Turns out, it was the coffee boy who spilled the beans

Remember George Papadopoulos, the member of the Trump campaign team who, not too long ago, pled guilt to lying to the FBI? Remember how, Trump, playing it all down, referred to Papadopoulos as a “low level volunteer” and a “liar,” and how members of the President’s inner circle said he was nothing more than a “coffee boy“? Well, it would appear that this inconsequential, little coffee boy may have been the one responsible for the F.B.I. having opened a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign prior to the election. According to today’s New York Times, it was something said by Papadopoulos to an Australian at the Kensington Wine Rooms in London that set the whole thing in motion. [And, yes, the Trump team, it would appear, was in the practice of sending their coffee boy to London to take meetings at swanky bars.] Here’s how the article begins.

So, the whole thing didn’t start, as Republicans have suggested, with an opposition research dossier funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. No, the whole thing started with Papadopoulos, over drinks, bragging to Australian Alexander Downer about how the Trump team would soon be benefiting from Democratic emails stolen by the Russians… And this was months before eight the DNC or the American people became aware of the hack.

And Papadopoulos, as you’ll recall, is now cooperating with the Mueller investigation, ostensibly telling them everything those above him in the administration knew about these stolen Democratic emails, and when they knew it.

So, why is this coming out now? If I had to guess, I’d say that Mueller and his team are slowly laying the groundwork necessary before they initiate their the next wave of their campaign, which will be targeting those in Trump’s inner circle. If I were a betting man, I’d say that next week will be one that we won’t easily forget.

I don’t think they’ll be nearly as popular as the statues of Mueller that will start going up around the country once all of this is over with, but I do suspect, by the time we’re done, there will be at least a few statues of the unwitting hero, George Papadopoulos, leaning over to the guy next to him at the bar, laying out the treasonous plan of the Trump campaign.

[Today’s post is dedicated to the people of Australia. Thank you, Australia, for doing the right thing, and alerting the authorities.]

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

I’m busy tonight, but I just wanted to stop by and say, I will never forgive those of you who voted for this man

[Sorry in advance for the short screed to come, but, having just read an article about how the glaciers of the Swiss Alps have literally shrunk by half since 1850, I think it’s a natural response. Or at least I think it should be.]

With all due respect to those of you who voted for this man, fuck you. Humanity, quite literally, could die because you were stupid enough to vote for an ignorant, narcissistic con man who offered you a handful of magic beans, while telling you that you were special, and deserved everything that your non-white neighbors had. You are dumb as fuck. And you deserve what’s coming. Sadly, though, the rest of us do not. So, again, fuck you. Fuck you for electing as our president the leader of an anti-science death cult who has made ours the only country on the entire planet that refuses to acknowledge the very real threat of climate change.

Here’s for what it’s worth… because I don’t have any time right now… is something that I posted this past September, during hurricane season. It seems appropriate. [If you get a chance, go back and read the comments. They’re really good.]

As I write this, there are three hurricanes working their way westward across the Atlantic. They are; Katia, Irma, and Jose. Irma, the one that appears to be the most deadly of the three at the moment, has maintained a sustained windspeed of 185 miles an hour for over 24 hours now, breaking all known records. While the eye of the Category-5 hurricane narrowly missed Puerto Rico, both St. Martin and Barbuda have, according to press reports, been decimated. And it looks as though the Turks and Caicos Islands are next, as the hurricane makes its way toward the Florida coast, where, according to some projections, it could do over $300 billion in damage.

While the destructive power of the hurricane may diminish before it hits Florida, I think it’s fair to say that, at least historically speaking, we shouldn’t be talking about a Category-5 hurricane hitting our coast just a few weeks after having a Category-4 hurricane hitting the same coast. I mean, if they were regular events, they wouldn’t call them “500 year” storms, right? But here we are, in the span of just three weeks, preparing for Hurricane Irma to pick up in Florida where Hurricane Harvey left off in Texas.

One would think, at some point, even in deep red states like Texas and Florida, people might begin to wonder why it is that, in spite of what climate change deniers might tell us, the oceans just keep getting warmer, and these once-in-a-generation weather events keep happening one after the other. I mean, the temperature in San Francisco just hit 106-degrees, forest fires are consuming Oregon, and here we are, preparing to see yet another American coastal city washed out to sea. You would think, at some point, people… especially those losing their homes… might stop worrying about the future of Confederate of monuments and begin to worry instead about the futures of their families. At some point, you would think, these people would have to start turning on those politicians like Senator Mitch McConnell, who, in spite of the evidence, has said, “For everybody who thinks it’s warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn’t,” and Donald Trump, who has claimed that climate change was nothing more than a “Chinese hoax.”

