"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sickening

I wonder who's pulling Trump's strings on this atrocity (via Joe.My.God.):

President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States will not “accept or allow” transgender people in the United States military, saying American forces “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory” and could not afford to accommodate them.

Mr. Trump made the surprise declaration in a series of posts on Twitter, saying he had come to the decision after talking to generals and military experts, whom he did not name.

“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it? Like when the debate was going on about DADT repeal.

As for his "military experts," one candidate came to mind immediately:

Just in from hate group leader Tony Perkins:

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities – and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military. The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.

“President Trump recognizes what the nation’s military leadership and the American people realize, this Obama policy makes no sense.

“The last thing we should be doing is diverting billions of dollars from mission-critical training to something as controversial as gender reassignment surgery. However, the cost to readiness, recruitment, retention, morale and cohesion would have been even greater under the Obama policy. As our nation faces serious national security threats, our troops shouldn’t be forced to endure hours of transgender ‘sensitivity’ classes and politically-correct distractions like this one.

After all, Perkins was a Marine -- an MP, which somehow seems to suit his personality -- so that makes him an expert. He's also an even more reflexive liar than Trump, if that's possible.

Antidote: The Kids Are Alright

As a counter to reports of 47,000 Boy Scouts booing Hillary Clinton at the behest of The Hairpiece, I offer this:

Photo:  Jenny Burnett
If there was any doubt that Kamden Houshan and Paul Burnett would be friends forever, there certainly is not anymore. . . .

Kamden became a paraplegic when he was born with a massive tumor embedded in his spine. Though doctors were able to remove the tumor in surgery, the 8-year-old boy was left paralyzed.

Kamden's last wheelchair was so heavy and bulky, it prevented the youth from being able to freely maneuver household doorways. Since it could not fit into the bathroom, Kamden's mother always had to carry him, which put excessive stress on her body.

Then in August, Kamden was able to test drive a lighter wheelchair model – and he was astounded by how much of a positive difference it made in his life. Unfortunately, insurance could not cover the cost of another wheelchair for another few years.

Maybe the Republicans should consider Paul's solution as part of their "destroy health insurance" drive:

Meanwhile, Paul had learned about GoFundMe from watching YouTube videos. Upon hearing about his friend's troubles, he asked his parents if he could start a campaign for his Kamden.

In a matter of weeks, Kamden's page had raised $5,500 – roughly $2,000 more than their original goal.

It's not all teabaggers and trumpanzees.

Giggle du Jour



Remember that story about Ark Encounter selling its land to its non-profit arm to avoid paying a "safety tax" to the city? And then losing its state tax incentives, because the sale violated its agreement with the state?

Well, it just sold itself back to itself:

Three days after state tourism officials suspended an $18 million tax incentive, officials at a Noah’s Ark theme park have sold their main parcel back to their for-profit entity for $10.

The issue started in late June after Ark Encounter LLC sold the parcel to its non-profit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon for $10. The deed continues to describe the property as worth $18 million even though the Grant County PVA has assessed the land for $48 million.

Ark Encounter officials have declined to say why they sold the property in the first place, but the move in June coincided with their refusal to pay a safety assessment tax levied by the city of Williamstown. City officials worried that the sale might be the first step in the ark park claiming non-profit status, which would exempt it from property taxes.


Dear Ken Ham: Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

(Via Joe.My.God., and thanks for the image.)


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today's Must-Read: The Shape of Things to Come?

Digby cites this incident at the end of a longish article on ICE and its badly misdirected enforcement agenda:

We don’t know if Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa realizes it. But no other event since the Duterte administration came to power has dealt a greater blow to the credibility of the police in the war on drugs than the treacherous killing last Sunday of anticrime crusader Zenaida Luz in Oriental Mindoro.

Ms. Luz’s killers drove by her house on a motorcycle wearing a bonnet and a mask. It was close to midnight. She was shot in cold blood while standing in front of her house, waiting for someone who had contacted her asking for help. It was clearly a ruse.

Responding to a distress call from village officials, a police patrol team caught up with the fleeing masked killers, who traded shots with them. Cornered and wounded, the gunmen desperately shouted “Tropa, tropa!” to signal that they were friendly troops. To their horror and shock, the police recognized the gunmen as indeed from their ranks. The assailants turned out to be Senior Insp. Magdaleno Pimentel Jr. and Insp. Markson Almeranez—out of their uniforms, moonlighting as vigilante killers.

Do remember that Trump really admired Duterte.

It's not as much an offside to an article about ICE as it might seem at first:

What he's seeing is a bunch of guys with guns and uniforms drunk with power believing hey have a free hand to go after a particular vulnerable population. I think

“I like predictability,” the agent said. “I like being able to go into work and have faith in my senior managers and the Administration, and to know that, regardless of their political views, at the end of the day they’re going to do something that’s appropriate. I don’t feel that way anymore.”

And the Trump administration wants to hire thousands more, many of whom will not be vetted or properly trained.

Papers, please.

