Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Another Clown Leaves The Circus (UPDATED)

Hope Hicks, the White House communications director and one of President Trump’s longest-serving advisers, said Wednesday that she plans to leave the White House in the coming weeks. 
Ms. Hicks, 29, a former model who joined Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign without any experience in politics, became known as one of the few aides who understood his personality and style and could challenge the president to change his views. [snip] 
Her resignation came a day after she testified for eight hours before the House Intelligence Committee, telling the panel that in her job, she had occasionally been required to tell white lies but had never lied about anything connected to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Despite her assertion that none of her "white lies" were associated with the Russia investigation, Hicks was involved with Rump in drafting the statement misrepresenting the meeting in June 2016 that grease stain Donald Trump, Jr., had at Trump Tower with Russians.  A conspiracy to obstruct justice isn't considered a "white lie." Someone may want to tell Hicks that (or perhaps they did, which might explain the abrupt timing of her departure).

UPDATE: Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog has more detail and background on what might have precipitated Hicks' departure.

(Photo: Hicks with =Hic=.)

Any More Bright Ideas On School Safety?

From the NRA's man in Washington:

Today in Georgia:
How does it go? The only way to stop a bad, very weapons-talented teacher is with a...oh, never mind. 

Firehose Fatigue, Cont.

It's been almost a month, but we're experiencing another bout of "firehose fatigue," that exhausting condition resulting from keeping track of the unprecedented awfulness of the rotted- out regime of Donald "Rump" Trump. We're not alone, though.

Rachel Maddow catalogues just one day of news focused solely on the Trump- Russia scandal, saying
“Each one of them a big enough deal that in any other administration, it would be the focus of months of attention and scandal and congressional investigation, but in this administration, it’s all you can do to finish reading one of the huge scoops that broke this afternoon and this evening before another one comes flying down the barrel right behind it.”
No Rump- ordered action to counteract ongoing Russian cyber warfare on our election systems, Rump naming a person directly involved in his compromised 2016 digital campaign, his former campaign deputy director about to spill the beans to avoid felony charges, etc., etc.

Then we have the ongoing "only the best people" Rump has hired to deconstruct our government. Dana Milbank labored in the swamp and snarked:
Because he has been hiring too few people related by blood, marriage or friendship, he has wound up with unreliable “professionals.” A study by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution found that first-year turnover of senior Trump administration officials was 34 percent, much higher than under any other president in nearly 40 years. 
The obvious solution: more use of the friends-and-family plan. A family-based system may not work for immigration, but it works perfectly for staffing a presidency. I have this from an independent authority: Eric Trump. He said last year that nepotism is “a beautiful thing.”
Rump's jobs- for- friends- and- family efforts have placed a former Rump golf caddy, a former wedding planner, a home improvement contractor, a model and, of course, his incompetent, weaselly children and their incompetent, weaselly spouses in high positions in the government (when they're not grifting or colluding with Russia).

But, the most egregious hire may turn out to be Jared "Mr. Ivanka Trump" Kushner, the callow, entitled princeling who has apparently been the target of foreign governments who want to manipulate him to their advantage.  Republican strategist Rick Wilson lays into Mr. Ivanka Trump:
The knowledge that every foreign intelligence agency in the world saw Kushner’s desperation for cash no doubt set America’s beleaguered counterintelligence community into a state of raw panic. The fact that Kushner is up to his hot-yogaed ass in dealings with Sergei Kislyak and was a key member of the infamous Trump Tower meeting in which Russia offered a quid for a still mysterious quo is just the icing on that cake.
Steven Colbert also had his take on Mr. Ivanka Trump's security clearance issues and the lack of interest on Rump's part to counteract Russian meddling (see post below).

Firehose fatigue is setting in, but we have just enough energy to give you this Tweet from another Republican strategist, Steve Schmidt, reminding us that the rot extends beyond the Rump regime, throughout the Republican Party:

BONUSCharles P. Pierce is living the same Groundhog Day nightmare.

Colbert On Kushner's Security Problems

Last night, Stephen Colbert approached the news of Prince Jared "Mr. Ivanka Trump" Kushner's downgraded security clearance with his special wit. He also looked at the disturbing acknowledgement by the U.S. Cyber Command chief Admiral Mike Rogers that Putin employee Donald "Rump" Trump has failed to direct his organization to step up countermeasures to the Kremlin's continued meddling in our elections.

QOTD: Dick's Says "No Sale" (UPDATED)

When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset. We love these kids and their rallying cry, ‘enough is enough.’ It got to us. We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.” -- Edward Stack, CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods, one of the nation's largest sporting goods stores, announcing that his company will no longer sell military assault-style rifles or high capacity magazines. Stack, the son of Dicks's founder, noted that his store had sold Parkland shooter Nick Cruz a shotgun last year, and while it wasn't used in the shooting:
“But it came to us that we could have been a part of this story. We said, ‘We don’t want to be a part of this any longer.’”
Dick's also released a statement saying they would no longer sell firearms to anyone under 21 years of age and that the company supported a ban on assault-style firearms. Read the full statement here.

