Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Faking Your Own Fame

Trump mocks up a totally fake Time magazine cover with himself on it and hangs it in all his golf clubs, from south Florida to Scotland.

Now that is fake news. Also evidence that the man has a diseased mind.

David Farenthold decided to check of the truth, and ... oh boy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NC Citizens Massing to Protest at Sen. Thom Tillis's Regional Offices

RALEIGH - With Republican Senators scrambling for excuses to deflect the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report which predicts the Senate GOP’s TrumpCare bill will lead to 22 MILLION fewer Americans with health insurance, NC residents are descending today on three offices of Senator Thom Tillis -- in Charlotte, Raleigh, and High Point. 

Tillis has not committed to voting against the disaster known as TrumpCare. In fact, according to CNN, Tillis has offered no comments on TrumpCare since Thursday, June 22nd, well before the CBO report. Tillis has also avoided public in-person town hall meetings.

WHAT: Citizen mobilization in reaction to 22 MILLION fewer Americans with healthcare under the Senate’s TrumpCare bill.

WHERE: Outside the office of Sen. Thom Tillis at Federal Courthouse at 310 New Bern Ave., Raleigh, NC. Other events happening Tuesday at Tillis offices in Charlotte and High Point and in Greenville on Wednesday.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 27th - 11:45 am in Raleigh

WHO: Protecting Progress in Durham, IndivisibleNC, NC Justice Center, NC AIDS Action Network, Action NC, ProgressNC Action

NCGA Now Attempting To Make the Courts More Republican

They don't even try to hide their motives any more in Raleigh.

Suddenly, in the waning days of this General Assembly session, Republican introduce a new judicial redistricting bill which people studying the new maps say will screw Democratic judges and advantage Republican candidates for judgeships.

Figures.

They recently overrode the governor's veto to make judgeship elections partisan, and they decreased the size of the Court of Appeals from 15 to 12, to prevent Gov. Cooper from appointing replacements for Republican judges approaching mandatory retirement in the next few months.

During debate over the bill in the NC House, Rep. Grier Martin, a Democrat from Raleigh, asked if the proposed new maps were drawn with partisan considerations.

“There’s some reason these lines are as squiggly as they are,” Martin said. “Was the motivation to gain partisan advantage or is partisan advantage a pure accident?”

In Raleigh, there are no accidents but plenty of catastrophes.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Do You Have a Relative in a Nursing Home?

"Medicaid Cuts May Force Retirees Out of Nursing Homes":
Khue Bui for The New York Times
Medicaid pays for most of the 1.4 million people in nursing homes .... It covers 20 percent of all Americans and 40 percent of poor adults.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans joined their House colleagues in proposing steep cuts to Medicaid, part of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives hope to roll back what they see as an expanding and costly entitlement. But little has been said about what would happen to older Americans in nursing homes if the cuts took effect.
Under federal law, state Medicaid programs are required to cover nursing home care. But state officials decide how much to pay facilities, and states under budgetary pressure could decrease the amount they are willing to pay or restrict eligibility for coverage....
Pssst. North Carolina Bosses of the Republican General Assembly ... talking 'bout you, 'bout what you might be up for doing next -- only bigger -- in North Carolina.
“The states are going to make it harder to qualify medically for needing nursing home care,” predicted Toby S. Edelman, a senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “They’d have to be more disabled before they qualify for Medicaid assistance.”
Republicans are okay with that. Their philosopher kings have preached against socialism -- government payments to the poor and taxes on everybody to finance it -- as fundamentally unAmerican. Meanwhile, Libertarians are more turned on right now than they've ever been before at the prospect of snuffing Obamacare, saving money, and thinning the herd. Ayn Rand rides again, and Donald Trump is her blind mule!

(There's no contract Donald J. Trump can't break, including the social contract.)

The situation in the small town of Orange, Virginia, is similar to Boone, North Carolina, and a zillion other rural places in this country:
The 150 residents of Dogwood Village [a county nursing home] include former teachers, farmers, doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home parents and health aides — a cross section of this rural county a half-hour northeast of Charlottesville. Many entered old age solidly middle class but turned to Medicaid, which was once thought of as a government program exclusively for the poor, after exhausting their insurance and assets.
We're facing a crisis in medical care masquerading as "reform." The idiot in charge says any damn thing at any damn time and clearly doesn't understand his own words, nor remember he ever spoke them.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dear NC GOP in the NCGA: You May, If You Wish, Go Straight to Hell

I've been unable to write about the state budget recently passed by Republicans in Raleigh, because every time I began to compose, the rage threatened to choke off my air supply. Plus Chuck Todd wants us all to lower the rhetoric.

