Sunday, November 3, 2019

Last Call For Wild Fired Up

As California burns, Dear Leader is now threatening to end federal aid for wildfires unless Democrats in the state play ball, starting with getting rid of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

President Donald Trump is threatening to cut U.S. funding to California for aid during wildfires that have burned across the state during dry winds this fall. 
Trump tweeted Sunday that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has done a “terrible job of forest management.” He tweeted that when fires rage, the governor comes to the federal government for help. “No more,” he said
Newsom replied with a tweet: “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.” 
The state controls a small percentage of forest land. The federal government manages most of it. 
Last year Trump made a similar threat amid California fires — accusing the state of “gross mismanagement” of forests. 
At the time Newsom defended wildfire prevention efforts while criticizing the federal government for not doing enough.

This is why Republicans keep cutting National Park Service and National Forest Service funds. Trump proposed cutting half a billion from national parks in May.  So far Republicans haven't agreed to that, especially Western Republicans in mountain states.  But hey, now a government shutdown is coming up.  Maybe National Park cuts, especially for California, will be Trump's price.

Who knows with this unstable lunatic?

Shutdown Countdown, Impeachment Edition

The government goes into shutdown mode on November 21 without a spending bill, but Nancy Pelosi believes that Trump will sign one in the next few weeks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday said she doubts President Donald Trump would respond to the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry by forcing a confrontation over funding that might trigger a government shutdown later this month.

“They don’t care about shutdowns because they don’t believe in government, however I do think that they learned a lesson from the last shutdown since it didn’t do them very well,” she said of the White House during a roundtable with Bloomberg reporters and editors.

The government is operating on a temporary funding measure that expires Nov. 21. As lawmakers haggle over a spending plan, congressional Democrats and the White House are at odds over the same issue -- Trump’s demand for border wall spending -- that was at the root of a 35-day government earlier this year. That ended with the Trump administration agreeing to a funding bill without the extra money he sought.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer this week said he was concerned that Trump would create a standoff over funding because of the House impeachment inquiry. “He always likes to create diversions,” Schumer said.

Pelosi said that she and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are trying to come to an agreement on the full-year spending bills, including how to resolve the border wall spending.

“Let’s see what we can get accomplished,” she said.

Lawmakers from both parties involved in negotiating a spending plan have suggested passing a stopgap bill into January or February in order to move spending discussions past the House impeachment process, which is set to drag out into December

On the one hand, Trump has already lost this fight once and the GOP passed legislation without his wall funding. His people may tell him he'll lose the support he needs if he's closing national parks right before Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, Trump needs impeachment off the front pages and a convenient government shutdown he can blame on the "witch hunters" seems tailor-made for his brand of bullshittery. He may just go to the mat on this.

On the gripping hand, enough lawmakers may just say "screw it, I don't need this right now" and a veto-proof continuing resolution spending bill lands on Trump's desk and he's got no choice, taking the weapon out of his hands.

We'll see what happens soon.

Sunday Long Read: Home Is Where You Hang Your Scam

Our Sunday Long Read this week comes from Vice's Allie Conti, who followed up on getting ripped off by an Airbnb rental and ended up uncovering a massive, systemic bait-and-switch fraud scam that the company almost actually encourages because it gets paid either way.

The call came about 10 minutes before we were set to check into the Airbnb. I was sitting at a brewery just around the corner from the rental on North Wood Street in Chicago when the man on the other end of the line said that our planned visit wouldn’t be possible. A previous guest had flushed something down the toilet, which had left the unit flooded with water, he explained. Apologetic, he promised to let us stay in another property he managed until he could call a plumber.

I had flown with two friends to the city in hopes of a relaxing end-of-summer getaway. We had purchased tickets to attend the September music festival Riot Fest, where Blink-182 and Taking Back Sunday were scheduled to perform. The trip had gotten off to a rough start even before the call. Around a month before, a first Airbnb host had already canceled, leaving us with little time to figure out alternative housing. While scrambling to find something else, I stumbled upon a local Airbnb rental listed by a couple, Becky and Andrew. Sure, the house looked a little basic in the photos online, but it was nice enough, especially considering the time crunch—light-filled, spacious, and close to the Blue Line.

