Thursday, November 16, 2017

St. Louis Still Mired In Racist Heritage

A federal judge has placed restrictions on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, saying their conduct during recent protests had violated demonstrators’ constitutional rights.

The protests  took place in September, following a “not guilty” verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a white (and former) police officer who in 2011 shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black.

Perry found sufficient evidence that police arbitrarily declared an assembly unlawful even when there was no violence, and that there was “no credible threat of force or violence to officers or property” when police rounded up citizens, including journalists, two months ago After those arrests, the head of the St. Louis MPD arrogantly declared that his department had “owned” the night, while his officers mocked protesters by chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”

It turns out the protesters and free speech had the final word, however.  Judge Perry said that officers had clearly retaliated against protected First Amendment speech because they didn’t like being criticized, and used chemical weapons to suppress speech they didn’t like.

Perry said police cannot declare an unlawful assembly unless there’s a clear and present threat, and cannot use the law to punish people engaged in protected activity. She also said chemical agents can’t be used unless there is probable cause to arrest a person, and that police can’t threaten to use chemical agents against anyone engaged in expressive, nonviolent activity.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Anthony Rothert declared that “pepper spray is the new fire hose,” and said officers were using pepper spray “arbitrarily, gratuitously and without warning.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

More Confirmation That Roy Moore Is A Scumbag

GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore was banned from a mall in the early 1980s after he repeatedly attempted to pick up teenage girls, former mall employees and local police told reporters.

Other locals also confirmed that Moore was known for prowling the mall. Moore, whom five women have accused of making advances on them or molesting them when they were teenagers, allegedly had a reputation for hanging around the Gadsden Mall, in Gadsden, Alabama, in pursuit of high school-age girls.

One former mall employee said that a security guard asked mall employees to be on the lookout for Moore, who was “banned from the mall.” Blake Usry, who was a teenager in town at the time, said Moore was known to "flirt with all the young girls," and would hang out at the mall on weekends "like the kids did." Other locals said that Moore's penchant for flirting with teens was common knowledge in town.

One former waitress said that Moore made young waitresses uncomfortable by staring at them, then becoming rude if they did not "give him an opening." A police officer said that “general knowledge at the time when I moved here was that this guy is a lawyer cruising the mall for high-school dates” and that Moore may not have received an official ban but was a persona non grata at the mall and had been “run off” from “a number of stores.”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

More Hate From Maine Governor

The controversial governor of Maine says that people of color were enemies of his state, and suggested they should be shot.

Talking about Maine's effort to combat drug crime, Governor Paul LePage said that "the enemy right now... are people of color or people of Hispanic origin".

"When you go to war... and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red," he said.

Democrats and political observers are urging him to resign.  LePage made the shocking comments while seeking to clarify remarks he made earlier in the week which were criticized as racist.

On Wednesday,  LePage was asked about a statement he made in which he blamed the state's heroin problem on "guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" who "come from Connecticut and New York".

"They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave," he said.

He denied it was racist, saying that he had been putting together a binder cataloguing drug arrests in the state, and that "90-plus per cent of those pictures are black and Hispanic people".

Asked by reporters to provide the binder,  LePage replied: "Let me tell you something: Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers. You ought to look into that."

On Thursday, LePage called Democratic state representative Drew Gattine and, when he was unable to reach him, left him an abusive, expletive-laden voice message.  He later invited reporters to an interview to explain the voice message, and told them he wished he could shoot Gattine in a duel.

"I'd like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825," LePage said.  "And we would have a duel, that's how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you... I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he's been in this legislature to help move the state forward."

On Friday, the Portland Press Herald published FBI statistics which show that 1,211 people were arrested on charges of drug sales or manufacturing in Maine in 2014. Of those, 170 - 14.1% - were black, and almost all the rest were white.

LePage said he was "enormously angry" at being called a racist, but did not try to refute the FBI statistics. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Renegade Alabam Judge Reportedly A Pedophile

Disgraced Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore, in the midst of a campaign for the state's vacant Senate seat, is now caught up in a new controversy over charges of sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl while he was a 32-year-old district attorney.