Sorry, Chuck.

You know, right? that the Republicans in the General Assembly cut the budget of the Department of Justice by $10 million, which will force the Attorney General to lay off fully one-third of the staff that prosecute crimes and/or defend the NCGA when its unconstitutional laws are challenged in court.

They cut the Attorney General's budget because Josh Stein won the election last November (just as they've knee-capped the governor repeatedly for the sin of beating their asses at the ballot box). You do not get more petty than that. You do not sink lower than that. You do not do more direct harm to the citizens than handicapping the law enforcement apparatus that should protect them.

The NCGA also tried to buy off teachers by giving them a raise in the budget while also granting a tax cut that will disproportionately benefit the top earners while keeping North Carolina's ranking among all the states for public education spending at 41 out of 50.

They zeroed out funding for legal aid to the poor.

After screaming for years about Democratic "pork barrel" spending, they jumped into that soupy pool with both feet and clothes still on, designating over $70 million for special projects in districts represented by Republicans. Some of the largest earmarks go to Republican House Speaker Tim Moore's home county and to Senate President Phil Berger's county.

It was corrupt when Democrats did it. It's still corrupt.

Some $5.78 million in pork goes to so-called "downtown revitalization grants," like the one for Cliffside in Rutherford County, which isn't a municipality and has a single retail business as a "downtown," a Dollar General.

I must stop. It only gets worse. It makes me thirsty for revenge.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Answering 'Anonymous'

"Anonymous" down-column asks, in rage and self-righteousness, if I, JW, thinks that he, rich taxpayer, should be required to pay for my health insurance.

Yes. Yes I do.

I believe that the social compact of "we the people" calls on all of us to take care of all of us. I believe that health care is a right of the people, along with a quality education and clean water and unpolluted air, and I believe that all of us have an obligation to pay, and I have been paying all my life the taxes that help insure all of the above, although I don't have children in school and don't have a parent in a nursing home and don't have a bottled water business nor a travel agency that depends on clear skies.


I have never been a resentful taxpayer, and I've never enjoyed hearing the resentments of others, especially coming from the very rich who have benefitted rather demonstrably from the social contract that they so deeply loathe. The very idea that some poor person might be enjoying life a fraction more because of the taxes they pay fills them with yellow bile. Their resentment, considering their own multitude of economic blessings, strikes me as unAmerican and -- I was raised on the Bible -- profoundly unChristian.

Holy Crap

[The Senate dismantling of Obamacare unveiled yesterday] would also repeal most of the tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act to help pay for expanded coverage, in effect handing a broad tax cut to the affluent in a measure that would also slice billions of dollars from Medicaid, a program that serves one in five Americans, not only the poor but also almost two-thirds of people in nursing homes. A capital-gains tax cut for the most affluent Americans would be retroactive to the beginning of this year. ("Senate Health Care Bill Includes Deep Cuts to Medicaid")
The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support. ("Shifting Dollars From Poor to Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill")
How many Watauga County citizens have relatives in nursing homes who rely on Medicaid? How many Trump voters?

Trump recently criticized the House bill dismantling Obamacare as "mean," and he also said recently that he wanted more "heart" in the Senate bill. Yesterday on Twitter, he was crowing what the marvelous bill the Senate had produced. Pretty soon it's gonna start raining kittens!

Trump doesn't know a thing, and his opinion actually does not matter to the people running Congress. The people running Congress are all about making the rich more comfortable. They don't give a shit about your grandmother in the nursing home.

Virginia Foxx is responsible. Thom Tillis and Dick Burr are responsible. They are the proximate cause that you're allowed to do something about.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I Feel Good, Part 3

Look at just one of the quality candidates who are right now standing up to run for Congress next year.

Randy Bryce is a Wisconsin ironworker who's challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan. This is his campaign announcement video:


Some Democrats have complained that Jon Ossoff (of George-6 losing fame) was not sufficiently of the 6th district. They won't be saying that about Randy Bryce.

