Saturday, December 1, 2018

Last Call For Space Cases, Con't

Donald Trump wants his cool Space Force as the sixth branch of the US military, a legacy he figures that will put in down in world history for centuries or something, and he expects Congress to give it to him.

President Donald Trump plans to go ahead with asking Congress to establish a Space Force as an independent branch of the military, according to a draft presidential directive obtained by POLITICO — committing to the biggest restructuring of the U.S. military in seven decades despite bipartisan skepticism on Capitol Hill.

The draft, produced after months of internal review, outlines much-awaited details for what would be the first new military service since 1947. It indicates that Trump, who has championed the standalone Space Force, is still interested in pursuing an entirely new branch, despite criticism of the proposal on Capitol Hill and even initial opposition within the Pentagon.

The White House directive provides no estimate of what the Space Force would cost, although previous estimates have ranged from less than $5 billion to as high as $13 billion over five years.

Under the proposal, the Department of the Space Force would be headed by a civilian secretary — just like the Army, Navy and Air Force — and either a four-star general or admiral. The latter person would also serve as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the draft directive dated Nov. 19.

"Under this proposal, the Space Force will organize, train and equip national security space forces of the United States to ensure unfettered access to and freedom to operate in space, and to provide vital capabilities ... in peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict
," the draft directive says.

The Space Force's priorities, the draft says, would include "protecting the nation's interests in space and the peaceful use of space for all responsible actors"; "deterring aggression and defending the nation, U.S. allies and U.S. interests from hostile acts in and from space"; and "projecting power in, from and to space in support of the nation's interests."

The White House and Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment on the draft, which is still awaiting final review.

The new branch would draw troops from across the military, including the National Guard and Reserves, that are dedicated to a broad range of military tasks, including intelligence, weapons acquisition and cyber operations. It would also be responsible for overseeing the acquisition of all space technologies and weapons, including a new Space Development Agency.

The president also intends to carry out plans already underway at the direction of Congress to establish a U.S. Space Command, according to the draft. The command would absorb all space-related responsibilities now carried out by U.S. Strategic Command and would train space forces from all the military branches until a Space Force is established.

Let's just build orbital ion cannons and start killing people we don't like.  From space!

To recap, things America has to have under the Trump regime:
  • A militarized, "sealed" border with Mexico
  • Mass deportations and detainment facilities
  • Militarization of outer space
  • New oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and offshore
  • Trillions in tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy
Things we can't possibly afford because they are unserious, Socialist proposals:
  • Health care
  • Clean air and water
  • Roads, bridges, and streets
  • High-speed rail and mass transportation
  • Social Security
Any questions?

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Given all the Mueller news this week, I almost glossed over a major story involving our old friend, GOP fundraiser and Trump campaign finance fixer Elliott Broidy.  Remember back in August when the DoJ announced an investigation into whether or not Broidy took tens of millions in illegal foreign campaign contributions for Trump to end a US investigation into billions in Malaysian state embezzlement?  Turns out the investigation phase is over, and the indictment phase has now begun.

Federal prosecutors cited the involvement of a onetime top fund-raiser to President Trump on Friday in a scheme to launder millions of dollars into the country to help a flamboyant Malaysian financier end a Justice Department investigation.

Elliott Broidy, a Los Angeles-based businessman who was a finance vice chairman of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and inauguration committees, was paid to lobby the Trump administration to try to end an investigation related to the embezzlement of billions of dollars from a Malaysian state-owned fund, according to court filings made public on Friday.

The filings were released in connection with a guilty plea entered by George Higginbotham, a former Justice Department employee. Mr. Higginbotham admitted to conspiring to lie to banks about the source of tens of millions of dollars he funneled into the United States from the Malaysian financier Jho Low, who federal authorities say masterminded a scheme to loot the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad fund, also known as 1MDB.

Mr. Higginbotham, who left the Justice Department in August, was not involved in the department’s investigation of Mr. Low, and is cooperating with prosecutors.

