Saturday, January 25, 2020

Space Farce:The Next Degeneration

I hate everything.

I hate this so much it physically hurts.

Getting Sick Of It All

The Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread across mainland China with cases popping up all over the world, and the State Department is pulling all diplomatic personnel from the city of 11 million as the consulate there is closed and staff are being evacuated.

The US government is arranging a charter flight to evacuate diplomats from the Chinese city that has become ground zero for a new deadly strain of coronavirus, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN Saturday. 
The United States has a contract with a transporter to evacuate diplomats from the US consulate in Wuhan, China. The consulate is closed and all US diplomats are "under ordered departure," the official said. 
Details of the flight plan are still being finalized and the source said "a lot depends on what the Chinese authorities will allow us to do," adding that Beijing has been "very cooperative." 
The State Department and White House have not yet responded to CNN's request for comment on the matter. 
The Wall Street Journal first reported the planned evacuation. 
According to the Journal, the US consulate in Wuhan is reaching out to the Americans it is aware of in the country to offer them a spot on the flight. 
The flight, which seats about 230 people, will include diplomats from the US consulate in Wuhan, as well as Americans and their families, the Journal reported. The person told the newspaper that any available seats might be offered to non-US citizens and diplomats of other nations. 
The flight will have medical personnel aboard to treat anyone with the virus and make sure it is contained, according to the Journal. 
Passengers will be asked to foot the bill for the flight, which is expected to cost much more than a commercial flight from China to the US, the Journal reported. 
The newspaper reported that the United States also plans to temporarily close its consulate in Wuhan. 
It is unknown where the plane plans to fly to in the US, the Journal noted.
Roughly 1,000 American citizens are believed to be in Wuhan, according to the Journal.

Evacuating a consulate is not a sign that this coronavirus is under control.  Evacuating several hundred potentially infected individuals to the US is an even worse response to it.  State is completely pulling out of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, and is advising Americans to avoid the province entirely.

That more than anything else makes me think this virus is far worse than originally thought.  Modern outbreak theory suggests this is closing the burning barn door after the horses are long gone anyway.

World's been overdue for a pandemic anyway.  SARS was the distant relative of this current virus, 18 years ago it killed hundreds.with a nearly 10% fatality rate.  If this thing is as bad or worse and it escapes containment, it's going to be bad.

Having said that, yearly flu seasons regularly kill tens of thousands worldwide.  Get that flu vaccine.

Last Call For Press The Meat, Con't

The Trump regime continues to treat the (non-FOX News, non Breitbart state-run) media as mortal foes, and Village just scratches its head, shrugs, and declares it an act for the benefit of Trump's base, because gosh they know that Trump's people are really nice once you get to know them.  Surely Trump doesn't mean he'd have the government go after me, they say.  

And then NPR All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly gets called into Mike Pompeo's office like he's the Vice-Principal and screams and curses at her.

On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got into it with an NPR host over her questions about Ukraine.

On Saturday, he issued a statement responding to the flap that exemplifies gaslighting.

To recap what happened Friday: NPR reported that after an interview on Iran that ended with questions about Ukraine — at which point Pompeo grew testy — the secretary unleashed a lengthy, vulgar tirade against the journalist who interviewed him, “All Things Considered” host Mary Louise Kelly.

Kelly, remarkably, said that Pompeo asked her after the interview, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” and asked her to find the country on a blank map, apparently suggesting she didn’t even know. She said she did, and Pompeo concluded the scene by saying, “People will hear about this.”
In Saturday morning’s statement, Pompeo claimed Kelly had told him they were off the record at the time, which NPR denies.

“It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency,” Pompeo said. “This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this administration. It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.”

The most remarkable portion of Pompeo’s statement, though, came at the end.

“It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine," Pompeo said in it.

The implication is unmistakable: Kelly couldn’t correctly identify the location of Ukraine on the map, and she instead pointed to Bangladesh.

Here’s why there is absolutely no way that happened.

First, Bangladesh is more than 3,000 miles away from Ukraine. It is east of India. Ukraine is in Eastern Europe; Bangladesh is in South Asia. Ukraine is in a border war with Russia; Bangladesh does not border Russia and isn’t even close to it. Ukraine is a large country; Bangladesh is comparatively small. It’s difficult to believe basically any journalist who was asked to locate Ukraine would point to Bangladesh, no matter how inexperienced.

