Oscars See All-Time Lowest Ratings as America Says, “No Thanks”

The 90th Annual Academy Awards experienced their lowest ratings ever Sunday night. The nation largely ignored the biggest film awards ceremony of the year.

The broadcast, which sported yet another ill-advised appearance of Jimmy Kimmel as host, got only an 18.9 rating from Nielsen for its timeslot of 8-11pm EST. That’s down a full 15.6% from last year’s show. Less than a fifth of the country bothered to tune in.

Self-Congratulating Themselves…

This year, there weren’t any standout movies nominated for Best Picture. The Shape of Water won for Best Picture, but the nomination field was largely filled with movies that made many Americans ask “huh?”

As Breitbart reports, seven of the nine nominees averaged only $47 million at the box office. Only about 5 million Americans saw them. This is more proof that the Oscars is only an internal award meant for Hollywood to congratulate itself, not reward the ‘best’ or most popular films.

As expected, the show was a constant refrain of anti-gun rhetoric, pushed by a demographic that literally had hundreds of armed police to ‘protect’ them at the show and on the red carpet. The ultra-rich celebrities also congratulated themselves on their own bravery in the #MeToo movement. They were completely oblivious to the fact that many of them were perpetrators or enablers of the very conduct they were condemning.

Host Jimmy Kimmel made several cracks at President Trump and set the ultra-left tone of the show.

Kimmel started jabs at the President right away, opening with,

“The stunning Lupita Nyong’o, she was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya. Let the tweetstorm from the president’s toilet begin!”

The late-night host also made sly references to the left’s belief that Russia rigged the election for Trump.

All in all, the show did nothing to dispel America’s belief that it would be a self-congratulatory fest for celebrities. Maybe that’s why no one watched it.

Senate Leaders Announce Bipartisan Budget Deal

Leaders in the Senate have announced a vast bipartisan budget deal to avoid another government shutdown.

A much smaller proposal had already advanced through the House of Representatives that funds the government through March 23. It’s likely the Senate’s bill will be sent back to the House for a vote.

President Trump tweeted:

The Budget Agreement today is so important for our great Military. It ends the dangerous sequester and gives Secretary Mattis what he needs to keep America Great. Republicans and Democrats must support our troops and support this Bill!

Two-Year Budget Details

The long-term budget agreement increases military and domestic spending levels for two years. Some of the bill’s highlights include:

• Nearly $300 billion in additional funding for defense and nondefense over the next two years
• $165 billion in defense spending, with $80 billion in fiscal 2018 and $85 billion in fiscal 2019
• $131 billion in nondefense spending, with $63 billion in fiscal 2018 and $65 billion in fiscal 2019
• A debt-ceiling deadline extension of one year, moving it past the midterm elections
• $6 billion to combat the opioid crisis
• An additional four years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for a total of 10 years (The previous funding deal extended the program by six years.)
• An extension of funding for community health centers and a variety of other Medicare programs
• An additional $80 billion to $90 billion in funding for areas affected by natural disasters in 2017.

The bill isn’t expected to be voted on before Thursday’s funding deadline. Because of this, lawmakers will need to pass another short-term spending bill to keep the government open.

State of the Union: Most Powerful Moments

President Trump delivered his State of the Union address which charts the course forward for the next year of his administration. He told the stories of heroic Americans and laid out his next policy plans. What were your favorite parts of the speech? Here are our top lines, in no particular order:

On The Role of Government

“In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of the American life. Our motto is “in God we trust.”

“All Americans deserve accountability and respect — and that is what we are giving them. So tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good workers — and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”

On American Patriots

“Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans. Preston’s reverence for those who have served our Nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.” (This referenced a young boy who started an initiative to place flags and wreaths on the graves of fallen members of the military.)

“And we are serving our brave veterans, including giving our veterans choice in their healthcare decisions. Last year, the Congress passed, and I signed, the landmark VA Accountability Act. Since its passage, my Administration has already removed more than 1,500 VA employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve — and we are hiring talented people who love our vets as much as we do.”

“Army Staff Sergeant Justin Peck is here tonight. Near Raqqa last November, Justin and his comrade, Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy, were on a mission to clear buildings that ISIS had rigged with explosives so that civilians…Kenton Stacy was severely wounded by an explosion. Immediately, Justin bounded into the booby-trapped building and found Kenton in bad shape. He applied pressure to the wound and inserted a tube to reopen an airway. He then performed CPR for 20 straight minutes during the ground transport and maintained artificial respiration through 2 hours of emergency surgery. Kenton Stacy would have died if not for Justin’s selfless love for a fellow warrior. Tonight, Kenton is recovering in Texas. Raqqa is liberated. And Justin is wearing his new Bronze Star, with a “V” for “Valor.” Staff Sergeant Peck: All of America salutes you.”

On Foreign Policy

“I just signed an order directing Secretary Mattis to reexamine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay. I am also asking the Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al-Qa’ida, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists — wherever we chase them down.”

“Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia. On his way to study abroad in Asia, Otto joined a tour to North Korea. At its conclusion, this wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state. After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June — horribly injured and on the verge of death. He passed away just days after his return. Otto’s Parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are with us tonight — along with Otto’s brother and sister, Austin and Greta. You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all. Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.”

“Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil. When possible, we annihilate them. When necessary, we must be able to detain & question them. But we must be clear: Terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful enemy combatants.”

On Reforms

“Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need. Every Federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment — to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit. Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process — getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.”

“As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential. And let us support working families by supporting paid family leave.”

On Optimism

“We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work. We want every child to be safe in their home at night. And we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we love. We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity.”

“This is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream.”

Nancy Pelosi Calls Tax Bill Benefits “Crumbs,” Forsakes Middle Class

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called President Donald Trump’s tax cuts a “crumb,” denigrating the wage hikes and bonuses Americans are getting in the wake of the tax reform bill.

Pelosi and former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz spoke at Florida Atlantic University this week, where their comments were filmed by the conservative group America Rising Squared.

“Crumbs” for the Middle Class

The prominent Democrats dismissed that Americans are benefiting from the tax cuts, claiming that after taxes the cuts don’t amount to much of anything.

According to Pelosi and Wasserman-Schultz, the “fat cats” will get much more.

Wasserman-Schultz then explained why they believe Americans are not benefiting:

Frankly, if you look at the bonuses, which I haven’t heard of a corporate bonus more than $1,000 so far. Which by the way is taxed, so it’s not $1,000. And then you spread $1,000 over the course of the year – to think of about how much that is – of course, they get it all at once. But I’m not sure that $1,000 (which is taxed, taxable) goes very far for almost anyone.

Later, Pelosi told attendees that and tax bonuses were a piece of cheese that a mouse is about to take off of a trap.

“And around it are fat cats,” Pelosi finished. “And that’s the thing… You get the crumb, we get the banquet.”

Nancy Pelosi’s net worth is $120 million. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s net worth is a whopping $1.04 million in debt.

Steve Bannon Subpoenaed in Mueller Investigation

Former Chief Strategist for the Trump campaign Steve Bannon was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury last week in the ongoing investigation into collusion between the President’s campaign and Russian officials.

Bannon is the first member of Trump’s advisors to be forced to testify by grand jury subpoena. It’s unclear why Mueller used a subpoena with Bannon when so many others did not receive one.

Closed Session Testimony

Tuesday morning, Bannon testified before a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee. It’s rumored he was asked about quotes in the new anti-Trump book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Bannon allegedly said Donald Trump Jr. engaged in “treasonous” activity and the investigation would “crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV.”

Bannon later said he was referring to Paul Manafort, not the President’s son. Manafort, as the President’s former campaign manager, is a “seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate.” According to Bannon, Manafort should have known better.

Several quotes attributed to Bannon came to light that is critical of the President, his family, and associates. One such statement is a characterization of Ivanka Trump as being “dumb as a brick.”

President Trump took to Twitter to bash Bannon in return, even threatening to sue him for defamation. Conincidentally, Bannon’s long-time position as Executive Director of the extremely pro-Trump Breitbart News suddenly vaporized.

Jeff Sessions Ending Obama-Era Marijuana Policies

The debate concerning legalization efforts rages on as the federal marijuana enforcement policy is set to change. According to a recent memo released by The Department of Justice (DOJ), Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed all US Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities. Sessions said, “It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly two in three Americans support the legalization of marijuana in the United States. Further, a majority of adults in the US support the use of medical marijuana regardless of their political affiliation. In addition to the District of Columbia, there are eight states that allow the recreational sale of marijuana, and all but five states allow some form of medical use. But, the drug remains illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act.

The Obama Administration promoted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws and encouraged prosecutors to focus on other issues. Now, the marijuana industry will be faced with a growing number of uncertainties as attorneys are left to decide what types of these cases to prosecute.

A recent vote in Congress extended a spending provision that reinforces state medical marijuana laws, leaving many in the industry still trying to interpret just how these policy changes will affect them.

Do you agree with Jeff Sessions enforcement of federal marijuana laws? If not, sign this petition to take action and tell him why you disagree!

Steve Bannon Faces Off with President Trump

President Trump and his administration unloaded on disgraced former White House advisor Steve Bannon on Wednesday, stating in an official release “When [Bannon] was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” Bannon, who served as one of the President’s senior advisors until August, left the White House after harshly criticizing President Trump’s North Korea strategy to American Prospect. The statement from the White House earlier this week comes in light of several statements Bannon made to Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. The book has come under criticism for its sourcing and the low believability of its claims.

Wolff alleges that Bannon made numerous explosive revelations to him in interviews regarding the Trump administration.

