Bloomberg

Thoroughly and Properly Out of Control

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

This is thoroughly and properly out of control.

First up—

A third top EPA official is leaving the agency amid intensifying scrutiny of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s travel, spending and condo rental.

Associate Administrator Liz Bowman, the top public affairs official at the Environmental Protection Agency, is leaving to become a spokeswoman for Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa.

Bloomberg reports on the third high-ranking departure from Scott Pruitt’s EPA this week. Liz Bowman came to the agency from a trade group called the American Chemistry Council, which in turn hires lobbyists on behalf of chemical manufacturers such as Dow, BASF, and Monsanto.

CNN adds particular detail from “a source close to Bowman”—

Bowman is the third top EPA official to leave the agency this week, following the resignation of Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, who headed Pruitt’s security detail, and Albert “Kell” Kelly, an Oklahoma business associate of Pruitt who led the agency’s superfund cleanup program. Unlike Bowman, both men had come under scrutiny for their role in the scandals swirling around Pruitt.

The source said she is leaving because she has two small children and wants to be able to spend more time with them.

—and postures what seems an obvious contrast. Another source, from EPA, pointed to the growing cascade of scandals, “said Bowman ‘broke her back trying to fight these stories the last few months'”.

(more…)

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One of Those Moments Spent Wondering What the Hell Is Wrong With President Trump

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump attends the Miss Universe 2013 competition at Crocus City Hall in Moscow, Russia, 9 November 2013. (Photo: Alexander Aleshkin/Epsilon/Getty Images)This is the sort of question that might well remain beyond any definitive answer:

President Donald Trump twice gave James Comey an alibi for why a salacious report about the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow couldn’t be true: He never even spent the night in Russia during that trip, Trump told the former FBI director, according to Comey’s memos about the conversations.

Yet the broad timeline of Trump’s stay, stretching from Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, through the following Sunday morning, has been widely reported. And it’s substantiated by social media posts that show he slept in Moscow the night before the Miss Universe contest.

Now, flight records obtained by Bloomberg provide fresh details. Combined with existing accounts and Trump’s own social-media posts, they capture two days that, nearly five years later, loom large in the controversy engulfing the White House and at the heart of the Comey memos, which the Justice Department turned over last week to Congress.

(Silver)

In all of history, given every stupid gaffe and inadequate excuse we might ever hear from politicians, what part of this was worth lying about, and by what measure would anyone expect to get away with it? The social media aspect is itself ridiculously damning. That is to say, it is perhaps possible to imagine a circumstance whereby someone like Donald Trump might not even bother to think about whether or not flight records can be ultimately hidden, but, you know, posing for promotional pictures and then saying one was not actually there is one of the tougher sells. True, Trump voters will generally be okay with it because whatever Trump says is #WhatTheyVotedFor, but for the rest of society, regardless of any other mystery about the #TrumpRussia debacle, this one just shines.

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Image note: Donald Trump attends the Miss Universe 2013 competition at Crocus City Hall in Moscow, Russia, 9 November 2013. (Photo: Alexander Aleshkin/Epsilon/Getty Images)

Silver, Vernon. “Flight Records Illuminate Mystery of Trump’s Moscow Nights”. Bloomberg. 23 April 2018.

The Pruitt Watch (#swampstyle)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The lede from Bloomberg ought to be enough—

President Donald Trump called his embattled environmental chief Monday to assure him his job is safe amid mounting scrutiny of Scott Pruitt’s travel, hiring practices and an unorthodox condo rental arrangement last year, according to two administration officials.

—to beg the question: So, the clock is ticking, then, right?

(more…)

What Rosenstein Said

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Via Bloomberg:

Beyond the 13 people indicted, Mueller announced the Feb. 12 guilty plea of a California man for identity theft, Richard Pinedo, who is cooperating with prosecutors. The indictment of Russian individuals and companies also suggests a broader conspiracy than Mueller charged, saying grand jurors heard about others involved in the scheme.

Richard Painter, who was the chief ethics adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said the lack of any evidence of collusion in the indictment wasn’t the final word by prosecutors.

“They’re charging what they know,” he said. “The contact with the Trump campaign might be unwitting in this case, but that doesn’t mean that the collaboration issue is finished.”

Now, just to make certain: We should probably bear in mind that neither, really is the question of this or that contact being unwitting truly closed. It seems a tawdry hair to split, except there is also the part about how—

This “information warfare” by the Russians didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters. Trump and his Republican supporters have repeatedly denounced the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and have denied any collusion. The indictment cites no instances of Russians coordinating directly with the Trump campaign.

—and this is important: Rosenstein did not say the information warfare “didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election”.

(more…)

The Aftermath (These Days Later)

#epichatred | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of cartoon by Mr. Fish, 30 November 2014, via Clowncrack.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

A year and a half after a city panel recommended that four Confederate-linked monuments be removed or altered, Mayor Catherine Pugh decided Tuesday to take them all down — and then watched as crews worked into early Wednesday to tear them from their pedestals.

