Friday, May 31, 2019

Last Call For The Grift Wall Games

The Trump regime is of course turning a blind eye towards efforts to build a private border land wall near Mexico, because in a couple of centuries they might even be done with it.  And of course, Kris Kobach is neck deep in the con job.

Down a bumpy dirt road, past a dozen “No Trespassing” signs, two amateur sentries in neon safety vests guarded the way to a giant symbol of Trump-era politics rising up from the Chihuahuan Desert.

After one of the guards Armando asked our business and radioed someone called Viper, telling him to “stand down,” we were waved through a makeshift checkpoint and onto the site where supporters of President Donald Trump have built hundreds of yards of border wall on private land overlooking the Rio Grande.

What began in December as a quixotic online crowdfunding effort to get Trump’s promised “big, beautiful wall” built has turned into a physical barrier constructed under the direction of influential right-wing immigration opponents. On Wednesday, its backers demonstrated the wall to a handful of reporters, showing off the structure in all its steel-and-concrete glory ahead of an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday.

Its organizers insist their version of the wall is a feasible model for securing hundreds of miles of southern border. Its critics call it a xenophobic scam. The fact that the effort has gotten to this point at all suggests a different and broader truth: That in the Trump era, the line between a surreal stunt and an important political development can be extremely blurry.

On Wednesday, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach offered a tour of the wall — at one point scrambling over crumbling hillside to demonstrate the difficulty of passing the terrain — while negotiating with local officials over a permitting issue that threatened to derail construction.

At the same time, Kobach has been overseeing legal aspects of the project, now housed under a nonprofit called We Build the Wall, he has been negotiating with the White House over a possible appointment as the nation’s actual “immigration czar,” a potential new post that could give him vast influence over the federal bureaucracy.

Last week, The New York Times reported a list of Kobach’s conditions for accepting the job, which included 24/7 access to a government plane and were reportedly viewed as presumptuous by some inside the administration. On Wednesday, Kobach defended those conditions. “If you're serious about solving this problem you've got to have a position that has the authority and the tools to solve the problem,” he told me.
He also said he is “99 percent” certain he knows who leaked the list, though he did not offer any names.

Kobach said he last spoke to Trump about the wall project in the Oval Office three weeks ago, and that the president drilled him on the technical specifications, expressing special interest in their model’s anti-climbing features, a set of horizontal steel plates covering the tops of the wall’s vertical slats. “Are you going to paint it?” Kobach recalled the president asking him.

The wall stands on the same stretch of border where an armed militia group, the United Constitutional Patriots, was recently detaining migrants as they enter the United States. Kobach and other leaders of the wall project said they are not associated with the militias and do not condone armed vigilante action. They argue that putting up walls will put such groups “out of business.”

But his disavowals have not been entirely embraced by the movement. “I don’t support that sort of activity—yet,” said conservative pundit David Clarke, a former sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who works on public outreach for the project. “I’m real close,” said Clarke, who said that if there is not a more significant migration crackdown by the end of Trump’s first term, he would endorse vigilante action.

There also appears to be some intermingling of the militia group and the wall efforts. We Build the Wall has shared footage shot by the group online, and people associated with the group continue to make appearances at the site of the private wall project, despite intense scrutiny of the militia’s activities.

Everybody in the GOP wants in on the grift, and Kobach is leading the charge.  Never forget that the GOP is all about enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of us.

White Supremacy, Naturally

The Trump administration plans to launch a new panel to offer "fresh thinking” on international human rights and “natural law,” a move some activists fear is aimed at narrowing protections for women and members of the LGBT community.

The new body, to be called the Commission on Unalienable Rights, will advise Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to a notice the State Department quietly published Thursday on the Federal Register.

“The Commission will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation's founding principles of natural law and natural rights,” states the notice, which is dated May 22.
Several human rights activists said Thursday that they were surprised by the move and trying to learn details. Some privately said they worry that talk of the “nation’s founding principles” and “natural law” are coded signals of plans to focus less on protecting women and LGBT people.

The word “natural” in such context is often interpreted to mean “God-given,” a phrasing that is less common in modern human rights literature but which could signal a religious component, experts said.

Activists and former U.S. officials noted that the Trump administration’s record on human rights so far is spotty at best.

“Many in the human rights community will welcome an opportunity to advise the Trump Administration on where its policies contradict America’s founding principles. There will be much to discuss,” said Rob Berschinski, a top official with Human Rights First.

The State Department already has an entire bureau devoted to the issues of human rights, democracy and labor, and it was not clear whether officials in that bureau were involved or even aware of the plans for the new commission.

The top State Department contact listed on the notice was Kiron Skinner, Pompeo's director of policy planning. Her team acts like an in-house think tank that considers long-term foreign policy strategy.

Skinner drew criticism recently for seeming to suggest that China, a rising power, is such a fundamentally different culture from the United States that arguments about human rights may not have much effect in dialogue with Beijing. Skinner’s defenders have argued she is a serious thinker who probably simply stumbled in trying to articulate her point.

State Department officials were not able to offer details about the planned commission on Thursday.

But in remarks to reporters after this article was first published, Pompeo said the goal of the panel was to sort out “how do we connect up what it is we’re trying to achieve throughout the world, and how do we make sure that we have a solid definition of human rights upon which to tell all our diplomats around the world.”

Let's be frank here. "Natural law" means the Trump State Department getting ready to tell the world that it will no longer comply with international human rights treaties and agreements where they differ from the platform of the Trump regime on civil rights.  If you thought we were going backwards at breakneck speed on abortion rights and climate change, wait until Pompeo gets recommendations from this "panel".

It will very soon be the official position of the United States government that "natural law" supersedes international law, and that the US will no longer go along with protections for people who aren't white Trump voters.

If you thought it was a travesty when we dropped out of the Paris climate accords and nuclear agreements with Russia, wait until we decide that the United Nations has no business telling the US what to do, and that we will no longer honor international human rights norms.

We're this close to declaring White Supremacy as the official religion of the country.  We will be even more of an international pariah than we already are, and the rest of the world will maybe decide that something has to be done to contain us.

Trump Trades Blows, Con't

Because somehow Trump doesn't think his trade war is tanking America's economy quickly enough, he announced a plan to ratchet up tariffs on all Mexican import goods by 5% per month until our neighbors south of the border are facing 25% tariffs or Mexico stops all undocumented and asylum seekers from entering America through the country.

President Donald Trump, incensed by a surge of illegal immigrants across the southern border, vowed on Thursday to impose a tariff on all goods coming from Mexico, starting at 5% and ratcheting higher until the flow of people ceases.

