Texas

The Pruitt Watch (#swamped)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. (Photo: Jason Andrew/Getty Images)

The list from Steve Benen might, ‘twixt now and Monday, have become obsolete; it’s hard to tell, some days.

1. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s controversial travel habits.

2. The House Oversight Committee is also exploring the EPA chief’s use of public funds for first-class travel.

3. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s behind-the-scenes talks with the National Mining Association.

4. Pruitt’s exorbitant spending on an around-the-clock security detail is the subject of three inspector general investigations.

5. The House Oversight Committee is also examining the EPA chief’s security expenditures.

6. The Government Accountability Office has already investigated Pruitt for exceeding federal spending limits when he bought a $43,000 phone booth for his office.

7. The White House Office of Management and Budget is also investigating the phone booth.

8. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s use of funds set aside for the Safe Drinking Water Act and diverting the money to give generous raises to two of his top aides.

9. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s four-day trip to Morocco late last year.

10. The Government Accountability Office is investigating Pruitt’s ouster of scientists from the EPA’s science advisory committee.

11. The Government Accountability Office is investigating whether Pruitt broke lobbying laws with comments he made to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

12. The House Oversight Committee is investigating Pruitt’s living arrangement at a lobbyist’s condo.

13. And as noted above, the EPA’s inspector general is now also taking a closer look at Pruitt’s time at that condo.

Before the day was out, the msnbc blogger found himself adding to the list, sort of, noting a “controversy that should become the 14th” in a Reuters report describing a financial hardship waiver Pruitt’s EPA granted to an Oklahoma facility for a company owned by former Trump administration hand Carl Icahn:

The waiver enables Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc (CVI.N) to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs related to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The regulation is meant to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel each year.

And it does, you know, just keep going downhill.

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A Particularly Straightforward Example of an Extraordinarily Mundane―That Is To Say, Neurotic―Rhetorical Accident

This is one of those straightforward distillations; Alli Joseph, for Salon:

“Once Obama called all people from Texas ‘swamp crazy,’ people pretty much decided to vote for Trump next time,” she said matter-of-factly. There’s a germ of truth there: At an Ohio Democratic dinner on Oct. 13, President Obama said that some Texas officials who had believed that a routine military exercise might lead to martial law belonged to the “swamp of crazy.”

See how that works?

No, really; it’s an essential transformation that, in other circumstances, actually looks like people rushing to throw in with undesirable outcomes in order to complain that the politician they already don’t like has somehow insulted them. It comes up quite a bit, actually.

This is just a particularly straightforward example.

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Joseph, Alli. “Deep in the heart of TrumpLand―even Texans want our national nightmare to be over”. Salon. 30 October 2016.

Sean Hannity (Poor Donny)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) with campaign surrogate, FOX News host Sean Hannity.  (FOX News, 2016)

“I have had it. Thirteen freaking days. Wake up. This can be won. But it’s very, very hard. And I’m telling all of you who is important here. And basically every red state’s important. If you think, ‘well, my state doesn’t matter, it’s Texas,’ no, you better vote. ‘My state’s Georgia,’ well we’ve seen polls that are close in Georgia. ‘My state’s Utah.’ Who’s this idiot that’s running third party that’s killing Trump out in Utah. Who put him up? What was it? The Bush people? The Romney people? Seriously? Really? You’re going to elect Hillary because we lose Utah? What a disaster that would be for the country.”

Sean Hannity

This is just a distraction. Media Matters offers a glimpse into Sean Hannity’s not quite struggle to wear both FOX News and Trump surrogate caps. Two hats, one tongue, half a brain? Right. Seriously: What joke goes here? Are not the words, “Sean Hannity”, enough?

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Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) with campaign surrogate, FOX News host Sean Hannity. (Credit: FOX News, 2016)

Media Matters Staff. “Listen To Sean Hannity’s Unhinged Rant Over ‘Idiot’ Evan McMullin Beating Trump In Utah”. Media Matters for America. 26 October 2016.

