Friday, January 31, 2020

Last Call For Hate Spreading Like A Virus

This regime is terrible, will always be terrible, and given any opportunity to not be terrible, it chooses actively to be terrible.  The latest example: turning the Wuhan coronavirus into cover for the regime's latest Muslim travel ban.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in the United States at a White House press briefing on coronavirus Friday.

U.S. citizens returning from Hubei province in the previous 14 days will be subject to up to a 14-day quarantine. Foreign nationals, other than immediate family members of U.S. citizens, who have traveled to China in the previous 14 days will be denied entry into the country. The temporary measures take effect Feb. 2 at 5 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a federal quarantine order for all 195 people who were evacuated from China and have been voluntarily quarantined at military base in California.

Those people were on a government-chartered flight earlier this week for American consulate staffers and private U.S. citizens from Wuhan. The quarantine, the first order of its kind in 50 years, will last for 14 days from when the plane left Wuhan, health officials said at a news conference Friday.

"We are preparing as if this was the next pandemic," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said of the quarantine.

"If we take strong measures now, we may be able to blunt the impact of the virus on the United States," she added. "We would rather be remembered for overreacting than underreacting."

Messonnier stressed that Americans should not let panic or fear guide their actions and reiterated the CDC's recommendation that the general public does not need to wear face masks. She also called for people to not discriminate against Chinese Americans amid the outbreak.

This is effectively a standing ban on entry for any Chinese national, and anyone who has been to China, other than exceptions for immediate family members.  There's no indication that this ban will be lifted anytime soon.  That's blocking a couple billion people from entering the US.

But this grants instant cover to the Trump regime's actual permanent travel ban also announced this afternoon.

The Trump administration on Friday announced an expansion of the travel ban -- one of the President's signature policies, which has been derided by critics as an attempt to ban Muslims from the US -- to include six new countries. 
Different immigration restrictions will be placed on Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (known as Burma), Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. 
The latest iteration comes three years after President Donald Trump -- in one of his first moves in office -- signed the first travel ban, which caused chaos at airports and eventually landed at the Supreme Court. The announcement also comes at the end of a major week for Trump with the signing of the USMCA trade deal and expected acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. 
The updated ban has already sparked controversy over its targeting of African countries.
The administration has argued that the travel ban is vital to national security and ensures countries meet US security needs. 
"The restrictions are tailored to country-specific deficiencies, as well as travel-related risks to the homeland," a Department of Homeland Security official told reporters Friday.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, Tanzania is number six, Sudan is number 9.  Those three African nations alone have about the same combined population as the US.  Eritrea is another 6.5 million.

This is just Stephen Miller and his happy squad of racists closing the door to Africa's most populous and most prosperous country for no good reason other than yeah, half the population happens to be Muslim.

How long do you suppose it will take before other countries will start banning Americans?

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

As the Senate GOP cult careens towards the dark blessing of the autocracy of Donald Trump with acquittal in the middle of the night, and the very real possibility that the acquittal will forever have the word "bipartisan" in front of it as the ultimate smokescreen, another round of leaks from John Bolton's book reveals Trump called him in on the plan to pressure Ukraine into fabricating an investigation of Hunter Biden all the way back in May of 2019.

More than two months before he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponents, President Trump directed John R. Bolton, then his national security adviser, to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Trump gave the instruction, Mr. Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote.

The previously undisclosed directive that Mr. Bolton describes would be the earliest known instance of Mr. Trump seeking to harness the power of the United States government to advance his pressure campaign against Ukraine, as he later did on the July call with Mr. Zelensky that triggered a whistle-blower complaint and impeachment proceedings. House Democrats have accused him of abusing his authority and are arguing their case before senators in the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

The account in Mr. Bolton’s manuscript portrays the most senior White House advisers as early witnesses in the effort that they have sought to distance the president from. And disclosure of the meeting underscores the kind of information Democrats were looking for in seeking testimony from his top advisers in their impeachment investigation, including Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney, only to be blocked by the White House.

In a brief interview, Mr. Giuliani denied that the conversation took place and said those discussions with the president were always kept separate. He was adamant that Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Mulvaney were never involved in meetings related to Ukraine.

“It is absolutely, categorically untrue,” he said.

Neither Mr. Bolton nor a representative for Mr. Mulvaney responded to requests for comment. A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Bolton described the roughly 10-minute conversation in drafts of his book, a memoir of his time as national security adviser that is to go on sale in March. Over several pages, Mr. Bolton laid out Mr. Trump’s fixation on Ukraine and the president’s belief, based on a mix of scattershot events, assertions and outright conspiracy theories, that Ukraine tried to undermine his chances of winning the presidency in 2016.

As he began to realize the extent and aims of the pressure campaign, Mr. Bolton began to object, he wrote in the book, affirming the testimony of a former National Security Council aide, Fiona Hill, who had said that Mr. Bolton warned that Mr. Giuliani was “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Mr. Trump also repeatedly made national security decisions contrary to American interests, Mr. Bolton wrote, describing a pervasive sense of alarm among top advisers about the president’s choices. Mr. Bolton expressed concern to others in the administration that the president was effectively granting favors to autocratic leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Xi Jinping of China.

To recap, Donald Trump's impeachment defense lawyer was a material witness to Trump's criminal acts, who lied about that fact for the last week on the Senate floor.

It's just so darkly comical that I can't take much more.

And yet we know there will be much, much more.  The truth will come out, but at this point does it even matter anymore?

If the answer is no, then we are in an autocracy and America is lost.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

Maybe this weekend will finally disabuse the Democrats of the notion that there are still good Republicans out there.  There are none left, because they are all gone.

For nearly two weeks, Democrats took to the floor of the Senate in the hopes that GOP lawmakers would support the call for additional witnesses as part of impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump.

To a person, party members believed that the evidence they gathered and case they presented was compelling and nearly flawless in its execution. Their convictions only hardened after several rounds of massive news breaks—from audio recordings of the president to seeming confirmation from his former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, that Trump sought a quid-pro-quo with Ukraine.

But as the days rolled by and Republican after Republican publicly declared they’d heard enough, a sense of dismay has begun to set in. Increasingly, Democrats believe and concede, there was simply no argument they could have made that would have moved the needle.

“The arguments that have been asserted by the White House are nonsense,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA). “There's plenty of evidence to move anyone who's listening. But I think what we're seeing is there is no amount of evidence that will move the Senate Republicans in this political environment. I think we expected that if they followed their constitutional oath, they would actually have a real trial. I think it's really just a failure of courage.”

Asked whether there was any frustration in the Democratic ranks about the lack of movement to call witnesses, Scanlon joked, “What? I don’t sound frustrated?”

A final vote on whether to hear new evidence or witnesses is set for Friday. Publicly, Democrats on both sides of the Capitol had held out hope that four GOP senators will side with them on, among other things, a need to call Bolton as a witness.

Increasingly, however, Democrats acknowledge that their efforts are likely to fail and that the impeachment proceedings will be wrapped up shortly thereafter. An announcement late Thursday night from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that he would vote against calling more evidence basically sealed the deal, leaving no path for a prolonged trial.

“It’s more than frustrating—it's pathetic,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). “If you had any regard at all for the prerogatives of the legislative branch, to allow the White House to stonewall the House of Representatives in a completely unprecedented way, and then accept a set of rules … that are just a cover up for what the President has done, I think demonstrates a complete lack of regard for what this institution is supposed to be about.”