And maybe Paul Ryan is as unbeatable as Karen Handel proved to be. I don't care. Maybe Bryce's prior unsuccessful attempts to win office will also sink him this time. I don't care. I'm proud of the man who stands up for workers against what the Republicans are hatching at this very hour to deny health insurance to millions.

I'm proud of the man who made that video.

I Feel Good, Part 2

Numbers from Tuesday:

Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff in the Georgia 6th District by about 10,000 votes and nearly four percentage points. Republican "outside groups" spent $18 million smearing Ossoff as Pelosi's puppet and defending a congressional district where Republican candidates have won easily for decades. Eighteen million bucks for a 10,000-vote margin.

Also on Tuesday, an "obscure Democrat,"Archie Parnell, came within 3,000 votes of capturing a solidly Republican congressional district in South Carolina. Few observers expected that showing, and fourteen Democratic male babies born on Wednesday morning were promptly named Archie. And two female babies.

Nick Everhart, a Republican strategist in Ohio, warned fellow Republicans against chest-thumping and the complacency which often follows ego inflation. He reminded fellow Republicans that up to this point -- after just four special elections -- Republicans have been beating Democrats "only on solidly red turf."

“To pretend that there are not serious enthusiasm-gap issues with the G.O.P. base and, more crucially, independents fleeing, is missing the lessons that need to be learned before truly competitive seats are on the board,” Everhart said.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Feel Good About the Special Congressional Elections

I've seen enough of fellow Dems beating up on the usual suspects for Ossoff's loss last night in the 6th District of Georgia ... blaming Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton herownself, and of course the young whippersnapper Jon Ossoff (whose greatest sin, other than all that money, IMO, was living outside the district). But enough of all that blame.

I feel good about the four special elections we've recently witnessed ... in Kansas, Montana, Georgia, and (also last night) in South Carolina for Mick Mulvaney's vacated seat (Archie Parnell did great, coming much closer than Ossoff in the most dismally Republican district you could ever deliberately draw).

All four Democrats lost, yes, but they lost in congressional districts the like of which Democrats will not have to win in 2018 to take back the House. Those four safe Republican districts -- and dozens of others like them -- will not have to be fought in and successfully challenged for Nancy Pelosi to become Speaker of the House again (and, yes, I wish for someone new in that role).

The closeness of those four races, with previously unknown Democratic candidates coming closer than any Democrat in years -- decades, in some cases -- provides a trend line that might sober up all the Trumpettes who've been celebrating Karen Handel's win in Georgia like it totally settles the issue of Trump's drain on the Republican Party.

But puff pastry gotta puff, forgetting how wholly fragile that particular baked good tends to be.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Headhunters in Search of Smaller Heads

On Trump's problems recruiting qualified candidates to fill top administration jobs:
“He just threw Jeff Sessions under the bus,” said Bill Valdez, a former senior Energy Department official who is now president of the Senior Executives Association, which represents 6,000 top federal leaders, referring to recent reports that the president is furious at the attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. “If you’re working with a boss who doesn’t have your back, you have no confidence in working with that individual.”
And this:
Republicans say they are turning down job offers to work for a chief executive whose volatile temperament makes them nervous. They are asking head-hunters if their reputations could suffer permanent damage, according to 27 people The Washington Post interviewed to assess what is becoming a debilitating factor in recruiting political appointees.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Will Ignorance Destroy Trump Before His Arrogance Does?

According to White House insiders who talked to reporters, Trump views Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "less as executors of law than as salaried staff."

As "salaried staff," those guys should buckle to the CEO, should jump on command, should do the bidding of the emperor of ice cream before the ice cream melts in the political heat.

That in a nutshell is what's wrong with Trump -- the coupling of towering arrogance with a complete ignorance of how our government works -- that law enforcement is not the handmaiden of a bumptious executive but a check on executive power.

Whoever said that ignorance can't kill?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Congratulations, Mr. President! You're Now Under Investigation. It'll Be the Greatest Investigation Ever Undertaken By Mankind

At 6:22 p.m. yesterday, the Washington Post flashed the news -- confirmed by several anonymous sources -- that special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating Trump for obstruction of justice. This information comes hard on the heels of that other leaked information that Trump wanted to fire Mueller.

