Thursday, November 26, 2020

Turkey Week: Pardon This Turkey

As widely expected, Trump is now going to pull the trigger on a deluge of Mueller probe pardons on the way out the door, starting with Michael Flynn.

President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he has "granted a Full Pardon" to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 
"It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!" Trump tweeted
Flynn, who was Trump's first national security adviser, pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Trump said in March that he was "strongly considering" pardoning Flynn and had told aides in recent days that he planned to pardon him before leaving office. 
While the President has continued to falsely insist publicly that he won the presidential election rather than Joe Biden, the pardon of Flynn is a sign Trump understands his time in office is coming to a close. He's expected to issue a string of additional pardons before leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussion.

Flynn's tenure at the White House lasted only a few weeks and he resigned after being caught lying about his Russian contacts. At the time, Trump tweeted that he fired Flynn because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence. Sources familiar with what happened also said Flynn lied to Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, two top Trump officials at the time.

Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about those contacts, but later disavowed his plea and tried to get the case thrown out. In a shocking twist this spring, the Justice Department abandoned the case, which is still tied up in legal limbo.

But it's that "more pardons are coming" part that's the fun stuff.

Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge of the discussions said Flynn will be part of a series of pardons that Trump issues between now and when he leaves office.

The big picture: Flynn's pardon would be the culmination of a four-year political and legal saga that began with the FBI's investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in the 2016 election. The retired lieutenant general is viewed by many Trump supporters as a victim of political retaliation by the Obama administration. Flynn's lawyers and members of conservative media have accused the FBI of entrapping him and cited his case as part of a broader campaign to discredit the Russia probe. Earlier this year, Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, another associate charged in the Mueller investigation who the president complained had been unfairly targeted in a political witch hunt.

The backdrop: Flynn's legal troubles began during the 2016 presidential transition, when he urged former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a phone call not to escalate in response to the Obama administration imposing sanctions on Russia for election interference. Flynn then lied about not discussing sanctions, to Vice President Mike Pence who repeated that denial to the media — causing alarm among Justice Department officials who feared the lies made Flynn susceptible to Russian blackmail. In January 2017, Flynn was interviewed without a lawyer present by FBI agents as part of a counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference. He later admitted to lying to the FBI as part of a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Flash forward: In January 2020, after two years of sentencing delays due to his cooperation with the Mueller investigation, Flynn and his new legal team sought to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging prosecutorial misconduct. A federal prosecutor appointed to review the case by Attorney General Bill Barr recommended that the charges be dropped, finding that the FBI interview in which Flynn lied was "conducted without any legitimate investigative basis." 
District Judge Emmet Sullivan did not immediately agree to drop the charges, and asked for outside legal experts to weigh in on the unusual case. Flynn's lawyers filed an emergency appeal to force the judge to comply with the DOJ motion. That resulted in a protracted legal fight, which ended in August with an appeals court siding with Sullivan.
Happy Turkey Day, and remember, the Trump campaign took help from Russia to win in 2016. Flynn lied about it to the FBI and went to prison and admitted to spying for Turkey twice. He's now getting his name cleared, and a whole lot more people are going to follow.

And while Michael Flynn will get to enjoy his Thanksgiving as a free man, he should expect to keep his lawyers on retainer through next year because I guarantee you that, because the second Flynn accepts this pardon, he forfeits his 5th Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and he's fair game for both Tisha James and Cyrus Vance and their respective Trump Organization fraud cases.

Enjoy the subponas, Turkey turkey.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Turkey Week: School Daze In Kentucky

Several Christian K-12 schools are suing Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, saying his ordering of schools to go to remote teaching (as the state reaches record COVID case levels and hospitalizations mind you) violates the Frist Amendment's right to freedom of religion, somehow, as GOP AG Daniel Cameron tries once again to strip all power from the executive.
Beshear on Wednesday announced a set of new executive orders meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky, which last week saw another stretch of record-setting days for new positive cases.

