Tuesday ReadsPosted: August 29, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Claude Taylor, Donald Trump, Felix Sater, Houston flooding, Hurricane Harvey, Japan, Joe Arpaio, John Bolton, Louise Mensch, North Korea, Trump Russia investigation 112 Comments
I feel like a zombie this morning. I’ve been house-sitting for my brother for the past two weeks, and it has been somewhat disorienting. I’m finally going to go back home sometime this afternoon. I guess my state of mind is a combination of being away from home and following the constant breaking news that never seems to end. I don’t even know where to begin today.
You’ve probably already heard the latest news: Hurricane Harvey is still raging; Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio; Trump is on his way to Texas; Multiple Russia stories broke yesterday and over the weekend; North Korea launched a missile that flew over Japan; Trump threatened North Korea again; and multiple Trump advisers have been dissing him.
The remainder of photos in this post are from the Houston disaster.
Links to recent stories in case you missed them:
New Yorker: Hurricane Harvey and Public and Private Disaster in Houston, by Jia Tolentino.
Washington Post: Harvey takes aim at Louisiana as Trump plans to survey stricken Texas.
Forbes: Hurricane Harvey Greatly Complicates The Government Shutdown Calculation.
Politico: How Washington Made Harvey Worse.
HuffPost: Trump Defends Pardoning Joe Arpaio During Hurricane, Saying He Did It For ‘The Ratings.’
ABC News: Already-pardoned Arpaio asks judge to undo conviction.
NBC News: Mueller Team Asking if Trump Tried to Hide Purpose of Trump Tower Meeting.
Washington Post: Top Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal.
New York Times: Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected.’
ABC News: Trump signed ‘letter of intent’ for Russian tower during campaign, lawyer says.
CNN: Trump says ‘all options on table’ after North Korea launches missile over Japan.
The Guardian: Trump and Abe vow to increase pressure after North Korea fires missile over Japan.
Advisers Dissing Trump
New York Times: Does Trump Represent U.S. Values? ‘The President Speaks for Himself,’ Tillerson Says.
Bustle: What James Mattis Implied About Trump & His Inability To Inspire Is Unprecedented.
Politico: Trump unusually silent after aides challenge him.
More interesting stories
The Guardian: Lurid Trump allegations made by Louise Mensch and co-writer came from hoaxer.
Explosive allegations about Donald Trump made by online writers with large followings among Trump critics were based on bogus information from a hoaxer who falsely claimed to work in law enforcement.
Claude Taylor tweeted fake details of criminal inquiries into Trump that were invented by a source whose claim to work for the New York attorney general was not checked, according to emails seen by the Guardian. The allegations were endorsed as authentic and retweeted by his co-writer Louise Mensch.
The source’s false tips included an allegation, which has been aggressively circulated by Mensch and Taylor, that Trump’s inactive fashion model agency is under investigation by New York authorities for possible sex trafficking.
The hoaxer, who fed the information to Taylor by email, said she acted out of frustration over the “dissemination of fake news” by Taylor and Mensch. Their false stories about Trump have included a claim that he was already being replaced as president by Senator Orrin Hatch in a process kept secret from the American public.
“Taylor asked no questions to verify my identity, did no vetting whatsoever, sought no confirmation from a second source – but instead asked leading questions to support his various theories, asking me to verify them,” the source said in an email.
After being approached for comment by the Guardian on Monday, Taylor posted what he described as a “mea culpa” on Twitter. “As a ‘citizen journalist’ I acknowledge my error and do apologize,” he wrote.
Mensch denied using the bogus information and said her allegations about Trump’s model agency came from her own sources. Asked why she had retweeted Taylor’s false posts, Mensch said: “I don’t think anybody can vet anybody else’s sources.”
Read the rest at the Guardian. LOL!
Bloomberg: Trump Punishes Longtime Aide After Angry Phoenix Speech, Sources Say.
Donald Trump was in a bad mood before he emerged for a confrontational speech in Arizona last week.
