Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Last Call For Generally Awful Kelly

If there were any doubts left that Trump regime chief of staff Gen. John Kelly is anything but another screamingly racist asshole, that got put to bed yesterday as he decided to come out as a Confederate apologist and fascist jackass.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Monday called Robert E. Lee “an honorable man” and said that “the lack of an ability to compromise” led to the Civil War, once again thrusting himself into the public spotlight on an emotionally charged issue.

The comments, made on the debut night of conservative media host Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News, came after Kelly was asked about the recent decision by a Virginia church to remove plaques that honored the Confederate general and George Washington.

I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly told Ingraham. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

Got that?  Former four-star general and student of history telling FOX news viewers that the Civil War was the fault of lack of compromise on slavery.  You know, it was both sides' fault.

Let that one sink in.

The comments came in the midst of an interview that touched on a wide range of topics including the indictments in the Mueller investigation, the United States’ relationship with China, and Kelly’s work as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Long seen as a force of order and discipline in the White House, the former Marine general became part of the controversy over the president’s calls to Gold Star families this month when he defended Trump’s statements to a widow, made false claims about a Florida congresswoman who had criticized the White House and said he would only take questions from reporters who knew families who had lost soldiers overseas. He told Ingraham on Monday that he didn’t believe he had anything to apologize for

Apologize to a black woman?  That doesn't happen in America.  Kelly wasn't put on Trump's team to contain Trump, he was put there because he's just like Trump and shares his racist, fascist tendencies.  Let's not forget Kelly was brought in as Homeland Security director and was happily making military plans for America's border with Mexico and rounding up the undocumented before Trump asked him to join the White House staff as its head.

No illusions here.  Kelly is just as awful as the rest of the Trump racists, and they can't be kicked out of power soon enough.

The Joy Of Cooking Turkeys

Joy-Ann Reid shows America how it's done in this clip from her MSNBC weekend morning show AM Joy as she dismantles Washington Examiner stenographer Jen Kerns on the Mueller investigation and right-wing Clinton hysteria.

The Mary Sue's Vivian Kane:

In addition to being an obvious deflection from the investigation into his own administration, this story is utter bullshit. Hillary Clinton had no involvement in the Uranium One deal. This was a transaction between a private company and a foreign government. The closest this deal got to Clinton was when it was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, of which she is and was not a member, meaning she never got close to it at all. Also, Trump loves to scare the public by throwing out the word “nuclear,” while omitting the subsequent word “power.” 
Basically, Trump is trying to convince us that Hillary Clinton gave away 20% of our country’s uranium supply so that Russia could make bombs. Not one part of that is true, but it’s the kind of blatantly false claim that the media so often has trouble shutting down. 
When talking to Jen Kerns, a former GOP spokesperson and contributor for the conservative Washington Examiner, Reid had no such trouble. I’ve never had such a strong reaction to basic fact-checking, but this clip is making me feel all warm inside. 
“I want to ask you a couple fact-based questions” is my new favorite phrase in the English language. 
What makes this extra maddening is that Kerns has all the information Reid asks for. She knows that her talking points are misleading; she’s obviously just hoping she doesn’t get called on her BS. These people are lying to us, plain and simple, and we need more Joy-Ann Reids in the world, letting them know we see their lies for what they are, and we won’t stand for it.

This is so good I may actually start watching MSNBC again.

Well, at least AM Joy.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Nixon Trump is in full bunker mode right now after Monday's indictments, and nobody's happy around the White House as America's racist uncle is screaming at the TV and wondering why he's surrounded by idiots who might have already turned evidence on him.

And he's scared.  Poor thing.

President Trump woke before dawn on Monday and burrowed in at the White House residence to wait for the Russia bombshell he knew was coming.

Separated from most of his West Wing staff — who fretted over why he was late getting to the Oval Office — Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist, according to several people close to him.

The president digested the news of the first indictments in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe with exasperation and disgust, these people said. He called his lawyers repeatedly. He listened intently to cable news commentary. And, with rising irritation, he watched live footage of his onetime campaign adviser and confidant, Paul Manafort, turning himself in to the FBI.

Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the charges against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., “there is NO COLLUSION!”

But the president’s celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. 

The notoriously thin-skinned, easily-baited, entirely predictable old man is now Elvis, shooting the TV.

But Trump’s anger Monday was visible to those who interacted with him, and the mood in the corridors of the White House was one of weariness and fear of the unknown. As the president groused upstairs, many staffers — some of whom have hired lawyers to help them navigate Mueller’s investigation — privately speculated about where the special counsel might turn next.

The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”

Trump is also increasingly agitated by the expansion of Mueller’s probe into financial issues beyond the 2016 campaign and about the potential damage to him and his family.

Clock's ticking for Trump and he knows it.  He knows Mueller has him.  He knows there's no way out.  And frankly I think there's a chance he might throw in the towel.

But I doubt that will happen.  A bully punched in the nose may back off for a while, but then they'll come back at you with twice the rage that you dared to stand up to them, and I expect we'll see Trump's response before he leaves for his Asia trip later this week.

I expect it won't be pretty.  If another indictment comes this week, all bets are off.  The smart money is on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, but there's also a chance that Sam Clovis, Trump campaign co-chair and current nominee for the USDA's top science position (even though he's not a scientist at all) could be named next.  After all, the evidence strongly points to him being involved in the events detailed in George Papdopoulos's indictment.

Corey Lewandowski too is most likely in the crosshairs.  Manafort after all replaced him on the Trump team, but back in March 2016 Lewandowski was running the campaign and would have certainly known what was going on with the putative contacts to Russia to get dirt on Hillary.

Finally, former US Attorney for Manhattan Preet Bharara gives some insight as to where he thinks the Mueller case is going.

“Hard to tell, but the George Papadopoulos guilty plea tells us (a) Mueller is moving fast (b) the Mueller team keeps secrets well (c) more charges should be expected and (d) this team takes obstruction and lying very, very seriously,” Bharara said, referring to the former unpaid Trump campaign adviser, whose plea deal rocked Washington on Monday. “That should be of concern to some people.”

Remember, Bharara was fired by Trump.