One order requires the state's private and public K-12 schools to hold only virtual classes until Jan. 4.

Elementary schools not in "red" counties, which average 25 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents, can resume in-person classes Dec. 7 as long as they follow the state's "Healthy At School" guidance, according to Beshear's order.

Beshear also unveiled new restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms, indoor gatherings, weddings, funerals and other activities. Those orders and capacity limits took effect at 5 p.m. Friday and run through Dec. 13.

Specifically, Wiest said he is representing various parents and their children who seek to overturn the indoor gathering limit on no more than eight people from two households.

Danville Christian Academy and Cameron, a Republican who is the state's chief law enforcement officer, argue in their suit that Beshear's order violates the constitutional rights of religious schools and Kentucky's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In response to the lawsuit, Beshear spokesperson Crystal Staley noted the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously upheld earlier this month the governor's authority to issue executive orders in a public health emergency.

The Supreme Court ruling was a defeat for Cameron, who had joined challengers in arguing Beshear overstepped his authority and bypassed the state General Assembly when issuing orders this year in response to the pandemic.
Both Beshear's office and Cameron's office expect to prevail, but this is a pretty solid test of Kentucky's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Again, if Cameron wins here, expect a lot more churches and religious groups to simply they are immune from state laws and regulations.

Turkey Week Time!

Going to have a reduced posting schedule for the rest of the week, but there's enough going on that I will try to post daily. But hey, after everything that's gone on this month, I think we all need a break from this particular orange turkey.

Political Cartoon U.S. Trump Pardons Turkey 


Also it's been a rough year, so if you enjoy ZVTS, drop a buck or three in the Paypal bucket if you can. If you can't, take care of yourself. We all need one another.


to ZVTS!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Turkey Week: Emily Gives In

With the last dregs of the Trump "plan" to overturn the election now circling Trump's gold toilet, the wheels of bureaucracy are starting to spin up on the Biden transition process.

The General Services Administration has informed President-elect Joe Biden that the Trump administration is ready to begin the formal transition process, according to a letter from Administrator Emily Murphy sent Monday afternoon and obtained by CNN.  
The letter is the first step the administration has taken to acknowledge President Donald Trump's defeat, more than two weeks after Biden was declared the winner in the election.
Murphy said she had not been pressured by the White House to delay the formal transition and did not make a decision "out of fear or favoritism." 
"Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts," Murphy wrote. "I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official -- including those who work at the White House or GSA -- with regard to the substance or timing of my decision. To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination." 
The letter marks Murphy's formal sign off on Biden's victory, a normally perfunctory process known as ascertainment. The move will allow the transition to officially begin, permitting current administration agency officials to coordinate with the incoming Biden team, and providing millions in government funding for the transition. 
The Biden team has not waited for the formal transition process to begin preparing for the presidency, as Biden announced several Cabinet picks on Monday. But the delay in ascertainment meant that Biden's team was locked out from government data and could not make contact with federal agencies, nor could it spend $6.3 million in government funding now available for the transition. A Biden official said the most urgent need was for the transition to be given access to Covid-19 data and the vaccine distribution plans. 
The Biden team will now have access to additional office space inside the agencies and the ability to use federal resources for background checks on Biden's White House staff appointments and Cabinet picks. 
Yohannes Abraham, executive director of Biden's transition, said the start of the transition was a "needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track." 
"This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies," Abraham said. "In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration's efforts to hollow out government agencies." 
The ascertainment letter was sent Monday after Michigan formally certified its election results earlier in the day and more Trump lawsuits were dismissed. Georgia certified its razor-thin presidential results on Friday, and Pennsylvania is nearing certification of its election results, too.
That's nice of her, don't you think?
You know what else is nice?

Monday, November 23, 2020

Last Call For Biden, His Time, Con't

Biden's first major cabinet pick, like nearly every president I can recall, is Secretary of State, and that job appears to be headed to Biden campaign foreign policy adviser and former Obama deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

Antony J. Blinken, a defender of global alliances and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s closest foreign policy adviser, is expected to be nominated for secretary of state, a job in which he will try to coalesce skeptical international partners into a new competition with China, according to people close to the process.

