Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Last Call For Flag, Burning

Meanwhile, here in Kentucky, nobody seems to know who a military convoy that rolled through Lexington on Sunday flying a "Trump" flag actually belonged to, and nobody's taking responsibility for it.  Yet.

Flying a large "Trump" flag, a mysterious convoy of military vehicles rolled down Interstate 65 through Louisville on Sunday morning. But nobody is claiming it. 
A spokesman for Ft. Knox, Patrick Hodges, said it wasn't theirs. 
Same for the Kentucky National Guard, said Maj. Stephen Martin, director of public affairs. 
A Defense Department spokesman, Maj. Jamie Davis, who examined images of the four-truck procession for the Courier-Journal, said he doesn't think it belonged to any service branch — and that the vehicles may have been military surplus. 
Davis said it would violate regulations to fly such a flag on a military vehicle. “That is not standard procedure,” he said. He also said it would have been against the rules to run a military convoy without unit markings on the trucks. 
Chris Rowzee, a spokeswoman for indivisibleky, a new activist organization in Louisville, said that as a retired veteran who served 28 years in the Air Force, “I can't even begin to describe how disturbed I am by this.” 
While Donald Trump is president, she said, the military is supposed to be a nonpolitical organization in which servicemen and women swear an oath to the Constitution, not to any particular president. 
“To show a partisan political leaning on a military vehicle is very reminiscent of Nazi Germany,” she said.
Invisibleky posted photos and a video of the convoy on its website. Rowzee said the group thinks the trucks may have belonged to a military contractor, if they weren't being operated by the military.

So yes, this actually happened.  Somebody decided it would be really cool to drive around several military trucks with at least one of them openly flying a Trump regime flag.  Every alarm bell in the universe ought to be ringing in your head at this one, guys.  We know Trump has his own security team separate from the US Secret Service and that our military and police have a real problem with white nationalists in the ranks.

This is the kind of thing that will become more prevalent.

By the way, can you imagine the national freakout if a military truck was ever spotted flying an Obama flag?

The Fight For SCOTUS

I'll believe this when I see them actually do it, but apparently Dems are going to try to call Mitch McConnell's bluff and will filibuster Trump's expected Supreme Court nominee this week.

Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to fill the current vacancy.

With Trump prepared to announce his nominee on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump's nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said in an interview. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”

It’s a move that will prompt a massive partisan battle over Trump’s nominee and could lead to an unraveling of the Senate rules if Merkley is able to get 41 Democrats to join him in a filibuster. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also reminded her Twitter followers on Sunday night that Supreme Court nominees can still be blocked by the Senate minority, unlike all other executive and judicial nominees.

Any senator can object to swift approval of a nominee and require a supermajority. Asked directly whether he would do that, Merkley replied: “I will definitely object to a simple majority” vote.
Merkley's party leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, has said he will fight "tooth and nail" any nominee who isn't "mainstream." 

So the question is who cracks first here, the Dems or the Trump regime?  History tells us the Dems will probably be smashed into oblivion and will have folded by March 1, with Trump's nominee getting an easy confirmation vote before Tax Day.  The Dems folded on Samuel Alito and that was with the Christmas holiday, in a matter of three months.

I dearly hope I'm wrong, but Senate Dems continue to disappoint me at nearly every turn.

The Sinking Ship Of State, Con't

The Trump regime is discovering the problem with career State Department diplomats: they're pretty good writers with excellent skills of persuasion.

Numerous diplomats have drafted a memo of dissent denouncing President Donald Trump's executive order banning the resettlement of refugees and barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The current draft of the memo, which was obtained by the Lawfare blog, describes Trump's actions as "counterproductive" to its stated goal of protecting Americans from potential terrorist attacks. According to the memo, the order will instead exacerbate relations with the targeted countries.

The State Department confirmed the existence of the memo to Mother Jones on Monday.

"We are aware of a dissent channel message regarding the Executive Order titled 'Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,'" State Department spokesman Mark Toner said when reached for comment. "The Dissent Channel is a long-standing official vehicle for State Department employees to convey alternative views and perspectives on policy issues. This is an important process that the acting secretary, and the department as a whole, value and respect. It allows State employees to express divergent policy views candidly and privately to senior leadership."

The "dissent channel" was established in the 1970s for career diplomats to confidentially express opposition to the administration's foreign policy.

"We are better than this ban," the draft memo adds. "Looking beyond its effectiveness, this ban stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we as federal employees took an oath to uphold."

From the memo:

The United States is a nation of immigrants, starting from its very origins. The concept that immigrants and foreigners are welcome is an essential element of our society, our government, and our foreign policy. So, too, is the concept that we are all equal under the law and that we as a nation abhor discrimination, whether it is based on race, religion, sex, or national origin. Combined together, that means we have a special obligation to maintain an immigration system that is as free as possible from discrimination, that does not have implied or actual religious tests, and that views individuals as individuals, not as part of stereotyped groups
The Executive Order frames the ban as a 90-day suspension of entry for these nationals until their countries can set up arrangements to provide adequate information to determine that an individual seeking a benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat. This is a high, vague, and nebulous bar. In some cases, the governments of these countries may be wholly incapable of providing this information; in others, the government may be unwilling. In either case, individual citizens will pay the price, a situation which runs counter to US. values of fair play and offering equal opportunities to all.

How long the State Department gets to keep its dissent channel, well that's really the question now, is it?

In all seriousness, this should be extraordinarily disturbing to folks.  State Department dissent channel stuff should be taken pretty seriously, it's there for a reason.  The Trump regime's official response?  If you don't like it, quit.

Asked about a memo signed by dozens of State Department diplomats opposing the temporary ban on refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the US, spokesman Sean Spicer encouraged the federal employees to "either get with the program or they can go." 
"The president has a very clear vision. He's been clear on it since the campaign. He's been clear on it since taking office, that he's going to put this safety of this country first. He is going to implement things that are in the best interest of the safety of this country prospectively, not re-actively," Spicer said at the White House. "And if somebody has a problem with that agenda then that does call into question whether or not they should continue in that post or not."

Once again, dissent will not be tolerated in the Trump regime.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Last Call For The Orange Coup-Coup Birds

This analysis of the Trump regime's first 10 days is making the rounds, and given the evidence at hand it's fairly compelling stuff.

I see a few key patterns here. First, the decision to first block, and then allow, green card holders was meant to create chaos and pull out opposition; they never intended to hold it for too long. It wouldn’t surprise me if the goal is to create “resistance fatigue,” to get Americans to the point where they’re more likely to say “Oh, another protest? Don’t you guys ever stop?” relatively quickly. 
However, the conspicuous absence of provisions preventing them from executing any of the “next steps” I outlined yesterday, such as bulk revocation of visas (including green cards) from nationals of various countries, and then pursuing them using mechanisms being set up for Latinos, highlights that this does not mean any sort of backing down on the part of the regime. 
Note also the most frightening escalation last night was that the DHS made it fairly clear that they did not feel bound to obey any court orders. CBP continued to deny all access to counsel, detain people, and deport them in direct contravention to the court’s order, citing “upper management,” and the DHS made a formal (but confusing) statement that they would continue to follow the President’s orders. (See my updates from yesterday, and the various links there, for details) Significant in today’s updates is any lack of suggestion that the courts’ authority played a role in the decision. 
That is to say, the administration is testing the extent to which the DHS (and other executive agencies) can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. This is as serious as it can possibly get: all of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored. 
Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d’√©tat against the United States. It gave them useful information.