So my friends, it is now up to us to fix the problem.

It always was up to us as Americans.  We had a chance in 2016 and failed.

The problem is as Americans, as a people, as a body politic, we created this problem in the first place.

Not all of us are going to make it out to the other side, either.

What comes next remains up to us, but do we have the will to do what is necessary to correct the problem?

America has ended up in worse places before. Slavery. Civil war. Internment of citizens. assassinations and riots.  But his feels fundamentally different.

This feels like it won't get better.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Last Call For Impeachment Reached, Con't

Here in sixty seconds, Adam Schiff sums up the absolute ridiculousness of the Trump defense team.

The almost inevitable outcome is that by this time tomorrow we will live in a country where there is no longer any direct check on the Executive branch, with a lawless despot who will issue whatever executive orders to do an end run around Congress, and who will ignore direct federal court orders, because enough members of the Judicial and Legislative are content to let this unitary monstrosity continue in order to reshape the country for generations.

There will be no witnesses, Trump will not be convicted and removed for his crimes, and the brutal oppression of those who tried to stop him will begin in earnest.

There is no reason to believe that Trump will leave office if he loses the election in November, let alone there being any reason to believe the election itself will be either free or fair.

January 31 is looking like the day we go over the cliff, folks.

Coming back from this will take decades, if if ever happens, and history assures us that in no way will that journey back to where we were even five years ago be peaceful.

The bad guys are about to win.

I don't know what happens next.

That should terrify all of us.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Georgia is shaping up to be an opportunity for not one, but two Democratic pickups for the Senate as Team Blue already has their sights set on David Perdue's seat, and the fight over the special election for retiring Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat is heating up on the GOP side.  The damage could put both seats in play as Republicans have to split their resources to defend two Senate seats in the same state on the same day.

The conservative Club for Growth plans to air a massive ad campaign attacking Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), adding fuel to the intraparty battle that kicked off after the GOP congressman launched a Senate campaign this week.

Collins announced Wednesday he is challenging Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who was sworn in this month to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson after he resigned due to health issues. Collins is a top ally to President Donald Trump, but his decision to run for Senate sparked significant blowback among some Republicans who expressed concern it could jeopardize their hold on the seat and cause problems elsewhere on the Senate map.

The Club for Growth is the first group to launch an ad war aiming to knock down Collins' image as he gears up for the statewide run. The anti-tax organization plans to spend $3 million on TV, starting next week, with issue-based ads going after Collins' record. The flight will run for five weeks, according to details shared first with POLITICO. Content for the planned ads was not yet available.

"Over the next month, Club for Growth will educate Georgia voters about Doug Collins’ record on economic issues and demand that he change his ways," David McIntosh, the Club's president, said in a statement.
The advertising blitz comes after the Club publicly chastised Collins for having a 57 percent score on their legislative scorecard last year, though he has an 80 percent lifetime score with the Club.

Along with the Club, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and several top allies to Republican leadership, including a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, rallied around Loeffler and panned Collins' run as a selfish move that was harmful to the party.

Collins pushed back against the NRSC response on Twitter and brushed off any concerns about creating an intraparty rift when he announced his bid in an interview on "Fox and Friends" Wednesday morning.

"I think we fought for the president, we fought for our state and we fought for this country," Collins said. "And we're going to continue to do that. I look forward to a good exchange of ideas and look forward to this election."

While Loeffler has significant support from Senate Republicans, Collins' campaign has some clear signs of strength. An internal poll conducted in December showed him leading Loeffler by 21 percentage points in the all-party race in November, holding a significant edge among Republican voters. He also had a positive image among all voters statewide — and an overwhelmingly positive image among Trump supporters, according to the poll.

Republicans spending millions to attack each other in Georgia can only help the Democrats in an increasingly purple state.   Mitch and the GOP establishment want Loeffler to remain, but Collins wants that Senate seat and he's willing to burn down anyone in his way to get it.

Bring the popcorn.  I predict things will get so ugly in the Peach State for Republicans that Dems might surprise everyone come November.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

US Attorney General Bill Barr continues to be the clean-up man for the Mueller indictments, and it looks like the fix is in for Michael Flynn now that Mueller's gone.

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday named Timothy Shea, one of his closest advisers, to be the next top prosecutor in the nation’s capital.

Shea will lead the largest U.S. attorney’s office in the country, which has been historically responsible for some of the most significant and politically sensitive cases the Justice Department brings in the U.S.

He is a senior counselor to the attorney general and was Barr’s right-hand man helping institute reforms at the federal Bureau of Prisons after Jeffrey Epstein’s death at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.

As the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, Shea would oversee some of the lingering cases from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, along with a number of politically charged investigations. The office is also generally responsible for handling potential prosecutions if Congress finds a witness in contempt.
“Tim brings to this role extensive knowledge and expertise in law enforcement matters as well as an unwavering dedication to public service, reflected in his long and distinguished career in state and federal government,” Barr said in a statement. “His reputation as a fair prosecutor, skillful litigator, and excellent manager is second-to-none, and his commitment to fighting violent crime and the drug epidemic will greatly benefit the city of Washington.”

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office had been investigating former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of President Donald Trump’s wrath, and the prospect of charges seemed likely in the fall after his lawyers failed to persuade senior Justice Department officials that he didn’t intentionally lie to internal investigators. Little has been said about the case in recent months.

Shea is replacing Jessie Liu, who oversaw the case against Michael Flynn.  And wouldn't you know it, the same week a new US Attorney is named, the case against Flynn and his guilty plea suddenly turns into a slap on the wrist.

Just hours after former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn argued in a court filing that prosecutorial misconduct in his case had been so egregious that it warranted dismissing the case entirely, prosecutors backed away from the harsh language they’d used in months past and said probation would be a “reasonable” sentence for Flynn.
Still, they maintained, sentencing guidelines allowed for the former Trump official to serve up to 6 months in prison for lying to the FBI.

It was just the latest bizarre back-and-forth in the government’s years-long effort to pin Flynn for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States just before the Trump administration began. Flynn’s turn against prosecutors has been fueled by his new defense team, hired last June and led by the prominent critic of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Sidney Powell.

In a lengthy set of filings Wedensday, Powell argued that prosecutors as well as Flynn’s old lawyers had hopelessly biased the case against him. The only answer, she said, was for Judge Emmett Sullivan to throw out the case entirely.

That followed another motion, earlier this month, to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea. (Judge Sullivan, as it happens, has not been especially sympathetic to Flynn’s antagonistic and at times conspiratorial accusations against the government.)

In its sentencing memo Wednesday, prosecutors acknowledged Flynn’s motion to withdraw his plea — though they noted the several times in writing and in court that he had acknowledged his guilt — and said they would respond to it in a separate filing of their own.
“The task at hand is to impose an appropriate sentence for the defendant’s criminal conduct in lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador,” they said.

On that front, the sentencing memo was slightly different than the memo prosecutors filed earlier this month.

In that filing, they pointed to other cases of defendants who had lied to the FBI and served prison sentences. No mention was made of a potential probation sentence. And though they mentioned Flynn’s extensive record of public service, that was followed by the caveat that Flynn’s national security past “should have made him particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false statements to the government.

Again just a few weeks ago, Flynn was facing serious prison time for his guilty plea.  Now he's facing probation if anything, and the very real possibility that the Barr Justice Department will drop the case entirely.