The 2020 Republican Presidential Nomination Contest

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) flashes a thumbs up as he leaves the stage during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, 20 July 2016.  (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

We might reasonably propose that it bodes naught but ill for Republicans that we might consider the 2020 GOP presidential nomination contest already afoot. We might also wish to be joking about that, but this is your Republican Party after all.

Before Ted Cruz’s memorable remarks at the Republican National Convention last night, the Texas senator hosted an outdoor event with supporters in Cleveland yesterday afternoon. As luck would have it, Donald Trump’s plane flew overhead when Cruz said the party had a nominee―and his backers started booing.

And while the timing was notable, so too was the fact that Cruz’s supporters chanted “2020” during the event.

Steve Benen continues, noting, “as ridiculous as this may seem to Americans who are already tired of the 2016 presidential race, there is little doubt that Republican jostling is well underway―in the 2020 race.”

Nor is Mr. Benen joking.

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The Hook (Hillary Under the Sun)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. (Detail of photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

And there is the hook:

Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remain two of the leading contenders for Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick, but Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is also under active consideration, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the process.

Booker, a freshman senator and former mayor of Newark, has drawn relatively little attention throughout Clinton’s vice-presidential selection process but remains a serious prospect. He was among the roughly half-dozen potential running mates who met with Clinton at her home in Washington on Friday, a fact first reported Thursday by Politico.

(Wagner and Gearan)

Please let this be the hook.

On Sen. Booker (D-NJ): It is easy enough to say if not Warren then Booker. But neither is Mr. Booker a second choice for lack of better. Nor, in that context, should we view Sen. Kaine (D-VA) or Sec. Vilsack (D-IA) so poorly. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Photo by Jake Rosenberg/The Coveteur. But in the case of the latter, Hillary Clinton can at least perceive the need for someone less institutionally ensconced than either of these stalwart political résumés offer the powerful left-flank movement asserting policy influence, a bloc whose votes and continued support she needs.

Sen. Warren (D-MA) seems the obvious choice, but truth told there is a fine argument for what she can do from the Senate, but this also presumes enough pressure on Democratic leadership in the Senate to buck future Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and Whip Richard Durbin (IL). It’s a tough proposition, but the Senate Democrats under Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray (WA) or Amy Klobuchar (MN) would be a powerful majority caucus; as a minority, it seems an easy suggestion that they would be more effective than what Mr. Reid (NV) has managed in the face of Republican intransigence. It’s all speculation, though. The bottom line is determined by Hillary Clinton, this time; she can perceive the need, but how will she address and reconcile it?

Elevating Sen. Booker as her running mate is one of the things she can do. And should anyone find cause to doubt we are getting civil rights president out of this, selecting Mr. Booker would put that question to rest.

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The Conservative Lesson

David Daleiden, of Center for Medical Progress.  Detail of photo by Charles Ommanney, ca. 2015.

A question arises: Is self-harm ever funny?

Certes, there are complications to the question; obviously, it is harder to justify self-harm if one also hurts others along the way, but here we’re not talking about going on a slashing spree amid a cutting habit. This one falls more under inspiring terrorists while wrecking your life for the sake of your own stupid masculinity.

Never mind.

Yesterday morning, via USA Today:

The videos show Planned Parenthood’s senior leadership partaking in a widespread and organized violation of state and federal laws forbidding partial-birth abortions and profiteering from the sale of fetal organs and tissues, which is why multiple state and federal investigations, including a select committee in Congress, continue to investigate Planned Parenthood’s abortion practice and financial interests in harvesting body parts. Contrary to the liberal shibboleth that the videos were “edited” (by which they mean to insinuate, “doctored”), the Center for Medical Progress has been far more transparent than any major news network in making the unedited conversations available to the public, and forensic analysis verifies their utility as evidence.