Mr. Blinken, 58, a former deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama, began his career at the State Department during the Clinton administration. His extensive foreign policy credentials are expected to help calm American diplomats and global leaders alike after four years of the Trump administration’s ricocheting strategies and nationalist swaggering.

Mr. Biden is also expected to name another close aide, Jake Sullivan, as national security adviser, according to a person familiar with the process. Mr. Sullivan, 43, succeeded Mr. Blinken as Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, and served as the head of policy planning at the State Department under Hillary Clinton, becoming her closest strategic adviser.

Together, Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan, good friends with a common worldview, have become Mr. Biden’s brain trust and often his voice on foreign policy matters. And they led the attack on President Trump’s use of “America First” as a guiding principle, saying it only isolated the United States and created opportunities and vacuums for its adversaries.

Mr. Biden plans to announce their selections even as Mr. Trump continues his ineffectual push to overturn the election. A growing number of Republicans are calling on Mr. Trump to concede and begin the official transition process.

Mr. Biden is also expected to name Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the Foreign Service who has served in diplomatic posts around the world, as his ambassador to the United Nations, according to two people with knowledge of the process. Mr. Biden will also restore the post to cabinet-level status after Mr. Trump downgraded it, giving Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, who is Black, a seat on his National Security Council. The selections of Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan were reported earlier by Bloomberg News, and Ms. Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination was reported by Axios.

Mr. Blinken has been at Mr. Biden’s side for nearly 20 years, including as his top aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later as his national security adviser when he was vice president. In that role, Mr. Blinken helped develop the American response to political upheaval and instability across the Middle East, with mixed results in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

But chief among his new priorities will be to re-establish the United States as a trusted ally that is ready to rejoin global agreements and institutions — including the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization — that were jettisoned by Mr. Trump.

“Simply put, the big problems that we face as a country and as a planet, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s a pandemic, whether it’s the spread of bad weapons — to state the obvious, none of these have unilateral solutions,” Mr. Blinken said at a forum at the Hudson Institute in July. “Even a country as powerful as the United States can’t handle them alone
Remember when Cabinet officials weren't raving lunatics who made news weekly by destroying America's reputation and alienating our allies?  Welcome to the calm feeling of having an actually qualified career foreign policy wonk and diplomat as Secretary of State.

I know, weird, huh?

I look forward to not writing about Tony Blinken, Janet Yellen, Alejandro Moyorkas and Avril Haines on this blog, because he doesn't do stupid things like the last crew did, so I won't need tags for them.


Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Throughout his term, Donald Trump's been throwing around the idea (well, racist Malkavian vampire Stephen Miller's idea) of abolishing the birthright citizenship provision of the 14th Amendment. He's been talking about doing this by executive order since 2018, and again in 2019, and now here in the scorched earth phase of destroying America before he leaves office, he's considering it again.

President Donald Trump is considering an executive action to target birthright citizenship in his final weeks in office, according to two sources who spoke with The Hill in a report published on Friday.

Birthright citizenship is the policy whereby anyone who is born in the US is immediately granted citizenship, regardless of whether their parents have citizenship or not.

It's guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, which states in part that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." More than 30 countries — mostly in the Western Hemisphere — have birthright citizenship.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is an example of someone who received their US citizenship in this way. Harris's Indian mother and Jamaican father were not yet US citizens when she was born in California in 1964, but she became a US citizen.

Trump has been speaking out against birthright citizenship since his 2016 run for the White House, which was infused with anti-immigrant rhetoric. He brought the issue up again in a 2018 interview with Axios, in which he stated that he could issue an executive order to end the practice.

However, The Intercept reported in 2018 that this is "an idea rejected by an overwhelming consensus of conservative and liberal law scholars." A law written into the Constitution can only be ended through a new amendment.

