Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Last Call For (Crashing) Helicopter Parents

The Justice Department dropped the hammer Tuesday on a massive Ivy League college admissions bribery scandal dating back to 2011, unloading indictments against dozens of college officials, athletic coaches, and the wealthy elite who could afford the millions in payoffs.

Among those charged are actresses Felicity Huffman, best known for her role on the television show “Desperate Housewives,” and Lori Loughlin, who appeared on “Full House,” according to court documents.

Authorities said the crimes date back to 2011, and the defendants used “bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission” to numerous college and universities, including Georgetown, Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, and the University of California Los Angleles, among others.

Some of the 32 defendants are accused of bribing administrators to facilitate cheating on college-entrance exams — by having a smarter student take the test, providing students with answers to exams or correcting their answers after they had completed the exams, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court.

Others allegedly bribed university athletic coaches and administrators to designate applicants as “purported athletic recruits — regardless of their athletic abilities, and in some cases, even though they did not play the sport they were purportedly recruited to play — thereby facilitating their admission to universities in place of more qualified applicants,” the complaint charges.

Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 — disguised as a charitable donation — to the Key Worldwide Foundation so her oldest daughter could participate in the scam. A confidential informant told investigators that he told Huffman he could arrange for a third party to correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT after she took it. She ended up scoring a 1420 — 400 points higher than she had gotten on a PSAT taken a year earlier, according to court documents.

Huffman also contemplated running a similar scam to help her younger daughter, but ultimately did not pursue it, the complaint alleges.

I mean I can understand parents willing to go to any lengths to get their kids into college, but this is ridiculous (also illegal as hell).  Besides, if you have that much money, just donate a science wing building or something, that's the legal way to do it, right?

The Drums Of War, Con't

You know the shooting part of any US regime change plan is going to start very soon when the State Department bugs out of the local embassy.

The U.S. said late Monday that it is pulling its last remaining diplomats from Venezuela, saying their continued presence at the country’s embassy in Caracas had become a “constraint” on U.S. policy as the Trump administration aggressively looks to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The announcement came from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a tweet shortly before midnight comes as Venezuela struggles to restore electricity following four days of blackouts around the country.

The U.S. has led an international effort to replace Maduro with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who vows to hold a new presidential election. Guaido is backed by some 50 countries, while Maduro maintains support from countries such as China, Russia and Cuba.

Maduro ordered all U.S. diplomats to leave Venezuela in late January because of its support for Guaido, but he later retreated and allowed them to stay. The U.S. still withdrew the bulk of embassy personnel, leaving a skeletal staff led by career foreign service officer James Story.

Pompeo said the remaining diplomats would be out of Venezuela by the end of the week but gave no indication of future policy steps despite past warnings that “all options” — including the use of military force — are on the table for removing Maduro.

The move came after another day of chaos as power outages that began Thursday evening continued to cause problems for Venezuelans, leaving them with little power, water and communications.

Don't be surprised if in the process of getting diplomats out, we get a few special ops teams in.  No better cover for a stealth mission than a nationwide blackout to go bag up the local dictator so that we can get our dictator in place.

Nothing good is going to follow this, especially when the Secretary of State flat out says that the presence of any remaining US embassy personnel could basically become hostages in case, I dunno, we decide to invade the joint.

It's Panama 1989 all over again.

Austerity Hysteria, 2019 Edition

Donald Trump's budget proposal was far, far worse than even I imagined even after it became clear that the GOP tax scam was going to rocket up deficits in order to give the super rich massive tax cuts.  Now the other half of the shoe is dropping, with Trump proposing hundreds of billions in new military spending, draconian cuts across the board elsewhere and taking an atomic chainsaw to Social Security and Medicare.

President Trump proposed a $4.7 trillion budget plan Monday that stands as a sharp challenge to Congress and the Democrats trying to unseat him, the first act in a multi-front struggle over the role of government that threatens to consume Washington for the next 18 months.

The budget proposal dramatically raises the possibility of another government shutdown in October, with the inclusion of an additional $8.6 billion to build sections of a wall along the U. S.-Mexico border. Trump’s ask for yet more wall money — beyond the spending he is already seeking under a “national emergency” declaration at the border — infuriated Democrats.

The budget also calls for a significant increase in military spending, causing problems with some Republicans who are uneasy about how it is allocated. If lawmakers and Trump don’t reach a spending agreement by the end of September, many government operations will grind to a halt.

Trump’s “Budget for a Better America” also includes dozens of spending cuts and policy overhauls that frame the early stages of the debate for the 2020 election. For example, Trump calls for a series of changes that would reduce total spending on the program by roughly $845 billion over 10 years for Medicare, the popular health care program for the elderly that in the past he had largely said he would protect.

His budget would also propose a major overhaul of Medicaid, the health care program for low-income Americans run jointly with states, by turning more power over to states. This would cut spending by $241 billion over 10 years.

Other agencies, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency, State Department, Transportation Department, Education Department and Interior Department, would see their budgets severely reduced. The Commerce Department budget would increase in preparation for the 2020 Census — but Democrats said the Census money was insufficient.

“President Trump has somehow managed to produce a budget request even more untethered from reality than his past two,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.). “With such misguided priorities, the Trump budget has no chance of garnering the necessary bipartisan support to become law.”

Trump’s GOP allies received the budget plan with a lukewarm embrace.

“The president’s annual budget proposal is the first step in the federal budget process and will allow us to consider how his priorities align with the priorities of Congress,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). “I look forward to working with my colleagues and the president to curb federal overspending and help bring our deficits and debt under control."

Republicans are probably close to panicking at this point.  Having to sign on to a trillion dollars in Medicare and Medicaid cuts will get them flayed alive by voters in 2020 and they know it.  And the best part is Trump is freely admitting that we're looking at trillion-dollar yearly deficits as far as the eye can see...even with the massive cuts.

You couldn't ask for a more visible contrast with what the Democratic party is offering compared to Trump and the GOP.


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