Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Last Call For Greitens Gets Gone, Con't

And the other shoe on the Greitens resignation story lands with a thud.  Yesterday I asked the obvious question:

It certainly seems like Greitens stepped down in order to drop the sexual assault charges, which is not exactly justice but the best you could hope for from a red state impeaching a Republican governor. Still, I have to wonder what becomes of the second batch of charges, mainly the campaign finance violations where Greitens allegedly used his veterans' charity as a donor list.

Today we got our answer, as those charges were dropped as well in exchange for Greitens's resignation.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens offered to resign as part of an agreement to dismiss a felony computer-tampering charge against him, according to the St. Louis prosecutor's office. 
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner announced Wednesday that she would dismiss the charge. The deal did not require Greitens to admit guilt. 
Gardner and Greitens' legal team started talking about a deal over the holiday weekend. A source close to the agreement told The Star that Greitens' legal team reached out to Gardner's office by telephone on Saturday to seek dismissal, raising the possibility of the governor's resignation as a bargaining chip. 
"Now it’s time for all of us to come together," Gardner said Wednesday. "It’s time to heal the wounds of our city and state and focus on building a place where people feel they are heard. Where victims, regardless of their station in life, know that we will do what is right regardless of the powers against them." 
The agreement settles a felony charge brought by Gardner based on evidence uncovered by the office of Missouri's Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, who essentially accused Greitens of electronic theft for his use of a donor list belonging to a veterans charity he founded. 
Greitens committed "potentially criminal acts" by using the list without the charity's permission to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign, Hawley alleged at a press conference in April. Gardner responded by filing the computer-tampering charge a few days later. 
On Wednesday, Gardner disputed Greitens' past statements that she had been engaged in a politically motivated witch hunt against him. 
"There has been no witch hunt," Gardner said. "No plans to bring pain to him or his family. Quite the contrary. The consequences Mr. Greitens has suffered, he brought upon himself. By his actions. By his statements. By his decisions. By his ambition. And his pursuit for power."

But Greitens actually isn't off the hook yet.

Although the agreement between Gardner and Greitens resolves the tampering charge, a separate investigation will continue into allegations of wrongdoing by Greitens during his affair with his hairdresser in 2015. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker is leading that probe. 
Gardner said Wednesday that she can’t comment on what Baker will do. "Ms. Baker has complete authority to do what she believes is the just thing to do based upon her evaluation of the case," Gardner said. 
Baker took over the investigation into Greitens' alleged misconduct after Gardner dropped a felony invasion-of-privacy charge against the governor. That charge stemmed from allegations that Greitens had photographed the woman while she was bound and partially nude in his basement. 
The woman later would testify to a bipartisan investigative committee of the Missouri House that Greitens also held her in a bear hug when she tried to leave the basement and coerced her into oral sex as she sobbed uncontrollably.

So he resigns to clear the campaign law violation charges that were a sure thing, and he figures he can fight the sexual assault charges in court.  We'll see what this holds in the future, but the Greitens saga is far, far from over.

Stay tuned.

Immigration Nation, Con't

House Republicans are in real trouble in 2018.  They don't want to mention the unpopular Trump too much these days, and their tax scam legislation is a bust with voters, so they're falling back on their default mode: racism.

House Republican candidates are blanketing the airwaves with TV ads embracing a hard line on immigration — a dramatic shift from the last midterm elections in 2014 when immigration was not on the GOP's political radar, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Kantar Media. 
Republicans have aired more than 14,000 campaign ads touting a tough Trump-style immigration platform so far this year. The barrage underscores why House GOP leaders worry that passing a legislative fix for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, referred to as DREAMers, would put GOP candidates at risk heading into the fall election. 
“I’ll end sanctuary cities to stop illegals from taking our jobs … and use conservative grit to build the darn wall,” Troy Balderson, a GOP state senator running for Congress in Ohio, promises in one such ad
Democrats, meanwhile, are bombarding voters with ads that promise to protect Obamacare, shore up Social Security, and expand Medicare, the data from Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) shows.

“We need Medicare for all, to make absolutely certain that what happened to my family never happens to yours” California Democrat Paul Kerr says in on TV spot that begins by recounting how his family was financially devastated by medical bills after his mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders championed that kind of single-payer universal health care system in the 2016 election.

The competing messages demonstrate just how far apart the two parties are. They’re not just talking about key issues differently; they’re touting completely different issues to motivate activists and win hotly contested primaries.

“It sometimes feels like the two parties are talking to two different countries,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. 
And in many ways, they are, especially in primaries, Kondick said. He notes that Republicans are appealing to a whiter, older, more rural electorate, while Democrats are courting a more diverse, younger, urban constituency.

They're not even hiding it anymore.  This nonsense about House Republicans forcing an immigration vote?  I don't believe it for a second, not while House Republican candidates are freely running ads about "illegals taking jobs" and "building the wall".  If anything, the GOP will push a hardline bill that will have enough votes to pass.

Republican leaders are facing long odds as they scramble to thwart an internal rebellion over immigration just months before November’s midterm elections. 
The leaders are attempting to broker a deal that satisfies competing factions of their restive conference and defuses a push by mutinous centrists threatening to force action to protect undocumented immigrants in a series of head-to-head floor votes that would highlight deep GOP divisions over an issue that has long been radioactive within the party. 
The dispute has centered largely on what legal protections should be extended to those living in the country illegally, and to whom they should apply — thorny enough questions on their own. But the leaders’ effort was further complicated on Thursday, when President Trump warned that he'd veto any bill to shore up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if it fails to fund his favored wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Unless it improves a wall — and I mean a wall, a real wall — and unless it improves very strong border security, there’ll be no approvals from me, because I have to either approve it or not,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel.

