Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Trump Cards, Con't

Because at this point one side is celebrating violence against journalists, covering up the murder of a Saudi dissident, and planting IEDs in George Soros's mailbox.

The explosive device found in a mailbox at the home of George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, on Monday afternoon was relatively small, a senior law enforcement official said on Tuesday.

The device was “proactively denotated” by bomb squad technicians from the Westchester County Police Department.

The bomber’s motive remained unclear. Mr. Soros is a favorite target of right-wing groups. He was not home at the time.

The investigation has been taken over by the New York offices of the F.B.I. and the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, said the senior law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is open.

Federal and state law enforcement officials responded to the scene in Katonah, N.Y., a hamlet in the upscale town of Bedford in northern Westchester County, after the Bedford Police Department received a call about a suspicious package at about 3:45 p.m.

“An employee of the residence opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device,” the police said in a statement. “The employee placed the package in a wooded area and called the Bedford police.”

Later that day Donald Trump's latest rally lowlight while stumping for Ted Cruz in Texas was to declare himself a "nationalist" in opposition to "globalists" like Soros.

President Donald Trump declared himself a "nationalist" during his rally here on Monday night, officially tagging himself with the label that has long defined his populist rhetoric and protectionist policies. 
"A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly not caring about the country so much. You know, we can't have that," Trump said, prompting boos from the crowd. 
"You know what I am, I'm a nationalist," he added, as the crowd erupted in "USA! USA!" chants. "Use that word.
The comment marked the first time Trump has directly associated himself with the political ideology, which has long defined his outlook and the protectionist trade policies he has implemented in an effort to boost domestic manufacturing. 
The remark came during a nearly hour-and-a-half-long rally in the arena that is home to the Houston Rockets, where the President rallied his base in this deeply red state 15 days before the midterms, stoking fears about illegal immigration, painting Democrats as criminal accomplices and basking in the glory of his accomplishments.

Keep in mind that when Trump and his friends uses the term "globalist", it means "eeeeevil Jewish cabal" the same way "inner city" means "poor black and criminal".  "Nationalist" here means the preceding term "white" is implied.  They are playing the fear card as often and as heavily as they can, and frankly it's working.

President Trump on Monday sharply intensified a Republican campaign to frame the midterm elections as a battle over immigration and race, issuing a dark and factually baseless warning that “unknown Middle Easterners” were marching toward the American border with Mexico.

The unsubstantiated charge marked an escalation of Mr. Trump’s efforts to stoke fears about foreigners and crime ahead of the Nov. 6 vote, as he did to great effect in the presidential race. Mr. Trump and other Republicans are insistently seeking to tie Democrats to unfettered immigration and violent crime, and in some instances this summer and fall they have attacked minority candidates in nakedly racial terms.

Mr. Trump is now railing daily in speeches and on Twitter against the migrant caravan moving north through Central America, and on Monday called it a national emergency. The caravan has dominated conservative talk radio and Fox News, where there has also been loose speculation about a link to terrorism. The apparently groundless inclusion of “unknown Middle Easterners” to the caravan echoes Mr. Trump’s longstanding practice of amplifying fears about Islamic militants on the campaign trail.

“That is an assault on our country and in that caravan you have some very bad people and we can’t let that happen to our country,” the president said at a rally in Houston on Monday night. Mr. Trump suggested without any proof that the opposition was involved in instigating the caravan. “I think the Democrats had something to do with it,” he said.

Scary brown horde, criminal black thugs, evil Jewish conspiracy, and only Donald Trump can save you, white America!

This is just a taste of the absolute racism and deadly violence coming in the next two years, guys.  If you think it's scary now, and it most certainly is, the next 24 months are going to be the darkest time in American history since the Civil War.

It may also be the bloodiest.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

The Mueller investigation definitely has Roger Stone in its sights, the question is simply how much trouble is Stone in as we now know Stone has been the subject of both grand jury testimony and of FBI forensic data investigation.

In recent weeks, a grand jury in Washington has listened to more than a dozen hours of testimony and FBI technicians have pored over gigabytes of electronic messages as part of the special counsel’s quest to solve one burning mystery: Did longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone — or any other associate of the president — have advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked Democratic emails in 2016?

While outwardly quiet for the last month, Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have been aggressively pursuing leads behind the scenes about whether Stone was in communication with the online group, whose disclosures of emails believed to have been hacked by Russian operatives disrupted the 2016 presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the special counsel probe.

Stone, who boasted during the race that he was in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has said since that his past comments were exaggerated or misunderstood. Both he and WikiLeaks have adamantly denied they were in contact.

However, prosecutors are closely examining both public comments and alleged private assertions that Stone made in 2016 suggesting he had a way to reach Assange, the people said.

Last month, Randy Credico, a onetime Stone friend, told the grand jury that the Trump loyalist confided during the 2016 campaign that he had a secret back channel to WikiLeaks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In a series of interviews with The Washington Post, Stone said his only connection to the group was through Credico, a liberal comedian who had hosted Assange on his New York radio program in 2016.

