Sunday, January 20, 2019

Last Call For Shutdown Meltdown, Con't

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is supposedly a Democrat and is even running for President, but you sure wouldn't know it from her words.

Hawaii congresswoman and Democratic candidate for president Tulsi Gabbard said Sunday that her party’s leadership was not blameless for the partial government shutdown that is now approaching a month, accusing both sides of posturing and refusing to compromise.

“The problem here is that this issue, like so many others in Washington, are being relegated to partisan politics,” she said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union."

“Where if a Republican is putting forward a proposal, Democrats are going to shoot it down. If Democrats are putting forward a proposal, Republicans are going to shoot it down, really thinking about which party can call a win on this issue.”

The result, she said, is a loss for the country and especially the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown, which has been driven over disagreements about immigration.

I expect this both sides drivel from pundits, but from a Democratic Congressperson and presidential candidate it comes across as sabotage.

Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday said that Trump’s proposal is not the administration’s final offer and that there could be room to negotiate, but he also said it was disappointing that Democrats had refused the offer outright.

But Gabbard said Sunday that both parties are guilty of being unyielding, adding that both sides are displaying an “unwillingness to actually just sit down and work through the details that each side is putting forward, knowing that neither side is going to get everything they need.”

Both Democrats and Republicans have “completely hardened their positions and are unwilling to come together and work out the differences,” she said, pointing out it’s not an isolated problem.

She said the problem is “an unwillingness to just say, 'Hey, here's my position. Here's yours. Let's figure out how we can work out the differences that we can, putting forward the best solution for the American people.'”

I wasn't aware that John Kasich was a Hindi Congresswoman from Hawaii, but there you are.  And she has about as much chance of winning the 2020 Democratic primary as Kasich does.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith and reporter Anthony Cormier went on CNN's Reliable Sources today to talk with host Brian Stetler about their bombshell Michael Cohen story from Thursday night, that was denied, sort of, by the Mueller team on Friday and both Smith and Cormier say they are continuing to stand behind the story.

Towards the beginning of this morning’s lengthy interview, Smith noted that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had just appeared on CNN’s State of the Union and said that it wasn’t a big deal if the president had discussed the Congressional testimony with Cohen. “As we go to on to talk about process, I do want to make sure we also talk about the fundamental core of this story, about a giant construction project in Russia and secret negotiations through the campaign,” he further told host Brian Stelter.

After Cormier and Smith added that it is “extraordinary” that Giuliani’s story has shifted to “they were probably talking about it” and how that gets at the heart of their reporting, Stelter asked Cormier whether there was “any new evidence since Thursday night that supports your story.”

“I have further confirmation this is right and we’ve been told to stand our ground,” Cormier responded. “Our reporting is going to be borne out to be accurate.”

Stelter asked him directly who his sources are, something Cormier said he wasn’t going to share. “This is an important matter and in order to protect our sources and not put them in any risk, we’re not going to talk about the sourcing,” Cormier stated.

While Cormier said he wasn’t going to talk about sourcing matters or if they had additional sources outside of who they cited in the story, he did point out that the “same sources we used in that story are standing behind it.”

Here's the clip from CNN from Contemptor.

At this point I'm going to have to say that when your reporter and your editor go on a national cable news show about the media and say "Yes, this story is true, we have multiple sources, no I'm not going to burn my sources, this story is vital and will be proven true" then yes, everything is on the line for your news organization, even if it wasn't a story about the guy in the Oval Office committing conspiracy and impeachable criminal acts.  It takes guts to do this.

The Washington Post has more details on the Mueller team's denial.

The reporter informed Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, that he and a colleague had “a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project,” according to copies of their emails provided by a BuzzFeed spokesman. Importantly, the reporter made no reference to the special counsel’s office specifically or evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered.

“We’ll decline to comment,” Carr responded, a familiar refrain for those in the media who cover Mueller’s work.

The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce. When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described fixer, “told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,” and that Mueller’s office learned of the directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

In the view of the special counsel’s office, that was wrong, two people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller’s team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.

Within 24 hours of the story’s publication, the special counsel’s office issued a statement doing just that. Trump, who has called the media the “enemy of the people,” on Saturday pointed to the special counsel’s assertion as evidence of what he sees as journalists’ bias against him.

So what I said Friday about the denial from the Mueller team being more about damage control of what was an obvious leak in their ongoing investigation of Trump seems like the best theory right now. Remember, the rest of the circumstantial evidence strongly supports the story being true as well, so for now I'm going to believe BuzzFeed News, with the caveat that if they are bullshitting us, they are done.

But let's remember who we're dealing with here.

Sunday Long Read: I Believe You Have My Stapler

One of my favorite movies of all time, Office Space, turns 20 next month and it's just as relevant today as it was in 1999. Entertainment Weekly's Stacy Wilson Hunt rounded up the cast and crew for the story of how the adventures of Milton and his stapler got made.

In 1991, aspiring animator Mike Judge was a touring musician and grad student living outside of Dallas, Texas, when he channeled his past cubicle-life angst – from his former life as an engineer – into a 16mm short film called Office Space, featuring Milton. The vignette about a mumbling office worker and his condescending boss – which Judge drew, voiced and scored –would air on Comedy Central. It was a low-key launch for one of Hollywood’s most singular comedic voices who brought us the generation-defining MTV cartoon Beavis and Butt-Head, the eerily prescient 2006 satirical feature Idiocracy, and HBO’s Emmy-winning tech-nerd lampoon Silicon Valley among others.