But, it would appear, we’re still not yet at the tipping point… One just wonders how many people have to die before we get there.

Trump, apparently not feeling any pressure from his supporters, just named Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine, a man who once demanded on the floor of the House that President Obama “apologize” to the American people for funding research into climate change, to be the head of NASA. And, today, of all places, he headed to North Dakota to stand in front of an oil refinery and tell those assembled before him that the drought they’ve been experiencing will simply go away. “We’re working hard on it, and it will disappear, it will all go away,” he told his assembles supporters, as the refinery behind him belched out smoke. In better times, I would have found the irony hilarious.

In a sane world, the whole lot of them – all the Republicans who have continued to lie about the science of climate change because it serves them politically – would be run out of D.C. on a rail, but here we are, clapping for our pussy-grabber-in-chief at an oil refinery as yet another hurricane prepares to hit out coast.

I think I’ve probably said it here before, but every climate denier should be held personally accountable for what happened a few weeks ago in Houston, what is likely going to happen tomorrow in Florida, and whatever happens next. They knew damn well what was happening, and they not only chose to do nothing, but they lied, and told people that there was nothing to worry about. They should not only be driven from office, but every one of them should be the subject of a class action suit… Every family who lost a loved one, or a home, should go after these men for damages, as they knowingly perpetuated a lie to serve the financial interests of their campaign donors.

I’m pretty sure I’ve told you this before, but I first became aware of climate change back in ’87, when I lived in Washington, DC. I remember distinctly attending a public event where scientists, politicians and lobbyists weighed in on the subject. (I remember that the lobbyist on the panel said that, even if global warming were true, we’d be able to invent our way out of it. “We’ll make bigger, better air conditioners,” he said, as thought that would somehow make everything alright.) That was 30 years ago, and the scientific evidence was already pretty clear. And who knows how much progress we could have made toward limiting our carbon output if we’d acted decisively back then. Instead, though, we kept propping up the oil and gas industry with subsidies, while fighting against renewables.

But, instead, we’re staring into the eye of Irma, waiting to find out just how many lives are forever ruined.

Paul Ryan said yesterday, “We’ve got another hurricane right now headed to our shores and it’s critical that we act immediately.” Of course, when he said it, he wasn’t referring to the root cause. He wasn’t talking about cutting carbon emissions, of passing a gas tax to encourage a shift to renewables, or an ambitious infrastructure initiative to public a state-of-the-art wind and solar grid across the United States. No, by “act immediately,” he meant “try to dodge the waves and flying debris.” And that’s what passes for leadership in the United States right now… Something has to change, and it has to happen quickly, if humanity is to survive.

If you’re interested in learning the actual real facts about climate change, you can find them here.

Posted in Environment, Global Warming, Rants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 99 Comments

Pruitt names high school graduate Cathy Stepp to head the EPA’s Great Lakes Region, where she’ll be responsible for 85% of our nation’s fresh water reserves

Kakistocracy is defined as “a system of government which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens.”

Above is a photo of Cathy Stepp. Until deciding to run for elected office in Wisconsin back in the early 2000s, she ran a residential construction company with her husband. She has no scientific credentials. She has never so much as attended college. And, unless we stop it from happening, she will soon be responsible, as the head of the Great Lakes region of the Environmental Protection Agency, for making sure the people of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin have safe air to breathe and water to drink.

While it may be true that Stepp has very little in the way of relevant experience when it comes to fighting on the behalf of regular Americans to ensure that their air and water are both clean and safe, she did spend several years as the head of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, where she made a name for herself as someone willing to slash science and research budgets, enact more “business friendly” policies, and fight against the scientific community on climate change. [Stepp, an outspoken Trump supporter, had served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 2003 to 2007, before agreeing to run the Wisconsin DNR under Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2011. Walker liked what he called, her “chamber of commerce mentality.”] And apparently this attracted the attention of Scott Pruitt, the man selected by Donald Trump to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency from the inside. So, after a short stint as a deputy administrator in EPA Region 7, which oversees Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and nine tribal nations, Stepp has apparently been tapped to run EPA Region 5, where my family and I live.

