LOL Draining the Swamp

Nothing to see here:

Defying the wishes of their top leaders, House Republicans voted behind closed doors Monday night to rein the independent ethics office created eight years ago in the wake of a series of embarrassing congressional scandals.

The 199-74 vote during a GOP conference meeting means that the House rules package expected to be adopted Tuesday, the first day of the 115th Congress, would rename the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee.

The OCE was created in 2008 to address concerns that the Ethics Committee had been too timid in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing by House members. Under the current House ethics regime, the OCE is empowered to release a public report of its findings even if the Ethics Committee chooses not to take further action against a member.

This should be mentioned every time this is brought up:

Democrats, then in the House majority, established the OCE in 2008 in the aftermath of the lobbying scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff to conduct ethics investigations free from political influence. But in recent years, some members of Congress have sought to limit the office and its work.

Democrats fix shit. Republicans burn shit down.



North Carolina Legislative Coup Under Cover of Law is Underway

North Carolina’s GOP majority state legislature and its outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory are attempting to overturn McCrory’s loss through legislative shenanigans. Their intention is to so weaken the governorship and the now Democratic majority NC Supreme Court so that neither the incoming Governor or the new Democratic majority on North Carolina’s have any power or authority to actually exercise. Rick Hasen from Electablog has all the details.

As Hasen elaborates on his site:

While many people were worried about whether there would be a court-packing plan for the NC Supreme Court (about to have a majority of Democratic members)  in the special session on disaster relief that NC Governor Pat McCrory had called, it seems that NC GOP legislative leaders had a different trick up their sleeve: they have called a special session to start now at the end of the session called by the governor, and the plan seems to be to propose measures to cut the power of the incoming Democratic governor Roy Cooper.

Among the bills that have now been filed is one that would move from giving the state board of elections and county election boards a majority of seats for the sitting governor, to one which would make the sessions be evenly divided on a bipartisan basis.  So a partisan advantage was good enough when there was a Republican governor, but no longer.

In the meantime, NC Democrats are claiming that the call for the special session was itself unconstitutional, potentially rendering any bills from the session invalid.

And here’s the kicker: any lawsuit over these alleged rules will end up before the state Supreme Court with its new Democratic majority, unless the special session itself produces a court-packing plan, and if that happens the Court itself would have to resolve a key question about its own membership.

Democratic representative Darren Jackson on the special session: ““This is why people don’t trust us. This is why they hate us.”

Ow.

UPDATE:

It is much, much worse than it looks now that the bill is posted. The Democratic party appointees to the election board would chair in odd numbered years, and the Republican party appointees would chair in even numbered years (see page 4 of the bill), meaning that they would chair in each of the years in which there are legislative, congressional, and presidential elections.

The state supreme court would be limited in reviewing state constitutional and federal challenges, giving the power instead first to an en banc panel of intermediate appellate court judges (who of course are Republican majority) and limiting appeals as of right (see from pages 20 on in the bill).

If the bill passes in this form, I could see potential Voting Rights Act and federal constitutional challenges here, in part because the legislature would potentially be diluting minority voting power and making minority voters worse off, just at the time that their candidate of choice (Gov. Cooper) is poised to assume power.

The Reverend Dr. Barber and his Moral Monday’s movement is on the job and have already begun the response, including legal pushback if necessary.

This is obviously a fluid situation and will be a quickly moving story, so expect information to change as today turns into tomorrow, pressure is brought to bear, and the GOP majority in the North Carolina legislature have to bring their actions into the light of day.



Open Thread: “It Was A Corruption Election”

A shonda for the neighbors!, my (impeccably lace-curtain NYC Irish) Nana would say. Sarah Chayes, in Foreign Policy:

In the past 10 years, populations have rejected “rigged systems” that had stood for decades. They have risen up in mass protests in Brazil, Guatemala, South Africa, and South Korea. They have overthrown their governments in open insurrections like the Arab Spring and Ukraine’s Maidan. Or they have fallen in behind self-proclaimed Robin Hoods such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. Occasionally, they have joined violent religious movements like the Islamic State or Boko Haram.

With Trump’s election, the United States just joined this list….

Whatever our affiliation or walk of life, we must also, each of us, discover and hold on to that dividing line that marks off the reasonable compromises from the unacceptable.

For, like the people of Mosul in Iraq or northern Nigeria, who traded intolerably corrupt regimes for Islamist crusaders who were worse, Americans will wake up in January under a system that is more corrupt than the one that fueled their rebellion. That is the irony of resorting to a wrecking ball to bring down a corrupt regime. Too often, the kleptocratic networks prove resilient, while those who revolted end up with crushed heads.

