Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Last Call For Bringing Rubber Bands To An Artillery Duel

North Carolina Republicans remain the worst people in America, as the GOP-controlled state House overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's budget veto while most House Democrats were at the state's 9/11 memorial ceremony this morning.

In a stunning display of contempt for democracy, House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, called a surprise vote to overturn Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget just after a session opened at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Democratic lawmakers and the media had been told by Republican leaders that there would be no vote in the morning.

Most Democrats were absent. Enough Republicans, aware of the secret plan, were there. When Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, made the motion to reconsider the state budget, the handful of Democrats on hand objected strenuously.

"This is a travesty of the process and you know it,” said Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover.

That it was, but with these Republicans a travesty of the process is just business as usual. With only 64 of the House’s 120 members present, the vote to override passed 55-9.

Now it’s up to Democrats in the Senate to follow their conscience — and perhaps for a few Senate Republicans to find theirs — and refuse to follow the theft in the House with the necessary three-fifths vote in the Senate.

The decision will be up to individual members. Senate leader Phil Berger was no doubt aware of Moore’s plan to end run Democratic opposition. It’s a grim reality that there are likely no Senate Republicans who — however they may feel about the budget — would turn away from participating in this act of subterfuge. In a sense, the budget that comes before them to be made into law is the legislative equivalent of stolen goods. So what, they’ll figure, our side stole it; Democrats shouldn’t have been so trusting. Tough.

But this isn’t a case simply of hardball politics and sly legislative maneuvering. This is a case of breaking faith with the people of North Carolina and with all who strove and sacrificed over generations to protect and advance North Carolina’s political system as one based on a true representation of the people’s will, a true democracy.

And the legislation at issue isn’t a bill of limited scope. It is the state budget. It is how North Carolina defines itself by the priorities it sets in spending. And it’s being held up by a dispute over a major issue that involves billions of federal dollars and ultimately affects everyone in the state, Medicaid expansion.

North Carolina's Medicaid expansion is on the line, plus billions in other cuts that the NC GOP wants to make to the budget that Cooper vetoed.  They would need a three-fifths vote in the state Senate to complete the override, but Republicans only have a 29-21 majority and would need 30 votes.  Unfortunately, odds are pretty good they can get that single vote, because North Carolina. And if they can't, Senate President Phil Berger pulls the same move that the House GOP did.

This is horrific, but the NC GOP won't pay a price at all for this.

Rep. Saine's excuse for going ahead with the vote?  If we stop the business of America for memorials, the terrorists win.

You thought 9/11 was a somber day of reflection?  Screw you, hippie.  We've got people to kick off Medicaid.

Democrats are still bringing rubber bands to artillery duels and they will keep losing to Republicans who don't give a damn every time.

Boris Bad Enough Versus Scotland

I'm going to say that the government of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is rapidly approaching the "no longer a going concern" stage of the game.

A panel of three Scottish judges ruled Wednesday morning that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament was illegal, escalating an already passionate debate over whether the British prime minister respects the rule of law and throwing into even greater doubt his plans for Brexit.

The ruling does not mean Parliament will immediately come back into session. But it does give the prime minister’s opponents hope ahead of an expected Supreme Court hearing next week. Some even raised the prospect that Johnson will have to resign if he loses that case.

The Scottish judges ruled that the government had been misleading — including, perhaps, to the queen — about its real reasons for the five-week suspension and that the move was “unlawful because it had the purpose of stymying Parliament.”

The Supreme Court case will be heard on Tuesday after the prime minister’s office said it would appeal the Scottish ruling. “We are disappointed by today’s decision,” Downing Street said. A government spokesperson later ruled out recalling Parliament at least until the Supreme Court has a chance to weigh in.

Wednesday’s ruling contradicts two other judgments. Courts in England and Wales had ruled that Johnson’s move was legal. Another Scottish judge, meanwhile, had decided the courts did not have the authority to interfere in the suspension.

Scotland has a separate legal system from England and Wales; the Supreme Court, which is based in London, rules on matters relating to both jurisdictions.

Johnson critics celebrated Wednesday’s decision saying they had been “vindicated.”

“You cannot break the law with impunity, Boris Johnson,” Joanna Cherry, one of more than 70 lawmakers who brought the case in Scotland, told reporters outside the court in Edinburgh. “The rule of law will be upheld by Scotland’s courts, and I hope also the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.”