And this is going on while Trump's impeachment trial is happening.

If you think this rotten mess is bad now, wait until next week when a fully unleashed Trump starts taking open revenge and committing open acts of corruption in a nation that no longer has a guaranteed way to contain him.

A Supreme Balancing Act

There's the very reasonable chance that a vote in the Senate impeachment trial on Friday dealing with whether or not to call witnesses, which witnesses to call, and whether to move to dismiss the articles against Donald Trump outright could result in a 50-50 tie, with presiding Chief Justice Roberts as the tiebreaker.

Ahead of a tight vote on whether to hear new witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the Senate is preparing for the possibility that this crucial roll call has an asterisk in the history books: It ends in a tie.

And it's a scenario that would suddenly put a spotlight on Chief Justice John Roberts. 
For weeks, Republicans and Democrats alike have been confident that Roberts would not break a tie vote during Trump’s impeachment trial, citing past precedent, the Constitution and their own gut feelings about how it would play in a polarized nation.

But ahead of Friday's widely anticipated showdown over whether to call new witnesses and with GOP leaders moving to lock down on-the-fence Republicans, the Senate is newly abuzz over the uncertainty of what happens if the chamber deadlocks and what Roberts might do in the event of a stalemate.

“That is a great unknown. There’s no way to know procedurally what he would do. Or if he’ll do” anything, said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

Some Democrats are beginning to opine that Roberts could save the Senate from itself and force consideration of witnesses if there's a tie. As Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) put it: “If he wants a fair, impartial trial and get the evidence out, I think there’s a fair shot he would vote for witnesses.”
It's a hypothetical that Democratic leaders have privately considered for months, as soon as it became clear the House was going to send impeachment articles over to the Senate, according to Democratic aides. They have sought guidance from the Senate parliamentarian's office on the issue, although so far, that hasn't been forthcoming as it hasn't formally arisen during the Trump trial.

Yet the smart money is still on Roberts staying out of it, or GOP leaders muscling through a 51-49 vote that avoids placing responsibility for the course of the trial on Roberts. Because if the vote is tied, no matter what the chief justice does, it will be hotly debated for years to come.

“It would go down as a historical anomaly and ultimately he would be remembered as declining to break a tie. It’s the safer course in the short term to avoid intervening,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) predicted. Breaking a tie “would be a pretty daring and brave thing to do. And I think history would judge him well. But in the short term there would be a lot of blowback.”

In the short term there would be volcanic rage from the right, rage that would certainly call for Trump to remove him from office, or court-packing, or something worse.  Certainly the GOP counter-stroke would involve a flood of witnesses, the Bidens, the whistleblower, Adam Schiff, who knows.

I don't think Roberts has the courage to weather this kind of hatred, hatred that he'll have to live with for decades.  My guess is that he'll decline the deadlock and that witnesses won't be called.

It would be nice if he was willing, but there's no evidence to the contrary that he plans to interfere.


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Last Call For Buying The Black Vote

Trump's people are trying to buy the urban black vote with literal cash giveaways, because at this point nothing's illegal or immoral in service of Dear Leader.

Allies of Donald Trump have begun holding events in black communities where organizers lavish praise on the president as they hand out tens of thousands of dollars to lucky attendees.

The first giveaway took place last month in Cleveland, where recipients whose winning tickets were drawn from a bin landed cash gifts in increments of several hundred dollars, stuffed into envelopes. A second giveaway scheduled for this month in Virginia has been postponed, and more are said to be in the works.

The tour comes as Trump’s campaign has been investing its own money to make inroads with black voters and erode Democrats’ overwhelming advantage with them. But the cash giveaways are organized under the auspices of an outside charity, the Urban Revitalization Coalition, permitting donors to remain anonymous and make tax-deductible contributions.

The organizers say the events are run by the book and intended to promote economic development in inner cities. But the group behind the cash giveaways is registered as a 501(c)3 charitable organization. One leading legal expert on nonprofit law said the arrangement raises questions about the group’s tax-exempt status, because it does not appear to be vetting the recipients of its money for legitimate charitable need.

"Charities are required to spend their money on charitable and educational activities,” said Marcus Owens, a former director of the Exempt Organizations Division at the Internal Revenue Service who is now in private practice at the law firm Loeb & Loeb. “It's not immediately clear to me how simply giving money away to people at an event is a charitable act.”

Asked about the legality of the giveaways in a brief phone interview, the Urban Revitalization Coalition’s CEO, Darrell Scott, said that most gifts were between $300 and $500, and that the group mandates that anyone who receives over $600 fills out a W-9 form in order to ensure compliance with tax law. He did not respond to follow-up questions about how the giveaways were structured and whether they met the legal standard for a charitable act.

Scott declined to name the donors funding the effort. "I'd rather not,” he said. “They prefer to remain anonymous."

Scott, a Cleveland-based pastor, has been one of Trump’s closest and most prominent black supporters. He struck up a relationship with the real estate mogul in the years before Trump’s presidential run, and — along with Trump’s former lieutenant Michael Cohen — co-founded the National Diversity Coalition for Trump to promote that run.

Where do I even begin to unpack this?

That belief that black voters are wholly motivated by money?  The hypocrisy in making voting and registering to vote more difficult for black voters but still needing us?  The systemic racism that creates black poverty in the first place being used to contain us? Using black pastors to front this operation?  The belief that this is fair game because "Democrats have been doing this for years" and of course it's the only way to explain why Republicans haven't gotten the black vote?

It's all of this and more.

The screaming, ear-splitting, banshee wail of racism here is deafening, but in the Trump era everything is permitted.

Trump Trades Blows, Con't

We're going to be constantly reminded in 2020 just how much of Donald Trump's worldview is driven by his insatiable need for petty vengeance against slights both real and perceived, but if Trump wants to take full credit for and invite zero Democrats to his signing of NAFTA 2.0, that's actually a win for the Dems.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed his signature trade deal with Mexico and Canada into law, sealing a big bipartisan win for him during his heavily partisan impeachment trial. 
But the celebration on Wednesday was far from bipartisan, as Trump excluded Democrats from the ceremony despite their key role in securing the final version of the deal that passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.

Instead, Trump used the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement as a chance to keep ownership of his deal in a White House ceremony with dozens of Republican lawmakers, local officials and business, industry and union leaders present.

“We have replaced a disastrous trade deal,” Trump said in the ceremony on the White House South Lawn. “This is something we really put our heart into.” 
Signing the USMCA into law is a rare legislative achievement for the president going into his reelection campaign. But Trump will not be able to say he fully delivered on his 2016 campaign promise to replace NAFTA until Canada ratifies the deal and all three countries meet many of their obligations — and that could take months. 
Still, Trump will take his USMCA victory lap to Michigan on Thursday, where he will host an event at an auto parts supplier to tout the benefits of the pact. 
Meanwhile, Democrats and many labor unions have also been largely supportive of the deal after they secured changes that make the USMCA one of the most progressive trade agreements ever negotiated by either party.