Now, we were facing our second potential disaster in 30 days, and I couldn’t help but feel slightly suspicious of the man on the phone, who had called me from a number with a Los Angeles area code. Hoping to talk in person, I asked him if he was in the area. He said that he was at work and didn’t really have time to chat. Then he added that I needed to decide immediately if I was willing to change my reservation.

As if he could hear me calculating in my head how much of a hassle it would be to find a hotel instead, he then added something else to his pitch.

“It’s about three times bigger,” the man said. “That’s the good news.”

The bad news, which went unstated, was that I had unknowingly stumbled into a nationwide web of deception that appeared to span eight cities and nearly 100 property listings—an undetected scam created by some person or organization that had figured out just how easy it is to exploit Airbnb’s poorly written rules in order to collect thousands of dollars through phony listings, fake reviews, and, when necessary, intimidation. Considering Airbnb’s lax enforcement of its own policies, who could blame the scammers for taking advantage of the new world of short-term rental platforms? They had every reason to believe they could do so with impunity.

I've sworn off Airbnb because of their systemic racism problems built into a platform that really has no way of enforcing state anti-discrimination and innkeeper laws, especially when it's people renting out their own homes, but of course bait-and-switch scams are pretty bad for everyone, except for the fact that Airbnb isn't really doing anything about scammers either because they get paid for cancellations too.

So yeah, there's that inherent gig economy libertarian tech bullshit again, it's cheaper because it gets around the increased overhead of all that 'being legal and non-discriminatory" and offers itself as an alternative, and it works great as long as you're a white guy in a system that doesn't penalize you for not being a white guy.

I know picking on it is low-hanging, practically gravid fruit, but that's the whole point.

I Want My Trump State TV

The line between FOX News and Trump White House propaganda continues to disintegrate as the cable "news" network is now the exclusive home of White House "press briefings" with press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Since becoming White House press secretary on July 1, Stephanie Grisham has held zero press briefings. Instead, Grisham has found the time to grant interviews to some of President Donald Trump’s favorite current and former Fox News hosts.

It is not new that Grisham appears on Fox News, or that Grisham tells pro-Trump lies. Sarah Sanders certainly did both quite a bit while she held the office.

But it is new that Grisham appears virtually only on Fox News.

Grisham's particular innovation is to move the entire office of White House press secretary into the world of Fox News and Fox-adjacent media. After giving her first TV interview to Sinclair’s Eric Bolling (who was fired by Fox for sending unsolicited explicit photos to coworkers), Grisham did three interviews on Fox & Friends, and one each on Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs Tonight, Watters’ World, and Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner. She has also done a subsequent interview with Bolling. Instead of actually briefing the press at the White House, Grisham treats her duties as press secretary as complaining to pro-Trump pundits about how unfair everyone else is to the president.

During her first Fox & Friends appearance as White House press secretary, Grisham defended Trump’s decision to suspend press briefings because they “had become a lot of theater,” and many reporters were “getting famous off of this presidency” and “weren’t being good to his people.”

The same day, Grisham also appeared on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, where she complained that the media is unfair to Donald and Melania Trump and asserted that she doesn’t need to do press briefings because Trump is “the most accessible president in history.” Grisham claimed her “job is to talk about what he’s doing and communicate his policies, and I can do that in an array of ways, which -- that’s what we’re doing and it’s just working out fine.” 

In the Trump era, reporters don't ask questions, they shout things at Trump when he feels like talking, getting on or off Marine One to make trips to Andrews Air Force base so he can golf or fundraise or hold a Klan rally, and maybe he answers.  Meanwhile, his press flack is merely a stenographer who goes on state TV to give the regime's view, unchallenged.

That's how autocracies work, gang.
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