Trump’s move dramatically ramped up his battle to control a tide of immigrants that has swelled despite his efforts to build a border wall and halt the thousands crossing from Central America through Mexico to the U.S. border.

The president’s decision, abruptly announced on Twitter and in a subsequent statement, was a direct challenge to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and appeared to take the Mexican government by surprise.

It raised the risk of deteriorating economic relations between two neighbors heavily dependent on the cross-border flow of goods. It also opened up a new front on trade as the Trump administration struggles to conclude a trade deal with China.

Higher tariffs will start at 5% on June 10 and increase monthly until reaching 25% on Oct. 1, unless Mexico takes immediate action, he said.

“If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the tariffs will be removed,” Trump said.

The announcement rattled investors who feared that worsening trade frictions could hurt the global economy. The Mexican peso, U.S. stock index futures and Asian stock markets tumbled on the news, including the shares of Japanese automakers who ship cars from Mexico to the United States.

“We’re in a good moment building a good relationship (with the United States) and this comes like a cold shower,” said Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesus Seade.

U.S. officials said 80,000 people are being held in custody with an average of 4,500 arriving daily, overwhelming the ability of border patrol officials to handle them.A senior White House official said Trump was particularly concerned that U.S. border agents apprehended a group of 1,036 migrants as they illegally crossed the border from Mexico on Wednesday. Officials said it was the largest single group since October.

Most likely this will never be implemented, as somebody will sit down with Trump and explain to him just how many US jobs in red states will be lost over this, and how many people will blame Republicans in those states for not stopping Trump.  It will be a bloodbath come next year.

This is Trump manufacturing both an immigration crisis and an economic crisis, both of which he thinks he will be able to exploit in order to justify use of unprecedented "emergency powers".

The bitter reality will strike home on this very quickly, and Trump will fold soon.  The one thing keeping people from flooding the streets to get rid of the GOP right now is the singular fact that they haven't comepltely tanked the economy yet.  The second that happens, it will be carnage.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Last Call For It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

Suddenly, the FBI investigation into Andrew Gillum's term as Mayor of Tallahassee, which had nothing to do with Gillum himself or his 2018 campaign for Governor, now magically has everything to do with Gillum's 2018 campaign for Governor.

Andrew Gillum is a focal point of a recently issued federal grand jury subpoena that demands information on the former Democratic candidate for governor, his campaign, his political committee, a wealthy donor, a charity he worked for and a former employer.

The subpoena, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times and previously unreported, could reflect a new level of federal inquiry into Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee who narrowly lost to Republican Ron DeSantis last year.

Throughout his campaign last year, Gillum insisted he was not a target of a sprawling FBI investigation of Tallahassee City Hall, which has taken at least three years and resulted in three arrests. Last year, he told the Tallahassee Democrat: “Twenty-plus subpoenas have been issued and not one of them has anything to do with me.”

But the recent one does. Previously, the investigation had centered on corruption inside Tallahassee government, including during Gillum’s time as mayor. The newer subpoena is more focused on Gillum’s 2018 campaign and people and organizations with clear ties to him, but with less obvious connections to Tallahassee City Hall.

Gillum, now a CNN contributor, declined to answer specific questions about the subpoena or say whether a subpoena was issued to him. In a statement to the Times, Gillum said: "We stand ready to assist any future review of our work, because I am confident we always did the right thing and complied fully with the law.”

“We ran an open and honest campaign. A campaign powered by thousands of volunteers and supporters. A campaign that captured imaginations and earned over four million votes,” Gillum said. “When you run a campaign that puts the power in the hands of the people, and fights for change, it inevitably invites close scrutiny, regardless of the facts.” 

Gillum ran into trouble after accepting tickets for Hamilton from the FBI in a sting operation. The state of Florida nailed him for a $5,000 ethics violation fine on that last year and that was that.

But that was before Bill Barr.

Now there's a grand jury investigating Gillum's campaign.

You do the math.

Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Although it won't surprise a single reader of ZVTS, it turns out that the Trump regime's plan to make citizenship the primary question of the 2020 Census (and of course, lying on a Census form is punishable by law) is indeed an effort to disenfranchise millions of undocumented living in America.

The Trump administration’s controversial effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census was drawn up by the Republican Party’s gerrymandering mastermind, who wrote that it “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”
This bombshell news, revealed in newly released legal documents, suggests that the Trump administration added the question not to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, as it claimed, but to benefit Republicans politically when it came to drawing new political districts.

A case challenging the citizenship question is currently before the Supreme Court, and the new evidence significantly undercuts the Trump administration’s position in the case.

Tom Hofeller, who passed away last year, was the longtime redistricting expert for the Republican National Committee. He helped Republicans draw heavily gerrymandered maps in nearly every key swing state after the 2010 election. In some of those places, like North Carolina, the new lines were struck down for discriminating against African Americans.

In 2015, Hofeller was hired by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, to study the impact of drawing state legislative districts based on citizenship rather than total population, which has been the standard for decades. Hofeller’s analysis of Texas state legislative districts found that drawing districts based on citizenship—a move he conceded would be a “radical departure from the federal ‘one person, one vote’ rule presently used in the United States”—would reduce representation for Hispanics, who tended to vote Democratic, and increase representation for white Republicans. But Hofeller said that a question about citizenship would need to be added to the census, which forms the basis for redistricting, for states like Texas to pursue this new strategy.

Hofeller then urged President Donald Trump’s transition team to add the question about citizenship to the 2020 census. He urged the team to claim that a citizenship question was needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act, even though Hofeller had already concluded that it would harm the racial minority groups that the act was designed to protect
. That argument was then used by the Justice Department in a December 2017 letter requesting that the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, include a citizenship question.

Hofeller’s documents were discovered on hard drives found by his estranged daughter and introduced into evidence in a separate trial challenging gerrymandered North Carolina state legislative districts drawn by Hofeller. On Thursday, lawyers challenging the citizenship question cited them in federal court. They suggest that members of Trump’s team may not have been fully forthcoming in their testimony under oath.
Neither Trump transition team member Mark Neuman nor John Gore, the former assistant attorney general for civil rights who wrote the Justice Department letter, mentioned Hofeller’s involvement in the letter when they were deposed under oath as part of a lawsuit by New York and 17 other states challenging the citizenship question.

We'll see what effect this has on NC's gerrymandering and Census citizenship question, both before SCOTUS.  Decisions could be coming on these cases in less than a month.

The reality is though that we now have proof the goal of Republican gerrymandering over the last decade is to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

The question is will Democrats actually take action to stop this?