UPDATE:  As commenter donnah notes, Dick's suspended sales of assault rifles after the Sandy Hook massacre, only to start selling them again a year later.  We need to make sure this time is different.

Mid-Week Blue Heron Song

Folk / Americana singer and songwriter Sarah Jarosz has been featured here a couple of times before, one time in a duet with another favorite of ours, Allison Krauss. Her musical talent reflects her eclectic background: raised in Texas with country and bluegrass music, and an honors graduate in Contemporary Improvisation from the New England Conservatory of Music. Her album "Undercurrent" won last year's Grammy award for Best Folk Album. Here she and the Punch Brothers perform her beautiful song "Blue Heron," one part of her 30-minute song cycle entitled "The Blue Heron Suite." Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Today's Cartoons - Our Hero!

(click on images to enlarge)

(Ellis Rosen, The New Yorker)

(Nick Anderson, Washington Post Writers Group)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Steve Breen, San Diego Union-Tribune)

Co-Conspirator To Manage Trump's 2020 Campaign (UPDATED)

Even in the delusional, self-contained terrarium of Putin employee Donald "Rump" Trump, his choice to run his 2020 campaign (unless he's impeached and removed first) is jaw-dropping. It's the guy that directed his digital media in 2016: Brad Parscale.  Oh nyet he didn't!

If there's anyone on Rump's 2016 campaign staff that Special Counsel Mueller would like to grill (if he hasn't already), Parscale would probably be in Mueller's top 5. He's closely associated with Cambridge Analytica, a Robert and Rebecca Mercer-funded outfit whose job it is to undermine and generally ratf*ck Dems to the benefit of Mother Russia. He's also an authoritarian, alt-right nut. But Rump is OK with the link to the Russia information warfare scandal since it benefitted him, and that's what's most important.

Some are not sanguine about the choice or the possible outcome:

BONUS: The U.S. Cyber Command chief Admiral Mike Rogers told the Senate today that Rump hasn't ordered any countermeasures against another cyber attack by Moscow. Parscale's job just got easier.

UPDATE:  In addition to Rump, you can judge Parscale by other company he keeps--
The political strategist and online guru who was named President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Tuesday has a close financial relationship with a penny-stock firm with a questionable history that includes longstanding ties to a convicted fraudster, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Witch Feels Mueller's Hot Breath On His Neck

An angry Twit- In- Chief broke out in a cold sweat early this morning:

Consciousness of guilt overwhelming him? Heard Rick Gates likely gave Robert Mueller the goods to get the charges dropped?  More indictments comingHope Hicks testifying to the House Intelligence Committee today? His "I'd be your hero" act getting mocked? Maybe just triggered by fellow "Fox and Friends" nitwits? Your guess is as good as ours.  But, good to know he's all about doing his job!

In the meantime -- thwap:

The Preacher's Inappropriate Honor

Not long after his death last week at the age of 99, it was announced that evangelist Billy Graham would lie in state in the U.S. capitol rotunda, an honor that's never been accorded a religious figure, not even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  One could easily argue that Dr. King was a more worthy, impactful figure to have that honor bestowed upon, but why bestow it on any religious figure in a nation that is supposed to enforce the separation of church and state?

The "why" can best be understood by looking at the governing Rethuglican / New Confederate / Shooter's Party and seeing the way they've harnessed the evangelical right over the last 40 years. Rethuglican social policies are dictated by the most extreme fundamentalists in the evangelical movement (consider Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and son, and Graham's own extremist son Franklin). Billy Graham was in some ways a founding father of the alliance of the Rethuglican Party and evangelical conservatism, starting with his close identification with Richard Nixon, although he at times voiced opposition to his movement aligning with a President or party.

His extremist son Franklin "Graham Crackers" Graham has no such hesitation, and has vigorously identified with the most right-wing political elements of Trumpism:
"But almost two decades ago, Graham handed over the keys of the empire to his son, Franklin. And if you want to chart the troubled recent course of American evangelicalism—its powerful rise after World War II and its surprisingly quick demise in recent years—you need look no further than this father-and-son duo of Billy and Franklin Graham. The father was a powerful evangelist who turned evangelicalism into the dominant spiritual impulse in modern America. His son is—not to put too fine a point on it—a political hack, one who is rapidly rebranding evangelicalism as a belief system marked not by faith, hope, and love but by fear of Muslims and homophobia....Franklin Graham is a very different sort of man, better known today for his right-wing political pronouncements than for his evangelism. Shortly after 9/11, Franklin Graham provided the sound bite of today’s culture wars when he denounced Islam as 'a very wicked and evil religion.' He later became the standard bearer for the view that Islam is, in his words 'a religion of hatred . . . a religion of war.'