That;s a very serious accusation, but I myself have said several times that if you wanted to lead a de facto coup in the US, the Trump regime has been following that playbook for more than a year.

A second major theme is watching the set of people involved. There appears to be a very tight “inner circle,” containing at least Trump, Bannon, Miller, Priebus, Kushner, and possibly Flynn, which is making all of the decisions. Other departments and appointees have been deliberately hobbled, with key orders announced to them only after the fact, staff gutted, and so on. Yesterday’s reorganization of the National Security Council mirrors this: Bannon and Priebus now have permanent seats on the Principals’ Committee; the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both been demoted to only attending meetings where they are told that their expertise is relevant; the Secretary of Energy and the US representative to the UN were kicked off the committee altogether (in defiance of the authorizing statute, incidentally). 
I am reminded of Trump’s continued operation of a private personal security force, and his deep rift with the intelligence community. Last Sunday, Kellyanne Conway (likely another member of the inner circle) said that “It’s really time for [Trump] to put in his own security and intelligence community,” and this seems likely to be the case. 
As per my analysis yesterday, Trump is likely to want his own intelligence service disjoint from existing ones and reporting directly to him; given the current staffing and roles of his inner circle, Bannon is the natural choice for them to report through. (Having neither a large existing staff, nor any Congressional or Constitutional restrictions on his role as most other Cabinet-level appointees do) Keith Schiller would continue to run the personal security force, which would take over an increasing fraction of the Secret Service’s job. 
Especially if combined with the DHS and the FBI, which appear to have remained loyal to the President throughout the recent transition, this creates the armature of a shadow government: intelligence and police services which are not accountable through any of the normal means, answerable only to the President.

It's an ugly subject, frankly.  Again, we're already in the early stages of a constitutional crisis as of this weekend anyway.  Do I think a coup is coming?  I couldn't tell you, but the path we're going down really does have only two conclusions.

The notes may be in a different key, the instruments different, but the Trump regime band is playing one of the oldest songs in the book right now, and for now the country is playing along.

When the music suddenly stops, that's when history tells us the darkest refrain begins.

Russian To Judgement, Con't.

Americans continue to want answers about Russian interference in our elections and Putin's relationship with the Trump regime.  As much as Trump would like to make it so, this story isn't going away.

American voters believe 53 - 39 percent that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election and support 56 - 30 percent the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama Administration, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. In fact, 76 percent of those who support existing sanctions want tougher sanctions.

Russia is an adversary of the U.S., 46 percent of American voters say, while 9 percent say Russia is an ally and 41 percent say it is neither an ally nor an adversary, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

A total of 67 percent of American voters say alleged Russian interference is a "very important" or "somewhat important" issue, and 68 percent want the matter investigated.

In a separate question, voters support 62 - 32 percent investigations into potential links between President Donald Trump's campaign advisors and the Russian government.

President Trump is "too friendly" towards Russia, 49 percent of voters say, while 3 percent say he is "too unfriendly" and 43 percent say he has the right attitude towards Russia.

Voters trust Congress more than Trump 60 - 29 percent to handle America's policy towards Russia.

"Beware the Russian Bear, say American voters, most of whom believe the Kremlin meddled in the U.S. presidential election," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "President Donald Trump is too friendly with Russia and voters say 2-1 they would rather have Congress, not the president, handle future relations with Russia.

"Should we let bygones be bygones? Absolutely not, say Americans, who want an investigation - and tougher sanctions."

Trump's storm of executive orders may be flooding the zone, but it's not enough to get America to forget about his real boss, Vlad.  Even 43% of Republicans want Trump regime ties to Russia to be investigated.

This is the real issue, guys.  The rest is designed to distract from the fact we have foreign agents running the executive branch.

Authoritarianism For Dummies

While the battle over the Trump regime's awful immigration ban continues, regime spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway wants to know when media critics of Trump will be disposed of.

Kellyanne Conway in an interview Sunday slammed the media, asking when network reporters will be fired over their coverage of the Trump administration.

"Who is cleaning house? Which one is going to be the first network to get rid of these people, the people who think things were just not true?" Conway asked on "Fox News Sunday."

Conway, a key adviser to President Trump, criticized networks for their coverage of her "alternative facts" statement one week ago, noting that there were other things she said in Sunday show interviews that could have been the reporters' focus.

"I went on three network shows and spoke for 35 minutes on three network Sunday shows. You know what got picked? The fact that I said 'alternative facts,' not the fact that I ripped a new one to some of those hosts that they never cover the facts that matter," Conway said.
"Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go," she added. "I'm too polite to mention their names, but they know who they are, and they are all wondering who will be the first to go. The election was three months ago. None of them have been let go."

Dissent will not be tolerated by the Trump regime, you know.  Eventually the answer to "Who will rid me of these troublesome media priests?" will be answered by heavy White House pressure from the regime and heads will roll pretty quickly.

Actual President Steve Bannon has long wanted the destruction of the America free press.  Conway is laying down yet another warning that this is one of the Trump regime's major goals.  When it happens, it will happen blindingly fast.  Once the first goes, well, many many more will follow. The regime will need total control of the media before too long, and it will most likely get it, at least for a while.

You didn't think this had a happy ending, did you?


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Little Donny's First Constitutional Crisis

Late last night a federal judge in Brooklyn has issued a federal court order to stop the Trump regime's deportation scheme.  As of this hour, that order is being willfully ignored.

The ACLU is getting “multiple reports” that federal customs agents are siding with President Trump — and willfully ignoring a Brooklyn federal judge’s demand that travelers from seven Muslim countries not be deported from the nation’s airports.

“The court’s order could not be clearer… they need to comply with the order,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants Rights project, told The Post late Saturday.

“It’s enough to be a serious concern,” Jadwat said of the reports.

Jadwat and other ACLU lawyers had earlier Saturday night won an emergency stay of Trump’s deportation order from Brooklyn Federal Judge Ann Donnelly.

So here we are, barely into week two and we're already in constitutional crisis mode.  Protests continue at major US international airports across the country.  Right now Trump looks like a tyrant and an ass.  But as Steve M. points out, this is far from over.

Nope. Not good enough. The order has to be overturned and the president has to be prevented from either modifying it slightly or ignoring the courts altogether. And the damage to America's reputation as a place where Muslims are welcome has suffered irreparable damage in any case.

The administration has suffered a setback. It's not nearly enough.

It won't be enough until the Trump base stops supporting him. And the base has made it clear that there's nothing he can do that will qualify short of surrendering to the hated liberals.

Meet Our National Insecurity Team

Name me any other time a President has put a chief strategist on the National Security Council, especially when that strategist is white nationalist asshole Steve Bannon.

President Donald Trump has tapped his controversial senior adviser and chief strategist Stephen Bannon for a permanent seat at National Security Council meetings in what some experts are calling an "unprecedented" political appointment to the panel.

In an executive memorandum signed by Trump on Saturday, the president also downgraded the status of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff on the security council's principals committee. Both will now only attend meetings "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."

The invitation-only status of the joint chiefs chairman and director of national intelligence is similar to a policy instituted under President George W. Bush.

