Thursday, December 8, 2022

Last Call For Bugging Out The Troops

The Biden White House is pissed tonight that House Democrats and Nancy Pelosi folded and gave in to Kevin McCarthy's extortion on the Pentagon funding bill, as McCarthy had threatened to kill the bill entirely unless Pelosi removed the military's Covid vaccine mandate.

The Biden administration fumed Wednesday at the near-certainty that Congress will strip away the Defense Department’s requirement that all military personnel be vaccinated against the coronavirus, upending a politically divisive policy that has led to the dismissal of nearly 8,500 service members and numerous lawsuits disputing its fairness.

The agreement, brokered as part of the Pentagon’s next spending bill, was celebrated by Republicans as a victory for individual choice. It comes despite opposition from President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who characterized the vaccine mandate as a way of protecting troops from covid-19 and preventing sprawling outbreaks that sideline entire units, undermine the military’s readiness and endanger national security.

The looming reversal — spurred by Republicans who had threatened to block passage of the $858 billion spending bill if the mandate wasn’t struck down — creates a rat’s nest for the Pentagon. Commanders whose job it was to enforce the mandate will face the onerous task of assessing whether — and how — to allow back into uniform those already separated from the military for refusing to follow orders. Managing overseas deployments, especially in countries that require visitors to be vaccinated, will create burdensome logistical headaches as well, officials said.

John Kirby, a White House spokesman, would not say whether Biden would entertain vetoing the bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), if as expected the legislation passes both chambers of Congress with the repeal intact. But Kirby emphasized that the administration believes scrubbing the vaccine mandate is a “mistake” and castigated those in the GOP who pushed to end it.

Republicans, he said, “have obviously decided that they’d rather fight against the health and well-being of those troops rather than protecting them.”

Privately, some Defense Department personnel were even more pointed.

One senior defense official said that when service members “inevitability get sick, and if they should die, it will be on the Republicans who insisted upon this.” The official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the polarizing issue, cited the sprawling coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in spring 2020. The vessel — a major power-projection weapon — was sidelined for weeks through a cumbersome quarantine process with more than 1,200 cases in a crew of about 4,800, and one sailor died.

“How does this impact deployments? How does this impact overseas training assignments? How does this impact overseas assignments generally?” this official asked. “What are the downstream consequences of this shortsighted insistence in the new law?”
“Make no mistake: this is a win for our military,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a statement late Tuesday night, warning that when the GOP takes over the House next year, Republicans will “work to finally hold the Biden administration accountable and assist the men and women in uniform who were unfairly targeted.”

While the decision to roll back the vaccine mandate was politically divisive, freezing negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate armed services committees for several days, it is far from the only Pentagon policy challenged in the compromise defense bill. The measure, which the full House and Senate still must vote to approve, pushes the Defense Department and related agencies to adopt several ventures, including new programs to arm Taiwan and scrutinize military assistance to Ukraine, and retain aging weapons systems the Biden administration has slated for decommissioning.

The bill creates several new accountability measures for the billions of dollars in military assistance being sent to Ukraine. Those include ordering reports from the Defense Department and a consortium of inspectors general about the methods being employed to track weapons, with the aim of identifying potential shortfalls.

While enhanced oversight of Ukraine aid has become a rallying cry for Republicans skeptical of the continued provision of advanced systems and munitions, the measures included in the defense bill had earlier secured bipartisan support in the House. The Senate never voted on its version of the bill before the compromise legislation’s unveiling.
And the reason this happened of course is that neither Pelosi nor Chuck Schumer had the votes to pass the bill without GOP support.

The sausage got made again, $850 billion worth of it.

It's A Harding Knock Life

Florida Republican state Rep. Joe Harding, the asshole behind the state's "Don't Say Gay" law, is facing numerous federal charges for pandemic business loan fraud.
The Florida legislator who sponsored legislation critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay" bill was accused of illegally obtaining tens of thousands of dollars in Covid-relief funds, authorities said Wednesday.

Joseph Harding, 35, was indicted on six counts of wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements and other crimes, the U.S. attorney’s office for Northern Florida said in a release.

Harding, a Republican whose district is south of Gainesville, is accused of seeking Covid-relief loans from the Small Business Administration in 2020 for two companies, Vak Shack Inc. and Harding Farms, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that in applications to the agency, Harding said the companies had half a dozen employees and gross revenues from the previous year totaling more than $800,000.

The companies had no employees, and state records showed they had been dormant in the months before the applications were filed, the indictment says.