In addition to purveying the birther nonsense that helped to propel Donald Trump to political prominence, Franklin Graham suggested that President Barack Obama was not a Christian and might in fact be a secret Muslim. Along with Jerry Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr., he helped to elect Trump president by swinging 80 percent of white evangelical voters to his side. And then when Trump was elected he attributed his victory not to a surge of White Christian support or to swing states in the Midwest but to divine providence." (emphasis added)
So when we see Billy Graham's coffin under the U.S. Capitol rotunda, we see the hand of his son Franklin, his fellow theocrats, and the Rethuglican politicos that are beholden to him and the corrupted pseudo-Christian political movement that they represent.

(hat tip to friend and reader P.E.C.)

"Fake Tough Guy" Trump

Seth Meyers takes "A Closer Look" at Cadet Bone Spurs, the Crackpot Political Action Conference, the NRA, the Florida school massacre and the #NeverAgain movement:

Monday, February 26, 2018

Today's Cartoons - NRA Edition

Reminder that when you think "NRA," remember this.

(click on images to enlarge)

(Stuart Carlson, via

(Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News)

(Patrick Chappatte, New York Times)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

Rump's DACA Dream Dead....For Now

Today's rebuff of sociopathic bigot Donald "Rump" Trump by the Supreme Court over ending DACA protections will assure that, for now, dreamers can continue to apply for renewal applications beyond Rump's self-imposed deadline of March 5. Rump created the problem last fall when he maliciously established March 5 as the termination of DACA protections for hundreds of thousands of dreamers who were brought here by their undocumented parents as children.

Rump had tried to circumvent the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in going directly to the Supreme Court to force DACA to terminate on March 5, arguing that President Obama had instituted dreamer protections illegally. Federal District Judge William Alsup had earlier ruled to the contrary. Now, the question goes to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to uphold Judge Alsup's ruling (which is why Rump's minions tried to go around them). The bottom line is that it will take months -- perhaps a year -- before the case surfaces at the Supreme Court, time for dreamers to apply for renewal applications, and for the rest of us to elect a Dem majority in Congress.

Cadet Bone Spurs -- Live Action Hero! (UPDATED)


And, classic Cadet Bone Spurs:

Hey, but the eagle wasn't armed with an AR-15!

BONUS:  Andy Borowitz headline: Trump Orders Parade to Celebrate His Hypothetical Act of Heroism in Florida School


Ivanka Trump Believes In Daddy!

Asked about her father's disavowal of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, Ivanka Trump said,
"I believe my father, I know my father," she said. "I think I have that right as a daughter, to believe my father."  (our emphasis)
She certainly knows that he's a "hands- on" father (well, since she attained adolescence that is):


Kewl daddy:

Interesting family dynamics.

Monday Reading

As always, please go to the link for the full article.

Surprise, surprise, surprise!
After President Trump signed the Republican tax cut into law, companies put out cheery announcements that they were giving workers bonuses because of their expected windfalls from the tax reductions. The president and Republican lawmakers quickly held up these news releases as vindication for their argument that cutting the top federal corporate tax rate to 21 percent, from 35 percent, would boost workers’ incomes even as it added $1.5 trillion to the debt that future generations would have to pay off. 
Now corporate announcements and analyst reports confirm what honest observers always said — this claim is pure fantasy. As executives tell investors what they intend to do with their tax savings and their spending plans are tabulated into neat charts and graphs, the reports jibe with what most experts said would happen: Companies are rewarding their stockholders. (our emphasis)
Brian Beutler writes about Putin pawn Donald "Rump" Trump's other conspirators in allowing Russians to meddle in the 2016 election:
For more than a year now, people who take things like criminal conspiracies to subvert American elections seriously actually have kicked around whether Obama should have done more before November 2016 to alert the public to the still-unfolding plot. There are fair arguments on both sides of the question, but each has to contend with the fact that Obama knew the Republican congressional leadership—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell most vociferously—would dispute his administration, call the intelligence into question, and accuse Obama of using the country’s vast spying powers to help select his own successor. Obama, rather than Vladimir Putin, would be the meddler in this telling, colluding with Hillary Clinton, against poor Donald Trump. 
This naked subordination by the Republican leadership of every national interest—of fair elections, and protecting the country against the risk of a major party presidential candidate having a corrupt relationship with a hostile power—should have been the source of unending shame since it was first reported in December 2016. But the indictments and the Schiff memo fill out the context in which McConnell and the others intervened to let Russia’s illegal efforts on behalf of Trump continue, and it is even more horrible than we knew(our emphasis)
Lock them up!  Lock them up!

Of course, the Republican conspiracy continues:
Top Republicans on Capitol Hill have made a concerted decision in their Russia inquiries: They are staying away from digging into the finances of President Donald Trump and his family. 
Six Republican leaders of key committees told CNN they see little reason to pursue those lines of inquiry or made no commitments to do so -- even as Democrats say determining whether there was a financial link between Trump, his family, his business and Russians is essential to understanding whether there was any collusion in the 2016 elections.  (our emphasis)
Don't worry.  Special Counsel Mueller has no qualms about following the money.