TV and social media coverage showed that the site of his campaign rally, the Phoenix Convention Center, was less than full. Backstage, waiting in a room with a television monitor, Trump was displeased, one person familiar with the incident said: TV optics and crowd sizes are extremely important to the president.
As his surrogates warmed up the audience, the expanse of shiny concrete eventually filled in with cheering Trump fans. But it was too late for a longtime Trump aide, George Gigicos, the former White House director of advance who had organized the event as a contractor to the Republican National Committee. Trump later had his top security aide, Keith Schiller, inform Gigicos that he’d never manage a Trump rally again, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Gigicos, one of the four longest-serving political aides to the president, declined to comment.
Hahahahahahaha! You may have seen on Twitter that the Trump people may have even advertised on Craigslist for paid actors to come to the rally, and still the space that holds only 5,000 was half-full.
Other sources claimed the ads were fake, but still funny, IMHO.
Sean Illing at Vox: 10 legal experts on why Trump can’t pardon his way out of the Russia investigation.
Last Friday, President Trump pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt after ignoring a court order to cease his signature immigration roundups but hadn’t yet been sentenced. Trump ignored the court’s judgment and ended the case without any formal Justice Department review.
To some, Trump’s decision is a sign that he’s preparing — or at least willing — to pardon people associated with the growing investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. Robert Bauer, a law professor at New York University and former White House counsel to President Obama, argued in the Washington Post that the pardon may be a “test run for shutting down the Russia investigation.”
I reached out to 10 legal experts and asked them if the Arpaio decision is a signal of how Trump might seek to undercut the Russia investigation. I also asked what it would mean for the investigation if Trump pardoned key players in the scandal like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, or Jared Kushner before any of them could be convicted.
While it’s impossible to predict what Trump will do, nearly all the experts I spoke to agree on one thing: If Trump does use his pardoning powers to thwart the Russia investigation, it’s very likely to backfire.
If someone like Flynn or Kushner were preemptively pardoned, he wouldn’t be able to plead the Fifth Amendment if he were called to testify against Trump. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens against self-incrimination. But if someone has been pardoned, they no longer face the threat of prosecution, and so they can’t use a desire to avoid incriminating themselves as an excuse not to answer a question.
So in addition to potentially obstructing justice, Trump would only leave himself — and his colleagues — more vulnerable if he decided to pardon anyone currently under investigation. Of course, that doesn’t mean he won’t pull the trigger anyway. But he might want to think long and hard about the implications before he does.
Read more at Vox.
Trump biographer Tim O’Brien: Felix Sater Is a Lean, Mean Trump-Russia Machine.
Felix Sater is back, and making it even more difficult for President Donald Trump to write off questions about his ties to Russia.
Among the many characters who have populated Trump’s checkered history in real estate, Sater is the guy with one of the diciest resumes. A career criminal with ties to both organized crime and federal law enforcement, he partnered with Trump for years on a series of high-profile and unsuccessful real estate deals, including the Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.
On Monday, the New York Times and the Washington Post disclosed a series of emails involving Sater’s efforts in 2015 and 2016 to help the Trump Organization build a Trump Tower knock-off in Moscow. There’s is a little hitch that makes that noteworthy: Trump was also running for president at the time.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email to Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2015. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
According to Bloomberg News, Cohen recently told a congressional committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia that he debriefed Trump three times about the Moscow deal. But Cohen apparently had a different impression than Sater of the value of the deal, telling congressional investigators that it “was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.”
Head over to Bloomberg to read the rest.
One more from Politico: Bolton writes in op-ed he can’t get in to see Trump anymore.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton once enjoyed regular access to President Donald Trump, but can no longer get a hearing with him. “I requested a meeting with him and I was turned down,” Bolton told POLITICO, though he declined to offer further details.
Bolton went public with his complaint in an op-ed published Monday in National Review in which he laid out a blueprint to exit the Iran nuclear deal because he couldn’t deliver it to the president himself….
