Looks like the Republican leaders of the Great State of Texas have finally decided how to respond to the high 2018 turnout that wasn't quite enough to elect Beto O'Rourke to the US Senate but did manage to flip a couple seats blue in Congress, add a dozen Democrats in the state House, and replace Republicans with Democrats in an astonishing number of state appellate court seats. Obviously, something has to be done, so how about a good old-fashioned "voter fraud" scare? Friday, Secretary of State David Whitley's office said it had complied a list of 95,000 possible non-citizens registered to vote -- and issued the scary claim that 58,000 people on the list had voted in at least one Texas election since 1996. Whitley was just appointed to his post in December after serving as Gov. Greg Abbott's chief of staff. Fun coincidence, huh?
Of course, it was pretty obvious from the get-go that the list, based on data from driver's license and ID applications, wasn't proof of any voter fraud. But the scary raw numbers were immediately taken as Gospel truth -- or at least GOPspel truth -- by the people who just know in their hearts that scary foreigns are voting fraudulently, so we need to make voting much more difficult to preserve the "integrity of the ballot" (translation: too many potential Democratic voters) .
So let's get right to why this list -- which was sent to voting officials in every Texas county -- is just plain bogus. It was complied from records from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which requires applicants for a Texas driver's license or a photo ID to check a box if they're a noncitizen, but a legal resident of the USA. The secretary of state's office then compared the DOT data with voter rolls and decided that anyone whose name was on both lists was possibly an illegal voter, so the counties better go check up on them.
BIG problem with that method, obviously, because it's only a list of registered voters who were not citizens at the time they went to the driver's license office -- so even if they became citizens later and registered to vote, the DPS data wouldn't reflect that. Lawyers for 13 civil rights groups have already sent letters to the state and the county warning not to strike anyone from the voter rolls on the basis of the list:
Somebody's finally allowing a vote to reopen the government!
Having largely sat out the government shutdown, which is now in its one millionth day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stepped up with a bold new plan to do virtually nothing: He's scheduled a vote Thursday on two different bills to reopen the government. Just a small problem: One includes funding for WALL and immigration provisions no Democrat will vote for, and the other is the same as a non-WALL stopgap funding measure passed by the House already, which may or may not get the 60 votes needed to proceed, but which Donald Trump has pledged to veto, lest Ann Coulter yell at him.
At least they were good for the economy. Oh, wait, no, that never happened either.
President Goodbrain's Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads bill was the only thing Republicans got done during Donald Trump's historic first year in office, and boy, were they ever gonna do wonderful things for the economy and make everyone prosperous forever! Just as long as by "everyone" you mean big corporations and the already rich. The rest of us got boned! A new analysis of the economic effects of the tax cut at Bloomberg found cuts to the corporate tax rate resulted in a lot of tax savings for businesses (and corresponding growth of the national debt), but very little improvement for the economy as a whole. Once adjusted for that flood of tax savings, the overall benefit was actually a bit lower than growth projections before the tax cut. But at least we'll be paying for that corporate tax cut binge forever!
Bloomberg banking columnist Stephen Gandel moneysplains the tax cuts were just AWESOME for big corporations, but kinda shitty for the ol' national bottom line:
In late 2017, soon before Congress passed the tax cut [...] the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated it would cost $1.4 trillion over 10 years. White House officials criticized that estimate as being too high. In fact, it wasn't nearly high enough. My current estimate, now that companies have completed 2018, is nearly $2 trillion, and that's just for the S&P 500.
Those cuts were terrific for corporate profits, which jumped by 24 percent in 2018, but Gandel estimates roughly half that income growth "came not from an improvement in operations but from lower corporate tax bills" -- so hooray for profits. Say, Johnny, what do our viewers have to give the S&P 500 thanks to Republican generosity? "S&P 500 companies saved $144 billion, or $395 million a day, in taxes in 2018." Which, as others have pointed out, the companies mostly plowed into stock buybacks, pumping up their stock value and enriching investors, but not actually improving wages or adding jobs. Funny, there are only so many yachts and upgraded bizjets the filthy rich can blow money on!
