Thursday, October 10, 2019

Were the Kurds Used To Intimidate Ukraine?

If you haven't followed the news recently, the Trump impeachment story is plastered on every headline. Here is food for thought:

Trump got in trouble for having a conversation with the president of Ukraine, where he asked for a favor with his phrasing seemingly tying the favor to the military aid. The impeachment investigation had already revealed that just days prior to the call Trump had put a hold on the congressionally appropriated funds to Ukraine, establishing that the military aid mentioned during his phone call would be predicated on this favor - investigating his political opponent for a conspiracy theory cooked up by his personal lawyer and right-wing websites.

Trump has obviously denied any wrongdoing, instead confirming the details of the whistle-blower complaints, doubling down on his actions, and going on a media tirade against democrats, who had opened up an impeachment inquiry following the revelations of the complaint.

Shortly after the impeachment investigation started, the administration has decided to stonewall Congressional democrats and claim the investigation unconstitional and claiming Trump did not engage in "quid pro quo" bribery to get dirt on his political opponent.

But here is what is suspicious - shortly after all this, the administration released the appropriated funds and the Ukrainian president announced there would be an investigation into the closed cases of the former fired prosecutor at the center of Trump's conspiracy theory.

What is even more suspicious is that shortly after Trump betrayed America's Kurdish allies by withdrawing troops allowing Turkish forces to attack, Ukraine, that is facing it's own domestic conflict with Russian-backed separatists, stated the call with Trump involved no bribery.

So a conversation that seemed to demonstrate "quid pro quo" and a subsequent completion of the bribe was followed by the other party pretty much parroting Trump a day after seeing what could happen should America abandon an ally.

Were the Kurds used to intimidate Ukraine, similar to a classic mob tactic?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Republicans Increasingly Flaunt Illegal Actions

With the administration revving up the offense, administration officials and allies are now openly flaunting their legal violations, whether using their position to campaign in direct conflict with the Hatch act or committing war crimes.

And this was in just one day... 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Trump Admits Losses In Huge Tax Leak

Donald Trump recently attacked a report by The New York Times regarding the leak of a decade worth of tax returns from the president from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties. Trump went to his typical response calling to report "fake news" but in a not too surprising reversal, the president admitted to the reports findings by calling it "sport" and claiming everyone in real estate played these tax games.

Which is it?

Fake news or reality? 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Another Huckabee Hypocrisy

With Attorney General Barr ditching the House hearing on his role in the Mueller report and his subsequent 4-page summary, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckster Sanders defended his intentional absence by claiming the Democrats should resign for being unable to perform their jobs - a reference to the objections from Barr regarding the format of the hearing, in which Democrats were to use a staff lawyer to question Barr.

“I think what we’re seeing from Chairman Nadler is he’s incapable of holding power. If he and his committee aren’t capable of actually asking the attorney general questions themselves and need to staff that out it seems like a pretty pathetic moment for the chairman of that committee.”

This is hypocrisy at it's finest. 

If one would recall, Republicans hired outside lawyer Rachel Mitchell to question Christine Blade Ford during the Brett Kavanaugh supreme court confirmation hearings. 

Huckabee was silent in regards to Republicans not being able to ask their own questions. 

Barr Bad Lawyer, Defends Self With Heresay

Attorney General William Barr confronted the Senate over the investigation by Special Counsel River Mueller, where he was received by softball questions from Republicans and pointed and revealing ones from Democrats.

While we learned some from the hearing, like how the president and/or his administration have probably asked Barr to investigate Trump's political enemies, we also witnessed an episode of absurdity in Barr's defense of his summary report of Mueller's 400-page report.

Barr insisted we do not really know the truth because Mueller called him up on the phone to say Barr got it right and the big bad media and Democrats are misrepresenting the facts. Barr would not present the Senate with evidence of this heresay conversation, of course.

What makes this even crazier is that a letter from Mueller to Barr surfaced right before the hearing, in which Mueller commented that Barr was the one who got it all wrong and that he should have included more in his summary as to not misrepresent the facts of the investigation and abuse the public trust.