The special counsel’s prosecutors have also zeroed in on Stone’s relationship with conservative journalist and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, examining whether he served as a conduit between Stone and Assange, according to another person familiar with their interest. Corsi appeared before Mueller’s grand jury last month, and FBI agents have recently been seeking to interview Corsi’s associates, according to the person.

In addition, investigators have scrutinized Stone’s communications with Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks, according to people familiar with the probe.

One apparent line of inquiry: whether Stone lied to Congress about his alleged contacts with WikiLeaks during the presidential race, according to the people.

The question of whether Trump associates were in contact with WikiLeaks is at the heart of Mueller’s inquiry. According to charges filed by the special counsel in July, Russian military intelligence officers used an online persona called Guccifer 2.0 to distribute hacked Democratic emails through WikiLeaks. The Russian operatives also used Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account to send messages to Stone, who has said the exchanges were benign.

Stone remains the link between WikiLeaks and its Russian intelligence backers and the Trump campaign and the grand jury testimony, plus the investigation into Stone's associates tells me very clearly that Stone is facing his time in the barrel after the election.

Maybe sooner?

Of course, if the GOP keeps Congress...maybe never.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Last Call For The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Polls show Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum with a very solid lead over GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida, along with Dem Sen. Bill Nelson with the edge over GOP Gov. Rick Scott in defending his seat, but I don't buy that lead for a second, because I know Trump and the GOP have an army of angry old white people ready to turn up at the polls in two weeks.

President Donald Trump’s loyalists here at Florida’s premier retirement community fear Andrew Gillum.

It has nothing to do with his race, they insist, when asked about the 39-year-old Democrat who could become the state’s first African-American governor. Instead, The Villages’ deeply conservative residents are convinced a Gillum victory would trigger an era of high crime, higher taxes and moral failing.

“He’ll kill everything that’s good about Florida,” says Talmadge Strickland, a 66-year-old retired firefighter wearing a “Trump 2020″ baseball cap at a rally for Gillum’s opponent. “He will hurt us; he will physically hurt us with his socialist mentality.”

In an era defined by deep political partisanship, there’s perhaps no state where the divide runs deeper than Florida, which is in the grip of a fierce culture clash over guns, race, climate change and the president. Gillum sits at the center of the melee, his campaign a proxy for the larger fight between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s GOP.

Gillum’s fate is inexorably linked to fellow Democrats whose success could determine control of Congress. That’s especially true for three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who could benefit from Gillum’s appeal among young voters and minorities.

As early voting begins in Florida this week, that link is tenuous.

“New voters and infrequent voters are everything to us winning,” Gillum told The Associated Press when asked about his impact on Nelson’s race. “I think they will vote for both of us, and that will be to his benefit.”

Young people and minorities are traditionally among the least reliable voters, particularly in midterm elections. Meanwhile, white voters in place like The Villages are lining up behind his opponent, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Some 50,000 Trump voters guaranteed to turn out in a midterm election could make the difference.  It did in 2016.  I've talked about The Villages in Florida before, how it's the core of Trump Country in the Gunshine State, and how the flood of retiring Boomers means even more of them will have the time and the anger to go vote.

The rest of us have to show up and vote, because there's about a 99% chance guys like Talmadge Strickland will show up and vote.  If we don't, they win every time.  And there's every reason to believe that Americans have been so burnt out by the Trump regime that they just don't see the need to vote, maybe ever and have simply tuned everything out.

So no, I don't buy the big turnout numbers at all.  Like I said a month ago, I'll be shocked if total turnout is above 40%.

But we have to vote or it really won't matter, ever again.

Oil's Not Well That Doesn't End Well

So, turns out one of America's biggest Gulf oil drilling companies has been sitting on a 14-year-long oil leak that has now dumped 500 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf since 2004, and now the fact that the Trump regime doesn't want to get stuck with the clean-up bill.

An oil spill that has been quietly leaking millions of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico has gone unplugged for so long that it now verges on becoming one of the worst offshore disasters in U.S. history.

Between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day have been spewing from a site 12 miles off the Louisiana coast since 2004, when an oil-production platform owned by Taylor Energy sank in a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan. Many of the wells have not been capped, and federal officials estimate that the spill could continue through this century. With no fix in sight, the Taylor offshore spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever.

As oil continues to spoil the Gulf, the Trump administration is proposing the largest expansion of leases for the oil and gas industry, with the potential to open nearly the entire outer continental shelf to offshore drilling. That includes the Atlantic coast, where drilling hasn’t happened in more than a half century and where hurricanes hit with double the regularity of the Gulf.

Expansion plans come despite fears that the offshore oil industry is poorly regulated and that the planet needs to decrease fossil fuels to combat climate change, as well as the knowledge that 14 years after Ivan took down Taylor’s platform, the broken wells are releasing so much oil that researchers needed respirators to study the damage.