There really are big wins for labor unions as far as enforceable labor rules to keep jobs from going to Mexico and big pharma got screwed out of their bio-drug sweetheart deal, Nancy Pelosi and House Dems actually did secure some serious concessions.  But Trump wants to make sure the Dems get no credit for those, and given the obnoxious anti-free trade stance by the Democratic purity pony crew, it's probably best that nobody reminds them of USMCA anyway.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

Mitch McConnell figured the Bolton kerfuffle would be over now and the rest of the Senate GOP would fall in line with the Trump acquittal plan for Friday.  It hasn't, so he's put out the call to the Right Wing Noise Machine to bombard Senate GOP offices with angry, angry FOX News State TV viewers to go on the assault.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated in a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans that he did not yet have enough votes to defeat an effort, expected later this week, to call additional witnesses and evidence in President Trump’s impeachment trial.

Pressure has ramped up to include witnesses after reports that former national security adviser John Bolton says in a book manuscript that Trump directly tied the holdup of nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine to investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump’s defense team argued Tuesday that Democrats are seeking to remove him from office over policy differences as they offered their third and final day of opening arguments in a Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Meanwhile Lindsey Graham is working Democrats in the room to get them to drop it, warning that Bolton will never be allowed to speak and instead the trial will turn into weeks of Joe Biden bashing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted on Tuesday that if the Senate opens the door to calling new witnesses, Republicans will vote to subpoena President Trump's top targets.

“I'll make a prediction: There will be 51 Republican votes to call Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, the whistleblower and the DNC staffer at a minimum,” Graham told reporters.

His comments come as former national security adviser John Bolton’s claim in his forthcoming memoir that President Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country opening up investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

GOP leadership had hoped to end the trial with no witnesses, but Bolton's accusation, reported by The New York Times, has thrown the ability of the caucus to quickly end the trial into question.

Conservatives are warning that if four Republican senators side with Democrats to call Bolton, then Trump's legal team should get as many witnesses. Since Democrats would not support calling the Bidens or the whistleblower, Republicans would have to provide the 51 votes from their 53 members.

The Senate is expected to vote Friday on whether to call witnesses. If 51 senators support calling witnesses, that would open the door to both sides making motions for specific individuals. The Senate would then vote on those specific individuals.

THe unspoken threat here is that Bolton will be blocked or put in closed door testimony, while Biden and the whistleblower will be raked over the coals.  Sen. Hawley says he will force a vote on Joe Biden and Adam Schiff, too, which may very well pass.

Again, there's a method to Mitch's madness.  He doesn't want any testimony, but if there is, Democrats will pay dearly for it.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Last Call For The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins is a key figure in this week's impeachment trial fight, and she's up against a number of Democratic challengers, the strongest is the state's Democratic House Speaker, Sara Gideon, in November.  Gideon still has to win the primary later this spring, but Collins will still be a tough foe with a huge war chest in play

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon’s campaign said Tuesday it raised $3.5 million in the last three months of 2019 in her race against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, though the challenger spent nearly that much over the period and trails the incumbent overall.

It brings Gideon to a total of $7.6 million raised since announcing her candidacy in June, and she has nearly $2.8 million on hand, her campaign said. That was only slightly more than it had after the third quarter of 2019, indicating near-equal spending and fundraising in late 2019.

Gideon, who is backed by Senate Democrats’ campaign arm and other national groups, is one of four Democrats running to unseat Collins. The Republican incumbent raised $8.5 million and had $7.1 million left at the end of 2019’s third quarter and is a top target of national Democrats. Collins has yet to release updated numbers in a race expected to be the most expensive in Maine history.

The House speaker has raised considerably more than other Democrats in the June primary race. Collins has yet to release fourth quarter numbers. Former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse, who jumped into the race in November, raised $600,000 for his bid, though more than half of that was his own money, Politico reported this month.

Lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate backed by some progressive groups, and lawyer Bre Kidman of Saco haven’t released fundraising figures for the fourth quarter. Sweet raised $183,000 through the end of the third quarter. Kidman raised $14,000.

Green candidate Lisa Savage, a teacher and activist from Solon, raised just shy of $25,000 during the fourth quarter, according to a campaign finance report filed last week. Campaign finance reports for all candidates are due to the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 31.

It's good that Gideon is getting the money to fight.  Collins will certainly have access to tens of millions over the next ten months.  The Senate GOP is going to fight every inch along the way to keep Collins in her seat.  We have to get rid of Trump, but if we don't take the Senate back, Mitch and company will stop whoever wins the Democratic nomination cold.

You should help Sara Gideon out.

The Basic Math Of Trump's Base

I've lived in Kentucky now for 15 years, I grew up in western NC and lived there for 25 years, I've seen, met, worked with, went to school with (and have often been the only black face in a room of) people who gladly consider themselves hillbillies, rednecks, and countrified mountain good 'ol boys. 

My hometown is famous for NASCAR drivers, bootlegging moonshine, the actor who played Roscoe P. Coltrane on the Dukes of Hazzard and being far enough up in the Appalachians where people had the grace to not fight the Civil War there because it was a pain in the ass to get around.  The last time we had a Democrat in the House, Dr. Martin Luther King was still alive. Republican scold Patrick McHenry probably has that job for life.

The point of all this is Trump's base was Trump's base long before it was Trump's base, and CNN doing things like this guarantees it will remain Trump's base for years to come, as Washington Post writer Eugene Scott reports.

President Trump has long argued that CNN’s coverage of him is negative because the organization thinks little of him and his supporters. A recent segment on the cable network seems to be making that case for him.

During a panel discussion about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tiff with a NPR reporter over her Ukraine reporting, GOP strategist Rick Wilson went from questioning Trump’s foreign affairs intelligence to describing his supporters as uninformed “hillbillies.”

Wilson, a conservative who has long been critical of Trump, referred to the president’s base as “the credulous boomer rube demo” — a bloc of Americans who believe “Donald Trump is the smart one and y’all elitists are dumb.”

In mocking accents, Wilson and CNN contributor Wajahat Ali began imitating how the president’s supporters must criticize journalists and Trump critics as elitists because of their knowledge about foreign affairs and other political matters.

“You elitists with your geography and your maps and your spelling,” Ali said.

“Your math and your reading,” Wilson added.

All the while, Lemon laughed loudly.

Since early in the 2016 election, Trump has been the choice of white working class voters — particularly those who live in rural America. Despite Trump being a New Yorker with an Ivy League pedigree, these Americans have said he understands them in ways other politicians and the elite media do not.

As negative headlines about this administration continue to pile up, Trump’s support with those voters who sent him to the Oval Office remain strong. One of the reasons they continue to stick by him — despite critics’ claims that Trump has failed to keep the promises he made to rural Americans — is that the president and many of these voters share what they perceive as a common enemy: elite media and specifically, CNN. (Disclosure: This reporter worked at CNN.)

Two observations:

One, Scott isn't wrong.  The Trump outrage machine feeds on stuff like this and turns it into votes for Trump and his policies, no matter how racist, hateful, islamophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and economically crippling they are.  The targeting of the press as "enemies of the people" is easy when CNN does things like this.  This segment will be burning up the MAGA base all the way to November.

Two, this is why I don't trust Never Trump republicans.  They curiously end up creating problems for Democratic candidates and making Trump stronger, and Rick Wilson is one of the worst of the bunch.  Never forget that he was Poppy Bush's point man in Florida, a Dick Cheney lackey when the Nameless One was Secretary of Defense, and worked on Rudy Giuliani's campaign for Mayor and then Senate.  The guy is a GOP lifer and gosh, look at the mess he started.