And now Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi have made the allegation  that Barr committed a crime by lying to Congress.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Ukranian Collusion Attack to Drag Biden, Clinton

With the Democratic field growing every day, Republicans are having a hard time keeping up with their attacks. While each candidate have various policy positions that could be criticized in one way or another, it seems that a few of the candidates have risen to the top drawing the attention of prominent Republicans, conservative publications, and even the president himself, one such front-runner being Joe Biden.

One interesting line of attack, if one would call it that, ropes Ukrainian operatives, Hillary Clinton and her campaign, the American embassy and sympathetic FBI agents, and even Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Here is one article from The Hill that details the allegations, the timing being very suspect being this has now started to come to light as Biden has been teasing a run for president these last few weeks (and eventually announcing in late April).

It is almost certain the attacks will only get worse when also taking into consideration the release of the Barr report of the Mueller report. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Deja Vu - Sand Lake Hills In Crosshairs of New Association

While posting on The Midnight Review has been sparse these past few years, there are a handful of topics that warrant a response.  While this site likes to take a look at some of the absurdity of politics, there is one extremely absurd subject that cannot go ignored - Homeowners Associations, or HOA for short.  And while HOAs are a ridiculous concept for numerous reasons, The Midnight Review had spent years advocating for a couple local neighborhoods in particular because of locality and also because they clearly highlight what is wrong with how community associations operate and how the government deals with them.

It has been nearly six years since I had last written about HOAs and a recent situation has sprung up that deserves some attention.  I had written numerous times about the Central Florida neighborhood Sand Lake Hills.  To some things up if you are new to the community, Sand Lake Hills was a large neighborhood made up of 12 separate smaller communities in Doctor Phillips that did not have a HOA but over time one of those sections decided they were going to be in charge of everybody and they lawyer shopped until they found someone willing to draw up paperwork to rewrite the covenants and restrictions and they went through a twisted process of granting themselves supreme authority.

The section presented themselves to the rest of the community as the HOA, going as far as to legally rename their organization. Their new covenants and restrictions forced everyone - members and non-members - into owing their corporation an amount of money determined solely by the board of directors.  And the board?  They had rewritten the by-laws of the corporation to allow non-residents sit as officers and hold titles and as a result multiple residents from a single property gained control, as well as individuals from neighboring communities.  They also misrepresented themselves to the county for grants, abused the municipal service benefit unit process to build a shoddy brick wall and speed bumps, and paid police officers to serve and protect only members of their association.  Their attempted conversion landed them in a lengthy legal battle which (spoiler alert) bankrupted their corporation and forced them to shut down.  The courts had found that they had been illegitimate for decades.

So why is this relevant?

Recently a real estate investor by the name of Tarsus Hunt was behind the incorporation of a Not For Profit Corporation called Sand Lake Hills Community, Inc., not to be confused with the now-defunct Sand Lake Hills Homeowners Association, Inc. (formerly Sand Lake Hills Section Two, Homeowners Association, Inc.), the Sand Lake Hills Property Owners' Association, Inc. (which became East Bay Homeowners Inc.), or Sand Lake Hills Homeowners Association Section 3, Inc.  Hunt is also a resident of Sand Lake Hills, Section Ten. 

The Sand Lake Hills Community, Inc. is currently being run by acting president, Vice President David Vanz, who is also a real estate agent and resident of Sand Lake Hills, Section Six.

What exactly is the Sand Lake Hills Community, Inc.?

According to them they are not a HOA but they sure want to act like a volunteer homeowners association but not just for their respective sections but for every section. They also seem to be entertaining various improvement ideas like security cameras, irrigation, electricity, wall maintenance (which is another different and hugely complex matter), and representation and/or maintenance of other non-Sand Lake Hills communities like East Bay or the entirely encapsulated Orange Bay.  This is also evident in their articles of incorporation, which insist they were established for "community improvement and enrichment of the Sand Lake Hills Subdivision."

