Earlier this month, we learned that one of the most enduring frustrations of Trump's presidency is that no one will take his suggestion of building a moat filled with man-eating alligators and poisonous snakes along the US border (something he's been talking up for at least 35 years!).
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Trump's initial appointee to run the EPA was Scott Pruitt, who resigned in disgrace in 2018 amid a massive corruption scandal in which he was found to have spent lavishly and assigned improper personal duties to government employees.
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Palmer Luckey (previously) the alt-right financier who was made a billionaire by Mark Zuckerberg's decision to acquire his VR startup Oculus, is now running a Peter-Thiel-backed surveillance startup called Anduril Industries, which has won a contract to contribute to Project Maven, the Pentagon's controversial AI-for-drones system (Google's involvement in Project Maven sparked an employee uprising that ended with the relevant executives leaving the company and the contract being allowed to lapse).
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When Donald Trump announced that he would "drain the swamp" by filling his cabinet with lobbyists, billionaires, and political operators, we all braced for an onslaught of rules that benefited the fattest of cats at the expense of everyone else, but Gary Cohn outdid himself.
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You know that thing where politicians take money from big companies and then try to pass bills that represent the interests of those big companies? Well, some of that shit went down in West Virginia last Friday when a bill was brought into the legislature that would allow oil companies to drill for black gold on a piece of land, provided 75% of the land are cool with it. I'm not huge on math, but it seems to me that this would seriously screw the last 25% of the land's owners who don't want their land messed with.
Lissa Lucas, a Democrat who's running for a seat in the state's House of Delegates, thought so too. Also, she has a serious issue with the strangle hold that energy companies have on West Virginia's politics and, in turn, West Virginian politicians. Giving voice to her beef, Lucas stood up and attempted to read, on camera, the names of all of the politicians who were voting on the bill who happened to have also received political donations from oil companies.
For her troubles, she was hauled out of the legislature faster than shit pours through a goose. Did I mention that the whole thing was caught on video? Welp, here we are.
The Intercept's Zaid Jilani spoke with Lucas about the incident, earlier today. If you've got a few minutes and care about the right of citizens to have their say over what their government does, and why, it's worth a read. Read the rest
In 1936, John Maynard Keynes suggested that a fair economic system would lead to "the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital" -- implying that we have a choice between fairness and extreme wealth, and that the two couldn't peacefully co-exist.
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The word on the Hill is that Trump will nominate Cheryl Stanton to head the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, a step up from her current job as head of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, where her tenure has been marked by high-profile resignations over her plans to trump up claims against employees she disliked and wanted to fire, and (you can't make this stuff up) a lawsuit by the agency that cleans her house because she refused to pay them. Read the rest
Remember the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, the one that says that presidents aren't supposed to get gifts or payments from foreign governments without Congressional approval? Read the rest
Chris Dodd (previously) was once a Democratic senator who decried politicians who became lobbyists; then he became one of the highest-paid and least competent lobbyists in DC, taking the helm of the Motion Picture Association on America and leading the organization to failure, catastrophe and irrelevance. Read the rest
Donald Trump has been slow to fill administrative positions that require Senate confirmation (and thus public scrutiny), but he's quietly hired 400 "beachhead team" members "to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency, from the Pentagon to the Department of Interior" -- a rats' nest of ex-lobbyists running agencies they used to lobby, campaign staffers being given cushy jobs, neo-nutjobs from the Breitbart depths who endorse birtherism and other, more exotic conspiracy theories, and a whole Mos Eisley Cantina's worth of scum and villainy. Read the rest
Shortly after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the Department of Labor's whistleblower site -- for Wells Fargo employees who wanted to report fraud in the ongoing scandal affecting millions of Americans -- disappeared. Read the rest
Steve Mnuchin, Trump's pick for Secretary of Treasury, has a checkered past (he once foreclosed on a 90 year old customer who was $0.27 short on her mortgage payment) but a leaked memo from the California attorney general's Consumer Law Section reports that Mnuchin's leadership of Onewest Bank involved "widespread misconduct" in foreclosing on Californians, through which the bank was able to fraudulently confiscate their customers' homes. Read the rest
A day after using an unannounced, after-hours, closed-door session to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, the House GOP has abandoned its plans, partly because President-Elect Trump told them that while he believed that the Office should be dismantled, doing so now would distract from the urgent business of slashing taxes for the wealthy and taking away healthcare from 20 million Americans. Read the rest
Update: They've backed down because Trump warned them it would be a distraction from taking away healthcare and giving tax cuts to rich people.
The independent Office of Congressional Ethics -- created in 2008 after three Congressmen were jailed for corruption -- has been stripped of its powers by the House GOP, who held an after-hours vote, with no notice, on Monday night. Read the rest
Veronica Birkenstock is Practical Employee Solutions, a company that boasts of having brought "over 40,000" cheap H-2B workers from 80 countries to the USA to work in "hospitality, landscaping, welding, and construction" for companies like Marriott and Starwood Hotels, for whom it is the "preferred vendor." Read the rest
Lin-Manuel Miranda's smash Broadway musical Hamilton -- which recounts the events of 240 years ago -- keeps looming large in our very current political discourse, from Hamilton's role in the establishment of the Electoral College to Mike Pence's night at the theater and the ensuing Trumpian call for a safe-space for vulnerable politicians who have only their status as the second-most powerful man on the planet to defend themselves from the terrifyingly mild petitions delivered by actual, globe-striding singing fellows. Read the rest
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren: "During the campaign, Donald Trump told the American people that he was going to change Washington by taking on Wall Street. Donald Trump’s choice for Treasury scretary, Steve Mnuchin, is just another Wall Street insider. That is not the type of change that Donald Trump promised to bring to Washington – that is hypocrisy at its worst. After his bank pocketed billions in taxpayer dollars from the bailout, Mnuchin moved on to make a fortune running another bank that aggressively foreclosed on families still reeling from the crisis. This pick makes clear that Donald Trump wants to cater to the same Wall Street executives that have hurt working families time and again." (Images: Bernie Sanders, AFGE/CC-BY; Elizabeth Warren, Tim Pierce/CC-BY) Read the rest