Gaslighting The Gas Company

The Department of Energy issued a press release on Tuesday that quoted officials praising “freedom gas” and “molecules of U.S. freedom.”

The statement begins with a relatively milquetoast announcement on new exports of natural gas produced in Quintana Island, Texas.

Then the release quotes U.S. Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes as saying: “Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy.”

After which Steven Winberg, the assistant secretary for fossil energy, says: “With the U.S. in another year of record-setting natural gas production, I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world

Our government is very much a kakstiocracy , a government run by the worst possible people fpr the job at every single imaginable turn.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Last Call For Israeli A Mess Now, Con't

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is headed back to the drawing board as he has failed to form a coalition government in the allotted post-election period, meaning Israel is now facing another round of snap elections in September.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a stunning defeat on Thursday after he failed to meet a midnight deadline to form a new government, casting a cloud over his future as prime minister and thrusting Israel into the chaos of a new election.

Just seven weeks ago, when Mr. Netanyahu basked in a postelection “night of tremendous victory,” he seemed invincible, confident that he would serve a fourth consecutive term and a fifth overall. Despite a looming indictment on corruption charges, he appeared set to surpass the nation’s founding leader, David Ben Gurion, as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

But after weeks of negotiations, his plans ran aground on a power struggle between two blocs of his potential right-wing coalition — the secular ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox factions — who refused to compromise on proposed legislation on military service.

The dream collapsed in a breathtaking display of political maneuvering in recent days, as Mr. Netanyahu, long nicknamed “the magician” for the political wizardry that has kept him in office continuously for the past decade, desperately tried to salvage his fortunes.

With his conservative Likud party claiming it had locked down 60 seats, just one shy of a majority, he sought out new coalition partners and potential defectors from opposition parties. He even approached Labor, the center-left stalwart, which rebuffed his advance.

At the same time, his party advanced a fallback bill to dissolve Parliament and go to new elections.

That bill passed shortly after midnight on Thursday, with Parliament voting to disperse itself just a month after it was sworn in, with 74 votes in favor and 45 against. One member was absent.

Israelis will return to the ballot box in elections tentatively set for Sept. 17, the first time in the country’s history that it has been forced to hold a new national election because of the failure to form a government after the previous election.

Immediately after the parliamentary vote, Mr. Netanyahu angrily blamed Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the ultranationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu, for thwarting a right-wing coalition.

Bibi of course has nobody to blame but himself.  He's still facing indictment as a sitting Prime Minister, and his failure to form a government absolutely reflects that.  We know he won't resign, but his inability to form a government may finally be the death knell for his political career.

We'll see, but there's hope.

It's Mueller Time, Now With Actual Mueller Edition

Robert Mueller made public remarks at the Justice Department today, which probably won't satisfy Democrats who insist he testify under oath, but he did make several "read between the lines of the Mueller report" assumptions very clear.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III reiterated Wednesday that his office could not clear President Trump of obstructing justice, asserting in his first public remarks about his investigation that federal prosecutors cannot accuse the commander in chief of a crime while suggesting Congress still may do so.

Standing alone on stage in a room used for news conferences on the Justice Department’s seventh floor, Mueller said that if his office “had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” and noted that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse the president of wrongdoing.”

But if Mueller was trying to suggest Democrats could initiate impeachment proceedings, he also seemed to dash any hopes they might have had of doing so with him as their star witness.

The special counsel — who noted he was closing up shop and formally resigning from the Justice Department — said he hoped the news conference would be his last public comments, and if he were compelled to testify before Congress, he would not speak beyond what he wrote in his 448-page report.

So, that's the bad news, and yes, as far as the Trump regime is concerned, it's all over and the noxious indictments of Democrats can now begin.

But Democrats aren't giving up on Mueller speaking under oath or the House investigations.

Democrats, meanwhile, said they would press ahead with their investigations. Several presidential contenders — including Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — said Mueller’s comments were akin to an impeachment referral. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Congress “has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has resisted a move toward impeachment, thanked Mueller for providing “a record for future action both in the Congress and in the courts” and said lawmakers would “continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy.”

A House Democratic leadership aide said Mueller’s public statement would change nothing: the chamber still intends to call the special counsel to appear before Congress — even if lawmakers have to force him. Should Mueller refuse, Democrats could issue a subpoena, though they were hoping to avoid such a compulsory measure.

The aide, who follows the House investigations closely, argued there’s value in having Mueller appear in public, even if he refuses to answer questions beyond what’s in the report. Most Americans, Democrats note, haven’t read Mueller’s findings — but potentially millions would tune in to a highly anticipated hearing broadcast on national television to hear him re-litigate some of what he found.

The bottom line: Mueller is once again saying this is Congress's job, and for Democrats to be able to do that, they want Mueller to spell it out on national TV instead of it coming from Bill Barr or Trump or Sarah Sanders.

But Congress must act.  Period.  That is what Mueller is saying, it's what he said in the report, and he made that clear again today.  Trump is not exonerated.

Whether or not Mueller will agree or even be allowed to testify, well...

No Relief In Sight

My Representative in the House, Thomas Massie, continues to be a national embarrassment and now he's hurting the rest of the country, holding up the latest disaster relief bill for Midwest flood victims out of pure spite and rancor.

For the second time in less than a week, the House on Tuesday failed to pass the Senate-approved $19 billion bill providing disaster aid funding to parts of the United States hit by hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and wildfires after a Republican lawmaker objected.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., objected to a request to pass the measure by unanimous consent during a pro forma session. If the bill had passed, it would have gone straight to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature. Most lawmakers are back home in their districts this week for a weeklong Memorial Day recess.

"The speaker of the House should have called a vote on this bill before sending every member of Congress on recess for 10 days, and I object," Massie said on the floor.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters afterward that the chamber will again attempt to pass the bill by unanimous consent Thursday. If it's blocked once again, the full House would be poised to pass the bill when lawmakers return the week of June 3.

"House Republicans need to immediately end this shameful sabotage, and allow the House to pass the bill that the bipartisan Senate has finally agreed to," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. "How many more communities need to suffer before Republicans end their political games?”

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., slammed Massie's move Tuesday on Twitter, calling it an example of a politician "putting their own self-interest ahead of the national interest."

Even other Republicans are objecting at this point to these idiotic antics.

Massie has to go in 2020, and I hope the DCCC has plans to get rid of him.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Last Call For The Road To Gilead

Here in Cincinnati, the last abortion clinic in southwest Ohio remains open thanks to a judge and an injunction preventing Ohio from denying licenses to clinics arbitrarily.  In Missouri, the state is down to one clinic in St. Louis, and the license for that facility expires at the end of the month.

