Sunday, March 12, 2017

Last Call For The Other Side

I know it's fish, barrel, and fully automatic shotgun time here when I pull out an Other Side post ot have a good laugh at the "intellectual right" but this one was too good to pass up: Weekly Standard's Irwin Stelzer compares sanctuary cities to...wait for it...the segregationist South of the '60s.

The left is attempting to breathe life into the slave-owning and segregationist groups' interposition doctrine. Shades of Little Rock, where President Eisenhower nationalized the entire 10,000-man National Guard to prevent Gov. Orval Faubus from using it to interpose his will between the federal government's mandate to desegregate its schools and his state. And of Gov. George Wallace, another Democrat, who planted himself in a schoolhouse door of the University of Alabama in a show of preventing enforcement of federal writ, only to have President Kennedy do to him what Eisenhower had done to Faubus, and prove that federal law trumps "states' rights".

Our liberal governors and mayors are in the tradition of their Democratic predecessors in Arkansas and Alabama
. They have interposed themselves between the federal government and their sanctuary states and cities, ordering their police to refuse to allow federal agents do fulfill a federal mandate to remove illegal aliens, especially felons, from the country. If statues could smile, those being removed from public places would be grinning from marble ear to marble ear at the resurrection of their legal theory. Ike was famous for his grin, Jack for his cool. But both understood a challenge to federal authority when they saw it, and didn't hesitate to use the threat of force to face down challenges to that authority. Your move, Donald.

So not only is this clown comparing sanctuary cities to segregation (you know, resisting a government order to stop treating people as human beings vs making sure people aren't treated as human beings, OK) but he's more than willing to entertain sending in the National Guard to do...what, exactly?  Round up people and deport them?

Sure.  That makes you the good guys here, Irwin.  Jesus.  That's just like Little Rock.

The Price Is Wrong

If this footage of Trump regime HHS Secretary Tom Price doesn't end up in Democratic party commercials across America, then we really do deserve to lose.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Price how he could call the Affordable Care Act a “failing system” if millions of people were being covered under the law.

“Can you say for certain that once this bill is passed that nobody will be worse off financially when it comes to paying for health care?” Todd asked.

“There are a lot of people worse off right now,” Price insisted, opining on the cost of premiums under Obamacare.

“I notice you ducked the aspect of whether you can guarantee that nobody will be worse off financially,” Todd pressed.

I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through,” Price replied. “Understanding that they’ll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves.”

“There’s costs that needs to come down, and we believe that we’re going to be able to do that through this new system,” he added. “There’s coverage that’s going to go up.”

Here's the video:

Again, this one's falling-off-a-log simple, guys.  Tens of millions of Americans will be worse off thanks to the GOP replacement plan for Obamacare.  It's time for the Dems to start hitting back. 

The Mess In Texas

A majorly awaited ruling from the 5th Circuit on Texas's redistricting came down this week and it's a home run for the good guys as the 2-1 decision finds Texas Republicans indeed three drew districts in 2011 in order to specifically disenfranchise black and Hispanic voters in the state.

Ruling that Republicans redrew the Texas congressional map to intentionally discriminate against Latino and black voters in a “rushed and secretive process,” a federal court panel invalidated three districts, including one in Travis County, in an order issued late Friday.

However, in voiding the districts, drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011, the San Antonio-based panel did not mandate or discuss any remedies to correct the problems.

But the long-awaited ruling has the potential to create more districts with larger populations of Latino voters “and probably more Democratic districts, which would be good for Democrats in Texas and also nationally,” said Michael Li, redistricting counsel at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The 2-1 ruling described a chaotic, hurried process that led to the 2011 congressional maps, redrawn to add four new districts, thanks to the state’s rapid population growth.

It was a time of “strong racial tension and heated debate about Latinos, Spanish-speaking people, undocumented immigration and sanctuary cities, and the contentious voter ID law,” the court said.

The court criticized Republican lawmakers for providing “misleading” information about the new map’s impact on minority voters and noted that Democrats and minority advocates were shut out of the map-drawing process.

“The rushed and secretive process suggests that defendants did want to avoid scrutiny of whether their efforts in fact complied with the (Voting Rights Act) or were intended to do so, or whether they were only creating a facade of compliance,” said Friday’s order by U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia.

What this means is that there's a very good chance that Justice Kennedy would side with the Supreme Court's four liberals on this, as the ruling is based off of Kennedy's findings in another Texas redistricting case from 2006 that voided another district for the same reason.

It also means that the counter-argument is garbage.

Writing in dissent, Justice Jerry Smith of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the majority’s order tended to “miss the forest for the trees.”

“Texas redistricting in 2011 was essentially about politics, not race. All sides concede that — whether it is a good thing or not — Texas has a strong correlation between race and party,” Smith wrote. “It naturally follows that actions taken to disadvantage Democrats will disproportionately affect non-Anglo voters, regardless of the intent.

Got that?  There's no way in Texas that drawing districts to hurt Democrats wouldn't harm non-white voters, so why bother protecting them?  That's literally the definition of systemic racism, guys.

Texas can be placed back under federal pre-clearance of districts if the Supreme Court lets this stand. Unfortunately, the pre-clearance would be run by Jeff Sessions.

So in the long run? This ruling actually doesn't matter.  Sessions will do everything he can to see that Texas Republicans are able to draw more districts that harm Democrats, black and Hispanic voters.  Period.

Because Republicans are the party of systemic racism.  Period.