“I don’t think people know that we have this ocean in the United States that’s filled with industry,” said Scott Eustis, an ecologist for the Gulf Restoration Network, as a six-seat plane circled the spill site on a flyover last summer. On the horizon, a forest of oil platforms rose up from the Gulf’s waters, and all that is left of the doomed Taylor platform are rainbow-colored oil slicks that are often visible for miles. He cannot imagine similar development in the Atlantic, where the majority of coastal state governors, lawmakers, attorneys general and residents have aligned against the administration’s proposal.

The Taylor Energy spill is largely unknown outside Louisiana because of the company’s effort to keep it secret in the hopes of protecting its reputation and proprietary information about its operations, according to a lawsuit that eventually forced the company to reveal its cleanup plan. The spill was hidden for six years before environmental watchdog groups stumbled on oil slicks while monitoring the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster a few miles north of the Taylor site in 2010.

The Interior Department is fighting an effort by Taylor Energy to walk away from the disaster. The company sued Interior in federal court, seeking the return of about $450 million left in a trust it established with the government to fund its work to recover part of the wreckage and locate wells buried under 100 feet of muck.

So, back of the envelope math says 14 years times 365 days times 500 barrels is roughly 2.5 million barrels of oil, so you can see why this might be an issue.   And yes, I understand that this means this went on for six years under Obama since the leak was discovered in 2010, and the Obama administration thought Taylor Energy would actually clean this up instead of sitting on the leak for eight more years and then demanding the taxpayers pick up the tab.

Of course, this isn't a new story in Louisiana, Taylor energy sued the Obama administration in 2016 for the same thing.

In hindsight, probably not a good idea.

The Trans-National Race To Erase

The Trump regime is pondering defining trans Americans out of existence at both the federal and state levels, yet another reversal of Obama-era federal policy that would eliminate basic civil rights protections for more than a million Americans.

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.

The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.

Several agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration even tried to remove questions about gender identity from a 2020 census survey and a national survey of elderly citizens.

For the last year, health and human services has privately argued that the term “sex” was never meant to include gender identity or even homosexuality, and that the lack of clarity allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.

As I have said time and time again, the goal is absolute cruelty to the Obama coalition, not to just break it up and render it politically non-viable, but to smash it to bits and make sure that those who need federal protections the most never get them, to make sure that they never have the political power again to ever dare challenge the status quo of white, Christian, cisgender male patriarchy.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asserted on Sunday that Democrats would impose “mob rule” if they won the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

During an interview on Fox News, the senior senator from South Carolina adopted President Donald Trump’s talking points on so-called Democratic “mobs.”

“I think people are going to be voting on the mob rule of the Democratic Party,” Graham told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. “If you elect Democrats to run the House, you know exactly what you’re going to get. They’re going to try and impeach the president and impeach [Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh].”

“They don’t care about your wallet — they just want to get in your wallet,” he continued. “[Kavanaugh’s confirmation], to me, was a despicable episode in the history of the Senate. These [migrant] caravans will never be stopped by Nancy Pelosi. And when it comes to standing up to the world, you need a strong leader like President Trump.”

Graham revealed that he had been handpicked by Trump to campaign for Republicans in 13 states.

“I’m going to let everybody in these states know what happens if you put the Democratic Party in charge of this country,” he said. “You’re rewarding mob rule. You’re undercutting the rule of law. Don’t give these people power.”

“The best thing you can do to make sure [the Kavanaugh confirmation battle] never happens again is punish them for what they were willing to do to this good man,” the senator added. “Two weeks from Tuesday, we can decide what kind of country you want to be. Do you want to be the country of people who run you up and down the halls [of Congress] and spit on you. Or do you want to be a country of Republicans who can actually deliver for working families out there?”

“Nancy Pelosi will welcome the caravans here,” he concluded. “Donald Trump and the rest of us will stop them.”

Or as Adam Serwer keeps saying, "The cruelty is the point".

Besides, the Trump regime's base runs on fear and hatred, and must always be fed new enemies lest the base turn on Trump.  And history tells us that deadly violence against "the other" will only get exponentially worse in the months and years ahead.  They're letting us know exactly what is coming, and they want us so terrified that we hide forever.

I don't plan to let that happen, and if you care about this country, neither should you.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

Donald Trump has apparently had enough of this whole "migrant" thing and is now considering sealing and militarizing the southern border totally as WH Chief of Staff John Kelly, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and National Security Adviser John Bolton's Mustache are now fighting it out to see whether or not we start putting goddamn tanks and troops on the Rio Grande.

President Donald Trump's frustration over rising numbers of undocumented immigrants crossing into the U.S. is stoking tensions among his advisers as some White House officials push for a more aggressive policy that includes completely sealing the southern border, said four people familiar with the discussions.

The differences escalated into an angry, profanity-laced exchange on Thursday between White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton as a Honduran migrant caravan of roughly 4,000 people approached the U.S. border. The dispute was so heated, according to several people, that Kelly ended up storming out of the White House shortly afterward.

Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration, including family separation policies that involved holding children in cages, has been a centerpiece of his presidency and a core message ahead of the midterm elections. But his failure to secure funding for a promised wall along the border with Mexico, coupled with a renewed surge in border crossings, has tested his ability to make good on his promises.