Bolton said in his op-ed that “staff changes” now prevent him from seeing the president. He wrote that although former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon had asked him to draw up a plan to extricate the United States from the Iran deal in late July, that plan never made it to Trump’s desk after Bannon was fired earlier this month.
Given news reports that the president was reluctant to recertify the nuclear agreement — and that the president asked to see additional options — Bolton is raising an eyebrow about why his plan wasn’t considered.
“The idea was I would go see him and, you know, the timing of the certification decision and Reince Priebus’s firing were not far apart,” he said. Priebus’s replacement as White House chief of staff, John Kelly, has limited the number of visitors to the Oval Office.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Lazy Saturday Reads: A News Dump From Hell As Monster Hurricane HitsPosted: August 26, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: ACLU, DACA program, Donald Trump, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Dreamers, Hurricane Harvey, Joe Arpaio, Michael Flynn, Nazis, Paul Manafort, Racism, Robert Mueller, Russia investigation, Sebastian Gorko, Trump's transgender ban 37 Comments
I’m getting the feeling that Trump realizes his days as “president” are numbered, and he has decided to do as much evil as he possibly can while he’s still in power.
Last night, while the decent people in the country were focused on the devastating hurricane approaching Texas, Trump overwhelmed our concern for our fellow Americans with a Friday news dump from hell.
He signed an order to prevent transgender people from serving in the military and ordered that any medical care being provided to transgender individuals already serving be stopped.
The New York Times: Trump Gives Mattis Wide Discretion Over Transgender Ban.
President Trump signed a long-awaited directive on Friday that precludes transgender individuals from joining the military but gives Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wide discretion in determining whether those already in the armed forces can continue to serve.
Mr. Mattis’s decisions will be based on several criteria, including military effectiveness and budgetary concerns, a senior White House official said in briefing reporters.
Left unclear was how many of the thousands of transgender service personnel estimated to be in the military might keep serving. By putting the onus on Mr. Mattis, the president appeared to open the door to allowing at least some transgender service members to remain in the military.
Dana W. White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, said that Mr. Mattis had received the guidance but did not indicate how he would proceed.
Soon after that news broke, the White House announced that Trump had pardoned evil racist former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Slate: Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is a Clear and Ugly Message to Hispanic Americans.
On Friday night, minutes before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, Donald Trump issued the first presidential pardon of his administration to Joe Arpaio, the longtime Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff whose record of proudly tough, sometimes brutal, and ultimately illegal policing of Latino immigrants made him among the nation’s most admired and reviled lawmen.
In 2011, a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop targeting Latino drivers. He refused. In July, a judge found he had willingly resisted that order, and could serve up to six months in jail for criminal contempt. He had yet to be sentenced, and the pardon ends the possibility that the 85-year-old Arpaio will see jail time.
In a tightly worded two-paragraph statement, Trump praised Arpaio’s “admirable service to our nation.” The statement doesn’t mention his conviction, or the various human rights scandals that plagued his 24-year tenure as the sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county, which includes Phoenix. The county spent tens of millions defending Arpaio in court from various charges and settling cases resulting from inhumane jail conditions.
“Pardoning Joe Arpaio is a slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton wrote on Friday night. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio targeted and terrorized Latino families because of the color of their skin. He was ordered by a federal judge to stop and he refused. He received a fair trial and a justifiable conviction, and there’s nothing the President can do to change that awful legacy and the stain he had left on our community.”
I also highly recommend reading this Slate piece on Trump’s suggestion he would pardon Arpaio by Mark Joseph Stern, written Aug. 15: White Nationalist Rule Is Already Here.
As a number of people have pointed out, Trump’s pardon of Arpaio is also a further attack on the judiciary by a lawless “president.” He went ahead with the pardon without even consulting the Justice Department. Others have noted that this action by Trump sends a message to all his criminal cronies that they can lie to the FBI and Special Counsel Mueller and in return he will pardon them.
The news dump also included the “resignation” of White House Nazi Sebastian Gorka.
CNN: Sebastian Gorka gone from White House.
Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken and combative defender of President Donald Trump’s national security agenda, has left his position as a White House counterterrorism adviser, two administration officials told CNN.
The news, which came late Friday evening, was widely expected in the West Wing, which has now seen high-profile departures on successive Fridays for several weeks.Gorka was one of Trump’s most prominent cheerleaders, frequently hitting the airwaves to defend the President’s policies and public statements.But his role outside of television hits was unclear. He did not play a major policymaking role, according to administration officials, and was not a member of the National Security Council.
Two White House Nazis down (Bannon and Gorka), two more to go–Stephen Miller and Trump.
It looks like Trump also plans to end Obama’s program to help immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
NBC News: Trump Likely to End DACA Immigrant Program.
President Donald Trump appears likely to pull the plug on DACA, the Obama-era program allowing young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children to remain here, several government officials said Friday.
Administration officials said Friday that the Homeland Security secretary, Elaine Duke, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed the program with senior officials Thursday during a meeting at the White House. Sessions has been a consistent opponent of the program.
As many as 1 million immigrants could be affected.
Trump is said to be weighing whether to let DACA gradually expire or end it immediately, but the officials said it is not yet clear which option Trump may choose.
Fuck everyone who voted for this cruel monster and everyone who voted third party.
Hurricane Harvey so far
The LA Times last night: Collapsed roofs and downed trees as Hurricane Harvey brutalizes its way across Texas.
The storm slammed onto shore Friday evening as a powerful Category 4 hurricane and powered its way north of Corpus Christi.
Shortly after midnight, the storm made a second landfall along the northeastern shore of Copano Bay and downgraded once again to a Category 3 storm, the National Weather Service reported.
Initial reports suggested the staggering strength of the storm.
At least 10 people were treated for injuries at a local jail in the town of Rockport, about 31 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, after the roof of a senior citizens’ complex collapsed, local media reported.
Part of a local high school also collapsed, and a portion of the exterior of a hotel peeled off in the heavy winds, KXAN reported.
“People are trapped inside at least one collapsed building. We can’t get rescue teams to them right now,” Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth told KIII News.
Emergency officials reported large numbers of downed trees and more than 86,000 people around the state without power.
The Atlantic this morning: ‘The Rainfall Threat Is Only Beginning.
Harvey arrived near Corpus Christi as a Category 4 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center, the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States in a dozen years. A few hours later, the hurricane made a second landfall near Copano Bay as a Category 3 hurricane. Harvey lost strength as it moved inland over south Texas, and was downgraded to Category 1 early Saturday morning, sustaining winds at 90 miles per hour. The hurricane will likely keep slowing down and become a tropical storm later Saturday, the center said.
But the danger is far from over. Even as it weakens steadily, Harvey’s slow-motion churn is expected to create life-threatening conditions for the next several days as torrential rain continues until Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. Harvey is predicted to dump 15 inches to 30 inches of rain on southern Texas, with some parts getting as much as 40 inches, leading to “catastrophic” flooding. Storm-surge flooding may reach nine to 13 feet above ground along parts of the Texas coast between Port Aransas and Port O’Conner.
#Harvey has made landfall, the rainfall threat is only beginning,” the National Hurricane Center said in a tweet Friday night.
The flooding could leave neighborhoods underwater for days and, as previous hurricanes have done, surface sewage, coffins, and even alligators seeking safety on higher ground.
Here’s a lovely prayer that Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes posted on Facebook (h/t Delphyne on Twitter).
Dear Brave Souls, Please join me in strong prayer for the people at the coastline of Texas, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston and all surrounds.
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated in the devastation of wind and flood of a hurricane that made landfall earlier tonight, putting out electricity, flooding the land and homes, washing away so much, fouling the water in many places.C
Please especially prayer for the poor who often have little to no resource to evacuate [no car or stores of food to take with.]
Please pray for all pregnant women and those trying to help them who are scared.
Please pray for all the old and frail in hospital and nursing homes and those who care for them with great heart.
