Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Last Call For No Place Like Home, Con't

Even Google realizes that investing in affordable housing in the Bay Area is a necessity or workers will be completely priced out of their campus.

Google is committing $1 billion to try to provide more affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, where big tech firms have been blamed for putting home prices out of reach for anyone without a rich stock-option plan. Google says the money should result in 20,000 new homes added to the local market, over 10 years.

"We hope this plays a role in addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement unveiling the plan Tuesday.

As Google and other big tech companies have thrived, many people have struggled to find housing in the region or have been forced into lengthy commutes — 90 miles in at least one case.

People earning $100,000 can afford to live in only 28 percent of the Bay Area's neighborhoods, member station KQED reported last month, based on a review of housing costs and median rent rates. And a study published in April found that the Bay Area had the third-largest population of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S.

Google's announcement comes one week after Mountain View's city council postponed a move to ban RVs from parking overnight on the city's streets — a phenomenon that made headlines last month when reports emerged that hundreds of people were living in RVs to escape high rents.

As Bloomberg reported in May, RVs and vans line the streets of some neighborhoods. Some of the people who live in them have been in the area for decades; others are lower-paid Google workers who can't afford to pay the rent on an apartment close to their jobs.

The problem is nobody already living in Silly Valley wants affordable housing, especially multi-family housing, because that means those people will move in and crash property values.  The NIMBY factor for affordable housing on the West Coast is off the charts.

Google is helping at least, but the real problem is zoning.  And zoning won't change because politicians who do re-zone will be slaughtered at the polls.

Here's the thing though, housing markets eventually crash.  When it happens in the Bay Area, watch out.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Freshman U.S. Rep. Katie Porter on Monday threw her support behind an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, adding another Democratic lawmaker to those clamoring for the move

The congresswoman from Irvine, California, announced her decision in a video statement. About 60 other lawmakers support opening an inquiry, a far cry from a majority in the 435-seat House.

Porter said she believes Congress must investigate after special counsel Robert Mueller said he couldn't exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice in a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and didn't have the option to indict a sitting president.

"I cannot with a clean conscience ignore my duty to defend the Constitution. I can't claim to be committed to rooting out corruption and putting people over politics and then not apply those same principles and standards in all of the work I do," Porter said.

She called out the administration for ignoring subpoenas and directing officials to disregard summons to testify before Congress.

"The administration has refused to respect the rule of law," Porter said. "The question is not whether a crisis is in our midst but rather whether we choose to fight against it."

Porter, a consumer protection lawyer and law professor at the University of California, Irvine, was elected last year in one of several contested races that put all the traditionally Republican districts in Orange County under Democratic control amid Trump's low approval ratings.

But Republicans still outnumber Democrats in her district covering a swath of eastern Orange County and hold a slight edge in the county as a whole. Porter already has a number of Republican challengers seeking her seat in 2020.

Fred Whitaker, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, called Porter "too far left" for her district and "out of touch."

"She doesn't have the support of her district. She doesn't even have the support of Speaker Pelosi," Whitaker said.

Whitaker's argument is actually pretty sound.  She does not have the support from Nancy Pelosi, because Nancy Pelosi does not believe the case has been made to the American public in order to begin an impeachment inquiry.  Pelosi has made it clear that there has to be a sea change in public opinion before she will commit to such a move.

I can see Pelosi's point.  Democrats only get one shot at this, and right now Trump has all but promised that he will absolutely have us in a shooting war with Iran, deep into a massive ICE deportation pogrom, or indicting FBI investigators who dared to look into his malfeasance (or a combination of all three) as soon as Pelosi makes her move.  And let's face it, Mitch McConnell will never allow a real vote to remove Trump.  A Senate trial will be a voice vote, Democrats will complain all they want to, but it will be over in a day.

Having said that, removing Trump at the ballot box is also going to be problematic.

Again, I don't honestly have the answers here.  But Rep. Porter does a good job of laying out the case as to why Trump should be impeached, and it's worth having that PDF on hand.

Deportation Nation, Con't

If you've ever wondered what would happen if a fascist regime had social media, the answer is "announce mass police action against millions on Twitter" on a random Monday night.

President Trump said in a tweet Monday night that U.S. immigration agents are planning to make mass arrests starting “next week,” an apparent reference to a plan in preparation for months that aims to round up thousands of migrant parents and children in a blitz operation across major U.S. cities.

“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” Trump wrote, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “They will be removed as fast as they come in.”

Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets. In 2018, Trump and other senior officials threatened the mayor of Oakland, Calif., with criminal prosecution for alerting city residents that immigration raids were in the works.

Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the Justice Department this year as part of a plan known as the “rocket docket.”

In April, acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were ousted after they hesitated to go forward with the plan, expressing concerns about its preparation, effectiveness and the risk of public outrage from images of migrant children being taken into custody or separated from their families.