The last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri says it expects to be shut down this week, effectively ending legal abortion in the state.

In a statement to be released later Tuesday, Planned Parenthood said Missouri's health department is "refusing to renew" its annual license to provide abortion in the state. If the license is not renewed by May 31, Missouri would become the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided.
Planned Parenthood would still be able to provide non-abortion health services for women in Missouri.

Planned Parenthood said it plans to sue the state "in order to try to keep serving Missouri women."

"This is not a drill. This is not a warning. This is a real public health crisis," said Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

A call and email to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services were not immediately returned.

Representatives for Planned Parenthood told CBS News that the upcoming deadline follows weeks of back-and-forth with state health officials.

On May 20, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services notified Planned Parenthood of three issues that could impact license renewal, according to documents reviewed by CBS News and provided by Planned Parenthood.

On May 22, Planned Parenthood said it would address two of them: adjusting who at the clinic provided the state-mandated counseling and adding an additional pelvic exam for abortion patients.

But it said a third request was out of its control. According to Planned Parenthood, the health department said it was investigating "deficient practices," and needed to interview seven physicians who provide care at the clinic. Planned Parenthood said it could offer interviews only with two who are its employees. The remaining physicians provide services at the facility but aren't employed by Planned Parenthood and have not agreed to be interviewed.

In its letter, the Department of Health wrote that it could not "complete our investigation until it interviews the physicians involved in the care provided in the potential deficient practices," and that "the investigation needs to be completed and any deficiencies resolved before the expiration of [the clinic's] license on May 31, 2019.

So-called "Targeted Regulation of Abortion Practices" laws or TRAP laws like this have been the favored weapon of the anti-choice, anti-women crowd for the last decade or so.  Regulating abortion clinics out of existence with impossible and arbitrary rules for operation has been stopped before by the Supreme Court in Texas and several other states, but that was before Justice Kennedy was replaced by Brett Kavanaugh.

We'll see if Planned Parenthood can prevail here, but the clock on Missouri's women is running out.
Meanwhile, we got the first decision on abortion from SCOTUS today blocking Indiana's ludicrous "selective eugenics" law.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked an Indiana law barring abortions based on a fetus' sex, race or disability, while allowing a separate state measure requiring fetal remains to be buried or cremated to take effect.

The justices declined to review a lower court's decision overturning a law restricting when and why an abortion could be performed. Vice President Mike Pence signed the measure into law in 2016 when he was Indiana governor, and it was blocked by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last year.

That case is the latest abortion challenge the Supreme Court's new conservative majority has passed up. However, it doesn’t indicate whether the court will eventually take up a challenge to Roe v. Wade, as a spate of conservative states including Alabama, Georgia and Missouri approve laws meant to directly challenge the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.

In an unsigned opinion, the justices wrote that the state has a "legitimate interest" in the disposal of fetal remains. They reversed the 7th Circuit decision blocking that provision, reinstating Indiana's measure without first holding a hearing.
Indiana argued the prevalence of prenatal screening has led many women to opt for abortion when fetal abnormalities like Down syndrome are detected. Supporters of abortion rights said the law was unconstitutionally intrusive, defying Supreme Court precedent protecting a woman's right for an abortion until the fetus is viable outside of the womb, generally considered to be around 24 weeks.

"A woman, not the legislature, gets to decide whether an abortion is the right decision for her and her family," said Ken Falk, legal director with the ACLU of Indiana, who represented Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky in the case.

Although Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the court's decision to refuse the case, he wrote in a fiery concurring opinion that the justices may eventually consider the constitutionality of similar laws.
"Given the potential for abortion to become a tool of eugenic manipulation, the Court will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana’s. But because further percolation may assist our review of this issue of first impression, I join the Court in declining to take up the issue now," he wrote. 

Justice Thomas just posted a major signpost on the road to Gilead.  If the Supreme Court considers abortion itself to be eugenics, that would not only leave the door open to end abortion in the entire country, but to end birth control as well.

And yes, the Indiana law requiring cremation of fetal remains brings us one TRAP law closer to bankrupting clinics in the state.

Indiana's law won't be the decision that ends Roe, but it's coming.  Justice Thomas is all but promising it.

They Fought The Law And The Law's Gone

The lawless Trump regime rolls on, with rank and file regime bureaucrats now openly thumbing their noses at laws they have no intention of following, will never be prosecuted for, and will get away with breaking repeatedly.

Lynne Patton, a regional administrator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote last week that she may have broken a federal law meant to prevent officials from politicizing their government positions, but said that even if that were the case, she “honestly” didn’t care.

“Just retweeted this amazing tweet from both of my Twitter accounts — professional and personal,” Patton wrote on Facebook last week, pointing to a message that championed her boss, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, but was critical of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). “It may be a Hatch Act violation. It may not be.”

“Either way,” she continued, “I honestly don’t care anymore.”

The 1939 Hatch Act prohibits officials working in the executive branch from using their “official authority for political purposes” and is meant to prevent “federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity,” according to the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Many members within the Trump administration have run afoul of the law before, and last November, six White House officials were reprimanded for using their social media accounts in violation of the Hatch Act.

Patton, who is paid an annual salary of $161,900, according to 2017 figures, is tasked with overseeing one of HUD’s largest regions with a budget in the billions of dollars. But when someone pointed out her potential lawbreaking, Patton doubled down on Sunday evening, mocking those critical of her as “lazy internet parrots” and “liberal snowflakes” on her personal Twitter account.

Patton is actually under investigation for previous possible Hatch Act violations, but no punishment has been meted out so far, and it's unlikely any will. She knows she's a good friend of the Trump family, and that's all that matters.

We've now reached the point where Republicans openly mock the rest of us because they know there will be no consequences.

GOP senators say that if the House passes articles of impeachment against President Trump they will quickly quash them in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has broad authority to set the parameters of a trial.

While McConnell is required to act on articles of impeachment, which require 67 votes — or a two-thirds majority — to convict the president, he and his Republican colleagues have the power to set the rules and ensure the briefest of trials.

“I think it would be disposed of very quickly,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“If it’s based on the Mueller report, or anything like that, it would be quickly disposed of,” he added.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell’s leadership team, said “nothing” would come of impeachment articles passed by the House.

Given the Senate GOP firewall, Cornyn, who’s also a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he doubts that Democrats will commence the impeachment process.

“It would be defeated. That’s why all they want to do is talk about it,” he said. “They know what the outcome would be.”

Rule of law no longer exists in America.  Not for the Trump regime, anyway.