In his guilty plea, Mr. Higginbotham admitted that he and the entertainer and businessman Pras Michel, a former member of the Fugees, a defunct hip-hop group, arranged for millions of dollars of Mr. Low’s money to be transferred to a law firm owned by Mr. Broidy’s wife to pay them to try to end the 1MDB investigation.

The charging papers and supporting documents do not identify Mr. Broidy or his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, by name, and neither has been charged with a crime. But the facts of the case align with previous reporting on Mr. Broidy’s efforts related to 1MDB, as well as emails from Mr. Broidy that were stolen from Ms. Rosenzweig’s account and disseminated to news outlets that match emails cited in Friday’s court filings. The filings identify Mr. Broidy as “Person 1” or “Individual 1,” and characterize him as “a nonlawyer business owner” who “owns several businesses, including an investment firm.”

In a brief interview on Friday, Mr. Broidy did not deny that the filings refer to him. But he referred specific questions to his lawyer, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Broidy, who pleaded guilty in 2009 in an unrelated pension fund bribery case, is one of several Trump associates whose business with foreign governments and figures has attracted scrutiny, including from investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

A veteran Republican fund-raiser who also owns a defense contracting firm, Mr. Broidy had seemed positioned to become a highly influential figure in a political hierarchy that was upended by Mr. Trump’s victory. Mr. Broidy had started raising money for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign at a time when most elite Republican donors were staying away. After Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Broidy marketed his connection to the new administration to politicians, businessmen and governments around the world, including some with unsavory records, and won big contracts for his defense firm.

I've said all along that the Mueller probe was going down three roads: Russian influence on Trump, international money laundering, and obstruction of justice.  The Broidy story is squarely in the second of these arenas, and you can absolutely bet that Mueller has the goods here on Broidy and Trump.

And that brings us to today's news on the third arena, where there actually is a GOP senator willing to go after Trump: Senate Intelligence chair Richard Burr of NC, who has all but promised that multiple Mueller indictments on charges of lying to Congress will be coming very soon.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr said that Thursday’s guilty plea by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney, should be seen as a clear warning.

“It’s a loud message to everybody that is interviewed by our committee, regardless of where that prosecution comes from: If you lie to us, we’re going to go after you,” Burr said Friday. “Our mandate is at the end of this to get as close to the clear truth as we possibly can, and we can’t do it on conjecture. We’ve got to do it on facts.

The North Carolina Republican was appearing alongside Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., and Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas at a forum hosted by the University of Texas in Austin.

Burr made clear the Cohen situation was not an isolated case.

“I don’t want you to get us mixed up with Bob Mueller’s special prosecutor investigation. We have no criminal responsibilities. If we identify a crime in our investigation that has been committed, we refer it to the special prosecutor,” Burr said, referring to former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. “I won’t tell you the number of times, but we have made referrals to the special prosecutor.”

It was fairly clear that Burr was alluding to this week’s legal action in the Southern District of New York.

“One of them, one instance just highlighted of late was the special prosecutor made the indictment yesterday using the transcripts of interviews we have done in our committee to indict somebody forlying to Congress,” the North Carolina Republican said, a reference to Cohen.

Burr said that the committee was regularly going back over previous interviews as new information has come to light regarding the investigation of Russian interference.

“I think the myth out there was that we did interviews and never read them,” Burr said later at the same event. “We continue to go back and look at the testimony we’ve been given and we weigh it against any new information that might be out there.”

And speaking of Michael Cohen, CNN is reporting that he believed Trump would pardon him, and then things got...messy.

