Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tillerson talks to House committee about Kushner's meddling, Trump's reluctance to confront Russia

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in a news conference with Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu after their meeting in Addis Ababa on March 8, 2018. ..Washington's top diplomat began his first Africa tour by meeting with the African Union chief, who said the continent had moved on from a reported insult by President Donald Trump. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and AU commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat discussed security and counter-terrorism, trade and development, corruption and conflict in an hour-long meeting at the continental body's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital.. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JONATHAN ERNST        (Photo credit should read JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images)
When it comes to heroism in the current government, there’s a pretty low bar. Rex Tillerson may not have had any business serving as secretary of state to begin with, but he allegedly called Donald Trump a “fucking moron,” and so he’s kind of a hero to me. Sort of like The Penguin betraying the Joker before biting the head off a harp seal. I’ll take it. Whatever. He’s helping us stop the Joker. Gotham is grateful.

So it was again today when Tillerson spoke with the House Foreign Affairs Committee and dished on the ferocious incompetence of Boy Kush and the administration’s reluctance to confront Russia about election interference.
The Daily Beast:

Tillerson’s arrival at the Capitol was handled with extreme secrecy. No media advisories or press releases were sent out announcing his appearance. And he took a little noticed route into the building in order to avoid being seen by members of the media.
Tillerson reached out to the committee and expressed a willingness to meet, a committee aide said. In a more than six hour meeting, he told members and staffers that the Trump administration actively avoided confronting Russia about allegations of interference in the election in an effort to develop a solid relationship with the Kremlin, a committee aide told The Daily Beast.
Hmm, a “solid relationship” could mean a lot of things. It might simply mean there was a quid pro qu-oh, shit don’t release that pee tape! Who knows? But, yeah, I can only assume it had more to do with protecting Donald Trump than protecting our national interests — especially considering that Russia, you know, attacked us.

Tillerson told the committee that the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner at times impeded his ability to effectively communicate and introduce to President Trump policy proposals developed by State Department experts on major foreign affairs matters across the globe, not just in the Middle East. Kushner, a White House advisor, has publicly focused much of his international efforts on the Middle East and is set to unveil a Middle East peace plan in the coming weeks.
So Little Lord Fauntleroy eschewed the advice of the entire State Department in favor of his own imagined foreign policy expertise. That’s not unnerving or anything. Kushner is best known for buying a building for far too much money and convincing a woman with the worst male role model in the history of our country to marry him. So not exactly a heavyweight. On top of that, he’s a charisma black hole.

I mean, the guy makes Roger Stone look like JFK. I doubt he could score drugs at Burning Man. We really expect him to broker Middle East peace?

Thanks for trying, Rex, but I doubt any of this will change the fucking moron’s behavior.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ted Lieu shames Trump over plan to pardon war criminals: 'You never served'

One way to reliably signal that our country doesn’t care a whit about human rights or international law is to go out of our way to pardon war criminals. It’s beyond idiotic, and something anyone with a thimble full of brain matter knows you shouldn’t do. Which is why Donald Trump is currently contemplating it.

According to a Saturday New York Times report, Trump is considering pardons for “high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder and desecration of a corpse, according to two United States officials.” And, no, this has nothing to do with Eric and Don Jr.’s latest trip to Nevada. These are war crimes — the very kind that have always given Donnie’s bone spurs a voltaic tingle.

But as with most things Trump has no experience with and hasn’t bothered to study up on or sit still for a lecture about, he has no clue what he’s talking about.

But Rep. Ted Lieu, a decorated Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel and former military prosecutor, certainly does:
Dear @realDonaldTrump: You've never served. Military juries will convict members for war crimes based not just on morality. We who've served know that killing civilian children, women & seniors makes it harder to secure the peace & is a great recruiting tool for terrorists.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Birmingham, Alabama Pastor Has Powerful Sermon for Forced-Birthing Republicans.


Pastor David Barnhart
Pastor David Barnhart of St. Junia United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, delivered a powerful sermon on Facebook last June to the generation of vipers and hypocrites who are passing forced birthing legislation there and across the nation.