At 6:55 a.m. this morning, Trump tweeted:
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
The following response quickly appeared on Twitter:
Good question! If everything to do with the special counsel is mere fake news, why indeed appear constantly to cover it all up, deflect attention away from it, and fire a troublesome FBI director who refused to kiss the ring and pledge his loyalty?

The WashPost scoop linked above also reports that investigators have been looking "for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates." Hasn't it always been about money with the guy at the top, and presumably his associates too? Many dots would appear to connect Trump to Russian oligarch money, which would be the main reason IMO to "collude" with Russians. Piles of cash!

I believe Robert Mueller is following the money as well as the obstruction. When a president reacts to any mention of Russia's interference like a man who's just felt a hot branding iron next to his thigh -- that's suspicious.
"You're the greatest thing that's ever happened,
and everything you do is intentional!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump and the "Possibility of Being Fired"

White House leakers have been talking again, and what we learn (via Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis) is that Trump really did want to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but White House chief of staff Reince Preibus and White House counsel Donald McGahn talked him out of it.

Doug Mills, New York Times
Jared Kushner, who had taken the lead in getting FBI director James Comey fired, was noticeably quiet about the firing of Mueller, since his bright idea about firing Comey had backfired and ballooned into the appointment of Mueller.

Trump is in a rage about Mueller. The gold drapes in the Oval Office have turned turd-brown, and everything the president puts in his mouth tastes like used dental floss.

Trump's BFF Christopher Ruddy made the president's intention of firing Mueller public Monday night in a television interview. Ruddy is now saying that he did that in order to prevent Mr. Trump from "making a rash decision." For which Ruddy is now on the outs with Dear Leader:
“Ruddy is nothing more than a journalist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, echoing the president’s sentiments, according to West Wing aides.
Ruddy is CEO of Newsmax Media.

Yesterday, during a noon-time meeting at the White House with Republican members of Congress, Trump was asked by reporters if he supported Mueller, and he refused to answer. Then this:
The president was pleased by the ambiguity of his position on Mr. Mueller, and thinks the possibility of being fired will focus the veteran prosecutor on delivering what the president desires most: a blanket public exoneration.
Trump apparently thinks that he's successfully intimidating Mueller. He also apparently thinks that toadies who praise him to his face on cue are being sincere. Any man this stupid should not have access to the nuclear codes.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Stroke My Monkey! Stroke It!"

Doug Mills, New York Times
"Beware" -- my mother always said -- "beware the man who can't be embarrassed."

There they were yesterday, the unembarrass-able men (and a very few women) of Trump's cabinet, reciting their pre-written words of adulation and fawning praise for Donald Trump, one by one and very obediently, like craven underlings in Kim Jong-un's palace guard.

Good God! Trump demanded the ritual ass-kissing, and he got his ass royally kissed. According to eye-witness Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "the president went around the table asking for a statement from each cabinet member. One by one, they said their names and — as if working to outdo one another — paid homage to Mr. Trump, describing how honored they were to serve in his administration."

Only Defense Secretary Jim Mattis diverged from the approved script. He praised the troops rather than Trump. Trump was "stern-faced" with Mattis, whereas in response to all the other fawning lickspittles, Trump "sat smiling, nodding his approval." “Thank you, Mick,” he told Mick Mulvaney, his budget director. “Good job,” he told Scott Pruitt, his E.P.A. chief. “Very good, Daniel,” he said to Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence. And so on.

This scene of gross ego-stroking reminds me of Shakespeare's King Lear's demanding to know which of his three daughters loves him most in Act I Scene 1. How did that work out for him during the rest of the play?

Senate Republicans Risk Getting All Up in Trump's Grille Over Russia Sanctions

Set to go to a vote this week in the US Senate -- new sanctions on Russia, particularly sanctions based on Russian interference in our election, and there's even a stinger in the tail aimed squarely at the man in the White House: The bill contains a provision that the president cannot scale back sanctions without going through Congress first.

When asked if Trump is on board with this proposal, Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Bob Corker "hesitated," noting: “I have to believe that the administration has to at least strongly consider supporting this.”

And anyway, Corker added, "he was sure the measure could receive a veto-proof level of support in the Senate."