David Daleiden penned an op-ed in defense of his Center for Medical Progress, which is perhaps more familiar as the right-wing operation that doctored up some videos that succeeded in causing a ruckus. Congress held hearings, then slated some more because the first round was such a disaster. A terrorist murdered three people, wounded several more. Eleven states have investigated the infamous claims against Planned Parenthood, and all eleven have cleared the organization. In Texas, officials even convened a grand jury.

So Daleiden decided to … what? Pitch his case one last time? Rub it in? Set up for his victory lap?

That was Monday morning. A few hours later, Daleiden and co-conspirator Sandra Merritt got the news:

A Houston jury investigating alleged misconduct by Planned Parenthood declined to charge the women’s health provider, announcing instead felony charges for the leaders of the anti-abortion organization that targeted Planned Parenthood with it’s widely debunked series of “sting” videos in 2015.

The grand jury said they did not find evidence of illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood after reviewing the covert videos meant to misleadingly implicate the women’s health provider in the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue ....

.... David Daleiden, the 26-year old president of The Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, founder and CEO of the fake tissue procurement company created to misleadingly gain entry into abortion clinics, were indicted for “tampering with a governmental record,” while Daleiden received an additional indictment for “the purchase and sale of human organs.” The first charge is a second degree felony and the second is a Class A misdemeanor. As the Houston Chronicle notes, a second-degree felony carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

(Tesfaye)

They did this to themselves.

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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.

A Lonely Passing

Shade Schuler, whose body was discovered 29 July 2015, in Dallas, Texas, making her the thirteenth transgender murder victim, surpassing the previous year's total.

It is our regret to convey such news:

A 22-year-old woman found dead last month in Dallas is the 13th transgender person murdered in the US this year, eclipsing the total from all of 2014.

On Monday, police identified the body of Shade Schuler, which they found July 29 in a vacant field just west of 5600 Riverside Drive, near the Medical District. Schuler’s body was badly decomposed, according to police, and it took them nearly two weeks to identify her.

(Wright)

There is no promise we can make; not if we are honest with ourselves. There is no saying, “No more!” and making it stick.

Look … take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. We must all take care for our friends and neighbors. The point is to live through this. Please.

To wish, Be well … as well as the day affords. As well as life and death allow. It all sounds kind of stupid, rings somewhat hollow. But sometimes it’s all we have.

And, damn it, in the end it’s more than Shade Schuler had. And, come on, that’s just not fucking fair.

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Wright, John. “Black Trans Woman Found Dead in Dallas is 13th Trans Person Murdered in 2015”. 12 August 2015.

The Ted Cruz Show (Deeply Invested)

TedCruz-bw-banner

Ladies and gentlemen, this is The Ted Cruz Show:

Ted Cruz for President 2016 logo.Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that doing everything possible to thwart the Iran deal should include states exploring imposing their own sanctions.

The Republican presidential candidate from Texas was asked at a raucous town hall-style forum here about the prospects of states taking action to impose sanctions on the money the Obama administration has agreed to release as part of the deal regarding the country’s nuclear development.

“I think that states should act and lead to do exactly that,” Cruz said.

You may, of course, proceed to laugh yourself to emergency surgery if you are so inclined, but the Texas junior isn’t done yet, as Niels Lesniewski makes clear for Roll Call. Mr. Cruz recalled an occasion when, as solicitor general, he rebuffed an attempt by President George W. Bush to force Texas to apply the authority of the International Criminal Court. Roll Call On the Road.Without drawing any connection to his proposition that states conduct geopolitics, Cruz reminded, “The court further concluded that no president, Republican of Democrat, has the constitutional authority to give up U.S. Sovereignty. So I think states ought to go down that road.”

We might suggest to wonder what that actually means, but such a question also demands wondering if we might ever find out. Ted Cruz is deeply invested in nonsense.

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Lesniewski, Niels. “Ted Cruz to States: Impose Your Own Iran Sanctions”. Roll Call. 9 August 2015.