GOP Venality Open Thread: If Only There Was Some Agency!...

… Or if Leader McConnell allowed us any!…

Romney of the Uncanny Valley, peak functionality.








Jon Stewart Is an Unsupervised Child Playing With a Loaded Gun

If you haven’t seen or heard about it yet, earlier today Jon Stewart, on behalf of ill 9-11 first responders, threw a temper tantrum in front of the cameras during a House subcommittee hearing. Specifically the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. This subcommittee, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, has fourteen members: 8 Democrats and 6 Republicans. And in today’s meeting Congressman Nadler, who is an ex-officio member as the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, was also sitting in. At the point that Stewart decided to pitch his fit during his opening remarks about there being an “empty Congress”, seven of the subcommittee members were in the room. Though you could only see six of them in the video because of how the cameras were angled. The subcommittee meets in the same chambers as the full House Judiciary Committee, so even if everyone was there, the dais at the front of the room where the members of the subcommittee sit would look somewhere around 2/3 empty as there are 41 members of the full Judiciary Committee.

If Stewart did not know or did not understand that this was the case, then he’s a moron. More likely, he knew, understood the optics, and used them to gin up outrage. Stewart knew, was counting on, and was not disappointed that 1) it won’t be initially reported that this was a 14 member subcommittee and 2) most Americans will neither know, nor understand that this is why, despite at least half the subcommittee members actually being in attendance at the time he was ranting, most of the seats on the dais are empty.

The House is going to pass the extension without an issue. With an actual large numbers of votes from members of both parties. The vote to move it out of the Judiciary Committee is actually scheduled for tomorrow and it will pass there, and then the full House in short order, with significant bipartisan support. But once it does, it has to go across the Capitol to the Senate. Stewart knows, and if he doesn’t, then he should, that the problem isn’t the House or its Democratic majority. Rather it’s the McConnell controlled, GOP majority Senate. Should Senator McConnell deign to allow this to move forward, given he’s bottled up everything else the House has passed, he’s likely to demand ransom to do so. Why? Because he watched how Stewart manipulated the news media today to hammer the Democrats running the House of Representatives for failing to take care of 9-11 first responders who are ill because of their service on 9-11. Senator McConnell also knows that if he does nothing, because there isn’t going to be an equivalent hearing in the Senate to produce equally negative publicity, that he and his GOP majority in the Senate will take no blame. And because he knows that if it fails, Stewart will simply rebroadcast today’s video, the news media will follow like lemmings, and he’ll have made this a problem for Democrats going into a presidential election year where his Republican senators are defending more seats than the Senate Democrats are in 2020. Senator McConnell already had too much leverage and Stewart’s tantrum today simply gave him more.

Steve Cohen, who chairs the subcommittee, should have stopped Stewart, cut his mic if necessary, and explained that 1) this is a subcommittee with only 14 members, 2) as is standard procedure, subcommittee members would be in and out throughout the hearing as they had to do business, including taking votes in other committees and subcommittees (the ranking member actually did this at one point), and 3) Stewart could demagogue or the subcommittee could do the important business that Stewart wants them to do, but they could not and would not do both.

I appreciate Stewart’s passion. I understand why he’s angry. From his perspective even five year reauthorizations are a potential hindrance and failure to do right by the ill 9-11 first responders. But what he did today didn’t actually do anything to advance the cause he’s fighting for. It did make it easier for Senator McConnell to claim another scalp. Stewart’s bothsiderism served him, those for whom he’s advocating, and the Republic poorly today.

Open thread!








C.R.E.A.M. Open Thread: The McConnell-Chao Marriage Is *Mutually* Profitable

Guess it’s nice for the GOP senators who’ve handed their balls over to Mitch to know that, should his Russian funding ever dry up, he won’t be reduced to peddling his memoirs to support his lifestyle:

The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection.

Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell — including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications…

The circumstances surrounding the Owensboro grant and another, more lucrative grant to Boone County, highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically. McConnell has long touted his ability to bring federal resources to his state, which his wife is now in a position to assist.

Chao’s designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky — a privilege other states did not enjoy — gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other…

(Much more at the link. As with so many similar one-man pork projects, the money seems to have drained away on ‘showpiece’ architectural projects that benefited a small cadre of connected businessmen without providing much assistance to the voters who really needed some help.)

The power couple isn’t particulary covert about their money-spinning prowess. Bess Levin, at Vanity Fair:

Last week, the New York Times reported that the secretary tried to bring family members to government meetings with Chinese officials, despite said family members having major financial entanglements in China. Last month, the Wall Street Journal found that she’d made a $40,000 profit on her stake in Vulcan, the nation’s largest construction materials supplier, despite having promised—over a year ago!—to divest from the company, on whose board she sat…

Cole linked to the NYTimes article when it appeared, but seriously: Can you imagine the outrage if a Democratic Senator’s wife did anything like this?