Whoa! A Republican senator -- from Tennessee! -- throwing down a veiled dare to the Republican president about veto-proof majorities for punishing Russia. I believe the ground just started sliding.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Republican Senators Have Apparently Signed a Suicide Pact

Greater in His Own Mind Than Anywhere Else

At a cabinet meeting this morning, Trump bragged: “I will say that never has there been a president — with few exceptions; in the case of [Franklin D. Roosevelt], he had a major depression to handle — who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done, between the executive orders and the job-killing regulations that have been terminated. Many bills; I guess over 34 bills that Congress signed.”

Sound right to you? Sound accurate in substance to you?

Trump wants to count all those executive orders as "getting things done," when they really do nothing more than pounding the presidential desktop would achieve. They're "aspirational," but until Congress acts, most of those executive orders are literally not worth the fancy binders that contain them.

Here are the actual facts, through June 12th, counting all legislation signed, no matter how insignificant or routine:


Hattip: WashPost

Trump might have more accurately bragged, “I will say that never has there been a president who has bragged more about less than me."

Cock-Blocked: Comey Was Not the Only Law Enforcement Official Trump Was Trying to Dominate

Preet Bharara
As U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District -- which just incidentally includes Trump Tower in Manhattan -- Preet Bharara had a reputation as a "tenacious and bipartisan prosecutor." He indicted 17 prominent New York politicians for malfeasance, including 10 Democrats. He prosecuted insider trading cases, including one against disgraced financier Bernie Madoff.

Preet Bharara was fired from his US attorney's post by Trump very shortly after Trump had promised he would keep him on and also very shortly after Bharara stopped accepting phone calls from Trump, because he deemed those calls "inappropriate." Some things Trump said or implied made Bharara "uneasy."

Bharara says that never during the seven-plus years he served as US attorney under Barack Obama did the president ever call him on the phone to talk about a case. Shortly after his firing, it came out that Bharara was overseeing an investigation into questionable stock trades by Trump's new secretary of health and human services Tom Price. Bharara will not say if those calls from Trump were about Price or about something else that Bharara was poking into that Trump didn't want him to poke into.

After James Comey testified in Congress about Trump's trying to influence his investigation into Michael Flynn's ties to Russian intelligence, Preet Bharara told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that Comey’s account “felt a little bit like deja vu. And I’m not the FBI director,” he said, “but I was the chief federal law enforcement officer in Manhattan with jurisdiction over a lot of things including, you know, business interests and other things in New York.”

Trump called Bharara several times, trying to “cultivate some kind of relationship” with him, according to Bharara, making Bharara uneasy enough to report the calls to the chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who did precisely nothing about it, obviously). Bharara says he was dismissed from the prosecutor’s job 22 hours after he finally refused to take a call from the president.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Donald Trump Is Done

They told us he was smart. He ain't smart.

They told us he was shrewd. He ain't shrewd.

They told us he was clever. He ain't clever.

There may be months and even years more to come of this presidency -- unless and until the Republican Party grows weary of the dead weight -- but this man in the White House has cemented himself as in history as The Biggest Loser.



Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Charting a Path Back to Representational Government

RALEIGH  -- Gov. Roy Cooper, trying to put pressure on lawmakers to redraw state House and Senate election maps within the next two weeks, said he would call for a 14-day special session of the legislature.
The session Cooper plans to call would run simultaneously with the ongoing regular session, which is due to end some time this summer. He said such a concurrent session is rare but not unprecedented.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling that found 28 legislative districts to be illegal racial gerrymanders that diluted the overall influence of black voters.... [Anne Blythe reporting in the Raleigh News & Observer]
In response to the news above, Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action, issued the following statement:
“This illegitimately elected General Assembly led by Phil Berger and Tim Moore has held power for the better part of a decade, thanks to unconstitutional electoral maps that intentionally dilute the voices of minority voters. During that time, lawmakers have passed countless unconstitutional laws that have cost our state millions of dollars in legal fees and made North Carolina a global pariah, thanks to discriminatory actions such as HB2 and the monster voter suppression law. Letting an illegitimate General Assembly continue passing unconstitutional laws for even one more day is too long. These maps should be redrawn immediately, and the state should hold special elections as soon as possible. Furthermore, it is long past time for North Carolina to move to an independent redistricting system, to make sure this gerrymandering end-run around democracy can never happen again.”