We'll see who's next, but I guarantee you more indictments are coming, and soon.  As Preet says, Mueller is moving fast.  Now that he's pulled the pin on this indictment grenade, the real fun begins.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

The Trump/Russia collusion story certainly is important, but my number one concern going forward remains GOP voter suppression tactics against Democrats.  It's how they won in 2016, and how they plan to keep winning in 2018 and beyond.  And if Democrats won't do anything about it, then voting rights groups and the courts will.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is once again being accused of violating federal elections laws.

Common Cause Indiana in a federal lawsuit filed Friday calls for an injunction to be issued against Lawson, whom the political watchdog group accuses of unlawfully purging voters from state rolls.

Specifically, Common Cause challenges the new "Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck" system that allows election officials to immediately remove voters identified as having registered to vote in another state. The process finds a match based on first name, last name and date of birth. 
Common Cause alleges that the crosscheck system contradicts the protections in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, resulting in "nonuniform, discriminatory and illegal cancellations of Indiana voter registrations." 
For example, one requirement of federal law says a state “shall not remove” a voter from its list of eligible voters due to change in residence unless the voter confirms a change in residence in writing or fails to respond to a notice sent by the state.

The ACLU of Indiana, national ACLU and voting rights group Demos are representing Common Cause in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

I've talked about Crosscheck before: the twisted and flawed brainchild of Kansas GOP Secretary of State (and now Trump voter suppression commission head) Kris Kobach.  Indiana used the flawed system to disenfranchise thousands of Democratic voters in 2016 based on faulty information.  If there's someone with your name and your date of birth anywhere else in America that's registered to vote, both of you could get removed from the voter rolls under Crosscheck.

Now we're seeing lawsuits on this.  That's definitely a good thing, but whether or not they will be resolved in time for the 2020 election is anyone's guess.  And right now through a combination of gerrymandering and voter suppression, the GOP has Congress all but locked down for the foreseeable future, as well as multiple state legislatures.

No wonder then they are trying to get rid of the 17th Amendment and direct election of Senators too, instead putting their appointment in the hands of state legislatures.  If that were the case now, the GOP would have nearly 70 Senators instead of 52.

Getting rid of Trump is certainly necessary, but going forward after his term is even more important.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Hell of a day so far from Robert Mueller.  Two major indictments and a guilty plea with cooperation by the witness. Lawfare's Ben Wittes and Susan Hennessey recap where we're at now:

The first big takeaway from this morning’s flurry of charging and plea documents with respect to Paul Manafort Jr., Richard Gates III, and George Papadopoulos is this: The President of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department
The second big takeaway is even starker: A member of President Trump’s campaign team now admits that he was working with people he knew to be tied to the Russian government to “arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials” and to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of hacked emails—and that he lied about these activities to the FBI. He briefed President Trump on at least some them. 
Before we dive any deeper into the Manafort-Gates indictment—charges to which both pled not guilty to today—or the Papadopoulos plea and stipulation, let’s pause a moment over these two remarkable claims, one of which we must still consider as allegation and the other of which we can now consider as admitted fact. President Trump, in short, had on his campaign at least one person, and allegedly two people, who actively worked with adversarial foreign governments in a fashion they sought to criminally conceal from investigators. One of them ran the campaign. The other, meanwhile, was interfacing with people he “understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials” and with a person introduced to him as “a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin with connections to senior Russian government officials.” All of this while President Trump was assuring the American people that he and his campaign had "nothing to do with Russia." 
The release of these documents should, though it probably won’t, put to rest the suggestion that there are no serious questions of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in the latter’s interference on the former’s behalf during the 2016 election. It also raises a profound set of questions of its own about the truthfulness of a larger set of representations Trump campaign officials and operatives have made both in public, and presumably, under oath and to investigators. 
And here’s the rub: This is only Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s opening salvo. 
As opening salvos go, it’s a doozy.

Every indication is that Papadoupolos was flipped to get Manafort and Gates, and that the two of them are going to be pressured to flip on everyone else: Michael Flynn and Carter Page, then Jared Kushner, then Jeff Sessions, and finally Donald Trump himself. 

Considering the charges being laid out for Manafort and Gates, there's zero doubt in my mind that indictments are sealed and waiting for Flynn and Page at the minimum.  The big tip-off is the FARA charges against Manafort and Gates: violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. We know Flynn and Page both lied about working for foreign powers, and being willing to prosecute on that means Flynn and Page are certainly in the crosshairs.  You can make the case that Kushner is facing similar charges considering all the times he's lied about foreign contacts.

It also means Jeff Sessions is most likely facing perjury charges.  Remember, he lied to Congress under oath on a number of occasions.  Sessions was at that same March 2016 meeting that Papadopoulos and Trump were at as part of the Trump foreign policy squad.  Sessions has tesified under oath that nothing happened there, but Papadopoulos's confession means otherwise.

And that leads us to Trump.  At the very least, as the Lawfare team points out, the collusion story is very, very real.  A lot of Trump regime folks, current and former, are in dire trouble right now.  Who and how much trouble, we're going to see over the next few weeks and months.

We're now in the next phase of the game, and everything is now playing for keeps.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

So CNN was correct: the first Mueller investigation indictments were indeed unsealed this morning.  Paul Manafort, you're our first contestant on Russian To Judgment, COME ON DOWN!

Paul Manafort surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning, after a person close to the case said the first charges were filed in a special counsel investigation. 
The charges against Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, were not immediately clear but represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over the president’s first year in office. Also charged was Mr. Manafort’s former business associate Rick Gates, who was also told to surrender on Monday, the person said
Mr. Manafort walked into the F.B.I.’s field office in Washington at about 8:15 a.m. with his lawyer. 
Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show. 
Mr. Manafort had been under investigation for violations of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying.

No doubt the Trump folks will say this has nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with Manafort's relationship as an unregistered foreign agent for the Turkish government.  That may be true, in the same way Alphonse Capone being indicted on income tax fraud had nothing to do with him being a gangster and everything to do with Capone being a lousy accountant.