During a meeting Thursday about the issue, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was explaining an 80 percent rise in immigrant families crossing the border when Bolton interrupted her to criticize her handling of the issue, two people familiar with the meeting said.

Bolton said that Nielsen, a close Kelly ally, was doing a poor job with the border and that her department was not producing the needed results, these people said. He argued that she was failing at one of her signature tasks as Homeland Security secretary, they said.

Bolton, as well as Trump's senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, also proposed sending armed guards to the border and denying entry to anyone without proper documentation, including asylum-seekers, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

What began as a policy discussion turned into a harsh exchange between Kelly and Bolton, just steps from the Oval Office, with Kelly telling Bolton that he lacked an understanding of the complexities of immigration policy, and Bolton telling Kelly that his efforts so far have been ineffective, people familiar with the discussion said. The exchange between Bolton and Kelly was first reported by Bloomberg.

According to three people familiar with the exchange, Kelly repeatedly used the f-word to punctuate his points. These people said Kelly, who had served as Trump’s first secretary of Homeland Security, fiercely defended Nielsen, who has come under fire from Trump over her handling of the border.

The advisers then went into the Oval Office to discuss the matter with the president. Kelly ultimately stormed out of the White House early with no resolution on the issue, these people said.

"I’m f---ing out of here," Kelly said, according to one person briefed on the exchange.

I've said multiple times that the one thing Trump won't tolerate as far as his rogues' gallery of staffers and cabinet flunkies is "making the boss look bad to his base".  With border crossings up due to Trump being forced to back off on separating families at the border, it looks like Trump is going to blow a gasket and maybe seal the border completely at some point as a caravan from Honduras approaches.

We'll see.

The GOP's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Republican continue to be the party of white supremacy, and it's not just "Southern Strategy" mummery to placate the rubes, they honestly believe this garbage and when they won't admit it here in the States, Republicans like Iowa Rep. Steve King are more than happy to give interviews to European white supremacist publications.

King’s conversation with [Austrian white supremacist Caroline] Sommerfeld largely revolves around the paranoid idea of the Great Replacement — the belief that mass migration, particularly from Muslim-majority countries, is an extinction-level event for white European culture and identity. Or as he put it in the interview, a “slow-motion cultural suicide.”

“The U.S. subtracts from its population a million of our babies in the form of abortion,” King said. “We add to our population approximately 1.8 million of ‘somebody else’s babies’ who are raised in another culture before they get to us.”

Sommerfeld responded, “That’s what we call the Great Replacement.

Nick Ryan, the director of communications at the British-based anti-racism advocacy group Hope Not Hate, told HuffPost that “terms such as ‘Great Replacement’ are the preserve of conspiracy theorists and extremists.”

It’s a phrase, he said, widely used by anti-Muslim European networks to refer to the supposed Islamification of Europe by migrants and refugees.

The idea of the Great Replacement is imagined most vividly in The Camp of the Saints, a stunningly racist 1973 novel by Jean Raspail that “reframes everything as the fight to death between races,” said Cécile Alduy, a professor of French at Stanford University and an expert on France’s far right. It describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that “wash ashore like the plague.”

In the interview, King said that he read the book and that it was “completely logical to me that this could come to pass.” He went on to describe how he believes George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and bogeyman of the far right, might be footing the bill for the Great Replacement.

To recap:

White supremacist Republican Congressman goes to Austria, talks about how non-white immigrants are destroying the "European" way of life, warns of the end of white culture, blames Jewish boogeyman for funding it.

And this isn't even the only "Steve King is a white supremacist" news this week.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has a history of controversial remarks, is praising a Canadian political candidate who is far right and a white nationalist.

King tweeted Tuesday night in support of Faith Goldy, a candidate for Toronto mayor, describing her as an excellent candidate who is "pro Rule of Law, pro Make Canada Safe Again, pro balanced budget, &...BEST of all, Pro Western Civilization and a fighter for our values. @FaithGoldy will not be silenced."

King, a Kiron resident who is seeking re-election in Iowa's 4th Congressional District, got a blizzard of responses on Twitter. King's tweet about Goldy had nearly 3,000 likes and nearly 1,000 comments by Wednesday morning.

Kedron Bardwell, who chairs the political science department at Simpson College in Indianola, said Goldy has claimed "Canada is undergoing a 'white genocide.'"

Goldy also "appeared on the Neo-Nazi/white supremacist web site 'Daily Stormer,' and was fired by a Canadian right wing/anti-Muslim site for being too extreme," Bardwell said.

Bardwell also tweeted that Goldy "explicitly recited white supremacist slogan The 14 Words ("We must secure the existence of our people and a future for WHITE children") on a 2017 radio show, and she also said she “salutes” white supremacists who showed up in Charlottesville, Virginia, “in hordes.”

Goldy has worked as a reporter and commentator for a number of media organizations and she stirred controversy last year when she appeared in a video from Bethlehem, discussing the Islamic call to prayer and claiming that "Bethlehem's Christian population has been ethnically cleansed."