Counter-arguments to birthright citizenship over the years say that the 14th Amendment has been misinterpreted.

"The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment was clearly intended to guarantee that emancipated slaves would properly be recognized as U.S. citizens," RJ Hauman, government relations director at Federation for American Immigration Reform, told The Hill. Hauman's group is an anti-immigration non-profit.

"It is a fundamental misapplication of this clause that U.S.-born children of illegal aliens are granted automatic citizenship, much less the offspring of people who come here to simply give birth on American soil."

If the president finally issues a long-awaited executive order limiting birthright citizenship, it will be up to the Supreme Court to resolve this issue once and for all," Hauman said.
It's that last part that will eventually be the problem.  Biden could reverse the executive order, but I would expect immediately that states like Texas and Florida would sue to have the order reinstated. This is why Trump's been putting it off, he now believes he has a Supreme Court capable of making this decision permanent.

No, I don't know how that would work from a legal standing perspective either. Like I said, it's pretty asinine. I expect Texas will find a way to sue anyhow, it's not like evidentiary law means much in 2020 to conservatives anyhow. 

Still, the point is to send this to SCOTUS somehow, and to change the country forever.

And yes, this means that millions of American citizens would no longer be American citizens. Including the Vice-President. There's a reason for this: massive deportation roundups.

It's a terrible future, and one we may not yet be able to avoid.


Retribution Execution, Con't

Steve M. notes that the GOP will gladly keep Trump's people in key positions in the party because the alternative is oblivion, but so will our media.
I suspect that the press is gearing up to just keep covering Trump -- in fact, the Times published a story titled "Win or Lose, Trump Will Remain a Powerful and Disruptive Force" the day after the polls closed. In the comments to that story, one reader wrote: 
Mr. Trump's disruptive voice, if he loses, will remain prominent if the members of the various media choose to give him the high platform given him for four years. They can give him a platform to be as prominent or more so than Mr. Biden. Certainly, Trump will be more attractive to readers and viewers than Biden. He's the showman. Biden is not. He can bolster newspaper circulation and TV ratings in a way that Biden cannot. The more Trump prominence, the more interference in the healing needed by the country. Media leaders will determine that ratio. Millions of Americans hope that they will choose healing over popularity of their products. 
I certainly hope the media will dump Trump. I don't expect it to happen, but if it does, I'll be delighted.
This is exactly the scenario I envision, so much so that I believe Ronna McDaniel will publicly state that the GOP expects the media to continue to cover Trump as still being the guy in the Oval Office. She will state that the American people don't recognize Biden.

And then, then the media will have a choice, quit Trump cold turkey and incur the angry, and possibly very violent wrath of his cultists, or to side with America.

I don't expect them to make the right choice at all.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Last Call For Legally Blonde

It's never a good sign for your bullshit legal theory that the election was stolen when the guy insisting it was stolen disavows the person supposedly providing evidence for the supposed theft.


President Donald Trump appears to have cut ties with Sidney Powell, a key member of his legal team who also represents former national security adviser Michael Flynn in his long-running attempt to unravel a guilty plea for lying about his 2016 contacts with Russia.

The abrupt shake-up came in a terse Sunday-evening statement from the Trump campaign that offered no explanation for Powell’s removal.

“Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own,” Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis said in the statement. “She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”

Powell had made headlines in recent weeks for her increasingly outrageous and unsupported claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, repeatedly vowing to “release the kraken” of evidence, only to refuse to produce it when asked by reporters.

She has accused election officials in multiple states of committing crimes, and in recent days turned on Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, who on Friday helped certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Her attack on Kemp, which also included the threat of a “biblical” lawsuit, appeared to unsettle some of Trump’s allies.

“Sidney Powell accusing Governor Brian Kemp of a crime on television yet being unwilling to go on TV and defend and lay out the evidence that she supposedly has, this is outrageous conduct,” former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Sunday.

Trump announced Powell as a centerpiece of his legal team in a recent tweet, declaring that she, Giuliani and others would form a team that would later dub itself an “elite strike force.”