In "only the best people" news:
The president’s personal pilot is on the administration's short list to head the Federal Aviation Administration. Trump has told a host of administration officials and associates that he wants John Dunkin — his longtime personal pilot, who flew him around the country on Trump Force One during the campaign — to helm the agency, which has a budget in the billions and which oversees all civil aviation in the United States. 
What I'm hearing: One industry insider equated this to the Seinfeld episode when Cosmo Kramer used his golf caddy as a jury consultant...  (our emphasis)
Apologies to Kramer for any comparison to Rump!

Lastly, for an enjoyable collection of information running the full gamut, we again recommend the link round-up at Infidel 753.

Today's Tomorrow Cartoon - "Post-Traumatic Discourse"

BTW, the slapdick in the first frame is New York Times house conservative David Brooks.

(click on image to enlarge)

(Tom Tomorrow, via Daily Kos)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Across The Universe, Cont.

(click on image to enlarge)

From NASA/ ESA, April 20, 2011: This image of a pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273 was released to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the launch of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

The distorted shape of the larger of the two galaxies shows signs of tidal interactions with the smaller of the two. It is thought that the smaller galaxy has actually passed through the larger one.

Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Trump's Poll Numbers Slide To Low Point

In the latest CNN poll conducted by research firm SSRS, sociopathic demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump's approval rating has dropped 5 points since just last month, tying his lowest level since he took office. Despite receiving a ratings bump last month connected with good economic news, only 35% approve of his performance now ("you can fool some of the people all of the time...."):
"The findings follow several weeks of sharply negative news about the President's White House staff, including the revelation that several key staffers lacked permanent security clearance, the implementation of a new policy to handle interim security clearances, and news that multiple White House staffers had resigned following accusations of domestic abuse."
The poll was conducted from February 20 - 23, as the aftermath of the school massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was unfolding:
"While the poll was in the field, much of the President's public agenda focused on gun laws, an area where the poll finds Trump earns mostly negative reviews. Just a third of Americans approve of his handling of gun policy, 54% disapprove and another 12% say they have yet to make up their minds." (emphasis added)
Let's work hard to make his approval numbers worse.

The Plutocrats' Latest Assault On Labor

Tomorrow, the rightist Supreme Court is schedule to hear oral arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) over whether public unions can collect union dues / fees from employees who do not wish to join the union, despite the fact that they benefit from union collective bargaining for better wages and benefits. The Janus side is heavily bankrolled by far-right plutocrats Charles and David Koch, and the Bradley Foundation, among others, who have been engaged in union-busting for decades, pushing such policies as "right to work (for less) laws", so as to weaken labor's role in standing up to their corporate greed.

While the suit aims at AFSCME, it also means to undermine one of the Democratic Party's grass roots strengths in fundraising, canvassing and getting out the vote: public unions.
"The idea that draining power from unions can enervate other progressive movements is not an idle one. A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that right-to-work laws that limit unions at state level, in much the same way that the Janus lawsuit would do nationally, have suppressed the Democratic party’s share of the presidential vote by 3.5%"
The ripple effect on the labor movement by ruling in favor of the plutocrats regarding public unions can't be understated: public unions count for roughly half of all organized labor.
"What is at stake is 'more than just the ability to collect dues,' says Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice, a coalition group that is helping organize the mobilization. An adverse ruling would 'fundamentally weaken the institutions of labor … one of the most organized and successful institutions that represents working people in our economy and our democracy.'”
The rightist Supreme Court has invariably sided with corporate interests since it's had a Rethuglican majority, and it's expected to rule in June against public labor unions. All the more reason that progressives in this country need to organize, mobilize and vote to make sure that not only Congress is flipped, along with the White (Supremacist) House, but that new vacancies on the Court are filled by progressives.

Sunday Reflection - On Mental Health

"... It is bad enough that malevolent online hoaxers make it difficult to tell the difference between fact and fiction, but when you no longer care about discerning that difference, when truth matters less to you than protecting your political turf, you are a virus in the body politic of a democratic nation. You are an infection that threatens the ability of free people to understand their world and make competent decisions about it."  -- Leonard Pitts, Jr., on the 42 percent (!) of Republicans who, in a study by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, "said they always regard as “fake news” accurate news stories that cast a favored politician or group in a negative light." 

Or, as Pitts says, they're "out of their damn minds."

The Bastards Behind The NRA

When you consider the enduring power of the National Rifle Rampage Association to frustrate the will of the majority of the American people who want sensible gun control legislation, you rightly consider the effect of millions of dollars being funneled into the pockets of Republican office holders. You also may think of the single- issue gun humpers whose outsized influence causes craven Republican (and your occasional "Democrat") to cower in fear.

But also consider this:  the NRA is a lobbying organization that fronts for those who profit from the glut of weaponry in America today, especially those who live the good life while their war weapons are used over and over again for mass murder.  The real bastards the NRA shields are the gun manufacturers, and there are several great reads about these "merchants of death."