And second, even if there was one, there is no way it would be Kelly. Kelly isn’t just a host of “All Things Considered,” she is also a former national security reporter who has traveled overseas extensively in her reporting. She also literally has a master’s degree — in European studies — from Cambridge University in England, which is one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Mary Louise Kelly is as close to an honest-to-God expert on European foreign policy as the Village has.  To think she would confuse Bangladesh with Ukraine is laughable, and yet this is Pompeo gaslighting a woman journalist in front of the world.

And the reason Pompeo did this is extremely simple: he's testing the Village to see how far they are willing to go to protect one of their own when the consequences of doing so will be an even further reduction in access to the White House, while at the same time turning to Trump's base and saying "Geez, look at how stupid these reporters are.  They're all dumb liars, and I'm the Secretary of State. Who are you going to believe?

Indeed, the response from the right-wing noise machine is that Kelly broke an agreement to be off the record with Pompeo's tirade, and that the long-time NPR host should immediately be fired.

NPR is fully defending Kelly as they should, but the damage has already been done.  The only news conservative Republicans trust are literally Rush and Hannity on AM radio, and FOX and Breitbart.

The more moderate segments of each party show less divide in trust, more so on the right

Impeachment Reached, Con't

As House Democrats concluded their three days of opening statements Friday night,  Republicans will get their turn starting on Saturday morning and then again on Monday.  Trump wants the trial over as soon as possible, but he also doesn't want to look like there's no defense in his corner, either.

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham gave away the rest of the game on TV.

Lindsey Graham vehemently opposes calling in the Bidens as witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial — but he’s signaling to the president and conservatives that there are other ways to probe Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Over the past day, the South Carolina Republican has stepped up his calls for an outside investigator to examine Hunter Biden’s role on the board at Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. And in turn, he’s made clear he does not believe the Senate should open the door on witnesses, a messy debate that could extend the Senate trial for weeks and call in everyone from the Bidens to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

“To my Democratic friends, I stood with you when you called for an outside entity to look into President Trump. I’m asking you to allow somebody outside of politics to look at what happened with the Bidens,” Graham said Friday in a break of the impeachment proceedings. “The best thing to do is end this trial with no witnesses and have Congress do oversight regarding what happened in the Ukraine in a professional way, and I would prefer outside counsel.”

Trump has repeatedly mused about wanting more witnesses in his trial, including this week — talk that Graham is seeking to tamp down. Graham has repeatedly said he will not support subpoenas for Hunter or Joe Biden in the Senate trial.

What Graham is proposing would essentially mimic what Trump asked Ukraine to do, only on domestic soil: Announce an investigation into Joe Biden as he runs for the nomination to defeat the president. Graham said the reason he didn’t want to look into the Bidens before the heat of the election because he “hadn’t really been following it” in previous year.

“I like Joe Biden. No I don’t think he’s corrupt. But I think he has to answer for how he allowed his son and the country to get in this spot,” Graham said. “I love Joe Biden. I don’t want to do this.”

It’s a clear indication to the president and his allies that he empathizes with them over targeting the Bidens for what he calls a “clear conflict of interest” when former Vice President Joe Biden presided over anti-corruption efforts while his son was on the board of Burisma.

Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate the Bidens is at the heart of the impeachment case against the president. The two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — directly relate to Trump’s alleged attempt to press for a probe into his political rivals in exchange for millions in withheld military aid and a coveted White House visit for Ukrainian officials.

There is no evidence that Joe Biden did anything improper to get his son on the board. Biden urged Ukraine to fire its lead anti-corruption prosecutor, but at the time probes into Burisma had stalled.

Nonetheless, Graham is undeterred.

“I supported [Robert] Mueller looking into all things Trump because I think the country needed someone outside politics to resolve the allegations against the president,” Graham told reporters on Friday afternoon. “Nobody has done an investigation anywhere near the Mueller investigation against the Bidens. And I think they should. And when this is over, the Congress will do it if we can’t have an outside entity. I think it’s very important to find out what happened

A special counsel investigation of Joe Biden announced say, just after Trump is acquitted by the Senate GOP late next week in order to sink Biden in Iowa just days later is certainly an option, and it's got to be a tempting one.

I don't know if they have the balls to do it, but then again James Comey destroyed the Clinton campaign eight weeks before the election with But Her Emails™ so why wouldn't they sandbag Biden like this?  After all, we know they've been setting this up for months now.

A Trump acquittal and it's open season on Joe and everyone knows it.