Another Bush-era policy re-instituted in Trump's memorandum is separating the Homeland Security Council from the NSC, which President Obama had previously merged.

While it's not abnormal for presidents to restructure the makeup of their National Security Council, the addition of Bannon, the former publisher of Breitbart News, has brought scrutiny over the adviser's influence in Trump's inner circle.

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who worked with Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during the transition, called Trump's reorganization "stone cold crazy."

If you're wondering where Trump's awful immigration policies are coming from, it's Steve Bannon and policy aide Steve Miller, and these two clowns in hoods are the reason we've seen the Trump regime completely botch this plan this weekend.

When President Donald Trump declared at the Pentagon Friday he was enacting strict new measures to prevent domestic terror attacks, there were few within his government who knew exactly what he meant. 
Administration officials weren't immediately sure which countries' citizens would be barred from entering the United States. The Department of Homeland Security was left making a legal analysis on the order after Trump signed it. A Border Patrol agent, confronted with arriving refugees, referred questions only to the President himself, according to court filings. 
Saturday night, a federal judge granted an emergency stay for citizens of the affected countries who had already arrived in the US and those who are in transit and hold valid visas, ruling they can legally enter the US. 
Trump's unilateral moves, which have drawn the ire of human rights groups and prompted protests at US airports, reflect the President's desire to quickly make good on his campaign promises. But they also encapsulate the pitfalls of an administration largely operated by officials with scant federal experience. 
It wasn't until Friday -- the day Trump signed the order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days -- that career homeland security staff were allowed to see the final details of the order, a person familiar with the matter said. 
The result was widespread confusion across the country on Saturday as airports struggled to adjust to the new directives. In New York, two Iraqi nationals sued the federal government after they were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and 10 others were detained as well. 

Steve Bannon is at the center of all this mess, guaranteed.  He's the devil in the shadows here.

Sunday Long Read: The Dark Side Of Data

Two reporters for Zurich's Das Magazin take a look at British data analysis company Cambridge Analytica in this week's Sunday Long Read at Vice and find there's a method to the madness of "fake news" and social manipulation in the 2016 elections.

On November 9 at around 8.30 AM., Michal Kosinski woke up in the Hotel Sunnehus in Zurich. The 34-year-old researcher had come to give a lecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) about the dangers of Big Data and the digital revolution. Kosinski gives regular lectures on this topic all over the world. He is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. When he turned on the TV that morning, he saw that the bombshell had exploded: contrary to forecasts by all leading statisticians, Donald J. Trump had been elected president of the United States.

For a long time, Kosinski watched the Trump victory celebrations and the results coming in from each state. He had a hunch that the outcome of the election might have something to do with his research. Finally, he took a deep breath and turned off the TV.

On the same day, a then little-known British company based in London sent out a press release: “We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump’s extraordinary win,” Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying. Nix is British, 41 years old, and CEO of Cambridge Analytica. He is always immaculately turned out in tailor-made suits and designer glasses, with his wavy blonde hair combed back from his forehead. His company wasn't just integral to Trump’s online campaign, but to the UK's Brexit campaign as well.

Of these three players—reflective Kosinski, carefully groomed Nix and grinning Trump—one of them enabled the digital revolution, one of them executed it and one of them benefited from it.

Anyone who has not spent the last five years living on another planet will be familiar with the term Big Data. Big Data means, in essence, that everything we do, both on and offline, leaves digital traces. Every purchase we make with our cards, every search we type into Google, every movement we make when our mobile phone is in our pocket, every “like” is stored. Especially every “like.” For a long time, it was not entirely clear what use this data could have—except, perhaps, that we might find ads for high blood pressure remedies just after we’ve Googled “reduce blood pressure.”

On November 9, it became clear that maybe much more is possible. The company behind Trump’s online campaign—the same company that had worked for Leave.EU in the very early stages of its "Brexit" campaign—was a Big Data company: Cambridge Analytica.

To understand the outcome of the election—and how political communication might work in the future—we need to begin with a strange incident at Cambridge University in 2014, at Kosinski’s Psychometrics Center.

The reality is Facebook is an open book, and that building a database of profiles based on likes and activity online was far easier than anyone has ever imagined.  One company discovered that you could use Facebook to target people you wanted to target with messages tailored to them from a political standpoint.  It can be used to get Trump voters to go vote, and could be used to get Clinton voters to throw their votes away.

For the Trump campaign, it worked far better than anyone could have guessed.  The money you didn't see Trump spending on traditional political advertising was being spent on Cambridge Analytica, as much as $15 million in order to individually target people through the internet and directing canvassers with specific messages to specific houses.

The Clinton camp had no clue what was going on, either.  They had no way of knowing.  The Trump campaign unleashed this weapon in 17 states, and it was this data model that put Trump in the Rust Belt in the last month of the campaign.

It won him the White House.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Anti-Immigration Nation

By the way, the Trump regime has ordered Homeland Security to go after anyone who is helping undocumented immigrants.

Easily overlooked in the small print of President Donald Trump's Sanctuary Cities Executive Order signed Wednesday is a clause making it a crime to help an undocumented immigrant.

The sweeping wording is contained in Section 6 of the executive action titled 'Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,' and would appear to include even the actions of legal immigrants seeking to protect undocumented family members.

The Secretary of Homeland Security "shall issue guidance and promulgate regulations ... to ensure the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties ... from aliens unlawfully present in the United States and from those who facilitate their presence in the United States," it reads.

The rule is similar to one that was included in an early draft of Arizona's controversial 2010 anti-immigrant bill SB1070, which proposed making it a Class One misdemeanor to "conceal, harbor or shield" an undocumented immigrant. Class 1 misdemeanors carry a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to six months in jail.

But boy we dodged a bullet on that Hillary bitch, she might have put Wall Street people on her Cabinet or something.  It's a good thing we're not a bunch of bigoted, hateful, retaliatory bastards either.

A Texas mosque was set on fire just hours after Trump signed an executive order restricting migration from Muslim-majority countries.

The Islamic Center of Victoria was set on fire around 2 a.m. on Saturday, according to local reports.

Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler told the Victoria Advocate he had no theories about the cause of the fire, but he is seeking assistance from state and federal fire investigators.

“It’s a house of worship,” Shahid Hashmi, the president of the center, told the Victoria Advocate, as he watched the center burning. Hashmi also said he will not speculate about the cause of the fire, but mentioned the center was burglarized last week.

This is America now.  This is who we are.  This is who we elected to represent and lead us.  This is what the rest of the world knows we are.

They will not tolerate us for long.

Binging On Purging

The Trump regime begins the Great De-Musliming of America as we will now find out if there's anything to the concept of the Bill of Rights left.

President Trump’s executive order on immigration quickly reverberated through the United States and across the globe on Saturday, slamming the border shut for an Iranian scientist headed to a lab in Boston, an Iraqi who had worked as an interpreter for the United States Army, and a Syrian refugee family headed to a new life in Ohio, among countless others.

Around the nation, security officers at major international gateways had new rules to follow. Humanitarian organizations scrambled to cancel long-planned programs, delivering the bad news to families who were about to travel. Refugees who were airborne on flights when the order was signed were detained at airports.

At least one case quickly prompted a legal challenge as lawyers representing two Iraqi refugees held at Kennedy International Airport in New York filed a motion early Saturday seeking to have their clients released. They also filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and other immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.

