February 2nd, 2020

dara

Tonight's News (2020/2/1)

Trump, Unrepentant and Unleashed

The diabolical duo of Donald and Mitch, serving their own interests, not the national one.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/01/opinion/sunday/trump-impeachment-trial-witnesses.html

WASHINGTON — During a meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower in June of 2016, with the opéra bouffe builder improbably heading toward the nomination despite a skeletal campaign crew on a floor below, I asked when he would pivot.

We all assumed he would have to pivot, that he would have to stop his belittling Twitter rants, that he would have to cease attacking fellow Republicans like John McCain, that he would have to get more in line with the traditional stances of his party, that he would have to be less of a barbarian at the gates of D.C.

He crossed his arms, pursed his lips and shook his head — a child refusing vegetables.

How naïve he was, I thought to myself. But I was the naïve one. Trump has forced the world to pivot to him.

The state of the union is upside down and inside out and sauerkraut. Trump has changed literally everything in the last three years, transforming and coarsening the game. On Friday night, he became, arguably, the most brutishly powerful Republican of all time. Never has a leader had such a stranglehold on his party, subsuming it with one gulp.

As the Senate voted 51 to 49 to smother the impeachment inquiry, guided by the dark hand of Mitch McConnell, it felt like the world’s greatest deliberative body had been hollowed out, diminished.

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White House Refuses to Release 20 Emails About Ukraine Aid Freeze

https://news.yahoo.com/white-house-refuses-release-20-151737160.html

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration disclosed on Friday that there were 20 emails between a top aide to President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff and a colleague at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget discussing the freeze of a congressionally mandated military aid package for Ukraine.

But in response to a court order that it swiftly process those pages in response to a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, lawsuit filed by The New York Times, the Office of Management and Budget delivered a terse letter saying it would not turn over any of the 40 pages of emails — not even with redactions.

“All 20 documents are being withheld in full,” wrote Dionne Hardy, the office’s Freedom of Information Act officer.

The Times’ information act request sought email messages between Robert Blair, a top aide to Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and Michael Duffey, an official in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget who was in charge of handling the process for releasing $391 million in weapons and security assistance Congress had appropriated to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression.

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Trump Administration Moves to Relax Rules Against Killing Birds

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday moved to drop the threat of punishment to oil and gas companies, construction crews and other organizations that kill birds “incidentally,” arguing that businesses that accidentally kill birds ought to be able to operate without fear of prosecution.

Conservation groups said the proposed new regulation from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates under the Department of Interior, would substantially weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and put millions of birds in danger. The threat of fines and prosecution has, for decades, helped prod industries to take steps to protect birds, like affixing red lights on communication towers, they say.

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The cringing abdication of Senate Republicans

REPUBLICAN SENATORS who voted Friday to suppress known but unexamined evidence of President Trump’s wrongdoing at his Senate trial must have calculated that the wrath of a vindictive president is more dangerous than the sensible judgment of the American people, who, polls showed, overwhelmingly favored the summoning of witnesses. That’s almost the only way to understand how the Republicans could have chosen to deny themselves and the public the firsthand account of former national security adviser John Bolton, and perhaps others, on how Mr. Trump sought to extort political favors from Ukraine.

The public explanations the senators offered were so weak and contradictory as to reveal themselves as pretexts. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she weighed supporting “additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings” of the House’s impeachment process, but decided against doing so. Apparently she preferred a bad trial to a better one — but she did assure us that she felt “sad” that “the Congress has failed.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the case against Mr. Trump had already been proved, so no further testimony was needed. But he also said, without explanation, that Mr. Trump’s “inappropriate” conduct did not merit removal from office; voters, he said, should render a verdict in the coming presidential election. How could he measure the seriousness of Mr. Trump’s wrongdoing without hearing Mr. Bolton’s firsthand testimony of the president’s motives and intentions, including about whether the president is likely to seek additional improper foreign intervention in that same election?

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dara

In response to someone saying marriage rights won't be overturned

Elsewhere, someone I know said she really didn't think marriage equality would be overturned, not even in this environment. I wrote this as a response.



First, let me say that I hope you're right.

However, one of Trump's campaign promises has been to nominate only judges approved by the Heritage Foundation.

One of the requirements to get that approval is to not just think marriage was wrongly decided, but so was Lawrence v. Texas (2003), removing the laws against queer existence. They think being LGBT in any form can be made illegal. (And, while this is not as directly stated, should be.)

Here are a couple of commentaries on that, from their website:

https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/joseph-story-the-natural-law-and-modern-jurisprudence

https://www.heritage.org/report/judicial-usurpation-and-the-constitution-historical-and-contemporary-issues

They have about a third of the judicial system at this point filled with people who will rule against all my rights to exist, at all times.

Obviously, the same applies to Roe v. Wade, but that's a much older decision, and this one isn't. They want to, and will do their best to, make our lives a living hell at every turn, solely for the crime of existence.