Assuming Stepp is confirmed for the position, she will be the main person responsible for ensuring that the more than 30 million people who live in the Great Lakes basin have potable water and breathable air. She will also be the person charged with oversight of approximately 85% of our nation’s fresh water reserves. She would, in other words, be the person we’d be counting on to ensure that the people of Flint are no longer drinking poison water, failsafe systems are in place to ensure against pipeline ruptures in the Great Lakes, and polluters are held accountable for their actions.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, however, appears to see the role somewhat differently than I do. In announcing Stepp’s appointment, Pruitt didn’t mention the serious environmental challenges facing the Great Lakes region. Instead, he said that Stepp’s presence would, bring “a fresh perspective” to the EPA as the agency worked to “implement President Trump’s agenda”. [I thought the EPA’s agenda was to protect the environment, but, apparently, at least according to Pruitt, it’s to help advance Trump’s pro-corporate agenda.]

As for what we might expect from Stepp, here, from Pitch.com, is just a little of what she accomplished while are the Wisconsin DNR, before being called up to join Pruitt and the EPA wrecking crew.

…Her record in the Badger State is in step with Pruitt’s pro-industry to-do list. While she was head of the Wisconsin DNR, enforcement of environmental regulations dwindled. At least two audits were critical of the agency; one found that, 95 percent of the time from 2005 through 2014, the DNR had failed to issue violation notices to known wastewater polluters. According to news reports, she also greatly restructured the agency, shedding many of the science and environmental professionals. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that on her watch, the DNR blacklisted citizens who were perceived as having asked too many questions…

And, if you still want more, Kerry Schumann, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, had this to say about the appointment of Stepp to run the EPA’s Great Lakes Region.

…Before Cathy Stepp’s appointment as secretary of the Wisconsin DNR, the agency was widely considered one of the best of its kind in the country. Under her watch, the agency’s environmental enforcement abilities were dismantled, its scientists kicked out, its website scrubbed of climate change information and, under the orders of the Walker Administration, she shifted its focus from protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources to handing out favors to polluters. It makes sense the Trump EPA is looking for people like Cathy Stepp, people who are willing to sell out our environment to the highest bidder. The consequences will be stark. With environmental rollbacks like the Foxconn disaster, the pending removal of wetlands protections, and the elimination of all our air quality standards in the state, Wisconsin will also have fewer and fewer protections from the EPA to help maintain water we can drink, air we can breathe, land that doesn’t flood, and its public health…

None of this, of course, should surprise us. This is what’s happening at every level of government today, as Trump makes good on the promise of Steve Bannon to “destroy the administrative state,” appointing an anti-public education zealot to head the Department of Education, a person who said on the record that he wanted to abolish the Department of Energy to run the Department of Energy, and a man who rejects the EPA’s very mission to head the EPA. The goal is to drastically shrink government through a brilliant combination of evil and incompetence, taking power from the American people, and handing it over to the corporations and the super-wealthy individuals who are keeping the Republican party in power, even as their ideas are increasingly unpopular with the American people. And Stepp, I’m afraid, is just the most recent foot soldier in this fight… someone willing to hack away at the very underpinnings of our nation in exchange for a position of power and the promise of financial reward.

Personally, I’m at a loss as to how we stop Stepp’s nomination from advancing. As far as I know, regional EPA directors don’t even need to go through confirmation hearings at the federal level. And, even if we could derail her, I don’t imagine the next person in line would be any better. Still, though, it can’t hurt to call your elected officials and ask what they intend to do about the nomination of Cathy Stepp, right?

Posted in Environment, Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

An effusive, praise-filled Christmas speech to be delivered to the conservative patriarch or matriarch of your family

Tomorrow, I imagine that many of you will be heading off to have Christmas dinner with your parents, some of whom may be Trump-supporting Fox News viewers. I know it’s unlikely, but, if that should be the case, and, if the conservative patriarch or matriarch of your family, inspired by Trump, should go around the dinner table, demanding that you, your siblings, and everyone else, lavish praise upon them, I’ve got an outline of a speech that you can use. It’s inspired by the Mike Pence’s painfully effusive ass-kissing of Donald Trump from a few days ago. Here, for those of you who have yet to see it, is the video.

And here’s the transcript. As you’ll notice, after each section, I’ve attempted to rewrite the words of Pence so that they might make sense in a more familial setting. As I don’t imagine I will any cause to deliver such a speech, I’ve used the surname Wolfcock in the following. Feel free, however, to swap in your own last name and edit as necessary. [Christian Wolfcock is the pen name I use when writing period romance novels.]

THE PRESIDENT: Mike, would you like to say a few words?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate it Mr. President. As I told you last night, shortly after the Senate vote I know I speak on behalf of the entire Cabinet and of millions of Americans when I say, congratulations and thank you. [As I told you last night, shortly after we watched Fox News “War on Christmas” special with the kids, I know I speak on behalf of the entire family, and at least a small handful of your uneducated white neighbors, when I say, congratulations and thank you.]


THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you for seeing, through the course of this year, an agenda that truly is restoring this country. You described it very well, Mr. President. From the outset of this administration, we’ve been rebuilding our military, putting the safety and security of the American people first. [Thank you for seeing, through the course of this year, an agenda that truly is restoring our embarrassing failure of a family. You described it very well. From your inauguration as neighborhood watch captain, you’ve been putting the safety and security of Wolfcocks first, by, among other things, taking bricks from the walkways of others, under cover of night, and using them to rebuild the section of the patio where uncle Marty, drunk on “freedom juice”, tripped and fell at at last summer’s Putin Day barbque.]

You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage. We’re standing with our allies. We’re standing up to our enemies. [You’ve restored our credibility in the neighborhood. We’re standing with the other self-described patriots on the cul-de-sac. We’re standing up to our enemies, who, in addition to trying to guilt us into recycling, bring far too many guests to the pool.*]

But you promised economic renewal at home. You said we could make this economy great again, and you promised to roll back regulations, and you’ve signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any President in American history. You’ve unleashed American energy. You’ve spurred an optimism in this country that’s setting records. [But you promised economic renewal. You said we could make the Wolfcock family great again, and you promised to roll back regulations, not only in the bathroom, but in the kitchen. By no longer requiring us to waste precious time washing our hands, or fully cooking pork, and by demanding that we prioritize value over safety, you are saving more money than any patriarch in Wolfcock family history. You’ve unleashed Wolfcock energy. You’ve spurred an optimism in this house that is setting records. And the number of people who now sit around this table – which, by the way, is several times more than have ever sat around a table for Christmas dinner in history – is testament to that fact.]

But you promised the American people in that campaign a year ago that you would deliver historic tax cuts, and it would be a “middle-class miracle.” And in just a short period of time, that promise will be fulfilled. [But you promised the children of the family a year ago that you would deliver historic allowance hikes, and it would be a “junior Wolfcock miracle.” And in just a short period of time, that promise will be fulfilled, as allowances will rise several cents a week, almost offsetting the increase in meal plan premiums we’ll be implementing.]

And I just — I’m deeply humbled, as your Vice President, to be able to be here. Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership in the Congress of the United States, you’re delivering on that middle-class miracle. [And I just — I’m deeply humbled, as the next Wolfcock in the patriarchal order, to be able to be here. Because of your leadership, and because of the strong support of the leadership throughout the family, you’re delivering on the junior Wolfcock miracle.]

You’ve actually got the Congress to do, as you said, what they couldn’t do with ANWR for 40 years. You got the Congress to do, with tax cuts for working families and American businesses, what they haven’t been able to do for 31 years. And you got Congress to do what they couldn’t do for seven years, in repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare. [You’ve actually got me to do, as you said, what I wouldn’t do for 40 years – killing all the wildlife in the neighborhood with a hatchet, and flooding all of our backyards with crude oil. And you got all of us, by promising to eliminate health care for the oldest and weakest in the family, to do what we’ve refused to do for 31 years, saving even more money that can be handed over to our wealthy overlords, who, as Jesus “Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps” Christ tells us, deserve it more than we do.]

I know you would have me also acknowledge the people around this table, Mr. President. I want to thank the leaders in Congress once again for their partnership in this. I want to thank your outstanding team, your Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, for Gary Cohn, for Ivanka Trump, for your great legislative team — all the members of this Cabinet who partnered to drive your vision forward over the past six months after you laid out that vision for tax reform. [I know you would have me also acknowledge the people around this table. I want to thank the leaders along the cul-de-sac once again for their partnership in this. I want to thank your outstanding team, your neighbors Steve “Get the Fuck off my Lawn” Smith, Gary “I Can’t Be A Racist Because My Lawyer Is A Jew” Lester, and Mike “King Birther” Brandon, who partnered to drive your vision for an absolutely unlivable neighborhood forward, hiring migrant workers to board up our publics schools and burn our parks to the ground, and then calling ICE on them when they demanded payment.]

But mostly, Mr. President, I’ll end where I began and just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America. Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more. And we are making America great again. [But mostly, I’ll end where I began and just tell you, I want to thank you for pretending to speak on behalf of the forgotten men and women of our community, and for saying that you’re fighting every day for them, when you’re actually practicing your putting in the back yard. Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of our community are forgotten no more. In fact, we just wrote to them today, telling them that their neighborhood association fees have been doubled in order to add a mistress apartment to the home of our richest resident.]

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mike. That’s very nice. I appreciate that.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President, and God bless you.

I’m sure, working together, we can make it even better, but you get the idea.

