WHAT IS BERNIE MADOFF, CHOPPED LIVER?
Donald Trump was feeling merciful today, so he did us a favor though and granted clemency to a load of famous crimers, including former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik, former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and fraudy inside trader Michael Milken. Kerik, Milken, and DeBartolo all received full pardons, while Blago only had his 14-year sentence commuted, allowing him out of prison but leaving his conviction for trying to sell an appointment to the US Senate seat that had been held by Barack Obama.
Trump also granted clemency to a number of less well-known people, including some women convicted of drug offenses, who appear to have actually turned their lives around in prison. It is not yet known whether the women were insulted by being included in a clemency spree with those scummy fraud men.
The Chicago Tribune's headline for the story was a masterpiece of pointed omission:
It's good to have cover-up artist friends in high places.
Do us a favor real quick and remember everything we know about Bill Barr's Justice Department lately, including the fact that Barr has been personally intervening in cases related to Donald Trump, and has even been "micromanaging" certain cases at the usually crazy independent Southern District of New York (SDNY). Got all your knowledge about Barr's Justice Department and SDNY at the front of your brain?
Are you also remembering that Rudy Giuliani himself has been under criminal investigation by SDNY, but instead of a perp walk, we have learned recently that Giuliani has a secret shoe phone back channel to Bill Barr, so he can deliver all the absolute bullshit "evidence" against the Bidens he's been collecting from craven liars on his Ukraine vacations?
Did you read Liz's latest story about Bill Barr's ratfuckery at the DOJ for the benefit of Donald Trump's authoritarian pals in Turkey?
Now read this scoop from CNN, which is that already-indicted Rudy Giuliani pal Lev Parnas might end up with more indictments from SDNY:
First, the bureaucratic roadblocks. Next, the transformation into giant insects.
As we have noted several times, there's a certain horrifying brilliance to the endless schemes Stephen Miller has contrived to limit immigration — not just by those terrible murderers and rapists Donald Trump scares Fox viewers with, but anyone trying to use the legal means of immigration the Right is always screaming about. It's very much like the infinitely creative ways the white power structure in the Jim Crow South came up with to humiliate black people and make their lives miserable. Someone should do a study on the psychology of all that, how it's tied to authoritarian thinking. Miller and his minions have managed to weaponize virtually every part of federal law to keep people out.
That zero tolerance of immigration extends even — or especially — to those the law is supposed to help. Like for instance victims of crimes. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell explores the administration's latest twist of the bureaucratic knife, in which an undocumented woman she calls "Yolanda" went to the police to report she'd been violently raped, then left trapped in a basement for hours. Congress passed a law allowing crime victims who cooperate with police to apply for what's called a "U Visa," because fighting violent crime is a good thing. But not as important to this administration as blocking all immigrants.
Yolanda's application was denied because the administration decided last fall it will now reject visa applications that include any blank spaces, even when there's no earthly reason to fill in the blank. Yolanda's son has no middle name, so she wrote nothing for that item. Sorry, your application has been rejected because it's incomplete.
Earwax Causes Hearing And Memory Loss. Here's The Best Way To Get Rid Of It. Tabs., Wed., Feb. 12, 2020
Don't worry, the money wasn't going to people on welfare anyway.
Mississippi is not a good place in which to be poor. It's the go-to state for other states with crappy social programs to compare themselves to: "Thank God for Mississippi!" (Alabama sometimes goes in the object slot, too.) Like many red states, Mississippi doesn't believe that poor people can be trusted to receive cash assistance, so instead, the state gives most of its federal "welfare" funds to nonprofit organizations that are supposed to fight poverty through job training, parenting classes, and other important services like telling poor people not to fuck.
Such programs may not reduce poverty in any measurable sense, but they're a great deal for the nonprofits being funded by federal anti-poverty money. So it probably shouldn't be too big a surprise that last week, several top people at "Mississippi Community Education Center," one of the state's biggest nonprofits, were arrested for embezzling millions of dollars that didn't even go to the pretense of providing services for the poor, as Mississippi Today details in a report that may have you hurling your computer across the room.
Get this: The investigation didn't just nab the director of the outfit, Nancy New, and several members of her family who worked for the nonprofit. New, who founded a private school in Jackson and tried but failed to get in on the charter school grift too, "has long had the support of state leadership and often appeared on conservative SuperTalk radio to promote her work." No telling how the criminal charges will affect her standing on the wingnut economic prosperity circuit, but she can probably claim she was victimized by Cultural Marxists.
The probe also led to the arrest of John Davis, the former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, the state agency responsible for disbursing the funds. Since 2018, the nonprofit had sucked up $53 million in funding from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the cash-assistance program that used to be called "welfare." The case is still under investigation, so the exact amount of embezzled funds hasn't been released.
But don't you worry: Mississippi only uses five percent of its annual TANF funding for direct payments to needy families, so even without the crimes, the money would have gone to programs that may or may not have actually been helping poor people. In a sense, this is really a case of some crooks stealing money from the legitimate grift they were already running. Isn't that a comfort?
They actually are this stupid.