Everything's fine thought, right?

Seriously, I've been warning about Trump's upcoming mass deportation regime as his key to 2020 victory for months, if not years now, and the reality is the only thing we were waiting on was the logistics.  They're in place now, the jackbooted thugs, the concentration camps, and the big ugly is coming.

I'd say something pithy like "Well this is as close to ethnic cleansing as America gets" except even a cursory glance at US history involving the federal government's treatment of Native Americans, black slaves and freemen, Chinese immigrants, and Japanese-Americans interred puts lie to that, so much so that we're just returning to form as a nation.

Things are bad now.  They are about to get significantly worse.


Monday, June 17, 2019

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

Dallas Morning News photographer Tom Fox was at the federal courthouse in Dallas to cover a trial when he snapped a picture of a man in combat fatigues and mask approaching the building.  The story happened from there.

A man in a mask and combat gear was fatally shot Monday morning in downtown Dallas after he opened fire with an assault weapon outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building. No one else was injured.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno identified the gunman as Brian Isaack Clyde, 22, at a news conference on a street corner near the federal building. Clyde died at the scene and was taken to Baylor University Medical Center, officials said.

Neither DeSarno nor Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, gave any indication why Clyde targeted the federal building. They also did not say who shot Clyde after police responded to an active-shooter call.

"We're looking into motive," DeSarno said at an afternoon news conference. DeSarno said the FBI had not investigated Clyde before the shooting and he was not on any watch list. Investigator were "aggressively pursing" his social media presence, the agent said.

Dallas Morning News photographer Tom Fox saw Clyde fire outside the building on Jackson Street and took photos as the shooting occurred.

Fox said Clyde fired from the parking lot across the street toward him, another man, a security guard and a woman who was walking a golden retriever.

The windows in a revolving door and two side doors at one entrance were broken. It was unclear whether Clyde or law-enforcement personnel had shot the door.

Fox's photos show authorities surrounding Clyde as he lay in a parking lot where he'd run and fallen after the shooting.

In one photo, a Homeland Security agent with blue latex gloves is hovering over Clyde. In others, Clyde is shirtless and law enforcement officers, including the agent, kneel around him. On Clyde's left arm, he had a red heart tattoo with the silhouette of a cat inside it.

And of course, the gunman was a white ex-military type.

Attacking a guarded federal courthouse went as it should, the gunman was shot and killed and nobody else injured.  But as always, this will be dismissed as a "crazy lone wolf" and not be flagged as part of a deadly pattern that has only grown worse over the last 25 years.

America has a serious problem with its military and police being infested with white supremacists and outright Nazi fascists.  The fact this isn't Moday's top story tells you just how bad the problem of Trumpian stochastic terrorism is.

A Supreme Victory In Virginia

In a 5-4 decision Monday, the US Supreme Court blocked Virginia Republicans from redrawing the already redrawn district maps in the state in place to prevent racial gerrymandering favoring the GOP.

In the 5-4 ruling, the justices found that the House didn't have the standing to appeal a lower court ruling that found that the new district maps must be used ahead of the 2020 elections. Those new maps are already in use.

Democrats claimed that the districts were unlawful because they featured too many black voters, diminishing their power across the state and in other districts.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch.

Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh dissented.

Virginia Democrats had challenged the 11 districts for the state’s House of Delegates, which were drawn after the 2010 census, and each have a population with at least 55 percent black residents of voting age.

The Supreme Court has previously held that race can’t be the leading factor in the creation of state districts. The justices first took on the case in 2015, but sent it back down to a lower court for reconsideration.

But lawyers for the GOP-held House of Delegates claimed that by making sure that each legislative district had 55 percent black voters, the state was ensuring that their voting power wasn’t diminished.

Virginia House Democrats celebrated the ruling in a statement Monday, calling it "a major win for voting rights and civil rights in our Commonwealth.”

"House Republicans have spent millions of taxpayer dollars defending racial gerrymandering in a protracted legal battle - a battle in which they lacked legal standing," House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn and Caucus Chairwoman Charniele Herring said in a joint statement.

In other words, Gorsuch pulled a Scalia and sided with the Court's four liberals, finding them to be correct on a technicality.

This should have been a 9-0 ruling for the same reason, but of course there's almost always 4 votes for the "whatever we can justify helping the GOP" position, which Scalia was often guilty of (see Hobby Lobby) and Gorsuch is no different.  He just decided the battle was a moot point, as new maps will be created in 2022 anyway.

Still, a win is a win.

The Sleeper Awakens

My big complaint about the Democratic primary season so far is that Democrats are basically making zero national effort to go after Donald Trump in the meantime, while he gets the bully pulpit and free TV coverage every time he goes after a Democrat in the race.  As the first Democratic debates draw near, national Democrats are finally mobilizing against the real threat, and in a huge way.