Mr. Trump’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen on Friday afternoon, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The White House said the restrictions would protect “the United States from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism” and ensure “a more rigorous vetting process.” But critics condemned Mr. Trump over the immediate collateral damage imposed on people who, by all accounts, had no sinister intentions in trying to come to the United States.

An official message to all American diplomatic posts around the world provided instructions about how to treat people from the countries affected: “Effective immediately, halt interviewing and cease issuance and printing” of visas to the United States.

Confusion turned to panic at airports around the world, as travelers found themselves unable to board flights bound for the United States. In Dubai and Istanbul, airport and immigration officials turned passengers away at boarding gates and, in at least one case, ejected a family from a flight they had boarded.

And so on World Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Trump regime closes the door to people in countries we're bombing the crap out of, but not the countries where the 9/11 terrorists actually came from (which happen to be countries Trump has economic ties to with his business organization. Go figure.)

In red states this is being hailed as "about damn time we started kickin them out" and such.  In blue states, employees are finding they may not be allowed back Stateside anymore, and it may not help as we're now revoking entry privileges for green card holders, which could affect as many as 500,000 people and their families.

The legal challenges are already beginning, but at this point I would have to expect retaliation from the rest of the world, especially from multinational businesses.

So here we are the new bad guys on the block.  And this is just his first week.

In The Fetal Position

After two days of testimony by medical experts and state witnesses, a US federal judge has once again blocked Texas's fetal tissue remains disposal regulations.

A federal judge on Friday blocked Texas from requiring that fetal remains to be buried or cremated, saying the rule placed burdens on access to abortion that “substantially outweigh the benefits.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly vowed to appeal, setting up another high-stakes battle over Texas’ attempts to regulate abortion providers — seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned two Texas regulations that would have left nine abortion clinics operating in the state.

After hearing two days of testimony early this month, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks issued a preliminary injunction Friday that indefinitely prohibits Texas from enforcing the rule, which would require health facilities to ensure that fetal tissue is buried or cremated — with the ashes buried or appropriately scattered — whether from an abortion or miscarriage.

The rule didn’t apply to miscarriages at home or to early-term, drug-induced abortions that typically take place at home.

Sparks said the new standards were vague, inviting interpretations that would allow state health officials “to exercise arbitrary, and potentially discriminatory, enforcement on an issue connected to abortion and therefore sensitive and hotly contested.”

Worse, Sparks wrote in his order, state officials admitted that the new policy offered no health benefits and replaced tissue-disposal regulations that caused no health problems. While Texas leaders said the change was needed to promote respect for life and to protect the dignity of the unborn, it appeared that the rule “may be pretext for restricting abortion access,” Sparks said.

With only one identified vendor willing and able to dispose of fetal tissue as required by the new rule, the judge said it was reasonable to conclude that a lack of vendors could prohibit compliance — “which would deliver a major, if not fatal, blow to health-care providers performing abortions.”

Well no kidding the point of the bill is "restricting abortion access".  Dumping ridiculous regulatory burdens on women hasn't managed to end legal abortion in states, but dumping regulation after regulation on abortion providers has eliminated access for tens of millions of women in the South, Midwest, and Mountain West.

I'm glad to see that this is so obviously a back door method of restricting abortion that even a judge appointed by Poppy Bush can see it.

But thanks to voters, eventually Trump will get his Supreme Court pick on the bench, and most likely that will mean states like Texas will be able to regulate abortions into oblivion before too long, I fear.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Last Call For Economic Anxiety

Remember folks, it's all about jobs and the economy, and it certainly isn't about Trump making America's 400-year-long love affair with bigotry open and acceptable again.

A Massachusetts man is facing hate crime charges, accused of attacking a Muslim woman Wednesday night while she worked at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Prosecutors said the man invoked President Donald Trump's name as he threatened the woman and mocked her religion.
Authorities arrested 57-year-old Robin Rhodes, of Worcester, Massachusetts, on charges including assault, unlawful imprisonment and menacing, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Thursday.

Economic anxiety a go-go, baby!

Prosecutors said Rhodes punctuated his claim with a kick to Khan's leg and blocked her doorway with his body. He moved when another employee came to Khan's aid, but followed when Khan ran past him to the lounge's front desk.

Rhodes allegedly followed Khan, got down on his knees and "began to bow down in imitation of a Muslim praying," Brown said.

"(Expletive) Islam, (expletive) ISIS," Rhodes yelled, authorities said. "Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You will see what happens."

Khan's right leg was injured in the confrontation. Police charged Rhodes with assault, unlawful imprisonment, menacing and harassment as hate crimes. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison.

Yeah, I remember all those people who never said "Obama's in charge now, he's going to get rid of all you white people" eight years ago.

And no, I don't feel sorry in the least that this guy is looking at four years for this.

The Dem-pire Strikes Back?

I'll believe this from Politico no earlier than I see it actually happening, because right now Democrats are spineless and supine and I have to listen to excuses about why they should allow Trump to have his cabinet picks with nothing more than token resistance.

According to interviews with roughly two dozen party leaders and elected officeholders, the internal debate over whether to take the conciliatory path — to pursue a high-road approach as a contrast to Trump’s deeply polarizing and norm-violating style — is largely settled, cemented in place by a transition and first week in office that has confirmed the left’s worst fears about Trump’s temperament. 
“They were entitled to a grace period, but it was midnight the night of the inauguration to 8 o'clock the next morning, when the administration sent out people to lie about numerous significant things. And the damage to the credibility of the presidency has already been profound,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “They were entitled to a grace period and they blew it. It’s been worse than I could have imagined, the first few days." 
That conclusion comes after two months of intraparty debates about how to outwardly treat the Trump White House, a process which played out not only in public but also in private meetings and conference calls between leading party operatives, elected officials and message crafters. 
“I predict the coming divide in the Democratic Party won’t be ideological so much as it will be between those who resist and oppose and those who accommodate and appease,” strategist David Brock told roughly 120 donors gathered in Florida over the weekend to plot a path forward. 
That mind-set has permeated every outpost of the party from governors' mansions to Congress. Whether it’s in statehouses or the offices of state attorneys general, the Democratic National Committee or the constellation of outside left-leaning political groups, Trump’s benefit of the doubt is gone. 
At a forum this week for candidates running to be the next DNC chair, the very idea that the party should try to work with the new president was dismissed as absurd. 
“That’s a question that’s absolutely ridiculous,” said New Hampshire party Chairman Raymond Buckley, when asked whether the Democratic Party should try to work with Trump where it can find opportunities. 
Television commentator Jehmu Greene offered: “If you saw the millions of people who marched in the streets this weekend and participated in it, they are looking to the Democratic Party. We have an opportunity as a party to be that place of resistance. So we have to form a solid resistance as a party. And no, it is not about working with Donald Trump.” .

Greene is right, but so far I've seen nothing but talk, and zero action to stand against Trump.  The fact that the Dems are planning on the Full Mitch could explain why House Republicans want the Senate GOP to go ahead and kill the filibuster now and make Dem resistance a moot point.

Rep. Trent Franks had a simple question for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during a private GOP meeting here Wednesday: Would he take up anti-abortion legislation the House passed? McConnell shot back that it would never get through the Senate because Democrats aren’t “pro-life” and have the votes to stop it. 
So why don’t you just change the rules? Rep. Bruce Poliquin demanded moments later. McConnell dodged, suggesting it's not going to happen.