But don't call them Nazis, nope.

And Iowa keeps re-electing this scumbag.  Can we not?  Can we elect Democrat J.D. Scholten instead, guys?

After topping eight-term U.S. Rep. Steve King in campaign cash for a fourth straight period, Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten says he's financially set to competitively challenge the incumbent over the final three weeks to election day.

Scholten, a former paralegal and professional baseball player from Sioux City, raised $661,013 in the three-month period ended Sept. 30. That's more than four times the $161,673 King collected during the quarter, according to reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

Scholten and King, a Republican from Kiron, are competing in the Iowa 4th district race with Libertarian Party nominee Charles Aldrich, of Clarion in the Nov. 6 election.

Scholten, a first-time candidate for public office, has outraised King in four consecutive quarters, dating to the report that ended the 2017 year. In the previously quarter, he tripled the amount King raised through June 30, with Scholten's taking in $269,162, compared to the $70,601 collected by the congressman.

Combining the last four quarters, Scholten has raised $1.38 million, while King has brought in just over $515,000.

"Anyone who doesn’t think we can win this race hasn’t been paying attention," Scholten said in a news release Tuesday. "Increasing our fundraising numbers for a fourth quarter in a row shows the momentum our campaign is building.

Scholten is a long shot, but he's gaining ground.  I would LOVE for this to be one of the big upsets nobody saw coming, even though the polls mostly show King with a safe lead.  Nobody's giving him a chance, and basically no polling has been done.  King isn't even bothering to debate him.

But man, wouldn't this be great? Show him some love.

Sunday Long Read: The Company Line

This week's Sunday Long Read comes to us from The New Yorker's Sheelah Kolhatkar on Sinclair, arguably the biggest media threat to the US today. I've talked multiple times before about Sinclair Broadcast Group, the right-wing conglomerate that owns nearly two hundred local broadcast stations and forces pro-Trump, pro-GOP, pro-corporate propaganda on its local news broadcasts. The man behind Sinclair is David D. Smith, who makes no effort to hide the fact that he is there to spread the message of the Trump GOP for his 20 million daily viewers in dozens of TV markets around the country, whether they like it or not.

Sinclair has largely evaded the kind of public scrutiny given to its more famous competitor, Fox News, and David Smith sometimes expresses frustration that his business doesn’t command as much respect as Rupert Murdoch’s company, 21st Century Fox, which owns the channel. Fox News is the highest-rated cable property, with 2.5 million viewers during prime time. But twenty million or so U.S. households don’t have cable or streaming television, and therefore rely on local stations such as Sinclair’s. A Republican operative who has worked with Smith told me, “He has a shtick that he does not deviate from: ‘People watch broadcast television, and there’s a shitload of people in this country who do not have cable.’ And he’s right. Local TV is still where a significant cross-section of the population gets their news, and a lot of what’s going on in cable television is just totally irrelevant. It’s not a sexy business, but he’s laughing all the way to the bank.”

Sinclair was founded by Smith’s father, Julian Sinclair Smith, who worked in aerospace engineering before applying to the F.C.C., in 1965, for a license to operate a television station in Baltimore. In 1971, Julian Smith launched Channel 45, also known as WBFF. The airwaves are considered a publicly owned resource, and broadcasters must agree to devote a portion of their programming to serving the public interest. Julian’s four sons—Fredrick, Duncan, Robert, and David—grew up watching the family’s channel, known as “the BFF,” for Baltimore’s Family Features, which showed old movies and children’s shows. The Smith family ate dinner with the TV on, so that they could keep an eye out for technical problems. Julian encouraged his sons to help at the WBFF offices by hauling out garbage.

David was the most entrepreneurial of the boys. In the nineteen-seventies, when he was in his twenties, he became a partner in a company called Ciné Processors, which produced copies of pornographic films, including “Deep Throat.” (Smith’s colleague in the enterprise told the Los Angeles Times that Ciné Processors later went out of business after a police raid.) David also founded, and then sold, a company that made television transmitters. In the nineteen-eighties, as Julian’s health declined, the Smith sons began to take a more active role in running Sinclair. In 1991, the Baltimore Sun portrayed the brothers as role models in the business community. “Listen as they gather in the stately Roland Park home of the parents to talk about themselves and the station, the sons joking and wisecracking and chiding one another as if they are at some sort of bawdy class reunion, adding to each other’s thoughts, and ultimately deferring almost solemnly to the father,” the reporter wrote.

Sinclair had recently introduced its first hour-long newscast, after David pointed out that Baltimore was one of the only top television markets without a 10 p.m. national news program. Soon, under David’s direction, Sinclair began buying new stations. “I didn’t want to be a digit head; I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” David told Forbes in 1996. “My father was too much of a visionary to care about profits. What I wanted was purely to make money.”