Democrats are preparing to kick off a campaign totaling hundreds of millions of dollars to blunt Donald Trump’s head start in the 2020 campaign as their party's candidates slug it out for the right to take him on.

Democratic super PACs are set to soon launch a yearlong $150 million advertising onslaught countering the millions the president’s campaign has already spent targeting voters. On top of that, billionaire Tom Steyer is funding other groups testing a range of strategies to register and turn out people to vote. And the Democratic National Committee this week began training hundreds of college students to work as field staff in battleground states, an effort that will continue throughout the election.

The efforts, described to POLITICO by operatives involved in the plans, come as some Democrats worry that Trump is going largely untouched during the Democratic primary, amassing huge sums money and lobbing bombs at his would-be rivals as they wage war among themselves. Those concerns were given voice last week by former Obama adviser Ben LaBolt, who wrote in an op-ed in The Atlantic that Trump is “running unopposed” in the 2020 race as his would-be rivals scrap for position in the Democratic primary.

But Democrats interviewed by POLITICO insist that while LaBolt put his finger on a critical imperative, the party apparatus is not sitting on its hands. Instead, they are taking early steps to build a massive anti-Trump effort, preparing to shoulder the load until well into next year, before the eventual nominee’s campaign can build back up its bank account after a depleting primary.

The work to counter Trump, who formed his reelection campaign within weeks of being sworn in as president, needs to start early and build to a massive effort, Democrats say — especially because the party’s primary is expected to last well into 2020 and deplete the eventual nominee’s bank account.
“It’s nuts for us to spend money on Democrats fighting Democrats,” said Andrew Tobias, a former DNC treasurer who plans to mostly forgo activity in the primary and focus instead of raising money to power the DNC’s youth field program. “I’ve given 2 percent to one primary candidate, but 98 percent of my budget [is for] the early organizing and registration we need to build a massive blue wave. And I’ve done it now — not next year when it will be flooding in — because giving it now is so much more powerful.”

The effort is ramping up months after the president’s campaign began the nuts-and-bolts work to secure his reelection, hosting rallies and unleashing close to $6 million in advertising on Facebook alone, according to the company’s political ad disclosures.

Some of the Democratic operatives most focused on Trump worry that by the time Democrats winnow their 23-person primary field to one, the president may have secured himself a hard-to-beat advantage if Democrats don’t successfully mount a sustained push against Trump in a swath of 2020 battleground states. There are already significant obstacles: The DNC has raised $27 million this year, less than half than the $62 million the Trump-fueled Republican National Committee has pulled in.

“I take very seriously the fact that Republicans and Trump are already communicating under the radar to sets of voters they are already in threat of losing,” said David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, who has been working to raise funds and counter the Trump campaign’s advertising online in his state. “If Trump has an entire year to be hitting these voters with all sorts of garbage, the mindset will be cemented in with a lot of voters by the time we find them.”

I'm glad Democrats are finally realizing that being this deep in the hole against Trump is a bad thing, and that they are going to be hitting back hard.  We'll see how the effort goes over the early debates this summer.

But there's a lot of work to be done still, especially if Dems want any headway.  And should Trump start that war with Iran, all those Democratic campaign ads against him go into the trash with Trump wrapping himself in the flag.

It's a race to see who can get their machine going first.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Last Call For He Blinded Science With Me

The autocratic purge of civilian science advisers from the US federal government has now gone into overdrive as the Trump regime is cutting federal agency advisory boards by at least one-third and probably by a lot more.

President Trump is directing all agencies to cut their advisory boards by “at least” one third.

The executive order issued Friday evening directs all federal agencies to “evaluate the need” for each of their current advisory committees.

The order gives agencies until Sept. 30 to terminate, at a minimum, one-third of their committees.

Committees that qualify for the chopping block include those that have completed their objective, had their work taken up by other panels or where the subject matter has “become obsolete.”

Another defining factor listed includes whether the agency itself has determined that the cost of operating the agency is “excessive in relation to the benefits to the Federal Government.”

Critics say the order is another administration attack on experts who provide scientific advice.

“For the past two years they have been shrinking and restricting the role of federal science advisory committees,” Gretchen Goldman, the research director with the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union for Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “Now they’re removing the possibility of even making decisions based on robust science advice. It's no longer death by a thousand cuts. It's taking a knife to the jugular.”

There are an average of 1,000 advisory committees with more than 60,000 members, according to data from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), that cover a range of topics including disposal of high-level nuclear waste, the depletion of atmospheric ozone, addressing AIDS and improving schools.

They are often filled by people considered to be at the top of their fields who can provide important technical advice, and GSA said the boards and committees “have played an important role in shaping programs and policies of the federal government from the earliest days of the Republic.”

