What’s Under The Wrapping Of Obama’s Extending Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of Federal Employees?
Oh, hell, we’ve all done it! That last-minute dinner party invitation. An unexpected visit from a neighbor. There’s always a bottle of wine or champagne or a book from Aunt Bette or your mother, lying about the house. Times are tough, and time is tight. It may not always be the thought that counts – sometimes, timing is everything. As long as no one finds out.
Heaven knows our president has his hands full. Between the economy, the automakers, healthcare, even Iran, Obama is a busy guy. Who has time to put together a plan for gay civil rights at the drop of a hat? Just like the White House threw us a bone by throwing The Advocate an interview with John Berry. (You remember: I can imagine the conversation in the West Wing: â€œOh crap, the gay issue just blew up. Who can we put on this? Oh yeah, Berry, heâ€™s gay.â€) Well, with a major Democratic National Committee fundraiser just next week, and the Obama Department of Justice caught comparing laws that support DOMA to laws about incest and the marrying of children, Obama found himself smack dab in the middle of a last-minute dinner party invitation. What’s a president to do? Regift! Why, let’s just see what’s in the proverbial closet!
“Yes, yes, yes, this will do nicely,” no doubt some mid-level staffer proclaimed! So the Obama White House took a look in the LGBTQ closet and pulled out some old rights no one was using and re-wrapped them. President Obama is scheduled to deliver them tonight. But we can take a peek now.
First off, since the Obama team is doing this last minute, the rights come in the form of a memorandum, not a presidential order. The difference? When Obama leaves, so do these new rights. (I suppose one could make the case at that point for calling him an Indian giver too, but that’s not a term we think of fondly around here.)
So, Obama is going to direct federal agencies to “give” partners of same-sex employees some benefits that they already have, and look in their employee handbooks to see if they can stretch existing guidelines to offer more. So, same-sex partners can use bereavement time if a family member dies, and sick time to take care of an ill relative. But last night when we all heard that Obama was extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, we all naturally assumed benefits meant health benefits. Guess what? That mid-level staffer who reached into the closet didn’t pull out the single-malt scotch. More like the box of Gallo. We’ll learn tonight that Obama is not yet ready to offer his LGBTQ federal employees’ families full health benefits, retirement benefits, or survivor benefits. They will be eligible for long-term care benefits (i.e. care for the infirm.) That’s at least something.
What’s also curious is HRC’s take on all this. Rather than pointing out the obvious lack of substance, they are calling it a “beginning step.” That’s it.
Last night on Twitter I asked,
Obama can apologize to Nancy Reagan for a sÃ©ance joke, but can’t apologize to gays for comparing our relationships to incest?
Today, Americablog’s John Aravosis asked,
Where’s the apology for comparing us to incest and pedophilia, the commitment to actively work to repeal DOMA, DADT, the promise to oppose DOMA in court, and the institution of a stop-loss order?
ABC reports this exchange with, Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, and The Advocate:
“Many gay and lesbian activists feel this falls far short of the promises President Obama made to the gay community on the campaign trail,” said the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld.Â “Many are already saying if the president wanted to do something really bold he would spearhead an initiative to repeal DOMA.”
“Well, again, it’s the president’s Justice Department. And, again, we have the role of upholding the law of the land while the president has stated and will work with Congress to change that law.”
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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’
If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.
“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.
But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”
“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.
It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”
The allegations continue.
“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”
“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”
The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”
The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”
The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.
You can read The Beast’s full report here.
Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report
When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.
The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.
Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”
It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticket via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”
“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”
CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”
Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.
‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.
Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”
The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”
Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.
The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.
“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.
After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.
Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.
“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer to Fox News: “My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” pic.twitter.com/0r9JmBl4zo
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 3, 2023
“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”
“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.
National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”
Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”
Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”
Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”
Watch the video above or at this link.
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