Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Win In Her Corner

There are times when I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is obnoxious, but she absolutely scored a win over one of the biggest companies on Earth this week.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) slammed Amazon's announcement that it's building a headquarters in New York City, but touted the fact that it will not receive any financial incentives from the local or state government.

“Won’t you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway - *without* requiring the public to finance shady deals, helipad handouts for Jeff Bezos, & corporate giveaways,” she tweeted.

“Maybe the Trump admin should focus more on cutting public assistance to billionaires instead of poor families.”

The comments come after The Wall Street Journal reported that the tech giant has agreed to take new office space in Manhattan, a reversal from February when it announced it would not open a second headquarters in New York City.

Amazon said it had signed a new lease for a 335,000 square-foot space on Manhattan’s West Side, where it will take on more than 1,500 employees; yet in a silver lining for progressives, the move will not be accompanied by any special tax credits or other financial incentives.

Ocasio-Cortez was one of the leading opponents to Amazon’s move to the city, arguing that the city would shell out billions in incentives to attract the company and that the move would raise real estate prices beyond the means of local residents, forcing many to move.

The New York progressive claimed victory Friday, citing criticism she got for pushing against the move, which Amazon supporters said would attract thousands of jobs.

Indeed, the Trump regime lit into her saying she was personally responsible for destroying thousands of that Amazon was going to create anyway 10 months later, and without the $3 billion extortion fee from a company that paid zero taxes yet again this year on $11 billion in profits.

Say what you will about AOC, but her victory was near total on this issue, and more Democrats need to stand up to massive corporations and say "no more" when it comes to taxpayer incentives on companies that don't pay taxes.

It's About Suppression, Con't

Republicans continue to whine about the "Do-Nothing Democrats" who "are fixated on impeachment" and "won't pass legislation" while House Democrats are perfectly capable of passing legislation and are doing so.

In fact, House Democrats are passing legislation that House Republicans refused to pass when they were in power, like the now long-overdue fix to the Voting Rights Act, gutted by the Supreme Court six years ago because John Roberts decided that racism in voting didn't exist anymore, and that Congress needed to take care of updating it for the 21st century.

That's exactly what House Democrats did on Friday, with the help of precisely one Republican (and Justin Amash and everyone else voted against it.)

Six years after the Supreme Court stripped key parts of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, America’s signature legislation protecting voters of color, the House of Representatives passed a bill meant to restore those safeguards.

In a mostly party-line vote, the legislation was approved 228-187. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), is a key part of Democrats’ agenda to expand voting rights. It would make it more difficult for states to discriminate against voters of color, and give the federal government a stronger ability to take action against states with a history of discrimination.
In a 2018 interview, Sewell bluntly described strict voter ID laws as “modern-day forms of voter suppression.”

“While we no longer have to count how many jelly beans are in a jar or recite all of the 67 counties of Alabama in order to be able to vote, we are seeing greater efforts putting restrictions on voting in the name of fraud,” she told Vox, referencing Jim Crow-era tactics used to keep black Alabamians from voting. She represents Selma, Alabama, a city that was at the forefront of the 1960s civil rights movement.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act is designed to restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were invalidated by the US Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. Way back at the beginning of the legislative session, it was initially tucked into HR 1, the sweeping anti-corruption bill that was Democrats’ first priority of the year. Lawmakers ultimately decided to break it out because Sewell and Democratic leaders anticipated the possibility of a long, drawn-out legal battle over the voting rights bill — potentially all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

The main argument of the Roberts Court decision in 2013 was that the formula for determining which states were subject to pre-clearance of state voter laws was outdated.  The new formula in the VRAA would be dependent on the number of voting rights violations in a state in a ten-year period instead of specific states with a previous history, and it would define what a violation was, giving substantial oversight power to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Amazingly enough, the pre-clearance formula would affect nearly all the states in the original VRA.

If Sewell’s bill were passed today, she would like the federal government to take a closer look at 13 states with a history of voter discrimination: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona, California, New York, and Virginia.

“We can’t unring the bell,” Sewell added. “What we’ve seen is that since Shelby, more than 30 states have imposed greater requirements for voting, and in a lot of those states, we’ve seen elections take place that have later been found to have had intentional discrimination.”

Naturally, this will never get a vote in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell will continue to say that the Democrats haven't passed anything in the last year.

I wish Democrats would do more to point this out.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Last Call For The Doc Stalkers

We've reached the point where anti-vaxxer nutjob assholes are treating pediatricians who vaccinate kids like anti-choice nutjob assholes treat abortion doctors: stalking clinics and offices and threatening them with harm.

In October, Dr. Eve Krief watched from the window of her Long Island, New York, pediatrics practice, as around 20 women gathered on the lawn.

Armed with signs and banners with messages like, “We spread truth not disease,” the women — a group of anti-vaccine activists from New York and California — had come to protest Krief over her recent support for the 2019 state law that removed religious exemptions for vaccines.

Some of the protesters sat with signs, while others stuck anti-vaccine propaganda under car windshield wipers in the parking lot. Several approached parents entering the building with their infants, asking, "Are you vaccinating your baby?"

Krief had experience with these particular women. She recognized the group's leader, a local mother who had followed her to her car after a community meeting about proposed vaccine legislation a few weeks earlier. Krief said the bill's passage led to more intense protest from people who had been using the religious exemption to mask their personal preference not to vaccinate. They had also infiltrated her Yelp and Health Grades accounts, posting negative reviews, although they weren't patients at her practice.

But the in-person protests and the interaction with patients was another level.

"It's unsettling," Krief said, adding that her office is beefing up security measures in response.

For the anti-vaccination organizers, Krief’s unease was an indicator of their success.

“Needless to say,” one wrote on her Facebook page, “we rattled her cage just a bit yesterday with our presence.”


Anti-vaxxer nutjobs are becoming indistinguishable from anti-choice nutjobs.  Pretty soon they're going to be just as deadly.

Return Of The Red Rout, Con't

Meanwhile, things aren't going so well for Republicans in the House as the recent NC state Supreme Court ruling throwing out Republican super-gerrymandering has meant a new map for 2020 elections, and it's a map where Republicans can no longer hold on to 10 of 13 House seats without a majority of votes.

North Carolina Republican Rep. George Holding announced Friday that he will not seek reelection, saying in a statement that "newly redrawn congressional districts were part of the reason" for his decision. 
Holding, who represents the state's second congressional district, has served in Congress since 2013 and is a member of the House Budget, Ethics and Ways and Means committees. 
But, according to the Raleigh, North Carolina-based newspaper The News & Observer, Holding's GOP-leaning House district was redrawn into a district that now leans Democratic and the congressman had ruled out the possibility of challenging another Republican incumbent in 2020 to win reelection. 
In a statement on Friday, Holding said it has been "gratifying to work for the ideals and values that I, like many other Americans, believe in," and it is "with regret that I announce I will not be a candidate for Congress this election." 
"I should add, candidly, that yes, the newly redrawn congressional districts were part of the reason I have decided not to seek reelection," Holding said. 
"But, in addition, this is also a good time for me to step back and reflect on all that I have learned," the congressman said.