Please pray for all children and inocentes
Please pray for all the horses, dogs and cats and other companions of feathers and fur, as well as wild birds and the fourleggeds
Please pray for help to come, shelter to come, clean water to come, food to come as quickly as possible.
Please help those without papers not be afraid to evacuate, to safeguard their lives utterly.
I send love and my tears to bless this prayer… Texas being Mexico long ago, and the land still loved as well as its people who are often farmers and fisherpeople, small business people, many often in the villages surrounding the larger towns listed above, living often in many of the old ways of our ancestors still.
May all be kept safe, may all be fed and watered that is, the human beings and the animals,
may the storm’s 130 mph wind exhaust itself as it walks screeching overland,
may the winds die,
may the flood waters that have reached over 6′ tall at this writing, recede in ways least damaging to all creatures, humans and structures.
And may the foundations and pillars of fundaments be secure,
may the guardian trees whose roots and earth have been soaked with the rains and thereby softened, drive their roots even deeper, and remain standing in these winds.
May all be held close and know that strangers pray every health onto them now, and in coming days…
This we ask in the name of all that is Holy and of Source without source.
And with love beyond love,
The good news is that the Russia investigation is progressing.
Vox: Robert Mueller is looking into Michael Flynn’s potential ties to Russian hackers.
At issue is an effort by Peter Smith, a Trump-supporting GOP operative and private equity executive, to track down Hillary Clinton’s infamous 30,000 or so deleted emails during the fall of 2016.
The effort, described on the record to Harris by Smith (the 81-year-old man died a week and a half after their interview), entailed outreach to several hacker groups, including at least two that Smith believed to be Russian-tied, to see if they had hacked the emails and could release them.
The emails — which Clinton said she deleted because they were personal and unrelated to her work as secretary of state — never surfaced. And Smith didn’t work for the Trump campaign.
But there is a potential connection to the campaign — through Flynn. Smith repeatedly claimed that he was in contact with Flynn about the effort to find Clinton’s emails, per Harris’s sources…
NBC News: Mueller Seeks Grand Jury Testimony from PR Execs Who Worked With Manafort.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas in recent days seeking testimony from public relations executives who worked on an international campaign organized by Paul Manafort, people directly familiar with the matter told NBC News.
This is the first public indication that Mueller’s investigation is beginning to compel witness testimony before the grand jury — a significant milestone in an inquiry that is examining the conduct of President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, among others.
It is also further indication that Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, could be in serious legal jeopardy.
According to one executive whose firm received a subpoena, Mueller’s team is closely examining the lobbying campaign, which ran between 2012 and 2014. Some of the firms involved in the campaign received subpoenas for documents weeks ago, the executive said, and now the Mueller team is seeking testimony.
That’s all I have for today. What stories are you following? If you are in the path of the hurricane, please stay safe.
Friday Reads: Living in the MomentPosted: August 25, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Death by Privatization, FEMA, Gary Cohn, Hurricane Harvey, Jane Yellen, Joe Arpaio, National Monuments, National Parks, pardon, Steve Mnuchin, Texas Gulf Coast 29 Comments
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
The one useful thing that having 4th stage inoperable cancer and a 5 month old taught me was to live in the moment. It’s taken Kremlin Caligula’s rule of chaos to bring me back to that point again. Well, that and the constant stress from the weather becoming increasingly volatile here and the increasing vulnerability of the land around me and the roof that’s mostly over my head.
I hold each of my friends and family as comfy pillows in my big ol’ blanket fort of calm. I stay focused on what I can do right now to feel better. Some times that’s wine and raspberry cheesecake gelato. Mostly, it’s focusing on all of the great people in my life and the fact there’s no wolf at my door right now. Plus, I spend a lot of time combing through cabins with views of water and mountains and trying to figure if this is the path I can follow to Blue State Sanity. We still have each other Sky Dancers and we’ve been through a lot!!!