Friday’s order is the most dramatic step in the Trump administration’s escalating pushback to the advisory committees.

Getting rid of at least 20,000 experts in various fields is a guaranteed path towards a government that doesn't work, which is exactly what Trump wants in order to claim then that only he, Dear Leader, is qualified to run all aspects of the country.   Besides, Republicans don't want experts, they want lackeys.

The Return Of Revenge Of The Son Of Shutdown Countdown

The 2019 budget fight is fast approaching, and Senate Republicans and the Trump regime simply do not know how to handle House Democrats having the power of the purse strings.

Senate Republicans and the Trump administration are struggling to reach an agreement on a path forward on critical budget and spending issues, threatening not only another government shutdown and deep spending cuts but a federal default that could hit the economy hard. 
GOP leaders have spent months cajoling President Trump in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that would fund the government and raise the limit on federal borrowing this fall, but their efforts have yet to produce a deal. And the uncertain path forward was underscored a few days ago at the Capitol, when a budget meeting between key Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and senior White House officials left out Democrats, whose votes will be imperative to avoid a shutdown and an economy-shaking breach of the federal debt limit. 
“We’re negotiating with ourselves right now,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). “The president, the administration, has some views, maybe, that are a little different sometimes than the Senate Republicans have. So we’re trying to see if we can be together as best we can.” 
The GOP dysfunction — coupled with a new House Democratic majority with its own priorities — leaves the sides much farther apart than they were at this point in last year’s budget process, which ended in a record-long government funding lapse. At the time, Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, but negotiations stalled over funding Trump’s immigration priorities. 
Trump and Congress face a trio of difficult budget issues. Congress must pass, and Trump must sign, funding legislation by Oct. 1 to avoid a new shutdown. They need to raise the federal debt limit around the same time, according to the latest estimates. Failure to do so would force the government to make difficult decisions about which obligations to pay, and could be considered a default by investors, shaking markets and an economy already showing some signs of alarm.  And by year’s end, they also need to agree on how to lift austere budget caps that will otherwise snap into place and slash $125 billion from domestic and military programs. 
Senate Republicans and the administration thus far have not agreed on how to proceed on any of the issues, making it all but impossible for them to enter into substantive negotiations with Democrats. That has left the Capitol in a state of suspension over what the coming months will hold. 
“True to form, Congress and the White House seem to be intent on waiting until the absolute last minute to address all these issues that we’ve known about,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Basically everything they could do wrong, they are doing wrong.” 
Tensions between key Senate Republicans and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney have been on display for months, and GOP lawmakers and aides partially blame that frayed relationship for the halting pace of talks. Mulvaney was a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus before he joined the administration, first as White House budget director before becoming acting chief of staff, and he has advocated dramatic spending cuts opposed by lawmakers of both parties. 
Mulvaney has been slow to come around to the need for a bipartisan budget deal that would raise domestic and military spending caps, even after McConnell met privately with Trump last month and got the president’s blessing to proceed with such a deal, said a senior GOP Senate aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

In other words, absolutely count on a government shutdown this fall.  The only question is how long it will be, and how much damage Republicans will do to an already weakening economy.

Sunday Long Read: A Syria's Catastrophe

Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer goes to Syria to cover the civil war there for this week's Sunday Long Read, an indispensable piece on the bloody whirlwind that is the enduring humanitarian catastrophe of our generation. Twelve million refugees, a half-million dead, and a Byzantine proxy war mess that has irrevocably changed Middle Eastern politics and history forever, and most Americans simply don't have a clue.

There are four main types of Americans fighting on the ground in Syria: special forces soldiers, CIA agents, Islamic extremists, and anarchists. As I putter in a motorboat across the Tigris River one afternoon in May 2018, I have no idea which of these, if any, I will encounter in the weeks ahead. The Pentagon already told me I couldn’t tag along with its troops; the CIA doesn’t publicly admit to having anything to do with Syria; the extremists would be happy to see me dead; and the anarchists tend to be cautious about tipping off the feds that they are fighting in a foreign country.

I disembark with a handful of locals and walk up a gravelly slope to a small shack. Iraq, which I just came from, is on the opposite side of the river. Turkey is not far upstream. A man with a wrinkled, sun-worn face and an AK-47 asks for our passports.

I don’t have a visa. One month after I submitted my application for one, the Syrian government dropped a chemical bomb on a building in Ghouta, outside Damascus. The United Nations said it killed 49 civilians, including 11 children. As I was waiting for a decision, President Donald Trump tweeted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—“Animal Assad”—would pay a “big price” for the attack. Less than a week later, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France bombed several research and military buildings. The Syrian Embassy in Beirut emailed me shortly afterward: “We want to inform you that your visa request has been rejected due to the lack of objectivity in the reports approaching the Syrian crisis.”