The new maps, while still heavily favoring Republicans, are slightly less egregious.  It's very possible that Democrats could win five or six House seats with the new maps instead of having half the state's Democratic voters gerrymandered into three districts.  Still, it's as good as the maps are going to get until next year's elections, and that's still two big pickups for the Dems heading into 2020.

Ahh, but Holding isn't the only Republican out this week.

Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) announced Thursday he will not seek reelection next year.

Graves, 49, said that after some reflection he decided it was time to “pass the baton,” but said he will serve out the rest of his term.

“As we all do, I'm entering a new season in life. An exciting season. So, the time has come for me to pass the baton. Now it's my turn to cheer, support and sacrifice for those who have done the same for me over the last two decades,” he said in a statement.

“With Julie near retirement and my kids now suddenly adults, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2020, and instead, join my family in their new and unique journeys.”

The Georgia Republican was first elected to the House in 2009 after having served in the Georgia House of Representatives. Graves — one of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) closest allies— sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and serves as the vice chairman of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

In his statement, Graves thanked his family and his constituents for supporting and motivating him during his time as a public servant.

“The whole of my service was built upon the contributions of countless people; sacrifices of my family, late nights and long days from dozens of dedicated staff members, friendship of my colleagues, generosity of supporters and encouragement from constituents,” he continued.

"Looking back on my years in the Georgia House and now nearly a decade in Congress, I am filled with gratitude. My record is a testament to the collective effort of many talented and special people. The opportunities afforded to me — a North Georgia country boy from a single wide trailer — were far beyond my wildest dreams.”

Graves is the 21st GOP lawmaker to announce their retirement in the 116th Congress.

Since Trump was elected in 2016, it's been a bloodbath for the House GOP.  They lost more than 40 seats in 2018, and retirements are up to 21 this cycle.

Everyone's running from Trump.

It's About Suppression, Con't

The number one problem Republicans have with our voting systems in the US is that Democrats are allowed to win, and in Mississippi, the white Republican woman who lost her seat to a black Democratic candidate last month wants the state legislature to simply throw the election results out and proclaim her the winner, because we really can't have black Democrats winning in the Magnolia State, right?

State Rep. Ashley Henley, a Southaven Republican, is asking the GOP-led Mississippi House to overturn the results of the election she narrowly lost to Democrat Hester Jackson-McCray.

Jackson-McCray won the Nov. 5 general election by 14 votes, according to election results certified this week by the Secretary of State’s office.

Henley filed the election challenge on Wednesday, according to a copy of the challenge obtained by Mississippi Today. In the petition, Henley writes that several findings of her ballot box examination show a failure “to adhere to proper election procedures to insure a fair and legitimate election” under state law.

Her specific grievances, based on a ballot box examination she said she conducted, include: A failure to collect voter signatures in one of the district’s six precincts and a lack of an incident report detailing why the signatures weren’t collected. She also alleges discovering: two uncounted paper ballots in which Henley’s name was marked; 11 names of voters who voted in a specific precinct while no records of their residency within that precinct could be found; voter signature receipts not being stapled to the corresponding pages of the voter receipt book; and several ballots being “unaccounted for/missing.”

In an interview on Thursday, Henley told Mississippi Today she was challenging the election results because of what she called “voter irregularities” in House District 40, located in northern DeSoto County.

“There were irregularities that happened, absolutely, documented, very much so that bring into question the legitimacy of the election results,” Henley said. “That is without question.”

Jackson-McCray said on Thursday that Henley’s challenge “is much to do about nothing.”

“Elections are elections. It’s not a guaranteed position,” Jackson-McCray said of the Henley’s challenge. “Anybody could come along and beat you. I just beat you fair and square. Hard work just beat you this time. She has the right to go through the technicalities, but I think if people read this notice she’s putting out, it looks like she’s arguing that her own party didn’t manage the election right. The election was run by Republicans. The DeSoto County election commissioners are Republicans. The Secretary of State is a Republican.”

Republican Speaker Philip Gunn, of Clinton, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Candidates for office have 30 days from the election to file challenges. Under the state Constitution, each chamber of the Legislature has the final say on seating its members and traditionally has heard election challenges when the results are contested.

So of course the black woman, the Democrat, only won because of "voter irregularities" that the white Republican woman "discovered in her research".  Even though the state's Republican Secretary of State certified the results.

And if you don't think the GOP will overturn this election, well...

In 2015, the most recent legislative election challenge that moved through the House sparked controversy in Jackson.

Four years ago, the Republican-controlled House voted to seat Republican challenger Mark Tullos, R-Raleigh, instead of Democratic incumbent Bo Eaton of Taylorsville. Eaton and Tullos received the same numbers of votes on election day. Eaton later won, as prescribed in state law, by drawing the correct straw in an event overseen by the state Election Commission.

But Tullos then challenged the results of the tiebreaker, and the House opted to seat him. The seating of Tullos gave the Republicans a three-fifths supermajority, which they still maintain.

"Voter fraud" to Republicans is Democrats, especially black Democrats, winning elections.


Thursday, December 5, 2019

Last Call For Trump's Taxing Explanation, Con't

As expected, Trump's legal team has filed a petition with the US Supreme Court to protect his tax returns from House Oversight Democrats.

In their Wednesday petition to the court, filed ahead of a Thursday deadline, Trump’s personal attorneys warned the justices that a lower court ruling in favor of the Democratic lawmakers would set a dangerous precedent if allowed to stand.

“Under the D.C. Circuit’s decision, Congress can subpoena any private records it wishes from the President on the mere assertion that it is considering legislation that might require presidents to disclose that same information,” they wrote.

The Supreme Court last month agreed to temporarily stay the House committee’s subpoena for Trump’s financial records while the court considers whether to take up his appeal.

The case arose after Democrats subpoenaed Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, in April for years of his personal and corporate financial records. Lawmakers said the information would help to determine if updates were needed to current ethics-in-government laws.

Trump challenged the subpoena, arguing the lawmakers lacked a legitimate legislative purpose.

A federal district court judge sided with the Oversight and Reform Committee, as did the D.C. Circuit on appeal, prompting Trump’s latest petition to the Supreme Court.

In their petition, Trump’s attorneys cautioned that congressional subpoenas could be used as political weapons against a sitting president if the justices don’t overrule the D.C. Circuit’s decision.

“Given the obvious temptation to investigate the personal affairs of political rivals, subpoenas concerning the private lives of presidents will become routine in times of divided government,” they wrote.

Both lower court rulings were blistering indictments of the plenary executive, stating that having the White House determine what executive branch information was subject to subpoena was a bit like having a murder suspect saying "I get to decide what evidence the state gets to use against me".

Yes, there's a presumption of innocence but there's also evidence used to determine guilt.  The House wants to know what Donald Trump did with his finances because there's probable cause that the guy is taking money from the Russian mob.