Note Rick Gates being nabbed on this indictment as well.  We haven't really talked about Manafort's sidekick being in legal trouble, but I'm betting we will be.  The NY Times piece linked above on Gates is pretty thorough.

Nearly everywhere Paul Manafort went, it seemed, Rick Gates followed, his protégé and junior partner. Election campaigns in Eastern Europe and Africa. Business ventures with a Russian tycoon. The upper ranks of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. 
Mr. Gates survived Mr. Manafort’s purge last summer amid allegations that his mentor had taken millions of dollars from Kremlin allies, retaining a central role on Mr. Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee. But Mr. Gates, 45, soon followed in Mr. Manafort’s footsteps once again: In April, amid new questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election, he was abruptly forced out of a lobbying group formed to advance President Trump’s agenda. 
Now, Mr. Gates has been drawn into the burgeoning federal investigations into diplomatic and financial dealings between Russian interests and the president’s inner circle. In a newly disclosed memo, a lawyer for the Trump campaign ordered members of the president’s transition team to preserve records relating to five Trump associates, among them Mr. Manafort — already known to be a subject of the investigation — and Mr. Gates. The memo indicates that transition lawyers believe Mr. Gates’s actions are under scrutiny by the Justice Department or the House or Senate Intelligence Committees — or soon will be. 
As investigators examine Mr. Manafort’s financial and political dealings at home and abroad, they are likely to run into Mr. Gates wherever they look. During the pair’s heady days in Ukraine, it was Mr. Gates who flew to Moscow for meetings with associates of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch. His name appears on documents linked to shell companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show.

Keep in mind Gates remained Manafort's man in the Trump regime until April and still made trips to the White House as recently as June.  Gates is now facing charges as well, and again, Gates met with the Russians, specifically Oleg Deripaska, who I first noted was a Putin ally back in August 2016 when I told you Manafort was dirty.  Gates was Manafort's right hand and definitely neck-deep in Manafort's slime pit.

We've seen the first Mueller indictments.  We're far from the last.  Manafort and Gates are the fulcrum, Mueller's pulling on the lever, and he may just end up shifting the world.

But where do we go from here?  What will Trump's response be?  What will McConnell/Ryan do?  What will the Dems do?  We'll see.

The full indictment is here, 12 counts for both men, including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the US, tax fraud, false statements and unlawfully being a foreign agent.  These are "in prison for the rest of your natural life" charges, guys.

And yes, the first charge, conspiracy against the US?  For actions from 2006 through 2017.  And note this:

But the bigger news might be the third indictment.  Former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.   He's the Trumpie who was behind the now-infamous March 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Three days after Donald Trump named his campaign foreign policy team in March 2016, the youngest of the new advisers sent an email to seven campaign officials with the subject line: “Meeting with Russian Leadership - Including Putin.” 
The adviser, George Papadopoulos, offered to set up “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump,” telling them his Russian contacts welcomed the opportunity, according to internal campaign emails read to The Washington Post. 
The proposal sent a ripple of concern through campaign headquarters in Trump Tower. Campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis wrote that he thought NATO allies should be consulted before any plans were made. Another Trump adviser, retired Navy Rear Adm. Charles Kubic, cited legal concerns, including a possible violation of U.S. sanctions against Russia and of the Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from unauthorized negotiation with foreign governments. 
But Papadopoulos, a campaign volunteer with scant foreign policy experience, persisted. Between March and September, the self-described energy consultant sent at least a half-dozen requests for Trump, as he turned from primary candidate to party nominee, or for members of his team to meet with Russian officials. Among those to express concern about the effort was then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who rejected in May 2016 a proposal from Papadopoulos for Trump to do so. 
The exchanges are among more than 20,000 pages of documents the Trump campaign turned over to congressional committees this month after review by White House and defense lawyers. The selection of Papadopoulos’s emails were read to The Post by a person with access to them. Two other people with access to the emails confirmed the general tone of the exchanges and some specific passages within them.

We now know Papadopoulos has plead guilty back on October 6, that was also unsealed today. The indictment is a doozy.

And unlike the first two sets of charges, there's a guilty plea and a direct connection to Trump's campaign and Russian collusion.

 Stay tuned.  More's coming.   Mueller has three birds in hand and at least one is singing.

Shit just got real, America.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Long Read: Mashed Potatoes

The GOP has everything they could possibly want in North Idaho: the Democratic party is non-existent here and there's nobody to challenge total Republican rule, it's 98% white and conservatives from all over the Western US have moved in, fleeing West coast blue state liberals.

Naturally it has degenerated into Lord of the Flies as they have completely turned on each other.

Brent Regan doesn’t work the room during the monthly meetings of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, because he doesn’t need to: People come to him, as if before a ruler, or a king. He has the confidence of a man who's rarely challenged but always has the upper hand when he is; he’s used to others agreeing that he’s the smartest person in the room. Over email — the only way he'll speak to reporters, after a history, he says, of being misquoted and misunderstood — the community college graduate and Mensa member wields his intellect combatively, like a tenured professor dressing down an unprepared freshman.

He frequently "rejects the premise" of a question and invokes everything from "Cartesian relativism" and "Greco-Roman philosophy" to the Magna Carta when asked to describe his political beliefs. "Your conclusions about conservatism remind me of the Indian fable about the blind men trying to describe an elephant," he told me.

It's this didactic tendency that has helped keep Regan, a man described as both the sugar daddy of the hard right and the godfather of North Idaho politics, from winning elected office. His only attempt — a run for school board trustee, back in 2014 — fell flat. But Regan doesn't want for power. According to those who’ve observed him closely, the loss, one of the few in a gilded life, taught him a lesson: He wasn’t a politician. He was a puppet master.

Many of the most powerful people in political history never held office. Instead, they had money, or they had strategy. Regan has both. As chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC), he oversees the political maneuvers of the only party that matters in the state’s third-largest county. He is the chairman of the board of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which grades state legislators on their votes and acts as a de facto conservative policing service. He’s an inventor. He’s very good at enforcing Robert’s Rules of Order. He’s a major donor to PACs that have worked, somewhat surreptitiously, to influence local elections.