It’s easy to focus on how miserable you feel when insanity is screaming at you with a contorted, bloated orange face surrounded by zombies in Phoenix, Arizona. But, the insanity is also in the policy details that sneak out in fine print. Remember, there are a lot of crazy people that pass as sane removing our neighbor’s ability to live in a civilized society in the beltway and in Red State America.
I’ve got some examples today from the usual Red State Governors and sneaky Republican appointees who hand over vital services and public assets to their patrons then brag about efficiency while people lose everything including their lives. This cautionary tale comes via The Des Moines Register where dead Iowans can be pinned onto the collars of two Republican Governors who handed the state’s Medicaid Plan over to profit-seeking death panels. I borrow this term from the Republicans who think that it’s the government that institutes death panels but in fact, it’s handing key services to for-profit entities that do it. You can’t turn a profit if you don’t cut things and in most cases, it is essential services and the people who provide them in for-profit land.
After handing over management of the $4 billion Medicaid program to three for-profit companies last year, Iowans have filed hundreds of complaints, including many about losing access to care. Health providers have closed their doors. Iowans with disabilities have filed a federal lawsuit against Reynolds, accusing the state of depriving thousands the right to live safely outside institutions.
Yet the new governor continues to insist privatization is a great thing..
hopSeveral months ago she was quoted in a news release as saying Iowans with “high risk behavioral health conditions” were faring better under privatized Medicaid.Soon after, the Register editorial board reported the private insurers owed Southwest Iowa Mental Health System about $300,000 for services provided. We recently reported on a private insurer refusing to cover care for a mentally ill teen. This week Des Moines psychiatrist Jim Gallagher told an editorial writer that the private insurers were reducing payments to workers who supervise individuals in group homes, including a man with a history of pedophilia.
Yet Reynolds does not acknowledge such problems. Worse, she pretends there are none. An August 3 press release from her office referenced a questionable survey indicating Iowa patients’ satisfaction was among the highest in the nation.“Medicaid modernization improves access, gives patients more choices and brings accountability to the program,” Reynolds said in her statement.
There is zero accountability for state officials and insurers holding secret meetings about how much more public money to give the companies. And Tom Mouw, who died 27 days before the press release was issued, did not have more access to care or any choices. He had one option: moving from his home to an institution in another state.
After a vehicle accident left him a quadriplegic more than three decades ago, Mouw was unable to feed himself and needed a ventilator to breathe, this is why finding a Personal Injury Lawyer to help with your car accident claim and to get compensation is so iportant. State-managed Medicaid paid caregivers to provide daily assistance, which allowed the man to remain in his home all these years.
Then private insurers took over Medicaid. Amerigroup deemed Mouw’s longtime caregivers not qualified and refused to pay them. Eventually the inability to find in-home care forced him into a facility in South Dakota. He died six weeks later.
Cyndi Mouw blames her husband’s death on Iowa’s decision to privatize Medicaid. Though she has not reviewed all the medical bills, she is sure her husband’s care was far cheaper at home than in the facility where he spent his final weeks.
Now that he has died, he will not cost Amerigroup anything. And the insurer answers to no one about its actions.
The private companies have repeatedly refused to answer questions about Iowans’ horror stories. Though Cyndi Mouw signed waiver forms allowing Amerigroup to speak with a reporter about her husband’s care, the insurer did not.
Instead, the company’s spokesperson said there are “a lot of people” willing to share positive privatization stories — but then did not produce a single name. This spin tactic was also employed by the Branstad administration, which touted “success stories” without identifying the supposedly happy Iowans.
The Register frequently hears from Iowans who have lost health care, closed medical services businesses or are owed money by the insurers. And now we have heard from the widow of a man who died after the insurer refused to pay his caregivers.
I’m particularly interested in this today as a person that has been in more than her share of weather disasters lately. My private insurer for my home has been a constant source of underfunding, dodging coverage, and increasing deductibles and costs. Government Grants, the Red Cross and FEMA helped me more than any touchy feely money grabbing corporation after Katrina. Harvey is headed to Texas and since it’s your basic zombie storm, it’s likely to reform and bother a lot more places. Louisiana is under a state of emergency. Dubya screwed up our Katrina response big time. I can’t even imagine what my friends and neighbors along the Texas Gulf Coast will face under The Orange Terror and his FEMA Director.