14-year-old Leigh Corfman was at the Etowah County courthouse with her mother in 1979. Roy Moore, who was the district attorney at the time, offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.  Alone with the girl, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number.

Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.

“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she remembers thinking. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.” Corfman says she asked Moore to take her home, and he did.

Two of Corfman’s childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge.

Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older.

In a written statement, Moore denied the allegations.  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and a handful of other GOP senators said Moore must step aside if Corfman’s account is true.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pollution Panic In Dehli

Panic has gripped the Indian capital, Delhi, as residents woke up to a blanket of thick grey smog.  Visibility is poor as pollution levels reached 30 times the World Health Organization's recommended limit in some areas.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) declared "a state of medical emergency" and urged the government to "make every possible effort to curb this menace".

People have been posting dramatic pictures on social media showing the extent of the problem, with most of them complaining of breathing difficulties.

The chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, has asked his education minister to consider shutting down schools for a few days.  The IMA also recommended that the city's half marathon, due to be held on 19 November, should be cancelled.

Delhi sees pollution levels soar in winter due to farmers in neighboring Punjab and Haryana states burning stubble to clear their fields.  Activists say very little has been done to stop the practice despite Delhi facing severe pollution for a number of years.  Low wind speeds, dust from construction sites, rubbish burning in the capital and firecrackers used in festivals also contribute to increasing pollution levels.

The government has made several attempts to deal with the chronic pollution--  various traffic restrictions and the shutdown of a major power plant.  But none of the measures seem to have had much impact.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Enabler of Sexual Harrassment Humiliated in Tokyo

Ivanka Trump spoke to row upon row of empty seats as she gave a women's empowerment speech in Tokyo.   The unfilled rows were starkly reminiscent of the huge gaps in the crowd that occurred at her father's poorly-received inauguration.

Officials had originally claimed that her speech was the most registered talk of the three-day event, but numbers were still pitifully small.   Organizers came up with a novel excuse for the poor turnout, saying that extraordinarily tight security measures meant that many people were unable to make it inside the venue before the doors closed.  However, multiple news outlets reported that there were no lines of people queuing up prior to the start of Ivanka's speech.

She spoke to the thin crowd and shared her views on sexual harassment and women's empowerment, without even a hint of irony at being the daughter of the most well-known misogynist in the U.S.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

GOP Tax Plan Is Just a Giveaway To The Rich

The GOP announced its much ballyhooed tax plan this week.  In their talking points, they referred to Americans earning $450,000 a year as “middle-income” — even though that income level would put those taxpayers in the top 0.05% of all individual Americans.  FYI-- the median household income in the United States is $59,039.

Now that the GOP's outrageous "tax reform" bill has been digested by tax experts, it is becoming clearer how the bill benefits the wealthy and screws over the average American.  As written, the bill:
Cuts in HALF the mortgage interest deduction, one of the most popular deductions  used by Americans
Eliminates the inheritance tax, which will benefit the wealthy;

Slashes the corporate income tax rate nearly in half, which benefits corporations, not regular folks like you and me;

Eliminates the alternative minimum tax, which benefits the wealthy;

Kills the state and local income tax deduction, which is used by most every single American;

Ends student loan deductions, which makes it harder for young Americans who are starting off in their professional lives;

Ends the deduction for medical expenses-- making life tougher for folks dealing with health issues;

Eliminates tax credits for elderly and disabled Americans;

Gets rid of tax credits for adoption services;

Eliminates deductions for rare-disease research-- hope you're enjoying muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis!

Keeps the carried-interest loophole, which was exploited by equity managers, venture capitalists and real estate partners (like Trump) to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  (Trump had promised during the campaign to get rid of that loophole, but by now we all know that a bullshitter like Trump can't be relied upon to keep his promises.)

Most people now think that this tax plan is just a giveaway to the wealthy.

And it's beginning to look like most folks aren't buying the GOP boast that the tax plan will help the economy either.    Nearly 60 percent of people believe corporations won't use their tax windfall to create jobs, according to a CBS poll.

The National Federation of Independent Business said the bill “does not help most small businesses.”