Congressional Republicans came here for a private retreat this week hoping to get on the same page on plans to repeal Obamacare and overhaul the tax code. But age-old tensions between the fast-moving House and plodding Senate percolated just hours into their three-day gathering. 
House Republicans, eager to pass conservative priorities they’ve campaigned on for years, are already feeling restless that the Senate — and its higher hurdle for passage — will blunt their efforts. They’d love to kill the filibuster, a nuclear option the tradition-bound McConnell is loath to deploy. 
“The public doesn’t want to hear about process; they want to see us get stuff done,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). “I think there is a very low threshold of tolerance among our electorate right now for historical process (and) precedent.”

I don't blame Franks.  The House GOP knows it has its best shot in decades at shock and awe austerity cuts, and there's a chance that Chuck Schumer might find his spine somewhere.

Again, I'll believe it when I see it.  The wild card is the Trump regime.  If stuff Trump promises gets blocked by the Dems, how long will he tolerate Mitch?

Russian To Judgement, Con't

Our good friend Vladimir has definitely figured out that the best time to get his wetwork done is while the world is distracted by Trump, and he's taken the opportunity this week to bury the biggest spy story in years.

A senior official in the Russian cyberintelligence department that American officials say oversaw last year’s election hacking has been arrested in Moscow on charges of treason, a Russian newspaper reported Wednesday
The arrest of Sergei Mikhailov, a senior officer of the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the main successor agency to the K.G.B., is a rare instance of turmoil in the country’s usually shadowy cybersecurity apparatus slipping into public view. 
Mr. Mikhailov served in the F.S.B.’s Center for Information Security, the agency’s cyberintelligence branch, which has been implicated in the American election hacking. But it is not clear whether the arrest was related to those intrusions. 
He was detained along with one of Russia’s leading private-sector cybersecurity experts, Ruslan Stoyanov, the head of computer incident response investigations at the Kaspersky Lab, which makes antivirus programs. 
The company confirmed in a statement that Mr. Stoyanov had been arrested, but said his arrest “has nothing to do with Kaspersky Lab and its operations.” 
Still, the arrests of the men, who had cooperated in Russia to prosecute cybercriminals, shed light on the intersection of cybercrime, private antivirus companies and the Russian security services. 
Western cybersecurity analysts have said there are indications that the security services recruited among criminal hackers to carry out politicized computer intrusions ahead of last summer’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the United States, giving the hackers impunity to commit financially motivated attacks in exchange for their expertise. 
The arrest raised the possibility that Mr. Mikhailov and Mr. Stoyanov had interfered in this cooperation. The newspaper article, in Kommersant, which cited unidentified sources in Moscow’s technology industry and the F.S.B., said the treason charges related to work on criminal hacking investigations.

For the Russians to ring up one of their own in the FSB on treason charges is massive.  When the NYT here says that Mikhailov and Stoyanov "interfered in this cooperation" it means they were passing info to the US.  Josh Marshall explains:

Last night I noted that a top Russian spy who is the number two person in the FSB department which allegedly oversaw the US election hacking operation had been arrested and charged with treason. Was he a sacrificial lamb and olive branch to Trump? A way for Putin to claim that his spy services had perhaps gone rogue? Or was he suspected of being a source to US intelligence? People who fall from grace in Putin's Russia are often dealt with with trumped up criminal prosecutions. But treason is a special charge
Well, now we have reports that Sergei Mikhailov is suspected of being a US asset at the heart of Russian intelligence.

And that leads us directly back to the Trump regime.

But this immediately poses the question: if Mikhailov was a US asset, how was he compromised? Did the information put out by US intelligence somehow lead to his exposure? Without putting too fine a point on it, a number of close advisors to President Trump are being scrutinized for ties to Russia. Some of them participated in the intelligence briefings the President receives. 
Do we have a very big problem?

The scenario that Trump's people let slip that Mikhailov was working for US intelligence through sheer incompetence, or that his cover was blown deliberately and the Russians were told outright that one of their top cyberspies was a US asset?  That's not really in the far-fetched category given this bunch of assholes.  As Marshall points out, maybe he was a sacrificial lamb.

Another possibility is that Putin knew Mikhailov was turned all along and is choosing now to dispose of him, but if that's the case why not do it quietly?  It's not like "Oops this guy had an accident and fell down an elevator shaft on to 27 bullets" isn't Putin's m.o. or anything.  Treason charges tend to draw attention.

The larger point is however that if this is part of Trump's war with the US intelligence community, things just reached an all-new level of bad, and I'm sure Congress has some questions at this point.

Will they even ask them?


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Last Call For Rebuilding The Bench, Finally

Democrats aren't waiting for the DNC to start moving on 2018 anymore.  We've proven that the leadership of the party (namely Debbie Wasserman Schultz) is too  worried with fundraising and networking to bother to actually run candidates.  It galls me, but Howie Klein over at Down With Tyranny was right all along about her, and the awful House and Senate Dem operations to boot.  Hell, it's been months since Trump won and we still don't have a DNC chair.  They're beyond useless.

So meet the new guys in town, running their own candidate recruitment shop, and they're already at work getting involved in state races around the country.

Kara Lynum was meeting with a client Monday morning when she decided to run for office. The client was an undocumented man from Mexico, and Lynum, who is an immigration lawyer in St. Paul, Minnesota, brought up current events. "I said to him, 'I'm really sad about Trump,' and he said, 'Yeah, you're sad, but I'm really worried about my family,'" she says. Lynum, 35, had joined thousands of protesters at a march through the Twin Cities on Saturday and had spent weeks thinking about what the Trump administration's immigration policies would mean for her clients. 
"He was a nice guy," she says. "He's been here for like 15 years. He's got a 12-year-old daughter. He said that, and I was so upset and I was like, 'You know what? I'm gonna sign up.'" 
So that afternoon, Lynum filled out an online form created by Run for Something, a new political nonprofit founded by two veteran Democratic digital organizers to recruit progressive millennials to run for office. Like many of the people contacting Run for Something, Lynum hasn't thought much about what position she'll end up running for. But she's in good company; according to the group's co-founder, Amanda Litman, more than 650 people contacted it about running in the six days since it launched on Friday. As Democrats wrestle with how to turn mass demonstrations against the new administration into political gains, Run for Something is one of a number of liberal organizations hoping the Trump era ushers in a new wave of first-time office-seekers. 
Run for Something's mission is not to stop Trump in 2020, at least not directly. Its focus is on local races, where Democrats have been creamed over the last eight years, losing some 935 state legislative seats during the Obama era. In 2017, it is focusing its efforts on Virginia and North Carolina, two places where Democratic gains at the state level (the party controls the governor's mansion in both states) are undercut by conservative legislatures. In Virginia, a blue state in the last three presidential elections, Democrats have failed even to show up in some races: 44 of the state's 67 Republican delegates ran unopposed in 2015, including three Republicans in districts carried by Hillary Clinton. Democrats have a long way to go to recoup what they lost, but they've also left a lot of low-hanging fruit on the vine. 
Litman, a Barack Obama campaign veteran who was email director for Clinton's 2016 effort, believes that replenishing the candidate pool has taken a back seat to other party staples, like building a get-out-the-vote program. "Candidate recruitment isn't sexy, it takes a lot of manpower, it takes a lot time, and it needs more concerted effort," she says, "which is why we are stepping up here." 
The idea isn't just to supply candidates where none are currently running; the group believes the bench is too thin everywhere because Democrats are too exclusive in how they pick out candidates. "Parties are usually focused on asking their electeds, their staff, their networks, who they think should run," Litman says. That helps build a pipeline, but it's also an echo chamber that makes it difficult for new faces and voices to penetrate. It can be intimidating, she argues, for a prospective candidate to figure out how to run, without an organization to walk him or her through it. "So we're trying to reach people who, one, might not ever be approached by a party or by a recruitment network, or two, might not be comfortable raising their hand if the party asks who wants to run." In other words, women, people of color, and members the LGBT community—all under the age of 35. 
While Run for Something's founders stress that their efforts are focused on the state level, they view their program (and others like it) as an integral part of a larger rebuilding. As Litman's co-founder, Ross Morales Rocketto, puts it, "When President Obama ran for office originally, he was in his early to mid-30s running for state senate in Illinois."