Brock Long knew it was just a matter of time.
“We’ve gone 11 years without a major hurricane land-falling in the U.S.—that’s a one-in-2,000 chance,” said Long, President Donald Trump’s administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in an interview at his office on Monday. “We’re gonna get hit by a major hurricane. I worry that a lot of people have forgotten what that’s like.”
The country is about to be reminded. As of Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Harvey was expected to hit the Texas coast as a Category 3 storm, with top wind speeds of 85 miles an hour and flooding as high as seven feet. The storm will be Long’s first challenge as FEMA director. He was sworn in just two months ago.
Long’s appointment was welcomed by experts on extreme weather, who praised him as neither overtly ideological nor hostile to the mission of the agency he was chosen to lead. Before being appointed to the top job, he was director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency from 2008 to 2011, as well as a regional hurricane program manager for FEMA.
“He is a rare Trump appointee who is a well-known professional in the field in which he was appointed,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a Washington research group that promotes market-based solutions to climate change. “Every part of his reputation suggests he’ll take a careful, deliberate, technocratic approach to the job.”
If Hurricane Harvey is as severe as predicted, the toll will certainly test Long and his agency. It could even pose a political risk to the Trump administration, whose first budget proposal sought to cut FEMA’s funding by 11 percent.
There’s more to the devastation of public trust and resources happening. Let me highlight a few.
Republicans continue to the party of Religious Extremism. Women die because of this.
Gov. Henry McMaster issued an abrupt executive order Friday cutting off all public funding from abortion clinics in South Carolina.
He also directed the South Carolina Medicaid agency to seek permission from the federal government to exclude abortion clinics from the state’s Medicaid provider network.
“There are a variety of agencies, clinics, and medical entities in South Carolina that receive taxpayer funding to offer important women’s health and family planning services without performing abortions,” McMaster said in a press release about the executive order. “Taxpayer dollars must not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”
Only three clinics offer elective abortions in South Carolina, including one Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia.
The exact language of the new order bans government money from “any physician or professional medical practice affiliated with an abortion clinic and operating concurrently with and in the same physical, geographic location or footprint as an abortion clinic.”
Vicky Ringer, the South Carolina director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, issued a statement on Friday calling McMaster’s order “a political stunt.”
“While he spends taxpayers’ time and money on scoring political points,” Ringer said, “Planned Parenthood South Atlantic will continue to focus on providing the wide-range of accessible, affordable health care services that our patients, and his constituents, rely on.”
Fed Chair Jane Yellen has issued dire warnings about letting loose the Wall Street Dogs again. People driven by profits only do not make ethical choices. That is something we very much know as economists.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday expressed openness to easing some financial rules imposed on banks after the 2008 credit crisis, but offered a stern warning to fellow policymakers: Don’t forget what got us here.
“The events of the crisis demanded action, needed reforms were implemented, and these reforms have made the system safer,” said Yellen in a speech at the Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
“Any adjustments to the regulatory framework should be modest and preserve the increase in resilience at large dealers and banks associated with the reforms put in place in recent years,” she said.
The Fed chief’s remarks are implicitly a pitch of how she would lead the central bank if President Donald Trump chose to keep her at the helm of the Fed; the 71-year-old economist’s term as chair ends at the beginning of February.
The likely Trump appointment to replace Yellen is said to have drafted a resignation based on Trump’s remarks over Charlottesville. Gary Cohn is Jewish.
Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, has given an interview to the Financial Timesin which he in no uncertain terms criticizes the Trump administration’s response to the violence in Charlottesville at a white nationalist rally, which led to the death of a counterprotester and 19 injuries, after a car crashed into crowds. Trump has drawn criticism — including privately from his own aides — for insufficiently denouncing the white supremacists who organized the rally and suggesting they shared blame with others.