Next week's court ruling I should imagine will be rather important.  Meanwhile, the "no-deal Brexit" that Johnson insists he will follow through with will be, by his government's own estimations, an absolute disaster of biblical proportions, as the government has now released the text of Operation Yellowhammer, the contingency plans for the end of next month if there's no Brexit deal.

The plans confirm the leaks about Yellowhammer from a few weeks ago.

A government document from Aug. 1 leaked to the Sunday Times laid out projections of how the U.K. would fare if it exits the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31. The forecasts, compiled by the Cabinet Office under the ominous, James Bond–esque title “Operation Yellowhammer,” include shortages of fresh foods, medicines, and months of delays at British ports lasting up to six months. It also predicted the establishment of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic—a key sticking point in the negotiations—and widespread protests. A government source told the Times, “These are likely, basic, reasonable scenarios — not the worst case.”

It's not the worst case.

The worst case scenario, you know, the one with martial law and anarchy, is supposedly covered underneath "Operation Black Swan".

As bad as things are here stateside, the UK is in mortal peril.

And Boris Bad Enough is in charge.

Maria, Mofongo And Malice

The most corrupt administration in American history continues as we find out now that of course rebuilding Puerto Rico's power grid after Hurricane Maria was going to be a massive grift job, and of course former FEMA officials were on the take to the tune of thousands.

A former top administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was arrested on Tuesday in a major federal corruption investigation that found that the official took bribes from the president of a company that secured $1.8 billion in federal contracts to repair Puerto Rico’s shredded electrical grid after Hurricane Maria.

Federal authorities arrested Ahsha Tribble, FEMA’s former deputy administrator for the region that includes Puerto Rico, and Donald Keith Ellison, the former president of Cobra Acquisitions, prosecutors in Puerto Rico announced. They were accused of conspiring to defraud the federal government, among other charges.

A second FEMA employee, Jovanda R. Patterson, who worked as a deputy chief of staff in Puerto Rico under Ms. Tribble and was later hired by Cobra, was also arrested, said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez, the United States attorney for Puerto Rico.

Ms. Tribble and Mr. Ellison had a “close personal relationship,” Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said, in which Mr. Ellison lavished Ms. Tribble with gifts in exchange for her to use her influence inside FEMA to give Cobra an advantage.

The gifts ranged from a helicopter tour over Puerto Rico to securing an apartment in New York, the authorities said. They included airplane tickets, including one first class ticket from San Juan, the Puerto Rican capital, to New York, and hotel stays in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.

Mr. Ellison and Ms. Tribble traveled together and stayed in the same room, Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said.

In return for the gifts, Ms. Tribble is accused of performing official acts to advance Cobra’s interests. For example, according to the indictment, in February 2018, after the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reported an explosion at a transmission center, Ms. Tribble insisted that the public utility hire Cobra to make repairs or risk not getting reimbursed by FEMA — even though leaders of the utility insisted they could do the same work at a far lower cost.
“They took advantage of one of the most vulnerable moments in the history of Puerto Rico to enrich themselves,” Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said.

President Trump has repeatedly cast Puerto Rico’s leaders as incompetent and corrupt. Tuesday’s arrests, however, did not involve any Puerto Ricans, but rather a longtime federal employee now serving under the Trump administration.

Six people, including two senior Puerto Rican government officials, were arrested by the federal authorities in a separate case in July on charges of steering $15.5 million in federal contracts to politically connected consultants. The case stirred unrest against the governor at the time, Ricardo A. Rosselló. A leak of hundreds of pages of a private text chat between him and his inner circle days later unleashed two weeks of mass protests that led to Mr. Rosselló’s resignation.

Investigators in the latest case found no evidence that any staff member at the power authority, commonly known as PREPA, was involved in the scheme, prosecutors said.

Cobra is a subsidiary of Mammoth Energy Services. Peter Mirijanian, a Mammoth spokesman, said the company has been working with the authorities.

“Mammoth is aware of and has been cooperating with the government’s investigation into Ms. Tribble and Mr. Ellison and will continue to do so,” he said.

Nope, this was all FEMA, getting rich the way Trump does.  The only difference is that nobody's going to arrest him.


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