On one occasion, Bannon claimed that White House aide Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, supported the firing of former FBI director James Comey as a way of stifling FBI scrutiny into a money-laundering investigation on Kushner’s family. Bannon also accused Donald Trump Jr. of engaging in “treasonous” activity during the campaign, and reportedly described the president’s daughter, Ivanka, as “dumb as a brick.” Bannon has yet to explicitly deny making any of these statements.

The Trump White House fired back quickly, asserting that Bannon was never as important as he claimed to be and that he had far less influence than he told reporters. “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party,” the President’s press office released, “yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was.”

President Trump also took the former aide to task for his role in the GOP’s loss of a previously safe Senate seat in Alabama and questioned his commitment to the administration’s goals. “Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.” This habit of self-promotion has called into question many of the claims Bannon made about the Trump White House, and impugn many of the statements in Wolff’s book. It will be up to the American public to decide who they will take seriously.

Rep. Devin Nunes Steps Up in Mueller Probe, Both Parties Worried

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, may take back the reins of the Committee’s Russia probe, and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are concerned enough to issue public warnings to him about his going after the FBI.

Though Nunes was accused of improperly disclosing classified information during the scandal about unmasking Obama administration surveillance targets, the lawmaker was cleared last month of any wrongdoing. His exoneration has now paved the way for him to take back control of the Russia investigation if he so chooses, as part of his duties.

Nunes gathered a group of GOP lawmakers on the Intelligence Committee to draft a report on the current state of corruption and bias of the investigators who are supposed to be conducting a fair and impartial probe.

As a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, Nunes’s latest actions – including threats of citations against FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for contempt – have Democrats and Republicans alike worried that Nunes is rocking the boat.

Democrats are concerned that Nunes’s loyalty to Trump will result in the lawmaker hampering the investigation, and Republicans worry that his public condemnations of federal law enforcement will erode public trust.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told the Washington Post last month that he was “interested in getting access to the information and not the drama,” suggesting that Nunes’s actions were more theater than substance. Nunes also planned to publicly report the results of a corruption investigation into the FBI, an action that Gowdy vehemently opposes.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, says Nunes’s goal is to shut down the Russia investigation completely while giving Trump a pass, as well as flipping the spotlight back to law enforcement. Fellow Democrats see Nunes’s actions as merely covering up misconduct – Nunes, however, seems to be looking to prove the only misconduct resides within federal law enforcement and the investigation itself.

Democrats Encourage Franken to Reconsider Resignation

A number of Democratic Senators are asking for Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) to reconsider his resignation amidst sexual misconduct allegations. West Virginian Sen. Joe Manchin remains among the few liberals urging Franken not to step down without a formal Ethics Committee investigation. Minnesota’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith has already been named to succeed Franken, even though he has yet to provide a formal resignation date. His colleagues have speculated that the date could be in early January since he has been working alongside Smith on the transition.

Franken stated, “Tina Smith will make an excellent United States Senator. She is a dedicated public servant who’s worked tirelessly on behalf of Minnesotans, and Governor Dayton couldn’t have made a better choice for this job. Her record of accomplishment as Lieutenant Governor demonstrates that she’ll be an effective senator who knows how to work across party lines to get things done for Minnesota. I look forward to working with her on ensuring a speedy and seamless transition.”

In a recent Politico Off Message Podcast regarding calls for Franken’s resignation, Sen. Manchin said, “What they did to Al was atrocious… The most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being — and then have enough guts to sit on the floor, watch him give his speech and go over and hug him? That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life. Made me sick.”

New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was one of the first to call for Franken’s resignation. “As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards—not the lowest. The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve” she tweeted.

Doug Jones Defeats Roy Moore in Alabama Special Election

Alabama voters elected Democratic attorney Doug Jones over Republican Judge Roy Moore in a closely-contested special election on Tuesday. Jones and Moore both ran to fill the seat left empty by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who held the seat from 1997 until this May. Jones received 49.9% of the vote to Moore’s 48.4%, with the remaining 1.7% going to write-in candidates.

Senator-elect Jones, who has never before held elected office, is best known in the state for his role as a federal prosecutor. As U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Alabama, he prosecuted a case against Ku Klux Klan members responsible for the 16th Street Church Bombing in 1963. Though moderate on certain issues important to Alabama voters such as gun rights, Jones drew strong criticism for his uncompromising positions on abortion rights. Jones opposes, for example, bans on abortion after 20 weeks. Jones also has very progressive views on other issues such as climate change and healthcare.

Jones’s victory owes much to the liabilities and weaknesses of his Republican opponent Roy Moore, who attracted intense scrutiny in the final weeks of the campaign due to allegations of inappropriate contact with minors early in his career. Moore, who previously served as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, defeated sitting establishment Senator Luther Strange and Congressman Mo Brooks in a three-way primary this fall. Moore is well-known in Alabama for his opposition both to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Judge Moore has also been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court twice, the first time for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from an Alabama Courthouse, and a second time for defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Moore finished a strong second against Jones, but could not win the normally Republican seat in the face of a highly energized Democratic base.