I'm hoping Republicans get crushed by this next year.

We'll see.

No Sanctuary In The Cities

A new Harvard-Harris Poll finds that four out of five Americans want sanctuary cities to go.

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that cities that arrest illegal immigrants for crimes should be required to turn them over to federal authorities.

The poll shows that President Trump has broad public support in his effort to crack down on sanctuary cities.

A survey from Harvard–Harris Poll provided exclusively to The Hill found that 80 percent of voters say local authorities should have to comply with the law by reporting to federal agents the illegal immigrants they come into contact with.As it stands, hundreds of cities across the nation — many with Democratic mayors or city councils — are refusing to do so.

Trump has signed an executive order directing Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to find ways to starve these sanctuary cities of federal funding. A Reuters analysis found the top 10 sanctuary cities in the U.S. receive $2.27 billion in federal funding for programs ranging from public health services to early childhood education.

Kelly is expected to hire thousands of new immigration enforcement agents with broad authority to detain and deport those in the country illegally, potentially setting up a showdown between the federal government and sanctuary cities.

The Harvard–Harris Poll survey found strong support for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, with 77 percent saying they support comprehensive immigration reform against only 23 percent who oppose.

“While there is broad support for comprehensive immigration reform, there is overwhelming opposition to sanctuary cities,” said Harvard–Harris co-director Mark Penn. “The public wants honest immigrants treated fairly and those who commit crimes deported and that's very clear from the data.”

Both the Dubya and Obama administrations looked the other way on sanctuary cities because it was an ugly fight that they considered to not be worth it.  The Trump regime on the other hand is happy to pick this fight, and it's a fight that these cities are going to lose.  Cutting billions in federal grants to these cities will have a major effect, and while that 80% number may go down as a result, it's still a losing fight.  The Constitution's Supremacy Clause makes the legal picture very clear here, and as a result Miami has already thrown in the towel. I expect several other cities will follow suit when it becomes evident that Trump really will cut funding to programs to punish cities.

Los Angeles and New York City will probably hold out longer than most, there's ample reason to believe blue states will work to make up additional state funding for cut programs, but that's not going to be an option in states like Florida, Texas, or Ohio.

We'll see how long this takes, but if 80% of Americans really are against sanctuary cities, then it's only a matter of time.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

As I pointed out last night, the Trump regime has set the groundwork for mass deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants.

In other words, rather than previous administrations focusing on undocumented people with criminal records and those immediately caught crossing the border, nearly all undocumented immigrants in the US would be targeted for "removal" by Trump regime ICE. Just the crime of being an undocumented immigrant could be enough for deportation proceedings and removal, depending on what the new field guidance priorities are.

We now have these ICE field guidance directives, and they are just as bad as feared.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a sweeping set of orders Tuesday that implement President Trump's plan to increase immigration enforcement, placing the vast majority of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation. 
The memos instruct all agents, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify, capture and quickly deport every undocumented immigrant they encounter
The memos require undocumented immigrants caught entering the country to be placed in detention until their cases are resolved, increase the ability of local police to help in immigration enforcement, call for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration agents and allow planning to begin on an expansion of the border wall between the United States and Mexico. 
The memos make undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime the highest priority for enforcement operations. But they make clear that ICE agents should also arrest and initiate deportation proceedings against any other undocumented immigrant they encounter
"Department personnel have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officers has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws," one memo read. "They also have full authority to initiate removal proceedings against any alien who is subject to removal under any provision of the (Immigration and Nationality Act)." 
A Homeland Security official who briefed reporters Tuesday said that deportation protections President Obama granted in 2012 to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children will continue to be honored so long as those immigrants abide by the rules of the program. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the memos.

So for now, DREAMers will be marginally "safe" under DACA.  This will not last long, I suspect.

Everyone else, as many as ten million, are now subject to arrest and deportation.  As I said last night, it's now only a matter of logistics.  It won't happen right away, but now the tools to start are in place.

Expect many, many more raids as ICE has been given carte blanche.  As I keep saying, those private deportation facilities don't make any money unless they are full.

Still The Same Old Trump Rallies

Author Jeb Lund went to Trump's rally in Melbourne, Florida over the weekend and found that Trump supporters are still happily riding the Trump Train, not seeming to mind the occasional missing hunk of track or BRIDGE OUT signs ahead.