At the time, F.C.C. rules prohibited a company from owning two stations in the same market, but Smith found a work-around. Sinclair bought a television station in Pittsburgh, WPGH, even though Sinclair already owned its main rival, WPTT. The first Iraq War had just started, and the stock market was dropping, but Smith paid a high price—fifty-five million dollars—for the station. “Everybody thought it was the end of the world,” Smith said. “I didn’t. I believed that certain things were going to happen in the television industry, the most important being consolidation.”

To comply with the F.C.C., Sinclair would have to divest one of the two stations to an independent owner. Instead, Smith sold WPTT to its manager, a Sinclair employee named Edwin Edwards, Sr., and then signed an agreement that gave Sinclair day-to-day control over the station
. A few years later, Sinclair replicated this strategy in Baltimore, divesting one station to a company called Glencairn, which was jointly controlled by Edwards and Smith’s mother. These “duopolies” gave the company leverage in purchasing syndicated television shows like “Friends” and “Cheers.” The fact that Edwards is African-American meant that Sinclair qualified for tax benefits for companies selling to minority owners. Although Sinclair told the F.C.C. that the divested stations were independent, filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicated that they were Sinclair assets.

By 1998, Forbes reported, Sinclair had made twelve of these so-called sidecar purchases, with eight more pending. All were made through Glencairn, Smith family members, or Sinclair executives, allowing the company to circumvent another F.C.C. regulation: an ownership cap dictating that no corporation can control more than thirty-five per cent of the national market, a figure that has since been raised to thirty-nine per cent. When reached for comment, Sinclair said that the company “used these legally permissible operating efficiencies to continue to survive in a very competitive business landscape,” and added that the sidecar deals were “similar in all material respects to arrangements in which many other broadcasters frequently engage.”

None of this would have been possible without the willful blindness of the F.C.C. Andrew Schwartzman, who has been involved in litigation against Sinclair, told me that Sinclair “pushed the envelope and the rules aggressively, time after time after time,” and that the company had “an unparalleled track record of getting away with stuff.”
Emboldened by the sidecar strategy, Sinclair made a flurry of new purchases. In 1998, it announced plans to buy Sullivan Broadcast Holdings, which owned thirteen stations in places like Oklahoma City, Nashville, and Dayton. Around the same time, the F.C.C., under pressure from lobbyists, modified the duopoly rule to be more lenient. Sinclair responded by buying all but two of the Glencairn stations, for a fraction of their market value.

Public-interest groups and media organizations complained to the F.C.C., arguing that Glencairn was a front for Sinclair, and that the situation had allowed the company to build a near-monopoly in many markets. In 2001, an F.C.C. investigation found that Sinclair had exercised de-facto control over Glencairn, but the commission fined the two companies a mere forty thousand dollars each. The pattern continued, with Sinclair buying back divested stations when regulations loosened. Glencairn changed its name to Cunningham Broadcasting, and promised that it would be under new management—which, it turned out, meant Sinclair’s former president Robert Simmons. Shortly afterward, Sinclair filed applications to acquire five stations licensed to Cunningham, at what critics said was a tenth of their true market value.

And on and on.  Sinclair was the man behind the "Stolen Honor" movie in 2004 that was essentially a two-hour campaign commercial attacking John Kerry.  It ran on all of Sinclair's Ohio stations, cost Kerry the state, and the election.

Smith is right up there with Steve Bannon and his ilk as the most consistently powerful and dangerous media mogul in America.  It's safe to say Trump would not be president without his broadcast stations in Michigan (8 stations), Ohio (9 stations), Pennsylvania (9 stations), and Wisconsin (5 stations) and his pro-Trump propaganda there which basically amounted to tens of millions in free advertising in 2016.

How much damage has he done in 2018?

We'll know soon, I suspect.

Supreme Misgivings, Con't

I mentioned this in StupidiNews on Friday where the Trump regime was asking for the courts to block a lawsuit by a number of young climate change activists over America's lack of climate change policy.  I figured the Ninth Circuit would agree to an injunction, but apparently Chief Justice John Roberts himself stepped in to effectively end the lawsuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday temporarily blocked a high-profile climate change lawsuit brought by young activists who accuse the federal government of violating their constitutional rights with policies that have caused a dangerous climate.

Chief Justice John Roberts signed an order freezing the trial that was set to start in 10 days in federal court in Oregon until lawyers for the young people provide a response and the high court issues another order.

It marked a victory for the government, which under the Obama and Trump administrations has tried unsuccessfully for years to get the case dismissed. An expert says the Trump administration tried again before the Oct. 29 trial as the court shifted to the right with the confirmation this month of Brett Kavanaugh.

The Supreme Court refused to toss the lawsuit in July, calling it “premature.”

Justice Department lawyers asked again Thursday, arguing that the claim aims to redirect federal environmental policies through the courts rather than through the political process.

Julia Olson, a lawyer representing the young plaintiffs and chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, said they are confident the trial will move forward once the justices receive their response, which is due by Wednesday.

The Supreme Court has recognized in other cases that review of constitutional questions “is better done on a full record where the evidence is presented and weighed,” she said in an email. “This case is about already recognized fundamental rights and children’s rights of equal protection under the law.”

