What Fresh Hell?: Let's make Wyatt Earp teach algebra edition

Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and threats of nuclear annihilation coming out of the current White House.


It’d be crass to call this week’s debate over gun violence a “shiny object,” but Mango Mugabe somehow managed to turn a somber moment of reflection after yet another school massacre into a freak-show.

Arming teachers may make a little more sense than putting sharks with “laser beams” attached to their heads in every classroom, but not much.

Trump, a draft-dodger who once claimed that he should get a Congressional Medal of Honor for having unprotected sex while poor kids were dying in Vietnam, thinks that it’d be easy to train up 10 or 20 percent of teachers into dead-eyed John McClanes who would calmly dispatch any bad hombre who comes to the doors of their classrooms.

Most people who have real tactical experience think the idea is beyond ludicrous. Law enforcement and the military train regularly and extensively to overcome the natural stress reactions that occur in a combat situation. That adrenaline-fueled reaction includes freezing up, experiencing temporal and auditory distortions and suffering from tunnel vision, where you focus exclusively on a target and can no longer see innocent bystanders, responding officers, etc.

That training doesn’t just consist of some time on the range – they go through realistic scenarios that are designed to put them under significant stress in order to inoculate them against what they're likely to experience when the bullets start flying. And despite that rigorous training, many soldiers still freeze up the first time they come under fire. They train to retain their situational awareness and shoot straight, yet according to one study, two-thirds of shots fired by the NYPD missed their marks.

We’re not only being held hostage to the gun manufacturer’s lobby, but also to the idea that the movies are just like real life.

Calling for arming teachers is another shiny object, but this time Tangerine Trujillo isn’t distracting us from the corruption or the staffing disasters or the awful policies being cranked out by Congressional Republicans. He’s distracting us from real measures to address the scourge of gun violence.

You shouldn’t be, Chuck. The rest of us saw that one coming from a mile away.

Anyway, let’s dig into some tales of turpitude and graft that may not have gotten the attention that they deserved this week.

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Last month, Dan Diamond reported for Politico that a “small cadre” of American Taliban “politically prominent religious activists” were taking an increasingly aggressive role in steering policy at the Department of Health and Human Services. “The agency's devout Christian leaders have set in motion changes with short-term symbolism and long-term significance,” wrote Diamond.

How’s that working out? Well, on one hand, Diamond reported this week that “the nation's health department is taking steps to dismantle LGBT health initiatives, as political appointees have halted or rolled back regulations intended to protect LGBT workers and patients, removed LGBT-friendly language from documents and reassigned the senior adviser dedicated to LGBT health.”

And according to Anna North at Vox, documents from a whistleblower suggest that the HHS “let an anti-abortion group write its health care policy” -- specifically a directive that signals that the regime will interpret the laws in such a way that will allow states to defund Planned Parenthood. So all of that's going according to plan.

But when you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. Jon Cardova, Spray-tan Stalin’s  pick to oversee HHS’s Office of Human Relations, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of Security and Strategic Information, Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance and Operations Office and the Program Support Center – hey, they’ve left a lot of positions unfilled and someone has to do those jobs – was put on leave this week after CNN uncovered the guy’s social media posts.

And oh boy, is he a charmer. Cardova “pushed stories filled with baseless claims and conspiracy theories, including stories that claimed Gold Star father Khizr Khan is a ‘Muslim Brotherhood agent’ and made baseless claims about Sen. Ted Cruz's personal life,” reported Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott.

Cordova also repeatedly shared fake or conspiratorial stories, including one … with a photoshopped picture of a black man holding a sign that read, "No mother should have to fear for her son's life every time he robs a store."

In one tweet, Cordova called for a boycott of Budweiser because the company supported "jihadis" over white immigration.

In another tweet, Cordova speculated the reason the identity of the shooter at Umpqua Community College in 2015 hadn't been made public was because he was a Muslim. The shooter was not a Muslim.

In another tweet, Cordova compared MoveOn.org and the Black Lives Matter movement to Nazis.

These are the people running your government now.