But the team has so far failed to produce any meaningful legal wins, and in fact has been repeatedly rebuffed by federal judges who have excoriated the Trump lawyers for demanding draconian measures — like throwing out millions of lawful ballots — without presenting evidence to justify it.

In recent days, Republicans aligned with the national party began to express increasing reservations about Powell’s rhetoric, including the claim that Trump had “won by a landslide,” even though Biden is millions ahead in the popular vote and won states equating to 306 electoral votes, compared with Trump’s 232.

The national GOP on Thursday posted a video clip of Powell making the claim, and Ellis, the Trump campaign’s attorney, celebrated Powell’s remarks at last week’s press conference.
They have nothing. They are out of options. At this point, Trump is now reduced to bleating on Twitter like the child he is. Powell's career is done. She's facing possible disbarment and financial ruin, possibly legal sanctions. Giuliani is still under FBI investigation.
But it also means that Trump, now facing oblivion, will order his cultists to take the rest of us with him.
We have never been at a more dangerous juncture in my lifetime than right now.

Mitch Goes Viral, Con't

Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP continue to have no plans to save tens of millions of Americans from the "COVID Cliff" on January 1 as all CARES Act federal assistance programs will expire at the end of the year, and it will be the perfect opportunity for the GOP to sabotage the country and blame Biden.

A slew of expiring emergency programs are setting up an economic “COVID cliff” come 2021, which could see millions of people lose unemployment insurance and get evictions, while a growing wave of small businesses close shop.

March's CARES Act set up myriad programs to give people economic relief in the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which are set to expire on Dec. 31.

Unless a divided Congress can reach a deal to extend the programs, the country's economic suffering could skyrocket.

“It’s a lot of risk to be putting on the economy at a time when so many other pressures are already underway,” said Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The prospects of a deal are dim.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is pushing for a $2.2 trillion package, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who endorses a more limited $500 billion approach, have yet to hold a meeting on the subject. Their staffs have not discussed the matter either.

“The situation could not be more dire, the need for action could not be more urgent, real meaningful relief is desperately needed,” Pelosi said Friday, accusing Republicans of refusing to accept meaningful levels of stimulus and a plan to defeat the novel coronavirus.

Republicans are quick to point the finger back at Pelosi, noting that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin offered $1.8 trillion before the election, though Senate Republicans opposed that level of aid.

On Friday, McConnell said that Congress should repurpose $455 billion of funds Mnuchin sought to withdraw from emergency lending facilities at the Federal Reserve, a move that itself was controversial.

“Congress should repurpose this money toward the kinds of urgent, important, and targeted relief measures that Republicans have been trying to pass for months, but which Democrats have repeatedly blocked with all-or-nothing demands," McConnell said.

If Congress allows the variety of ropes that weave the emergency safety net to snap, struggling Americans are sure to fall through, starting with the millions of people who have lost their jobs and rely on expanded unemployment programs to stay afloat.

“The unemployment insurance is certainly at the top of the list, because that’s going to mean that millions of people who are out of work and relying on a fairly modest unemployment income are going to be entirely without income, and that’s going to be a devastating hit,” said Akabas.


We're looking at an instant depression, with 20%, maybe 30% knocked off the economy and tens of millions evicted into the heart of winter's cold.

But that's what McConnell wants.

Sunday Long Read: The Heart Of The Hackability Problem

I've mentioned more than a few times how the Internet of Things is pretty dangerous these days, because the now billions of devices connected to the internet aren't all exactly tooling around with bulletproof security on connections. But what if one of those "things" the internet is connected to is basically your very life itself?
Three nights before Christmas 2016, I was standing in my bathroom when a gallop broke out across my chest. It was ventricular tachycardia, a dangerous kind of arrhythmia where only one side of the heart pumps and does so at high speed, denying blood from moving through it. At the age of 23, I’d had arrhythmias all my life, but had never felt anything like this. Twenty minutes later, with the arrhythmia still going, I was in the back of a parked ambulance. Alone with the EMTs, I braced for the shock of a defibrillator.