If this doesn't sound familiar, this is exactly what the previous non-mandatory volunteer association did before they eventually got tired of some homeowners not wanting to participate in some of their costly endeavors and decided to force them to pay.  While this new group seems to be insisting they will be some merry band of volunteers their website and public comments seem to be rather vague and the professions of the board can leave the impression that they do not have the best interests of the actual residents of the community in mind.  I say this because I am reminded of another local real estate agent who decided to meddle in various associations and county projects. 

Paul McGarigal is a real estate agent who had sat on various neighborhood boards and was also director of the short-lived Dr. Phillips Preservation Association, Inc., which appeared to be a community enrichment association guise meant to benefit property investors. McGarigal used to be a featured "expert" with the old Sand Lake Hills folks, writing misleading articles for the newsletter, giving improvement "grants" that only benefited select properties, or pushing a tax on thousands of homes to fund flowers and foliage along Apopka-Vineland Road to benefit the neighborhoods that held his investment properties. His motives were dubious and while this new set of individuals may very well have the best interests of the neighborhood at heart, past experiences tells otherwise.

This new association is in its infancy so it is a question as to what their goals are but there is some suspicious behaviors that have already set off the alarms for some.  For instance, when it was pointed out that they provided little notice for their meeting or held private Facebook groups, there was nothing but excuses.  The neighborhood was given such short notice due to indecision and the private online group is supposedly to prevent "bots," although this is a completely disingenuous excuse since Facebook provides for authentication processes that weed out automated accounts. 

They have established a very low threshold to establish quorum and conduct business on behalf of nearly one thousand homes, with such power resting in that of the board, which requires residents to pay a membership fee to serve on (although one does not have to pay to participate establishing different classes within the organization).  They also have already amassed a few thousand dollars in money but have no clear use for these funds, or they have and have just not disclosed them, and have filed for tax-exempt status. 

All of these may not seem too big of a deal but combined they are alarming.  Either they show a group of inexperienced do-gooders who are in over their heads or a couple of ambitious real estate investors who believe in duping residents to buy into a supposed not for profit organization so that they can benefit professionally. Either way, residents get left behind and screwed, as was evident by the actions of the past association that caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal expenses and headaches for the county.

As Yogi Berra once said, "It's like deja vu all over again."

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Giuliani's Judas Metaphor a Slip?

With each passing day it appears that the Trump administration just keeps digging a deeper hole.  Countless people associated with the president, and by default, his campaign, organization, inauguration, transition, and family have found themselves either under investigation (or close to it) or guilty of one crime or another. So it comes as no surprise when Trump's legal team seems to constantly go on the offensive making excuses, shifting explanations, and trying their hardest to delegitimize the current Mueller investigation into whether or not the president had colluded with a foreign power to get elected.

One constant attack that is made against those who speak out or cooperate with the investigation is that they are either a liar or a traitor to the president. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's current counsel, has referred to numerous people that have turned on Trump as "Judas."

Back in May he referred to the former FBI director as the famous biblical figure and as recently as Friday (December 13th, 2018) he also referred to Trump's former personal attorney as being a "Judas" as well.

What makes this funny is that while Giuliani is implying that the two were disloyal to the president and betrayed him, if you look at the full biblical account of Judas Iscariot you would see that Giuliani may actually be professing Trump's guilt.

Should you actually pick up a Bible and read, Judas betrayed Jesus by calling him "rabbi" in front of a crowd and as a result revealing Jesus' true identity. If we take Giuliani's use of the name and the context of the story, he is upset not with the disloyalty of Cohen or Comey but the fact that they revealed the true nature of Trump to the people.

Giuliani also admitted to The Daily Beast that Trump had committed a crime.

“Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed,” he said. “This was not a big crime.”

It appears these false narratives or incorrect uses of rhetorical devices (or even things like diagrams) seems to persist among circles on the right. It makes you wonder why they are so disingenuous? Guess they lie about even the most simple and verifiable facts.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Baloney Comey Firing Excuse...