But this border crossing isn’t controlled by the Assad government. It’s controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of militias backed by the United States and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The SDF currently controls about 25 percent of Syria, an area known as the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. The area encompasses largely Arab regions as well as most of the predominantly Kurdish region Rojava. Most of the roughly 2,000 US special operations troops in Syria are based in the region, spread across about a dozen bases.

As the Kurdish border guard with the AK flips through my passport, his face brightens. “Are you American?” he asks. “You are holy to us! The Kurdish people love Americans!” He lights a cigarette and takes a drag. “If it was up to us, we wouldn’t let the Americans leave,” he says. “They would stay here forever.” He tells me Turkish troops occasionally fire mortars at their position, small reminders of what awaits if US forces withdraw.

“Will they leave us?” another man asks me. He is Arab.

“It’s not clear,” I say. Five weeks earlier, Trump had announced he was pulling all US troops out of Syria “very soon,” but he’d walked back his statement a few days later. It wouldn’t be the last time he would do so.

“Maybe they will leave,” the Arab man says.

“No!” exclaims the wrinkled border guard.

“We have oil, so much oil,” the Arab says. “Let them stay and take the oil.”

“If American and Western companies—not Russian companies!—came and explored the region, they’d find more oil than Iraq,” the Kurd says. “There is oil, there is gas, there is phosphorus, whatever you want!” A chorus of birds rises with the waning heat. “We do whatever the coalition tells us to do. Directly! If it wasn’t for the coalition, we wouldn’t be here.” Assad, Turkey, what’s left of the Islamic State, and many of the rebel groups that were armed and trained by the CIA want to see the end of this breakaway territory. “If someone defends you, aren’t you going to give your life and your children’s lives to him? That’s the law of the universe, my brother.

I've been digesting this piece since Wednesday and I have to say it's one of the best things I've read in years, this is Pulitzer-quality stuff here and while I often say "Read the whole thing" this is one time where I believe it's in your vital interests to do so.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Last Call For Lights Out, Comrade

As I've said before, Trump's clear intent to criminalize America's intelligence agencies for daring to investigate him over Russian collusion (along with GOP Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's refusal to authorize even a vote on strengthening our defenses against Russian cyberwarfare) was always going to lead to massive, devastating, and embarrassing leaks by aforementioned intelligence agencies, and we got one of those shots across the bow today with this NY Times story.

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.

Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.

But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

The administration declined to describe specific actions it was taking under the new authorities, which were granted separately by the White House and Congress last year to United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world.

But in a public appearance on Tuesday, President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the United States was now taking a broader view of potential digital targets as part of an effort “to say to Russia, or anybody else that’s engaged in cyberoperations against us, ‘You will pay a price.’”

Oh, but this isn't just letting the Russians know we have them by the megawatts.  This is letting Trump know that if he won't act, the CIA will.

Mr. Trump issued new authorities to Cyber Command last summer, in a still-classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13, giving General Nakasone far more leeway to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval.

But the action inside the Russian electric grid appears to have been conducted under little-noticed new legal authorities, slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer. The measure approved the routine conduct of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace, to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.”

Under the law, those actions can now be authorized by the defense secretary without special presidential approval.

“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” one senior intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity but declining to discuss any specific classified programs. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”

The critical question — impossible to know without access to the classified details of the operation — is how deep into the Russian grid the United States has bored. Only then will it be clear whether it would be possible to plunge Russia into darkness or cripple its military — a question that may not be answerable until the code is activated.

And finally, this coup de grace...

Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.

Trump is finding out this exists only because the NY Times is telling him.  His own people kept him in the dark, on purpose.  And there's the very real possibility that one of the people who kept him in the dark about this was John Bolton's Mustache.  Russia knew, otherwise the story never would have been leaked.  Bolton obviously knew, he's hated Russia and Putin for years.

But nobody told Trump.  On purpose.

Welcome to the spook show, Donny.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

A new investigative report finds hundreds, maybe thousands of current and former cops are members of white supremacist, Confederate, and anti-government militia groups online, straight-up trading information and stories about how they got away with destroying the lives of black and brown people.

Hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from across the United States are members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia groups on Facebook, a Reveal investigation has found.

These cops have worked at every level of American law enforcement, from tiny, rural sheriff’s departments to the largest agencies in the country, such as the Los Angeles and New York police departments. They work in jails and schools and airports, on boats and trains and in patrol cars. And, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting discovered, they also read and contribute to groups such as “White Lives Matter” and “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.”

The groups cover a range of extremist ideologies. Some present themselves publicly as being dedicated to benign historical discussion of the Confederacy, but are replete with racism inside. Some trade in anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant memes. Some are openly Islamophobic. And almost 150 of the officers we found are involved with violent anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.