Meanwhile, the plan for the trial itself is to have it over by January 31, I've been saying that for a while now, and the reason is so Trump can take victory laps next month, during his State of he Union speech and during his Super Bowl pregame interview with Sean Hannity.

In fact, that entire week will be Trump basking in the brimstone glow of his "acquittal" and then the long-awaited vengeance against the Democrats begins.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Last Call For Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

So it turns out that the head honcho for America's Trump-era neo-Nazi terrorist group The Base is operating out guessed it...Russia!

Rinaldo Nazzaro, 46, who uses the aliases "Norman Spear" and "Roman Wolf", left New York for St Petersburg less than two years ago.

The Base is a major counter terrorism focus for the FBI.

Seven alleged members were charged this month with various offences, including conspiracy to commit murder.

Court documents prepared by the FBI describe The Base as a "racially motivated violent extremist group" that "seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethno-state".

The group - founded around July 2018 - gains followers online, communicates using encrypted messaging applications, and encourages members to engage in paramilitary training.

The leader's real identity had long been a mystery.

However, multiple images and videos of Nazzaro - taken over several years in both the USA and Russia - show the man known to be The Base founder, who goes by the two aliases.

He has previously used photographs of himself when promoting the group online

Last year Nazzaro was listed as a guest at a Russian government security exhibition in Moscow, which "focused on the demonstration of the results of state policy and achievements".
A video posted online in March 2019 shows Nazzaro in Russia wearing a t-shirt bearing an image of President Vladimir Putin along with the words "Russia, absolute power".

We traced Nazzaro and his Russian wife to an upmarket property in central St Petersburg purchased in her name in July 2018 - the same month to which the FBI dates the creation of The Base.

Of course the number one white supremacist terrorist who wants to start a bloody race war that kills millions is a Putin fan and is operating safely out of St. Petersburg.

The BBC found him, no problem.  The FBI has known where he is for some time now, I guarantee.  And they know there's now way the Russians will hand him over, even if Trump himself wouldn't stop the FBI from pursuing that avenue.

To recap, Russia is openly harboring a white supremacist terrorist leader.  Trump's complete failure to act upon this is proof enough about where he stands and who his real boss is.

The plans were as sweeping as they were chilling: “Derail some trains, kill some people, and poison some water supplies.”

It was the blunt, bloody prescription for sparking a race war by a member of the Base, a white supremacist group that has come under intense scrutiny amid a series of stunning recent arrests.

Federal agents, who had secretly recorded those remarks in a bugged apartment during a domestic terrorism investigation, pounced on seven members of the group last week in advance of a rally on Monday by gun rights advocates in Richmond, Va. Three members of one cell in Maryland affiliated with the group plotted attacks at the rally, hoping to ignite wider violence that would lead to the creation of a white ethno-state, law enforcement officials said.

The “defendants did more than talk,” Robert K. Hur, the United States attorney for Maryland, said after a detention hearing on Wednesday in federal court in Greenbelt, Md. “They took steps to act and act violently on their racist views.”

The details that emerged in court and in documents from active cases in three other states — Georgia, Wisconsin and New Jersey — unveiled a disturbing new face of white supremacy.

The Base illustrates what law enforcement officials and extremism experts describe as an expanding threat, particularly from adherents who cluster in small cells organized under the auspices of a larger group that spreads violent ideology.

“We have a significant increase in racially motivated violent extremism in the United States and, I think, a growing increase in white nationalism and white supremacy extremist movements,” Jay Tabb, the head of national security for the F.B.I., said at an event in Washington last week.

Experts who have studied the Base say it seems to have followed the model of Al Qaeda and other violent Islamic groups in working to radicalize independent cells or even lone wolves who would be inspired to plot their own attacks.
They describe the Base as an “accelerationist” organization, seeking to speed the collapse of the country and give rise to a state of its own in the Pacific Northwest by killing minorities, particularly African-Americans and Jews.

Experts estimate that the Base, which was formed around July 2018, has dozens of hard-core members and tries to recruit many more online, although its approach is evolving.

No,  if anything,Trump needs Nazzaro and The Base, and Putin is happy to lend a base for The Base.  This guy, not anything Iran is up to, is the real threat to the US.

And they love Donald Trump because he's openly supporting them.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

Earlier this month when the news broke that Giuliani associate Lev Parnas had tapes of his conversations with Trump regime folks about helping Rudy get rid of then US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich, I figured he had tapes of Rudy blabbing, because Rudy Giuliani is incapable of shutting the hell up when the topic comes to himself.