Ms. Chao is the top Trump official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is in steep decline and overshadowed by its Chinese competitors.

Her efforts on behalf of the family business — appearing at promotional events, joining her father in interviews with Chinese-language media — have come as Foremost has interacted with the Chinese state to a remarkable degree for an American company.

Foremost has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan commitments from a bank run by the Chinese government, whose policies have been labeled by the Trump administration as threats to American security. The company’s primary business — delivering China’s iron ore and coal — is intertwined with industries caught up in a trade war with the United States. That dispute stems in part from the White House’s complaints that China is flooding the world with subsidized steel, undermining American producers.
Read more



Joementum

So here’s a center-left white dude of somewhat more consequence that Seth Moulton about to render the latter’s candidacy yet more risible:

Former Vice President Joe Biden will join the crowded Democratic primary field with an online video announcement on Thursday, followed by an event with union workers in Pittsburgh on Monday, NBC News reported Tuesday.

I think Joe’s making a big mistake here.

He’s the Muskie of this year’s cycle (I’m an old) — the instant front runner whose candidacy will not survive much contact with the primary process.

The dynamics are fascinating, if likely depressing. Does the media now treat the D race as Biden v. Sanders? Some will…though I think that the narrative frame that so many in the elite political press have labored so long and hard to preserve is beginning to fracture.  In my hopeful moments, I see this as a cage match between those two that allows the best of the others to rise.

I should add — there’s lots I like about Joe, and lots I don’t, and while I’d be fine with him as president in place of the incumbent, we can do better.

Right now, for me, that’s Warren, though Harris is impressive as hell too.  I’m interested in Castro, and really will walk over broken glass for any of them (barring Gabbard) come the day.

But Joe, Joe, Joe…you had a chance to be a queenmaker.  You’ve given it up for a third, likely doomed bite at the apple yourself.  Alas.

Image: El Greco, St. Peter in Tears, by 1596








The Assassination of Congresswoman Omar Has Already Been Planned, Many Times Over, and One of The White Christian Men Who Have Planned Her Assassination Will Carry It Out

I wish that headline was hyperbole, but it isn’t. And I wish I didn’t have to write it, but somebody does. And I want to make it clear that it is unacceptable that there are several men, all of them white, who self describe themselves as “patriots” and good “Christians”, and unfortunately, probably a few who self describe as “good Jews”, who are right now thinking about assassinating Congresswoman Omar, including how they would personally go about doing it. Unfortunately the simple truth is that in the United States, in 2019, this is most likely happening. The only good news, if you even want to call it that, is that the vast majority of these political snuff fantasies are just that: snuff fantasies. They will never be attempted. Unfortunately, there will be at least one, if not more than one, of the men who are fantasizing about striking a blow for America, the flag, mom, apple pie, and God in order to cleanse the Republic of the Islamic menace that they believe Congresswoman Omar poses who will actually try. And unlike Patrick Carlineo, the self described “patriot” and lover of the President, they won’t call in a threat first and, because they’re considerate in regard to the busy lives of the US Capitol Police Department, give their names to whichever staffer happens to answer the phone.

Congresswoman Omar is a target right now because one of her colleagues, Congressman Dan Crenshaw, decided to retweet a fake imam who both took Congresswoman Omar’s quote out of context in order to amplify and weaponize it against her and other Muslims and who, because he does this type of thing regularly, has become a darling of hard right politicians who would normally not give him the time of day.

Mohamed Tawhidi never completed his clerical training, he isn’t even a Hujat al Islam, which is the lowest rank of cleric within Twelver Shi’ism, but he does have a really big turban* He is, however, a self righteous fraud used by non-Muslim politicians to beat up on Muslims. Basically, Mohamed Tawhidi is the Candace Owens of Stephen Millers. (emphasis below is mine)

In the space of just 12 months, a man called Mohammad Tawhidi has come out of nowhere to become one of the most prominent Muslim voices in the Australian media.

Imam Tawhidi claims to be a Muslim leader — and a brave Muslim reformer.

Through his appearances in the mainstream media, Imam Tawhidi has warned that Australia is being “infested by extremist Muslims”.

“When I am worried about what I see is happening from my community and religion, trust me that there is something going on,” he told the Seven Network’s Today Tonight program on February 27, 2017.

On social media, his supporters, some from right wing groups, support his calls to shut down Muslim schools and ban Muslims from the Middle East coming to Australia.