And the final thing here is that Trump is literally going to the Supreme Court to prevent House Democrats from even seeing his taxes.

It's insane.

Anyway, it doesn't mean SCOTUS wants a part of this.  They may punt.  We'll see where this goes.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Three legal experts told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival amounted to impeachable offenses, in a hearing that laid the groundwork for formal charges to be filed against the president.

Democrats on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee said they may look beyond Trump’s relations with Ukraine as they draw up articles of impeachment, to include his earlier efforts to impede former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of his campaign’s relations with Russia

“The president’s alleged offenses represent a direct threat to the constitutional order,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said.

The impeachment inquiry, launched in September, focuses on Trump’s request that Ukraine conduct investigations that could harm political rival Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination.

The hearing on Wednesday was the committee’s first to examine whether Trump’s actions qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” punishable by impeachment under the U.S. Constitution.

Three law professors chosen by the Democrats made clear during the lengthy session that they believed Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses.

“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt.

Which is literally the point the GOP is trying to make.  Nothing is impeachable when Trump is concerned.  Nancy Pelosi is moving ahead anyway.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced on Thursday she is asking the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, saying "the president leaves us no choice but to act."

“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today, I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said in a brief televised statement from the Capitol, speaking directly to the American people.

The facts of Trump's alleged wrongdoing involving Ukraine, she said, "are uncontested.”

"The president abused his power for his own personal, political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival,” Pelosi said, adding that his actions "seriously violated the Constitution."

"Our democracy is what's at stake," Pelosi continued. "The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit."

So, what's next?  The evidence gets laid out Monday by the House Judiciary.

House impeachment investigators will present evidence against President Donald Trump to the Judiciary Committee on Monday, a key step before Democrats finalize articles of impeachment.

The Judiciary Committee’s Thursday announcement of its next hearing comes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed the panel and other investigators to draft articles of impeachment, a historic milestone that suggests the House could vote to impeach Trump before the end of the year.

It also comes a day after the Judiciary Committee held its first impeachment hearing, in which constitutional law scholars argued Trump’s dealings with Ukraine meet the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” as laid out in the Constitution.

Democrats previewed three potential articles of impeachment at Wednesday’s hearing: abuse of power, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice.

The impeachment inquiry centers on Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leaders to investigate his political rivals, with Democrats arguing that Trump has obstructed their probe by refusing to provide documents and blocking important witnesses. Democrats say the evidence they have compiled shows Trump used military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting with the country’s president as leverage.

A House Judiciary Committee vote on articles of impeachment could come as soon as the end of next week, bringing a vote before the full House on the following week.

We're about to enter history here, folks.

Climate of Disaster, Con't

We've now reached the new American redlining practice of the 21st century starting in one of the most vulnerable states to rising sea levels: rich beach areas will be saved, poor beach areas with people who can't afford to relocate will drown and be wiped out.

Officials in the Florida Keys announced what many coastal governments nationwide have long feared, but few have been willing to admit: As seas rise and flooding gets worse, not everyone can be saved.

And in some places, it doesn’t even make sense to try.

On Wednesday morning, Rhonda Haag, the county’s sustainability director, released the first results of the county’s yearslong effort to calculate how high its 300 miles of roads must be elevated to stay dry, and at what cost. Those costs were far higher than her team expected — and those numbers, she said, show that some places can’t be protected, at least at a price that taxpayers can be expected to pay.

“I never would have dreamed we would say ‘no,’” Ms. Haag said in an interview. “But now, with the real estimates coming in, it’s a different story. And it’s not all doable.”

The results released Wednesday focus on a single three-mile stretch of road at the southern tip of Sugarloaf Key, a small island 15 miles up Highway 1 from Key West. To keep those three miles of road dry year-round in 2025 would require raising it by 1.3 feet, at a cost of $75 million, or $25 million per mile. Keeping the road dry in 2045 would mean elevating it 2.2 feet, at a cost of $128 million. To protect against expected flooding levels in 2060, the cost would jump to $181 million.

And all that to protect about two dozen homes.

“I can’t see staff recommending to raise this road,” Ms. Haag said. “Those are taxpayer dollars, and as much as we love the Keys, there’s going to be a time when it’s going to be less population.”

The people who live on that three-mile stretch of road were less understanding. If the county feels that other parts of the Keys ought to be saved, said Leon Mense, a 63-year-old office manager at a medical clinic, then at least don’t make him pay for it.

“So somebody in the city thinks they deserve more of my tax money than I do?” Mr. Mense asked. “Then don’t charge us taxes, how does that sound?”

She suggested the county could offer residents a ferry, water taxis, or some other kind of boat during the expanding window during which the road is expected to go underwater during the fall high tides.

“If that’s three months a year for the next 20 years, and that gets them a decade or two, that’s perhaps worth it,” Ms. Haag said. “We can do a lot. But we can’t do it all.”

At a climate change conference in Key West on Wednesday, Roman Gastesi, the Monroe County manager, said elected leaders will have to figure out how to make those difficult calls.

“How do you tell somebody, ‘We’re not going to build the road to get to your home’? And what do we do?” Mr. Gastesi asked. “Do we buy them out? And how do we buy them out — is it voluntary? Is it eminent domain? How do we do that?

The answer will increasingly be take the land by force and give the residents nothing.  Meanwhile, whoever ends up holding the new beachfront properties further inland will win the jackpot.  As local and state governments look to take a long, hard look at who will win and who will lose in this game of life, they won't take chances.  It'll be those with the cash who will come out on top.

And the people who will lose everything to climate change?

Hey, remember, it's a hoax, right?


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Last Call For Meanwhile In Bevinstan...

Matt Bevin refuses to go out graciously after his loss last month to Democratic Gov.-Elect Andy Beshear, giving a series of giant dog-foghorn racist interviews on why he was defeated at the ballot box.

During a series of interviews on talk radio shows Wednesday morning, outgoing Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said that he lost his race for reelection because the Democratic Party “harvested votes in urban communities.”

Bevin lost to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear last month by a little more than 5,000 votes.

During an interview on 55KRC in Cincinnati, Bevin said that the election was a “surprise” that defies logic.

“The left, those who think of a different ideological bent, they are getting so good at harvesting votes in the urban communities,” Bevin said.

“They were able to go into urban communities where people are densely populated on college campuses and public housing projects.”

Bevin has repeatedly questioned the outcome of the election, suggesting — without evidence — that voter fraud took place.

Beshear did well in Kentucky’s urban and suburban areas like Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Richmond and northern Kentucky, as well as some historic Democratic strongholds in eastern Kentucky.

Vote harvesting refers to collecting absentee or mail-in ballots in order to sway an election. The practice is illegal in some states, but Kentucky is one of 27 states that allows absentee ballots to be returned by a designated agents.

Vote harvesting took place in the 2018 race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district, which Bevin referenced in the aftermath of his failed reelection attempt. Vote harvesting is illegal in North Carolina and a new election was ordered in the race.