Oh, oh no...he almost certainly has tapes of his conversations with Rudy, but that's not the story. The story is Parnas's partner-in-crime Igor Fruman has tapes of his conversations with Donald TrumpAnd Donald Trump is the one who ordered Parnas and his sidekick Fruman to "take her out".

A recording reviewed by ABC News appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired while speaking at a small gathering that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- two former business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York.

The recording appears to contradict statements by President Trump and support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days. Sources familiar with the recording said the recording was made during an intimate April 30, 2018, dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Trump has said repeatedly he does not know Parnas, a Soviet-born American who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeachment trial, especially in the days since Trump was impeached.

"Get rid of her!" is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. "Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it."

Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Do it.

Like the mob boss he is.

On the recording, it appears the two Giuliani associates are telling President Trump that the U.S. ambassador has been bad-mouthing him, which leads directly to the apparent remarks by the President. The recording was made by Fruman, according to sources familiar with the tape. The White House did not respond to an ABC News request for comment.

During the conversation, several of the participants can be heard laughing with the president. At another point, the recording appears to capture Trump praising his new choice of secretary of state, saying emphatically: “[Mike] Pompeo is the best.” But the most striking moment comes when Parnas and the president discuss the dismissal of his ambassador to Ukraine.

Parnas appears to say: "The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. She's still left over from the Clinton administration," Parnas can be heard telling Trump. "She's basically walking around telling everybody 'Wait, he's gonna get impeached, just wait." (Yovanovitch actually had served in the State Department since the Reagan administration.)

It was not until a year later that Yovanovitch was recalled from her position -- in April 2019. She said the decision was based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives” that she was disloyal to Trump.

And remember:

This was always a mob operation.  Well, a really bad one, anyway.

Remember, Trump could have fired her at any time, according to his GOP supporters.  He didn't fire her until a year later.  No, he wanted Parnas and Fruman to "take her out".

Impeachment Reached, Con't

Democrats will need four GOP senators to side with them in order to win any vote on witnesses, so if there's going to be a fourth who breaks ranks in Trump's impeachment trial besides Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney, the smart money is on that Republican being Tennessee's Lamar Alexandar.

Three GOP senators have expressed some level of support for calling witnesses, and if they joined all Democrats, it would result in a 50-50 tie and likely be defeated. Unless Chief Justice John Roberts shocked Washington by wading in with a tie-break, Democrats need one more Republican to break ranks and upend GOP plans for a swift Trump acquittal.

That’s got both parties eagerly eyeing Alexander. He's a retiring defender of the Senate as an institution who's occasionally bucked his party, but he also counts Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a longtime ally. He's more hesitant to criticize Trump than are some other Republicans, but he also has said it was "inappropriate" for Trump to ask foreign governments to investigate his political opponents. 
A former presidential candidate, governor, Education secretary and current three-term senator and committee chairman, Alexander was a key advocate of McConnell’s proposal to wait to hold a vote on new evidence until the initial stages of the trial are done. But unlike Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, who are open to hearing from witnesses, Alexander has expressed no indication of how he will vote next week on the most critical roll call vote yet. 
“He is very well-respected by the entire conference and is close to Mitch McConnell. I’ve found Lamar to be one of the most effective members of the entire Senate,” Collins said of Alexander. “I don’t know what his position will be. I suspect that he’s waiting until he’s heard the case presented, and the questions answered for the senators. And that’s a very logical position to take.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are holding out hope that Alexander will be their hero in the mold of the late Sen. John McCain, whose extraordinary vote derailed the GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare. Though Alexander would never blindside McConnell the way McCain did, he is widely believed to be a Republican who could be receptive to Democrats’ message that the Senate needs to hear more evidence.

“There is an opportunity here for Sen. Alexander, who has long been a leader in crafting bipartisan resolutions to impasses, to play a significant, even a historic role,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who has spoken with Alexander about witness testimony. “He is so well-respected in his caucus that there are a number of other senators that are also looking to him.” 
Alexander is unlikely to be the 51st vote for witnesses and throw momentary control of the Senate to the Democrats. More likely, if he’s feeling the need to hear new evidence in the trial, other Republicans would join him and scramble plans on how to handle witnesses and documents. 
Yet at the moment, GOP leaders are not worried about Alexander, according to a Republican senator and aides privy to party strategy. They believe Alexander is likely to side with McConnell and help wrap up the trial. 
But publicly, Republicans are giving him plenty of leeway and refusing to predict where he will end up. And if he is signaling how he will vote, it’s likely directly to McConnell and to no one else.