Sunday Long Read: Iran Into Donald

This week's Sunday Long Read is Adam Davidson's deep dive into Trump's failed hotel in Azerbaijan, which for all intents and purposes was a massive scheme for laundering money for Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

The Azerbaijanis behind the project were close relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt nations in the world. Its President, Ilham Aliyev, the son of the former President Heydar Aliyev, recently appointed his wife to be Vice-President. Ziya Mammadov became the Transportation Minister in 2002, around the time that the regime began receiving enormous profits from government-owned oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. At the time of the hotel deal, Mammadov, a career government official, had a salary of about twelve thousand dollars, but he was a billionaire.

The Trump Tower Baku originally had a construction budget of a hundred and ninety-five million dollars, but it went through multiple revisions, and the cost ended up being much higher. The tower was designed by a local architect, and in its original incarnation it had an ungainly roof that suggested the spikes of a crown. A London-based architecture firm, Mixity, redesigned the building, softening its edges and eliminating the ornamental roof. By the time the Trump team officially joined the project, in May, 2012, many condominium residences had already been completed; at the insistence of Trump Organization staffers, most of the building’s interior was gutted and rebuilt, and several elevators were added.

After Donald Trump became a candidate for President, in 2015, Mother Jones, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and other publications ran articles that raised questions about his involvement in the Baku project. These reports cited a series of cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009 and 2010, which were made public by WikiLeaks. In one of the cables, a U.S. diplomat described Ziya Mammadov as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.” The Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, told reporters that the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump, because his company had never engaged directly with Mammadov.

According to Garten, Trump played a passive role in the development of the property: he was “merely a licensor” who allowed his famous name to be used by a company headed by Ziya Mammadov’s son, Anar, a young entrepreneur. It’s not clear how much money Trump made from the licensing agreement, although in his limited public filings he has reported receiving $2.8 million. (The Trump Organization shared documents that showed an additional payment of two and a half million dollars, in 2012, but declined to disclose any other payments.) Trump also had signed a contract to manage the hotel once it opened, for an undisclosed fee tied to the hotel’s performance. The Washington Post published Garten’s description of the deal, and reported that Donald Trump had “invested virtually no money in the project while selling the rights to use his name and holding the contract to manage the property.”

A month after Trump was elected President, Garten announced that the Trump Organization had severed its ties with the hotel project, describing the decision to CNN as little more than “housecleaning.” I was in Baku at the time, and it had become clear that the Trump Organization’s story of the hotel was incomplete and inaccurate. Trump’s company had made the deal not just with Anar Mammadov but also with Ziya’s brother Elton—an influential member of the Azerbaijani parliament. Elton signed the contracts, and in an interview he confirmed that he founded Baku XXI Century, the company that owns the Trump Tower Baku. When he was asked who owns Baku XXI Century, he called it a “commercial secret” but added that he “controlled all its operations” until 2015, when he cut ties to the company. Elton denied having used his political position for profit.

An Azerbaijani lawyer who worked on the project revealed to me that the Trump Organization had not just licensed the family name; it also had signed a technical-services agreement in which it promised to help its partner meet Trump design standards. Technical-services agreements are often nominal addenda to licensing deals. Major hospitality brands compile exhaustive specifications for licensed hotels, and tend to approve design elements remotely; a foreign site is visited only occasionally. But in the case of Trump Tower Baku the oversight appears to have been extensive. The Azerbaijani lawyer told me, “We were always following their instructions. We were in constant contact with the Trump Organization. They approved the smallest details.” He said that Trump staff visited Baku at least monthly to give the go-ahead for the next round of work orders. Trump designers went to Turkey to vet the furniture and fabrics acquired there. The hotel’s main designer, Pierre Baillargeon, and several contractors told me that they had visited the Trump Organization headquarters, in New York, to secure approval for their plans.

Ivanka Trump was the most senior Trump Organization official on the Baku project. In October, 2014, she visited the city to tour the site and offer advice. An executive at Mace, the London-based construction firm that oversaw the tower’s conversion to a hotel, met with Ivanka in Baku and New York. He told me, “She had very strong feelings, not just about the design but about the back of the hotel—landscaping, everything.” The Azerbaijani lawyer said, “Ivanka personally approved everything.” A subcontractor noted that Ivanka’s team was particular about wood panelling: it chose an expensive Macassar ebony, from Indonesia, for the ceiling of the lobby. The ballroom doors were to be made of book-matched panels of walnut. On her Web site, Ivanka posted a photograph of herself wearing a hard hat inside the half-completed hotel. A caption reads, “Ivanka has overseen the development of Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku since its inception, and she recently returned from a trip to the fascinating city in Azerbaijan to check in on the project’s progress.” (Ivanka Trump declined requests to discuss the Baku project.)

Jan deRoos, the Cornell professor, developed branded-hotel properties before entering academia. He told me that the degree of the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Baku property was atypical. “That’s very, very intense,” he said.

The sustained back-and-forth between the Trump Organization and the Mammadovs has legal significance. If parties involved in the Trump Tower Baku project participated in any illegal financial conduct, and if the Trump Organization exerted a degree of control over the project, the company could be vulnerable to criminal prosecution. Tom Fox, a Houston lawyer who specializes in anti-corruption compliance, said, “It’s a problem if you’re making a profit off of someone else’s corrupt conduct.” Moreover, recent case law has established that licensors take on a greater legal burden when they assume roles normally reserved for developers. The Trump Organization’s unusually deep engagement with Baku XXI Century suggests that it had the opportunity and the responsibility to monitor it for corruption.

And the rest of the story details a lot of evidence displaying quite a bit of corruption, including the aforementioned money laundering for the Iranians.  The Mammadovs were up to their necks in graft, bribery and cooking the books, and Ivanka Trump helped oversee the entire mess.

The rotten apple doesn't fall far from the tree if you were thinking that Trump's daughter was the "nice one" folks.  She's just as corrupt as our criminal-in-chief.

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