The Inexplicable 2018 Omnibus Spending Package, large excerpts

Ok. I’m reading the 2232 fucking page long, Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus spending package that was written to support the 2018 Budget.  I have to say, right up front, I for one am sick of the disorganized, haphazard, sloppy work of the US Government.  I don’t want to see another fucking bill slapped together with no rhyme, reason, or semblance of order.

Removing the donor-class, lobbyist-driven legislation that government shits out should be job 1.  Without that, all the rest of our worrying and hand-wringing over the current state of affairs is meaningless.  Right now, I’d say that job #2 is passing legislation to force the legislative branches to write goddamn legislation that is organized, thoughtful, and thoroughly rationalized.

I understand this is the golden opportunity for everyone…and I mean everyone including lobbyists, to insert their own little piece of pork barrel, anonymously…yes, anonymously, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be compiled with order, reason, and justification.  That being said, let’s just go ahead and serve up some of the nuggets from this incredible work with example #1 of what this inane process produces:

page 1042: Ruh-roh Donny. According to 2018 Omnibus Spending Package, Trump can no longer lie.

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Fake news is no longer acceptable!!!!  WOOO HOOOOOO.  This little clause is just sitting all alone.  Not in relation or as reference to anything else.  It doesn’t say how “deliberately false or misleading,” is to be determined or by whom.  It doesn’t say how redress is sought or point to any other law or legislation.

Does that include any work by any federally paid employee in any venue?  Surely it covers federally issued electronic and communication devices.  Surely it covers any and all forms of federally disseminated information such as speeches, webpages, or physical documentation.  Right?

Right?

I can’t help but think someone inserted this at 2am in the morning as a fucking joke.

page 1042: This is just above the preceding clause.

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Now why is this so much more specific and delineated? Why is it just for those in a scientific advisory committee?  Why wouldn’t this extend to everyone?  Exactly what federal employee is political affiliation a necessary qualification?  At least these guys are covered.  I mean, this administration hates all scientists as a rule anyway.  Fact-based truths that don’t match up with the administrations ideology is the disqualifier anyway.

 

page 596: GOP makes sure to increase the flow of dark money into their coffers.

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page 491: related to above.

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The problem with this provision is best described in this story about the hidden, dark money additions in this spending bill:

“Another provision, first implemented in a 2014 spending bill, prevents the IRS from issuing guidance or changing rules related to how the agency decides whether a non-profit group spending money on politics is a “social welfare” 501(c)(4) group under the U.S. tax code. 501(c)(4) groups are not required to disclose their donors and are allowed to engage in political activities so long as politics is not its “primary activity,” a murky standard that the IRS tried to clarify before it was prevented from doing so by spending bill riders.”

Page 617-618: Pruitt and Zinke, this ones for you!

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Go ahead and read that again.  If a company or organization made campaign contributions to a federal employee, whom might have occasion, to oversee whether that company or organization receives a federal contract, no one can ask of the company or organization to provide information that the federal employee is unduly influenced by said contribution.  This fits in very nicely with the Administration desire to sell off or lease public lands to the fossil fuels industries for some righteous raping.

Page 1519: interesting insertion here.

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Page 619:  Oh no Donny!  Going to have to pay for this one yourself.

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Page 2199: very interesting.

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Removing Section 9013 is removing the effective date of all of the serious-as-a-heart-attack laws regarding campaign finance.  Each individual section of this code has it’s own effective date, pretty much.  So I’m not sure if removing the effective date for the entire chapter throws the laws into limbo, or what the fuck it does.  I don’t understand why this is selected for removal and why there’s no further explanation or justification.

What kind of stuff is covered in this chapter?  This-

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Who is Tougher on Russia?

From the time of the RNC convention in 2016, during which the Trump campaign altered the RNC’s proposed stance towards Russia to ease our approach to sanctioning Russia and seek a more friendly relationship with them, it was clear the future Trump administration was going to be unusually pro-Russian.

Since that time, there have been a stream of secret meetings between the Trump administration and Russians.  A slew of times we learned about Trump administration-Russian meeting, from Russians.  And recently the bold faced assertion from Sarah Sanders, the Minister of Propaganda, that it is, in fact, the Trump Administration that’s tough on Russians as opposed to the previous Obama administration.