This - and many other similar issues - is why McConnell refused to confirm so many judges during Obama's second term. (It wasn't just the Supreme Court.) He was keeping vacancies open in case they got lucky in 2016.

One stolen election later, here we are.

So I very much hope you're right.

But I don't think you are.

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dara

The Arc of Conflict, Edda 17: The Cult of Mercy

Katya Volskaya's government in Russia has destroyed the omnium Koschei, and held their own against the Gods of Oasis. With no point to additional fighting, the overt war has paused. But covertly, the conflict carries on. The gods, after all, still have a plan, and will do what is needed - one way, or another.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict
Edda 17: The Cult of Mercy

solarbird and bzarcher

Angela - Mercy - has discovered she has worshippers, a small cult, like Hana's D.votees. Unlike Hana, she finds this rather delightful.

Moira, on the other hand, does not.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict is a continuance of The Arc of Ascension, The Arc of Creation, and The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow the story as it appears, please subscribe to the series.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

dara

Today's News (20200202, put that way because extremely rare palindromic numbers are fun)

2020/02/02 is fun.

Nothing below is.

The landmine story is particularly interesting because I suspect it's a precursor to mining the boarder with Mexico. There are massive logistical problems with that, but since when does this fucker care? He'd probably find video of refugee children being blown up absolutely hilarious, so why not?

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Connelly: Senate Republicans could hide in a field of stubble

https://www.seattlepi.com/local/politics/article/Senate-Republicans-cower-under-Trump-tweets-15021187.php

Even as the day's new John Bolton revelations flashed on TV screens, 51 Senate Republicans voted Friday to block President Donald Trump's impeachment trial from hearing witnesses and new evidence. How to describe their attitude? Return to the final days of Richard Nixon, and immortal words spoken by Indiana Rep. Earl Landgrebe:

"Don't confuse me with the facts. I've got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment."

The full picture 46 years later is of both mind and body. The Senate Republicans were cowering. Lips pressed together in fear of what a vindictive, vengeance-prone president will say and do. Knees trembled over Trump tweets. Any display of independence would yield cries of treason on Fox News, and warnings from big donors.

So much for an independent branch of government performing its constitutional duty.

If you missed the movie "Twister," language fromf Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., can serve as substitute: Democrats arguing the case for conviction presented such a "mountain of evidence" that no witnesses were needed. The President acted inappropriately in withholding aid to Ukraine, but Trump should not be convicted "simply for actions that are inappropriate."

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Joe Biden Could Be Impeached by GOP Over Ukraine if He Wins, Iowa Senator Says

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-02/ernst-warns-of-gop-push-to-impeach-biden-over-ukraine-if-he-wins

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst warned Sunday that Republicans could immediately push to impeach Joe Biden over his work in Ukraine as vice president if he win the White House.

“I think this door of impeachable whatever has been opened,” Ernst said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Joe Biden should be very careful what he’s asking for because, you know, we can have a situation where if it should ever be President Biden, that immediately, people, right the day after he would be elected would be saying, ‘Well, we’re going to impeach him.’”

The grounds for impeachment, the first-term Republican said, would be “for being assigned to take on Ukrainian corruption yet turning a blind eye to Burisma because his son was on the board making over a million dollars a year.”

President Barack Obama sent Biden to Ukraine on his behalf to fight corruption, including leading the push from the U.S. and western European powers to remove prosecutor general Viktor Shokin from office. When Shokin was fired in 2016, no congressional Republicans expressed concern about the move. Eventually, though, Shokin began to argue that he was fired because he was investigating Burisma and Biden wanted to protect his son, Hunter, who was on the company’s board. The claim has been debunked.

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Trump authorizes shift to wider U.S. military use of land mines

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/trump-authorizes-shift-to-wider-u-s-military-use-of-land-mines

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday canceled an Obama-era prohibition on the use of anti-personnel land mines outside of the Korean peninsula. With potential future conflict with China and Russia in mind, the new policy specified no geographic limits on land mine use, declaring that the weapons offer an important war-fighting capability.

The policy change drew swift condemnation from groups that have advocated a global ban on land mines, which have been widely condemned for their history of killing and maiming childrenand other civilians long after wars are over.

“There are acts in war that are simply out of bounds,” said Jeff Meer, U.S. executive director of Humanity & Inclusion, an international aid organization. “Nations, even superpowers, must never use certain weapons because of the superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering they cause. Land mines fall directly into this category.”

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E.P.A. Is Letting Cities Dump More Raw Sewage Into Rivers for Years to Come
Washington, D.C., is digging a miles-long tunnel to contain the city’s untreated sewage during heavy rains.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/climate/epa-sewage-rivers.html

The Environmental Protection Agency has made it easier for cities to keep dumping raw sewage into rivers by letting them delay or otherwise change federally imposed fixes to their sewer systems, according to interviews with local officials, water utilities and their lobbyists.