The notion that Alexandar might be the key to witnesses has the White House openly issuing threats.

Head on a pike seems right.  I can't see any Republican risking not only their Senate career and party membership but their valuable lobbyist and media sinecures as well.  Nobody would dare stand up to Trump in this party of cowards. 

So no, I don't see Alexandar's vote somehow being the magical logjam breaker any more than I see Trump being found guilty.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Last Call For Church Is State

After Wednesday's depressing US Supreme Court hearing on state funding for parochial schools, it seems the only remaining question is how far the inevitable conservative 5-4 decision will go in allowing the Trump regime to force tens of billions of dollars to be taken from public schools to give to religious institutions and homeschoolers.

In a case with potentially profound implications, the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority seemed ready to invalidate a provision of the Montana state constitution that bars aid to religious schools. A decision like that would work a sea change in constitutional law, significantly removing the longstanding high wall of separation between church and state.

The focal point of Wednesday's argument was a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court that struck down a tax subsidy for both religious and nonreligious private schools. The Montana court said that the subsidy violated a state constitutional provision barring any state aid to religious schools, whether direct or indirect.

On the steps of the Supreme Court Wednesday, Kendra Espinoza, a divorced mother of two, explained why she is challenging that ruling.

"We are a Christian family and I want those values taught at school," she said. "Our morals as a society come from the Bible. I feel we are being excluded simply because we are people of religious background."

Thirty-seven other states have no-aid state constitutional provisions similar to Montana's, and for decades conservative religious groups and school-choice advocates have sought to get rid of them. On Wednesday, though, that goal looked a lot closer.

Five of the justices at some time in their lives attended private Catholic schools, and some of them were particularly vocal. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that the history of excluding religious schools from public funding has its roots in the "religious bigotry against Catholics" in the late 1800s. He seemed to dismiss arguments made by the state's lawyer that Montana had completely rewritten its constitution in 1972, without any such bias.

Mae Nan Ellingson, one of the delegates to that convention, said afterward that there were ministers and "people of all faiths" at the convention who overwhelmingly had supported the no-aid provision.

"We didn't think that public funds should be used to support private parochial education but rather that public funds need to support public education," she said.

The justices, however, seemed uninterested in that record.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito compared the exclusion of parochial schools from taxpayer-funded aid programs to unconstitutional discrimination based on race.

That view suggested that Wednesday's case has the potential for much broader public funding of parochial schools.

It wasn't enough, for instance, that the Montana court treated all private schools the same way, whether they were religious or not. As Justice Elena Kagan put it, once the Montana court invalidated the tax subsidy for all private schools, weren't they all "in the same boat?"

No, replied lawyer Richard Komer, representing the religious parents. He maintained that the no-aid provision in the state constitution is itself a violation of the federal constitution. And he also argued that because the state constitution illegally discriminated against religious schools and families, the tax-credit program must be revived. In short, that the state has no discretion to abolish it.

"That would be a radical decision," said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Stephen Breyer wondered where the plaintiffs' equal-treatment argument would end. He noted major school systems spend billions in taxpayer money to fund the public schools. "If I decide for you," he asked, would these school systems "have to give proportionate amounts to parochial schools?"

Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, representing the Trump administration, basically answered "yes."

"You can't deny a generally available public benefit" to an otherwise qualified institution "based solely on its religious character," he said.

In June we're going to have a ruling that forces states to give billions to religious schools and in the wake of Hobby Lobby, it could be a major decision that forces states to fund churches, period.

You can thank Trump being able to appoint two justices for this one.  Should he be able to replace any of the four remaining liberals, the US becomes an autocratic theocracy overnight.

The people who see Trump as a messiah figure are getting their wish.

Water You Waiting For, Con't

The Trump regime destruction of the environment continues as the Trump EPA will finalize plans to gut the Clean Water Act and remove 2015 Obama-era protections on streams and creeks this week.

The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.

From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections.

Mr. Trump has called the regulation “horrible,” “destructive” and “one of the worst examples of federal” overreach.

“I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all: the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule,” he told the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Texas on Sunday, to rousing applause.

“That was a rule that basically took your property away from you,” added Mr. Trump, whose real estate holdings include more than a dozen golf courses. (Golf course developers were among the key opponents of the Obama rule and key backers of the new one.)

His administration had completed the first step of its demise in September with the rule’s repeal.