Back in 2016, Mother Jones' Josh Harkinson investigated the hidden world of the 10 biggest gun manufacturers in America, the bastards behind the NRA.  It's a must- read if you're interested in getting to the sources of the gun misery in America:
They are all white, all middle-aged, and all men. A few live openly lavish lifestyles, but the majority fly under the radar. Rarely is there news about them in the mainstream media or even the trade press. Their obscurity would seem unremarkable if we were talking about the biggest manufacturers of auto accessories or heating systems. But these are America’s top gunmakers—leaders of the nation’s most controversial industry. They have kept their heads down and their fingerprints off regulations designed to protect their businesses—foremost a law that shields gun companies from liability for crimes committed with their products. [snip] 
Many of these companies’ top executives have donned the jacket bestowed to members of the Golden Ring of Freedom, an exclusive club for $1 million-plus donors to the National Rifle Association. Several have been the focus of criminal investigations and lawsuits over everything from arms trafficking and fraud to armed robbery and racketeering.
Sturm Ruger, for example:
... Sturm Ruger CEO Michael Fifer lobbied personally against a Connecticut ban on high-capacity magazines, commonly used with the company’s semi-automatic rifles. “The regulation of magazine capacity will not deter crime, but will instead put law-abiding citizens at risk of harm,” Fifer wrote to state lawmakers in early 2011. The legislation died in committee that April. At the NRA’s annual Corporate Executives Luncheon the next year, Fifer presented a check to the group for more than $1.25 million—$1 for every Sturm Ruger gun purchased the prior year. Eight months later, 20-year-old Adam Lanza used a semi-auto­matic rifle and a 30-round magazine to gun down 20 children and six adults at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, located just 27 miles from Sturm Ruger’s headquarters.  
In the year following the shooting, Sturm Ruger’s profits increased 56 percent. Fifer’s compensation that year was more than $2.6 million. He sits on the board of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a lobby group based in Newtown and run by former Sturm Ruger executive Steve Sanetti. Sturm Ruger’s largest shareholders are mutual fund giant Vanguard Group and a private investment firm, London Company of Virginia, which has assets worth $10.6 billion, including holdings in ammunition, cigarettes, missiles, and caskets.
Ammunition, cigarettes, missiles and caskets. Looks like London Co. has you covered.

Michael Daly at the Daily Beast focuses on the CEO whose company is responsible for the war weapon used in the Florida high school shooting, and drives home the point that sludge like the NRA's Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch are just human shields:
All the scorn and invective prompted by LaPierre and Loesch only means that they are doing their job and that the NRA is earning the millions in contributions it receives from the gun companies. 
Proof that the NRA earns its big bucks from the gun industry comes if you ask survivors about James Debney. 
A quick Google search shows that P. James Debney is the CEO and president of American Outdoor Brands, which until last year was named Smith & Wesson. 
By whatever name, the company Debney heads manufactured the AR-15 assault rifle that Cruz used to kill 14 Stoneman High students and three staff members. 
LaPierre and Loesch are just mouthpieces and the NRA is just an industry shill. 
Debney and American Outdoor Brands actually made and marketed the monstrously lethal murder weapon.
 Of course, P. James is a well- compensated sociopath:
Debney earns more than $5 million a year in what the Stoneman High survivors would no doubt consider blood money. He owns a large tract of land in Hemden, Massachusetts, not far from the company headquarters in Springfield. 
The property includes a riding facility, for Debney’s daughter is said to be something of a prodigy equestrian. Debney’s wife, Karen, is so dedicated that she reportedly drives their daughter seven hours each way on the weekends to work with a top trainer in Maryland. 
The daughter—who seems to be an altogether nice kid—won a big championship in October, when she was just 13. Had she been living in Florida rather than Massachusetts and were she a student at Stoneman High, she could have been in the freshman building on Valentine’s Day when one of daddy Debney's modern sporting rifles proved so murderously reliable. 
But hey, business is business. 
And those were somebody else’s kids.
The current effort to get companies to stop doing business with the NRA should continue, but has to go to the next level -- pressure on mutual funds and investment companies to divest their interests in these merchants of death, especially those that produce the automatic rifles. As long as the NRA is allowed to solely absorb the punishment it rightfully deserves without the bastards behind them being impacted, it will be business as usual with these sociopaths.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Democratic Response To Nunes Memo Released

Without further ado, here's the link (pdf) to the Democrats' response to the Nunes/ Republican memo which smeared the FBI's and Justice Department's roles in investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The 10- page memo was significantly redacted.