If people told you that MAGA hats come 25 percent off when you look peevish and 50 percent off when you're already wearing a sneer, the line snaking out of the airport hangar and a quarter mile down S. Apollo Blvd. in Melbourne, Florida, and awaiting President Trump's first rally since his inauguration would have made you believe them. 
These are the wages of a campaign and an ideology of apocalyptic civilizational struggle: a pep rally that feels undergirded with dread, voters who dismiss leftists as "special snowflakes living in a bubble," gathering in an 83 percent white county that went for Trump by nearly 20 points, and pointing across the road at a few hundred protesters behind a net barrier, wondering whether an international Jewish financier has underwritten a special attack for Saturday afternoon.

Whitey Taylor—"it's not Blackie, it's Whitey," he clarified—hawked MAGA hats and Hillary For Prison shirts at 50 Trump rallies in 33 states during the campaign and was unconcerned about the stakes. A customer asked if he was worried about protester violence; as Taylor turned his face to look at the man, a little smirk embedded in the off-white beard and deep lines framing his nose and mouth. "I've got a 9mm. I don't worry about any of these people." 
The worry grew stronger down the road, where the line looked interminable and threatened to disappear into the gray that seems to swallow the horizon under the lowering sky of a Florida afternoon. Two retired women sat in folding canvas camping chairs, watching the line, waiting for the rest of their party to gather, certain the protesters across the road were paid by George Soros. 
"I think there's a good share of them," said Francis Gilmore, who'd moved down to Florida in the last decade. They were here to advance the Soros agenda. "You can go anywhere you want, do anything you want, live the way you want, say anything you want. No sort of control. They will control us." Soros was the bad kind of billionaire, not like the ones in Trump's cabinet, who "don't have to rob the money from us because they've got enough of their own." 
Her friend, who refused to give her name, agreed. "There are many others besides George Soros but George Soros is the biggie," she said. "All the braindeads suck in the false news, because they don't have the ability to read and get the proper information." The friend had gotten a lot of the hidden details from The Creature from Jekyll Island, a Federal Reserve conspiracy book written by an HIV/AIDS denialist who believes he knows the location of Noah's ark and can cure cancer with a poisonous plant extract. When asked where else she gets her news, she replied, "Mostly radio." 
Gilmore and The Nameless Friend agreed that the protesters represented an unprecedented rejection of the office of the president and an ahistorical breach of civility. 
A man with dusty clothes, gap teeth, and a tan darker than his sandy blonde hair walked by with a four-year-old girl on his shoulders. 
"Hey, who wants to kill an unborn baby?" he said, gesturing across the street. "All them are retards. That's some shit."

So yeah, this is Trump's America, endless fear and demonization of those people, hollow chest beating, and a shared sense of camaraderie through perceived victimization.  We're all in control of the country and those stupid libtard snowflakes, but they're coming for us and  at any point we may have to start shooting.

These folks are uninformed, but they vote.  They vote GOP.  And there's nothing Trump can do that would make them not vote for him, short of being nice to liberals.  This is what I mean by impeachment or removal of Trump through the 25th Amendment being a dangerous fantasy.

Democrats need to stop relying on it, they need to stop considering it, they need to find a way to deal with the damage Trump and the GOP are causing people in real time rather than wasting breath on something that will never happen.  And the reason it will never happen is that Republicans fear Whitey Taylor and Francis Gilmore infinitely more than they fear the rest of the country.  Until they turn on Trump, he's president.

And they will never, ever turn on him.  Dems need to stop chasing these folks and worry about the millions of Dem voters who are going to be wrecked by Trump policies.

Suddenly 60 In The Senate May Not Be In Play

The last key to total domination for the GOP at this point (after the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and replacing either Ginsberg, Breyer, or Kennedy with a second pick) is getting to 60 Senate seats in 2018.  

Most observers find that far more likely that the GOP will pick up the 8 seats it needs in a midterm election compared to the 3 Democrats would need to get to 51, given the map and that fact that Dems would have to flip at least one GOP Senate seat in a state that Trump won in 2016 by double digits, whereas Dems have to defend a whopping ten Senate seats in states that Trump won last November.

But part of rolling to that victory depends on recruiting, and a month into the Trump regime, Republicans, with the best shot they've had in decades at 60 seats, are suddenly having a lot of trouble finding people to run against these supposedly vulnerable Dems.

The 2018 Senate cycle presents Republicans with a host of opportunities, but the party has already lost several top-tier candidates to fill the seats.

GOP Reps. Sean Duffy (Wis.) and Pat Meehan (Pa.) both recently announced that they’ll run for reelection instead of mounting Senate runs in blue-leaning states where President Trump pulled off upset victories.