Climate Of Destruction, Con't

The Trump regime is simply going to stop publishing the results of global warming work in an effort to finish off climate science in America permanently.

President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis.

Now, after two years spent unraveling the policies of his predecessors, Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.

In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.

Mr. Trump is less an ideologue than an armchair naysayer about climate change, according to people who know him. He came into office viewing agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency as bastions of what he calls the “deep state,” and his contempt for their past work on the issue is an animating factor in trying to force them to abandon key aspects of the methodology they use to try to understand the causes and consequences of a dangerously warming planet.

As a result, parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.

The attack on science is underway throughout the government
. In the most recent example, the White House-appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously.

Scientists say that would give a misleading picture because the biggest effects of current emissions will be felt after 2040. Models show that the planet will most likely warm at about the same rate through about 2050. From that point until the end of the century, however, the rate of warming differs significantly with an increase or decrease in carbon emissions.

The administration’s prime target has been the National Climate Assessment, produced by an interagency task force roughly every four years since 2000. Government scientists used computer-generated models in their most recent report to project that if fossil fuel emissions continue unchecked, the earth’s atmosphere could warm by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That would lead to drastically higher sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, crop failures, food losses and severe health consequences.

Work on the next report, which is expected to be released in 2021 or 2022, has already begun. But from now on, officials said, such worst-case scenario projections will not automatically be included in the National Climate Assessment or in some other scientific reports produced by the government.

“What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics,” said Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the government’s most recent National Climate Assessment. “It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”

And so the projections into the future will simply cease.  It will be somebody else's problem.  Not the Trump regime's problem though.

But it will still be America's problem.

And the world's.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Back To Business

Well, I took the week off and recharged through the long Memorial Day weekend.  I'll be back on a normal schedule tomorrow.

It's back to business, but the big story of last week remains Donald Trump and Bill Barr giving the game away as to what's coming next.

Attorney General William Barr is likely to consult with the intelligence community on how best to handle classified material related to the Russian investigation as he seeks out “corruption at the FBI and the DOJ,” the top White House spokeswoman said.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in defending President Donald Trump’s moves to declassify intelligence, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday without citing evidence that people within the agencies “were specifically working trying to take down the president, trying to hurt the president.”

“The president wants transparency, and he’s given the attorney general the ability to put that transparency in place, make those decisions,”’ Sanders said.

Sanders didn’t specifically respond to a question about whether Trump would accept “exoneration” of the motives behind the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, if that’s what Barr concludes. “I’m not going to get ahead of what the final conclusion is,” she said, adding, “we already know” that there was “a high level of corruption” and “wrongdoing.”

The president this week gave Barr broad authority to declassify information from the CIA and more than a dozen other U.S. intelligence agencies as part of a review of their role in what became a two-year special counsel probe into the election and Trump’s campaign.

Although Barr isn’t compelled to take suggestions from top U.S. intelligence officials, Sanders said there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t “do everything that is necessary to make sure we’re protecting important intelligence that is vital to our national security.”

“We expect that the attorney general will consult with them on matters that he needs that guidance and advice from them,” she said. “Certainly they work in lock step on a number of things. I don’t see this to be any different.”

Trump’s move has been cast by some as an attempt by the president to exact revenge on political opponents.

“It looks like he’s using the attorney general to be his personal lawyer,” Representative Eric Swalwell of California, one of about two dozen Democrats running for the 2020 presidential nomination, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The actions by Trump and Barr could put a “chilling effect” on members of the intelligence community, including FBI agents, he said

Rep. Swallwell is actually wrong on that point.  It's not the declassification order that will have the chilling effect.

It will be the raft of Trumped-up indictments.

Barr will find something to charge FBI personnel on.  Mishandling secure information, leaking to the hated press, something.  Those charges I expect will be provided by the DoJ Inspector General's report on the FBI probe.

Trump's minions have been broadly hinting for months that former Obama administration intelligence officials like James Comey, John Brennan, and James Clapper would be facing charges, as well as the FBI agents who worked on the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into the Trump campaign, like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

The broad and unprecedented declassification power given to Barr means he can leak whatever evidence he can find to harm Democrats and the FBI.  In turn, I expect escalating leaks against Barr himself...and maybe even Donald Trump.  It's at that point that things will get truly ugly.

I don't know who will win this battle.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Case For Taking A Break

So yesterday a long-time reader, Martin Pollard, told me he was done with ZVTS and my negativity on the Dems.

I'm done with your pessimism. I'm done with your negativity. I'm done with your endless stream of gloom-and-doom. You do absolutely nothing to give any liberal/progressive/Democrat even the slightest bit of hope or encouragement. That's your right and your prerogative, and you might even have some justification for it, but that doesn't mean I have to subject myself to it anymore. So long, and I pray that your negativity ultimately ends up being unjustified.

I respect Martin's opinion, and I know you guys do too.  He's been here at ZVTS for years.  If it's been that bad lately that I'm driving off long-time readers like Martin, then maybe I need to look at taking a break for a while.   I've been at this for ten, coming up on eleven years now.  I know I took a break back in December of 2013 and it was beneficial, but that was more than five years ago.

Some self-reflection is definitely in order.

So, I'm going to step back for a bit and see where I am, and I'm at least going to take the week off.  The place will survive without me for a week, but I'll be back.

I hope you will be too, and I hope that I'm able to continue to give you all a reason to come back as well.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Last Call For The Perfect Storm

Midwest farmers are getting destroyed by the twin grinders of climate change and Trump's trade war with China, and this is where Democrats need to come in and make the case they are better on both issues.  In Iowa as farmers deal with the Mighty Mississippi flooding and soybean and corn prices hitting rock bottom as China is no longer buying, John Deere's tractor plants are cutting production and possibly jobs.

Deere & Co. is scaling back production at some of its major North American plants, with heightened trade tensions and harsh weather hurting farmers' incomes and lowering equipment demand.

Moline-based Deere on Friday cut its full-year profit forecast. The agriculture-equipment manufacturer reported second-quarter earnings of $1.13 billion, or $3.52 per share. That's lower than the $1.21 billion, or $3.67 per share, reported during the same quarter last year.

The revised forecast is another indicator that farmers, and those in the Midwest in particular, are suffering the brunt of the Trump administration's trade battles. On Friday, the president sought to ease fears over the escalating trade confrontations by lifting tariffs on industrial metals with Mexico and Canada, and he has pledged another aid package for farmers hurt by tariffs.

Deere said it lowered its forecasts because farmers aren't buying as much equipment. Farmers are worried about plummeting crop prices, international trade disputes and extreme weather events that have delayed planting, including here in Iowa.