Here's a quick overview:
In their now-public retort, Democrats charge that the GOP unfairly attempted to malign the FBI and the Justice Department for including information from the author of a now-famous dossier alleging President Trump had ties to Russian officials in an application to surveil Carter Page, one of Trump’s former campaign advisers. [snip] 
But according to the Democrats’ memo, Page’s Russia ties had already captured the attention of federal law enforcement agencies. The FBI interviewed Page about his “Russian intelligence contacts” in March of 2016, the memo states — the same month he was named as a Trump campaign adviser, and months before Steele as hired to conduct research on Trump or first made contact with the FBI. 
The court was also told that Steele had been approached by a “U.S. person” who had been hired “to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia,” according to a portion of the surveillance applications contained in the Democrats’ memo. 
“The FBI speculates that the U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit candidate 1’s campaign,” the application says.
Any fair reading of the Democratic memo makes it clear Republicans were desperate to give the impression of impropriety in the way information was presented to the FISA court to get surveillance warrants. It also gives the lie to Republican attempts to identify the "Steele dossier" as the impetus for the FISA application.

Let's see how the facts play out in the media -- whether the information is conveyed without a "he said/ she said" spin that gives the impression that "both sides" have equally valid positions, or have been equally honest in their presentation of "facts."

(Ed. note:  if the report on tonight's "NBC Nightly News" is any indication, Democrats lost this round; they gave Nunes a couple of one-liners, quoted a Trump tweet, and gave Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier and Adam Schiff barely a word explaining what the Democrats were rebutting. Maybe they should turn over their communication rapid response to the Florida high school massacre survivors. "Democracy dies in darkness" my ass.)

Today Cartoon Threefer - Arming Teachers Edition

Because it's a cartoonish idea.

(click on images to enlarge)

(Steve Benson, The Arizona Republic)

(Walt Handelsman, The Advocate - New Orleans)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

"Mr. Conservative" (For Now)

On display at CPAC was the utter hypocrisy, dishonesty and tribalism of "conservative" Trumpists, whose mantra during their Tea Party incarnation was "deficits deficits." who deplored Obama's Executive Orders as "unconstitutional," who cloaked themselves in political evangelicalism, who honored the service of veterans like John McCain, who were historically hostile to Moscow, who demanded "free trade," who went after any and all Dems for their moral failings, etc. etc. See you in a few years (or less) when you turn on Cadet Bone Spurs.

Smear Of CNN Busted

Apparently, there was at least one parent of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student who was willing to use the massacre to smear CNN in service of pushing an NRA/ Trump talking point. Looks like someone got caught lying:
CNN released emails from a network producer on Friday that appear to contradict a Florida high school student's claim that the network scripted a question that he was supposed to ask at a televised town hall event this week.  
Colton Haab, a survivor of last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., said Thursday on Fox News that CNN had initially asked him to "write a speech and ask questions” for the event but that a producer ultimately scripted a question for him. CNN has denied that claim. 
According to Business Insider, CNN and Haab agreed on the question that he would ask at the town hall. His father, Glenn Haab, pulled his son out of the event after the network refused to let the student read a lengthy speech at the event.
The Haabs' also appeared to provide doctored emails to media outlets to back up the claim that CNN scripted the questions, Business Insider reported. CNN's version of the email showed that the producer wrote she wanted the student to stick to a question "that he submitted," but that phrase was omitted in the version released by the family. (our emphasis)
Apparently, the "speech" that CNN actually told young Haab not to give was an elaboration on the statement/ question Haab had submitted himself, and which was to be directed to Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. The statement/ question was,
"Senator Nelson, if Coach Feis had had his firearm in the school that day, I believe that he could have most likely stopped the threat. Have we thought about having a class for teachers who are willing to be armed trained (sic) to carry on campus?" (our emphasis)
Does that idea sound familiar?

Hmmm. The NRA works fast, doesn't it?  Sounds like they got their talking points to Daddy Haab, then he got his son on Fox "News" to smear CNN and the whole movement being led by young Haab's more woke fellow students.

But, hey, mission accomplished!  The intent was to get the smear out there to undercut a legitimate news source and the student movement, and at least one sleazy nitwit was happy to catapult the bullshit far and wide:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Tweet, Twit, Thwap - The Kids Are Alright Edition

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivor's Tweet:

"Anne Coulter without the Adam's apple" Laura Ingraham's Twit:
And the coup de grace:

Weekend Music Twofer

F.O.B. and longtime friend P.E.C. suggested a timely song for this weekend's music, Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," written by Stephen Stills about the Sunset Strip curfew riots in late 1966 and released in 1967.  It's since been channeled into any number of protest movements, and could well serve as an anthem for the emerging gun control movement being led by woke and courageous teenagers following the Florida school massacre:

Our second selection was suggested by Silver Spring Bureau Chief and blog musical curator Brian. It's the Ramones' catchy New York punk/ power pop "Don't Come Close," released in 1978 as part of their "Road to Ruin" album. Hope you enjoy your weekend.

Gates Pleading Guilty, Cooperating With Mueller (UPDATED)

After being hit with dozens of new charges earlier this week, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort's business partner and deputy Trump campaign manager, has announced that he will cooperate with Robert Mueller's investigation and plead guilty to two criminal counts, conspiracy against the U.S. and making false statements to Federal agents, as outlined in an unsealed "Superseding Criminal Information" document submitted to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Gates is scheduled to enter his plea of guilty at 2 p.m. today in Federal court. This agreement should yield a bounty of information on the Trump campaign's dealings with Russian government agents.

