Kentucky

The Impossible Successor

#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:

We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.

Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.

Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.

(Benen)

Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.

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A Certain Shade of Gray

Detail of frame from Durarara!!!

KING 5 overstates the lede:

Washington health experts say deaths due to fentanyl have roughly doubled in the state in only a year. The drug is cut into heroin and other drugs as a cheaper alternative and often times without people knowing.

A new investigation released Wednesday by the State Department of Health, State Toxicology Laboratory, University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and Public Health Seattle & King County shows deaths from fentanyl and related drugs rose to 70 in 2016 from 28 in 2015.

The State Toxicology Lab says we can’t compare the numbers directly because halfway through the year, the lab changed its testing methods in order to detect smaller amounts of fentanyl. Had it used the old protocol, the lab would have identified 53 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016.

However, the 70 deaths account for 10 percent of all opioid-related deaths in the state.

Even still, the comparative reality isn’t exactly good news. Nor is there much comfort in not being elsewhere. WUSA, via KING 5:

Knoxville police are keeping their eyes out for a dangerous and deadly drug. It looks like a chunk of concrete, can kill with one dose, and is being called ‘Gray Death.’

So far, it’s been found in Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky, which are all states connected to Tennessee by an interstate.

According to reports, the drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, and includes an elephant tranquilizer called Carfentanil.

That tranquilizer showed up in Tennessee for the first time this year. Since then, it’s been found in five separate cases, including one in East Tennessee.

Remember: You can call it “gray death”, and someone will still want to use it.

At the same time, the joke about the nanovirus doesn’t work; the opioid epidemic is a bit more serious than video game obscurities. Still, of course they called it “gray death”.

(It’s a marketplace thing. See, back when KGB was popular as “killer green buds”, the marijuana didn’t actually kill you. Of course they called it “gray death”. Think about who we’re dealing with, here inasmuch as anyone would actually manufacture and distribute the stuff.)

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Tan, LiLi. “‘Kill pill’ intensifying opioid epidemic”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

WUSA. “New drug called ‘Gray Death’ can kill with just one dose”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

Asymetrically Expected

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, "An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter...".

Steve Benen brings both setup and punch line, which is what it is, and he is certainly fine talent―

Republican voters opposed bombing the Assad regime in Syria, until Donald Trump took office, at which point they changed their mind. GOP voters thought the American economy was awful, until a Republican became president, at which point they suddenly reversed course.

And Gallup reported late last week that Republican voters had deeply negative attitudes about the current U.S. tax system, right before they changed their minds in early 2017.

―but come on, Republicans are making it too easy. Or perhaps this is part of their faustian bargain, that such simplicity, daring to be stranger than fiction in a distinctive context akin to denigrating parody and pantomime, is the price of their desires. To say this is how Republicans or conservatives behave—to predict or expect such simplistic behavior—merely for the basis of political affiliation ought to be some manner of offensive stereotype.

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¿Normalization?

Naota (at right), tugs on the electrical cable rectally feeding a sex toy designed to look like his father (bottom), while MiuMiu the cat catches some rays. (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

This is a sentence that ought to thrill hearts: “America may be closer to a post-gay state of politics than most realize”. Alex Roarty’s report for Roll Call either begs certain questions or else desecrates them; matters of perspective abide.

The St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic is an annual showcase for Kentucky’s top politicians to give (they hope) a funny, sharp-elbowed speech at the other party’s expense. While they speak, hundreds of loud-mouthed partisans are encouraged to yell and scream as loudly as they can―as if the American political id was caged in a small pavilion two hours from a major airport.

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray (D) speaks the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, on Saturday, 6 August 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)“I want to introduce myself to Sen. McConnell,” he said, looking over to the Senate majority leader seated a few feet away, who minutes earlier had given his own speech. The Republicans, whose voices drowned out the sound of nearby thunder, chanted “Go away Gray!”

The candidate continued: “He earlier called me a ‘nobody.’ Well, let me introduce myself, senator. I am Jim Gray, and I am the guy who is going to beat Rand Paul.”

What went unnoticed this recent Saturday afternoon was that Gray was probably first openly gay person to speak at Fancy Farm. Records aren’t easy to come by for something that began in 1880, but veterans of the event say they can’t recall an openly gay speaker.