During the interview on 55KRC, Bevin said that he was encouraged by his supporters on Election Day, but that Democrats brought “more less-informed people” to the polls.

“Conservatives are going to have to find some counterpoint,” Bevin said. “The harvesting of votes in urban cores in particular that is done by the left overwhelmed even that. And that’s the difference, that’s the tipping point."

So yeah, confirming once again that the Republican definition of voter fraud is an election where black people are allowed to vote, Bevin goes out like a racist piece of human filth he is.

Once again, there's a reason why Republicans want fewer people to be allowed to vote, guys.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

Attorney General Bill Barr's statements outside the Justice Department continue to signal that he is a fascist and autocrat, and that he is arguably more dangerous than Donald Trump is right now to the American people.

Speaking to a roomful of police officers and prosecutors on Tuesday, Attorney General William P. Barr drew a parallel between protests against soldiers during the Vietnam War and demonstrations against law enforcement today.

But this time, he suggested, those who don’t show “respect” to authority could lose access to police services.

“Today, the American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officers. And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves,” Barr said in pointed remarks delivered at a Justice Department ceremony to honor police officers.

Barr added that “if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

Although Barr didn’t specify what “communities” he was referencing, activists decried his speech as a clear attack on minorities who have protested police brutality and other racially skewed law enforcement abuses.

“Barr’s words are as revealing as they are disturbing ― flagrantly dismissive of the rights of Americans of color, disrespectful to countless law enforcement officers who work hard to serve their communities, and full of a continuing disregard for the rule of law,” Jeb Fain, a spokesperson for liberal super PAC American Bridge, told HuffPost, which first reported on the comments.

As attorney general, Barr has attacked liberal district attorneys who have pushed for police accountability in cities like Philadelphia and St. Louis and suggested that there should be “zero tolerance for resisting police.”

Before handing out honors to police officers at Tuesday’s ceremony for the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing, Barr described seeing deployed troops celebrated at airports and lamented that police aren’t more openly feted.

“When police officers roll out of their precincts every morning, there are no crowds along the highway cheering them on, and when you go home at the end of the day, there’s no ticker-tape parade,” he said, echoing virtually word-for-word comments he made in August to the Fraternal Order of Police.
The attorney general then compared police to Vietnam-era soldiers returning home to face those opposed to the conflict.

“In the Vietnam era, our country learned a lesson. I remember that our brave troops who served in that conflict weren’t treated very well in many cases when they came home, and sometimes they bore the brunt of people who were opposed to the war,” he said. “The respect and gratitude owed to them was not given. And it took decades for the American people finally to realize that.”

The fascism from fifty years ago never left the GOP.  Steve M explains:

Boomer Republicans love to invoke the late 1960s and early 1970s. They love it because the fifty-year backlash to the much shorter era of protest and progress began at that time, with Nixon's election and reelection, with the governorship of future president Ronald Reagan, with hard-hat riots against anti-war protestors and Clint Eastwood revenge movies. They also love the era because they've never updated their stereotypes of the enemy. Black and Hispanic people are criminals. Feminists ("women's libbers") are hairy-legged man-haters. Men on the left are effeminate, smelly, sandal-wearing longhairs. Can it be that it was all so simple then?

The fantasy, then and now, was a complete withdrawal of "law and order" from the cities, or at least the "bad" neighborhoods, at which point all "those people" would kill one another off and leave the good people in a state of pleasant suburban peace, and allow the rich to turn the cities into high-end playgrounds. To a large extent, the rich got the latter wish, but it was as a result of the War on Crime -- which is a reminder that the police presence in higher-crime areas isn't on behalf of the residents, but on behalf of the elites who want the poor kept down. So Barr is bluffing -- the elites will always want have-nots policed. But it's a fantasy that's never lost its appeal to people like him.

Barr may be bluffing to the extent that no city government wants a riot on their hands and in the press and that police chiefs get fired when they happen, but then again the local press is disappearing at a rapid clip, and the FOX doomsday preppers have always loved a good "no-go zone" bullshit story.

Thing is though Barr can cause a lot of trouble for people, and once again I remind you that the nation's top cop saying "Protect and serve, but only if I think they deserve it" while comparing cops to the military is pretty much peak fascism.

America will survive a second Trump term with Barr as AG, but you'd better double the estimates of the number of people currently incarcerated and triple the estimates of police killing people.

Trump's Taxing Explanation, Con't

A federal appeals court in New York handed President Donald Trump another legal defeat, ruling Tuesday that Congress can see his banking records for investigations into possible foreign influence in U.S. politics or other misdeeds.

A panel of 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges said two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, should comply with subpoenas from the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees seeking records related to Trump’s business ventures.

The court said Congress was acting within its constitutional authority to investigate a series of significant issues, including whether Trump was “vulnerable to foreign exploitation.”

It rejected arguments that the subpoenas were meant merely to embarrass the president, though the court said Trump did deserve some privacy protections and outlined procedures for protecting some sensitive personal information in the documents from public disclosure. It also gave Trump a limited chance to object to disclosure of certain documents.

Judge Debra Ann Livingston said in a partial dissent that the lower court should take a longer look at the “serious questions” raised by the case and give the parties time to negotiate.

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, said in a statement that an appeal to the Supreme Court was under consideration.

“We believe the subpoena is invalid as issued. In light of the Second Circuit decision, we are evaluating our next options,” he said.

The ruling by the appeals court upheld a May ruling by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos, who had said Trump and his company were unlikely to succeed in proving that the subpoenas were unlawful and unconstitutional. The 2nd Circuit panel said three of his children had not shown a likelihood of success on any of their claims and had not identified a single factual issue to take to trial or a single witness or document that might add substance to their claims at trial.

Lawyers for the House committees, both of which are controlled by Democrats, say they need access to documents from the banks to investigate possible “foreign influence in the U.S. political process” and possible money laundering from abroad.

In a decision written by Circuit Judge Jon O. Newman, the appeals court said that while Trump and his children might suffer a loss of privacy if the documents were disclosed to Congress, the records had to do with their business ventures, not intimate personal details.

“The Committees’ interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive’s distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions,” the decision said.

Deutsche Bank has lent Trump’s real estate company millions of dollars over the years.

The court noted that the president had not disputed that the bank loaned him at least $130 million when no other bank would do so.

“That unusual circumstance adequately supports requests for information to determine whether proper banking procedures have been followed,” the decision said.

Again, Donald Trump has been willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to stop anyone from seeing his tax returns.  If you don't believe there's evidence fatal to his re-election in those returns, and there probably is, just the thought of getting caught misusing the power of the executive to cover the equivalent of his tiny financial penis should be enough to give him nightmares.

We've known for years that Trump isn't a billionaire and he hasn't been for some time.  If that's all he's hiding, why is he quite literally trying to make a Supreme Court case out of it?  The answers is asking why he has no choice but to go that far.

That massive Deutsche Bank loan connects him to Russian money laundering, full stop.