Abortion is one of those things about which almost everyone has an opinion. However, there was once a time (or it seemed to me that there was a time) when people who were opposed to abortion were actually opposed to abortion, as opposed to weird stuff they made up about abortion. I don't know if that was necessarily better, but it was at least somewhat grounded in reality. There was somewhere to go with that, I guess.
But now, thanks to years and years of misinformation efforts, there are a lot of people out there who are positively outraged about allegedly abortion-related things that are definitely not possible. Like the idea that post-birth abortions are a thing.
The first time I heard anything close to this theory was when then-candidate Donald Trump tried to claim, during a debate, that under the current laws "[y]ou can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day." At the time, it seemed that everyone knew this was bullshit. Pro-choicers thought it was ridiculous, and anti-choicers assumed that he was just new to their cause and thus not clear on the rhetoric yet. Like the time when he said that he would love to throw women in jail for having abortions, and the anti-choicers had to reel him back and do the whole "actually we don't tell people that's what we want" thing.
Oh no, that is sad.
Awesome, we have a new fascist propaganda commission!
This week, Attorney General Bill Barr announced the members of the new YAY FASCISM! Pro-Police Commission, officially known as the "Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice."
The commissioners were chosen by Barr and will research things like how to "make American law enforcement the most trusted and effective guardians of our communities."
So that's great and wonderful and not at all something out of a dystopian novel.
A homeless man who was forced to lick a urinal by Honolulu police officers is now suing the police department and the city itself for what, hopefully, will be a very large amount of money.
Way back in January of 2018, police officers were called in on a "nuisance" — a 37-year-old homeless man named Samuel Ingall who was cleaning himself up in a shopping mall restroom. When they arrived, Ingall begged them not to arrest him — and Officer John Rabago asked his partner, Officer Reginald Ramones, to close the door to the restroom in order to avoid being seen by a security camera.
It was then that Rabago repeatedly threatened Ingall with arrest, unless he licked a urinal. Eventually, scared out of his wits, Ingall did it, while Rabago stood there and laughed. According to Ingall's family members, they also hit him, forced him to sit in urine, and then shoved his head into a toilet.
Also please put a lady with cancer in prison for stealing groceries. That's justice.
In the week that the US Senate is set to formally declare Donald Trump above the law, a couple of reminders that people who make the grievous mistake of not having the right connections will get every bit as much justice as the rich and powerful can pile on them. In Portland, Oregon, a nice woman who worked for U.S. Bank got shitcanned after giving $20 to a bank customer who was being screwed over by the bank's delays in processing a check he deposited just before Christmas, and a Pennsylvania woman being treated for two advanced types of cancer has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for stealing $109.63 in groceries a bit over a year ago. And somewhere in the cosmos, Anatole France may be rolling his eyes that his 1894 line about the law's "majestic equality" in forbidding both the rich and the poor "to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread" is still so very apt.
It's your Sunday show rundown!
After the Republican-held Senate decided to vote against allowing new witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial of Donnie Trump, it was time for Republicans to go into two modes: Justification and Gloating.
On NBC's "Meet The Press," Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander went the excuse/justification route to explain why he's letting Trump's crime train keep rolling.
ALEXANDER: Well, I mean, if you have eight witnesses who say someone left the scene of an accident, why do you need nine? I mean, the question for me was: Do I need more evidence to conclude that the president did what he did? And I concluded no. So, I voted we don't --
TODD: What do you believe he did?
ALEXANDER: What --
TODD: What do you believe he did?
ALEXANDER: What I believe he did, one, was that he called the president of Ukraine and asked him to become involved in investigating Joe Biden, who was --
TODD: You believe his wrongdoing began there, not before --
ALEXANDER: Yeah, but he --
TODD: Not before?
ALEXANDER: I don't know about that. But he admitted that. The president admitted that. He released a transcript, he said it on television. The second thing was, at least in part, he delayed the military and other assistance to Ukraine in order to encourage that investigation. Those are the two things he did. I think he shouldn't have done it. I think it was wrong. Inappropriate was the way I'd say -- improper, crossing the line. And then the only question left is who decides what to do about that.
TODD: Well, who decides what to do about that?
ALEXANDER: The people. The people is my conclusion.
So Alexander believes we don't need more witnesses because Trump really did crimes. The part where Alexander loses everyone is in "letting the people decide" while abdicating the responsibility thrust upon ALL elected officials to represent the people. This line of thinking also always conveniently forgets that the reason Trump is finally being held accountable is THE PEOPLE voting to do that in 2018! The fact the Senate is doing an impeachment trial is the will of the people, Alexander!
But Lamar Alexander tried one more excuse just in case after Chuck Todd called him out:
This just keeps getting weirder.
Lori Vallow — aka the Mormon Doomsday Cult Mom — was ordered to show up to court in Idaho on Thursday with her children, Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow, who haven't been seen since this fall. Shockingly enough, she did not make it. It is not known whether she returned to Idaho or if she has remained in Hawaii where she has been living with her new husband, Mormon doomsday novelist Chad Daybell, since November.
It's... a lot of a lot.
There's also a new development, of sorts, in the case, and somehow it is no less bizarre than everything else going on with these people.