This is how Gray’s campaign has gone: He’s making history, and nobody seems to notice. Or, for that matter, care.

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My Superstition (Anti-Prophet)

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin poses with a snow truck Saturday, 23 January 2016; the Republican governor posted the image to social media in order to show Bluegrass State residents how hard he was working on the snowstorm shortly before flying to New Hampshire for a campaign event. Detail of self-portrait by Matt Bevin.

This is a personal superstition:

Aside from the obvious, it’s worth noting that when governors go to New Hampshire to headline fundraisers, it often means they’re thinking about raising their visibility ahead of a national campaign. Bevin’s entire career in public office has only lasted a couple of months; is he already eyeing some kind of promotion?

Every once in a while a paragraph like this comes up, or some similar circumstance. One reads or hears something, and, you know, just … oh, come on.

And while it is easy enough to knock Steve Benen for sounding histrionic partisan alarms early, the truth of the matter is that I also scoffed, nearly three years ago, at the proposition of Ben Carson running for president.

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Nearly on Cue

Lebanon dispenses wisdom and confidence. (Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 4, 'The Ark Adrift on the Lake ...')

“I am opposed to gay marriages on religious grounds, and my conscience will not allow me to sign off on marriage certificates for gay couples. People should not have to violate their conscience to run or to serve.”

Mayor Sharon Valentine-Thomas (R-PA, Pottstown)

Why do I have a song stuck in my head?

Just a couple fuckin’ more weeks to go! I wanna be Kim Davis! Nothin’ to do but be an asshole! I wanna be Kim Davis!

Mayor Sharon Valentine-Thomas (R-PA/Pottstown), in undated file photo from Digital First Media.That ain’t right.

Right?

Never mind.

Evan Brandt, for The Times Herald:

Statements by Pottstown Mayor Sharon Thomas in the usually sleepy race for register of wills have once again put Montgomery County in the spotlight in Pennsylvania’s debate about same sex marriage.

Thomas, a Republican, told The Intelligencer newspaper that she will not personally issue any same sex marriage licenses if she wins the race against incumbent Democrat D. Bruce Hanes.

Instead, as in the now-famous case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who spent five days in jail after defying a court order to issue same-sex licenses, Thomas said she will seek court permission to allow the licenses to be issued by a subordinate.

“I am opposed to gay marriages on religious grounds, and my conscience will not allow me to sign off on marriage certificates for gay couples,” Thomas, an ordained minister who is serving her second nonconsecutive term as Pottstown’s mayor, told The Intelligencer. “People should not have to violate their conscience to run or to serve.”

Thomas said, “I am not an obstructionist and will not force my values on others.”

There is a joke about Republicans and the idea that government does not or cannot work; why would anybody hire the applicant who says that about a job? In the twenty-first century, however, we need not be surprised that the punch line becomes a real campaign plank. That is to say, it’s kind of a one-turn maze; the punch line exists because it is reliable enough. To the other, this is something of an escalation.

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The Rand Paul Show (Rumors and Exaggerations)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, 18 June 2015. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)“Even if we put aside whether or not Paul is answering the question well, the issue is the existence of the question itself: competitive candidates who are performing well aren’t asked when they’re quitting.”

Steve Benen

You know, he’s kinda got a point.

What? What would you like me to quote, here? “Evidently, Bevin forgot that his third choice is supposed to be his first.” Valid point. Or, you know, maybe politics is just that cynical and everyone in Kentucky knows it. “A month before Kentucky voters choose a new governor, the Republican nominee joined Kentucky’s own presidential candidate – on a weekend – for a high-profile event. Just 50 people showed up?” Again, a valid point. Even more so, actually.Rand Paul 2016

And it just keeps coming. A sixty-four percent drop in fundraising for the campaign; opposition is switching to focus on Sen. Paul’s re-election campaign, as if his presidential bid is of no concern; he is hearing the actual question, even pressed so far as to explain, “I think the rumors of my demise are somewhat exagerated”, which never really is a good sign. When the headlines remind readers that a candidate is not dropping out, it’s not merely ominous. It’s an actual omen.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rand Paul Show.

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Image note: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the “Road to Majority” conference in Washington Jun. 18, 2015. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “Rand Paul facing the question no candidate wants to hear”. msnbc. 5 October 2015.