More than 50 departments launched internal investigations after being presented with our findings, in some cases saying they would examine officers’ past conduct to see if their online activity mirrored their policing in real life. And some departments have taken action, with at least one officer being fired for violating department policies.

U.S. law enforcement agencies, many of which have deeply troubled histories of discrimination, have long been accused of connections between officers and extremist groups. At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, marchers flew a “Blue Lives Matter” flag alongside anti-Semitic and white supremacist messages. In Portland, Oregon, police officers were found to have been texting with a far-right group that regularly hosts white supremacists and white nationalists at its rallies. A classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept, warned that white supremacists and other far-right groups had infiltrated American law enforcement.

It can be difficult to determine how deep or widespread these connections run. Researchers recently found numerous examples of police officers posting violent and racist content on their public Facebook pages. Reveal’s investigation shows for the first time that officers in agencies across the country have actively joined private hate groups, participating in the spread of extremism on Facebook.

Most of the hateful Facebook groups these cops frequent are closed, meaning only members are allowed to see content posted by other members. Reveal joined dozens of these groups and verified the identities of almost 400 current and retired law enforcement officials who are members.
One guard at the Angola prison in Louisiana, Geoffery Crosby, was a member of 56 extremist groups, including 45 Confederate groups and one called “BAN THE NAACP.”

A detective at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Houston, James “J.T.” Thomas, was a member of the closed Facebook group “The White Privilege Club.”

The group contains hundreds of hateful, racist and anti-Semitic posts; links to interviews with white supremacists such as Richard Spencer; and invites to events such as the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Users regularly post memes featuring Pepe the Frog, the alt-right mascot, with captions such as, “white people, do something.” And there are explicitly racist jokes, such as one with a photo of fried chicken and grape soda with the caption, “Mom packed me a niggable for school.”

Thomas once posted the logo for the Black College Football Hall of Fame inside the group with a simple caption: “Seriously. Why?” Soon after, he posted a meme about an elderly African American woman confusedly responding to a reporter’s question by naming a fried chicken restaurant.

After being presented with Thomas’ postings on Facebook, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office fired him in February for violating a number of employee conduct policies.

“These policies state that ‘an employee’s actions must never bring the HCSO into disrepute, nor should conduct be detrimental to the HCSO’s efficient operation. … Personnel who, through their use of social media, cause undue embarrassment or damage the reputation of, or erode the public’s confidence in, the HCSO shall be deemed to have violated this policy and shall be subject to counseling and/or discipline,” the department said in an email.

In a hearing to appeal his firing, Thomas said he didn’t realize he was a member of the closed group and defended his behavior. “If you remove the black female out of the picture, what’s racist about it?” he said. The Harris County Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission upheld his firing.
Lonnie Allen Brown of the Kingsville Police Department in Texas, a member of three Islamophobic groups, posted a photo of a young black man with a pistol to his head with the header, “If Black lives really mattered …. They’d stop shooting each other!” He also posted an image that read: “Islam. A cult of oppression, rape, pedophilia and murder cannot be reasoned with!” Neither he nor his department returned calls for comment.

As far as I can tell, only one person has been fired for being a member of these Facebook groups.  Facebook allows them to exist, the cops continue to hang out and spread hatred, the police departments do nothing, the police unions do nothing, and black and brown folk continue to be killed by police.

Tell me again how "All Lives Matter" when cops think people who look like me are subhuman filth who can be killed with impunity.

A Higher Collins

Maine GOP senator and professional concern troll Susan Collins has apparently drawn a serious challenger for 2020, the state's Democratic House Speaker, Sara Gideon.

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, is expected to formally announce in the coming weeks that she’s running for Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ seat in 2020, five Democratic sources confirmed to HuffPost.

She will likely launch her campaign shortly after the close of the state’s legislative session on June 19, the three Democratic sources in Maine and two national Democratic strategists said.

Defeating Collins, the Maine moderate who infuriated liberals with her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is key to Democratic hopes of winning back control of the Senate in 2020. Gideon is a top-tier recruit for the race and is expected to have at least the tacit backing of establishment groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List.

At the same time, the Senate GOP is marshaling its resources to defend Collins, who has long outperformed other Republicans on the ballot in Maine.

Gideon hinted last October that she would toss her hat in the ring following Collins’ controversial vote for Kavanaugh.

“Maine deserves a champion in the US Senate,” Gideon wrote in a Facebook post at the time. “After November I will be seriously considering how I can elevate the voices of people who deserve and demand to be heard and represented in Washington, DC.”

Gideon did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

This is arguably the most important Senate race in 2020 outside of Mitch McConnell himself, for the Dems to have any hope whatsoever of getting control of the Senate back, they have to take Susan Collins out.   Here's hoping Gideon can do the job.  Collins has been one of Trump's most awful enablers, grousing about Trump causing her concerns but of course her Trump score is 71%, including approving almost all of Trump's cabinet selections.