Deere's earnings were lower than Wall Street expectations, causing shares to drop more than 7 percent in afternoon trading.

"Ongoing concerns about export-market access, near-term demand for commodities such as soybeans and a delayed planting season in much of North America are causing farmers to become much more cautious about making major purchases," Chairman and CEO Samuel Allen said in the report.

On a Friday morning call with analysts, Josh Jepsen, director of investor relations, said in response to market dynamics Deere is reducing production in its agriculture business to levels below retail sales. Production will be lower at some of its large North American plants for the remainder of the year.

He said the changes are mostly affecting the production of large agriculture equipment, with its major plants shipping around 20% less than the previous year.

Locally, Deere manufactures large agriculture equipment, such as combines and tractors, at its factories in East Moline and Waterloo.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden said the company is not specifying where production cuts are being made, only that it plans to under-produce market demand in the second half of the year.

"Production changes can be accomplished without changing the size of the workforce," Golden said in an email. "We have not announced any change in workforce."

The job cuts won't come until next year, I figure.  Just in time for 2020 campaign season, too.  But they are coming.  Trump's trade war with China is about to get a lot worse for America's economy across the board as the real effect of tens of billions in new tariff taxes raise prices across the board for everyone.

Like I keep saying, Trump wins as long he keeps his campaign promise of making everyone else other than rural white voters more miserable. The second that misery comes home to farmers and ranchers and Crystal at Wal-Mart and Ricky at the Speedway, he's done.

That's the problem with a "white supremacy/economic anxiety" platform. If you don't deliver on the economic side of it, you're toast.  The economy is going to crater and soon, especially if there's war in Iran.

And then the Democrats have a real shot.

Trump's Taxing Explanation, Con't

Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin is calling House Ways and Means chair Richard Neal's bluff and will not hand over Donald Trump's tax information, saying he has been advised by Attorney General Bill Barr that he is not authorized to turn Trump's taxes over to anyone despite what the law says.

Democrats’ request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” and the Treasury Department is therefore “not authorized” to hand over the documents, Mnuchin said in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

Neal had requested the documents under a longstanding federal law giving Congress access to private tax information. Mnuchin said he’s not authorized to produce the documents, but the law actually doesn’t authorize him to refuse.

“The law, by its terms, does not allow for discretion as to whether to comply with a request for tax returns and return information,” Neal said in a statement responding to Mnuchin’s letter.

The tax returns are just one part of a broader standoff between the Trump administration and Congress. Lawmakers have a constitutional right to oversee the executive branch, but the White House has been stonewalling demands for testimony and documents.

Democrats will probably be at the mercy of federal courts to enforce their subpoenas, although some lawmakers have talked about dusting off the legislature’s own power to force compliance through jail or fines.

Neal asked for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns last month and followed through with the subpoena last week after Mnuchin refused the initial request.

“I didn’t think that they would turn it over,” Neal told HuffPost on Thursday, before Mnuchin had officially defied the subpoena.

Neal declined to discuss next steps but has previously said he would sue in federal court and ask a judge to enforce the subpoena. Courts have repeatedly ordered executive branch officials to cooperate with subpoenas, but the process typically takes longer than election cycles, meaning Trump could be out of office before Democrats can win.

And so the Trump tax case ends with a whimper.  We will never see them, because they will be tied up in court for years, and by then the 2020 election will be over one way or another.  If Trump loses (or Democrats lose the House in 2020) then the request dies in court, and if Trump wins, the Supreme Court will eventually block the law as unconstitutional considering Trump will get at least one more Justice to pick, if not two, in a second term (and no, Democrats won't block a pick if they should somehow win back the Senate, because they are Democrats.)

This is the effective end of the Trump tax fight.  I hate to say it, but Mnuchin's not going to jail, and Richard Neal isn't going to dust off the cell in the Capitol building to hold him there, and Mnuchin is one of the richest people in the country and fines won't mean a damn thing.

It's over, and we lost.

Trump will win because Democrats aren't willing to use every tool they have, and Trump (and Mitch McConnell) will use every tool.

That's the real story of this decade in American politics.

The Trumpian Wonder Down Under

Australia's conservative Liberal party coalition has won national elections Saturday despite all the polls pointing towards a Labor party sweep, and PM Kevin Morrison will keep his office by running on the Trump platform: tax cuts for the rich, forget climate change, and it's all immigrants' fault.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison led his conservative government to a surprise victory in Australia’s election, seeing off a challenge from the left-leaning Labor opposition with his pledge to safeguard the slowing economy.

“I have always believed in miracles,” Morrison, 51, told cheering supporters in Sydney, flanked by his wife and two daughters. “Tonight we’ve been delivered another one.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten, 52, earlier phoned Morrison to concede defeat, saying it was clear he could not form government even as millions of votes remained uncounted. He wished Morrison “good fortune and good courage in the service of our great nation” and said he would step down as opposition leader.

With 70% of the vote counted, the Liberal-National coalition is expected to win 74 seats in the 151-member lower house, with Labor on 65, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The broadcaster said it remained unclear whether the coalition would gain the 76 seats needed to form a majority.

It is a remarkable win for the conservative government, which has been plagued by factional infighting during its six years in office that hobbled its ability to craft policy. Morrison, who took the helm in August and is the Liberals’ third leader in four years, spent much of the campaign relentlessly attacking Labor’s detailed policy platform that included boosting the minimum wage and taking tougher action against climate change.
He urged voters not to risk a change of government just when the economy -- in its 28th year of uninterrupted growth -- appears to be running out of steam.

“The economic story, the economic message, the economic choice was what differentiated the parties at this election,’’ Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

Morrison faces a drawn-out battle to legislate planned income tax cuts that could provide much-needed fiscal stimulus for the economy. His ability to do so will hinge on the makeup of the Senate, where populists and independents could hold the balance of power. Vote counting for the upper house will likely continue for days.

Morrison must also navigate the intensifying trade war between the U.S., Australia’s most important ally, and China, its biggest trading partner. The government must shore up ties with Beijing, which have been strained since the coalition last year introduced laws aimed at ending Chinese interference in national affairs, and barred telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co. from participating in its 5G network on security grounds.

Morrison closed down Labor’s lead during the five-week campaign, and a Newspoll published Saturday put the opposition just three points ahead. With the contest so tight, it was vital for both parties to hold or pick up seats held by a thin margin. 

And it was rural voters out in Queensland and Tasmania who won it for the conservatives.  If there seems like there's a lot of similarities to Clinton vs Trump in 2016, that's because there is, and Australia's Trump has won.  Despite deadly wildfires and record summer heat in the country last year, voters turned against climate change and wage increases in order to stop those people and keep Australia for...well, certainly not its aboriginal population, that's for damn sure.