This is the best goddamn news I've heard in months.  Check them out at runforsomething.net.

Of course, my big question is WHY AREN'T THE DEMOCRATS DOING THIS ANYWAY.

A Sinking Ship Of State

Things just got very worrisome at the State Department as essentially the entire seventh floor at Foggy Bottom is out the door rather than working for Rex Tillerson and the Trump regime. Josh Rogin at the Washington Post:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era. 
Tillerson was actually inside the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, taking meetings and getting the lay of the land. I reported Wednesday morning that the Trump team was narrowing its search for his No. 2, and that it was looking to replace the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy, who has been in that job for nine years, was actively involved in the transition and was angling to keep that job under Tillerson, three State Department officials told me. 
Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly, four State Department officials confirmed. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, followed him out the door. All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. 
Kennedy will retire from the foreign service at the end of the month, officials said. The other officials could be given assignments elsewhere in the foreign service. 
In addition, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr retired Jan. 20, and the director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, Lydia Muniz, departed the same day. That amounts to a near-complete housecleaning of all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people. 
“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”

These are the top managers at the department that would have helped Tillerson run the day-to-day operations at State.  They are all gone, and it looks like they are gone under their own volition.  FOr Undersecretary Kennedy to retire and his entire management team to leave?  Something in the Trump regime's foreign policy apparatus is rotten (not that any of it would be good, mind you) and I dearly hope the media keeps on this story to find out why.

This is a big one, guys.  Career foreign service people just don't walk out the door like this. If Tillerson and the Trump regime made it clear they were all gone out of spite (as these are all appointed positions that would require Senate confirmation) that's terrifying.  And if Tillerson is so incompetent that they left rather than serve, that's terrifying too.

I'm not sure which scenario is worse.

EDIT: CNN is reporting Kennedy and his staff were all fired by the Trump regime Wednesday afternoon.

Two senior administration officials said Thursday that the Trump administration fired four top State Department management officials as part of an effort to "clean house" at Foggy Bottom. 
Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry Smith, director of the Office for Foreign Missions, were sent letters by the White House that their service was no longer required, the sources told CNN. 
All four submitted letters of resignation, per tradition at the beginning of the administration. The letters from the White House said that their resignations were accepted and they were thanked for their service.

Whether or not that really happened?  With this White House?  Who knows?

Death Of The DREAM

Leaked copies of Trump regime draft orders have been circulating among the media and have panned out so far on things like The Wall™ and sanctuary cities, so Vox is making the choice to publish additional draft orders.  These orders detail a massive and abrupt about face in Obama policy in what amounts to a brutal Trump regime crackdown on immigration, both legal and undocumented.

The four remaining draft orders obtained by Vox focus on immigration, terrorism, and refugee policy. They wouldn't ban all Muslim immigration to the US, breaking a Trump promise from early in his campaign, but they would temporarily ban entries from seven majority-Muslim countries and bar all refugees from coming to the US for several months. They would make it harder for immigrants to come to the US to work, make it easier to deport them if they use public services, and put an end to the Obama administration program that protected young "DREAMer" immigrants from deportation.
In all, the combined documents would represent one of the harshest crackdowns on immigrants — both those here and those who want to come here — in memory. 
The draft executive order limiting immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries, formally titled, "Protecting the Nation From Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals," suspends entry into the United States from selected countries starting 30 days after the executive order's issuance
On the campaign trail, Trump made comments about banning Muslims from the United States. This order is reminiscent of that promise but falls far short of it, as most Muslim-majority countries, including the most populous ones (Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan), are not included on the list of barred countries. 
The countries in question are those included in the State Department's list of terrorism-sponsoring countries (Iran, Sudan, and Syria), those designated by the Department of Homeland Security as countries of concern (Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), and Iraq, which is specially designated in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, the law from which the executive order gets its list of barred countries. (Syria is specially designated too, but it’s already banned due to the terrorism list.) 
That law simply limited travel from countries whose residents normally don't need a visa to visit the US (which tend to be rich countries like the UK, France, and Germany) if they had previously traveled to a country of concern, like Iran or Yemen or Iraq. Trump's executive order uses that list and bars all immigration from those countries outright. 
As this ban is being implemented, the secretary of homeland security, along with the secretary of state and director of national intelligence, is instructed to evaluate which countries do and don't provide enough information about visa applicants for the US to vet them for terrorism risk. Any countries that don't provide enough information, according to the secretary of homeland security, will be given 60 days to start doing so. After those 60 days, the secretary of homeland security will provide to the president a list of any countries still judged to not be providing enough information. The president will then issue a proclamation prohibiting nationals of those countries from entering the United States. This list will replace the one based on the 2015 law.

That's just the first order, widely expected today:  A moratorium on all refugees, a revocation of visas from selected countries (even spouses of US citizens) and a complete ban on entry from these countries starting on or about March 1.  It's madness and the list omits Saudi Arabia, where the 9/11 attackers were based, and this list will only grow.

And that's just the start.

Another apparent order draft, titled “Ending unconstitutional executive amnesties,” would end a major Obama program that has effectively protected more than 740,000 unauthorized immigrants from deportation since 2012. 
This program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — was aimed at people who came to the US when they were younger than 16 years old, who either had pursued or were pursuing education and had no felony convictions, among other conditions. It let them get temporary protection from deportation and permits to work in the US. 
But the order would end the DACA program. Now, it says that work permits already issued under the program will remain valid. However, these permits are all already set to expire at some point in the next two years, and once they expire, they will not be renewed, according to the order. Starting very soon, a trickle of immigrants would start to lose their DACA protections — and by January 2019, barring a policy reversal or an act of Congress, all of them would. 
Even while still protected by DACA, the order says, the government will not grant them “advance parole.” That means that should they leave the country, they would not be allowed to return. 
Finally, this draft order would also put the nail in the coffin of Obama’s 2014 attempt to extend that program to cover a broader group of unauthorized immigrants — DAPA — which had already been blocked in court. All in all, if implemented, the order would roll back President Obama’s most significant legacy on immigration.

In other words, the Trump regime is planning to take information on three-quarters of a million people and almost certainly use it to start rounding them up and deporting them.  Between this and the sanctuary city order yesterday, the path of mass deportations is very painfully clear here.