The short film also inspired Judge’s live-action feature debut, Office Space: a box-office-flop-turned-cult-classic that ultimately became one of the most relatable workplace comedies of all time. To mark the film’s 20th anniversary (Feb. 19), EW spoke to key on-and-off-screen talent about how the low-budget comedy – starring mostly unknown actors – became a timeless portrait of Everyman Peter Gibbons’ (Ron Livingston) revenge against smarmy bosses, menacing office equipment and T.P.S coversheets. (Did you get that memo, by the way?)

Mike Judge (Writer, director, Chotchkie’s manager Stan): In 1996, I had an overall deal at [20th Century] Fox. [Network president] Peter Chernin had seen the short film and said, “This should be a movie,” so writers pitched ideas for a Milton-focused feature. I said, “It can’t be just about Milton. You don’t want to know what he does at home after work.” [Laughs] Someone said, “Make it an ensemble, like Car Wash, but in an office?” I wrote a treatment in 1996, then wrote the script after season one of [Judge’s animated Fox TV comedy] King of the Hill. Michael Bolton was the only character where I had a specific actor — David Herman — in mind.

David Herman (Michael Bolton): I’d been doing voice work on King of the Hill and also desperately trying to leave MADtv, but was under contract for seven years. Fox said, “Sorry, no. You’re our .360 hitter.” So at the next table-read, I did every sketch screaming at the top of my lungs. They took me off the show and said, “You’ll never work in this town again!” At the next table read for King of the Hill [co-creator] Greg Daniels says, “Don’t worry, you can always work here.” [Laughs] Then I read Office Space. I was in love with it.

Tom Rothman (then President of Twentieth Century Fox Film Group; current chairman of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group): At that time, Fox had been successful with big event movies like Titanic. We needed comedies to balance the slate. When I read Office Space I wondered, “Was Mike hiding in our office?” It was the most brilliant workplace satire I’d ever read.

Judge: We did a reading at the studio in late 1997 with David, Stephen Root, who was also on King of the Hill, and some random actors. I was going to read Milton but thought, “I’d rather just sit back and listen.”

Stephen Root (Milton): So Mike shows me his little Office Space short film. I added more lisp and strangeness to Milton’s voice. He loved it.

Judge: Stephen and David killed it, but otherwise it was a disaster. The actor who read for Peter had too much swagger. I’d been miserable in my office jobs, but I never thought I deserved better. He played it wrong. I felt sick. “Well, I guess we’re not making this movie.” Then Rothman says, “The actors aren’t right, but this is a movie!” I’d felt depressed, then “Okay, I’ll make it better.”

Sanford Panitch (then executive vice president at Fox; current President of Columbia Pictures): I have fond memories of going to Austin, where Mike lived, after that and talking about the script at his house. We’d get Mexican food. He introduced me to chorizo. [Laughs]

It's a fun trip down memory lane.  I remember seeing this in the theaters, but of course it was directly aimed at my young 20's self and this was back when I was working at Radio Shack selling Compaq PCs and satellite dishes.  I definitely got the movie then, not a whole lot of people did until later.

And all of it's still true today.

The GOP's Race To The Bottom, Con't

House Speaker David Ralston Friday named as one of his committee chairs a state representative who opposed the erection of a statue to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the grounds of the State Capitol and said the Ku Klux Klan made “people straighten up.

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, will chair the House Retirement Committee, which oversees the retirement funds for Georgia teachers and state employees.

“The speaker’s philosophy is that people deserve a second chance and that’s what he has given Chairman Benton,” said House spokesman Kaleb McMichen. Benton did not respond to requests for comment.

The announcement of Benton as chairman of the House Retirement Committee comes as the state prepares to observe the 90th anniversary of King’s birth on Monday.

Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, stripped Benton of his chairmanship of the Human Relations and Aging Committee in June 2017 after Benton distributed an article to his House colleagues titled “The Absurdity of Slavery as the Cause of the War Between the States.” Ralston also removed Benton from a civics education study committee, despite having just named him to it.

The article was just one in a string of provocative comments or legislative proposals from the retired high school history teacher from Jackson County, 60 miles northeast of Atlanta. In 2016, Benton drew national condemnation for claiming the Klan “was not so much a racist thing, but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”

“It made a lot of people straighten up,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”

We just have to give these racist losers a second chance, and a third, and a fourth and forever and ever.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, only the second African American elected to statewide office in Virginia, briefly bowed out of his duties in the state Senate on Friday in protest of a tribute to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Fairfax (D), who normally presides over Richmond’s upper chamber, stepped off the dais and let a Republican wield the gavel while Sen. Richard H. Stuart (R-King George) marked Lee’s 212th birthday with praise for “a great Virginian and a great American.”

“I believe there are certain people in history we should honor that way in the Senate . . . and I don’t believe that he is one of them,” Fairfax, a descendant of slaves, said in an interview afterward . “I think it’s very divisive to do what was done there, particularly in light of the history that we’re now commemorating — 400 years since the first enslaved Africans came to the commonwealth of Virginia.

“And to do that in this year in particular was very hurtful to a lot of people,” Fairfax said. “It does not move us forward, it does not bring us together. And so I wanted to do my part to make it clear that I don’t condone it.”

Heaping praise on Lee is nothing unusual in the former capital of the Confederacy. For most of the United States, Friday was the last workday before the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend. In Virginia, it was a state holiday: Lee-Jackson Day.

The General Assembly works through both the Lee-Jackson and MLK holidays, and elected officials from both parties have traditionally used the occasions to tip their hats to the Confederates and King alike. Comedian Stephen Colbert lampooned the Virginia Senate in 2013 for adjourning its MLK Day session in honor of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson — on a motion from a Democrat, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath.

But they were good people, I hear.

No, they were slaveowners.  Your ancestors owned my ancestors.  And we still celebrate that at the state government level in multiple states in 2019, because racism in America hasn't really changed that much at all in 400 years.
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