“We moved quickly and quietly,” Pugh said. “There was enough grandstanding, enough speeches being made. Get it done.”

Pugh said crews removed the monuments unannounced and under cover of darkness between 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and 5:30 a.m. Wednesday in the hope of avoiding the potential for a violent conflict similar to the one Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

It seems to be going around. On Sunday, Vox spread the word:

White nationalists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday and Saturday to protest the city’s decision to take down Confederate monuments. But not only have the protests done nothing to change Charlottesville’s mind on this issue, it’s apparently prompted at least one other city to speed up action to remove its Confederate statues as well.

Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, Kentucky, made the announcement on Twitter on Saturday ....

Meanwhile, the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, is seeing fit to challenge his state’s law to protect Confederate monuments. Furthermore, an abysmal white supremacist website that last year named suspected Jews and urged people to “take action” has fled to hidden quarters of the web after major hosting services rejected them, and the notorious neo-Nazi celebrity whose Nazi salutes and praise for Hitler raised controversy that led the newspaper to so openly target Jews is among many alt-right heroes cut off by PayPal after their problematic relationship with the company’s Acceptable Use Policy became unavoidably apparent. And just to make the point, a lede tells us, “At least four people have lost their jobs and several more are under scrutiny following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville”.

(more…)

The Ted Cruz Show (Twitmix)

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.  Cruz was scheduled to speak on the scope of treaty power in the U.S. Constitution.  Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Cruelty is an American virtue, and nowhere is it more exhaustively celebrated than in our political discourse; which, in turn, kind of makes sense and explains why we not only tolerate such vice but encourage and even demand it. Oh, hell, let’s just run with the explanation from DeadState:

Just before Ted Cruz’s announcement today that he’s running for president, he sent out a cryptic message on Twitter that seemed to forebode the event.

Almost immediately, the folks on Twitter cobbled together the hashtag #TedCruzCampaignSlogans, and it was all downhill from there. Mocking Cruz with everything from suggested campaign slogans to referencing his birthplace in Canada, the onslaught was relentless.

And, of course, the thrashing ranged from policy to stupidity and even on to aesthetics:

“The wisdom of Bush, the fearmongering of Cheney, the ideology of Rand Paul, and the face of the drama mask.”

“Like Sarah Palin’s annoying younger brother.”

“An ocean in every house and a probe in every woman.”

“Just in case Rand Paul wasn’t crazy enough for you.”

“Because Joseph McCarthy deserves a second chance.”

Right. Pick your favorites. Grimace at the tasteless ones. Let it be.

That is to say, yeah, sure, it’s kind of fun to make these jokes, but there is no alternate campaign slogan we might invent that will surpass the sublimely vicious humor inherent in the idea that Ted Cruz thinks he can be president.

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(h/t to D.P.)

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Cruz was scheduled to speak on the scope of treaty power in the U.S. Constitution. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Palma, Sky. “Ted Cruz jumps in for 2016, Twitter destroys him accordingly with #TedCruzCampaignSlogans”. DeadState.org. 23 March 2015.

A Sideshow, Squared

Representative Aaron Schock, a Republican from Illinois, pauses while speaking during an interview in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.  Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee resisted parts of the early versions of Chairman Dave Campo's plan for the biggest tax-code changes since 1986, said Schock.  Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

“Of course, we don’t know for sure whether Schock is gay. All we know is that relatively few heterosexuals are forced from office by an interior decorating scandal.”

Matt Baume

Well, you know, there is that.

Then again, there is a bit more to it, as Matt Baume explains:

If Schock is in the closet, it’s a closet that he helped perpetuate during his years in Congress. Thanks to his opposition to open military service, marriage equality, and hate crime protection for LGBT people, he earned a perfect 0-percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign. Too bad HRC doesn’t award bonus points for best swimwear ....

.... When I talk about Schock’s “closet,” I mean the system of keeping LGBTs down by intimidating and disadvantaging them. Schock never met an anti-gay law he didn’t like, even though he was uncomfortable when asked why. Laws like those Schock supported are designed to oppress gays and lesbians, and they send a clear message: Sure, go ahead and be openly gay; just remember that you could lose your job, your home, your safety, or your life.

While it is true that Schock has long been subject to rumors and jokes about his sexualityα, it really doesn’t seem to be relevant here. Well, except for the point about the decorating.

That, at least, seems to be worth a chuckle.

And none of which should take away from Baume’s point; the LGBT community has reason to celebrate this falling from grace. Not that the one has much to do with the other except for a vague discussion about corruption of the soul or psyche, but still, you know, we take what we can get.

Ain’t that always the way?

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α There was the bit about the teal belt. And John Aravosis certainly entertained himself with the notion last year, and enough noise happened that Salon picked up on the murmur, and things have gone on the way they’ve gone on so that, well, now a scandal-plagued congressman infamous for his overdecorated office can’t possibly resign in shame without a queer question controversy.