SANDERS: He has been tougher on Russia in the first year than Obama was in eight years combined. He’s imposed sanctions. He’s taken away properties. He’s rebuilt our military. He has done a number of things to put pressure on Russia and to be tough on Russia.

He’s imposed one sanction, outlined below for the joke it is.  He took away properties in response to a similar Russia action, not as decisive retribution for their interference.  His repeated attempts to undermine and disrupt NATO, dissolve international treaties, and perpetually attacking our fucking ALLIES is not how the US shows strength to Russia in the least fucking bit.

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Trump did, begrudgingly and with conditions, acknowledge the Russians might have interfered in our election in a January 11, 2017 in much the same fashion he finally admitted he was full of shit about Obama not being a citizen of the US.  He also compared our intelligence officials to Nazis in that slapped together, rambling-psycho speech.

“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” Mr. Trump said, his first comments accepting the conclusions of United States intelligence officials that Moscow had interfered in the election to help him win. But the president-elect expressed little outrage about that breach and seemed to cast doubt on Russia’s role moments after acknowledging it, asserting that “it could have been others also.”

Trump didn’t give a full acknowledgement until June freaking 24, of freaking 2017, that the Russians had interfered in the US elections.  JUNE 24!  After months of calling any investigation into it, “A hoax,” which he maintains to this day, because all that Trump is concerned about is how it affects himself.

 

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Before the election, the Obama administration made a public announcement concerning possible attempted Russian interference in the US elections.  To which, Republican leader Mitch McConnell responded by saying we shouldn’t call out the Russians because doing so might have an effect on the elections.

Now we can argue what Obama should have done to the Russians before the election.  Could he have done more?  Sure.  His calculation at the time was…what could he do that wouldn’t interfere with the election.  Tough call either way.  He had done many things to combat the Russians before 2016 as outlined below.  He also undertook very large actions directly after the election was complete.

  1. Ejected 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives in the Russian diplomatic corp.
  2. Penalized the four top Russian intelligence officers.
  3. Seized and closed two Russian facilities in the US.

This preceded the final intelligence assessment which was drafted and released on January 6, 2016, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” which was the foundation by which Congress crafted and delivered to Trump the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the United States presidential election.” The assessment warns that “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. Presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes”.

This act is set-up to punish parties of the Russian government and associated targeted parties for their interference in the 2016 election and to dissuade these same parties and any other future parties from undertaking such acts again.  There are a wide array of tools specified in the act which the President may use against any and all of the targeted parties.  The bill was signed into law by Trump on August 2, 2017.

A ready made list of Russian Oligarchs benefitting from these actions was compiled by US intelligence agencies.  The list was ignored, then replaced with a ridiculous list drawn straight from Forbes magazine by the Trump administration, and then that list was also discarded.  To this date, the act has not been enforced and no parties have been targeted for any such actions.

“It is a serious attempt by someone high up in government to make the US government and Congress look ridiculous,” he said.

Åslund added that he did not know which senior official ordered the change, but argued that by endorsing the list, the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, “took responsibility for it”.

In this still-not-enforced legislation, the preamble to the Russian section of “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act,” is listed 5 laws passed either by executive order or passage of congressional bills signed by President Obama since March 6, 2014 strictly dealing with Russia’s meddling and interference in Ukraine and abroad.  Included are later presidential annexed statements; naming of particular Russian state actors and Russian institutions.

  1. Executive Order #13660
  2. Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014
  3. Executive Order #13694
  4. Presidential Policy Directive “United State Cyber Incident Coordination.”
  5. Annex to order #13694.  Additional sanctions against particular Russian organizations and individuals.

 

What Trump has done belatedly, is announce sanctions against Russian persons and organizations already under indictment from the Mueller probe or already sanctioned previously by the Obama administration.  Including leaders of the Russian intelligence agencies that Trump’s administration had secret meetings with despite the fact they were already sanctioned.

Sarah Sanders can fart hot air out of her blowhole all she wants.  Trump has done exactly jackshit about Russian interference compared to Obama.