UPDATE:  It also appears from the charges that Putin's favorite Congressman/ go-between may be in deep borscht.

Companies Dumping Their NRA Links (UPDATED)

After years and years of mounting mass shootings with semi-automatic assault rifles, the National Rifle Rampage Association remains defiant and opposed to any meaningful gun control legislation that would affect gun sales. Listening to the NRA's chief weapons salesman and bloody lunatic Wayne "Bad Guy With A Gun" La Pierre yesterday at the CPAC wingnut wingding, after his name checking of Saul Alinsky, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, Hollywood "elites" (what, no International Jewish Conspiracy?), etc. etc., one was reminded of the unhinged Howard Beale character in the movie "Network." The faux outrage, the web of crazy conspiracies, the fictional multitude of "enemies" undermining every right under the Constitution. All that was needed for the flailing La Pierre was a dirty trench coat and a tin foil hat.

Fortunately, some companies are sensing the movement of public opinion away from absolutist crazies like La Pierre and his NRA. In the past, an NRA membership would get you discounts on car rentals, insurance, and other services, much like a membership in AAA and AARP. That's changing. Three car rental companies -- National, Enterprise, and Alamo -- have dropped their affiliation, as well as a major bank card company, First National Bank of Omaha. But there are still companies affiliated with the NRA's membership program, as this graphic demonstrates (click to enlarge):

Diana Ofosu, Think Progress

Mounting pressure needs to be brought on the remaining companies to distance themselves from the gun manufacturers' lobby. The NRA has become a toxic brand, and companies as well as politicians need to beware of associating with them.

UPDATE:  MetLife, Chubb, Symantec and SimpliSafe just bailed.  If you want to sign DailyKos' petition, go here.

UPDATE II:  Here's the latest graphic for comparison --

(photo: La Pierre on covers of the NY Daily News and NY Post after the Sandy Hook massacres)

NRA- Bought Sen. Marco Rubio Not Popular With This Crowd

Steven Colbert covers Sen. Marco "Glug Glug" Rubio's (R- NRA) appearance at a town hall event the other day (and also scorches some in the media giving him credit for "showing up").  Li'l Marco received $3.2 million from the National Rifle Rampage Association during his 2016 run for the Senate and has an "A+" rating from the rampagers.

Quote Of The Day - Unimpressed

He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up...Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life.”  -- Samantha Fuentes, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, after receiving a call in the hospital from narcissistic sociopath Donald "Rump" Trump.  Ms. Fuentes is recovering from wounds suffered during the school massacre.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Republican Sex Blotter -- Sex, Lies And Blackmail Edition (UPDATED)

Back in January, we noted the sex and blackmail scandal in which rising Republican reprobate Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri was embroiled.  Today, it became very real for the tea baggin', Trump- supporting guv:
A St. Louis Grand Jury has indicted Missouri Governor Eric Greitens for Felony Invasion of Privacy. The charge stems from his extramarital affair with a Missouri woman who later told her ex-husband that Greitens tied her up and photographed her, without her permission, and threatened to release the photo if she ever came forward about their relationship.

The FBI is reportedly investigating the blackmail allegation made by Greitens' former mistress, with whom the married governor was having an affair before he was elected by the fine mouth- breathers of Missouri.

(Photo: Gov. Greitens, family man - Republican style)

Tweets Of The Day - Kids, Crackpots And The NRA

Meanwhile, at the annual Crackpot Political Action Conference:
Why, yes, we think it is.

And now a few words from a Real President of the United States:

"We've been waiting for you." Now you and American women will be the catalysts to lead us out of this swamp we've been in since January 2017.

Rump's "Modest" Proposal: Guns Guns Everywhere!

Not hearing the voices of the students and parents impacted by gun violence in schools at yesterday's photo op, neo-fascist demagogue and puppet of the National Rifle Rampage Association Donald "Rump" Trump went full metal wingnut on the absurd concept that teachers should be armed, deputized guards to deter deranged shooters armed with military-style assault weapons. Wait, aren't they supposed to be teaching, and aren't local law enforcement supposed to be the guardians?

Rump's inane proposal went even beyond his NRA handlers' position. He wants to arm thousands upon thousands of teachers -- with concealed carry handguns, no less -- and suggested paying them a "small" bonus to do that. Imagine the confusion and collateral damage when you have a dozen teachers firing at....other teachers or innocent students in the panic and chaos. Here's Rump from White (Supremacist) press pool notes this afternoon:
“You can’t hire enough security guards … Your need 100, 150 security guards … But you can have concealed on the teachers.”
You can't hire enough security guards? We thought Rump revered local law enforcement; why not give them the task of protecting schools? The answer is that it won't stop someone from using an easily-purchased AR-15 or Bushmaster-style weapon, someone carrying an AR-15 and wearing body armor who is determined to settle some score or another, cops or no cops. It's the guns, stupid.