Weird, Trump's decluttering spree is just like Putin's!
Donald Trump has a lot of stupid, deeply held beliefs, like the idea that he's a good negotiator, his certainty that the Central Park Five were guilty (even after they were exonerated by DNA), and his suspicion that everyone is secretly laughing at him (they are, but the mockery's right out in the open). Among his highly stable beliefs is that every other country in the world is taking advantage of the USA, especially when it comes to our military alliances (our enemies he loves for their toughness). So it's really no surprise that Trump has always distrusted NATO, but the New York Times reported Monday night just how deeply -- and possibly catastrophically -- that belief goes. According to "senior administration officials," Trump repeatedly told his national security aides in 2018 he wanted to just plain pull the US out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization altogether, because he is A Idiot.
Are there no workhouses?
Just in time for Christmas, the Trump administration rolled out a new plan to cut food assistance to poor people, because damn it, they need to stop being poor. You see, even though most childless adults must already work 20 hours a week to qualify for food stamps, tougher work requirements are the hot new rightwing thing lately, so Trump's USDA wants to clamp down on waivers for people who can't find work due to local economic conditions. If there's high unemployment, then tighter work requirements for food stamps will make jobs appear, won't they? Donald Trump is smart.
The move comes after Congress's latest farm bill failed to get tough enough on poors using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP, aka food stamps). The House voted to add harsher work requirements, both for childless adults and some parents with kids, but the Senate wouldn't pass that nonsense. So the final bill left things as they were. Wingnuts were unhappy, so Team Trump went to work pushing tougher requirements through executive rule-making, even as Trump signed the farm bill yesterday.
Probably should have acid-washed those emails to Roger Stone!
There's a smell of BenGay and cat pee in the air that can only mean one thing: It's time to talk about Jerome Corsi again. The old attention whore is on a whirlwind tour, using his failed plea negotiations with Robert Mueller to flog the latest hairball he coughed up and had bound as a hardcover "book." So let's hold our noses and run through the highly incriminating timeline revealed in the draft Plea Agreement Corsi inexplicably dumped on the media last night. It's even dumber than you think!
July 25, 2016
Roger Stone emails Corsi and tells him, per the draft agreement, "Get to [the founder of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly." We'll just stop here in delight at the "masking" of "founder of Organization 1" AT THE ECUADORIAN EMBASSY, because that is goddamn hilarious. (Assange, idiots. They meant Julian Assange.)
Anyway, Corsi may be a goddamn moron, but he knew that Stone, when he said "Foundation," meant the Clinton Foundation, so Corsi immediately forwarded the marching orders to Ted Malloch, a Trump stooge living in England who got picked up by the FBI in March at Logan airport and subsequently spent some quality time with the grand jury.
Unlike Stone and Corsi, who have been texting reporters 24/7, Malloch has gone radio silent because he's not A IDIOT.
July 31, 2016
Stone sends another email ordering Corsi to get with Assange and find out what he's got on Clinton.
August 2, 2016
Corsi, who is vacationing in Europe, emails Stone and tells him, "Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I'm back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than [John Podesta] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke -- neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle."
It's not clear whether Corsi himself visited Assange, whether he got his info from Malloch (who denies ever having met with the allegedly rapey recluse), or if he had another source. But he definitely knew the emails were hacked (not leaked by Seth Rich, as he'd later claim), that further dumps were planned, and the subject of the upcoming dumps. The Trump campaign immediately started flogging the Hillary Is Diseased story line, led by Donald Trump himself, after that email, at a time when Roger Stone claimed to be in touch with Trump himself. Which is a heckuva coincidence!
Hold on, this isn't the least bit silly. Carry on, then.
When January arrives and a new Congress is sworn in, get ready to hear a whole hell of a lot about the "Green new Deal," a proposal spearheaded by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and endorsed by likely Speaker Nancy Pelosi. What the hell is it? At the moment, it's a proposal for a proposal: combine job growth and tackling climate change with the modest goals of nothing less than eliminating poverty AND transforming the US energy economy to 100 percent renewable power generation by 2030. We're talking Moon Shot plus New Deal plus Manhattan Project here, and yes, it's audacious as fuck!