“Brent Regan is a real patriot,” a member of the KCRCC told me. “That movie, The Patriot, Brent is like that Mel Gibson character to me. He’s got the IQ and the common sense — he’s the smartest man I’ve ever known.”

And like so many others currently involved in North Idaho politics, Regan’s a California transplant: one of thousands of ex–LAPD officers, doomsday preppers, “traditionalist” Catholics, and far-right evangelicals who’ve flocked to the white, conservative utopia of North Idaho over the last 20 years, working to remake the Republican Party in their own image. Before, they were called libertarians and constitutionalists, or called nothing at all, because there was no political group conservative enough to represent their beliefs. But after the 2008 election of President Obama, they emerged, consolidated power, and began operating under a simple principle: It’s easier to take over a political party than to start one of your own.

Under Regan, the KCRCC has tacked farther and farther to the right, creating a political platform unrecognizable to Republicans of the past. Over the last three months, they’ve issued resolutions condemning Idaho’s two conservative senators for voting to sanction Russia (the bill passed the Senate 98–2); suggested that GOP gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist is not, in fact, a Republican (like President Trump, Ahlquist, a Boise businessman, has donated to both Democrats and Republicans); and called for the repeal of the local urban renewal law, dubbing it the “economic equivalent of fascism” (it’s not). In short, they’ve redefined what it means to be an Idaho Republican, working to clean house, on both a local and state level, of those who oppose them.

Those opponents, however, aren’t Democrats — whose political clout in North Idaho is essentially nonexistent. They’re fellow Republicans, who’ve been primaried, peer-pressured, and otherwise pushed out of the party, dubbed RINOs (Republicans in name only), Dirty Liberals, and Socialists. Those in power argue that they’re simply exercising their right to participate in the democratic process. But for those who’ve been excised from the party they’ve long considered their political home, it’s an embarrassing travesty.

“Lincoln founded the party of the ‘big tent’ back in 1854,” one long-serving state senator, fed up with Regan’s machinations, told me. “Why can’t we still have that?” He was referring to the idea, later reinforced by Ronald Reagan, that the Republican Party contains multitudes, that the “divergence of views” is one of its greatest strengths.

In North Idaho, that tent has narrowed to an exclusive and exclusionary group of individuals who, according to those who’ve been subject to their strategy, demand absolute fealty. The alternative is rejection, formal or otherwise, from politics altogether. Still, Regan doesn’t see the current political situation as “ugly,” even if it is destructive. If he had to pick a word to describe North Idaho politics, it would be “dynamic”: “What would beautiful politics look like?” Regan asked me. “Would it even be politics? To paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, politics is war by other means.”

In many ways, this is a story of what happens when a two-party system is reduced to one: when a political party becomes so dominant that, without outside opposition, it creates it internally. This particular version of the story is specific to North Idaho, and to the particular type of conservatives who have flocked here to set down roots in its rural soil. Yet its lessons apply across the political spectrum, as battles between the two parties are eclipsed by the destructive and deeply tribalist strife within them

In North Idaho, the liberals have already been wiped out, people of color are all but nonexistent here, so it comes down to "not being conservative enough" for each other.  They all want to be Idaho's Trump, they all want to rule, but only one can.

So the bloodletting begins.

It's the GOP returning to its fascist roots, pure and simple.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Drums Of War, Con't

While the Trump regime is in now full panic mode over the coming Mueller indictments, the counter-operation that will make all this go away is in full swing, half a world away. Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis is priming the pump for war, and right now it's a race to see which will happen first, an indictment that leads to Trump's downfall, or the bombs dropping on Pyongyang.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday the threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating. 
In remarks in Seoul with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis accused the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs — and vowed to defeat any attack. 
Mattis said North Korea engages in “outlaw” behavior and that the U.S. will never accept a nuclear North. 
He added that regardless of what the North might try, it is overmatched by the firepower and cohesiveness of the decades-old U.S.-South Korean alliance. 
“North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs,” he said, adding that U.S.-South Korean military and diplomatic collaboration thus has taken on “a new urgency.” 
I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” he said. 
As he emphasized throughout his weeklong Asia trip, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines, Mattis said diplomacy remains the preferred way to deal with the North. 
With that said,” he added, “make no mistake — any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is effective and overwhelming.”

And it won't be long before the case will be made that America must attack to stop North Korea, and the closer Mueller comes to Trump, the closer we come to a war that will kill millions.

Trump Cards, Con't

Red state faithful in Ohio are only realizing now how truly screwed they are by handing the country over to Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell, and will have to warm themselves at night with thought that at least it'll be worse for those people or something.

Doug Corcoran is in the trenches every day in the fight against the opioid crisis in the rural Ohio county he helps oversee.

So President Donald Trump’s failure this week to formally declare the overdose epidemic a “national emergency” - words that would have freed up more federal funds to tackle the crisis - was disappointing for him. 
“I have been hopeful for the last several years that the federal government would step up and help us with this crisis, and they haven’t. They’ve really dropped the ball on this and it’s sad,” said Corcoran, a county commissioner in Ross County, home to 77,000 people an hour south of Columbus, Ohio.

The county’s child services budget nearly doubled in the past five years to almost $2.4 million from $1.3 million, because of the number of children needing care due to addicted parents. For a county with a general fund of $23 million, that is a stress on the finances. 
Corcoran struggles constantly to make funds available from the county budget for the likes of drug treatment centers, the county jail and anti-drug education programs.
The disappointment about Trump’s announcement is more bitter in Ross County given that more than 60 percent of the county voted for the Republican at last year’s presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

Oh well.  Hillary had a plan to help you, and I'm 99.99999% sure Doug Corcoran told his buddies at the church cookout that he would never vote for "that stupid Clinton bitch" and that Trump was going to MAGA the hell out of Ohio.

Now you get the Republican plan.  We all do, but it's going to cause the most suffering in Ohio's farm counties too, but as long as FOX News is filled with stories about those people suffering too, I'm pretty sure Doug will vote GOP straight ticket again and again.

They're Richie Rich Rich

The global wealth inequality phenomenon over the last ten years is hardly limited to the US, as the world's thousand-plus billionaires are now worth $6 trillion and counting.