Image du Jour: Snakes on a Plane

With thanks to commenters Michael R and djcoastermark at Joe.My.God.:

Thumbnail



Monday, July 24, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Voter Suppression, Coming Soon To a Precinct Near You

This piece, by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo, is, to say the least, sobering:

Working inside the process, it is stunning how at odds with the fantastical, Republican rhetoric reality is. Safeguarding people's right to vote is a big deal for these volunteers. Ensuring people can vote and that the process is fair is a passion. Most (though not all) of our GOP counterparts here in this work respect the process. We who work elections know what a fraud "voter fraud" is, which makes us, I guess, both smarter than the president and/or smart enough to be president.

This morning, the New York Times again inveighs against this massive snipe hunt and national effort at voter intimidation:
It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square.

It is run by some of the nation’s most determined vote suppressors, the kind who try to throw out voter registrations for being printed on insufficiently thick paper or who release reports on noncitizen voting that are titled “Alien Invasion” and illustrated with images of U.F.O.s.

Its purpose is not to restore integrity to elections but to undermine the public’s confidence enough to push through policies and practices that make registration and voting harder, if not impossible, for certain groups of people who tend to vote Democratic.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Sullivan quotes Damon Linker on some of the deeply anti-American efforts coming from this administration and the Republicans -- aided, alas by a not negligible number of Democrats:

There is, to begin with, the bill that would make it a federal crime (a felony punishable by up to a $1 million fine and 20 years in prison) to support the international boycott against Israel for its occupation of the West Bank. That 14 Democratic senators have joined with 29 Republicans in backing this flagrant assault on the First Amendment is certainly shameful, but it does nothing to diminish the outrageousness of those who like to portray themselves as courageous defenders of free speech endorsing a bill that would drastically curtail it. (And no, I don't support the movement to boycott Israel, just the right of others to do so, which is exactly the way liberal democracy is supposed to work.)

It just gets worse and worse. What's more frightening is the number of people who support these efforts.

Welcome to Trump's America.



Party Like It's 1955

Here we go:

The Trump administration is readying for a crackdown on marijuana users under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, is expected to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant. . . .

“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center's Justice Program.

They're not going to produce any evidence to support that assertion, because they're isn't any. They'll just keep repeating it, and enough people will believe it that they just might get away with it.

Sessions sent a letter in May asking congressional leaders to do away with an amendment to the DOJ budget prohibiting the agency from using federal funds to prevent states "from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” said the letter from Sessions, first obtained by Massroots.com and verified by The Washington Post.

States' rights! Yeah!!

Here comes the police state.

I just recently discovered that Illinois has legalized marijuana for medical use -- one of 21 states, along with another eight that have also legalized recreational use. Going to be interesting to see how this all plays out in Chicago. And it looks like Sessions may not have it all his way:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who publicly criticized Sessions for reversing Obama-era guidelines on criminal charges and sentencing in May, said he’s not in favor of the DOJ interfering with state policies regarding marijuana.

“I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state policy,” he told The Hill this week.

Paul is part of a bipartisan group of Senators pushing legislation to allow patients to continue accessing medical marijuana in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution.

Legislation introduced last month by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Paul introduced — known as the The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act — would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies.

In case you had any doubts about what a piece of work Sessions is, read the whole article -- there's a lot more.

Fasten your seatbelts, etc. . . .

Via the New Civil Rights Movement.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Continuing a Tradition

Granted, it's only six months old, but in this world, that's a long-standing tradition:

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Sunday said that President Trump does not have to pardon anyone in connection with the Russia investigation.

During an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Scaramucci was asked about Trump's tweet in which he said: "While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us."

. . .

"He's basically saying he doesn't have to pardon anybody," Scaramucci said when asked who the president is thinking about pardoning.

"The president is thinking about pardoning nobody...The president is not going to have to pardon anybody because the Russia thing is a nonsensical thing."

Fake News!!1!

(Via Joe.My.God.)

A lot has been made of Scaramucci's previous criticisms of Trump. His accepting this position, I think, speaks to his -- well, call it "flexibility." If the money's right. . . .

As for Sean Spicer, I have no real opinion on him -- I've seen reports that he's a real scumbag, and it's worth noting that he was communications director for, I believe, the RNC for a number of years, which to me just indicates that he's made a career of being a liar for hire.

Footnote: It's all in the name:

Scaramuccia (literally "little skirmisher"), also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell'arte. The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman). Usually attired in black Spanish dress and burlesquing a don, he was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice.

What's New at Green Man Review

Chock full o' goodies today -- Tolkien, baseball, early music, and more -- so scoot on over.

Image du Jour: Republican Economics

Doesn't really need a comment:


Via Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hit 'Em Where It Hurts

A couple of stories this morning that are sure to warm your cockles -- both, as it happens, from one of those bastions of "Christian" privilege, Kentucky.

First, remember Kim Davis? She's the county clerk who decided that the issuance of marriage licenses should be dependent on her definition of marriage, according to her Bible. Of course, she got sued, and, although she didn't actually lose -- the state changed the law to get her off the hook -- there are still bills to pay:

In a victory for same-sex couples denied marriage licenses by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, a federal judge Friday awarded $222,695 in fees to their attorneys. . . .

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered the state to pay the fees, rather than Davis or Rowan County.