But strangely for a Muslim leader, he has very few supporters in the Muslim community.

He has no mosque, and only a handful of followers. And just as curiously, he only appeared in the media for the first time just over a year ago.

So who was he before he became a media star?

This is what Imam Tawhidi claims about his educational qualifications:

“I travelled to Iran, to the holy city of Qom, in 2007, and I engaged in my Islamic studies from there. I received my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree in Islamic theology from the Al-Mustafa University.”

– Mohammad Tawhidi, 2GB, May 25, 2017

But Al-Mustafa International University in Iran says Imam Tawhidi has no bachelor’s degree from their university, let alone a master’s.

He started at the university, but dropped out.

In a letter, Al-Mustafa International University said:

“In spite of given warnings and notifications, the above-named person did not take heed of them each time and had not satisfactory academic record in his courses … he was placed on probation and [dropped] out on March 27, 2012 … the aforesaid person has no educational degree (or any given score) in his profile … Al-Mustafa University does not recommend Mohammad Touhidi for lecturing in any way. Accordingly, he has no competency to do religious activities or to preach sermons.”

His own teacher seems to contradict his teachings

Imam Tawhidi says he is a moderate Muslim reformer — but his very recent past shows he has connections to a religious leader who is anything but moderate.

After Imam Tawhidi dropped out of university, he fell in with a fringe seminary school in Iran, run by a controversial religious family known as the Shirazis.

Imam Tawhidi studied under its senior cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Sayid Sadiq Husseini Shirazi, and later went to work in one of the Shirazi-run TV stations in Iraq.

In February 2016, when Imam Tawhidi set up his Islamic Association of South Australia in Adelaide, Ayatollah Shirazi put out a press release in Iran claiming a connection with Imam Tawhidi and this new Australian-based organisation.

However, the beliefs of Ayatollah Shirazi are not at all aligned with the moderate brand of Islam that Imam Tawhidi calls for when he appears on Australian television.

For example, central to Ayatollah Shirazi’s teachings is the insistence on an Islamic system of government, not a secular democracy.

Ayatollah Shirazi also teaches that women should be covered head to toe, and are not suited to holding positions in government, and that it is permissible for a girl to marry from the age of nine.

There is much more exposing the fraud that is Mohamed Tawhidi at the link. Unfortunately, all Congressman Crenshaw saw was someone claiming to be a Muslim cleric bashing Congresswoman Omar for saying something she didn’t say, which gave him both an excuse and a rhetorical weapon to go after Congresswoman Omar to score political points. This was, unfortunately, all Congressman Crenshaw was actually interested in.

So what did Congresswoman Omar actually say? Not the barbered clip taken out of context, but the actual remarks? I’m glad you asked. Here are the full set of the remarks before the barbered clip put out by Tawhidi and then amplified by Congressman Crenshaw. This portion of her remarks begin around the 12 minute mark of her speech and immediately follow Congresswoman Omar discussing how Muslims, in regard to fully claiming their civil liberties, can liberate themselves.

Muslims for a really long time in this country have been told that there is a privilege. That there is a privilege in that we are given and it might be taken away. We are told that we should be appropriate. We should go to school, get an education, raise our children, and not bother anyone. Not make any kind of noise. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Be a good Muslim. But no matter how much we have tried to be the best neighbor people have always worked on finding a way to not allow for every single civil liberty to be extended to us.

(Aside to someone in the audience: you can clap for that…)

So the truth is you can go to school and be a good student. You can listen to your dad and mom and become a doctor. You can have that beautiful wedding that makes mom and dad happy. You can buy that beautiful house. But none of that stuff matters if you one day show up to the hospital and your wife, or maybe yourself, is having a baby, and you can’t have the access that you need because someone doesn’t recognize you as fully human.

It doesn’t matter how good you were if you can’t have your prayer mat and take your 15-minute break to go pray in a country that was founded on religious liberty. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you one day find yourself in a school where other religions are talked about, but when Islam is mentioned, we are only talking about terrorists. And if you say something, you are sent to the principal’s office. So to me, I say, raise hell; make people uncomfortable.

Because here’s the truth — here’s the truth: Far too long, we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen, and frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange, that I am going to try to make myself look pleasant. You have to say, “This person is looking at me strange. I am not comfortable with it. I am going to go talk to them and ask them why.” Because that is a right you have.