The pain was overwhelming, like being grilled alive. It ran out from a center point in my chest and flowed into every organ, every limb, into my fingers and toes. Later, waiting in the trauma section of the Mount Sinai emergency room, doctors shocked me again.

Months of testing followed. I started taking drugs that would help reduce my arrhythmias, but in addition, my doctors suggested they replace my pacemaker with something called an ICD. The ICD would be a fail-safe, a tiny defibrillator inside my body that could go everywhere that I went.

When I came across an FDA safety notice warning that some ICDs, namely those made by a company called St. Jude, could be hacked, I was only days away from surgery. Once hacked, the devices could allow an external actor to gain control of the ICD, reprogram its functions, and inflict all kinds of damage—even trigger death.

The week before surgery, I texted my nurse practitioner about the FDA warning. She responded quickly, “Don’t worry. We’re using a different brand,” as if the issue was settled. In the blur of acute disease, I ignored the instinct to dig further into what exactly these cybersecurity concerns might mean or what other concerns might be hiding just below the surface.

When they first came to market in the 1980s, ICDs (implanted cardioverter-defibrillators) were implanted rarely, mostly in patients who had already experienced a life-threatening episode of ventricular tachycardia or even cardiac arrest. They were often called “secondary prevention” tools — meaning a patient has already experienced a life-threatening event and the device had the potential to stop a second event. In the 40 years since, clinical guidelines have changed dramatically, and the use case for ICDs has broadened. The United States has become the biggest market in the world for ICDs, with new ICD implantations increasing almost ninefold from 1993 to 2006. Doctors now implant at least 10,000 new devices each month in the United States. Many of these devices are now used for “primary prevention,” meaning a patient hasn’t yet experienced an event that could be stopped by an ICD, but they might be at risk for one.

In the past 13 years, these devices have also been fully integrated into the so-called Internet of Things—millions of everyday consumer items being programmed for and connected to the internet. Once connected to the internet, the devices ease the work of physicians and hospitals, who can now manage the device and monitor the patient’s condition remotely. Patients are typically charged each time their device sends data to the hospital. Think of it as a subscription—for your heart.

ICDs are just one increasingly popular medical gadget in a rising sea of clinical and commercial wireless health devices. Whether it is the growing suite of cardiac-monitoring devices available at home and on the go or an Apple Watch outfitted with diagnostic software, we are outsourcing more and more of our health to internet-enabled machines.

Having now lived with an ICD for more than three years and a pacemaker for the preceding 14, I understand intimately the consequences of being a body paired to the grid. If your smart fridge loses connectivity, maybe your food goes bad a few days early. But if a wireless ICD experiences a failure, the result could be lethal. I am stalked by the fear of the device misfiring and have wondered endlessly whether the documented security risks posed by these devices could end up harming me.
It;s a fascinating story, and worth a read.  Hackable hearts, and wi-fi wetware? We're definitely not far from the cypberpunk visions of futurists and sci-fi authors. I just hope we end up doing it right.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Last Call For Rounding Up The Enablers

Republicans assisting and enabling Trump's illegal coup attempt are going to find out the hard way that they are not shielded from state laws on election malfeasance, as at least Michigan Republicans are discovering this weekend.

Michigan’s attorney general is exploring whether officials there risk committing crimes if they bend to President Trump’s wishes in seeking to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in their state, according to two people familiar with the review.

The move by Dana Nessel, a Democrat, reflected a growing sense of unease among many in her party and some Republicans that the president was continuing his unprecedented efforts to reach personally into the state’s electoral process as he seeks to prevent Michigan from formally declaring a winner there.

On Wednesday, two Republican officials in Wayne County sought to rescind their vote to certify the election results in their county, where Detroit is located, after Trump called them Tuesday night.