The Trumpification of Alerica's allies continues.

The Road To Gilead, Con't

If you think that red state Democrats wouldn't turn on women faster than red state Republicans in order to try to keep their jobs over doing the right thing, well, you've never met a Louisiana Democrat, particularly John Bel Edwards.

Nearly three decades ago, when Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ wife was 20 weeks pregnant with their first child, a doctor discovered their daughter had spina bifida and encouraged an abortion. The Edwardses refused.

Now, daughter Samantha is married and working as a school counselor, and Edwards finds himself an outlier in polarized abortion politics.

“My position hasn’t changed. In eight years in the Legislature, I was a pro-life legislator,” he said. When he ran for governor, his view was the same. “I’m as consistent as I can be on that point.”

Edwards, who has repeatedly bucked national party leaders on abortion rights, is about to do it again. He’s ready to sign legislation that would ban the procedure as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, when the bill reaches his desk.
Louisiana’s proposal , awaiting one final vote in the state House, would prohibit abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to laws passed in Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia and Ohio that aim to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Alabama has gone even further, enacting a law that makes performing abortions a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions.

But the abortion bans in those other conservative states — spurred by anti-abortion activists hoping the addition of conservative judges to the Supreme Court could help overturn Roe v. Wade — were backed by Republican governors.

A rarity in his party, Edwards’ anti-abortion stance provokes angry outcries on social media from Democratic voters and disappointment within the party’s broader ranks across the country.

“When Republicans are taking away women’s rights at every step, it’s on the Democrats to show that we are the party that will protect women. When we fail to do that, we make it absolutely hopeless for women around the country,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive Democratic consultant

And Bel Edwards never ran as anything other than a Catholic pro-life Democrat in Louisiana.  Democratic voters knew exactly what they were getting when they elected him, and he's up for re-election in less than five months.

Of course he was going to sign this unconstitutional bill.

As a resident of Kentucky, let me assure you that it's never a question of if Red State Dems up for reelection toe the GOP line, it's how often, and how many people get hurt when they do.

And yet the Republican alternative is always somebody 100% willing to follow the GOP mantra.

It's depressing, trust me.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Last Call For It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

Attorney General Bill Barr absolutely gave the game away today on Fox News as to what is coming.  Donald Trump wants Democrats in jail for the Mueller probe, and Bill Barr is all but promising to deliver indictments.  Greg Sargent:

Barr confirmed, as he has before, that he is currently investigating the investigators -- that is, taking another look at the genesis of the investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election, and the Trump campaign’s possible complicity with it. This is, of course, exactly what Trump has demanded for years

“I’ve been trying to get answers to the questions and I’ve found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” Barr said, stressing how important it is to know “whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale.”

This is more than just a declaration that the FBI launched an investigation of a foreign attack on our political system and possible coordination with it by Americans. It also subtly bolsters the idea that the FBI did this in a way that was designed to harm the Trump campaign.

Indeed, Barr openly validated Trump’s longtime claim that the whole FBI probe was a “witch hunt.”
“I think if I had been falsely accused I would be comfortable saying it was a witch hunt,” Barr said.

This echoes Barr’s extraordinary press conference just before releasing the Mueller report, at which he appealed to us to understand how victimized Trump felt by the Mueller investigation when considering his efforts to obstruct it.

Now Barr has gone all the way and validated the phrase “witch hunt.”

Perhaps most strikingly, Barr hinted darkly that Democrats should be worried about the outcome of his investigation of the investigators. Asked about Democratic charges that he’d previously misled Congress, Barr said:

“It’s a laughable charge, and I think it’s largely being made to try to discredit me, partly because they may be concerned about the outcome of a review of what happened during the election.”

Really? The attorney general of the United States is telegraphing that the conclusion of an unfinished investigation should be feared by one of two major political parties?

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the attorney general to be casting DOJ actions in terms of whether they’re good or bad for one political party," Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told us. “He’s implying that what’s going on behind the scenes at DOJ will be good for Republicans and bad for Democrats.” 

The fix is in, fellas.  And when Trump's political enemies start going to jail, what then?

It's (Still) Mueller Time, Con't

Please remember that the obstruction of justice investigation and other investigations into the Trump regime are continuing, and cooperation of Mueller witnesses remain ongoing, while any congressional testimony from Mueller himself remains in permanent limbo because the White House is invoking executive privilege over anything he might have to say involving the Mueller report.

The White House’s decision to assert executive privilege over special counsel Robert Mueller’s report could prevent Mueller from answering lawmakers questions during a potential testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the WSJ, discussions over that matter have stalled negotiations about Mueller’s possible testimony. The executive privilege assertion could prevent Mueller from speaking about anything that’s not included in the redacted version of the report. The Justice Department’s lawyers are reportedly studying the situation and are expected to offer both sides guidance soon.

But that doesn't mean Mueller's hands are tied.  In the last 24 hours we got two very interesting pieces of information released, first that former Trump National Security Adviser (and convicted felon) Michael Flynn is still cooperating and is offering new insight on possible obstruction of justice by somebody not Donald Trump according to newly revealed Mueller probe court information.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that people linked to the Trump administration and Congress reached out to him in an effort to interfere in the Russia probe, according to newly-unredacted court papers filed Thursday. 
The court filing from special counsel Robert Mueller is believed to mark the first public acknowledgement that a person connected to Capitol Hill was suspected of engaging in an attempt to impede the investigation into Russian election interference.

“The defendant informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could’ve affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation,” the court papers say. 
Flynn even provided a voicemail recording of one such communication, the court papers say. 
Prosecutors did not identify any of the people who reached out to Flynn, but said the special counsel's office was in some instances "unaware of the outreach until being alerted to it by the defendant." 
No other details were provided in the filing, but the Mueller report noted that President Donald Trump's personal lawyer left a voicemail message for Flynn in late November 2017 that addressed the possibility of him cooperating with the government. 
"[I]t wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal with ... the government," the attorney said in the voicemail message, according to Mueller. 
[I]f... there's information that implicates the President, then we've got a national security issue [so] ... we need some kind of heads up. Just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can .... [R]emember what we've always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains."

One: Mueller is still playing hardball.  Bill Barr better watch his step.

