Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Ken Starr

Yeah, it's only natural that Trump included Ken Starr on his defense team. Takes a sleaze bag to know a sleaze bag.

Ken Starr Is America's Most Poisonous Creep

By Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast
23 January 20

His Clinton probe was one of the sleaziest episodes in recent American political history, at least until Trump came along.

 had to chuckle over the weekend as pundits tried to square the circle of Ken Starr, who led the impeachment crusade against Bill Clinton in 1998, defending Donald Trump on impeachment charges in 2020. Why, it seems so inconsistent on its face!
But for Starr, it’s 1,000 percent consistent. It’s who he is. 
He’s a political hack. A total partisan hatchet man. One of the most poisonous political figures of our time. No—worse. One of the most poisonous public figures. Not just in politics, but in any realm. I’d sooner have O.J. over for dinner.
He’s another one of those men who started his adult life as a Democrat—even a Vietnam protester!—but got yucked out by something along the way and became a Reagan man. Like Rudy Giuliani, another historically poisonous figure (I wouldn’t have said this of him, by the way, until the last couple of years). 
But let’s just go back to the pivotal moment, when Starr became known by the nation at large. This was 1994, when he was appointed to replace Robert Fiske as independent counsel investigating Clinton. This was one of the sleaziest episodes in recent American political history, at least until Trump came along.
In January of 1994, Clinton reluctantly agreed to let Attorney General Janet Reno name a special prosecutor to look into the Whitewater affair, a land deal in Arkansas that he had invested in while governor there. He did nothing wrong, as subsequent investigations made clear, but the right-wing noise machine, then just gestating into a thing that mattered, was declaring Clinton guilty of swindling his co-investor (the opposite was the truth) and duping regulators. Aides told him, “If you did nothing wrong, a special prosecutor will give you a clean bill of health, and your opponents will have to shut up about this.” Which was true, in theory.
Reno appointed Fiske. He had a strong reputation. He was a Republican. But he was not a movement conservative, and this was his real crime. He sniffed around for about six months, didn’t find much, and issued the first part of his report, about the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster. Some right-wingers were literally going around saying the Clintons had Foster iced because he knew too much. Fiske found he committed suicide. No conspiracy.
The wingnuts were up in arms and feared that in Part 2, about Whitewater, Fiske was going to exonerate the Clintons. Fiske has subsequently said that he did uncover evidence of serious crimes, but not by the Clintons. (I know I’m going into some detail here, but trust me, I have to, so you can see how filthy this deal was.)
At this exact time, the independent counsel law was expiring. Congress passed a law renewing it, which awaited Clinton’s signature. Under the circumstances, he couldn’t very well end it. Oh, that’s the kind of thing Trump would do in a heartbeat, but pre-Trump, presidents worried about such appearances.
So Clinton signed the law, which had one fateful impact. It shifted the oversight of the independent counsel from the Justice Department (the attorney general) to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Specifically, to a three-judge panel that consisted of two movement conservatives.
They fired Fiske. They claimed he had a conflict because his firm had once represented International Paper, which years before had done business with Clinton’s Whitewater partner. They replaced him with Starr. Starr’s firm represented International Paper at the time of Starr’s appointment! But somehow, that wasn’t a conflict. And that’s how we came to be saddled with Ken Starr as a household name.
From there, you know what happened. The judges knew that Starr had something Fiske didn’t: zero scruples. Starr would go to any length to pin anything he could on the Clintons. The whole thing was a set-up by hard-right judges, working with hard-right activists to install a hard-right prosecutor who threatened witnesses and leaked grand-jury information and held one witness in a plexiglass cell as if she were some kind of war criminal. 
Then he got lucky because another set of hard-right activists learned that Clinton had had intimate relations with Monica Lewinsky (what a great tweet she wrote the other day!), and they told Starr’s prosecutors—who were supposed to be looking, remember, into a real-estate deal—all about it and finagled things so Clinton lied under oath about it, leading to his impeachment and the release of Starr’s sex-obsessed “report” (written, you may recall, with help from a young Brett Kavanaugh.) 
That’s who Starr is, in addition to the good Christian man who spent years waving away a wave of sexual assaults at the university of which he was president. Funny thing about Starr and sex. He seems to think it’s evil when a Democratic president has it with someone other than his wife, but OK and worth trying to cover up or excuse when a football player does it to an unconsenting woman.
And now, of course, he’s defending Trump. Starr’s perverted the law for rancid partisan purposes and ruined a major university, but I guess he feels hasn’t done enough damage to America yet, so now he’s going to help exonerate a president who tried to get a foreign government to help him rig the next election. 
Principle, you say? There is no principle. Actually, there is one, the same one that drives Bill Barr: That Godless liberals are evil, and when you’re waging jihad against them, nothing is out of bounds. 
Of course, this doesn’t explain his behavior at Baylor. Or his legal defense of Jeffrey Epstein. Or his plea to a judge to sentence to community service rather than jail time a Virginia man who admitted to having molested five girls under the age of 14 years before. 
So maybe there is another principle at work. Maybe he’s just attracted to sleazy, disgusting men. Takes one to know one.


Monday, December 23, 2019

U.S. Bike Route

Got a bike? Feel like pedaling across Texas?