On Friday afternoon, four leaders of Michigan’s Republican-controlled state legislature met with Trump in the White House at his invitation.

Tensions surrounding the White House encounter seemed to ease somewhat late Friday when there were signs the lawmakers would not side with Trump.

No details of the meeting were available late Friday. But the lawmakers issued a statement saying that they “have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election.”

A spokesperson for Nessel declined to comment for this article.

The attorney general is conferring with election law experts on whether officials may have violated any state laws prohibiting them from engaging in bribery, perjury and conspiracy, according to people familiar with the deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
Why yes, a conspiracy to defraud a state's voters is a criminal act, as all sides appear to agree on. And Republicans in several states are hopefully going to find this out the hard way.

A Taxing Situation, Con't

The AP is confirming the NYT story that Letitia James and the NY AG's office (and possibly Cyrus Vance and the Manhattan DA's office) has indeed subpoenaed Ivanka Trump over her status as a Trump Organization consultant for tax write-off purposes, something that could land Trump's daughter in a plea deal to flip on Daddy Dearest. And once again, being state charges, Trump can't pardon the mess.

New York's attorney general has sent a subpoena to the Trump Organization for records related to consulting fees paid to Ivanka Trump as part of a broad civil investigation into the president's business dealings, a law enforcement official said Thursday.

The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, reported that a similar subpoena was sent to President Donald Trump's company by the Manhattan district attorney, which is conducting a parallel criminal probe. Ivanka Trump alleged in a Thursday night tweet that the probe constituted "harassment."

"This 'inquiry' by NYC democrats is 100% motivated by politics, publicity and rage. They know very well that there's nothing here and that there was no tax benefit whatsoever. These politicians are simply ruthless," she claimed.

The Associated Press could not immediately independently confirm the district attorney's subpoena but the one sent by Attorney General Letitia James was described by an official briefed on the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The records requests followed recent reporting in The Times, based partly on two decades' worth of Trump's tax filings, that the president had reduced his company's income tax liability over several years by deducting $26 million in consulting fees as a business expense.

Records strongly suggested, The Times reported, that $747,622 of those fees had been paid to Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, through a company she owned at a time when she was also a Trump Organization executive.

If true, that wouldn't necessarily pose a problem for Ivanka Trump herself, as long as she paid income tax on the consulting payments, which she reported publicly.

It could, however, raise questions about whether the Trump Organization's related tax deductions were allowable. The Internal Revenue Service has, in the past, pursued civil penalties over large consulting fee write-offs it found were made to dodge tax liability.

The Times wrote that there was no indication Ivanka Trump is a target of either the state's or the city's investigation.

The Trump Organization's lawyer, Alan Garten, and its media relations office didn't immediately return messages Thursday.
So we'll see what happens here, but my guess is we're going to see Trump's kids flipped on Trump in the days leading up to January 20th.


America Goes Viral, Con't

As we cross the Rubicon of 200,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, 80,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 2,000 daily deaths, keep in mind this is all before Thanksgiving week, where tens of millions of Americans are expected to ignore CDC guidance and spread the pandemic nationally over the next several days, with exactly the kind of behavior that will exponentially increase our current disastrous figures. At this point hospitals are begging Americans to stay home as they are running out of healthy staff.

More than 1,000 hospitals across the United States are "critically" short on staff, according to numbers released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Those hospitals, which span all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, represent about 18% of all hospitals that report their staffing status to HHS. And that number is expected to grow: 21% of all hospitals reporting say they anticipate having critical staffing shortages in the next week.

The worst-hit state is North Dakota with 51% of hospitals that reported saying they're facing shortages; seven states say over 30% of their hospitals are in trouble.

This is the first time the federal agency has released this data, which includes limited reports going back to summer. The federal government consistently started collecting this data in July. After months of steadily trending upward, the number of hospitals reporting shortages crossed 1,000 this month and has stayed above since.

The data, however, are still incomplete. Not all hospitals that report daily status COVID-19 updates to HHS are reporting their staffing situations, so it's impossible to tell for sure how much these numbers have increased.