The continuing saga of the Comey firing resurfaced this week with news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller got a hold of a draft letter from Trump regarding the firing of FBI Director James Comey.  That letter was basically never released and the message that came from the administration was that Comey was fired because of his deviation from protocol in discussing the Hillary Clinton email case (or lack thereof).  What makes this excuse baloney is that while Trump claims he fired Comey for going public about Clinton, Trump wanted him to go public with a Trump defense!

While Trump hadn't come out and directly said he wanted Comey to defend his reputation publicly, Comey had stated such in his personal notes, leaks from aides pretty much said so, and Trump's stream-of-consciousness midnight tweets and ramblings pretty much verified such claims when he added that Comey told him in private that he was not being investigated.

So basically, the official excuse is nothing more than an excuse. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Trump, Republicans To Create Big Government Voter Database

Republicans have long touted their role as the advocate for a small central government with its powers checked by the fifty states but recently the Trump administration (with the blessing of the GOP) have decided to take a step in the opposite direction and create a huge federal database of information on voters.  While this may sound somewhat innocuous at first glance, when you read what information the Trump administration is seeking to acquire from all of the states you might become a bit more alarmed.

Pema Levy wrote the following for Mother Jones:
After notoriously (and falsely) insisting in January that as many as 5 million fraudulent ballots were cast in the 2016 election, Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity last month to study vulnerabilities in the election system and provide recommendations for fixing them. The commission is led by Vice President Mike Pence and vice-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has a national reputation for pushing the myth of widespread voter fraud and erecting hurdles to registering to vote.

On Wednesday, Pence announced that the commission had sent letters to all 50 states “requesting publicly available data from state voter rolls.” That prompted immediate concern among voting rights advocates, which was heightened when one of the letters, sent to Connecticut, was published online, revealing alarming details about the extent of the information the commission wanted...

The requests, sent by Kobach, demanded a long list of items. The Connecticut letter requests, “if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.'” Rather than keep this data under lock and key, Kobach’s letter says he will make it publicly available.
While many watchdog groups have alerted the public of the potential threat for voter suppression, which is not too far-fetched considering the numerous voting-related laws Republicans have pushed through over the last several years, many have which been struck down by courts for being unconstitutional political power grabs, there is also another aspect of this big government database - Republicans are seemingly using federal government resources to increase their technological ground game.

The information collected not only provides Republicans with enough information to attack political opponents at the voting booth with exceptional precision, the consolidation of such information and the making of that information public will provide Republicans with the kind of data that occupies a huge amount of resources of any given campaign.

This announcement also comes nearly two weeks after Republican analytical contractors exposed 1.1 terabytes of data on over 200 million voters online, causing the Republican National Committee to halt any operations with the firm responsible.  While there has not been any link between this announcement and the information breach, a move like this could be a boon for the political party effectively cutting out the middle man.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Glimpse of the Fox News Racist Fans

We have all read reports about the rise of Right Wing Extremism (here, here, here, here, here, here, &... well, you get the point).  We have also read about the xenophobic and militant rhetoric coming from conservative circles and the Republican party (including the current Republican administration and its leaders).  But what about the people who feed of conservative news?

While Hillary Clinton made a terrible error with her choice of words when she spoke during the 2016 presidential campaign about half of the supporters of Donald Trump belonging to a group called the "basket of deplorables," which conservatives then used to mischaracterize her positions against Republican voters, there is another issue at heart here -  the right wing echo chamber and the role it plays in stoking the fire.  Consider this - Donald Trump got the guy who used to run to be a chief strategist and news just broke that prior to going public about withdrawing from the Paris Climate treaty Trump called Fox News commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle at 8 a.m. in the morning for reassurance.  Those so-called "news" organizations cater to a certain demographic and in turn must provide their fans with material they desire.  That is why Fox News always touts their viewership and popularity over substance and fact.  So let's look at a snap shot of the people Fox News caters to.

In this instance I will highlight the comments on an article discussing a Mike Pence interview where he defends the administration's Muslim immigration ban:

Notice anything racist and anti-Muslim?