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney for President Donald Trump who is now a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, was under the impression Trump would offer him a pardon in exchange for staying on message in support of the President in discussions with federal prosecutors, according to two sources. 
After a March 2018 visit to Mar-a-Lago, the President's private club in Florida, Cohen returned to New York believing that his former boss would protect him if he faced any charges for sticking to his story about the 2016 payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, according to one source with knowledge. Trump was also at Mar-a-Lago at the time of Cohen's visit. 
Another source said that after the April 2018 FBI raid on Cohen's office and home, people close to the President assured Cohen that Trump would take care of him. And Cohen believed that meant that the President would offer him a pardon if he stayed on message. It is unclear who specifically reached out to Cohen. 
"The President of the United States never indicated anything to Michael, or anyone else, about getting a pardon," said Rudy Giuliani, the President's attorney. "Pardons are off the table, but it's not a limitation on his power in the future to pardon in any case." 
Cohen's lawyers could not be reached for comment. 
Following the raid on Cohen's home and office, Cohen's attorneys had a legal defense agreement with Trump and his attorneys. During this time, there was a steady flow of communication between the two sides, according to two sources familiar with the matter
At first, publicly, Trump seemed very supportive of his former attorney. On the day of the raid, Trump said Cohen was "a good man" and that the investigation reached "a whole new level of unfairness." He unloaded on law enforcement, calling the raids "a disgraceful situation." 
But in the days that followed the raid, one source says, things started heading south with the President. 
Trump started to distance himself from Cohen. And when Trump appeared on "Fox and Friends" two weeks after the raids and said that Cohen only did a "tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work, Cohen knew the game had changed. According to one source, Cohen knew that things had changed and he acted to protect his family -- and himself. 
It couldn't be learned whether Cohen shared this information with Mueller, though Cohen has spent more than 70 hours providing testimony over the last several months.

So many people are going to jail over this mess, and it's going to happen soon.  Stay tuned.

The Passing Of Poppy Bush

George Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of the 43rd, who steered the nation through a tumultuous period in world affairs but was denied a second term after support for his presidency collapsed under the weight of an economic downturn and his seeming inattention to domestic affairs, died on Friday night at his home in Houston. He was 94.

His death, which was announced by his office, came less than eight months after that of his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush.

Mr. Bush had a form of Parkinson’s disease that forced him to use a wheelchair or motorized scooter in recent years, and he had been in and out of hospitals during that time as his health declined. In April, a day after attending Mrs. Bush’s funeral, he was treated for an infection that had spread to his blood. In 2013, he was in dire enough shape with bronchitis that former President George W. Bush, his son, solicited ideas for a eulogy.

But he proved resilient each time. In 2013 he told well-wishers, through an aide, to “put the harps back in the closet.”

Mr. Bush, a Republican, was a transitional figure in the White House, where he served from 1989 to 1993, capping a career of more than 40 years in public service. A decorated Navy pilot who was shot down in the Pacific in 1944, he was the last of the World War II generation to occupy the Oval Office.

Mr. Bush was a skilled bureaucratic and diplomatic player who, as president, helped end four decades of Cold War and the threat of nuclear engagement with a nuanced handling of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe.

Yet for all his success in the international arena, his presidency faltered as voters seemed to perceive him as detached from their everyday lives. In an election that turned on the economy, they repudiated Mr. Bush in 1992 and chose a relatively little-known Democratic governor from Arkansas, Bill Clinton, a baby boomer, ushering in a generational shift in American leadership.

If Mr. Bush’s term helped close out one era abroad, it opened another. In January 1991 he assembled a global coalition to eject Iraqi invaders from Kuwait, sending hundreds of thousands of troops in a triumphant military campaign that to many Americans helped purge the ghosts of Vietnam.

But the victory also brought years of American preoccupation with Iraq, leading to the decision by George W. Bush in 2003 to topple the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, in a war that taxed American resources and patience.

The elder Mr. Bush entered the White House with one of the most impressive résumés of any president. He had been a two-term congressman from Texas, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, United States envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and vice president, under Ronald Reagan.

And he achieved what no one had since Martin Van Buren in 1836: winning election to the presidency while serving as vice president. (Van Buren did so in the footsteps of Andrew Jackson.)

Now that the "speaking nicely of the recently departed" part is out of the way, let's get back to reality. Poppy Bush's claim to fame is that he's the elected Republican president who arguably did the least amount of damage to America in my lifetime (and arguably the Republican who did the least amount of damage to America in the last 70 years outside of Eisenhower) precisely because he was limited to one term.  And he got that one term with his infamous Willie Horton ad in 1988 that ushered in the era of modern race-baiting politics.