And here’s the video so you can watch the entire speech and draw your own conclusions:

It is well documented that Muslim Americans, as well as those mistakenly identified as Muslims in America, such as Sikhs and non Muslim Arab Americans and non Muslim Americans whose families originated on the sub-continent/southeast Asia and from parts of sub-Saharan Africa, faced serious threats to and violations of their civil rights and liberties from all levels of government and law enforcement after 9-11. The NY Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights actually conducted an investigation into these issues. Among their conclusions were (emphasis mine):

1. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was important that law enforcement authorities at all levels of government take steps to respond to the threat of terrorism. However, some actions have adversely affected the civil rights of immigrants and nonimmigrants, particularly members of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. Policies of particular concern are the federal government’s expanded authority to detain nonimmigrants without charge, to hold detainees with no possibility for release on bond, and, when final deportation orders have been issued, to subject detainees to prolonged confinement. Other policies of concern are the federal government’s Call-In Special Registration program and sharing of national databases on immigration status with state and local police.

2. There are parallels between the racial profiling of Japanese Americans during World War II, pre-9/11 profiling of African Americans and Hispanic Americans, and post-9/11 profiling of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. Racial profiling has been statistically proven by government studies, including the New York State Attorney General’s 1999 study of stop-and-frisk practices, to be an ineffective law enforcement tool for identifying criminal conduct. Much racial profiling of African Americans and Latinos continues unnoticed in the post-9/11 law enforcement environment. Beyond law enforcement acts of racial profiling related to drug prevention and street crime, racial profiling has taken on new dimensions targeting Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians regarding business license violations, financial transactions abroad, and international travel at airports.

3. There is a perception that local law enforcement authorities did not take seriously the complaints of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian residents who were subjected to hate crimes in acts of misplaced retaliation for the events of September 11. This has been an issue in the taxi industry, where many drivers are South Asian in origin. In the immediate months following 9/11, South Asian taxi drivers found themselves particularly vulnerable to attacks and in need of police protection.

4. The federal Call-In Special Registration program requiring male nationals 16 years and older from predominantly Muslim countries to register is seen by some as a form of racial profiling, targeting Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. The program ceased after nationals from predominantly Muslim countries had registered.

5. In New York City, implementation of the Call-In Special Registration program was marked by a lack of community education on the program’s requirements, excessive processing times lasting 14 hours or more, lack of sufficiently trained interviewers and translators, and inconsistent application of policies.

6. Persons required to undergo special registration in New York City were deprived of the right to counsel while interrogated by the investigations unit of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service), when they were most vulnerable. If registrants were placed in detention, families were not informed of their whereabouts.

In sum, the law enforcement policies and practices described above pose a threat to civil rights and civil liberties, especially within New York’s Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. These programs may be counterproductive. They fuel distrust of law enforcement authorities among many members of affected communities, hinder local reporting of crimes, and diminish the cooperation between local police and community members necessary to identify and thwart future terrorists.

The entire report is at this link.

Unfortunately Congressman Crenshaw’s political and rhetorical attack was picked up and transmitted by Brian Kilmeade, the left boob of Fox News’ morning show A Blonde with Two Boobs on a Sofa, which is also doing business as the President’s Daily Briefing. And that’s how it got to the President who then decided to take the gasoline pump, turn it on, pump gasoline all over, light a match, and throw it in. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post decided that wasn’t a visible enough conflagration, so they threw a crate of fire crackers onto the pyre.

All of this, from the fake imam who conservatives and extremists on the right love to quote to Congressman Crenshaw doing exactly what you’d expect him to do in amplifying and weaponizing Tawhidi’s rhetorical hit job to the President finding a way of making it all about him because he cannot stand it if anyone else is getting any coverage to Rupert Murdoch’s minions making it worse, the die has been cast. Right now, somewhere in the United States, at least one white man who most likely describes himself as both a “patriot” and a “good Christian”, but possibly a “good Jew”, is planning to assassinate Congresswoman Omar in order to save the Republic from her. And at least one of these white men will be smart about what they are doing. They will hold their planning close. They will not make a threatening phone call and leave their real names with a staffer. They won’t tweet that they’re going to shoot her or cut her throat or whatever other snuff fantasy gets them off. They will, instead, quietly plan all while stewing in their own juices until their own internal pressure has built to the point where they decide to take action. And that day, which will, unfortunately, eventually come, will be a very, very, very bad day for America.

Finally, this is the creed of the Navy Seal. The creed that Congressman Crenshaw adopted professional fealty too as a Navy Special Warfare Officer. It might be a good idea for Congressman Crenshaw to reread the creed and take it to heart. (emphasis mine)

SEAL Ethos/Creed

In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.

Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.

Congressman Crenshaw: you have failed!

Open thread.

*  Having a really big turban is a common insult within the Twelver Shi’a community regarding clerics who have an overinflated sense of themselves and their authority. Drawings of Twelver Shi’a clerics with enormous turbans are often used in political cartoons lampooning them and their pronouncements.