Trump's base aren't morons.  They're smart enough to go to the polls and to vote and they do so willingly, which is more than I can say for some folks on the left who snipe from social media all day but in the end never seem to get around to helping people register or to cast ballots.  They're not all stupid, they're not all racist, they're not all Muslim-haters or Jew-haters, they're not all bigots or sexual assaulters.

They're all people okay with a person in the White House who is all of those things, though. One who has managed to reinvent himself from New York millionaire to salt-of-the-earth defender of the rural voter.  Like I said, it's willingness on everyone's part who is engaged in Trumpism to be there.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

The Bolton's Mustache book bombshell continues to explode through Trump's plans to have the trial wrapped up by Friday, but it looks like the Republicans are going to win anywayw by forcing Democrats to make Hunter Biden into the new Clinton email server of 2020.

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), an influential conservative in the Senate, has spoken with several colleagues in recent days about possibly summoning just two witnesses to President Trump’s impeachment trial, with one called by Republicans and one by Democrats, according to three Republican officials.

Toomey has confided to GOP senators that proposing a “one-for-one” deal with Senate Democrats may be necessary at some point, particularly with pressure mounting for witnesses to be called, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. He has argued that such an arrangement could force Democrats to accept a Republican witness against their wishes or else risk having Republicans move ahead to acquit Trump, the officials said.
Toomey has spoken about his idea with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and others, the officials added.

Toomey’s office declined to comment Monday.

Separately, two Senate GOP aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be frank, said Romney is in touch with Toomey and generally supportive of a witness deal that he believes is fair to the GOP but has not yet signed on to any specific plan.

The proposal also came up in private conversations at Monday’s closed Senate GOP lunch, according to the officials and a Senate aide briefed on the meeting.

Toomey, who is not up for reelection until 2022, is close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He is not close with the president or top aides in the White House.

McConnell, however, is so far discouraging Toomey’s suggestion from becoming the party’s position. Instead, he told Senate Republicans during Monday’s lunch to wait on any witness deal proposal until after Trump’s legal team is done making its defense on the Senate floor, underscoring a position he has held for weeks, the officials said.

The plan is still "no witnesses, acquittal on Friday."  But we're playing for November now in a post-acquittal period, and the cost for Bolton to testify is putting Hunter Biden in play as a legitimate scandal. Village outlets can't and won't say anymore than Biden has nothing to do with Ukraine if he testified under oath at Trump's impeachment trial in front of millions, no matter what Joe Biden has to say.

It's a stupid arrangement and there's no way Democrats will agree to it, so Collins and Romney and Murkowski will shrug and vote no, because it will be Democrats who refused the witness deal, not the GOP.  McConnell never wanted it to get this far, but in a lot of ways it's even better for the GOP, enough so that it makes me wonder if Bolton is in on this.

When his book does come out, if there's anything really awful in it (especially if it involves Russia, China, or Iran) you can bet Democrats will be blamed for not taking the deal to sacrifice Hunter Biden when they had the chance.

Whatever Bolton's game is, he'll never testify.  He'll never be deposed.  It'll never happen. Because if it does, Trump is done.  He still may be finished, but it'll happen in November.  If Bolton testifies this week, all bets are off.  That's why it can't happen.  The most likely outcome remains that the vote to allow witnesses falls short.  Collins and Romney say yes, that's only 49.  The vote fails.

GOP Rep. Mark Meadows made this clear yesterday afternoon.

In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell, Congressman Mark Meadows said there would be repercussions if Republicans break with President Donald Trump on impeachment. O'Donnell sat down with impeachment defense surrogates Representatives Meadows, Doug Collins, Elise Stefanik and Debbie Lesko.

"Do you think Republican senators face political repercussions if they break with the president?" O'Donnell asked.

"Yeah, I do. I mean listen, I don't wanna speak for my Senate colleagues. But there are always political repercussions for every vote you take. There is no vote that is higher profile than this," Meadows said Monday.
Collins said the question "needs to be flipped."

"Where is a courageous Democrat who will actually look at the facts and vote in favor of not impeaching this president?" Collins asked.
"My question is: Where is a Democrat who will actually look at the facts and not simply follow behind Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff and Chuck Schumer, or their presidential candidates who are sitting in the jury pool, and follow them?"

O'Donnell also asked about Republican senators who may vote to call witnesses, and whether they would face political consequences for doing so.

"I think this witness question... is a very important one," Stefanik said. "Oftentimes, we're asked over 50% of the American people want the-- us to call witness. That doesn't just mean John Bolton. That means the whistleblower. That means Hunter Biden. And it really opens up challenges for the Democrats."

Mitch McConnell saw this coming a mile away.  He's already planned for it. 

The game was always rigged.  


Monday, January 27, 2020

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court has cleared the decks for the Trump regime to start declaring green-card recipients as "public charges" and to begin deporting green card holders who live in households that receive any federal benefit programs.

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to begin implementing new rules making it easier to deny immigrants residency or admission to the country because they have or might use public-assistance programs.

The court lifted a nationwide injunction imposed by a district judge in New York. That means the administration can begin applying the new standards, which challengers say would place a burden on poor immigrants, while legal challenges continue.

All four of the court’s liberal justices disagreed with the action. Neither the majority of the five conservative justices nor the liberals explained their reasoning. Two justices said they were concerned about what they said was a growing number of nationwide injunctions imposed by lower courts.

The rules establish new criteria for who can be considered to be dependent on the U.S. government for benefits — “public charges,” in the words of the law — and thus ineligible for green cards and a path to U.S. citizenship. They were proposed to start in October but have never been implemented.

According to the new policy, immigrants who are in the United States legally and use public benefits -- such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance — or have at one time used public benefits, or are deemed likely to someday rely on public benefits would be suspect. The new criteria provide “positive” and “negative” factors for immigration officials to weigh as they decide on green-card applications. Negative factors include whether a person is unemployed, dropped out of high school or is not fluent in English.

Opponents of the rule argue that punishing legal immigrants who need financial help endangers the health and safety of immigrant families — including U.S. citizen children — and will foist potentially millions of dollars in emergency health care and other costs onto local and state governments, businesses, hospitals and food banks.

Federal officials say the rule ensures that immigrants can cover their own expenses in the United States without burdening taxpayers for food, housing and other costs. U.S. officials note that the change is not retroactive and exempts refugees and asylees who fled persecution for safety in the United States.

I talked about what this meant back in August.

Understand that Stephen Miller's goal has two parts, one is to end immigration, legal and otherwise, for anyone who is not white.  The other half involves getting rid of as many non-white people already in the country as possible.

It's white supremacy as a national policy.  That's been the case for 400 years, on and off, but it's rarely been so blatant as this, at least in my lifetime.  And for tens of millions of our friends and neighbors and co-workers, that's exactly the policy they want and will vote for.

"But these are the same rules that plenty of other countries use to limit legal immigration."

Yeah, and those countries aren't America, a nation of immigrants.

We are a white supremacist nation ruled by a corrupt white supremacist government. 

The plan is nothing short of demographic reversal to a white ethno-state by ending nearly all immigration, legal and otherwise, and deporting those in the country already out.

That strategy just got a huge boost today.

The Return Of Trumpcare

The Trump regime is expected to announce on Thursday plans to shift Medicaid funding to block grants, which would allow states to cap Medicaid spending and basically throw millions of people off of coverage.