Ford's caretaker stint was wholly undone a few days in with his pardon of Nixon, a supremely immoral act that haunts us to this day, Reagan was a racist, hateful monster of a bigot who was essentially Trump without the Russia baggage (and Poppy was his Mike Pence), Dubya was a foreign policy and economic disaster that we've still never recovered from, and Trump, well, is Trump, just two years in and already at the bottom of this list of rogues.

And yet the damage he did to America was substantial.  He carried over Reagan's awful and inhuman AIDS policies. His former CIA Director days meant his meddling in America's foreign policy led directly to the Bosnian conflict, the narcotraficante era in Mexico and Central America, the war crimes in Iraq and rise of Al Qaeda and the American militia movement, and he wrecked the economy to boot

It was only that last one that cost him so badly we threw him out for Clinton and Ross Perot.  People forget in 1992 he got just 37% of the vote.  Even with Perot's performance, that was abysmal.  Even McGovern did better at 38% in 1972, and Goldwater got 39% in 1964.  Only Alf Landon in 1936 did worse in the last 100 years with his 36%, losing to FDR.  Hell, even Hoover got 40% in 1932.

This is the moment he lost to Clinton, Perot or no Perot.

We basically dodged a massive bullet on a second Poppy Bush term, so he was limited in the carnage in his wake.  The nicest thing I can say about him is that he didn't veto the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1992, the full extent of my hagiography.

And now he's gone.  I shed not a tear.

The Partake Head Fake Take In The Lakes

Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of marijuana earlier this month in order to gain tax revenue to pay for schools and roads.  But Republicans in the state's lame duck session are making sure that tax money goes to cops instead, with nothing for students, and that the profits go to corporate growers with both deep ties and deep pockets to give to lawmakers.

A bill proposed by outgoing Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, would significantly change the voter-approved recreational marijuana program in Michigan, including by drastically lowering the tax revenue the state is set to receive.

Proposal 1 passed with 56 percent of the vote Nov. 6. It will take effect next week.

Meekhof, R-West Olive, introduced the bill Thursday.

In addition to lowering the tax rate from 10 percent to three percent, the bill cuts out Michigan's schools and roads from receiving tax revenue from legal marijuana. The state's six percent sales tax would still apply, said Amber McCann, Meekhof's spokeswoman.

"It's disrespectful to the political process and it's disrespectful to the voters of Michigan," said Josh Hovey, spokesman for the coalition behind the ballot proposal, of Meekhof's bill.

"The people of Michigan have spoken. They knew what they were voting on."

Tax revenue from marijuana sales could reach $287.9 million by the time the market matures in Michigan under the tax structure in Proposal 1, according to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis. It's unclear how much revenue Meekhof's proposal would draw.

Under Proposal 1, Michigan has one of the lowest tax rates on adult-use marijuana in the country. Under Meekhof's proposed bill, Michigan would have the lowest tax rate in the country. The bill redirects the revenue to municipalities (25 percent), counties (30 percent) and county sheriffs (5 percent) that have marijuana facilities, and 30 percent for state police, police training and first responder disability benefits.

Meekhof's bill, Senate Bill 1243, proposes other major changes to the voter-approved Proposal 1; including eliminating the ability for individuals to grow marijuana at home and cutting out a micro-grower's license.

Proposal 1 allows for individuals to grow up to 12 plants at home, and up to 150 plants at home with a micro-grower's license.

Republicans have such a huge majority in Michigan thanks to gerrymandering that there's a chance that this passes, but it'll take Democrats too because the measure would need a 75% margin to pass. But sending all the tax money to counties with state-approved growing operations (all rural, natch) means Detroit gets zero, and it means that the growing can become yet another industry in the pocket of corporate owners and donors.

That was the plan all along, and it's dank as hell.
Related Posts with Thumbnails