He has to make sure it never sees the light of day.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Last Call For Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

The big reveal in today's House Intelligence Committee report on Ukraine is just how much trouble both Rudy Giuliani and GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, who I remind you is ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, are both in.

Rudy Giuliani and one of his indicted Ukrainian associates exchanged a flurry of phone calls with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the top Republican on Congress’ impeachment investigation panel, amid a Giuliani-led effort to dig up dirt on President Donald Trump’s political opponents in Ukraine.

The House Intelligence Committee obtained phone records from AT&T showing extensive communications in early April involving Nunes, Giuliani, Lev Parnas, and The Hill columnist John Solomon, according to records released in the committee’s formal report on its investigation underlying impeachment charges against President Donald Trump.

The records shed new light on the relationship between Nunes, one of the impeachment inquiries most vehement critics, and the individuals at the center of what committee Democrats describe as an illicit campaign to weaponize U.S. foreign policy to Trump’s political advantage.

The records in the committee’s 300-page report show three phone calls between Nunes and Giuliani on April 10 of this year, and at least two with Parnas two days later. Derek Harvey, a member of Nunes’ staff, also had a phone call with Giuliani the following month.
The Nunes calls came on the tail end of a long series of communications between Parnas and Solomon, who on April 1 had published a column relaying the same conspiracy theories at the center of Giuliani’s Trump-endorsed inquisition in Ukraine: that high-ranking officials in Kyiv had sought to scuttle Trump's 2016 presidential candidacy, and that former Vice President Joe Biden had corruptly attempted to insulate a company that employed his son from prosecution. Parnas and Solomon exchanged more than a dozen phone calls in the subsequent two weeks, during which Solomon reiterated the allegations about Biden and Ukraine in another column that Giuliani relayed in an interview on Fox News.

Giuliani, meanwhile, was in frequent communication with the White House. Throughout April, he placed numerous calls to unidentified individuals in the Office of Management and Budget, the office led by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The report also notes a number of Giuliani calls later in the year with an individual at an unidentified number—appearing only as “-1” in phone records—amid a series of phone calls and text messages with numbers associated with the White House.

The committee’s report describes those individuals as part of a “smear campaign” coordinated with “one or more individuals at the White House.”

Giuliani did not respond to a text message for comment.


Not July, or August.


Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney, Devin Nunes, Lev Parnas, the Hill's John Solomon, they were all in on the plan to smear Joe Biden by extorting the President of Ukraine with US military aid.

They were all in on it at the direction of Donald Trump.

We get it now?

Another Hat Leaves The Ring

The first big name of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is out, Kamala Harris is suspending her campaign as of today.

First-term U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California on Tuesday will end her 2020 presidential campaign after failing to garner support in key states despite an early rise in the polls, according to a campaign source.

“I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life,” Harris said in an email to supporters on Tuesday. “My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.”
Harris held a conference call with staff on Tuesday afternoon to inform them of her decision, according to sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Harris, 55, positioned herself as a unifying candidate who could energize the party’s base of young, diverse progressives while also appealing to more moderate voters.

Yet after climbing into double digits in opinion polls following a strong debate performance in June, Harris slid out of the top tier in recent months and lags behind leading candidates’ fundraising hauls.

The senator from California’s departure from the race is the first of a top-tier candidate from the crowded nominating contest.

Harris entered the race as an immediate front-runner but then struggled to maintain support, which critics said was fueled by her inability to articulate policy positions and the backlash of an attempt to attack rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

The papers had already written her political obituary last week, the only person who didn't truly know she was done back in October was Harris herself, I suspect.  The shift to Iowa, along with the fact she was running behind Andrew Yang and recently Michael Bloomberg in her home state of California, was a huge warning bell.

Booker is probably next.  It's going to come down to Biden, Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders after all and Warren's star is fading fast too.  Bloomberg meanwhile is trying to buy his way in and it just might work.

Are we really going to have this come down to a bunch of white guys in 2020 versus the orange one?

Because that's where we're at.  No non-white candidates have qualified for next week's debate deadline for the December 19th debate.  As of today, six white candidates have.  I'm going to give a few buck to Booker and Castro just to keep them going.  We need voices.

We needed Kamala's voice too.

Was that ever not going to be the case?

Enemies Of The People, Con't

The Trump regime has officially blacklisted Bloomberg News and will no longer allow them any press credentials after the news outlet chose to distance itself from owner Michael Bloomberg by not targeting his Democratic primary rivals.

President Donald Trump’s campaign said Monday it will no longer give credentials to Bloomberg News reporters to cover campaign events because of coverage “biases,” an accusation that the news organization rejects.

The decision comes a week after the news service’s founder, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination for president. And Bloomberg News, which the former New York City mayor founded in 1990, said it would not investigate him or his Democratic rivals but would continue to probe the Trump administration, as the sitting government.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale called it a troubling decision to “formalize preferential reporting policies.” He said Bloomberg reporters would no longer be credentialed to cover campaign events until the policy is rescinded.

“As President Trump’s campaign, we are accustomed to unfair reporting practices, but most news organizations don’t announce their biases so publicly,” Parscale said.

Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said the accusation of bias couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We have covered Donald Trump fairly and in an unbiased way since he became a candidate in 2015 and will continue to do so despite the restrictions imposed by the Trump campaign,” he said.

The Trump campaign’s action illustrates the difficult position Bloomberg’s candidacy has imposed on the news organization.

By saying reporters could not investigate Bloomberg or his Democratic rivals, some critics have said this would prevent the news organization from doing in-depth reporting on the campaign. Bloomberg officials say it’s a position they’ve navigated before when he was mayor.

“This is my nightmare come true,” said Kathy Kiely, a University of Missouri journalism professor who quit as Bloomberg political director when he was considering a run for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Journalists at Bloomberg would have been better served if he had made clear that he was stepping away from his company for the campaign and said that he — and any candidate for president — was fair game for any kind of stories that Bloomberg News reporters could dig up, she said.

“It’s unfortunate that this is creating a perception that this is how journalism works, that journalists are manipulated by their bosses,” she said.

I would even side against Bloomberg on this in a universe where Donald Trump didn't have FOX News as his own personal state television network.

Brad Parscale screaming about biases is pretty much like the national rattlesnake lobby complaining that scorpions might be a health hazard.  This is just bullying and bad faith nonsense, and the Bloomberg people should absolutely call out the Trump regime on it.


Monday, December 2, 2019

Last Call For The Hunter Becomes The Hunted

Embattled California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter is done being hunted by the feds and is taking a plea deal.

California Rep. Duncan Hunter said he plans to plead guilty to misusing campaign funds and is prepared to go to jail, a stunning turn of events for the six-term Republican who had steadfastly denied wrongdoing and claimed he was the victim of a political witch hunt by federal prosecutors.

Hunter had pleaded not guilty, but in an interview that aired Monday said he will change his plea at a federal court hearing Tuesday in San Diego. He said his motivation is protect his three children from going through a trial, which was set to begin Jan. 22.