Collins, like all GOP Trump enablers, need to go.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

As Adam Serwer makes clear, 2019 has rapidly become the year where the autocratic goals of the white supremacist right have become crystal clear, not just in America but around the world.

The past few weeks have witnessed a nasty internecine fight among religious conservatives about whether liberal democracy’s time has passed. Sohrab Ahmari, writing at First Things, attacked National Review’s David French for adhering to a traditional commitment to liberal democracy while “the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us.” Would the left have stood by liberal democracy in the face of such circumstances? In fact, the balance of forces tilted away from the left’s cultural priorities for most of my lifetime, and the left’s response was to win arguments—slowly, painfully, and at incalculable personal cost. 
Many religious conservatives see antidiscrimination laws that compel owners of public accommodations to serve all customers, laws that might compel priests to break the seal of confession if they are told of child abuse, and the growing acceptance of trans people as a kind of impending apocalypse. It is no surprise that among their co-partisans, Ahmari seems to have the upper hand here; in such circles, “Crush your enemies” almost always plays better than “The other side has rights too.” 
The concerns Ahmari airs are not wholly without merit: Religious conservatives are not paranoid to imagine themselves pariahs someday in the future because of their views; it was not so long ago that liberal champions such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held public positions that today would be described by the left as bigotry. Nor should the left expect to win every battle with the right over matters of religious conscience; there will be moments when its opponents are correct. The same wall between Church and state that prevents the state from being dominated by the Church also bars the state from dictating the religious commitments of the Church. A law that compels Catholic priests to break the seal of confession, for example, likely runs afoul of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, despite the state’s obvious and compelling interest in preventing child abuse, and despite the Church’s abysmal record in doing so
In spite of their disagreements, Ahmari and French are in accord about a great deal when it comes to abortion, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. French’s adherence to liberal democracy is a commitment to a set of rules under which these goals can be pursued in a pluralistic society: through public discourse, the courts, and the ballot box. For Ahmari and his ilk, this is insufficient. He seems to believe not only that the state should always settle such disputes in his favor, but that it should prevent cultural and political expressions he finds distasteful. 
This isn’t an exaggeration. In a since-deleted tweet, Ahmari praised Alabama Public Television for refusing to air an episode of the cartoon Arthur in which the titular character’s male teacher marries another man; his attack on French was preceded by another since-deleted eruption, over Drag Queen Story Hour at a public library, in which he cried, “To hell with liberal order”; and he has since suggested the humanities should be defunded because “they may be lost to us for good.” If this is where Ahmari and his cohort are while the GOP still controls the courts, the Senate, and the presidency, imagine what they’ll be willing to countenance should they lose them. 
Ahmari’s demands here outline the United States that illiberals would like to see: one that resembles Orbán’s Hungary, where rigged electoral systemsensure that political competition is minimal, the press is tightly controlled by an alliance between corporations and the state on behalf of the ruling party, national identity is defined in religious and ethnic terms, and cultural expressions are closely policed by the state to ensure compliance with that identity. It is no surprise that the vast majority of black and Latino Christians see a secular but pluralist left as more trustworthy allies than conservatives who rail against “poisonous and censorious multiculturalism,” and darkly warn of a plot to “displace American citizens.” 
When Ahmari was asked, however, by Jane Coaston at Vox what his “ideal order” would look like, he said, “Working mothers wouldn’t be expected to return to work a mere eight weeks after giving birth.” This sort of obvious, coy insincerity about the actual nature of the changes they seek is one of the major reasons religious conservatives like Ahmari have lost so much ground in the public square, and why the left is inclined to view their demands for religious exceptions to be thinly veiled excuses for discrimination. The question of whether working mothers deserve more generous maternity leave does not represent a bitter split between the religious right and the secular left, nor is it given prominence in his manifesto, which focuses on crushing the left, or, as he put it, fighting “the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.” 
Although the intraconservative critiques leveled by Ahmari and his allies sometimes take on the language of opposition to market fundamentalism, they are not truly opposed to the concentration of power and capital. These critics observe the decline in wages and community that has resulted from this concentration, and propose to do nothing at all about it other than seize that power for themselves, to be used to their ends. The illiberals see the wealthy and upper-middle classes getting married, forming families, and raising children much as they did in the 1950s, and conclude that the problem with working-class Americans is not the diminished political power relative to their bosses, but the absence of a sharp enough lash, whether from the state or from a culture that has escaped the religious right’s grasp. Gillette should be making commercials about women staying at home and fathers going off to work, not dads teaching their trans sons to shave for the first time
This understanding also helps illuminate the right’s eruption over YouTube’s decision to demonetize (but not remove) the channel of Steven Crowder, a conservative YouTuber who called the Vox reporter Carlos Maza a “lispy queer,” among other slurs. A world in which one can refer to gay people as “lispy queers” without repercussion is one in which the illiberal right is winning the culture war, so it matters little that YouTube is no less a private business than Masterpiece Cakeshop, and has a right to define the rules for using its platform. The same sort of protests that the right decries as illiberal when deployed against right-wing speakers on college campuses are suddenly a legitimate tactic when used against Drag Queen Story Hour. The objective here, in Ahmari’s words, is to defeat “the enemy,” not adhere to principle, and that requires destigmatizing anew the kind of bigotry that was once powerful enough to sway elections. 
Indeed, the illiberal faction in this debate retains Trump as its champion precisely because the president is willing to use the power of the state for sectarian ends, despite being an exemplar of the libertinism to which it is supposedly implacably opposed, a man whose major legislative accomplishment is slashing taxes on the wealthy, and whose most significant contribution to the institution of the family is destroying thousands of them on purpose. It is power that is the motivator here, and the best that could be said for these American Orbánists is that they believe that asserting an iron grip on American politics and culture would offer the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Every authoritarian movement has felt the same way.