The young people say government officials have known for more than 50 years that carbon pollution from fossil fuels was causing climate change and that policies on oil and gas deprive them of life, liberty and property. They also say the government has failed to protect natural resources as a “public trust” for future generations.

The lawsuit wants a court to order the government to stop permitting and authorizing fossil fuels, quickly phase out carbon dioxide emissions to a certain level by 2100 and develop a national climate recovery plan.

The Trump administration got a temporary reprieve on the case after also asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the request in July.

“The latest attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the trial does not appear to be based on any new evidence or arguments. The only new element is an additional Supreme Court justice,” said Melissa Scanlan, a professor at Vermont Law School, who is not involved in the case.

I guarantee you Kavanaugh was the deciding factor in this injunction and the reason why the trial was stopped.  I also guarantee you that the trial will never, ever go forward now, and will be dismissed out of hand.  People have badly underestimated just what Kavanaugh's presence on the bench means.

Things will only get worse from here.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Last Call For Another #MeToo Moment

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was attacked six years ago by Republican state auditor Josh Mandel over domestic violence allegations that supposedly led to Brown's then 26-year-old divorce.  Mandel lost by a significant margin and Brown has gone on to be one of the Senate better Democratic liberal voices.

But now, Brown is up against GOP Rep. Jim Renacci, and Brown is now facing assault accusations from a number of women brought forward by the Republican who says Brown not only needs to drop out of the race, but as with Al Franken, needs to retire from the Senate immediately.

Earlier this week, Republican Senate candidate and Congressman Jim Renacci revealed to The Enquirer "multiple women" contacted him with allegations they were abused by his Democratic opponent and veteran U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Renacci wouldn't reveal who they were. Late Thursday night, an attorney released a statement on behalf of one of the women.

In the statement, Canton, Ohio area attorney Laura Mills described a sexual encounter her client had with Brown in the late 1980s. Brown was Ohio's Secretary of State at the time and the unnamed woman had met Brown in the course of her work.

According to Mills, Brown pushed her client up against a wall.

"She described an unexpected, uninvited, unwanted, and sudden advance, roughly pushing her up against a wall," Mills said in the statement. "It did stop after she expressed dismay and very firmly pulled away, explaining that was not her style nor why she was there. He then said he remembered what she had on the day they had met some time earlier and that he had been attracted to her."

Mills, who has served as Renacci's lawyer and has donated to his campaigns, said her client wants to remain anonymous. She was able to "defuse the situation" but was shaken up by it, Mills said in the statement.

Brown's campaign on Thursday sent a cease and desist letter to Renacci, demanding he stop "false and libelous statements."

"At the very least you were acting with reckless disregard to the truth, as you must have been aware that the statements you were making had no basis in fact," Brown's attorney Marc Erik Elias wrote in the email.

Brown's campaign spokesman, Preston Maddock, in a statement, pointed out Mills is a former business partner of Renacci. The campaign plans on pursuing "all legal means" against Renacci.

Renacci has been attacking Brown over the now 32-year-old domestic violence allegations, which Brown's ex-wife, Larke Recchie, denies.  Renacci has been trailing Brown for the entire race, but that's before this week's allegations has come forward.

Brown now has a problem, and a potentially very serious one.  His response has been to completely deny the allegations, but I'm not sure if that's going to hold up here in a post-Kavanaugh America.

We'll see.

The Drums of War, Con't

The Trump regime grows ever closer to the bad old days of the Cold War, as both Trump and Putin have decided that the 80's-era bilateral treaty on mid-range nukes no longer works with an ascendant China in the picture.

The Trump administration is preparing to tell Russian leaders next week that it is planning to exit the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, in part to enable the United States to counter a Chinese arms buildup in the Pacific, according to American officials and foreign diplomats.

President Trump has been moving toward scrapping the three-decade-old treaty, which grew out of President Ronald Reagan’s historic meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986. While the treaty was seen as effective for years, Russia has been violating it at least since 2014 in an effort to menace other nations.

But the pact has also constrained the United States from deploying new weapons to respond to China’s efforts to cement a dominant position in the Western Pacific and to keep American naval forces at bay. Because China was not a signatory to the treaty, it has faced no limits on developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles, which can travel thousands of miles.

The White House said that no official decision had been made to leave the treaty, known as I.N.F., which at the time of its signing was considered a critical step in defusing Cold War tensions. But in the coming weeks, Mr. Trump is expected to sign off on the decision, which would mark the first time he has scrapped an arms control treaty, the American officials said.

Now that the treaty is largely in tatters, the question is whether the decision to leave it will accelerate the increasingly Cold War-like behavior among the three superpowers: the United States, Russia and China.

As Russia has flown bombers over Europe and has conducted troop exercises on its borders with former Soviet states, the United States and its NATO allies have been rotating forces through countries under threat. Ukraine has become a low-level battleground, with ground skirmishes and a daily cyberconflict. China and the United States are jostling for position around reefs in the South China Sea that Beijing has turned into military bases, and they are both preparing for any possibility of war in space.