The Rand Paul Show (Complication)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., prepares to address the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference which featured speeches by conservative politicians at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, June 18, 2015. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP)

This is not quite the same as the whole complaint that government doesn’t work, but still, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offers something in a lesson about the moral of the story. The Kentucky junior has been working hard for a while, now, trying to find a way to circumvent the Bluegrass State law prohibiting him from running for both President and U.S. Senate. And in August, he found a way, convincing the state’s GOP to hold an extraneous, costly caucus that Mr. Paul will pay for.

And while the question of his procedural genius seemed well-enough established in the 2012 cycle when Rand Paul’s created a competitive presidential contest by maneuvering in the caucuses, the current contest presents its own challenges. The scion of fake libertarianism struggles to break five percent support, and has averaged less than one percent support in polls released over the last week. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suspended his campaign on the eve of Iowa numbers putting him ahead of Rand Paul, and while the punditry marvels at another establishment candidate and Beltway favorite languishing in the polls, there is another facet of the Rand Paul Show worth attending:

Paul’s shallow support in Congress mirrors the kind of support his presidential campaign has earned in GOP primary polls. That has prompted some concerns to be raised about his strength in what should be a safe re-election race for a Republican.

“Sen. Paul earned a lot of goodwill with his efforts last year to help Republicans win back the majority and I suspect party leaders have wanted to give him some deserved leeway” for how long to carry on both campaigns, said Brian Walsh, a Republican operative who has worked on House and Senate races for more than a decade. “But there’s no question that every seat will be critical to holding the majority, that every senator running for re-election will need to spend a lot of time back home and at some point soon Senator Paul will have to make a decision on his future.”

(Yokley)

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The Rand Paul Show (Unimpossible)

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Why not take a moment for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)?

Steve Benen considers the suspension of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign:

I’ve seen some reports noting that Perry did not technically withdraw from the race, choosing instead to “suspend” his campaign, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a distinction without a difference. The former governor’s national ambitions are finished.

Perry is the first candidate to depart the historically massive 2016 field, which is itself emblematic of a larger truth. In a year in which the leading GOP candidates never served a day in public office, the first candidate to quit is the one who has the most executive-level experience (Perry was governor of one the nation’s largest states for a record 14 years).

msnbcSen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another struggling presidential hopeful, said on Twitter last night, “What does it say about Republicans when a three-and-a-half-term governor with a successful record of creating jobs bows out, as a reality star leads in the polls?”

Under the circumstances, that’s not an unreasonable question.

Ordinarily, when a high-profile presidential candidate effectively withdraws from the race, there’s a brief scramble from the remaining candidates to pick up his or her supporters and top staffers. That’s not really an issue with Perry – at the risk of sounding unkind, his departure doesn’t affect race too much, since the Texas Republican’s support was so weak.

It is, of course, easy enough to postulate snappy retorts about consumerism and Americo-Machiavellian post-capitalism, or some such, but perhaps it is more important to make the point that it is, in fact, possible to find a common point of agreement with Rand Paul.

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Benen, Steve. “Rick Perry exits stage right”. msnbc. 12 September 2015.

Just Another Day (Mad Mat Mix)

Kim Davis and Friends: Detail of cartoon by Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer, 10 September 2015.

Here is a question: What do Kim Davis and Donald Trump have in common? Before you reach for a punch line, I should note it’s not actually that kind of a setup. In truth, it is hard to follow either story, because it is difficult, to the one, to comprehend the full dimensions of what is actually happening, and to the other that it happens so damn fast. Either absurdist tragedy leaves us breathless trying to keep up.

For instance, adding the Oath Keepers to the mix probably isn’t any specific reason to be alarmed, but still, it can’t be good news.

In a phone call with Jackson County Kentucky Sheriff Denny Peyman, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes said members of his group had reached out to Davis’s legal team and were already forming an on-the-ground presence in Kentucky’s Rowan County, but remained tight-lipped on specifics, Right Wing Watch reports. Rhodes said his group’s action had nothing to do with same-sex marriage, but instead was focused on his belief that Davis had been illegally detained after being found in contempt of court by not issuing marriage licenses.

“As far as we’re concerned, this is not over,” he said in the audio clip above. “This judge needs to be put on notice that his behavior is not going to be accepted, and we’ll be there to stop it and intercede ourselves if we have to.”

(Wong)

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