His wife Margaret Hunter also was charged in the case and in June accepted a plea deal that called for her to testify against her husband.

“I think it would be really tough for them,” the 42-year-old Hunter said in an interview with San Diego TV station KUSI. “It’s hard enough being the kids of a public figure. I think it’s time for them to live life outside the spotlight.”

Hunter, who was re-elected last year and has been actively campaigning for a seventh term next year despite being under indictment, indicated he will leave office but didn’t say when.

The combat Marine veteran and an early supporter of President Donald Trump said he will plead guilty to one count of misuse of campaign funds. Federal prosecutors alleged he and his wife spent more than $250,000 in campaign money for golf outings, plane tickets and a family vacation to Italy, as well as household items from places like Costco.

The crime is a federal felony, so there's no way he can stay in office without being expelled.  The bad news is with Hunter out, Darrel Issa is completely ready to slime his way back into Congress.

Former Rep. Darrell Issa, former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio and state Sen. Brian Jones all announced they would run against Hunter, who barely survived his 2018 reelection campaign against Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar.

Campa-Najjar is once again vying for the now-open seat. He said Hunter’s change of plea will improve his chances of winning in the March primary and the November general election.

“We are all ready to move past this dark cloud of scandal,” Campa-Najjar said by telephone. “I look forward to restoring some integrity and dignity to this district.”

Issa, who represented the neighboring 49th District over 18 years before deciding not to seek reelection last year, said Hunter faced a difficult decision between defending himself in court and protecting his family from testimony that he cheated on his wife — and paid for affairs with donor funds.

“The reality is Duncan made a mistake,” Issa said by phone. “Reaching for the campaign credit card in what clearly is a personal expense is inappropriate. It was certainly bad judgment and not reimbursing it much earlier was a mistake.”

Issa said voters should remember there were “two Duncan Hunters” — one who joined the Marines after the Sept. 11 attacks and defended veterans in Congress for a decade-plus, and one who veered from his marriage and made improper campaign spending decisions.

DeMaio said Hunter did the right thing.

“While this must have been a difficult decision for him, Congressman Hunter’s decision to plead guilty is the right one for his family and his constituents and shows that no one should be above the law — especially members of Congress,” DeMaio said by phone.

While Hunter’s main political rivals did their best not to focus on how the guilty plea might improve their election chances, political experts were not so reluctant.

“This gives the Republicans a much stronger chance of holding on to a critical seat,” UC San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser said. “They lose the advantage of incumbency and name-brand, but getting away from the scandal and the soap opera this has become will allow the party to focus on issues that are popular to voters in this district.”

San Diego State political science professor Brian Adams also said Republicans are much more likely to retain the seat with Hunter off the ballot.

“I think the Democrats’ best chance was a Campa-Najjar/Hunter matchup,” he said. “I think DeMaio, Issa or Jones all match up well against Campa-Najjar.”

Unfortunately, I have to agree.  And it's very likely that Darrell Issa will once again be in the House starting in 2021.  It's an R+11 district and the biggest GOP stronghold left in SoCal, the hills above San Diego north of I-8.  The Hunter family ran this district for decades, and now Darrell Issa is going to make one last grand theft auto attempt to steal it for himself.

It's Still About Suppression, Con't

Donald Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by fewer than 400,000 votes in 2016, but in every case the margin was dwarfed by registered voters who didn't cast a ballot for president at all in 2016 or voted third party, and that margin was dwarfed by those who stayed homeGetting those voters back onto the Democratic side as a way to remove Trump has to be the top priority.

One of the biggest surprises in 2016 was how many voters declined to even cast a ballot for president: More than 75,000 Michiganders who went to the polls didn’t vote for president at all — more than double the number in 2008.

“That’s an amazing number,” said Susy Heintz Avery, a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman and co-director of the Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University.

Of those, nearly half — more than 35,000 voters — were from counties won by Hillary Clinton. The state hadn’t backed a Republican nominee since 1988.

Voter apathy may explain part of it, with people turned off by either Trump or Clinton, who did little outreach in the state. Democratic consultant Joe DiSano also said, “It was a question of people thinking it was a foregone conclusion (that Clinton would win). They thought it was taken care of … There’s no question she should have done more on the ground (to get out the vote).”

In 2020, expect both sides to take nothing for granted, regardless of what the polls say.

“The get-out-the-vote effort is going to be huge in 2020 … Bigger than we’ve seen in a long time,” said Heintz Avery. The question is how many of those missing voters are ready to support the Democratic nominee against the president, or if, in the end, they decide to sit it out again.

Clinton did almost as well in Detroit as President Barack Obama did in 2012, winning 95% of the vote in the majority black city. But Clinton got about 47,000 fewer votes in the city than Obama did.

“Obviously African American votes in the cities … were a key loss for Clinton,” said Matt Grossmann, director of Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.

Amid criticism that Clinton took those predominantly Democratic votes for granted, party officials say that’s unlikely to happen again.

Democrats have more than a dozen organizers on the ground in Detroit and are training even more, pointing out that health care protections remain as uncertain as ever and that Trump has tried to gut programs that help pay for development efforts in urban centers. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, is running ads in newspapers and on radio in Detroit touting the administration's record and launching “Black Voices for Trump.” The campaign says Trump's presidency has greatly helped minority voters by lowering the unemployment rate and notes the president has also enacted criminal justice reforms,

In the 2018 midterm elections, Detroit’s turnout was up 10 points from the previous midterm, a trend that could greatly help Democrats if it holds. But Grossman says the party needs to motivate black voters, not simply expect them to turn out.

“Hillary Clinton managed to convince white voters she cared a lot about racial minorities and their concerns, but it was not enough to mobilize African American voters,” he noted.

Black voters in Philly, Detroit, and Milwaukee are going to make the difference in those three critical swing states, and they will make the difference in Florida and NC too.  That's why voter suppression efforts in those five states have been specifically targeted at black voters.  That's how Republicans were able to win huge state legislature majorities in all of those states.

It's the black vote, guys.  Stop pretending "working-class white voters" are the key to anything.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Back to the business at hand, and that business is the House Intelligence Committee's report on Ukraine out today and expected to be approved tomorrow as the action now shifts from Schiff and Intel to Jerry Nadler and the House Judiciary.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee will begin reviewing a report Monday on the panel's investigation of President Donald Trump's efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his Democratic adversaries, a crucial step in the House's fast-moving impeachment inquiry.

Lawmakers on the panel will get a 24-hour review period, according to internal guidance sent to committee members and obtained by POLITICO. On Tuesday, the panel is expected to approve the findings — likely on a party-line vote — teeing it up for consideration by the Judiciary Committee, which is in turn expected to draft and consider articles of impeachment in the coming weeks.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff had indicated in a letter to colleagues earlier this week that a report would be coming "soon" from his committee but had not provided a specific timeframe.

Schiff had also indicated that his committee was still open to receiving new witnesses or testimony as it began to draft the report, but it’s unclear if any new information has become available since lawmakers departed for a one-week Thanksgiving recess.