His replacement on Thursday will complete the process, not only rolling back 2015 rules that guaranteed protections under the 1972 Clean Water Act to certain wetlands and streams that run intermittently or run temporarily underground, but also relieves landowners of the need to seek permits that the Environmental Protection Agency had considered on a case-by-case basis before the Obama rule.

It also gives President Trump a major policy achievement to bring to his political base while his impeachment trial continues.

“Farmers coalesced against the E.P.A. being able to come onto their land, and he’s delivering,” said Jessica Flanagain, a Republican strategist in Lincoln, Neb. “This is bigger news for agricultural producers than whatever is happening with the sideshow in D.C.,” she added.

The new water rule will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways. That would for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects.

“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” said Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.” 
Mr. Holman also said that the new rule exemplifies how the Trump administration has dismissed or marginalized scientific evidence. Last month, a government advisory board of scientists, many of whom were handpicked by the Trump administration, wrote that the proposed water rule “neglects established science.”

But farmers and fossil fuel groups supported the change.

This is a big win for farmers, and this is the president delivering what he promised,” said Donald Parrish, senior director of regulatory affairs for the American Farm Bureau Federation, which had lobbied for years to weaken the Obama administration’s water rules.

If you thought for a moment that Trump voting rural farmers were going to break from the GOP after Trump's tariffs squeezed them for billions, this will more than make up for it.  Scrapping the Waters of the US rule will give Trump "Big Damn Hero" status out here in the Midwest.

Say goodbye to wetlands and clean drinking water for tens of millions of Americans.  Maybe Cleveland's rivers will catch fire again, just to remind us how far we're going backwards.

Or newly polluted rivers will catch fire, more likely.  Enjoy, America.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

The opening arguments for the impeachment case against Donald J. Trump by House Democrats was staggering, with GOP senators looking on with obvious discomfort, most likely hearing the evidence against Trump for the first time.

And on the first day, Democrats unleashed the flood.

One by one, the seven House impeachment prosecutors seeking President Donald Trump’s removal from office reconstructed a case against the president so dense — at times, head-scratchingly complex — that it was hard for senators new to the material to keep up.

After a lofty introduction by the House’s lead manager, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Democrats shed any pretense of offering a streamlined, made-for-TV version of events meant to captivate the Senate or the nation. For much of the day, they cast aside any attempt to make a narrowly tailored case to Republicans that they should support calls for additional witnesses.

Instead, they decided to hammer senators with everything they had: an all-day torrent of intricate information, peppered with screenshots of deposition transcripts, emails, text messages and about 50 video clips — nearly three times more than House Republicans used during the entirety of their arguments in the 1999 Clinton trial.

It was a presentation that seemed designed to demonstrate what Democrats have long professed: that the facts of the Ukraine scandal threatening Trump’s presidency are so overwhelming as to be almost infallible. As Republicans harangued Democrats for failing to “do their homework,” the House managers were intent to emphasize just how much “homework” they did.

“We have some very long days yet to come,” Schiff warned the Senate as he kicked off the House’s arguments on Wednesday. He added, “Over the coming days, we will present to you and to the American people the extensive evidence collected in the House's inquiry into the president’s abuse of power, overwhelming evidence ... despite his unprecedented obstruction into that misconduct.”

What followed was a painstaking chronology of Democrats’ case that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals and obstructed Congress' investigation of the alleged scheme.

The Democrats included lengthy reconstructions of the April ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who Trump's associates viewed as an obstacle in their quest to launch the investigations. They picked apart Trump’s decision in May to cancel Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Ukraine, which Ukraine had sought as an important gesture of support.

The House lawmakers also dissected a two-week stretch in July during which administration officials agonized over Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine amid his call for investigations. And they recounted at length the turmoil this hold on aid provoked in the diplomatic corps in August and September.

To one Senate Republican, the firehose of evidence was an education in itself, for him and his colleagues.

“Nine out of 10 senators will tell you they haven’t read a full transcript of the proceedings in the House,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) quipped. “And the 10th senator who says he has is lying.”
Some Republicans even sounded envious of the Democrats’ use of multimedia during the trial and wished Trump’s defense team would follow suit. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of Trump’s top defenders, said Democrats have been presenting their case to the public like it's "cable news" — but lamented that the defense team’s case presented more like “an 8th grade book report.”

“Actually, no, I take that back,” he added, because an 8th grader would actually know how to use PowerPoint and iPads.