He said Davis was protected because she was acting in her official capacity when she stopped issuing marriage licenses in 2015 on religious grounds after the Supreme Court held gay marriage is a fundamental right. He said the state rather than the county was liable because the state is primarily responsible for regulating marriage.

In a 50-page ruling, Bunning said he was awarding the fees under a federal law that allows them to be granted to the prevailing party in civil rights cases. He overruled a magistrate judge who had denied the money because he said the plaintiffs hadn’t really prevailed.

They prevailed enough to get their marriage licenses.

And, not all that far away, those good "Christians" at Ark Encounter got caught out in a dodge to avoid paying taxes. The story so far:

The Creationists behind Ark Encounter initially said they were building a for-profit attraction in order to get a lot of perks, including a tourism-related tax rebate from the state of Kentucky worth more than $18 million over ten years. But after the city of Williamstown said they would add a 50-cent surcharge to all tickets to pay for a safety fee, Ken Ham‘s team sold Ark Encounter to their own non-profit, Crosswater Canyon, because religious ministries are exempt from that kind of tax.

It's called "shooting yourself in the foot."

Earlier today, the Freedom From Religion Foundation announced that they had sent a letter to the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet notifying them that, because of the sale and new non-profit status, Ark Encounter is violating the terms of the tax rebate deal.

Guess what? They didn’t need to do that. Because three days ago, a lawyer for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet sent a letter to the lawyer for Ark Encounter saying the exact same thing.

It has come to our attention that your client, Ark Encounter, LLC, is in breach of its Tourism Development Agreement… with the Commonwealth. On July 10, 2017, the Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet… became aware of a quit claim deed transferring the Ark Project land, with all the privileges and appurtenances to the same, from Ark Encounter, LLC, a for profit company, to Crosswater Canyon, Inc. a non-profit company.

And the icing on the cake is that the lawyer for the state quoted Ark Encounter's own website to point out that they knew what they were doing.

Both via Joe.My.God.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Culture Break: In Memoriam, Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, reportedly has committed suicide:

Law enforcement sources tell us the singer hanged himself at a private residence in Palos Verdes Estates in L.A. County. His body was discovered Thursday just before 9 AM.

Chester was married with 6 children from 2 wives.

The singer struggled with drugs and alcohol for years. He had said in the past he had considered committing suicide because he had been abused as a child by an older male.

"Powerless," which I think is one of the band's most affecting songs:




Thursday, July 20, 2017

Can We Talk About Tax Returns?

The man has no self-awareness at all:

The president also questioned why certain states were refusing to cooperate fully with the commission’s requests for voter information, hinting that those states might be hiding something. “If any state does not want to share the information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Trump said. “What are they worried about? There’s something, there always is.”

Do I really need to comment?


Well, This Is Depressing

I think the headline itself speaks volumes about the decline of America:

On second thought: 1 in 8 people who voted for Trump want to change their vote

Only 1 in 8?

You can read the whole thing if you want -- it doesn't get any better.

Law 'n' Order -- We Don't Need No Stinkin' Constitution

Running true to form, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III comes down on the side of the police state:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expanded the authority of law enforcement to seize criminal suspects' money and property, bucking a movement in Congress and many states to rein in a practice that critics said led to flagrant abuses and was unconstitutional.

The Justice Department announced Wednesday it was restoring so-called adoptive forfeitures, where local or state authorities can seize valuable assets from suspects under federal law, circumventing more restrictive state laws.

Asset forfeitures are controversial because law enforcement agencies often take possession of cars, homes, jewelry and cash from suspects implicated in drug deals or other crimes without first obtaining convictions or, in some cases, indictments.

I wonder how many gun-totin' white supremacists are going to have their possessions seized? Oh, wait: It's all about the War on Drugs, and we know who's involved in that.

In the previous eight years, adoptive forfeitures — mostly by the Drug Enforcement Administration — had garnered about $880 million, according to a March report by the Justice Department's Inspector General.

The report found that many of the forfeiture cases were not linked to provable crimes. It cited a case in South Florida that led to seizures of $49 million but not one criminal indictment.

You know where that money goes? Into the budgets of the police departments.

And strangely enough, it's the police departments who are in favor:

"We heard loudly and clearly from local police agencies that they think this is a valuable tool," Rosenstein said.

It's painfully obvious that the arguments in favor of this policy are so much bullshit, and it's also obvious that it violates Constitutional requirements for due process.

They can't even get Republicans on board:

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who sponsored legislation this year to more tightly regulate asset forfeiture, called the new policy "a troubling decision for the due process protections afforded to us" under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

"Criminals shouldn't be able to keep the proceeds of their crime but innocent Americans shouldn't lose their right to due process, or their private property rights, in order to make that happen," Issa said in a statement.

Six members of the Senate urged Sessions in a May 31 letter to revise the asset forfeiture policies in light of increasing indications that the Supreme Court views the practice as unconstitutional.

"Instead of revising forfeiture practices in a manner to better protect Americans' due process rights, the (Justice Department) seems determined to lose in court before it changes its policies for the better," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of the six, said in a statement Wednesday.

Welcome to Trump's America.