Republicans are losing out on potential challengers in safely GOP states, too. Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks ruled out a run. Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke will likely be confirmed to lead the Interior Department, taking a top competitor out of the mix in that deep red state.

“The House [members] are generally pretty politically savvy people,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a politics website that handicaps elections. “They know midterms are often—not always—bad for the president's party.”

“Trump is off to a historically weak start in terms of his approval. …You got a lot of members of the House who are in relatively safe seats. Maybe they’re making the determination that this might not best year to run for Senate.”

While a few star GOP contenders have bowed out, Republicans are shrugging it off. They point to a deep bench of other credible candidates who they believe are just as capable of taking on vulnerable Democrats.

Republicans argue that it’s too early to tell whether Trump’s performance or midterm election dynamics are impacting House members’ decisions against Senate bids. While the first few weeks of his administration have been chaotic, they say voters in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin may view the president differently than those within the Beltway.

“It’s kind of hard to see the ‘this caused that,’ because what is “happening in the states is a lot different than what’s happening in our view,” said a national Republican operative.

If Republicans are getting cold feet this early in the 2018 cycle, it must mean that they're scared. Republicans have destroyed Democrats in midterms the 2010 and 2014, and that was before the help of new voter suppression laws that went into effect for 2016.

Republicans should be lining up to pick off supposedly doomed Dems like Jon Tester, Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill.  But they're not.

Suddenly Trump's sub-40% and sinking approval rating in just 30 days is looking like a distinct liability.

Maybe there's a small hope for Democrats after all.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

Greg Sargent notes that because the Trump regime has full control over enforcement of existing immigration laws, the damage Trump can do without Congress lifting a finger is immense.  Those new enforcement directives are coming, and it's looking very much like mass deportations of millions will be happening sooner rather than later.

Over the weekend, two memos signed by new Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly were leaked to the media, revealing plans to dramatically expand the pool of undocumented immigrants who will be targeted for deportation under President Trump. Though the memos are not yet official policy, they suggest Trump’s vow of mass deportations could, in some form, soon become a reality.

But buried in the memos is a separate provision that is worthy of attention on its own. That provision, immigration lawyers tell me, raises the possibility that under Trump, enforcement officers will have an easier time than under President Obama of arresting undocumented immigrants who are in schools or hospitals or are seeking sanctuary in churches.

This would be politically explosive if it came to pass, and a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security just told me that the Obama-era protection of people in such venues will remain in place.

But immigration and civil rights lawyers tell me they still want to see a much firmer assurance to this effect once DHS formally announces the new deportation policies. And they say fears are already circulating in immigration communities that these protections will not meaningfully exist under Trump.

The worry arises from a line in one of the newly leaked memos stating that “all existing” Homeland Security “memoranda or field guidance” regarding enforcement “are hereby immediately rescinded,” with a few exceptions. What this means is that the Obama DHS memos implementing his enforcement priorities — in which longtime residents and low-level offenders were deprioritized for removal, focusing enforcement resources on criminals and recent border-crossers — are getting scrapped. This is in keeping with Trump’s recently released executive order doing the same and is the basis for the belief that a much bigger pool of undocumented immigrants will now be targeted for removal, meaning mass deportations are coming.
In other words, rather than previous administrations focusing on undocumented people with criminal records and those immediately caught crossing the border, nearly all undocumented immigrants in the US would be targeted for "removal" by Trump regime ICE.  Just the crime of being an undocumented immigrant could be enough for deportation proceedings and removal, depending on what the new field guidance priorities are.

The only thing keeping this from happening is logistics at this point.  Rounding up millions is going to take resources, it's too big of a job to just snap your fingers and do.  But hey, scaring the crap out of existing undocumented folks so that they maybe self-deport?  That only helps the Trump regime.

We'll see what happens, but the pieces are continuing to be put into place.

A Bit Of A Diplomatic Incident

I'm not 100% what to make of this, but the timing outright sucks.

Russian officials said Vitaly Churkin, its ambassador to the United Nations, died suddenly in New York City on Monday.

Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, told the Associated Press that the 64-year-old Churkin became ill in his office at Russia's U.N. mission and was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he died. His cause of death wasn't immediately known.

Churkin has been Russia's envoy at the United Nations for a little over a decade and was considered Moscow's great champion at the U.N.

He had a reputation for an acute wit and sharp repartee especially with his American and Western counterparts. He was previously ambassador at large and earlier served as the foreign ministry spokesman.