Wheel deal: Trails tapped for U.S. bike route designation


Brownsville and Cameron County’s hike-and-bike trail network will be the first in Texas officially part of the U.S. Bicycle Route System if the Texas Department of Transportation’s application to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is approved.

AASHTO, which coordinates state highway departments around the country, designates and catalogs USBRS routes. More than 14,000 miles have been officially designated as part of the system in 27 states and Washington D.C., connecting urban, suburban and rural areas. Many more routes are proposed around the country. USBRS will total 50,000 miles when complete.

Proposed routes include a north-south route connecting Brownsville with Dallas-Fort Worth and an east-west route linking El Paso to East Texas, though to date no URBRS routes have been designated in the state, according to Ramiro Gonzalez, the city’s director of government affairs, who gave a presentation on the URBRS application during the Dec. 10 city commission meeting.

“There’s no designated bike route system in Texas, and that’s really because no other region or city has really thought about it,” he said. “If this process is successful, Brownsville and Cameron County would be the first designated part of the bike route system in Texas.”

TxDOT tapped Brownsville and Cameron County because of work done on Caracara Trails, formerly the Active Transportation and Active Tourism Plan, a proposed 428-mile trail network connecting communities via more than 230 miles of multi-use trails, 78 miles of paddling trails and 120 miles of on-street USBRS route.

“The USBRS is actually the easiest part of this plan in the sense that it takes the least amount of funding to put up a sign and designate something the ‘U.S. Bike Route System,’ “ Gonzalez said.

Combes to South Padre Island would be designated USBR 255. From Combes to Brownsville through Los Indios and Harlingen would be designated USBR 55. In Brownsville, the routes would follow F.M. 281 and S.H. 48. Gonzalez said signage is “nice but not required” and that the designation comes down to prestige.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It’s just a designation.”

The goal of Caracara Trails is to diversify tourism and contribute to the economy while linking communities and encouraging healthier lifestyles, Gonzalez said. His presentation cited the economic impact of trail systems elsewhere in the United States.

The Great Allegheny Passage between Maryland and Pennsylvania, for instance, generates $100 million in annual spending, while the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia generals $120 million a year and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail $1.8 million in annual spending by non-locals, Gonzalez said.

It’s estimated that Caracara Trails’ six “catalyst projects” would generate $70 million in annual spending, he said. Among them is the Bahia Grande Segment, which Gonzalez described as “perhaps the signature project” of Caracara Trails. The 18- to 20-mile-long segment would connect Brownsville via the Historic Battlefield Trail to Laguna Vista and the Bahia Grande Unit of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

“You can kind of start to think what kind of attraction this would be to tourism,” Gonzalez said.

In Laguna Vista, the Bahia Grande trail would terminate at the South Texas Eco-Tourism Center, a joint project of Laguna Vista and the county that has gone out to bid, he said. Another catalyst project is the Laguna Madre Segment, which would connect the county’s coastal and bayside communities with Laguna Atascosa and comprise part of USBR 55.

Gonzalez said the city is proud Caracara Trails was tapped for TxDOT’s first application for USBRS designation, which could be approved by June.

“I think that says a lot for the work that’s been put into this plan,” he said. “It’ll bring the vision, it’ll bring bicycle tourism, it’ll be a destination and it just puts us on the map.”

Friday, December 20, 2019

Travel Advisory

Poor Mexican citizens are caught in the crossfire of cartels and police. I understand sometimes it's hard to tell them apart. We cross now and then at Progreso, but only about one or two blocks in, to refill some medications, then we scurry back across. 

State Department: Do not travel to Tamaulipas


With many people planning to visit relatives in Mexico during the Christmas holidays, the U.S Department of State has issued a travel warning advising Americans not travel to certain areas of Mexico because of ongoing violence.

The advisory issued on Tuesday warns Americans to refrain from traveling to the state of Tamaulipas due to crime and kidnapping, and the states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, and Sinaloa because of ongoing crime.

Matamoros, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo are located in the state of Tamaulipas.

The State Department reports that the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas as travel by U.S. government employees in certain areas is either prohibited or significantly restricted.

Federal officials report organized criminal activity such as gun battles, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion and sexual assaults is common in the Tamaulipas area. Criminal organizations usually target public and private passenger buses as well private vehicles traveling through the state.

According to the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) 2018 crime report for Tamaulipas, there were 1,472 recorded murders in Tamaulipas in 2018; most are directly due to Transnational Criminal Organizations violence. Additionally, there were 2,458 cases of aggravated assault reported in 2018, the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisor Council stated in a report, adding “since underreporting of crime is a major issue, and authorities do not track crime with any consistency, consider tallies (under)estimates at best.”

The State Department states criminal organizations are heavily armed and often take passengers hostage and demand ransom payments. Because members of the criminal organizations patrol the area in marked and unmarked vehicles “local law enforcement has limited capability to respond to crime incidents.”

Federal officials report these criminal organizations travel around the area “with impunity particularly along the border region from Reynosa northwest to Nuevo Laredo.”

U.S. government employees are only allowed to travel with a limited radius between the U.S. Consulates in Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo and their respective ports of entry. U.S. government employees also must observe curfews between midnight and 6 a.m. and on some highways may only travel during daylight hours.