It's absolutely true that Russia walked away from the INF treaty in 2014, but the EU, particularly Germany, didn't want another European arms race.  However, John Bolton's Mustache has prevailed, and the treaty will be scrapped soon, and as Russia plays both the US and China against the middle, it's Putin who will get the last laugh.

Hell, he might be the only around to laugh when the fallout stops.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Justice Department on Friday brought charges against a Putin ally in a Russian plot to interfere in the 2018 elections.  This is not a drill, this is the DoJ charging Russians with trying to mess with our elections right now.

Russians working for a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin engaged in an elaborate campaign of “information warfare” to interfere with the midterm elections, federal prosecutors said on Friday in announcing they had charged one of them in the plot.

The woman, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg, was involved in an effort “to spread distrust towards candidates for U.S. political office and the U.S. political system,” prosecutors said.

Ms. Khusyaynova managed millions of dollars for a company owned by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch who was previously indicted on charges of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, to finance foreign influence activities directed at the United States. Some of the money was spent on advertising on social media in the United States, buying internet domain names and “promoting news postings on social networks.”

The conspirators seized on divisions in American politics, prosecutors said, including immigration, guns, race relations, women and even the debate over the protests by National Football League players during the national anthem
. They adopted a variety of ideological perspectives, writing on varied topics and from opposing views, prosecutors said. No one was named in court papers besides Ms. Khusyaynova.

The conspirators “took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists,” prosecutors wrote

Russian bots are purposely making our divisive society worse by picking fights, and them amplifying those fights using social media. And let's not forget that for the last two years, the Trump regime has been not only actively denying that this was happening, but going out of their way to make our elections more vulnerable.

The bigger issue is that these attacks are going on and Trump is doing nothing to stop them.  It's good then that the FBI is working to try to defend the country, but they sure aren't going to get any help and any support from Trump.  Remember, for two years, Russian meddling in the elections has been "fake news".

Now we have federal charges filed that not only say that it's not fake news, but that it's happening now, in real time, and most likely is still happening.

The Russians are attacking our elections now.  Right now.  Openly.

And Ms. Khusyaynova here?  The accountant paying for all of this.

Prosecutors said Khusyaynova is the chief accountant for a Russian umbrella effort called Project Lakhta, funded by a Russian oligarch whose Concord companies were named in the July indictment brought by Mueller involving attempted meddling in the 2016 election

Concord Management is owned by Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, also known as "Putin's chef," who is closely linked to the Russian president. It provides food services at the Kremlin.

Mueller has indicted Prighozin as part of his probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller's office indicted Prighozin and 12 other Russian nationals in February on charges including interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In June, Mueller said in a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that the government believes foreign "individuals and entities" are continuing to "engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment." The filing sought to protect evidence requested by Prighozin's company.

Follow the money, and you'll find Vlad behind it, I guarantee.

Stay tuned.

I Dunno, Alaska If I Get The Chance, Con't

A few days ago I noted that the nation's only independent governor, Bill Walker of Alaska, had his Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott resign over "inappropriate comments to women" almost overnight.  This was odd enough with three weeks to go in the race, but I noted these comments in the story that were actually far more interesting.

Walker campaign manager, John-Henry Heckendorn, told the Associated Press that the campaign has been in conversations with Begich's campaign for several days about a "path forward for Alaska." He declined to go into details, but he said the conversations were prompted by concerns about Dunleavy and the dynamics of a three-way race. The talks so far have been "inconclusive" but will continue, Heckendorn said.

The polls showed the Republican in the race, former state Senator Mike Dunleavy, was ahead in the three-way contest with both Walker and Begich, with Dunleavy in the upper 40's and both Walker and Begich splitting the rest, which would make Dunleavy the easy winner.

But it looks like Walker realized he has no chance to win...and Friday he dropped out of the race to support Begich.

I believe we cannot win a three-way race,” said Mr. Walker, a former Republican who left his party to win election as an independent in 2014. Mr. Walker said he had concluded that former United States Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat, “has a better chance of running a competitive race” against their Republican opponent, Mike J. Dunleavy, a well-financed Republican former state senator.

Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy,” Mr. Walker said. He urged his followers to vote for Mr. Begich even though his own name will still be on the ballot.

And not only is Walker dropping out of the race, he's wrecking any chance of going back to the Alaska Republican party.

As governor, Mr. Walker was careful not to burn bridges with Republicans in trying to get legislation passed. But in his statement to Alaskans on Friday, he went ahead and lit the flames. Mr. Walker made it clear, in a point-by-point analysis of Mr. Dunleavy’s record and statements on campaign trail, his view that Mr. Dunleavy was a wrong choice for the state on everything from taxes to health care.

“On balance, it is my belief that despite my many differences with Mark Begich, his stance on the important issues I have listed above more closely align with my priorities for Alaska,” Mr. Walker said.

There's more there, a lot more.   I wonder what it is, but Walker tossing a Molotov cocktail over his shoulder on the way out the door like this makes me think a hell of a lot is going on where there's more to this story.

Stay tuned.

And go Mark Begich...

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