The other two orders are designed to limit legal immigration into the US, the first by completely changing the way L1 and H1-B visas work, and to crack down on foreign students at US colleges and universities, and the second would deny public government services to undocumented immigrants and to anyone on visas and deport them if they are receiving any government benefits whatsoever.

In other words, the US is closing its doors over the next few days.  This is not the America I grew up in anymore.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Last Call For E-Mailing It In

At this point we've gone so far around the bend on the irony meter that the leading bit has become negative.

Senior Trump administration staffers including Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Sean Spicer and Steve Bannon have active accounts on a Republican National Committee email system, Newsweek has learned. 
The system (rnchq.org) is the same one the George W. Bush administration was accused of using to evade transparency rules after claiming to have “lost” 22 million emails.
Making use of separate political email accounts at the White House is not illegal. In fact, they serve a purpose by allowing staff to divide political conversations (say, arranging for the president to support a congressional re-election campaign) from actual White House work. Commingling politics and state business violates the Hatch Act, which restricts many executive branch employees from engaging in political activity on government time. 
But after then-candidate Donald Trump and the Republicans repeatedly called for “locking up” Hillary Clinton for handling government work with a private server while secretary of state, the new White House staff risks repeating the same mistake that dogged the Democrat’s presidential campaign. They also face a security challenge: The RNC email system, according to U.S. intelligence, was hacked during the 2016 race. “They better be careful after making such a huge ruckus over the private email over at the State Department,” says former Bush administration lawyer Richard Painter. 
(The White House has not responded to queries about the system. Newsweek will update if and when it does.) 
It’s not clear whether or how Trump staffers are using the RNC email addresses. If they are using them, they are subject to the “Disclosure Requirement For Official Business Conducted Using Electronic Messaging Accounts," a law, 44 U.S.C. 2209, that went into effect in 2014. If White House staffers have already used the RNC emails system for White House work, they must copy or forward those communications into the government system within 20 days.

The Disclosure Requirement was passed to prevent presidents from shielding communications that fall under the Presidential Records Act of 1978. The last time White House staffers used the same RNC email system, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) described it as an attempt to circumvent transparency. CREW Director Melanie Sloan charged in 2007 that the Bush White House was using the RNC email system because “they don’t want anyone ever to be able to come back and see what was going on behind the scenes.”

And the Bush email mess in 2007 was pretty huge, with 22 million emails that, you know, vanished into thin air never to be seen again.  Now the Trump regime is happy to start getting away with doing that all over again.

Oh, and The Donald is still using an unsecured Android phone these days.

I'm sure it's not a problem, I mean Russia already knows 100% of what Trump is doing, so it doesn't really matter if they've got a bead on the thing 24/7 right?

Good thing we didn't elect the lady with the private email system.

Pompeo And Circumstances

Kansas GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo was easily confirmed on Monday as the Trump regime's new CIA Director, including by more than a dozen Senate Democrats.

The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump's pick for CIA director, on Monday night. 
The vote was 66-32 in favor of confirmation, with Pompeo picking up some Democratic backing. The only Republican in opposition was Sen. Rand Paul. 
The vote was held open longer than normal in an effort to let Senators delayed by the storm in the Northeast reach Washington, but it was gaveled closed before Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal could arrive.

Vice President Mike Pence swore in Pompeo, a Kansas congressman, after the vote at the White House.
"I just want to remind our colleagues that our country continues to face incredible threats, and they are not hitting the pause button," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said in a statement issued before he voted in support of Pompeo. "The President needs his national security Cabinet, and particularly his CIA Director at his side, a Cabinet position integral to keeping our country safe." 
Pompeo's view on electronic surveillance and torture drew the ire of some Democrats.
But Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Socialist from Vermont, cited Pompeo's support for the broad collection of metadata in his vote against the CIA nominee. 
"What we are talking about is the United States government having in many ways more information about us than we may even understand about our own life," Sanders said. "In many ways, it sounds to me like we are moving toward an Orwellian society."

Who voted for Pompeo?  Our old red state Dem friends Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp of course, but also blue state Dems like Chuck Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse, Amy Klobuchar and Brian Schatz.

Who voted against?  Bernie and Rand Paul.  Go figure.  If you were expecting the CIA to start poking around in Trump's Russia connections, well with pro-torture Pompeo now in charge, the agency's rank and file just got bought off by Trump this week.

The Trump administration is preparing a sweeping executive order that would clear the way for the Central Intelligence Agency to reopen overseas “black site” prisons, like those where it detained and tortured terrorism suspects before former President Obama shut them down. 
President Trump’s three-page draft order, titled “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants,” and obtained by The New York Times would also undo many of the other restrictions on handling detainees that Mr. Obama put in place in response to policies of the Bush administration. 
If Mr. Trump signs the draft order, he would also revoke Mr. Obama’s directive to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all wartime detainees in American custody – another step toward reopening secret prisons outside of the normal wartime rules established by the Geneva Conventions. 
And while Mr. Obama tried to close the Guant√°namo prison and refused to bring new detainees there, the draft order directs the Pentagon to continue using the facility “for the detention and trial of newly captured” detainees – including not just more suspected members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban, like the 41 remaining detainees, but also Islamic State detainees. It does not address legal problems that might raise.

So the Trump regime's back in the torture game, guys.  And Dems did nothing to stop it.  We could have closed Gitmo under Obama years ago, but Dems screwed Obama over on that too.  Now Trump will make sure America tortures suspects for no actual law enforcement, legal, or moral reason.

Oh well.  At least we didn't elect that awful Hillary, right?

New tag: Mike Pompeo.  I figure we're going to need it.

Ride The Pipeline, Baby!

Good thing we didn't elect that harridan as President, or she might have betrayed us on Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipeline projects.  Not like the guy we currently have in office.

President Trump signed five more executive actions Tuesday in a blitz of executive power meant to speed approvals of high-profile energy and infrastructure projects, including two controversial pipeline projects in the upper Midwest.

Trump signed two presidential memoranda intended to expedite the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, but also signed three more longer-term and sweeping directives requiring American-made steel and changing the process of approving and regulating future pipeline and infrastructure projects.

"This is about streamlining the incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible, permitting process," Trump said in an Oval Office signing ceremony that has already become a trademark of his short presidency.

In reversing the Obama administration policy to disapprove the Keystone pipeline, Trump emphasized that the construction isn't a done deal. "It's something that subject to a renegotiation of terms by us," he said. "We'll see if we can get the pipeline built. A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs."

Keystone XL became a lightning rod for Obama's energy policy, with the administration taking seven years to make a decision before ultimately killing it over environmental concerns. Environmental groups reacted quickly and vociferously, promising legal action and White House protests.

"President Trump will live to regret his actions this morning," said Michael Brune of the Sierra Club, promising "a wall of resistance the likes of which he never imagined"

Good luck with that Mike.  Hey, I seem to remember environmental groups like the Sierra Club being quite upset with Clinton back in June because she wasn't good enough.

While the former secretary of state has laid out a climate change agenda that goes further than President Barack Obama's, for many environmental activists, Sanders' ambitious plan to combat climate change served as a rallying point.

With little regard for the opposition to curbing climate change from Congressional Republicans, Sanders unveiled a plan that would tax carbon emissions, ban offshore drilling, and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Environmental activists cheered when Sanders stated onstage at an early Democratic debate that climate change was the biggest threat facing the US today. The Sanders campaign itself criticized Clinton's climate plan as vague.