I'd like to think that the presentation given today would be the turning point in American history that would snap the hold Trump had over the jurors in his case.  In some alternate dimension, there are Republican staffers on the phone with the White House saying Trump is in dire trouble, and that his acquittal is no longer assured by any means.

Sadly, that reality is not one we inhabit currently.

Well into Schiff’s second hour of opening arguments, he moved on from discussing the first of two charges against Trump.

“Now let me turn to the second article,” Schiff said. That prompted several senators to shift in their seats and smile at each other in apparent bemusement. It also sparked a small exodus for the cloakroom, especially on the Republican side, including Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

Within the first hour, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia could be seen at his desk in the back row, leaning on his right arm with a hand covering his eyes. He stayed that way for around 20 minutes, then shifted to rest his chin in the same hand, eyes closed, for about five more minutes. Despite the late-night votes, Warner’s day had started as scheduled at a 10 a.m. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

Crow, a military veteran speaking on the impact of Trump’s holdup of military aid to Ukraine, had trouble holding the Senate’s attention. Some senators left their seats and headed to cloakrooms, stood in the back or openly yawned as he spoke. At one point during his address, more than 10 senators’ seats were empty.

Crow wondered aloud if the Senate wanted to take a recess.

No dice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there would be no break until dinner, more than an hour later.

Several GOP senators got up and left during Schiff's presentation.  They did so because as impressive as the Dems' opening arguments were, the outcome of this trial was preordained months ago.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Last Call For Phoning It In

Voters in Seattle will be the first in the country to vote by smartphone app in 2020 for local elections, which is both really amazing and also brain-jarringly stupid.

A district encompassing Greater Seattle is set to become the first in which every voter can cast a ballot using a smartphone — a historic moment for American democracy.

The King Conservation District, a state environmental agency that encompasses Seattle and more than 30 other cities, is scheduled to detail the plan at a news conference on Wednesday. About 1.2 million eligible voters could take part.

NPR is first to report the story.

The new technology will be used for a board of supervisors election, and ballots will be accepted from Wednesday through election day on Feb. 11.

"This is the most fundamentally transformative reform you can do in democracy," said Bradley Tusk, the founder and CEO of Tusk Philanthropies, a nonprofit aimed at expanding mobile voting that is funding the King County pilot.

But the move is sure to polarize the elections community as democracy-watchers across the country debate the age-old push-and-pull between voting access and voting security.

The U.S. trails most developed democracies when it comes to its election turnout rate, and local races typically lag far behind presidential November elections.

The board of supervisors election in the King Conservation District, for example, in past years has drawn less than 1% of the eligible population to the ballot box.

Tusk says low turnout contributes to dysfunction in government because candidates aren't forced to craft positions that represent the entire population.

"If you can use technology to exponentially increase turnout, then that will ultimately dictate how politicians behave on every issue," he said.

Look, any voting technology that sounds like it might be a major plot component by a villain on Mr. Robot or Black Mirror is automatically suspect in my book.  The idea is great and would massively increase turnout if people could vote from their phones, but believe me when I say there is no way on God's green, purple, chartreuse or plaid earth that the security technology is anywhere near close to being ready to secure voting done by app.

Need I remind you there's loads of evidence that voter registration information in the 2016 presidential election was compromised in all 50 states?

No, this is a technology that needs to die screaming.  It will only be hacked in the future.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

The white supremacist domestic terrorists running around in plain sight here in America, wanting an excuse to pump bullets into black and brown bodies (and into the "race traitors" who resist their racism) have made it quite clear they want the shooting to start for real.

A hidden camera captured members of a white supremacist group expressing hope that violence at Monday’s gun-rights rally in Richmond could start a civil war, federal prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday.

Former Canadian Armed Forces reservist Patrik Jordan Mathews also videotaped himself advocating for killing people, poisoning water supplies and derailing trains, a prosecutor wrote in urging a judge in Maryland to keep Mathews and two other members of The Base detained in federal custody.

The three were arrested Thursday. A day earlier, Gov. Ralph Northam had cited safety threats in declaring a state of emergency and temporarily banning guns from Capitol Square for the rally.

Mathews, a 27-year-old Canadian national, didn’t know investigators were watching and listening when he and two other group members talked about attending the Richmond rally in the days leading up to Monday’s event, which attracted tens of thousands of people and ended without violence.

Last month, a closed-circuit television camera and microphone installed by investigators in a Delaware home captured Mathews talking about the Richmond rally as a “boundless” opportunity.