Two: Did you catch the "and Congress" part of obstruction of justice there?  There are two possibilities that I've seen people floating as to which member of Congress, and they're both GOP Intelligence Committee heads.  The first is House GOP Devin Nunes, who if you'll recall had to recuse himself from the Mueller mess because he kept leaking info to the White House.  The other is of course Senate Intelligence Committee chair Lindsey Graham, who has done a complete heel turn and has become Trump's loyal bully.

If Flynn has a recording of Graham or Nunes actually asking him to cover for Trump, and that's going to become public very soon, well, that would explain the entire week in Trump nastiness, wouldn't it?

That brings us to the second bit of info: a judge has indeed ordered that voicemail to made public, along with Flynn's 2016 conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak which got him into trouble in the first place.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far they have been disclosed to the public only in fragments in court filings and the Mueller report.

Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.

Sullivan’s orders came very shortly after government prosecutors agreed to release some sealed records in Flynn’s case. The release was in response to a motion filed with the court earlier this year by The Washington Post, which argued that the public deserved to know more about Flynn’s role in key events and cooperation with investigators.

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one felony count of making a false statement to FBI investigators about his contact with the ambassador and awaits sentencing.

So yeah, the Washington Post argued that if Flynn cooperated, there's no reason to redact his role in the Muller investigation.  A judge agreed, and we should have that information within the next two weeks.  Flynn's lawyers wanted this information out in the public too in order to argue that Flynn's sentence should be shortened because of the "value" of his cooperation, which they want the country to be able to judge openly.

That's going to be a bad day for Trump when it comes out.  But remember, there's at least one member of Congress who is facing obstruction of justice charges too.  And all the executive privilege in the world won't save them.

Deportation Nation, Con't

This is one hell of a trial balloon if true, and one vile scare tactic if it's all horseshit.  Either one is reasonably plausible with this crew of evil bastards.  Warning, this is a Daily Caller story, so the veracity is "Who knows?"

President Donald Trump is planning on using the Insurrection Act to remove illegal immigrants from the United States, The Daily Caller has learned.

According to multiple senior administration officials, the president intends to invoke the “tremendous powers” of the act to remove illegal immigrants from the country.

“We’re doing the Insurrection Act,” one official said.

Under the Insurrection Act of 1807, the president has the authority to use the National Guard and military in order to combat “unlawful obstruction or rebellion” within U.S. borders. The act was last invoked in 1992 by George H.W. Bush to quell the Los Angeles riots, and was also used by Eisenhower in 1957 to enforce school desegregation in the south.

An official expressed concerns that Trump’s use of the act’s powers would face legal challenges, pointing to the lawsuits against the president’s travel ban from majority-Muslim countries. However, as the official noted, the travel ban ultimately prevailed in the Supreme Court.

In addition to the Insurrection Act, the president is also considering declaring the country full and insisting that the U.S. can no longer handle the massive influx of illegal immigrants. 2019 is currently on pace to reach the highest levels of illegal immigration in a decade.

“If you take a ship and it holds 1,000 people maximum — one more person and the ship is going to collapse,” the official explained. “The country is full.”

“Our hospitals are full, our detention centers are full,” they added

The "official" sounds like Stephen Miller to me.  But if this is true, having the National Guard start rounding up undocumented is even worse than having ICE do it.  These would be military-trained troops with military-grade weapons and vehicles used against people inside the country.  It doesn't get much more jackboot fascist Nazi-analogy-of-your-choice than this, guys.

"Trump regime" wouldn't be just the moniker I hang on these clods, it would be one in function as well. This morning in a tweet Trump made it very clear what's coming:

I don't know what to say other than this is getting close to really being as bad as I warned about.  This is literally what fascist regimes do, guys.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Last Call For Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

As Charles Blow reminds us, Donald Trump is the politician of white men, for white men, in an America where increasingly only white men have full rights.

The white male racist patriarchy will not be denied. It is having a moment. It has its own president.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of race/ethnicity and sex among validated voters in the 2016 presidential election, white men were the only group in which a majority voted for Donald Trump — 62 percent — although a plurality of white women did also — 47 percent.

We are living through a flagrant display of a white male exertion of power, authority and privilege, a demonstration meant to underscore that they will forcefully fight any momentum toward demographic displacement, no matter how inevitable the math.

The fear of white male displacement is a powerful psychological motivator and keeps Trump’s base animated and active.

It keeps farmers holding out hope and making excuses for him, even as his trade war devastates their operations. It keeps coal country loyal, even as the promises of a revitalized coal industry ring hollow. It keeps white voters in the rust belt on the edge of their seats, waiting for the day that he will magically bring back manufacturing. It keeps white voters in the South heated over the issue of immigration and an “invasion” or “infestation” of Latin Americans.

Trump’s central promise as a politician has been the elevation, protection and promotion of whiteness, particularly white men who fear demographic changes and loss of status and privilege.

As Vox reported in 2017, white people of all ideologies, including liberals, become more conservative when confronted with the reality that a rising minority population means a loss of white dominance.

As the psychologist Jonathan Haidt recently told Vox:

“As multiculturalism is emphasized more and more, there emerges a reaction against it on the right, which is attractive to the authoritarian mind and also appeals to other conservatives. And this, I think, is what has happened, this is what Trump is about — not entirely, of course, but certainly this is a big factor.”

It is about stacking the courts, controlling the bodies of women (look no further than the raft of state abortion restrictions recently passed, including the outrageous new abortion law in Alabama), fighting the redefinition of gender as personified by the advances in liberty among people who are transgender, restricting the voting of nonwhite, less conservative groups, and controlling the flow of migrants into the country who do not bolster the white population.

But the stacking of the courts may well be the thing that makes all the others possible.
While much of the country tries to contend with the unending stream of outrages in the White House, the Senate majority leader is pushing through a steady stream of Trump’s far-right federal judges, often breaking precedent and allowing for their confirmations over their home state’s senators’ objection.

The recent confirmation of Joseph Bianco to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, based in New York, was Trump’s 38th confirmed circuit court judge, HuffPost reported last week, adding:

“That’s more circuit judges than any president has gotten by this point in a first term, and means that one in every six seats on the nation’s circuit courts is now filled by a Trump nominee.”
These are lifetime appointments. Even if demographics change over one’s lifetime, these judges will not. 

And that's where we are.  Even if Trump was forced out of office tomorrow by impeachment, the circuit court, appellate court, and Supreme Court appointments by Trump will control America's destiny for a generation.   The plan isn't to alter the math of demographics, the plan is to reverse demographics.  America's days as a multi-cultural beacon to the planet are over, possibly for good.

History tells us there's a lot more that black folk, women, Asians, Latinos, and everyone who isn't a white male can lose.

And we will pay that price for the rest of my lifetime, at the minimum.
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