The world’s super-rich hold the greatest concentration of wealth since the US Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th century, when families like the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast fortunes.

Billionaires increased their combined global wealth by almost a fifth last year to a record $6tn (£4.5tn) – more than twice the GDP of the UK. There are now 1,542 dollar billionaires across the world, after 145 multi-millionaires saw their wealth tick over into nine-zero fortunes last year, according to the UBS / PwC Billionaires report
Josef Stadler, the lead author of the report and UBS’s head of global ultra high net worth, said his billionaire clients were concerned that growing inequality between rich and poor could lead to a “strike back”.

“We’re at an inflection point,” Stadler said. “Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about. The problem is the power of interest on interest – that makes big money bigger and, the question is to what extent is that sustainable and at what point will society intervene and strike back?” 
Stadler added: “We are now two years into the peak of the second Gilded Age.” 
He said the “$1bn question” was how society would react to the concentration of so much money in the hands of so few.

Anger at so-called robber barron families who built up vast fortunes from monopolies in US rail, oil, steel and banking in the late 19th century, an era of rapid industrialisation and growing inequality in America that became known as the Gilded Age, led to President Roosevelt breaking up companies and trusts and increasing taxes on the wealthy in the early 1900s. 
“Will there be similarities in the way society reacts to this gilded age?,” Stadler asked. “Will the second age end or will it proceed?”

Considering Republicans in Congress are working to cut $6.5 trillion in taxes, 90% of which will go to the wealthiest, I'm betting the world's billionaires will see their total net worth grow by trillions more in the Trump era., at the direct expense of the rest of us poor slobs.

And yeah, as they say, something's gotta give. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Ahh, it's Friday News Dump time for more Trump/Russia fun, and this week doesn't disappoint.  First up, more news on Donny Junior's meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016:

Natalia V. Veselnitskaya arrived at a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 hoping to interest top Trump campaign officials in the contents of a memo she believed contained information damaging to the Democratic Party and, by extension, Hillary Clinton. The material was the fruit of her research as a private lawyer, she has repeatedly said, and any suggestion that she was acting at the Kremlin’s behest that day is anti-Russia “hysteria.” 
But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim. 
The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya’s account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman. It also suggests that emails from an intermediary to the younger Mr. Trump promising that Ms. Veselnitskaya would arrive with information from Russian prosecutors were rooted at least partly in fact — not mere “puffery,” as the president’s son later said
In the past week, Ms. Veselnitskaya’s allegations — that major Democratic donors were guilty of financial fraud and tax evasion — have been embraced at the highest levels of the Russian government. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia repeated her charges at length last week at an annual conference of Western academics. A state-run television network recently made them the subject of two special reports, featuring interviews with Ms. Veselnitskaya and Mr. Chaika.

The matching messages point to a synchronized information campaign. Like some other Russian experts, Stephen Blank, a senior fellow with the nonprofit American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said they indicate that Ms. Veselnitskaya’s actions “were coordinated from the very top.”

The Trump Tower meeting is of keen interest to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as he investigates Russian efforts to help Mr. Trump’s campaign. At least one participant at the meeting has already testified before a federal grand jury.

We're now seeing what was waiting in store for a Clinton administration if Hillary had won: a coordinated GOP push along with Russia to go after the biggest Democratic donors for tax evasion.  This was planned from the beginning as part of the arsenal Putin had on hand to bring the US to its knees, buried under disinformation and Republican shamelessness.

As I've said before, the GOP/Russia side has moved to a new level as the Mueller investigation draws closer to completion.  The rush to discredit Mueller and Comey as working for the Clintons is laughable, but the goal is to put enough doubt on the side of the balance that the legitimacy of any recommended indictments are thrown into question, enough so that naturally it will be acceptable when Jeff Sessions and the DOJ take no action...and maybe decide instead to take action against Clinton.

Vox's Zach Beauchamp sets up the playing field for story number two on Cambridge Analytica.

The second big piece of news this week concerns Cambridge Analytica, the UK-based company that ran the Trump campaign’s data operation beginning in June 2016. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Cambridge as part of his look into the Trump-Russia mess, with the company’s work with disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn raising a particularly big red flag. 
“We know that congressional and DOJ investigators believe that Trump’s campaign might have helped guide Russia’s voter targeting scheme and that Flynn, who worked for Trump’s campaign and with Cambridge Analytica, is suspected of having extensive ties with Russian operatives,” my colleague Sean Illing explains in a vital profile of the group
The scoop this week, first reported by the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff on Wednesday morning, is that Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix reached out to WikiLeaks head Julian Assange to try to acquire 33,000 emails that had been deleted from Clinton’s private server. 
This matters for two reasons. First, it suggests a willingness on the part of Trump allies to reach out to foreign sources with anti-American agendas (Assange is no fan of the USA). Second, it could in theory point to a pathway through which information traveled from the Kremlin to the Trump campaign: We know that Assange published emails Russia passed to him after stealing them from Clinton allies
“If true, HOLY COW!” tweeted Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who tracks Russian involvement in US politics. “US political campaign seeking help of US adversary doing damage to US, to then damage another American.” 
This, like the Post’s Clinton scoop, is legitimately interesting — but is also being overinterpreted by people who believe it confirms their overarching view of the Russia scandal. 
First, there’s no evidence (yet) that the Trump campaign was behind Nix’s outreach. While he informed Trump allies of the idea of working with WikiLeaks afterward, there’s no reason to believe they told him to write the email — which suggests it wasn’t a “political campaign seeking help of US adversary,” as Watts wrote. 
“No one from the Trump campaign was copied on the email,” CNN reported in a follow-up to the Daily Beast’s piece. “It is not clear whether he sent it before or after Cambridge Analytica was brought onto the campaign.” 
Second, and more importantly, there’s no evidence that the Cambridge-WikiLeaks connection actually went anywhere. Assange tweeted that he refused to help Nix; while he’s not especially credible, that’s also what Woodruff’s sources said. 
“Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn’t want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own,” she writes. 
So while the Cambridge Analytica report is certainly suggestive, it doesn’t on its own confirm very much.