[*This is where I’d lead the rest of the family in chanting, “Build the wall. Build the wall.”]

Posted in Mark's Life, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Republicans after adding over $1 trillion to our national debt to fund tax give-aways to the rich, say they can’t find $8 billion to extend health care for 8.9 million children living in poverty

While sold to the American people as a “middle class tax cut” that wouldn’t help the super-rich like Donald Trump, the tax reform legislation just passed by the Republicans is, in fact, a windfall for the rich that does considerably less for American’s middle class than the Obama stimulus package of 2009 did. Had the Republicans wanted to pass a true middle class tax cut, that would have boosted the economy, they certainly could have done so, but they chose instead to pass legislation primarily built around a $1 trillion permanent tax cut for American corporations.

As for why Republicans chose do to this, the answer, I think, it two-fold. First, it’s a big payoff to the corporate donors, who have been bankrolling conservative politics for decades, even as popular support for Republican policies has waned. And, second, by adding some $1.414 Trillion to the federal deficit, it gives the Republicans in Congress an excuse slash welfare, Medicare and social security, something the rich have been wanting to do since the passage of FDR’s New Deal. And, no this isn’t a conspiracy theory on my part. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has admitted as much, saying, “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”

So, to sum up, yes, working class Americans got a bit of a tax cut, but, in the end, it probably won’t offset the increases in health care premiums we’re likely to see in the wake of the tax plan passing (as the tax plan eliminated the Obamacare mandate), or the cuts we’re going to see to social safety net programs. And, those relatively small middle class tax cuts, by the way, are temporary, whereas the corporate tax cuts are permanent. So, yeah, basically we’re all fucked. [Oh, the new Republican tax plan also encourages American businesses to move jobs abroad, but we’ll talk about that some other time.]

OK, if all of that was too abstract for you, here’s a very easy to understand example of what’s going on that I think should make it clear to you just how upside down things are right now.

At the very same time Republicans were passing this unprecedented trillion dollar tax give-away to the rich, they also failed to extend funding past March for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Medicaid program through which 8.9 million American children in poverty receive their health care, saying that we couldn’t afford to increase the deficit by what it costs to fund CHIP… And, that’s right, the Republicans were saying this just the day after unanimously voting to increase the deficit by $1.414 trillion in order to fund tax breaks for America’s most wealthy.

As Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein just said, “Two days after wasting $1 trillion on tax cuts for the rich, Republicans now claim we have no money for children’s health insurance. I can’t imagine anything more heartless than ignoring our most vulnerable while giving more money to millionaires and billionaires.”

Here, with more, is a tweet from journalist Ezra Klein, followed by a clip from a recent report in Vox. [Check out this graphic.]

The government spending bill released on Thursday, which Republican leadership hopes to pass in a matter of hours, would provide $2.8 billion that is supposed to fund the program through March.

It would prevent an impending disaster — nearly 2 million kids could lose coverage in January without congressional action — but it is a long way from the five-year extension CHIP advocates are seeking and that Congress has been sitting on for three months.

“It’s better than nothing, but the program will sputter along without the certainty it needs for states to feel confident enough to do outreach and put out the welcome mat for children,” Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, told me Thursday morning.

She added of the preferred five-year extension: “Why not do that instead and do right by kids for the holidays? It is troubling that they can’t get this done when they have had bipartisan agreement on the policy for months now.”

In a matter of days, at least two states — Alabama and Connecticut — would stop enrolling new children in the program. Real negative impacts will be felt by some number of children across the country the longer Congress fails to act. This would be an unprecedented breach of trust for this program that everybody seems to agree is good and should be funded.

“Our phones are ringing off the wall,” Alabama CHIP director Cathy Caldwell told reporters this week. “We have panicked families wondering what in the world they have as options.”

It would cost a mere $8 billion for Congress to extend the program, which covers 9 million American children, for the next five years. There is bipartisan support for the program. There is a working plan to do it, which the House already passed. There is no discernible reason that CHIP has been left unfunded for nearly 90 days or that families are starting to receive letters warning them that their coverage could soon end…

CHIP costs about $12 billion to $14 billion each year. But because the Congressional Budget Office assumes the program will remain indefinitely, even if it hasn’t been funded yet, it technically only “costs” about $8 billion to extend CHIP for five years. (This is wonky congressional budget math, but that’s how it shakes out.)…

And that, I think, pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Republican priorities… Oh, and it’s being estimated that the Republican tax plan, thanks in part to the last-minute “Corker kickback,” will net Trump $15 Million… So much for his promise that the new plan would cost him a fortune.

Posted in Corporate Crime, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments


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