The Trump administration is finalizing a plan to let states convert a chunk of Medicaid funding to block grants, even as officials remain divided over how to sell the controversial change to the safety net health program.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma plans to issue a letter soon explaining how states could seek waivers to receive defined payments for adults covered by Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, according to seven people with knowledge of the closely guarded effort. An announcement is tentatively slated for the end of next week, more than one year after Verma and her team began developing the plan.

Capping Medicaid spending, even among just Obamacare's expansion population, would be a major transformation of how the federal government finances the safety net health care program that has grown to cover about 1 in 5 Americans. The plan is guaranteed to enrage critics and invite attacks from Democrats in an election year.

Republicans have long argued that states should receive defined funding for Medicaid, instead of the current open-ended structure in which the federal government matches state spending. Democrats, along with many hospital and physician groups, have fiercely opposed the idea, warning that strict funding constraints would result in cuts to enrollment and health care services.

Democratic lawmakers have promised to fight the administration on block grants, contending CMS doesn’t have the authority to restructure the program’s financing without congressional approval.

Even as Verma and her aides work to push through the block grant plan, Trump officials are still battling over its scope and how to best guard it from lawsuits the administration expects from Medicaid advocates. Even the terminology is in flux, as officials work to identify an alternative to the term “block grant,” which has negative connotations in the advocacy community. The plan still needs sign-off from health department lawyers.

Meanwhile, there is internal debate on how broadly to publicize the effort. Verma, who two sources said sees the plan as a legacy-defining achievement, is pushing for an in-person event to announce the policy. Other officials, however, argue a high-profile rollout is unnecessary and could bring more scrutiny on a controversial proposal.

The White House will have final say on whether to pursue or halt the plan, the officials said.

President Donald Trump, who last week lashed out as HHS Secretary Alex Azar over negative health care polling, recently voiced concerns about fueling perceptions that he's cutting Medicaid and other health care services during an election year, said two officials with knowledge of the president's comments. Trump's remarks Wednesday about his willingness to look at entitlement cuts quickly became fodder for Democrats, as they accused him of violating a campaign pledge to leave those programs alone.

Medicaid block grants are punishment for states with large populations, specifically California, New York, and Illinois, but also Florida and Texas, so I don't think those states are going to be lining up to take advantage of them. (Texas might out of spite but health care cuts in an election year are never popular, and cutting health care in Florida is a political non-starter.)

However smaller states like, say, Kentucky or Louisiana could rush to embrace block grants in order to "save money" and that's the real killer.  That would force states to cut Medicaid rolls, and there's plenty of state legislatures who would love to do just that.

Expect a lengthy court battle over this one...unless the Supreme Court makes it a moot point by killing the ACA in June.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

As Republicans continue their defense of Trump, excerpts from former National Security Adviser John Bolton's mustache haven't just upset the apple cart on Trump's team, he's put the apple cart in a rocket and fired it into the sun.

Congressional Democrats called for former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in President Trump’s impeachment trial following a new report that the president told Bolton last August that he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it aided investigations into the Bidens.

The New York Times reported Sunday evening that in last summer’s conversation, Trump directly tied the holdup of nearly $400 million in military assistance to the investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. That is according to an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book, the Times said.

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” is scheduled for publication March 17 but the White House review could attempt to delay its publication or block some of its contents.

Two people familiar with the book, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the project, confirmed that it details Trump tying aid to the desire for Biden probes and details a number of conversations about Ukraine that he had with Trump and key advisers, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They said Bolton is ready to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. 
In a joint statement, the seven House impeachment managers called the report “explosive” and urged the Senate, controlled by Republicans, to agree to call Bolton as a witness in Trump’s trial, which kicks off its second full week on Monday. Bolton has said that he would testify before the Senate if subpoenaed.

“The Senate trial must seek the full truth and Mr. Bolton has vital information to provide,” the managers said in a statement Sunday. “There is no defensible reason to wait until his book is published, when the information he has to offer is critical to the most important decision senators must now make — whether to convict the president of impeachable offenses.”

Trump is on trial, facing two charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The assertion from Bolton could undermine one core defense that has repeatedly been laid out by Trump, his defenders and his legal team: that there was no explicit quid pro quo involved when the administration withheld the military assistance, as well as a White House visit coveted by Ukraine.

If Bolton's mustache just trying to sell his book, he's burning a lot of bridges in order to do it.  The NY Times story is pretty specific, which means it was leaked this on purpose.  The mustache's team is blaming...the White House.

The book presents an outline of what Mr. Bolton might testify to if he is called as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial, the people said. The White House could use the pre-publication review process, which has no set time frame, to delay or even kill the book’s publication or omit key passages.

Over dozens of pages, Mr. Bolton described how the Ukraine affair unfolded over several months until he departed the White House in September. He described not only the president’s private disparagement of Ukraine but also new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement.

For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged privately that there was no basis to claims by the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani that the ambassador to Ukraine was corrupt and believed Mr. Giuliani may have been acting on behalf of other clients, Mr. Bolton wrote.

Mr. Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William P. Barr his concerns about Mr. Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Mr. Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call. A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr denied that he learned of the call from Mr. Bolton; the Justice Department has said he learned about it only in mid-August.

And the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was present for at least one phone call where the president and Mr. Giuliani discussed the ambassador, Mr. Bolton wrote. Mr. Mulvaney has told associates he would always step away when the president spoke with his lawyer to protect their attorney-client privilege.

During a previously reported May 23 meeting where top advisers and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, briefed him about their trip to Kyiv for the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Trump railed about Ukraine trying to damage him and mentioned a conspiracy theory about a hacked Democratic server, according to Mr. Bolton.

The White House did not provide responses to questions about Mr. Bolton’s assertions, and representatives for Mr. Johnson, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mulvaney did not respond to emails and calls seeking comment on Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Bolton’s lawyer blamed the White House for the disclosure of the book’s contents. “It is clear, regrettably, from the New York Times article published today that the pre-publication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” the lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, said Sunday night.

The White House did not have a good night last night.  Today's going to be much worse. If the Senate GOP allows witnesses to be buried, this trial is over by Friday.  That was the plan until today.

The question is whether or not the Senate GOP is willing to sacrifice themselves for Trump over Bolton.  The rest of his book is definitely going to come out.  It proves the case against Trump.

Bolton is getting out ahead of whatever worse is coming, because it's definitely coming.

Which is why the Senate GOP will hold hands and jump off the cliff together.  Don't ask if they are going to or not, ask why they have no choice.  Much, much worse things will come out about Trump but once he's acquitted, the fight moves to November and there are a number of things Trump can do to wreck the election if it actually looks like he's going to lose.

Ask Hillary Clinton.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Last Call For Housing Of Pain, Con't

California's housing crisis of a decade ago has become its homelessness crisis of today as the the state refuses to take measures to create affordable housing in fear of collapsing another housing bubble.

Many blame mental illness and drug addiction for the soaring numbers, but experts say that is only part of the puzzle. The state’s severe housing shortage, which has forced rents to increase at twice the rate of the national average and put the median price of a single family home at $615,000, has also contributed to the crisis.

John Maceri, CEO of the Los Angeles-based social services provider The People Concern, said social safety nets, like affordable housing and job training, are all but gone, leaving already vulnerable people to fend for themselves.

“You reap what you sow,” Maceri said recently.