For now, yes.  But I'm betting the other shoe drops soon, and this is where things get very nasty for the Trump regime when they do.  That this is happening at the same time you're seeing things like former Trump regime adviser Sebastian Gorka all but call for Hillary Clinton to be executed for treason is no coincidence.

The serious stuff is just starting.

And that brings us to the big reveal tonight from CNN.

A federal grand jury in Washington, DC, on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter. 
The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

This explains the sudden move this week  to discredit the Mueller investigation and deflect to "Clinton collusion".  They knew the charges were coming.  They know somebody's doing the perp walk next week.

Somebody with ties to Trump.

On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the court room at the DC federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation. 
Reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements.

We're entering the next phase of the game.  The sides are on the field and awaiting the fight. Still don't believe me?

Here we go.

Pence Would Be Worse, Take That On Faith

Meanwhile, for those of us still convinced that Mike Pence would somehow be less awful at this whole presidential thing than Trump, have I got news for you!

Vice President Pence on Wednesday said that President Trump has instructed the State Department to stop funding certain "ineffective" United Nations relief efforts and to instead provide humanitarian assistance directly through USAID and "faith-based groups." 
In a speech at the In Defense of Christians annual Solidarity Dinner for Christians in the Middle East, Pence excoriated the U.N., saying the international body has "often failed to help the most vulnerable communities especially religious minorities."

"We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups," Pence said to applause.

"The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private orgs to help those who are persecuted for their faith. This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need." 
He did not specify what U.N. programs or initiatives the U.S. will no longer fund. 
Those faith-based groups, Pence said, have repeatedly had funding requests denied by the U.N., despite "proven track records." 
"Those days are over," Pence said. "Our fellow Christians and all who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly."

Oh, but those specific programs will be easy to spot: any program that gives relief aid of any sort to the Palestinians, for starters.  Mysteriously, programs that continue to send money to Saudi extremists or the Syrian regime won't be touched, of course.

The real issue is the US now bypassing the UN to work with faith-based groups and private organizations to distribute billions in foreign aid, and you'd better belief the level of graft and corruption resulting from this will make the current waste in the UN look like pocket change.

The other issue is that the US can happily withhold aid from those who aren't devoutly Christian enough.  No contraception for you!  State-sponsored religion, we've got it.

As bad as America is under the Klep-Trump-cracy, we'd be a 100% Handmaid's Tale Christian Taliban theocracy under Pence.

Economic Anxiety, Con't

The economists over at Indeed Hiring Lab make the argument that the areas of the country that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 are the areas facing the smallest job growth in the decade ahead, meaning that if my predictions about Trump wrecking the economy come true, then the people who voted for Trump are going to be even worse off.

The BLS occupational projections favor some places over others. We combined these projections with 2016 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data on where specific occupations are located to see which places are blessed with faster-growing occupations.

The occupational projections suggest faster growth in urban areas than in suburbs, and slowest in rural areas. The two sectors projected to have no or negative growth — production and agriculture — are more concentrated in small towns and rural areas. Many technical, scientific, legal, financial, and healthcare jobs are clustered in big, dense cities.

Even among large metros, the occupational mix varies. Metro San Jose — that is, Silicon Valley — has the most favorable occupational mix for future growth, as do other big, coastal metros. Whether this translates into actual job growth depends on other factors, too, like the local cost of living and whether housing construction will accommodate future growth pressures.

Midsize metros in the South and Midwest tend to have a less favorable occupational mix, skewed more toward slower-growing production or administrative jobs. Again, other factors will influence whether these places end up having slower actual job growth — including their ability to attract jobs in faster-growing occupations.

The differences in projected growth among metros are small. Large metros aren’t as different in their occupational mix as you might think: many retail, sales, and service occupations are “everywhere jobs.” Plus, this calculation might understate the impact of job mix on local growth because it ignores any multiplier effect of, say, a local tech boom on local retail demand.

These geographic differences might also lead to further political polarization. Blue America has a more favorable job mix for future growth than Red America, where slower-growing manufacturing and agriculture jobs are clustered. In places that voted for President Trump by a 20-point margin, 16% of workers are in occupations projected to shrink, versus 13.2% of workers in places that voted for Hillary Clinton by a similar margin.

The risk of job loss goes in the opposite direction of other job-market indicators. Likely Trump supporters have, on average, lower unemployment and higher wages than likely Clinton supporters. But should these BLS projections come true, then the labor market could shift further toward healthcare and other high-education jobs, and away from production, middle-wage, and traditionally small-town jobs. In turn this may end up reinforcing or even increasing the economic, geographic, and political polarization of America.

Which makes you wonder, why did Red America vote for the party of policies that would specifically make this situation worse for them, only making them angrier in 2018, 2020 and beyond?

Gosh, I just don't know.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Last Call For Immigration Nation, Con't

Trump's immigration detention goons never miss an opportunity to go after the undocumented when they are at their most vulnerable.

A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has been detained by federal immigration authorities in Texas after she passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint on her way to a hospital to undergo emergency gall bladder surgery. 
The girl, Rosamaria Hernandez, who was brought over the border illegally to live in Laredo, Tex., when she was three months old, was being transferred from a medical center in Laredo to a hospital in Corpus Christi around 2 a.m. on Tuesday when Border Patrol agents stopped the ambulance she was riding in, her family said. The agents allowed her to continue to Driscoll Children’s Hospital, the family said, but followed the ambulance the rest of the way there, then waited outside her room until she was released from the hospital. 
By Wednesday evening, according to family members and advocates involved in her case, immigration agents had taken her to a facility in San Antonio where migrant children who arrive alone in the United States from Central America are usually held, even though her parents, who both lack legal status, live 150 miles away in Laredo. 
Her placement there highlighted the unusual circumstances of her case: The federal government maintains detention centers for adult immigrants it plans to deport, facilities for families who arrive at the border together and shelters for children who come by themselves, known as unaccompanied minors. But it is rare, if not unheard-of, for a child already living in the United States to be arrested — particularly one with a serious medical condition.

This is who Trump chooses to "protect" America from: 10-year-old sick kids who came to the country as newborns but have to be deported because screw those lazy Mexicans, right?