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Speaking of which, Cantaloupe Ceaușescu appears to have picked some random con-man a low-level administrative assistant to head the Indian Health Service, which “provides care for 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in 36 states.”

According to The New York Times, Robert Weaver, who claimed to have held a supervisory position at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri, withdrew his nomination this week after The Wall Street Journal reported that in reality, “hospital officials said that they did not recognize his name,... and that they believed Mr. Weaver’s role had involved entry-level duties, such as registering patients.”

Only the best people, etc.

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It’s strange to have a Pepe-loving internet troll in the White House, but that's where we are.

More consequentially, Ron Nixon reports for The NYT that “Border Patrol officers are working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles away from the border under a little-known federal law that is being used more widely in the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration.”

“The department said in a statement that the checkpoints were ‘strategically placed where illegal cross-border smuggling is most likely to converge,’” but “in New Hampshire, border officers working with state officials conducted what the American Civil Liberties Union described as illegal drug searches after residents were arrested at immigration checkpoints set up on a major interstate highway. One of the checkpoints was set up just before a local marijuana festival.”

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According to Politico’s Nahal Toosi, “State Department officials have been ordered to pare back passages in a soon-to-be-released annual report on global human rights that traditionally discuss women’s reproductive rights and discrimination, according to five former and current department officials.”

The move, believed to have been ordered by a top aide to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reflects the Trump administration’s rightward turn from the Obama administration on family planning issues. It also appears to highlight the stated desire of Tillerson and President Donald Trump to make human rights a lower priority in U.S. foreign policy.

Some career State Department officials — particularly female staffers — are suspicious of the motives behind the changes, which they fear could undermine the report’s impact and integrity…

"This sends a clear signal that women's reproductive rights are not a priority for this administration, and that it's not even a rights violation we must or should report on," one serving State Department official said.

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AP: “The Trump administration is once again calling for the complete elimination of a heating assistance program that helps to keep the homes of low-income families warm.”

This is happening just weeks after Congress gave five massive energy companies $24 billion in tax cuts over the next ten years.

Typically, conservatives attack food stamps by claiming that recipients trade them in for malt liquor or whatever other racist cliché they have at hand, but what’s the rationale behind this? The AP notes that the program “helps families pay their heating bills primarily in the form of a grant that’s sent directly to utility companies or heating fuel vendors” – it’s not fungible; it only provides warmth.

These people are just assholes.

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Speaking of which, “US senators are planning to mark the 10th anniversary of Wall Street’s meltdown this year with a gift to the nation’s banks: a bill that would unravel regulations put in place after the crisis,” according to Politico.

This one, tragically, is bipartisan. Here are the Dems – and one independent who caucuses with them – who were supporting the bill as of Tuesday…

Heitkamp

Donnelly

Tester

Warner

Kaine

Coons

Carper

McCaskill

Manchin

King

Peters

Bennet

Jones

And these Dems are reportedly on the fence:

Stabenow

Nelson

Klobuchar

Murphy

Duckworth

Hassan

Shaheen

There’s more info about the bill at the link above. Let ‘em know what you think.

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One has to read between the lines a bit with a report out this week by WaPo’s Juliet Eilperin. The story is that two senior officials at the U.S. Geological Survey quit when “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke asked that they provide his office with confidential data on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska before it was released to the general public.”

Eilperin writes that “there was no indication that either Zinke or any of his deputies intended to use the information for personal gain,” but Zinke, who previously sat on the Board of Directors of the oil pipeline company QS Energy, and his minions could potentially make a fortune if they had advance knowledge of what the data would show, and there’s no obvious reason why Interior officials would need the information a few days before it became public. One of the departing officials told Eilperin that “this is the first time we’ve had anyone insist we want that number.”

It’s just odd, is what we’re saying.

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In case you missed David Farenthold’s latest scoop for the WaPo: “Two weeks after President Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the gala’s organizer said.”

Meanwhile, “federal investigators are probing whether former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort promised a Chicago banker a job in the Trump White House in return for $16 million in home loans,” according to NBC.