It is worth revisiting:
View image on Twitter

“They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.”

Truer word were never spoken. 

Thank you, Pastor Dave.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Farmer hammered by Trump tariffs tells CNN: ‘I’m off the Trump train’

DWIGHT, IL - JUNE 13:  Farmer John Duffy (L) and Roger Murphy load soybeans from a grain bin onto a truck before taking them to a grain elevator on June 13, 2018 in Dwight, Illinois. U.S. soybean futures plunged today with renewed fears that China could hit U.S. soybeans with retaliatory tariffs if the Trump administration follows through with threatened tariffs on Chinese goods.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

If you don’t think Donald Trump is in trouble in the Midwest—think again.

A farmer and now-former Trump supporter tells CNN about the reality of Trump’s tariff war: “We’re in a free fall out here in agriculture. We’ve seen 30% decrease in prices of soybeans, and this isn’t all about soybeans.”

CNN’s Kate Bolduan then reminded the farmer, Christopher Gibbs, that he voted for Trump because of his “can do” attitude, which this diarist can’t understand—but Mr. Gibbs’ reply tells us that maybe, just maybe, some farmers have had enough of Trump’s horrible presidency? “I was on the Trump train, I was off the Trump train, back and forth,” he says. “Finally got off at Helsinki. Helsinki was a mess to me. I couldn’t stand the waffling with Putin, so I’m off the Trump train.”

When I watched this interview, my first thought was, How did Mr. Gibbs miss these warnings during the debates? Clear warnings that Donald Trump was a failed and terrible businessman? Warnings that he was indeed Putin’s puppet?

My second thought was, I was very angry. Then I thought for a moment: At the very least, this farmer has finally admitted his mistake, and that gives me some hope that there are others in the Midwest like him. I’m cautiously optimistic. Let’s hope they’ve finally learned their lesson about Trump, like Mr. Gibbs has.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Gabby Giffords: 'Strongest Person in World'

The Consort and your friendly Gazette Editor with gun control advocate and former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) at the Rim Country Democrats annual picnic Saturday.  Gifford's husband Mark Kelly, a former astronaut now running for John McCain's U.S. Senate seat, addressed a crowd of about 250 Democrats at the event.  Kelly called his wife "the strongest person in the world."

Top Senate Republican: McConnell won't allow bills to protect our elections to come to the floor

They're all in this together, with Russia.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing everything in his power to keep Donald Trump in the White House, even if that means keeping American elections systems vulnerable to hacking by Russia, or any other foreign power that wants to intervene. He's already done it a couple of times: when he shut down a public information effort on Russian attempts to hack the 2016 election, and when he blocked legislation to protect elections from advancing last year, ahead of the 2018 balloting.

No matter that Election Assistance Commission (EAC) officials are urgently pleading for assistance for 2020. Sen. Roy Blunt, Senate Rules Committee chairman, told officials in a hearing Wednesday that his boss, McConnell, wouldn't be allowing legislation already passed by the House to come to the Senate floor. 

There are several bills pending before the committee, and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin wanted to know their prospects for advancement. Blunt told him there wasn't any point in moving them forward. "I don't see any likelihood that those bills would get to the floor if we marked them up," Blunt said. "I think the majority leader just is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion."

It was McConnell, Blunt admitted, who also stopped legislation from advancing in the Rules committee last year. Last August, the committee was scheduled to mark up the Secure Elections Act, but the hearing was mysteriously cancelled the very day it was supposed to happen.

We know now that it was because McConnell pulled the plug on it, too, despite the warnings from the intelligence community that Russia was still a threat to that election. "I hope you catch the irony here that at the CIA and intelligence agencies, millions of dollars are being spent to stop the Russians from making a mess of the 2020 election," Durbin said Wednesday in the hearing, "and yet, in the United States Senate, we can't bring a bill to the floor to even debate it."