Rosamaria’s cousin, Aurora Cantu, a United States citizen who was riding with her in the ambulance and accompanied her to the hospital, told Rosamaria’s mother and others working on the case that the agents had at first tried to persuade the family to agree to have the girl transferred to a Mexican hospital, pressing the family to sign a voluntary departure form for her. They declined to do so. The entire time Rosamaria was in surgery and then in recovery, several armed Border Patrol agents stood outside her hospital room, the family said. 
Her mother, Felipa de la Cruz, 39, said in an interview that her family had moved to Texas from Nuevo Laredo, the city in Mexico just across the border from Laredo, when her daughter was still an infant, hoping to get better treatment for her cerebral palsy.
They had not been able to afford her therapies in Mexico, she said, but in Texas, Medicaid paid for her daughter’s treatment, which included home visits from therapists. 
“I’m a mother. All I wanted was for her to get the surgery that she needed,” Ms. de la Cruz said. “It never crossed my mind that any of what is happening right now could happen. When you’re a mother, all you care about is your child.”

That's the issue.  We have to protect the American taxpayer from saving the life of a child.

Can Afford A Gun, Can't Afford To Be Shot

It feels like a lifetime ago, but the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history happened on the first of the month.  The families of the victims are picking up the pieces of their lives, and for the survivors, that means medical bills, disability insurance, and unemployment.

Kurt Fowler and his wife, Trina, were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at a country music festival when the shooting started. Fowler, 41, knew he'd been hit in the ankle and couldn't run. He hid under the stage until the gunfire ended.

"I knew my foot was completely useless," said Fowler, a firefighter from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and a father of three. He underwent surgery, spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and still may need another operation. He also will need rehabilitation and follow-up visits with a specialist.

Fowler has a Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO through his job, but he said he doesn't know how much he will have to pay out of his own pocket for the care he is receiving. In an era of higher deductibles and limited choice of in-network doctors, however, he knows he could face significant medical bills.

His insurance card says his individual deductible is $5,000 and his coinsurance 20%. He said he didn't know how much his health plan would cover for out-of-state care.

"Medical expenses are astronomical these days," Fowler said from his bed at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas. "It's a mountain that just doesn't seem like it's gonna be climbable, but we are gonna do our best."

As hundreds of survivors struggle to recover emotionally and physically from the Oct. 1 attack, they are beginning to come to terms with the financial toll of the violence perpetrated against them. Even those who are insured could face untold costs in a city they were only visiting.

The total costs of medical care alone could reach into the tens of millions of dollars, said Garen Wintemute, who researches gun violence at the University of California-Davis.

And that is just the beginning. Many survivors will be out of work for months, if they are able to return at all.

"We really don't have a good handle on the intangible costs of something like this ... the ripple effects on family and friends and neighborhoods when a large number of people have been shot," Wintemute said.

More than 100,000 people are shot every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That generates about $2.8 billion per year in emergency room and inpatient charges alone, according to a recent study in Health Affairs. The average emergency room bill for an individual gunshot victim is $5,254 and the average inpatient charge is $95,887, according to the study.

It costs a couple hundred bucks to buy a pistol in the US.  It costs $100,000 on average to get shot by one, and that happens to 100,000 people a year.

The cost of the Second Amendment is in the billions, folks.  It's an increasingly high price to pay and Republicans refuse to stem that tide of blood money.

Race To The Bottom, Con't

A majority of whites say discrimination against them exists in America today, according to a poll released Tuesday from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"If you apply for a job, they seem to give the blacks the first crack at it," said 68-year-old Tim Hershman of Akron, Ohio, "and, basically, you know, if you want any help from the government, if you're white, you don't get it. If you're black, you get it."

More than half of whites — 55 percent — surveyed say that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against white people in America today. Hershman's view is similar to what was heard on the campaign trail at Trump rally after Trump rally. Donald Trump catered to white grievance during the 2016 presidential campaign and has done so as president as well.

Notable, however, is that while a majority of whites in the poll say discrimination against them exists, a much smaller percentage say that they have actually experienced it. Also important to note is that 84 percent of whites believe discrimination exists against racial and ethnic minorities in America today.

To be fair, majorities of all ethnic groups believe they are discriminated against for their race.  The difference is what people believe to be discrimination.

Ask Hershman whether there is discrimination against whites, and he answered even before this reporter could finish the question — with an emphatic "Absolutely."

"It's been going on for decades, and it's been getting worse for whites," Hershman contended, despite data showing whites continue to be better off financially and educationally than minority groups.

Even though Hershman believes he has been a victim of anti-white discrimination, he wasn't able to provide a specific example. He describes losing out on a promotion — and a younger African-American being selected as one of the finalists for the job. But the position eventually went to a white applicant, who was also younger than Hershman.

Representing Category 2 is 50-year-old heavy equipment operator Tim Musick, who lives in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. He says anti-white discrimination is real, but he doesn't think he has ever really felt it personally.

"I think that you pretty much, because you're white, you're automatically thrown into that group as being a bigot and a racist and that somehow you perceive yourself as being more superior to everybody else, which is ridiculous," Musick said, speaking during his lunch break at a construction site.

"I'm just a man that happens to have been born white," Musick continued.

He also makes it clear, however, that he is not comparing what happens to whites to the African-American experience.

"I don't know what it feels like to be a black man walking around in the streets, but I do know what it feels like to be pegged, because of how you look, and what people perceive just on sight," said Musick, who has the stocky build of a retired NFL lineman and a shaved head under his hard hat.

Age discrimination is real.  That's Hershman's issue.  Prejudice is real, that's Musick's issue.  But racial discrimination, as in people taking negative actions against you based solely on race, well, neither one of these guys know what it's like.