While the data is a welcome addition to the arsenal of information that public health officials have to fight COVID-19, it highlights the shortcomings of what the federal government has made available to the public. Though the government has precise daily figures for COVID-19 hospitalizations at thousands of the country's hospitals, it shares only a small subset of this information to people outside government.

Pinar Karaca-Mandic, a professor at the University of Minnesota who leads a project that collects COVID-19 hospital data, calls the new information release a "very positive data development and effort."

"That offers a possibility to plan ahead, especially the anticipated staffing shortages," she says. There is still a lot of hospitalization data that the federal government does not make public that could further inform researchers and the public, she says, including the ages and race of those hospitalized.

Looking ahead toward the next week, additional hospitals report expecting staffing shortages in 40 states, as well as Puerto Rico. Nebraska, Virginia and Missouri top the list in places that are expected to have the biggest upticks.

Basically if Thanksgiving is as bad as I believe it's going to be, you can double all the already record-setting COVID-19 numbers this week by December, and I think that's being extremely generous.  I believe 400K-500K new cases, 160K-200K hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths a day are very possible. And that many hospitalizations will rapidly overwhelm the American hospital system.

December 2020 is going to be a living nightmare, one every American will remember for the rest of their lives.

And for possibly hundreds of thousands of us, those lives won't make it to January.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

It's too late for Republicans in Congress to rein in Trump. Far, far too late. They have lost control of the monster they created.
A growing number of veteran GOP lawmakers are pushing back on President Donald Trump's tactics to overturn election results showing he lost the race, raising concerns that his tactics could hurt the US response to the coronavirus crisis and undercut a key pillar of democracy. 
In recent days, more Republicans have spoken out -- even though party leaders and a vast majority of congressional Republicans continue to back Trump's efforts to challenge the results. 
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Rep. Kay Granger of Texas and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan -- all senior Republicans -- have each raised concerns in recent days about the transition of power. 
Their pleas come as Trump has yet to concede the general election, and the General Services Administration has yet to formally recognize President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thus denying him access to contacts with federal agencies, funding to help ramp up government hiring for the new administration and access to classified intelligence briefings. The delayed transition has sparked concerns about national security and the impacts it could have on the incoming Biden administration's Covid-19 response, especially the distribution of a vaccine. 
"If there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance, the Trump Administration should provide the Biden team with all transition materials, resources, and meetings necessary to ensure a smooth transition so that both sides are ready on day one. That especially should be true, for example, on vaccine distribution," Alexander, who chairs the influential Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, wrote in a statement Friday, highlighting the impact the transition could have on pandemic response. 
Alexander is retiring at the end of his term this year. 
Similarly, when asked about Trump's efforts to overturn the election results Friday, Granger told CNN she has "great concerns about it," adding, "I think that it's time to move on."
Granger, a veteran Texas Republican, added Friday that Trump should be transparent about the situation. 
"I think it's time for him to really realize and be very clear about what's going on," Granger said. 
When asked Thursday if Trump should concede, Upton, a senior Michigan Republican who was targeted by Democrats but won his reelection bid by 16 points, said, "Yeah. I think it's all said and done." 
Upton also dismissed any evidence of voter fraud in his home state. 
"No one has seen any real identification of any real fraud," Upton said, when asked about the Trump allegations of widespread fraud in Detroit. Trump will meet with the Republican leaders of the Michigan state legislature at the White House Friday afternoon as Trump and his legal team continue to mount a long-shot effort to overturn the results of the election he lost to Biden.
It's too late. It's far, far too late. The rough beast is not just slouching towards Bethlehem, it's running at a dead sprint with a jet pack. The time for this was November 5th, not two weeks later. Trump's base is loose, the terrorist cells are activated.

Upton, Alexander, and Granger (and Romney) will be better off than the rest of the GOP who remained silent. History might even remember that they said something before the violence started.

But for the rest of the Republicans, they will burn along with America.
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