Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Last Call For University Of Bevinstan

The first casualties of Matt Bevin and the Kentucky GOP's massive higher education budget cuts are coming into focus as Morehead State University is announcing a major round of employee buyouts and layoffs.

Morehead State University is the first of Kentucky’s regional universities to cut its workforce in the face of impending state budget cuts and exploding pension costs, announcing voluntary buyouts that would let employees go part-time or leave the university. 
“This spring will ultimately result in a need to make a significant reduction in our employee FTE across all areas of the campus,” President Jay Morgan wrote in a campus-wide email dated Friday. “Our preference is to make those position reductions in vacant personnel lines created through normal employee attrition and ‘voluntary separation options’ before having to consider potential involuntary reductions in force of current employees.” 
In Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed state budget budget, Morehead faces a 6.25 percent cut, or $2.5 million, in overall state funding on top of a $2.7 million increase in pension payments. With fixed cost increases, the actual deficit could be as much as $9 million in each of the next two years. The school also faces dropping enrollment because it draws heavily from Eastern Kentucky, where the economy has been decimated by the coal industry’s decline. 
Any proposed buyouts would be considered by administrators on a case-by-case basis, Morgan said. Morgan said he hoped most volunteers would choose to go from full-time to part-time positions, or reduce the number of months they work. Faculty and staff who choose buyouts would also retain certain options, such as tuition benefits for family for three years.

Morehead is the first, but it won't be the last.  Eastern Kentucky University and Murray State University are in the same boat.  Expect more employee cuts and soon as Bevin's austerity budget destroys the commonwealth.

Kelly, Red Booked

The Rob Porter domestic violence story that claimed the former White House staff secretary's job last week has now morphed into the "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is a massive liar" story, which has somehow even shocked our complacent media into action.  I pointed out last Friday why Kelly should have been fired months ago, and it looks like his tenure in the Trump regime may soon be coming to an end.

The White House struggled Tuesday to contain a widening crisis over its handling of domestic violence allegations against a senior official, as it reeled after sworn testimony by the FBI chief directly contradicted what President Trump’s aides had presented as the official version of events.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau had completed a background report on then-staff secretary Rob Porter last July and closed out the case entirely last month. Wray’s account is at odds with White House claims that the investigation required for Porter’s security clearance was “ongoing” until he left his job last week, after his two ex-wives publicly alleged physical and emotional abuse.

The latest bout of turbulence is exacerbated by the administration’s reputation, earned over 13 chaotic months, for flouting institutional norms and misrepresenting facts to the public — a culture set by the president himself.

The public relations fallout is further compounded by Trump’s own history of alleged sexual assault and his seeming reluctance to publicly condemn violence against women and give voice to the national #MeToo reckoning.

The president has said little publicly about the Porter issue other than to praise the former aide for doing “a very good job.” But he has privately expressed frustration with the week-long fallout, peppering advisers and confidants with questions about the media coverage and how the controversy is playing for him personally.

The Porter drama has become all-consuming, creating an atmosphere of chaos and infighting reminiscent of the “Game of Thrones” stage early in Trump’s presidency — and distracting from the administration’s budget and infrastructure agenda.

Not that the FBI isn't relishing the chance to drive in the knife.  Donald Trump has left his entire operation high and dry by basically defending the guy who allegedly beat both of his ex-wives as the "real victim", a subject where even Trump's supporters aren't going to go to bat for him.

And as countless other ex-Trump staffers have discovered (and John Kelly is finding out now) your usefulness to Trump ends as soon as you can be sacrificed to take the fall for Trump's endless awful behavior.

Inside the West Wing, a growing number of aides blamed Trump’s second White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, for the bungled handling of the allegations against Porter. Trump in recent days has begun musing about possible replacements, according to people with knowledge of the conversations.

Asked by a reporter to assess Kelly’s standing with Trump after a week of troubling revelations, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “the president has confidence in his chief of staff.”

But Kelly does not enjoy the confidence of an increasing number of his subordinates, some of whom said they believe that the retired four-star Marine Corps general has misled them.

Kelly is “a big fat liar,” said one White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion. “To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.

This portrait of the West Wing in turmoil is based on interviews with more than a dozen top White House officials and outside advisers and confidants, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution.

Kelly’s attempts at explaining his role, according to some aides, have included telling senior staff members last Friday to communicate a version of events many believed to be false, as well as telling at least one confidant that he has “a good bulls--- detector” and had long detected troubling characteristics in Porter.

But Kelly initially defended Porter last week as “a man of true integrity and honor.” And in recent weeks, Kelly was even considering giving Porter an expanded role in policy development, a potential promotion first reported by CNN.