Already, President-elect Trump’s questionable affiliations and potential conflicts of interest — as genteel vocabulary would have it — are making headlines. The issue is not one of technical legality or poor vetting. His actions and associations are deliberate. While tweeting out distractions to disguise the fact, he will unleash a feeding frenzy. Our laws and institutions will be bent to the purposes of personal enrichment. Industry lobbyists will draft the bills. He will negotiate business deals with foreign counterparts, confusing his personal interests for the good of the nation. Agencies that try to hold the line will see their budgets slashed, their officials belittled in public. Law enforcement will be even more selective than it is today. The labor of human beings, the land, and what’s on it or under it will be converted to cash as efficiently as possible. And what can’t be converted will be bulldozed out of the way.

And what will Americans do in the face of this exacerbation of our own brand of corruption? Will we further relax our standards, shrugging our shoulders and referring to the letter of ever-changing laws? Or will we reach for a definition of corruption that is in line with common sense and rebuild our foundations upon that bedrock?…



Make Sure to Save the Date!

Oy vey…

 



Oh, Well, No One’s Perfect, Amirite, Media

welp

The long, gory details on how Russia helped to elect the Trump duma with an assist from clueless and over their head DNC employees (whose names I’ve written down and put in my MARK PENN FAIL TRAIN FILE because they should never fucking work for a Democratic candidate again) and a willing media. Meanwhile, at the Intercept, they’re still not convinced Russia did this and want a document dump so Russia and Trump can figure out how the intelligence services know what they know and/or fuck up any attempt at any future legal action and subsequent prosecution. And if you point this out, I’m sure you hate freedom.

And before you ask, yes, there is a fundamental fucking difference between whistleblowers leaking evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the American government and a foreign power engaging in cyber warfare and interfering in American elections, even though some people can’t seem to figure that out.



One More Thing: I Do Dare Call It Treason

There’s no way to parse what happened in the few weeks before the election without recognizing that both FBI director Comey and Senate Majority Leader McConnell effectively colluded with Russia to throw this election.

hanged-men-pittura-infamante-andrea-del-sarto-6c

Comey can’t not have known about the Russia connection to the emails, and yet chose to violate policy, precedent and explicit advice from Justice in his email letter ten days before the vote.

McConnell was specifically briefed on Russia’s efforts to influence the election, and he pressured (successfully, alas) the Obama administration to withhold that information from the public.

Both of them made choices that directly enabled Putin’s efforts.  Both of them knew, to a virtual certainty, that this was the case.

Both of them are in my view traitors — both to our country as it is now, and to the idea of a representative democracy America is supposed to embody.

And one more one more thing: Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, is Trump’s nominee for Transportation secretary. It is unconfirmed at this time that this is payment for services rendered.  It would, however, be irresponsible not to speculate.

Image: Andrea del Sarto, Study for a “Shame Painting” — In Italy, this form of execution was associated w. traitors. Before 1530.



Reds Under The Bed

The non-revelation that Vladimir Putin actively tried to select the next US President — and succeeded — has been pretty well covered by now.  I just want to add one question that’s been bugging me all day:

What did the Trump campaign do, and when did they do it?

We do know a few things.  Michael Flynn was both a national security advisor to the Trump campaign and has ties to the Russian propaganda apparatus.  Former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort has worked for Russia and allied states, and has a rich, long-held trove of contacts with the state apparatus there.  Donald Trump himself famously asked Putin to hack Hillary’s emails.  I’m sure if we had the same access to Trump’s, his campaign’s and the RNC’s communications that we had to Hillary’s and her team’s, we could well have some very interesting reading.

Short of that, it seems a basic question to ask of the Trump circle.  Did any of them conspire with a foreign power to manipulate (steal) the election?

The fundamental crisis we face, of course, is that a foreign power fucked with our election, which ended in the result sought by an adversary.  But while that’s the obvious disaster,  it gets worse if the Russians had active co-conspirators within the Trump camp.  That moves them from illegitimate, to traitors.

513px-giotto-kissofjudas

That may seem a stretch — but given the extremely well documented Russian connections that obtained in the Trump campaign through the crucial months of the general election, it’s seems to me that it’s imperative we get real answers as to who did what to whom over here.  This is where I hope Marty Barron has his people working (I’ve given up on Dean Baquet).  And I hope there are folks at the CIA pissed off enough to help out.

Whoever does it, this really is a time that puts the idea of the elite press to the test.  Either they cover Trump and all his high crimes and misdemeanors, or they give up, and the American experiment lurches to its increasingly imminent collapse.

I live not in expectation, but in hope.*

*Hope is the thing with feathers. The one Dick Cheney kept trying to shoot out of the sky.

 

Image: Giotto, The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas)betw. 1306 and 1308.