The Ukraine report is expected to make up the core of Democrats’ likely articles of impeachment against Trump. Lawmakers leading the inquiry have suggested Trump could face an article alleging abuse of power for withholding military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine while Trump and his allies pressured the country’s new president to investigate Democrats.

The House has been moving quickly to investigate Trump since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24. Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, have refused to assign a public end date to their investigation but many lawmakers have said privately they hope to wrap up by the end of the year.

The House Judiciary Committee is slated to hold its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday, with a panel of constitutional experts explaining exactly what constitutes an impeachable offense, including defining the nebulous “high crime and misdemeanor” term specified in the Constitution

It's Nadler and the Judiciary who will decide on exactly what the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump will be, and Republicans on the Judiciary will be there every step of the way to derail the process, their first move being to call Adam Schiff himself as a witness.

It's gonna get hairy this week, I guarantee.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Turkey Week Last Call: The Road To Gilead

With the end of legalized abortion seven months and one SCOTUS decision away, the circular firing squad by women's groups, abortion rights activists, and fundraisers on the Left is now in full bloom.

As Planned Parenthood and its progressive allies have rallied the resistance, the shift in fortunes in the abortion wars has been mostly attributed to the right’s well-executed game plan. Less attention has been paid to the left’s role in its own loss of power.

But interviews with more than 50 reproductive rights leaders, clinic directors, political strategists and activists over the past three months reveal a fragmented movement facing longstanding divisions — cultural, financial and political. Many said that abortion rights advocates and leading reproductive rights groups had made several crucial miscalculations that have put them on the defensive.

“It’s really, really complicated and somewhat controversial where the pro-choice movement lost,” said Johanna Schoen, a professor at Rutgers University who has studied the history of abortion.

National leaders became overly reliant on the protections granted by a Democratic presidency under Mr. Obama and a relatively balanced Supreme Court, critics say, leading to overconfidence that their goals were not seriously threatened. Their expectation that Mr. Trump would lose led them to forgo battles they now wish they had fought harder, like Judge Merrick B. Garland’s failed nomination to the bench.

Local activists in states like Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota and Missouri where abortion was under siege say national leaders lost touch with the ways that access to abortion was eroding in Republican strongholds.

“Looking at the prior presidential administration, there was a perception that everything is fine,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, the executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, an independent clinic in Atlanta that has provided abortions since 1976. “We were screaming at the top of our lungs, everything is not fine, please pay attention.”

Discord at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest and most influential abortion provider, exacerbated the problem. In July the group’s new president, Dr. Leana Wen, was forced out in a messy departure highlighting deep internal division over her management style and how much emphasis to place on the political fight for abortion rights.

Planned Parenthood’s acting head, Alexis McGill Johnson, said that Mr. Trump’s election, new abortion restrictions and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court provided a wake-up call to many national leaders, including herself, that forced them to confront the entrenched challenges of class dividing their movement.

“A lot of us are awakening to the fact that if you are wealthy, if you live in the New York ZIP code or California ZIP code or Illinois ZIP code, your ability to access reproductive health care is not in jeopardy in the same way that it is in other states,” Ms. McGill Johnson said in an interview.

"Where the pro-choice movement lost" was when 53% of white women decided Donald Trump was a better candidate for women than Hillary Clinton in November 2016.  That's where it lost, guys.  This was a choice white women made.

You took abortion away when you voted for Trump.  It's not the fault of the pro-choice movement.  It's the fault of the women who took the pro-choice movement for granted and said "Trump won't take abortion away from me, I voted for him."

What did you think was going to happen?

Sunday Long Read: A Prime Example

Our Sunday Long Read this week is Scott Shane's look at just how pervasive Amazon is in American life, as the NY Times reporter examines the company's shipping, distribution, fulfillment, web services and delivery operations in Baltimore.

Another big Prime Air 767 takes off from Baltimore-Washington International Airport — where Amazon’s shipping last year eclipsed that of FedEx and U.P.S. put together — and wheels above the old industrial city. Below, the online giant seems to touch every niche of the economy, its ubiquity and range breathtaking.

To the city’s southeast stand two mammoth Amazon warehouses, built with heavy government subsidies, operating on the sites of shuttered General Motors and Bethlehem Steel plants. Computers monitor workers during grueling 10-hour shifts, identifying slow performers for firing. Those on the floor earn $15.40 to $18 an hour, less than half of what their unionized predecessors made. But in Baltimore’s postindustrial economy, the jobs are in demand.

Near the Inner Harbor are the side-by-side stadiums of the Ravens and the Orioles, where every move on the field is streamed to Amazon Web Services for analysis using artificial intelligence. Football players have a chip in each shoulder pad and baseball players are tracked by radar, producing flashy graphics for television and arcane stats for coaches.

Up in northwest Baltimore, a pastor has found funding to install Amazon Ring video cameras on homes in a high-crime neighborhood. Privacy advocates express alarm at proliferating surveillance; footage of suspects can be shared with the police at a click. But the number of interested residents has already outstripped the number of cameras available.
In City Hall downtown and at Johns Hopkins University a few miles away, procurement officers have begun buying from local suppliers via Amazon Business — and even starred in a national marketing video for the company. Buyers say the convenience more than justifies interposing a Seattle-based corporation between their institutions and nearby businesses. Critics denounce the retail giant’s incursion into long-established relationships. It is a very Amazon dispute.

As federal regulators and Congress assess whether Amazon’s market power should be curbed under antitrust laws — and whether, as some politicians argue, the company should be broken up — The New York Times has explored the company’s impact in one American community: greater Baltimore.

Baltimore’s pleading pitch last year to become an additional headquarters city for Amazon, promising a whopping $3.8 billion in subsidies, did not even make the second round of bidding. But Amazon’s presence here shows how the many-armed titan may now reach into Americans’ daily lives in more ways than any corporation in history. If antitrust investigators want to sample Amazon’s impact on the ground, they could well take a look here.

Anirban Basu, a Baltimore economist who has studied the region for years, is skeptical of apocalyptic claims about Amazon, saying Sears and Walmart were both once seen as all-powerful. But he called Amazon a “profit-margin killer” and said it should be scrutinized, particularly because technological trends that include artificial intelligence, driverless trucks, drones and new payment systems all play to its advantage.

“All these things are a threat to other industries,” Mr. Basu said. “But they’re all good for Amazon. As powerful as it is, Amazon is set to be much more powerful

Imagine a corporation so large and so powerful that it control every aspect of the items you buy from manufacture until it reaches your door, a company so large that its economy of scale can simply drive every other single competitor out of business.  Imagine that everything you bought came from one company, especially the final mile to your home: groceries, home services, security cameras, clothing, flower seeds, books, curtains, that new TV and the streaming service to watch on it, and everything else.

How powerful would that company be once it outpriced its competitors out of business?  How powerful would it be if it eliminated 90% of its workforce and automated the rest?

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, these companies need to be shattered.