Rob Porter is the bad guy here of course.  But so is Trump, himself a serial abuser of women who has put his staff in the impossible position to defend a guy who allegedly gave his now ex-wife a black eye on their honeymoon.  Somebody has to burn over this, and the remaining White House staff wants to make sure it's Kelly.

And Kelly is the beating heart of Trump's post-Bannon manure factory.  As he's under fire, the rest of the White House is suddenly having extreme "message discipline" problems with people's stories on all the other current scandals this week: the ongoing Russia investigation, EPA chief Scott Pruitt flying first-class on the taxpayer dime, Trump lawyer lawyer Michael Cohen now saying he paid off Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket, ICE attorneys apparently stealing case files of immigrants under review, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner having his own continuing money issues and lack of security clearance, and keep in mind it's only Wednesday.

The goal of the White House staff is to protect Trump, and Kelly is the keystone of the Keystone Kops operation.  The media is now openly asking what else the White House is lying to them about (finally, guys the answer has been "everything" for over a year now) and the shield protecting Trump is starting to wear very, very thin.

For the first time in a while it's looking like the shield might break.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

America's intelligence agencies all agree that Russia will attack the 2018 midterm elections, and warn that both Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress need to do far more to protect the country's electoral process.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday "there should be no doubt" that Russia sees the 2018 US elections as a target. 
Coats and the other top national security officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee that they still view Moscow as a threat to the 2018 elections, a stance that appears at odds with President Donald Trump's repeated dismissals of Russian election meddling. 
"We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence, to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States," Coats said at a hearing on worldwide threats. "There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations." 
Tuesday's hearing touched on a wide array of threats, from North Korea to China to weapons of mass destruction. But Russia's interference into US and other elections loomed large amid the committee's investigation into Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russian officials. 
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's top Democrat, warned that the US was not prepared to handle the Russian threat to US elections heading into the midterms. 
"We've had more than a year to get our act together and address the threat posed by Russia and implement a strategy to deter future attacks. But we still do not have a plan," Warner said. 
Warner questioned Coats and the other officials testifying — CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Chris Wray, NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo — about how the government was addressing the threat to both the US election systems and through social media. He asked all six of the US officials testifying to reaffirm the intelligence community's findings last year that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and that the Kremlin will continue to intervene in future elections. All said yes
Democrats pointed to that unanimous assessment to criticize Trump for maintaining a contrasting view to his own intelligence community. 
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, urged the intelligence chiefs to persuade the President to accept their findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. 
"My problem is, I talk to people in Maine who say the whole thing is a witch hunt and a hoax 'because the President told me,'" King said. "There's no doubt, as you all have testified today, we cannot confront this threat, which is a serious one, with a whole of government response when the leader of the government continues to that deny it exists."

That denial of course is part and parcel of the problem with Trump.  He can't publicly admit that Russia interfered with the election, because the facade he's hiding behind ends the moment he does.

Trump has been skeptical about the intelligence assessment that Russia meddled ever since he was first briefed on the issue during the presidential transition. But that skepticism has endured even after Trump hand-selected his own intel chiefs and they reiterated the conclusions of their predecessors. 
Trump has only begrudgingly acknowledged that Russia may have interfered in the election. In a press conference as president-elect, Trump said, "As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people." At a June 2017 press conference in Poland, he again said Russia meddled in the election, but added that "other people and other countries" likely did as well. 
More often, Trump has cast doubt on accusations of Russian meddling. He has questioned whether the Russians were responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee, and he has called the entire "Russia story" a hoax perpetuated by angry Democrats. He even convinced Pompeo to personally meet with a conspiracy theorist who denies that Russia hacked the DNC. 
Trump caused a stir during his trip to Asia when he suggested that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials that his government meddled in the election. Trump and Putin met several times on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam. "Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that,'" Trump said. "And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it." 
But members of Trump's cabinet have bucked Trump and sided with the intelligence community including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said in October: "When a country can come interfere in another country's elections, that is warfare." 
Tuesday's hearing was the latest opportunity for Democrats to pounce on the conflicting messages coming from the intelligence chiefs and their commander in chief. Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, urged the intelligence officials to convince Trump that the issue of collusion was separate from election meddling.

Trump's ego won't allow the admission, because it would be an admission of guilt.  Legally and politically it would be his near-immediate end, and any other person on earth would have resigned long ago.

But Donald Trump is a unique brand of evil bastard.  And so we pretend that the orange schlub somehow didn't benefit from Russian interference (and from James Comey's timely October 2016 surprise) and America continues to normalize the fact we're under a lawless regime led by a racist, misogynist abusive idiot.


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