He was one of 300 volunteers who gathered in Santa Monica last week for an annual homeless count, part of a larger effort in Los Angeles County that spanned three days and covered thousands of square miles. Similar counts took place in San Francisco, San Diego and other parts of the country.

The federally mandated survey stretches to every nook and cul-de-sac. Its mission is simple: using U.S. census tracts, count every person who appears to be experiencing homelessness and report those numbers to the county. The county tallies them up using statistical analysis and sends them to the state, which sends a report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Similar to the census, the federal government doles out resources based on these findings. Cities and counties with the most need typically get the most money.

In Santa Monica, an idyllic coastal oasis in Southern California, the count took on the air of a community fair. Parking attendants ushered hundreds people into St. Monica Catholic Church on a Wednesday night, offering warm drinks and snacks to volunteers who greeted one another. The crowd filled with local residents and city officials was thick with anticipation.

Around 11 p.m., hundreds of volunteers, lawmakers and law enforcement officers embarked on what has become routine for the affluent community. The city was an early adopter of the count, said former mayor and current state Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a Democrat.

Bloom served three terms as Santa Monica’s mayor when homelessness still felt like a local problem. The city, with its soft beaches and year-round sunshine, had always been a magnet for homeless people. Residents and outsiders sang a familiar refrain: People experiencing homelessness were drawn to Santa Monica’s comfortable environment and abundant social services.

“Homelessness has been here for decades,” Bloom said. “But for many of those decades, we really didn’t see it as much as we do today.”

Nobody wants to build affordable housing, nobody wants to run affordable housing, and nobody wants to raise taxes to provide services to the homeless.  New York City at least got that part right, but LA and San Francisco and other large cities in California have absolutely failed on this regard.

Yes, the Trump regime has done everything in its power to make the situation worse, but California's had this issue long before Trump was ever in the White House.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

Donald Trump can taste his twisted "acquittal" this week as he rage-tweeted threats against Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff all morning.

President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will pay a "price" for his role in the impeachment saga.

"Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man," Trump tweeted. "He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!"

The president posted those comments after writing earlier Sunday that his impeachment "is a massive election interference the likes of which has never been seen before."

Speaking with NBC's "Meet the Press," Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, said he thought Trump's tweet is "intended to be" a threat to him. Trump responded later Sunday by calling Schiff a "conman."

On CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., called the tweet "really unfortunate."

"The president has a tendency to say things that seem threatening to people," Lofgren, who is also an impeachment manager, said. She added that Trump "really ought to get a grip and be a little more presidential."

Also on "State of the Union," Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said he did not think Trump's tweet was "a death threat."

"I don't think he's encouraging a death threat," Lankford said, adding, "I think what he's saying is [Schiff] will be held to a price" politically. 

I remind you that this is happening during Trump's impeachment trial, and the jurors in that trial are openly defending, normalizing, and downplaying his open public threats during that trial against the lead prosecutor.

Meanwhile, those same jurors are arguing whether or not there will be witnesses in the trial at all.  It's such a mockery of justice that it would give Kafka a headache.

Schiff, for his part, believes Trump's tweet was an open threat.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has taken a leading role in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, said Sunday that a tweet from the president is "intended to be" a threat.

"I don't think it was personal to refer to the CBS story. What may be personal, though, and I think I have to be very candid about this, is I made the argument that it's going to require moral courage to stand up to this president," Schiff said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager in the Senate trial, added that Trump is a "vindictive" president.

"I don't think there's any doubt about it, and if you think there is, look at the president's tweets about me today saying that I should 'pay a price,'" Schiff said.
Do you take that as a threat?" NBC's Chuck Todd asked.

"I think it's intended to be," Schiff responded.

Again, Trump turning to open threats at this stage clearly means he thinks he has already won.  As I've been saying for quite some time now, Trump is driven by vengeance, and once Mitch McConnell solves his little impeachment problem, Trump will go full out to hurt the people he sees as having wronged him.

Sunday Long Read: Frackin' Cancer

A 20-month investigation into the fracking industry in Ohio by Rolling Stone's Justin Nobel has uncovered evidence that the waste fluid from fracking is far more dangerous than anyone will admit, because it turns out on top of being toxic to humans and animals, it's radioactive to boot.

In 2014, a muscular, middle-aged Ohio man named Peter took a job trucking waste for the oil-and-gas industry. The hours were long — he was out the door by 3 a.m. every morning and not home until well after dark — but the steady $16-an-hour pay was appealing, says Peter, who asked to use a pseudonym. “This is a poverty area,” he says of his home in the state’s rural southeast corner. “Throw a little money at us and by God we’ll jump and take it.”

In a squat rig fitted with a 5,000-gallon tank, Peter crisscrosses the expanse of farms and woods near the Ohio/West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, the heart of a region that produces close to one-third of America’s natural gas. He hauls a salty substance called “brine,” a naturally occurring waste product that gushes out of America’s oil-and-gas wells to the tune of nearly 1 trillion gallons a year, enough to flood Manhattan, almost shin-high, every single day. At most wells, far more brine is produced than oil or gas, as much as 10 times more. It collects in tanks, and like an oil-and-gas garbage man, Peter picks it up and hauls it off to treatment plants or injection wells, where it’s disposed of by being shot back into the earth.
One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine.

In the popular imagination, radioactivity conjures images of nuclear meltdowns, but radiation is emitted from many common natural substances, usually presenting a fairly minor risk. Many industry representatives like to say the radioactivity in brine is so insignificant as to be on par with what would be found in a banana or a granite countertop, so when Peter demanded his supervisor tell him what he was being exposed to, his concerns were brushed off; the liquid in his truck was no more radioactive than “any room of your home,” he was told. But Peter wasn’t so sure.

“A lot of guys are coming up with cancer, or sores and skin lesions that take months to heal,” he says. Peter experiences regular headaches and nausea, numbness in his fingertips and face, and “joint pain like fire.”

He says he wasn’t given any safety instructions on radioactivity, and while he is required to wear steel-toe boots, safety glasses, a hard hat, and clothes with a flash-resistant coating, he isn’t required to wear a respirator or a dosimeter to measure his radioactivity exposure — and the rest of the uniform hardly offers protection from brine. “It’s all over your hands, and inside your boots, and on the cuticles of your toes, and any cuts you have — you’re soaked,” he says.

So Peter started quietly taking samples of the brine he hauled, filling up old antifreeze containers or soda bottles. Eventually, he packed a shed in his backyard with more than 40 samples. He worried about further contamination but says, for him, “the damage is already done.” He wanted answers. “I cover my ass,” he says. “Ten or 15 years down the road, if I get sick, I want to be able to prove this.”

Through a grassroots network of Ohio activists, Peter was able to transfer 11 samples of brine to the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, which had them tested in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. The results were striking.

Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. Four of Peter’s samples registered combined radium levels above 3,500, and one was more than 8,500.

“It’s ridiculous that these drivers are not being told what’s in their trucks,” says John Stolz, Duquesne’s environmental-center director. “And this stuff is on every corner — it is in neighborhoods. Truckers don’t know they’re being exposed to radioactive waste, nor are they being provided with protective clothing.