Cities have long complained about the cost of meeting federal requirements to upgrade aging sewer systems, many of which release untreated waste directly into waterways during heavy rains — a problem that climate change worsens as rainstorms intensify. These complaints have gained new traction with the Trump administration, which has been more willing to renegotiate the agreements.

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A Dishonorable Senate
Republican legislators abdicated their duty by refusing to seek the truth.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/31/opinion/republicans-impeachment-congress.html

Alas, no one ever lost money betting on the cynicism of today’s congressional Republicans. On Friday evening, Republican senators voted in near lock step to block testimony from any new witnesses or the production of any new documents, a vote that was tantamount to an acquittal of the impeachment charges against President Trump. The move can only embolden the president to cheat in the 2020 election.

The vote also brings the nation face to face with the reality that the Senate has become nothing more than an arena for the most base and brutal — and stupid — power politics. Faced with credible evidence that a president was abusing his powers, it would not muster the institutional self-respect to even investigate.

The week began with such promise, or at least with the possibility the Senate might not abdicate its constitutional duty. Leaks from John Bolton’s forthcoming book about his time in the White House appeared to confirm the core of the impeachment case against Mr. Trump: his extortion of Ukraine by explicitly conditioning hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid on the announcement of investigations into his political rival.

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Crumbling US senate echoes Roman collapse

In failing to hear witnesses in the trial of Donald Trump, the Senate joins other historic bodies that paved the way for despotism.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2020/2/2/21119032/crumbling-us-senate-echoes-roman-collapse-trump

Don’t be glum, chum. It isn’t as if the United States Senate is the first legislative body to dissolve into an impotent puddle at the feet of a domineering leader. History’s full of ’em. The most glaring example, alas, is the senate in the ancient Roman Republic.

If it’s been a while since you reached for your Edward Gibbon, save yourself the back strain. I’ve spent the weekend thumbing through “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” and, buddy, as bad as the news is today, by consulting history we are reminded that it can get worse.

Much worse.

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[NOTE: THIS IS FROM SEPTEMBER, 2019, NOT NEW - but close enough]

Refusal of Interracial Couple Shows How Slippery the Slope of LGBTQ Refusal Really Is

After the owner of a wedding hall was caught on tape refusing an interracial couple "because of our Christian race," questions are resurfacing about the possibility that anti-LGBTQ "religious exemptions" might be paving the way for legalized racial discrimination.

https://rewire.news/religion-dispatches/2019/09/11/refusal-of-interracial-couple-shows-how-slippery-the-slope-of-lgbtq-refusal-really-is/

The owner of a Mississippi wedding hall, Donna Russell, made news last week for refusing to provide space for an interracial marriage due to her religious beliefs. Russell was caught on film stating that “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race—I mean, our Christian belief. . . .” A Facebook post allegedly written by Russell on behalf of the venue, read:

* “after searching . . . and sitting down with my pastor Sunday night after church I have come to the conclusion my decision which was based on what I had thought was correct to be supported by The Bible [sic] was incorrect!”

It took twenty years after the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, banning state laws against interracial marriage, for Mississippi to amend its constitution and remove the amendment prohibiting miscegenation. Loving nullified all state laws in 1967, but Mississippi clerks and courts refused to perform or honor interracial marriages for years after. Even in 1987, a bare majority of 52% of Mississippians voted to remove the language from the state constitution.

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The Simple Reason Trump Does What He Does

Because he can.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/02/opinion/trump-impeachment-trial.html

It wasn’t the most notorious part of the “Access Hollywood” tape, but it was the most revealing: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Donald Trump was talking in 2005 to Billy Bush, then a host of the celebrity-news program “Access Hollywood.” It was hardly a private moment. They were wearing microphones and surrounded by a camera crew. Before their interview began, Trump explained how he liked to “move” on women, kissing them without their permission and grabbing their genitalia.

In the more than three years since the tape emerged, it’s become clear that the you-can-do-anything line wasn’t only describing Trump’s attitude toward women. It was describing his attitude toward everything: If you’re rich, famous or powerful, you can get away with much more than most people understand. You just do it. You don’t need to worry about ethical niceties or even, sometimes, the law. You use your advantages to bulldoze any obstacles.

For anyone trying to make sense of the impeachment trial, this attitude is central. It’s why Trump pressured Ukraine to conduct a smear campaign in the first place: Because he could. And it’s how Trump organized his defense in the Senate. His lawyers offered a brazenly inconsistent series of arguments, from “He did nothing wrong” to “There was no quid prod quo” to “There were no witnesses to the quid pro quo” to, finally, “If a president does it, it’s O.K.”

You could almost hear the echo of the “Access Hollywood” tape in the Senate last week: When you’re president, you can do anything.

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