And that's where we are right now in America, one side going "Everyone should have rights and may the best ideas that don't trample on those rights prevail" and the other now saying "We should take rights away from as many groups as possible in order to preserve our ideas as the correct ones for generations to come."

We openly have people in my generation and younger questioning whether or not the Civil Rights era was worth it, and whether or not those protections should be eliminated because of the "unfair stigma" it places on white Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z kids who "weren't responsible for racism but now must grow up experiencing it".

These are the same garbage arguments white Boomers had in the 60's, "You can't solve racism with more racism" but anybody under 45 it seems still has trouble asking why this should be.

And Trump is laughing and winking his way back to 1950's America and the kids think it's okay.  Clinton lost the white vote in every age group, people seem to forget this, even 18-25 and 26-35 year-old white voters voted for Trump.

And here we are, facing 2020 with the major question of America being "should we keep messy, fractured liberal democracy or just go right for a white supremacist state?"

The answer is I don't know what will happen.

The Haunted Manchin, Con't

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin may be headed for retirement, almost certainly giving his seat to a Republican in the process and putting Senate control that much further out of reach for the Democrats as a final "screw you" to the party.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is eyeing a possible exit from the Senate, and his decision could be a significant factor in which party controls the majority in 2021.

In moments of frustration, the centrist senator has gone so far as to tell colleagues he may leave the upper chamber before the end of this Congress, or after the 2020 elections.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) keeps a close watch on Manchin, and the senators have a good working relationship. While Schumer recognizes that his West Virginia colleague can get exasperated by dysfunction in the Senate, he believes Manchin is content and engaged in his job.

But Manchin says he’s deeply irritated with the lack of bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill, where passing bills has largely become an afterthought in the 116th Congress.

Manchin noted supporters in West Virginia are pressing him to run for governor next year, and he’s considering it.

“I have people back home that want me to come back and run for governor. We’re looking at all the different plays. I want to make sure whatever time I have left in public service is productive,” he told The Hill.

Asked if he’s happy with how productive he is in the Senate, Manchin replied, “Not at all.”

“I haven’t been happy since I’ve been here. I’ve always thought there was more we can do. It’s the greatest body in the world, so much good could be done,” he said of the legislative stalemate.

Manchin, 71, compiled a successful record as governor from 2005 to 2010. He was reelected to a second term in 2008 but left before finishing his term after winning election to the Senate seat long held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

Manchin often talks about his fondness for his time as governor. He doesn’t think his current Senate job is nearly as fulfilling. The Senate has spent most of 2019 churning through President Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees, rarely voting on bills that have a chance to become law.

Schumer has accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of turning the Senate into a “legislative graveyard,” while Republicans bash Schumer for delaying nominees that some Democrats eventually support when they finally come up for a vote.

Manchin’s patience reached a breaking point shortly before the Memorial Day recess, when the Senate finally finished debating a disaster relief bill that many lawmakers thought should have passed weeks earlier.

A Democratic senator who requested anonymity recalled Manchin getting thoroughly fed up and threatening to retire before the end of the 116th Congress.

“He said, ‘I’m out of here.’ He was all pissed off and said, ‘I’m going to be out of here,’ ” the lawmaker said.

It doesn't surprise me at all.  If there's any proof that there no room for bipartisanship in Mitch McConnell's Senate, it's Mitch losing Joe Manchin's phone number.  So of course, Manchin wants to go back to being governor, and leave the Senate to Mitch instead of sticking it out and helping Democrats take control so that he can get things passed.

What a profile in courage. 
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