“Breathing in this stuff and ingesting it are the worst types of exposure,” Stolz continues. “You are irradiating your tissues from the inside out.” The radioactive particles fired off by radium can be blocked by the skin, but radium readily attaches to dust, making it easy to accidentally inhale or ingest. Once inside the body, its insidious effects accumulate with each exposure. It is known as a “bone seeker” because it can be incorporated into the skeleton and cause bone cancers called sarcomas. It also decays into a series of other radioactive elements, called “daughters.” The first one for radium-226 is radon, a radioactive gas and the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Radon has also been linked to chronic lymphocytic leukemia. “Every exposure results in an increased risk,” says Ian Fairlie, a British radiation biologist. “Think of it like these guys have been given negative lottery tickets, and somewhere down the line their number will come up and they will die.”

Peter’s samples are just a drop in the bucket. Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. “All oil-field workers,” says Fairlie, “are radiation workers.” But they don’t necessarily know it.

One trillion barrels of toxic fluid being created and pumped into the ground every year, and much of it is radioactive.  The people transporting it have no idea.  The injuries from the industry are going to be catastrophic, even if it wasn't directly involved in making the planet hotter.

Just another log for the inferno.

Checking The Endorsements, Endorsing The Checks

The Des Moines Register, Iowa's largest newspaper, has endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president.

No wonder Iowa Democrats are unsettled.

Each of the remaining candidates campaigning across Iowa ahead of the caucuses could make a fine president. Each would be more inclusive and thoughtful than the current occupant of the White House. Each would treat truth as something that matters. Each would conduct foreign policy by coalition building rather than by whim and tweet.

The outstanding caliber of Democratic candidates makes it difficult to choose just one.

But ultimately Iowa caucusgoers need to do that. Who would make the best president at this point in the country’s history? At a time when the economic deck has become so stacked against working Americans that the gap between rich and poor is the highest in more than 50 years? At a time when a generation of war has stressed military families and sapped the treasury?

The Des Moines Register editorial board endorses Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses as the best leader for these times.

The senior U.S. senator from Massachusetts is not the radical some perceive her to be. She was a registered Republican until 1996. She is a capitalist. “I love what markets can do,” she said. “They are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity.”

But she wants fair markets, with rules and accountability. She wants a government that works for people, not one corrupted by cash.

A former Harvard professor and expert in bankruptcy law, she helped set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency was specifically designed to prevent a repeat of the banking crisis and look out for little guys swindled by lenders and credit card companies.

She believes government should actively work to prevent and respond to abusive practices that jeopardize individuals and the country’s economy.

Warren doesn’t measure the health of the economy by looking at the stock market or an unemployment rate that doesn’t count the longtime jobless or chronically underemployed. She measures it by how working families are doing. Many are not doing well, and Warren seeks major reforms to help them.

A qualification: Some of her ideas for “big, structural change” go too far. This board could not endorse the wholesale overhaul of corporate governance or cumulative levels of taxation she proposes. While the board has long supported single-payer health insurance, it believes a gradual transition is the more realistic approach. But Warren is pushing in the right direction.

It's a good case for Warren, and good argument for her, as well as taking note of the caveat.

Meanwhile, the Sioux City Journal not only endorses Biden but endorses a straight-up Biden/Klobuchar ticket.

In choosing a nominee for president this year, Democrats should pick the individual they believe stands the best chance of producing the support - not only within their party, but among independents and disgruntled Republicans - necessary to win the general election and deny Donald Trump a second term (yes, we anticipate the Senate will acquit him in the impeachment trial).

Because he is, in our view, the candidate best positioned to give Americans a competitive head-to-head matchup with President Trump (we remain open-minded about the November presidential election), members of The Journal editorial board today endorse the candidacy of Joe Biden, the former U.S. senator and vice president, in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Feb. 3 Democratic Party caucuses.

Why do we believe Biden represents the best shot Democrats have within this field to get the ultimate prize they want? Three primary reasons:

* He possesses a greater breadth and depth of knowledge on issues domestic and foreign - experience forged over more than 40 years of elected office in Washington, D.C. - than his rivals.

* He articulates moderate positions on issues more in line with the nation as a whole. Unlike some candidates in this race, he doesn't guarantee a world he can't deliver and most Americans don't want. On health care, for example, he proposes to build upon the Affordable Care Act with inclusion of a public option instead of a government-run, single-payer health care system with a pricetag in the trillions and trillions of dollars at a time when the nation’s debt is more than $20 trillion. We believe many more Americans would consider the former approach than would consider the latter

* He combines respect from both sides of the aisle and the political and personal skills necessary to unite conflicting positions behind common-ground solutions to complex issues facing our country. We view Biden as a pragmatist - and we believe his pragmatism is an attribute. We refuse to believe middle-of-the-road compromise should be or is a relic of the past. This nation is too diverse for any one side to insist on everything and employ an all-or-nothing approach. We believe leaders who embrace the greater good remain important, if not essential to our national dialogue today. If the Democratic nominee emerges as the winner in November, he or she will need to work with others to meet America's challenges at home and abroad.

For some of these same reasons, we view the candidacy of Sen. Amy Klobuchar positively, as well. In fact, if Biden is the nominee, we urge him to consider Klobuchar as a running mate. We believe the two of them together would be a formidable team.

Klobuchar is the first pick however of New Hampshire's largest daily, the Union Leader.

If you are an independent or Democrat, however, yours may be one of the most consequential votes ever cast in a New Hampshire Primary. If there is to be any realistic challenge to Trump in November, the Democratic nominee needs to have a proven and substantial record of accomplishment across party lines, an ability to unite rather than divide, and the strength and stamina to go toe-to-toe with the Tweeter-in-Chief.

That would be U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She is sharp and witty, with a commanding understanding of both history and the inner workings of Capitol Hill.

Trump doesn’t want to face her. He is hoping for Bernie, Biden, Buttigieg or Warren. Each has weaknesses, whether of age, inexperience or a far-left agenda that thrills some liberals but is ripe for exploitation in a mainstream general election.

Sen. Klobuchar has none of those weaknesses and the incumbent needs to be presented a challenger who is not easily dismissed. Her work in Washington has led to the passage of an impressive number of substantive bills, even as the partisan divide has deepened. In 2018 she won reelection, taking back dozens of conservative-leaning counties that had gone for Trump two years earlier, when Hillary Clinton barely beat him in Minnesota. In fact, Sen. Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, has never lost an election.

But can a woman be elected President? We say of course, the right woman can and should be. By choosing Amy Klobuchar, New Hampshire primary voters can go a long way to proving it.

Ultimately, I still think Biden wins the primary for the three reasons the Journal lists.  The Register doesn't exactly have a stellar track record of picking Democratic winners in Iowa or the Democratic nominee overall, having picked Paul Simon in 1988, Bill Bradley in 2000, John Edwards in 2004, and Hillary Clinton in 2008, all people who didn't win Iowa and didn't win the Democratic nomination.

They at least got Clinton right in 2016, but that was like guessing the sun was hot. If you're interested in why the other Democratic candidates didn't get the endorsement, well the Register has you covered there too.

I'm going to come out and say though that a Biden/Kamala Harris ticket is far more likely than Biden/Klobuchar.

Oh, and I notice nobody in endorsement land is talking about Sanders.  The thing is though, he's ahead now in Iowa and well ahead in New Hampshire.  That may be his peak, but it's the right time for it.  February will be hotly contested and then we go into Super Tuesday on March 3.

Make sure you're ready to vote in your state's primary and general.  Double-check your voter registrations, folks.
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