Harding sought more than $150,000 in loans and received roughly $45,000 in January and February 2021, according to the indictment.

Harding pleaded not guilty to the charges in court Wednesday, court records show. Neither he nor his lawyer immediately responded to requests for comment.
Which is really funny, because after he embezzled tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, he had the balls to go after Broward County businesses that got pandemic relief funds in March.

The news about Broward County’s new coronavirus aid-funded hotel had one Representative Thursday calling for Broward County to be shut out of future member funding projects — and had some of his Republican colleagues nodding in agreement.

“Maybe the FL Legislature should ban all member projects for Broward since they have so much money they can make ridiculous expenditures such as this,” Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia wrote. He quote tweeted a national Associated Press story that highlighted Broward County’s hotel and the $140 million in federal coronavirus aid it received in the first paragraph.

But at least one Broward County Senator called the Spring Hill lawmaker’s framing of the aid “complete misinformation.”

“His treatment is so emblematic of how we are treated in this Legislature,” said Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky, explaining the “we” as lawmakers from Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Those counties send more tax money to Tallahassee than they receive, she said.

“The hostility … it’s so palpable and it’s frustrating,” Polsky added.

Besides the “high-end,” 29-story, 800-room hotel that will go with the county’s expanded Convention Center, the story also detailed other projects around the U.S. that the American Rescue Plan helped fund. Those include a minor-league baseball stadium renovation, a ski area and an effort to woo the 2026 World Cup to New Jersey.

Reached later, Ingoglia said, “I’m sick and tired of local governments spending lavishly and egregiously and yet still crying poor and asking the Florida Legislature for money and continuing to raise taxes on people locally,” he said.

Republican Rep. Joe Harding responded with a meme, “I’m in.”
You'll have plenty of time to think up funny memes in prison, Joe.
Next time, keep your damn mouth shut, and keep your hands out of the cookie jar.

Britney Griner Coming Home

President Biden spoke this morning on a prisoner swap to free WNBA player Britney Griner from Russia.

Brittney Griner’s freedom ultimately hinged on the release of a convicted Russian arms dealer whose life story inspired a Hollywood film.

On Thursday, a source told CNN that the US basketball star had been released from Russian detention in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” by his accuser.

Bout, a former Soviet military officer, was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization. Bout has maintained he is innocent.

The Kremlin has long called for his release, slamming his sentencing in 2012 as “baseless and biased.”

Griner – who had for years played in the off-season for a Russian women’s basketball team – was arrested on drug smuggling charges at an airport in the Moscow region in February. Despite her testimony that she had inadvertently packed the cannabis oil found in her luggage, she was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August and was moved to a penal colony in Mordovia in mid-November after losing her appeal.

Griner’s family had urged the White House to secure her release, including via prisoner exchange if necessary. At the center of their bid was Bout, a man who eluded international arrest warrants and asset freezes for years.

The Russian businessman, who speaks six languages, was arrested in a sting operation in 2008 led by US drug enforcement agents in Thailand posing as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the acronym FARC. He was eventually extradited to the US in 2010 after a protracted court proceeding.

“Viktor Bout has been international arms trafficking enemy number one for many years, arming some of the most violent conflicts around the globe,” said Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan when Bout was sentenced in New York in 2012.

“He was finally brought to justice in an American court for agreeing to provide a staggering number of military-grade weapons to an avowed terrorist organization committed to killing Americans.”

The trial honed in on Bout’s role in supplying weapons to FARC, a guerrilla group that waged an insurgency in Colombia until 2016. The US said the weapons were intended to kill US citizens.


A source familiar with the matter tells CNN that the swap involves convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The swap did not include another American that the State Department has declared wrongfully detained, Paul Whelan.

“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” Biden said at the White House Thursday morning alongside Griner’s wife, Cherelle. “After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under untolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones, and she should have been there all along.”

Biden acknowledged that Griner’s release was occurring while Whelan remained imprisoned, saying that Whelan’s family “have to have such mixed emotions today.”

“This was not a choice of which American to bring home,” Biden said. “Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”
Viktor Bout is a terrible man, and releasing him is going to make a lot of people ask if it was worth it, to which I say "Screw you." A lot of things got us to this point, bad decisions, structural racism, the gender pay gap, but unlike Bout, Griner never deserved to be a in a goddamn Russian gulag.

If it was your loved one, you'd want them out too. Pasul Whelen will be coming home soon as well, I suspect.

Joe Biden gets that.

Trump would have let her rot.

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