Cohn, who is Jewish, doesn’t call out Trump by name, but it’s crystal-clear what he is saying. A sampling:
- “This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”
- “I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position. … As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post … because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.”
- “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.”
While Cohn never says, “The president got it wrong and needs to do better,” he might as well have. Nobody else in the Trump administration offered comments suggesting any kind of equivalence in blame between the white supremacists and the counterprotesters. It was Trump who referred to there being blame “on many sides” and then days later “on both sides.” Other members of the administration tried to argue that Trump had offered a more forceful denunciation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis when he had, in fact, not. (He would later do so, only to revert a day later to his former “many sides/both sides” comments.)
When Cohn says, “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK,” he is clearly talking about Trump’s “many sides/both sides” comments. There is no one else it could be about.
At least three national monuments are one the Endangered List. Only the mega rich get nice things.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Thursday that President Trump alter at least three national monuments established by his immediate predecessors, including two in Utah, a move expected to reshape federal land and water protections and certain to trigger major legal fights.
In a report Zinke submitted to the White House, the secretary recommended reducing the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, as well as Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, according to multiple individuals briefed on the decision.
President Bill Clinton declared the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996, while President Barack Obama designated the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears last year. Cascade-Siskiyou, which now encompasses more than 113,000 acres, was established by Clinton shortly before leaving office and expanded by Obama in January.
The Mega Rich get nice things especially when they’re appointments of Trump and shameless about purloining. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin viewed eclipse from lawn of Fort Knox. This is the man whose wife has a handbag that could be traded for a new car and calls a Portland Mother “adorably out of touch”. I used to work for the New Orleans Fed. We had a system wide rule about trying to hold meetings during the Mardi Gras season. That’s strictly forbidden.
But a watchdog group and a lawmaker seized on a different issue: Did the millionaire couple fly to Louisville on Monday, on a taxpayer-funded plane, just to see the solar eclipse? Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) suggested as much in seeking records of the trip, saying it “seems to have been planned around the solar eclipse.”
It turns out that Mnuchin did view the eclipse while he was in Kentucky: Just outside the path of totality, from the lawn of the nation’s fabled Fort Knox, home to nearly $200 billion in American gold, according to an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
A post on McConnell’s official Facebook page, attributed to the senator, said Thursday that he and Mnuchin viewed the eclipse from the roof. “The U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and I in front of the main door to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox before we viewed the #solareclipse from the rooftop today,” said the posting, which featured an image of the two men, McConnell holding eclipse glasses.
After media reports about the Facebook post, including in this story, the Treasury Department said in a statement that the viewing was from the lawn.
“The Mint staff had originally suggested that the delegation watch the eclipse from the roof but the Secretary specifically canceled that part of the tour. They watched it briefly from outside before they entered (prior to the actual time of full eclipse),” the statement said.
McConnell’s office has revised its Facebook page to remove the reference to the rooftop and declined to say how the error was made.
Right. And it looks like CROOKED and BIGOTED former sheriff Joe Arpaio will be pardoned. Has he no decency at all?
Arpaio was found guilty of some really disturbing illegal behavior. People that violate others’ civil rights should not hold positions in law enforcement.
He flouted the Constitution. He disobeyed court orders. And then he bragged about it.
To understand the building outrage, particularly among civil rights groups, over the possibility that President Donald Trump would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one need only return to the July criminal contempt decision against him.
It followed a decade-long case against the sheriff for racial-profiling practices in Arizona, during which Arpaio was ordered to stop targeting Latinos for traffic stops and detention.
“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order finding Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt.
The 85-year-old sheriff who lost his run for a seventh term in 2016 is scheduled to be sentenced October 5. Trump has strongly suggested he would pardon Arpaio before then, and CNN has learned that the White House was preparing the necessary paperwork and talking points to distribute to allies.
My eyes will be on Harvey and the unnatural disaster that sits in the Oval Office today. What’s on your reading and blogging list?