As it happens, it's also not pie in the sky. Difficult, sure, but far from impossible. Its 10-year target falls inside the window necessary to keep at bay the absolute worst effects of projected climate change, as laid out in the UN's most recent report on what needs to be done to keep the planet habitable for large mammals like Jeff Goldblum, Malala Yousafzai, the readers of Wonkette, and yes, even Donald Trump. If he hopes to see 2030, though, he should actually follow his doctor's advice and stop polluting his personal ecosystem with Big Macs. As with climate, some damage can't be undone, but healthier habits are needed right now.
The push for a Green New Deal is timely, given the Trump administration's failed attempt to bury last week's quadrennial National Climate Assessment, which warns we can still keep from completely shitting the planetary bed, but we'll need to do more than simply get twisty lightbulbs. Big action is needed, and the goals of the Green New Deal are pretty fucking big. Prepare to have your minds blown (and then recycled):
It's a well-oiled machine.
Yesterday, Melania Trump celebrated World Kindness Day by greeting visitors to the White House.
Then she dispatched her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham to shit-talk to reporters about Deputy National Security Advisor Mira Ricardel and publicly call for her to be You're Fired.
"It is the position of the office of the first lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House."
Kindness is key!
It seems that Ricardel was insufficiently deferential to Her Highness over the use of National Security Council resources for her trip to Africa. FLOTUS wants a plane load of adoring aides to follow along as she poses in a pith helmet with brown babies, and FLOTUS intends to get it!
Open Enrollment for 2019 coverage under Obamacare starts today, and despite all the Trump administration's attempts to kill it, the Affordable Care Act just keeps chugging along. Thanks to the constant efforts to undermine the program (and especially the Supreme Court's decision to let states opt out of Medicaid expansion), the ACA isn't covering as many people as it could have, but there's some definite good news to be found this year. For one thing, Obamacare is still alive and kicking, and most Americans have a far more positive opinion of it than of, say, the Big Fat Tax Cut for Rich Fuckwads. For another, thanks both to the ACA's built-in mechanisms to contain consumer costs, most people who qualify for premium subsidies are still able to find affordable insurance, and after a couple years of uncertainty, insurers are actually finding the marketplace plans still bringing in decent, steady business. So hooray, and make sure you update your coverage if you don't have insurance through work!
You can lead Republicans to context but you can't make them think.
Donald Trump has once again castigated the media for dividing America with all its fake reporting and partisan bias, so it seems like a good opportunity to look at a specific example. Mind you, it's from Trump supporters, so it may not be what the Great Man had in mind, but it's a humdinger for sure. You see, about two weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi sat down for a chat with economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and during a discussion of climate change and the economic impact of addressing it, Pelosi said, yes, certainly, any action to rescue the ecosphere from global warming would have some costs -- which she described as "collateral damage" -- to some people, but pursuing change is worth it nonetheless. True of anything government does, right?
Gee, would you have ever guessed rightwing media have decided Pelosi was actually calling for violence against anyone who dares oppose the murderous Democrat agenda? Nobody could have seen THAT coming! And yesterday, the second-ranked Republican in the US Senate, John Cornyn, passed on that purely bullshit spin and complained that people "across the political spectrum" need to speak more temperately and carefully. Maybe Senator John Cornyn should follow that advice.
Wanna read something REALLY stupid???
The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) isn't usually the sort of crowd you'd assume sounds like Sean Hannity on a bender, but that's only because previous presidents made the mistake of hiring bland grey economists who focused on boring economic stuff, not the perils of the USA suddenly putting Lenin and Mao in charge of national policy, which could totally happen, according to a new 72-page report by Donald Trump's CEA. Titled "The Opportunity Costs of Socialism," the report warns America that while no members of the US political establishment are advocating we adopt collectivized farming, the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, or Hugo Chavez's nationalization of the oil industry, there are definitely some Democrats who'd like Medicare for All, so let's take a look at why Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were total cucks, OK? Also, even more modest socialist-lite systems like those in Scandinavia are bad, because have you seen how expensive owning a pickup truck in Finland is?