“And the thing is you’ve got tons of guys who ... should be radicalized enough to know that all you gotta do is start making things go wrong and if Virginia can spiral out to [expletive] full-blown civil war,” he said.

Mathews and fellow group member Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, of Elkton, Md., discussed the planning of violence at the Richmond rally, according to prosecutors. Lemley talked about using a thermal imaging scope affixed to his rifle to ambush unsuspecting civilians and police officers, prosecutors said.

“I need to claim my first victim,” Lemley said on Dec. 23, according to Tuesday’s detention memo.

“We could essentially like be literally hunting people,” Mathews said, according to prosecutors. “You could provide overwatch while I get close to do what needs to be done to certain things.”

Lemley talked about ambushing a police officer to steal the officer’s weapons and tactical gear, saying, “If there’s like a PoPo cruiser parked on the street and he doesn’t have backup, I can execute him at a whim and just take his stuff,” according to prosecutors.

FBI agents arrested Mathews, Lemley and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, of Denton, Md., on Thursday as part of a broader investigation of The Base. Authorities in Georgia and Wisconsin also arrested four other men linked to the group.

Detention hearings for Mathews and Bilbrough are scheduled for Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Md. Their attorneys didn’t immediately respond to the memo filed Tuesday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom.

It's only because terrorists are brutally stupid individuals who brag all the time about how they're going to kill a bunch of people (including cops!) that we haven't had a dozen guys in SWAT gear shoot up an entire town as an opening salvo in a greater war.


Eventually one of these groups is going to show some operational discipline and a whole ot of people are going to die.  Not that we don't already have mass shootings in America.

But these guys want war.  Remember that.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

The first day of the proceedings in the Senate impeachment trial was a chaotic mess, and Mitch McConnell's plan to start at 1 PM Eastern and clog the airwaves with procedural fights long into the night, boring America into tuning out, was a total and complete success.

CBS blinked first.

After less than three hours of live coverage on Tuesday, the network of Walter Cronkite cut away from the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, yielding to daytime fare like “Dr. Phil” and “Judge Judy.”

NBC held out longer, but by 5 p.m., ABC was the last traditional broadcast network still in breaking-news mode. Die-hards could turn to cable news for their fix.

In television terms, the opening hours of Mr. Trump’s trial — only the third in American history, and the second of the mass-media era — did not exactly make for visually compelling viewing. For Republican Senate leadership, that was by design.

Senate officials rejected repeated requests to allow outside cameras into the chamber to record the trial — meaning that what viewers see and hear will be dictated by cameras and microphones controlled by Senate staff members, rather than an independent news organization. (Even C-SPAN was not allowed access.)

The result: Audiences were introduced on Tuesday to the constricted, lo-fi view of the Senate floor that will be ubiquitous on the nation’s TV screens in the coming days.

Election nights have their interactive maps and whiz-bang graphics. State of the Union coverage features high-definition reaction shots of senior government officials, generating the occasional iconic moment — think Justice Samuel Alito mouthing “Not true” when President Barack Obama criticized a Supreme Court opinion on campaign finance.

But the trial of a sitting president? On Tuesday, the small-screen vista was limited to artless shots of House impeachment managers and Mr. Trump’s lawyers at their lecterns, with an occasional overhead glimpse of the chamber thrown in.

Squint, and you may have been able to make out an individual senator or two.

The anchor Chris Wallace, commenting as part of Fox News’s analyst team, pointed out what viewers were missing.

“Because these are the government set of controlled cameras, we are only able to see the podium and who is speaking,” Mr. Wallace said on Tuesday. “We are not able to see what is the emotion, what is the state of consciousness of the members of the Senate as all this goes on at considerable length.”

MSNBC, whose prime-time opinion shows are a gathering space for liberals, acknowledged the restricted views with some subtle trolling. Attentive viewers might have noticed a graphic in the upper-left corner of the MSNBC screen, noting that the trial footage was provided by “Capitol Hill Senate TV”: the government, not a news outlet.

No drama, no emotion, no excitement, means no coverage, and the Senate GOP can then get away with no evidence, no witnesses, and basically no trial.   For their part, Chuck Schumer and the Democrats fought tooth and nail, bringing up amendment after amendment to admit new evidence and to subpoena witnesses, but every one was defeated on the same 53-47 party line vote.

No evidence of any GOP senator being concerned about the cover-up at all.

Our country is being smothered in the middle of the night.
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