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Speaking of scammers, you may recall that “United Technologies handed Donald Trump bragging rights in late 2016 when, just weeks after he won the election, the manufacturing giant publicly credited the soon-to-be president with striking a deal to save hundreds of Indiana furnace factory jobs that seemed destined to move to Mexico.” The company got some huge tax breaks, and of course offshored many of those jobs anyway.

And this week, WaPo’s Aaron Gregg and Danielle Paquette reported that “more than a year into Trump’s presidency, that federal money continues to flow to United Technologies’ subsidiaries. The Defense Department recently gave the company’s Connecticut-based aeronautics subsidiary a $2.5 billion contract without competition to provide propeller systems, wheels and brakes, landing gear, flight sensors and other equipment directly to the armed services.”

Sweetheart no-bid contracts handed out to companies that do political favors for the regime strike us as being kind of antithetical to draining the swamp, but we do we know? We’re just a bunch of libtards.

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And from the “highly unusual but legal” file, Christina Wilkie reported for CNBC that, “soon after the Republican National Committee came under pressure for paying legal bills for President Donald Trump and his eldest son in the special counsel's Russia probe, it started covering expenses for the president's re-election campaign.The RNC is using campaign funds to pay Trump's company more than $37,000 a month in rent, and to pay thousands of dollars in monthly salary to Vice President Mike Pence's nephew, John Pence.”

And MSNBC reports that “the Republican National Committee is paying a firm owned by Trump's former bodyguard $15,000 a month for consulting.” Keith Schiller left the White House last fall, and has since received $75,000 from the RNC. “If the RNC continues paying Schiller at this rate until the 2020 Republican National Convention, his total fees will likely be north of $500,000.”

Schiller's fee comes out of the RNC's convention fund, not its campaign fund, the official noted.

Campaign finance watchdog groups, however, were quick to cry foul.

"These sorts of party accounts are notorious for being operated as slush funds — lightly regulated and ripe for abuse," said Stephen Spaulding, former special counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now chief of strategy at the nonpartisan advocacy group Common Cause.

It’s all a giant grift.

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It’s been 26 days since a law sanctioning Russia for fucking with our elections – one passed with massive bipartisan majorities – went into effect, but the regime still hasn't gotten around to implementing it. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Friday that they’re still working on it. They should come any day now, or maybe not.

Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies say Russia is still at it, and will mess with the upcoming midterms. So naturally “the head of a federal commission who has helped U.S. states protect election systems from possible cyber attacks by Russia or others is being replaced at the behest of Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House,” according to Reuters.

Matthew Masterson “has been a popular figure among state election officials, many of whom have praised his expertise and leadership on cyber security issues,” so of course he had to go.

“The action raises fresh questions over the degree to which Republican President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans who control Congress are taking steps to protect the security of American elections, and some state officials have accused them of doing too little to address the threat.” Yeah, it "raises questions."

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Finally, we'll leave you with a reminder that “about a third of Puerto Rico's residents — over 900,000 — are still living without electricity five months after Hurricane Maria battered the island on Sept. 20th of last year,” according to NBC. Officials won’t say when the power will be restored.

Vox adds that “calls to Puerto Rico’s suicide hotline have skyrocketed since Hurricane Mari,” and “reported suicide attempts have tripled in recent months.”

And in what should be front-page news, Arctic temperatures are currently running about 45 degrees above normal, and scientists are saying that this is really, really bad. “It was the warmest December on record in the Arctic,” writes Joe Romm at Think Progress, “and 2018 has already set a string of records for lowest Arctic sea ice.”

“We are seeing what scientists have predicted for years,” professor of thermal sciences John Abraham told ThinkProgress via email. “The temperatures in the Arctic are off the chart. This matters for the rest of us because this is the time of year when the Arctic ice should be growing. But it isn’t growing like it should. So, this summer, there will be less ice and more open waters that will lead to more warming.” Abraham warns that “We’ve started a feedback loop that we cannot stop.”

The fact that that we’re doomed by our own greed and hostility toward science kind of puts Trump’s annoying tweets in perspective, so at least there’s a silver lining.