Kauai landlord Jeani Martin says that on November 7, the couple showed up unannounced at her house about renting her master bedroom, claiming that God had led them there. You know, because God is a big HGTV fan and has very strong opinions on real estate. Does not miss an episode of "Property Brothers," that guy.
Florida man strikes again!
Need a break from Donald Trump's impeachment debacle? Strap yourself in for some high-octane Florida shenanigans. Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg reportedly asked Brent Tyler, a network security specialist, to hack the county's computer network and demand a ransom of $1 million ... well, actually just half that amount. This was back in 2017 when $500,000 was a lot of money.
The accusations recently emerged from Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. Tyler claimed at the time that Greenberg frequently invited him to his office, cranked up the music or the TV news because his cone of silence was in the shop, and casually asked him to drop a malware bomb on the network. The ransom would be paid in BItcoin, and Greenberg would "tumble" the cryptocurrency (my favorite 1980s dance track) through multiple Bitcoin wallets so no one could trace its origin. Greenberg and Tyler would then split the $500,000 and presumably live comfortably in San Francisco for about three months. (Greenberg's office was actually the first US government agency to accept Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash as payment for various services starting the summer of 2018.)
It's a very stressful time, okay?
For the last three months, police have been searching for Idaho doomsday cult members Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell in hopes of finding out what happened to Vallow's children — Tylee Ryan, 17, and Joshua Vallow, 7, who is autistic — who have not been seen by anyone since September.
To refresh your memory, Vallow and Daybell were married in November — just weeks after his previous wife died in suspicious circumstances — and disappeared that same month when police started poking around and asking where the kids were, after J.J.'s grandparents reported that they hadn't seen or spoken to them in a real long time. Said grandparents have since issued a $20,000 reward for any information leading to finding out what happened to them.
On Sunday, police on the Hawaiian island of Kauai found Vallow and Daybell staying in a resort, which is of course a perfectly normal thing to do if your kids are missing and you definitely had nothing to do with it. Or really, if your kids are missing and you did have something to do with it, because that looks suspicious as hell. There is absolutely no context for which "going to a Hawaiian resort" is a normal thing to do when your kids have disappeared.
Yes, that Harvey Weinstein.
Apropos of Harvey Weinstein's trial starting on Wednesday, The New York Times decided to run an article on Monday centered on how very sad and scared he is that he may go to prison for one or two of the many, many grotesque sexual assaults he has been accused of — not to mention how difficult it is for him to go anywhere without people looking at him like he is Harvey Weinstein or something.
While there's nothing wrong with starting out the week with a healthy dose of Schadenfreude, this was not that. Rather, it appeared to be attempting to elicit some amount of sympathy for Harvey Weinstein, yes that Harvey Weinstein, who is now mostly friendless and in the bell jar. Which, well, good luck with that.
The article, titled Harvey Weinstein's Dark Days, begins by painting a picture. A picture of a near-defeated man at the worst point in his life. The kind of man one might feel very bad for were he not (allegedly) a sex predator.
This country's damaged.
It's Monday of the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, and you'd think the least we could do as a nation to honor his memory is go 72 hours without gun violence. It can't be harder than Dry January or Veganuary. We're not giving up booze or pretending to enjoy cauliflower "steaks." Why can't we take a pause on killing each other?
That's too much to ask, it seems. Last night in Kansas City, Missouri, a man opened fire on a line of people waiting to enter the 9ine Ultra Lounge bar. He killed one woman and wounded at least 15 people. There is no clear motive. An armed security guard killed the shooter.
According to the 9ine Ultra Lounge's Facebook page, last night was "Sold Out Sundays." This was apparently an event to celebrate the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Tennessee Titans and advancing to the Super Bowl. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker described the shooting as a "tragic end to such a wonderful day in Kansas City."
He did not breach his plea agreement, YOU DID!
Whew boy, last night was a news night, wasn't it! Not only were the Democratic presidential candidates engaged in the single most boring debate in the history of boring debates, and not only did Donald Trump do one of his rallies where he accelerated his attacks on the newfangled water-free dishwashers and potties the liberals have forced on the world, but the House Intelligence Committee also started dropping evidence from Rudy Giuliani's indicted chucklefuck pal Lev Parnas, some of which appeared to show a weird-ass Connecticut GOP congressional candidate named Robert F. Hyde chatting with Lev about how he had former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch under some kind of surveillance in Ukraine, before Trump finally fired her last April.
Were they trying to put out a hit on her? Unclear! Is Hyde literally a crazy person who was making it all up? Also unclear!
As if that weren't enough, oh yeah by the way Michael Flynn filed with the court requesting to withdraw his guilty plea, a mere week after the government argued that dude has been such a fuckshow for the past year that he should probably serve six months in prison, after firing his lawyers and replacing them with Sidney "Fox News Emoji War Crime Batshit" Powell, and also basically blowing up his own cooperation agreement by more or less trying to sabotage the government's prosecution of his associate Bijan Rafiekian for unregistered lobbying on behalf of a foreign government. Just a year ago, the government was recommending "no jail time." But Sidney Bugfuck Powell was on the case, so she got that ... changed!
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