Or they will own us all.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Turkey Week: The Devils Came Out Of Georgia

In the Trump regime mob, you do what Don Arancio Trumpino says or you get replaced by someone who does.  It's one thing for that to happen in the White House and executive branch where Trump can hire and fire.  But now Trump's picking Senators and not every red state governor is going along with his "requests", and there's a price to be paid.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) warned Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Friday that he could face a primary challenger when running for reelection if he doesn’t select President Trump’s favored candidate for the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

Gaetz’s tweet Friday comes amid reports that Kemp is expected to announce that financial executive Kelly Loeffler will be chosen over Trump’s preferred selection of Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.).

“You are ignoring his request because you THINK you know better than @POTUS,” Gaetz tweeted. “If you substitute your judgement for the President’s, maybe you need a primary in 2022. Let’s see if you can win one w/o Trump.”

Gaetz in a follow-up tweet said Kemp would be "hurting Trump" if he does not select Collins.

“It’s not the establishment you are screwing with your donor-induced stubbornness,” Gaetz wrote. “You are hurting President Trump. You know this because he told you.”

Gaetz is a vocal supporter of Trump and his message underscores the dilemma Kemp will face if he follows through with selecting Loeffler.

Kemp’s upcoming decision to select a new senator comes after he met with Trump at the White House on Sunday, with the two reportedly having a disagreement regarding who should fill the seat set to be vacated by Isakson, who is stepping down at the end of the year due to health issues.

You know those quiet parts that you're not supposed to say in public when you're shaking down a governor in your own party?  The Trumpino mob never got to that part in Mobstering for Dummies. It doesn't help Kemp's case that his reason to select Kelly Loeffler is because Trump is absolute poison among white suburban women in the Peach State.

Her appointment would do little to tamp down the internal Republican fighting over the seat. Trump and his allies have repeatedly pressed the governor to tap Collins, and the two were still at odds over Loeffler’s appointment even after Kemp brought her to a secretive meeting with the president last week.

And it would come as no surprise to Republican insiders, who have labeled Loeffler the presumptive favorite ever since she submitted her application hours before a deadline imposed by Kemp.

Collins’ allies have aggressively pushed Kemp to appoint the congressman in recent weeks, describing the Gainesville Republican as a champion for conservative causes – and a bulwark of defense against impeachment proceedings headed for the U.S. Senate.

And Collins has helped energize his supporters by telling The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is “strongly” considering a run for the Senate seat in next year’s special election if he’s not picked.
Kemp, however, has surprised even his critics with his appointments to key posts, and he’s long seen the U.S. Senate opening as a chance to help the Georgia GOP win back female voters.

He’s also mindful that his selection would not only be on the ballot in 2020 to fill out the remaining two years of Isakson’s term but also potentially alongside Kemp in 2022 when the governor runs for a second term.

We could have a major fight on our hands for Georgia's two senate seats in 2020.  There are multiple Dems running for David Perdue's seat next year with Stacey Abrams passing on the race, and I'm sure many will look for Isakson's seat in the special election next fall.

Bonus Republican fail: Isakson was chair of the Senate Ethics Committee and literally no Republican senator wants the job.

Turkey Week: Alexa, Bah Humbug!

Gizmodo's Adam Clark Estes goes the full Grinch on Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, and other smart speakers in this 2017 piece and why you should never buy one, have one, or give one as a gift this (or any other) holiday season.

Before getting into the truly scary stuff, though, let’s talk a little bit about utility. Any internet-connected thing that you bring into your home should make your life easier. Philips Hue bulbs, for instance, let you dim the lights in an app. Easy! A Nest thermostat learns your habits so you don’t have to turn up the heat as often. Cool! An Amazon Echo or a Google Home, well, they talk to you, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to figure out how to talk back in the right way and do random things around the house. Huh?

You don’t need an artificially intelligent robot to tell you about the weather every day. Just look outside or watch the local news or even look at your phone. You already do one or all of these things, so just keep it up. Same goes for turning on the lights. Use the switch. It works really well! A light switch also doesn’t keep track of everything you’re doing and send the data to Amazon or Google or Apple. What happens between you and the switch stays with you and the switch.

Which brings us back to security and surveillance. I’m not here to be Tin Foil Hat Man and convince you that companies like Amazon are spying on your every move and compiling data sets based on your activity so that they can more effectively serve you ads or sell you products. I am here to say that smart speakers like the Echo do contain microphones that are always on, and every time you say something to the speaker, it sends data back to the server farm. (By the way: If you enabled an always-listening assistant on your smartphone, now’s a good time to consider the implications.) For now, the companies that sell smart speakers say that those microphones only send recordings to the servers when you use the wake word. The same companies are less explicit about what they’re doing with all that data. They’re also vague about whether they might share voice recordings with developers in the future. Amazon, at least, seems open to the idea.

We do know that Amazon will hand over your Echo data if the gadget becomes involved in a homicide investigation. That very thing happened earlier this year, and while Amazon had previously refused to hand over customer data, the company didn’t argue with a subpoena in a murder case. It remains unclear how government agencies like the FBI, CIA, and NSA are treating smart speakers, too. The FBI, for one, would neither confirm nor deny wiretapping Amazon Echo devices when Gizmodo asked the agency about it last year.

Sinister ambitions of governments and multinational corporations aside, you should also worry about the threat of bugs and hackers going after smart speakers. Anything that’s connected to the internet is potentially vulnerable to intrusions, but as a new category of devices, smart speakers are simply untested in the security arena. We haven’t yet experienced a major hack of smart speakers, although there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they’re hardly bulletproof. Not long after its launch, the Google Home Mini experienced a bug that led to the device recording everything happening in a technology reporter’s house for dozens of hours. You can chalk that up to a very bad screw up on Google’s part, but it’s a tear in the fabric of trust that should encase these kinds of gadgets.

Hackers pretty much set that fabric on fire. A few months ago, Wired reported that a hacker successfully installed malware on an Amazon Echo and turned it into an always-on wiretap. The malware let the hacker stream all audio from the Echo to a remote server, which is some serious badass spy shit when you really think about it. This particular exploit only worked on devices made before 2017 and required the hacker to have physical access to the Echo. Nevertheless, it’s sort of the worst possible scenario for anyone who’s worried about having an always-on microphone in their home.

This is all to say that there are risks involved with owning a smart speaker. It’s not as risky as, say, running a meth lab out of your basement. But keeping an internet-connected microphone in your kitchen is certainly more trouble than owning a simple Bluetooth speaker that just plays music. You might be comfortable taking that risk for yourself. Think long and hard about buying an Amazon Echo or a Google Home for your friends and family. They might not like it. In my opinion, they shouldn’t.

It was a bad idea in 2017, its a bad idea now.  Don't give in and *especially* don't give these as gifts.  They haven't gotten more useful. They remain a massive privacy risk depending on where they are.  And they are provided by companies who are, quite frankly, terrible corporations who should be broken up.

Yes, you can get one for under $25 now.

That should be warning enough.
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