The National Association of Home Builders, noting that about one-third of the homes in California alone would suddenly be stripped of the mortgage interest deduction, went to far as to speculate that the bill will “potentially cause housing recessions.”

Friday, November 3, 2017

Moronic Tweeting Must Run In The Family

Dim-witted Donny Trump Jr.  attempted to make political hay out of a fun holiday and had to exploit his own daughter in the process.  He tweeted a photo of his child in her Halloween costume, with the comment:  "I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight & give it to some kid who sat at home. It’s never to early to teach her about socialism."

Of course, the stunt backfired spectacularly.  Little Donny was literally roasted by comebacks and critical comments, including the author of Harry Potter herself.  Many focused on his failure to understand the basic concept of socialism. . .but there were so many other witty responses.  Here are some of my favorites:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Conviction-Starved Gitmo Tribunal Turns On It Own

The Guantanamo Bay military tribunals have finally won their first conviction without a plea deal since 2008. Only it wasn’t a terrorist who was convicted – it was a one-star Marine general sticking up for the rights of the accused to have a fair trial.

In defending the principle that attorneys ought to be able to defend their clients free from government surveillance, Brigadier General John Baker was ruled in contempt of court and sentenced to 21 days in confinement. He also must pay a $1000 fine.

The shocking development at Guantanamo, described as a “national disgrace and an embarrassment” by the executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, came on the same day President Donald Trump proposed sending accused New York terror suspect Sayfullo Saipovtot Guantanamo.  As a lawful permanent resident, Saipov is ineligible for a war-crimes trial under the 2009 Military Commission Act, which limits the court to  non-Americans,

“The military commissions are willing to put people in jail for defending the rule of law,” Jay Connell, who represents another Guantanamo detainee facing a military commission, told reporters. “If they’re willing to put a Marine general in jail for standing up for a client’s rights, they’re willing to do just anything.”   More details are here.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trump Flunky Starts to Sing; Two Others Indicted

The Trump administration is a metaphorical Jenga tower, and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is pulling out pieces one at a time.

Today, we got our first glimpse at documents filed earlier this month, when former Trump campaign policy advisor George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents relating to contacts he had with agents of the Russian government while working for the Trump campaign. 

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and onetime business associate Rick Gates were also indicted on charges of conspiracy against the United States and money laundering.   Manafort and Gates have a history of business dealings and lobbying for pro-Russia groups.  The pair generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work, and In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.

Paul Manafort  lived in Trump Tower since 2006 and chaired Trump’s campaign through most of the primaries and into the convention.  Manafort’s 2006 all-cash purchase of his Trump Tower apartment coincided with his firm’s signing a $10 million contract with a pro-Putin Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.

Gates, the longtime lobbying partner of Manafort, lingered around Trumpworld in a number of capacities after Manafort was forced to resign in August of last year.  Gates visited the White House numerous times, including as recently as the summer fo 2017. Gates was one of six former Trump campaign aides who helped start the nonprofit group America First Policies to support the president’s agenda shortly after his inauguration and stayed with the group for two months.

Over the weekend, the White House began distancing itself from Manafort and after Gates' indictment today, another official with the organization, Katrina Pierson, tried to claim that Gates was never formally involved with the nonprofit.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

NFL Owner Reveals His True Colors

At a closed-door meeting of NFL owners earlier this month, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said of players protesting racial inequality, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”

McNair’s comments stunned many in the room.  Troy Vincent, a retired NFL player who is now a league executive, told those in the meeting he’d been called all manner of slurs when he was a player, but he never felt like an “inmate.”

For many veteran NFL players, the incident calls to mind the infamous exchange between Dallas Cowboys president Tex Schramm and Gene Upshaw during an early NFL labor battle, in which Schramm said "You guys are cattle, and we're the ranchers.  And ranchers can always get more cattle."

The NFL Players Coalition released a statement , saying in part:
Many players have been deeply troubled by the disturbing comments made by Texans' owner Bob McNair.  It is ironic that such a quote would lemerge in the midst of an ongoing struggle to highlight injustices suffered by people of color, including our nation's deeply flawed approach to criminal justice and inhumane treatment of imprisoned people.