Yeah, that's right, the Russian Ambassador to the UN has keeled over and kicked the vodka bottle, and given the tension right now this isn't a good thing.  I'm truly hoping no foul play was involved, because at this point there's way too many questions about Russians keeling over whenever Putin's involved.

Who knows.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Josh Marshall points out the Sater-day Night Massacre over the weekend in the Trump regime/Russia story (emphasis mine:)

I don't know how much attention it's received. But the appearance of the name of Felix Sater in this new article in the Times is one of the biggest shoes I've seen drop on the Trump story in some time.

The new story explains that a group of Trump operatives, including top lawyer Michael Cohen and fired former campaign manager Paul Manafort, along with a pro-Putin Ukrainian parliamentarian named Andrii V. Artemenko and Mr. Sater are pushing President Trump on a 'peace plan' for Russia and Ukraine.

Cohen recently met with Sater and Artemenko; and Cohen agreed to personally deliver the peace plan (actually a sealed envelope with documents detailing it) to the President when he met with him at the White House. Cohen says he left it with General Flynn days before Flynn was forced to resign.

The backstory to all this is amazingly byzantine and murky. Let me try to cover the key points as simply as I can.

Having spent some time studying the matter, the biggest red flags about Donald Trump's ties to Russia and businessmen around Vladimir Putin have always been tied to the Trump SoHo building project in Lower Manhattan, from the first decade of this century. I base my knowledge of this on this rather cursory but still quite good April 2016 article from the Times and my own limited snooping around the Outer Boroughs Russian and Ukrainian emigre press. (I summarized the most salient details of the earlier Times article in Item #3 of this post.) This was a key project, perhaps the key project in the post-bankruptcy era in which Trump appeared heavily reliant on Russian funds to finance his projects. Sater was at the center of that project. The details only came to light after the project got bogged down in a complicated series of lawsuits.
After the lawyers got involved, Trump said he barely knew who Sater was. But there is voluminous evidence that Sater, a Russian emigrant, was key to channeling Russian capital to Trump for years. Sater is also a multiple felon and at least a one-time FBI informant. Bayrock Capital, where he worked was located in Trump Tower and he himself worked as a special advisor to Trump. Again, read the Times article to get a flavor of his ties to Trump, the Trump SoHo project and Russia. For my money there's no better place to start to understand the Trump/Russia issue.

On its own, Trump's relationship with Sater might be written off (albeit not terribly plausibly) as simply a sleazy relationship Trump entered into to get access to capital he needed to finance his projects. Whatever shadowy ties Sater might have and whatever his criminal background, Trump has long since washed his hands of him. (Again, we're talking about most generous reads here.)

But now we learn that Sater is still very much in the Trump orbit and acting as a go-between linking Trump and a pro-Putin Ukrainian parliamentarian pitching 'peace plans' for settling the dispute between Russia and Ukraine. (Artemenko is part of the political faction which Manafort helped build up in the aftermath of the ouster of his Ukrainian benefactor, deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.) Indeed, far, far more important, Cohen - who is very close to Trump and known for dealing with delicate matters - is in contact with Sater and hand delivering political and policy plans from him to the President.

Were Cohen not involved, one might speculate that Sater is just up to yet another hustle, looking to parlay his one-time association with Trump into influence with the new President. Cohen hand delivering his messages to the President changes the picture considerably. How or why Cohen would do this, if for no other reason than the current massive scrutiny of Trump's ties to Russia and Sater's scandals, almost defies belief. But here we are.

So yet another player in the Trump regime, definitely sleazy, definitely a felon, definitely still working for The Donald, definitely still making deals with foreign nationals.  Doug J at Balloon Juice says it's all just too much for our broken media to handle.

I hate to keep beating this horse, but I’m wondering if maybe the Trump-Russia story is one of those things that establishment media just isn’t set up to cover. I don’t mean that they can’t cover individual pieces of the story but that they aren’t able to put it all together. I had the same feeling when Josh Marshall was breaking the Bush US Attorney story, which was also ignored by establishment media. I guess some stories have too many moving parts and say things that are too negative about powerful people for establishment media to handle.

We have an “All The President’s Men” press corps but we’re living in a “Chinatown” world.

Like people keep saying, your FOX-watching racist uncle knows nothing about Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, or Steve Bannon.  He knows that Hillary Clinton is a bitch though, and he knows the reason why he lost his job at the plant ten years ago is the fault of those goddamn liberals, because that's what he's been told daily for ten years. He doesn't give a damn about what Trump does as long as he brings the jobs back and gets rid of Muslims and Mexicans and Black Lives Matter.

The rest, well who cares, right?

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