Monday, June 05, 2017

U.S. Supremes Confirm Lower Court: 28 NC House & Senate Districts Were Illegally Gerrymandered

The justices affirmed the ruling of a three-judge panel per curiam, meaning they were unanimous in agreeing that 28 NC House and Senate districts were illegal racial gerrymanders.

But the justices vacated the lower court's order that redistricting and special elections must happen immediately (meaning in 2017).

The case is remanded back to the three-judge panel, which actually could still decide that the injustice of the gerrymandering warrants elections this year. But no one's holding his/her breath.

Democrats only need to win three House seats or six Senate seats to eliminate the Republicans' veto-proof lock on the General Assembly.

But ... per curiam! Meaning that Alito and Thomas and (we assume) Gorsuch all saw the obvious and could not bring themselves to countenance the NC Republican power grab.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Unicorns Making a Comeback: The Environmental Wisdom of DJT

WASHINGTON -- It's official. Climate change denial is now national policy. 

The United States of America affirmed today that global warming is a hoax, placing climate change on its list of debunked “theories” alongside evolution, gravity, magnetism, prime numbers, light waves, bacteria, atoms, and menstruation. 

No word yet on the administration's position on the flatness of the earth, the use of leeches as a cure for palsy, or the stoning of virgins to increase crop yield. However, the White House has confirmed that the sun is, in fact, a flaming chariot pulled by three Carpathian boars, and that tornadoes are caused by the wrath of the barley god Kubabanush. 

In other news, the U.S. Naval Observatory has re-set the national clock to the year 1017.

But seriously, folks:
(1) It's not economy-versus-environment; that's a false dichotomy, because alternative energy is providing more new jobs than traditional energy; 
(2) The Paris Accords were not a business "deal"; they were a general, evolving agreement; 
(3) The Accords were incredibly loose and open-ended; there was absolutely no practical gain in pulling out; 
(4) The Accords were flawed, but they were a start; pulling out just hurts the momentum and makes a terrible symbolic statement; 
(5) This action is a big blow to the U.S. as leading world power; it quickly makes us a marginalized outlier and opens a vacuum for others (including China) to fill; 
(6) The pullout won't be final until 2020 anyway (hint hint).
(Hattip: My friend JK)

Friday, June 02, 2017

Next Stop: NC Supreme Court

The same three-judge panel which ruled in March that the NC General Assembly had overstepped its bounds in rewriting the composition of the State Board of Elections (among other things) has now decided that it doesn't have jurisdiction over the constitutionality of the law, dismissing Governor Roy Cooper's lawsuit against it.

Cooper intends to appeal to the NC Supreme Court.



Thursday, June 01, 2017

Trump to America: "Turns Out, Swamp Creatures Have to Eat Too!"

Just out this morning -- news that Trump has issued ethics waivers to at least 16 employees who are also former lobbyists. They have been given permission to "work on policy matters they handled while employed as lobbyists or to interact with their former colleagues in private-sector jobs."

Who got the waivers and why? According to reporting in the NYTimes, here are some of them:
Michael Catanzaro, who until January was registered as a lobbyist for companies including Devon Energy, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy, a coal-burning electric utility. "Catanzaro moved from lobbying against Obama-era environmental rules to overseeing the White House office in charge of rolling back the same rules, an activity permitted by his waiver."
Shahira Knight, who had been a lobbyist for Fidelity Investments and now serves as a special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy — the same topic she had lobbied on while working for Fidelity, one of the largest retirement-investment companies in the United States.
Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, along with four other former lawyers and another former employee from Jones Day — the law firm that handled compliance matters and other legal issues for the Trump campaign -- has a waiver to "communicate" with his old firm.
Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, who was an executive at Breitbart News, got a special waiver that was retroactive to January 20, which eliminated an apparent ethics problem for Bannon, who had continually advised Breitbart editors after the inauguration on what they should publish about Trump.
The ethics waivers released last night -- following blunt pressure from the Government Ethics Office -- apply only to White House employees. Still hanging out there are unknown ethics waivers granted to new employees in federal departments and agencies.

Trump promised repeatedly to "drain the swamp" and limit the influence of lobbyists in Washington. Instead, he's doing precisely the opposite. Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said, “They [the Trump administration] are circumventing what they touted as their signature ethics achievement. It’s utterly at odds with candidate Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ rhetoric and it suggests that the Trump executive order is not worth the paper it is written on.”