It's going to get a lot worse for anyone who's not white in this country.  Count on it.  And never forget the person leading this effort to demonize and criminalize immigrants is Trump himself.

President Trump tried out his own midterm playbook Tuesday at a campaign rally in Tennessee by ramping up his rhetoric on illegal immigration and gang-related crimes. 
The president's main goal with the Nashville event was to campaign for GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who finds herself in a close Senate contest with former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen that could be pivotal in deciding control of the Senate. 
"I've never heard of this guy — who is he?" Trump chided Bredesen. "He's an absolute tool of Chuck Schumer, and of course the MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi." 
It was a new moniker for the House minority leader, and Trump doubled down on controversial comments he'd made earlier this month about the drug gang. 
"What was the name?" the president prodded the crowd, who yelled back "Animals!" 
"They're not human beings," Trump added, saying that they use "glaring loopholes in our immigration laws" in order "to infiltrate our country" and rape, murder and "cut people up into little pieces."

It really won't be long before some Trump supporters decide that it's open season on "animals" and take the law into their own hands, folks.

It's going to get scary and bloody until we stop it.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

The path to getting red states back to some semblance of parity (and sanity) is being walked by America's public school teachers.  Walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma this year have been followed up by teachers taking to the political arena in 2018.  It was always going to be a grassroots local effort to get Midwest and Southern voters back, and the revolution is being led by teachers, especially in Oklahoma.

In 2016, when Oklahoma voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a thirty-six-point margin, one candidate for the state legislature flipped his district from red to blue. That was Mickey Dollens, who had just been laid off from his job as an English teacher at U. S. Grant High School, in south Oklahoma City, in a round of state cuts to education. “I was lucky—I had just enough savings so I was in a unique position where I could campaign each day,” Dollens said, expressing an idea of luck that I find particularly Oklahoman. Dollens, who grew up in Bartlesville, is thirty years old and blond, and looks as if he could rescue your cat from a tree, perhaps by uprooting the tree. In college, at Southern Methodist University, he was a defensive lineman; he tried out for the N.F.L., and, when that didn’t work out, he made the Olympic bobsledding team. Later, Dollens worked as a roughneck in the oil fields. His father had worked in the oil fields, as had his grandfather and his great-grandfather.

In the summer of 2016, Dollens knocked on around twenty thousand doors. “In the beginning, people weren’t answering, even though I could tell they were home,” he told me. One day, Dollens noticed that some four out of five doors were being opened. At one house, the resident laughed and said that he had opened the door because he thought Dollens was the mailman. Dollens was wearing dark-blue shorts and a white polo shirt. “I started dressing like that every day,” he said.

Dollens campaigned on raising the state income tax by a quarter of a per cent, introducing industrialized hemp to help the rural economy, and funding education. “I ran on raising taxes,” Dollens emphasized. “That worked.” He told voters that, for most of them, the increase would amount to thirty dollars a year. “They voted for that.”

It was not an easy year to run as anything but a Republican. The 2016 Oklahoma teacher of the year, Shawn Sheehan, ran for the State Senate—and lost by twenty-four points. Then he and his wife, who is also a teacher, moved to Lewisville, Texas, where they now earn forty thousand dollars more a year. Karen Gaddis, who taught for forty years in the Tulsa area, ran as well, and lost by nineteen points. Jacob Rosecrants, a single dad, a military-history fanatic, and a beloved geography teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, in southwest Oklahoma City, lost by twenty points.

Speaking with Democrats, I rarely heard anyone mention Trump. They preferred circumlocutions like “After November 8th,” or “In early 2017, I began to follow local politics more closely.” It was a good time to follow local politics. “Normally in a year there might be one special election,” Anna Langthorn, the twenty-four-year-old chair of the state Democratic Party, told me. Since the Presidential election, Oklahoma has had nine special elections for state legislative seats. One legislator resigned after being charged with engaging in child prostitution, one with sexual harassment, one with sexual battery, and one following an ethics-commission investigation; four went to other jobs; and one died. “That’s Oklahoma politics,” Langthorn said, with a shrug. The first special election, covering parts of Seminole and Pottawatomie Counties, didn’t get much coverage; Steve Barnes, the Democratic candidate, predictably lost. But, in a district that in 2016 had gone for Trump by a margin of thirty-six points, Barnes lost by only sixty-six votes. His opponent made border control a central issue; Barnes focussed on education spending.

Jacob Rosecrants decided to run again, in a special election on September 12, 2017. I followed his race closely; he had been three years behind me at Norman High School, and his House district included my childhood home. His high-school English teacher canvassed with him. He won by twenty per cent—a forty-point swing. Rosecrants told me that he lost sixty pounds knocking on doors. “I saw a photo of myself at my swearing in,” he said. “I was laughing because those clothes did not fit me anymore.”

The Democrats ended up winning four of the nine special elections, all in areas that had voted heavily Republican in 2016. Karen Gaddis ran again, and won by five points. In a red district covering west Tulsa, Allison Ikley-Freeman, a twenty-six-year-old lesbian and a mother of three, began a State Senate campaign with only eight weeks to go, because there was no Democrat on the ballot. Four years earlier, she had been sleeping in her car, homeless, while trying to finish a master’s degree. She won by twenty-nine votes. Two of the four victors were teachers, and if you guess what issue they ran on you’ll be right.

This is how we get our country back, one local school board election, one state House race, one US House race, one governor's seat at a time.   The journey has already begun. Red state austerity under one-party Republican rule is hopefully coming to an end.

We'll see. 


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