We are literally not making this up. The report actually says that. It's like a bunch of frat bros snorted Heritage Foundation white papers and turned in a term paper, only with fewer misspellings. In fact, we can say in all honesty that this is one of the most neatly typed, correctly spelled John Birch Society pamphlets we've ever read. On that measure at least, it's WAY better than a lot of White House output. These economists definitely take pride in their work, because capitalism encourages quality.
Lest you insist we're joking, let's look at this excerpt from pp. 7-8, which proves the links between Marx, Mao, and two Democrats in the US Senate because ALL use the term "exploitation":
It's Trump's bomb, we're just along for the ride.
On Friday, Trump's White House announced it wanted to kill a Soviet-era arms treaty. Over the weekend, people who try to prevent nuclear holocausts noted that this was a bad idea and urged the administration to reconsider. Today, Trump's resident war machine, John Bolton, went to Moscow to formally announce that we're going all-in on the Trump Cold War. Now might be a good time to start practicing that old "duck and cover" routine.
OH, COME ON! Mohammed bin Salman's security chief Saud al-Qahtani SKYPED IN to the attack on Jamal Khashoggi? Reuters reports,
According to one high-ranking Arab source with access to intelligence and links to members of Saudi Arabia's royal court, Qahtani was beamed into a room of the Saudi consulate via Skype.
He began to hurl insults at Khashoggi over the phone. According to the Arab and Turkish sources, Khashoggi answered Qahtani's insults with his own. But he was no match for the squad, which included top security and intelligence operatives, some with direct links to the royal court.
A Turkish intelligence source relayed that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. "Bring me the head of the dog", the Turkish intelligence source says Qahtani instructed.
And then they took Khashoggi's clothes, pasted a fake beard on the body double, and sent him out the back door to wave at cameras all over Istanbul. Meanwhile the autopsy expert, who had packed his lucky bone saw and loaded up his dissection playlist for the trip from Saudi Arabia, got to work. Because Qahtani, MBS's top aide, had asked for Khashoggi's actual head. And pissing off MBS can be really bad for your health. Just ask the dozens of royal cousins who left their fingernails at the Ritz Carlton Riyadh while being convinced to turn assets over to the government. Or the women's rights activists rotting in jail. Or the former Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, who pissed off MBS by failing to sufficiently stand up to Iranian-backed factions in his own country. MBS had him kidnapped and beaten until he agreed to resign on national television. Or ask the prince's own mother, Princess Fahda bint Falah Al Hathleen, who has been kept under house arrest to keep her from warning his father King Salman to rein in his ambitious heir before it's too late. NBC reports that the aging king has been prevented from seeing his wife for two years at least.
A new lawsuit claims Facebook knew damn well what it was breaking, and didn't care.
Recently unveiled documents suggest Facebook was blowing smoke up everyone's ass when it was bragging about the "pivot to video" back in 2016. A small group of advertisers, who already filed a suit against Facebook for unfair business practices, have added a claim of fraud now that internal documents show how badly Facebook was screwing its customers. They accuse Facebook of a "mentality of reckless indifference" that caused businesses to spend more money based on phony reports, even after Facebook's own engineers knew something was broken. It's too bad Facebook already cashed their checks.
They were only trying to make the world a better place ... again ...
Citing anonymous military officials, The New York Times reports the Myanmar military has been using Facebook to push anti-Muslim sentiments that encouraged the country's Buddhist majority to rape and murder the Rohingya people. Facebook admits the military used its platform to kill hundreds of thousands of people in a campaign the UN has called "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing," but Facebook says it was only trying to make the world a better place. Oops.
There were 16 shots and a cover up.
Yesterday, a jury found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the fatal 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Though the trial only lasted a month, it's a case that has left Chicago fractured for years. Activists responded to the verdict by marching downtown during rush hour, snarling traffic and scaring the crap out of tourists. After weeks of awful headlines, for once there's some good news.
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