Image note: Representative Aaron Schock, a Republican from Illinois, pauses while speaking during an interview in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee resisted parts of the early versions of Chairman Dave Campo’s plan for the biggest tax-code changes since 1986, said Schock. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Baume, Matt. “Aaron Schock and the Closets of Downton Abbey”. The Huffington Post. 19 March 2015.

See Also:

Savage, Dan. “Rep. Aaron Schock’s Belt Is…”. Slog. 15 June 2010.

Aravosis, John. “Anti-gay GOPer Aaron Schock locks down Instagram account as outing rumors swirl”. AmericaBlog. 4 January 2014.

D’Addario, Daniel. “The bizarre quasi-‘outing’ of Aaron Schock”. Salon. 6 January 2014.

Petrow, Steven. “Civilities: Please stop pink-baiting Aaron Schock”. The Washington Post. 20 March 2015.

A Delicate Question (Hashtag GOP Forty-Seven Paultopian Mess Mix)

Somebody stop him.

Any number of political thoughts occur. This man wants to be president, for instance. Or, Why are you still trying that line? Better yet: You still don’t get the point you’re trying to make?

Start with Dave Weigel for Bloomberg:

During a town-hall meeting with employees of a cloud computing company, Kentucky senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul said he signed Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran’s leaders to help the Obama administration craft a better deal.

Which is pretty much what he had said a week before, but as we noted then, it took him a couple days. And after this much time, Sen. Paul (R-KY) still does not seem to comprehend the point he is trying to make. Steve Benen tries to put it into context:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), looking thoughtful.  (Photo credit: Unknown)As we talked about the other day, the senator’s posture is arguably the worst of both worlds. For far-right politicians like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), last week’s unprecedented stunt was at least coherent – he and other Republicans wanted to derail the diplomatic efforts, betray President Obama, undermine American foreign policy, and push the world closer to a military confrontation with Iran. Putting aside whether or not the letter was disgusting, there was at least an obvious parallel between the letter and its objectives.

There is no similar logic to Rand Paul’s argument. He’s opposed to a war with Iran, so he signed on to a letter than would push us closer to a war with Iran. He wanted to help the White House “negotiate from a position of strength,” so he put his signature on a letter designed to weaken the administration’s negotiating position.

The fact that Rand Paul signed the letter is a problem. The fact that Rand Paul apparently didn’t understand the point of the letter he signed is a much more alarming problem.

It might be hard to ignore the amount of failing to comprehend people are willing to attribute to the Kentucky junior.

(more…)

Another Beltway Day

Barack Obama

I wonder if this would have been yesterday’s Lede of the Day had I noticed at the time:

President Barack Obama should be asking for more power to wage war against Islamic State extremists, some Republicans on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs committee said.

If Kathleen Miller’s lede for Bloomberg seems strange, well, you wouldn’t be the only one to think so. To the other, though, remember, this is war, and this is President Obama, so naturally Republicans would object that he isn’t asking to kill enough people. Besides, the GOP has a plethora of reasons―current potential candidate field notwithstanding―to think maybe 2016 will be their year. And, well, you know, since they expect one of theirs to take the White House before this AUMF expires, they want to make sure the next Republican president has as much legal backing as possible in order to kill as many nonwhites around the world as possible.

Plenty will note that the GOP has apparently rolled on executive authority, but these are Republicans, and this is war, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised.

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Miller, Kathleen. “For Once Obama Should Have More Power, House Republicans Say”. Bloomberg. 12 February 2015.

Benen, Steve. “GOP flips the script, endorses executive overreach”. msnbc. 13 February 2015.

Pigskin Piggy Priggy

Oh, those poor Washington Piggy-Piggy-Pigskinners.

The National Football League’s Washington Redskins can sue a group of American Indians for seeking to block trademark protection for its name, which has been criticized as offensive.

Just Say No ... to the Washington Racists NFL organization.U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee in Alexandria, Virginia, today denied a request to dismiss the case. Throwing out the complaint would deprive the team of the opportunity to review the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision to cancel the mark as disparaging, Lee said in a written opinion.

“Defendants show no reason why their interest would cease to exist considering reversal of the TTAB’s cancellation of the Redskins marks would subject defendants to the very harm they sought to eliminate by filing the petition,” Lee wrote.

The ruling is the latest in a 22-year dispute over a brand worth an estimated $145 million, according to Forbes. The board’s decision to cancel six trademarks, if left intact by the court, would make it harder for the team to enforce rights to its name and protect revenue associated with it. The franchise ranked third in the NFL in August, with a valuation of $1.7 billion, according to Forbes.

(Pearson)

Just so we’re clear: You can call the team name an “honor” to the indigenous tribes right about the same time we have a team called the Pale Riders that features mass rape and murder as part of his halftime genocide show. You know, to honor white people.

Meanwhile, yes, this is the way it goes. Assholes need to be able to sue the people who call them out as assholes, or else Justice herself goes to Hell as a handmaiden in a handbasket.

Poor Piggy-Piggy-Pigskinners.

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Pearson, Sophia. “Redskins Can Sue American Indians Over Team’s Trademark”. Bloomberg. 25 November 2014.