That's become even more urgent now that we know, definitively that Russia broke into Washington County, Florida’s voter registration database. We know that it was the Russian military spy agency, GRU, that did it, intelligence officials have told The Washington Post. But McConnell has his marching orders, direct from Trump: no secure elections for us.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Republicans are now on losing end of the culture wars—Alabama's abortion ban sealed their fate

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 06: Hundreds of protesters occupy the center steps of the East Front of the U.S. Capitol after breaking through barricades to demonstrate against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh October 06, 2018 in Washington, DC. The Senate is scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation later in the day. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The enactment of Alabama's abortion ban, leaving no exceptions for rape or incest, was a worst-case political scenario for national Republicans. The law—an overt attack on women, their civil rights, their personhood, and their basic healthcare needs—didn't just drop in a vacuum. It was dropped into the middle of a raging war for America's soul, its future, and its very existence that is being fought foremost 
by women.

It comes in the aftermath of the elevation of a sexual assaulter to the highest office in the land; three national women's marches that drew out marchers by the millions, dwarfing attendance at the assaulter’s inauguration and making the tea party protests of 2009 look like child's play; the #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport movements that have swept through the entertainment industry, high-powered board rooms, and politics alike; a gut-wrenching Supreme Court nomination battle in which the assaulter nominated another assaulter who the GOP confirmed as the fifth anti-Roe vote to the nation's high court. It comes after a midterm election in which a historic number of women ran for office, a historic number of women won office, and a historic number of women fled the Republican party to vote for Democrats by a nearly 20-point margin, close to doubling the GOP's female voter deficit in 2016.

Every one of those women who turned out in 2018 to vote for Democrats just got a flashing red reminder about getting to the polls in 2020 and bringing at least two of their friends with them.What national Republicans know is that the Alabama ban is too politically lethal to touch. Trump didn't even tweet about it. But more importantly, House GOP leadership never mentioned it at their Wednesday press conference and then wrapped without taking any questions from reporters. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming all "slipped out of the press conference ahead of reporters' questions, due to what a House GOP aide called scheduling conflicts."

GOP senators, especially ones facing tough 2020 re-elections like Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, also spent the day dodging reporters and dodging the topic. “That’s a state issue. I’m focused on my work here,” McSally told the Washington Post in a hallway interview at the Capitol.

What's got the GOP culture-war crusaders so tongue tied? Public opinion, that's what.

Gallup polling from last year shows that 77% of Americans explicitly oppose the mandates of the Alabama ban, saying abortion should be legal for women who get pregnant in cases of rape or incest. 

Chart showing 77 percent for legal access to abortion in cases of rape or incest, and 83 percent support if the life of the mother is jeopardized.
In fact, the number of people who want abortion to be legal in cases of rape or incest has been remarkably consistent for decades: 75% in 2011, 76% in 2003, 78% in 2000, and 77% in 1996.

Additionally, most abortion attitudes have remained remarkably steady for decades, with less than 20% of Americans currently supporting making abortion illegal in all cases, while 79% support making it legal in all cases or certain situations. 

Chart showing basic attitudes about whether abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in some cases, or not legal in any cases almost unchanged since the
Republicans just declared war on nearly 80% of the American public. But their saber-rattling is no longer theoretical to voters, instead it has become all too real with the conservative Supreme Court majority now in place to overturn Roe v. Wade given the right opportunity. Indeed, ever since the 2016 election and Donald Trump's elevation to office, the attack on women, their rights, their bodies, and their basic safety has been a tangible, visceral, lived experience for the bulk of female voters. That’s what makes Alabama’s cruel and draconian ban a political turning point in the culture wars Republicans so eagerly stoked throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s and early aughts.

Many people will take issue with that view. Nothing will change, they say. But the shift has already begun, starting with the protest-laden aftermath of 2016 on through to Democrats' historic sweep in the 2018 midterms. Republicans just poured gasoline on the fire that burned through 40 House districts last year. Now it's up to Democrats to make sure that fire changes the political landscape for good.