As long as the prevailing reality of our league includes a culture where owners feel such behavior and language is permissible, our cause will continue to be stifled and progress will remain elusive.  This isn't about being a player or a club owner-- but basic human decency.
After the comments began stirring controversy on social media, the  team released a statement in which McNair said his comments were 'a figure of a speech.'  “I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players,” the statement reads. “I could never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”

The controversy continues to grow, however.  Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins walked out of practice on Friday in protest.   Offensive lineman Duane Brown, who was 'sickened' by the 'horrible' comments but was not surprised, according to the Houston Chronicle.

On Twitter, Brown's wife Devo added: 'My husband has put his BODY & MIND on the line for your team for 10 YRS & to you he is an “inmate”. You owe these players RESPECT & support.'

'I don’t believe he is the only owner that feel that way,' added Texans rookie Treston Decoud.

Richard Sherman,of the Seattle Seahawks. added: "Don’t apologize! You meant what you said. Showing true colors allows ppl to see you for who you are."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

PR Conract With Energy Secy Pal Starts to Stink

Whitefish Energy, the two-person, office-free company that landed a $300 million contract to repair the 2,400 miles of Puerto Rico’s electric lines, got more than just a big check, they got a very nice clause in their contract. A leaked copy of the contract includes a section on just who has access to the records kept by Whitefish in carrying out the work. That list includes the Puerto Rico Power Authority, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA Administrator, the comptroller general of the United States, or any of their authorized agents.

Which seems like a reasonable enough list. Except that tucked in a couple of sentences below is something that unwinds most of that authority:
 "In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA Administrator, the comprtoller general of the United States, or any of their authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements of the labor rates specified herein."
Since Whitefish doesn’t exist as a physical company, everything it’s doing is in the form of billing for subcontractors at rates that often exceeds $400 an hour along with daily charges for food and lodging. The contract makes those rates beyond review.

That clause makes it impossible for anyone to tell how much Whitefish is actually paying its workers and how much it is pocketing. It makes almost every line item under the contract proof against review.

What we do know is that Whitefish bills Puerto Rico $332.41 per person per day for lodging, and  $79.82 per person per day for meals.  Keep in mind that the average American spends $17 per day on food.

Whitefish is a small Montana energy company located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown.  Sounds fishy?  Well the White House is now disavowing any involvement in the deal.  Furthermore, Sarah Huckabee Sander said Donald Trump had asked Zinke about the contract and that the cabinet secretary said he had nothing to do with it, either.  This is beginning to look like a stinky mess that everybody is backing away from . . . stay tuned.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Trump Finally Addreses the Opioid Crisis

After promising two months ago to do something about the opioid crisis, Trump finally declared it a public health emergency .  The declaration allows the executive branch to dip into the Public Health Emergency Fund-- which unfortunately holds only $57,000.  No other funding was made available by the declaration.   Trump also promised to waive some regulations and give states more flexibility in how they use federal funds- but he stopped short of declaring a more sweeping  national state of emergency that would have given states access to funding from the federal Disaster Relief Fund.  The event was characterized by many as too little, too late.

A few excerpts from Trump's speech:
"I learned myself, I had a brother Fred, great guy, best looking guy, best personality, much better than mine, but he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me don't drink. Don't drink.  He was substantially older, and I listened to him and respected. But I would constantly tell me don't drink. He would also add don't smoke. But he would say it over and over and over again. And to this day I've never had a drink. And I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it. To this day I've never had a cigarette. Don't worry, those are only two of my good things." 

Naturally, Trump can't avoid bragging about himself!

"The fact is if we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start, it's really, really easy not to take them. And I think that's going to end up being our most important thing. Really tough, really big, really great advertising. So we get to people before they start so they don't have to go through the problems of what people are going through."
Just great-- a return to Nancy Reagan's failed "Just say no" program!
For too long dangerous criminal cartels have been allowed to infiltrate and spread throughout our nation. An astonishing 90% comes from across the border which we are building a wall which will help in this problem. We'll have a great impact. My administration is dedicated to enforcing our immigration laws, defending our maritime security, and securing our borders. 

 And of course, we have to plug the idiotic border wall!


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