Groups that endorsed Clinton saw a swift backlash from some members who believed that Sanders' plan was more comprehensive.

Some League of Conservation Voters Action Fund supporters threatened to withhold future donations after the group endorsed Clinton in November. While climate group 350 action did not endorse a candidate, some of its members tracked both the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, peppering them with tough questions about climate change on the campaign trail.

Friends of the Earth Action endorsed Sanders early in the 2016 race after Clinton failed to say that she would not approve the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial pipeline that would have funneled oil from Canadian tar sands to the Gulf coast. The group aired pro-Sanders ads in several early primary states. Clinton eventually came out against the pipeline.

The Sierra Club decided earlier this year against endorsing a candidate to avoid taking a side in the rift between environmental activists during the Democratic race.
But with the Democratic primary wrapping up, top climate activists suggest that the ideological gulf between Clinton and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — who has claimed that climate change is a Chinese hoax — will be more than enough to motivate "climate voters" to support the former secretary of state. 

How'd that work out, guys?

Well, now you have Trump.  Good job on that, environmental groups! You sure showed her!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Last Call For Take A Gander At This Propaganda

BuzzFeed News reporter Charlie Warzel takes a look at the propaganda machine that Trump regime advisor (and white nationalist) Steve Bannon is building to bypass the free press in the age of internet disinformation.

At last Thursday’s DeploraBall, Gateway Pundit editor Jim Hoft stepped on to the event podium, smiling wide in a maroon blazer and ’70s-style wide-collared party shirt. He had an exciting announcement. “We’ve been in contact with the new administration and they’re doing something different,” Hoft said, referring to a Trump administration decision that would award real legitimacy to his popular, ultra-conservative political site. The Gateway Pundit made a name for itself during the election with headlines like “BREAKING: 71% of Doctors Say Hillary Health Concerns Serious, Possibly Disqualifying!” (she had pneumonia), and served as an engine for rumors of Hillary Clinton’s poor health during her presidential campaign. And now that coverage, and its set of alternative facts, was being rewarded. 
“We got word that Gateway Pundit is going to have a White House correspondent position,” Hoft said, whipping up the crowd. “We had 1 million readers a day coming in. And the reason was because I was telling the truth and the mainstream media was telling the fake fucking news!” 
The crowd — a loose collection pro-Trumpers gathered to “celebrate memeing a president into existence” — went nuts with a deafening chant of “Real news! Real news! Real news!” 
If you’ve been paying attention during the long run-up to Trump’s unexpected victory, you may have noticed a new dynamic in the already fractured and chaotic political media ecosystem. There is a new new media. Its branding (“news you can trust,” “we report the truth”), design (sleek, media-rich webpages), and distribution (heavy social and video presences across Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, YouTube, podcasts) all feel familiar. But its message is very different. It is unedited and unabashedly pro-Trump, and it often posits an interpretation of reality dramatically different from that of the mainstream media. 
Welcome to the New Media Upside Down: a parallel universe (think the Upside Down from the Netflix series Stranger Things) that operates as a mirror image of its mainstream counterpart with its own “alternative facts,” audience, and interpretation of truth. The New Media Upside Down looks a lot like the media it’s trying to undermine and replace, but it’s darker in vision — and raw. If you live in the mainstream media world, the New Media Upside Down can be hard to find — the only real crossover between the two worlds is on Twitter, where its leaders lambaste mainstream news reports often with the aim of discrediting them. It’s (reasonably) young and hungry, and has risen with Trump all the way to the White House — where Steve Bannon, who helped construct this upside-down media world while running Breitbart News, now holds sway as senior counselor to the president himself.

Warzel may be getting a bit romantic here with his description of Bannon's "parallel universe news" outlets here, but the threat is very real.  Bannon would love nothing more than to exterminate the free press in America and replace it with his evil, goatee-wearing version, where the only source of news on Trump is what Bannon says it is.  And make no mistake, these guys have the money and production values to do it.

The New Media Upside Down and the traditional media sphere may differ in philosophy, but they share plenty in terms of presentation. Noted alt-right troll Chuck Johnson’s new website WeSearcher — a crowdfunded reporting site aimed at raising bounties to expose mainstream journalists and political opponents — is so slickly designed it feels a bit like Kickstarter’s evil twin. Mitchell’s radio show, Your Voice Radio — which is distributed mainly via YouTube and the DIY podcast platform Spreaker — is basically indistinguishable from terrestrial political talk radio. And video-centric outlets like InfoWars, Right Side Broadcasting, and OANN sport high TV production values with chyrons, swooping jib shots, and flashy sets similar to those of cable news offerings. Other figures are more deeply rooted in new media, like Cernovich’s frequent live Periscopes and the constant, frenetic live-tweeting of the day’s news. 
In the era of fake news, a defining characteristic of the New Media Upside Down is how it presents its arguments and biases. Borrowing language from its legacy counterparts, it frames the information it broadcasts as sourced reports, using a collection of like-minded writers and video personalities out in the field to tell its version of the truth. Unlike the patently false news coming out of political content farms in places like Macedonia, the New Media Upside Down’s work is based, to some extent, on actual reporting, despite its shaky sourcing and questionable, often misleading framing. 
Last week, for example, InfoWars — the unabashedly conspiracy-touting radio and video empire dedicated to fighting the globalist New World Order — reported that BuzzFeed News was planning to release a damning tape of Trump just 48 hours before the inauguration. The piece was reported out by InfoWars’ editor-at-large, Paul Joseph Watson. Yet the tip was discovered to be a hoax by a 27-year old marketer who wanted to see how fake news was generated. 
Rarely are such false reports so clear cut; most stories percolating inside the New Media Upside Down exist in a gray area, deftly walking the line between salacious framing/innuendo and falsehoods, but rarely stepping into the dangerous territory of fake news. All signs suggest the ecosystem will only grow murkier. Breitbart News — arguably the largest and most visible publication of the New Media Upside Down — is staffing up across its politics and entertainment desks and is poised to attract mainstream voices to its masthead; just this month, it poached a respected Wall Street Journal reporter to head its business and finance coverage.

The New Media Upside Down’s mirror-image embrace of mainstream language, presentation, and tactics has also helped undermine the traditional media’s credibility. Earlier this month, when BuzzFeed News published a salacious, unverified intelligence dossier on Donald Trump, the New Media Upside Down — often accused of being purveyors of fake news — repurposed the term to denounce reporting by outlets including BuzzFeed News and CNN.

When Bannon's pro-regime propaganda is no longer distinguishable from actual journalism by news consumers, then the game is over.  The Constitution may protect free speech, but it doesn't guarantee your local newspaper can stay in business.  Much of the damage inflicted on the state of the news has been self-inflicted over the last quarter-century,  but Bannon and friends are now in the position to deliver the killing blow to news.

And now they are backed up by the full power of the Trump regime.  You don't have to outlaw the media, you can just flood the zone with crap and people won't bother to look anymore.  All that's left at this point is "exclusives" going to Breitbart and InfoWars and OANN from the Trump regime, and they can drive their competitors out of business.  News is a product, and Republicans want to make sure any government alternatives are tightly controlled if not eliminated.

In other words, we're in real trouble here, and the problem was of our own making.  Sort of glad I never got into the business myself.  New tag: Propaganda Stupidity.

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