Yesterday's photo op/"listening" event was simply a diversionary script that the NRA is pushing: thoughts and prayers, address mental health issues, "harden" schools (what do you do about hardening churches, concert venues, malls, etc.?), but nothing about the common instrument in all of the carnage, namely, military style assault weapons that are meant for the battlefield, not for the public.

Colbert Takes On Trump's Infidelities

Stephen Colbert provides a humorous antidote to the toxic White (Supremacist) House diversions over gun safety policies, where they've essentially let the National Rifle Rampage Association write their script. Degenerate sociopath Donald "Rump" Trump's tawdry extramarital sexual escapades and more serious sexual abuses of women will always stand as a symbol of his profound unfitness for public office.

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

(Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Do We Need To Show Empathy And Respect For Shootin' Snowflakes? Nah!

Driftglass has a searing takedown of David "Bobo"Brooks' much- mocked op/ ed telling us non- gun- humpers to be more respectful of gun humpers as a prelude to a dialogue on gun control. Brooks has a long history of divining what "Real America" has on its mind and what is "moral," which miraculously always aligns with Brooks' and his plutocrat audience's views and inclinations (as Driftglass demonstrates once again).

Not naming names, but clearly referencing Bobo, E.J. Dionne, Jr., wonders why gun humpers are to be endlessly indulged to the detriment of our society:
Supporters of even modest restrictions on firearms are regularly instructed that their ardent advocacy turns off Americans in rural areas and small towns. Those in favor of reforming our firearms laws are scolded as horrific elitists who disrespect a valued way of life. 
And as the mass killings continue, we are urged to be patient and to spend our time listening earnestly to the views of those who see even a smidgen of action to limit access to guns as the first step toward confiscation. Our task is not to fight for laws to protect innocents, but to demonstrate that we really, honestly, truly, cross-our-hearts, positively love gun owners and wouldn’t for an instant think anything ill of them. 
What is odd is that those with extreme pro-gun views — those pushing for new laws to allow people to carry just about anytime, anywhere — are never called upon to model similar empathy toward children killed, the mourning parents left behind, people in urban neighborhoods suffering from violence, or the majority of Americans who don’t own guns. [snip]
How come only one side of the supposed culture war on guns is required to exude respect for the other? Because the culture-war argument is largely a gimmick pushed by the gun lobby as a way of demonizing its opponents. None of us who endorse stronger gun laws wants to disrupt anybody else’s way of life. And none of the measures we are proposing would do that.  (our emphasis)
For anyone foolish enough to think narcissistic sociopath Donald "Rump" Trump's directing Confederate States Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to propose regulations banning "bump stocks," here's a reality check:
Trump’s memo calls on the Department of Justice to try to ban these devices. 
There’s a big question, however, whether this would be possible. The Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) already initiated the rule-making process for potentially banning bump stocks late last year. But they concluded at the time that federal law likely does not allow them to ban bump stocks and other similar devices by themselves — meaning they would likely need Congress to pass a new law to act. 
If this holds up, Trump’s memo will essentially have no effect — since federal agencies simply won’t be able to ban bump stocks. Although Congress could still ban the devices through new legislation.  (our emphasis)
You can easily see that this has been set up to provide the appearance of action to ride out the current firestorm; that the National Rifle Rampage Association supports this Potemkin approach rather than legislation tells you all you need to know about its sincerity.

It's being said that, thanks to the outrage and moral courage of teenagers (think about that -- teenagers) across the country, we may be at an inflection point.  But, as with our ongoing struggle with reactionaries, the only way any victory can be achieved will be through the ballot box, not just this November, but in every election -- Federal, State, local -- that follows until these NRA Republican stooges are gone.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"Message: I Hear You"

In a moment reminiscent of George H.W. Bush's "Message: I care" moment, rotted- out shell Donald "Rump" Trump apparently had to be reminded to act like he was listening sympathetically at his White (Supremacist) House "listening session" today with people impacted by gun violence at schools:

A few selected thoughts from the Twitterverse:

Confidant Of Bibi's Turns State's Witness

In an unexpected turn of events, Shlomo Filber, a close confidant of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Bibi "Bomb Bomb" Netanyahu is cooperating with police in the bribery case against Netanyahu. Filber, the former director of the Communications Ministry, will testify that Israeli's largest telecommunications company Bezeq Telecom received regulatory favors from Netanyahu's government in exchange for favorable coverage of Netanyahu on its media outlets. Filber is the first in Netanyahu's inner circle to break ranks, but may not be the only one. This case is only part of the scandals involving him and bribery and influence peddling.

The next step is for their Attorney-General to decide whether or not to accept the charges against Netanyahu. Not surprisingly, Netanyahu is calling the charges against him a "witch hunt," echoing his best buddy and fellow corrupt right-winger Donald "Rump" Trump's references to Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

(photo: Platon, Vanity Fair)