But neither one of these gentlemen would ever wish to be black in America.  Not even for a day.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Wrong Lesson From 2016

If the Virginia gubernatorial race and the state's other races turn into a disaster for Dems in two weeks, it's because Team Blue went all in on the "white voters matter" message from 2016, and it's coming directly at the expense of black Democrats in the state.  Steve Phillips at The Nation:

For all the analyses offered about the behavior of these voters in 2016, you hear almost nothing about the tactical and strategic decisions that led to the cataclysmic collapse of black-voter turnout. Of the first $200 million allocated by progressive outside groups for spending in 2016, zero dollars were directed to African-American voter mobilization. Zero. Despite the availability of multiple inspiring leaders of color in the mold of Barack Obama, the Clinton campaign opted to return to the days of fielding an all-white presidential ticket. In facing a Republican nominee whose candidacy was propelled by white racial fears and anxieties, the Democratic strategy was to largely ignore the racism and focus instead on Trump’s temperament. In the face of such neglect and disinterest, many black voters showed less interest in the election, and turnout plummeted to the lowest level in almost 20 years. A higher percentage of black voters turned out to vote for John Kerry than did for Hillary Clinton, and that precipitous decline cost her the pivotal states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—and, as a result, the White House. 
Rather than heeding last year’s wake-up call, Democrats continue to perpetuate this pattern of structural racism and implicit bias. Take the upcoming election in Virginia—a quadrennial political bellwether because it takes place the year after each presidential election. Smart electoral strategy should be predicated on empirical evidence and hard data, and the data in Virginia clearly illuminates the path to victory for Democrats. In off-year elections, turnout usually drops dramatically, lowering the threshold needed to secure a majority of the vote. Current Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe won the governor’s mansion in 2013 with about 1.1 million votes. It is the presidential elections that show the true size of the pool of progressive voters, and Clinton won nearly 2 million votes in Virginia last year. According to the exit polls, 53 percent of the Virginians who supported Clinton—1,047,518 voters—were people of color. That’s more than all of the people who backed the 2013 Republican gubernatorial nominee, Ken Cuccinelli, whose campaign garnered 1,013,354 votes. 
The racial myopia in the Democratic ecosystem is revealed by analyzing how money is spent by campaigns and how money is given tocampaigns. On the spending side, campaign allocations reflect a candidate’s true priorities. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Democratic nominee Ralph Northam has spent over $17 million as of October 1, 2017. Logically, if a majority of the target-voter universe consists of people of color, a campaign that wanted to win would spend a majority of its money trying to get those voters to the polls. But the Northam campaign’s biggest line item—nearly $9 million—consists of funds given to an advertising firm led by an all-white board to run television ads. These campaign ads attack the Republican nominee for his ties to the oil company Enron. What is the strategic rationale of such an advertising campaign? Clearly, those ads are not supposed to motivate African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and other people of color to take time from their busy lives to come out and support the Democratic ticket. 
Meanwhile, organizations specifically focused on mobilizing black voters—who comprised 37 percent of all Virginia Democratic voters in 2016—have to practically beg, borrow, and steal for resources to engage the voters who form the cornerstone of Democratic politics. BlackPAC, New Virginia Majority, and other community-based organizations have managed to gather enough resources to conduct a $1 million black-turnout program, but that’s just a fraction of the $8–10 million that should be allocated to reaching black voters, based on their numbers and centrality to Democratic victory.
Another indication of limited cultural competence in campaigns is the failure to take advantage of the fact that the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor is an African American, Justin Fairfax. From Harold Washington’s Chicago mayoral campaign in 1983 to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, it has been shown that having a candidate from one’s community, particularly when that community bears the brunt of inequality, can be a motivating factor in increasing voter turnout. Given this, progressive donors and groups across the country should be showering resources on Fairfax’s campaign and featuring his face in campaign ads. Instead, Fairfax must be repeating to himself the words of the protagonist in Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

If anything, Justin Fairfax is seen as a hindrance to Ralph Northam.  He has appeared in zero joint commercials with Northam and the DNC has basically ignored Fairfax for months.

The bigger issue is that as bad as voter suppression is right now, Democrats are focused on unreliable Trump voters and not getting out the reliable black vote. I don't understand why, but there it is.  In fact, if Virginia is any indication, Democrats are now giving the appearance of being openly dismissive to black voters.

I still think Northam can win, and he'll pull it off by 5 points or so.  But it's going to be an ugly 2018 if Dems continue to think ignoring black voters and the suppression we face in favor of white Trump voters is going to win them races.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Over at Washington Monthly, Nancy LeTourneau correctly concludes that the GOP believes the Mueller investigation is about to blow wide open, and that the Republican party is getting out in front with a proper smokescreen story, in this case, the "bombshell revelations" from The Hill reporter John Solomon.

If you avoid right wing media, you might not be aware of the story that has them all galvanized right now, a remake of the old one about how the Russians bribed the Clintons to sell off 20 percent of America’s uranium. It’s the lie Peter Schweitzer tried to sell in his book, Clinton Cash, which has been repeatedly fact-checked since he and Bannon conned the New York Times into buying it in 2015. 
The reason this whole nonsense has been resurrected is because a reporter named John Solomon has been writing about it at The Hill almost daily for the last week. To understand what’s up, it is helpful to know a little bit about his background. From 1987 until 2006 Solomon worked as a reporter for the Associated Press. Here is how Josh Marshall summarized his reputation among fellow journalists.

He had a well-earned reputation as the easiest mark in the business for GOP oppo research hits. It was actually a kind of running gag among Republican campaign operatives. No one will run with a story you’re trying to float? Bring it to John Solomon.
Since then, Solomon worked mostly for the conservative Washington Times before going to Circa News.

You may remember that Circa was a startup with an ingenious but ultimately flawed or perhaps premature concept that debuted to much fanfare but ultimately shuttered. The URL and social media feeds of Circa were purchased by Sinclair Broadcasting, a hyper-right-wing media conglomerate, which is now buying up properties to bring its style of post-Fox News propaganda television nationwide. Sinclair put Solomon in charge of Circa and relaunched it as a Buzzfeed for right wing propaganda focused on millennials.
His position at The Hill started this past summer.

Solomon has dredged up the widely debunked "Clinton Foundation uranium scandal" again, featured in the hit job book Clinton Cash, backed by Steve Bannon and Breitbart News.  Why?  It's all they have to deflect the coming charges from Mueller.

Anyone wondering why major media outlets are ignoring this latest attempt to dig up old lies about Hillary Clinton need only look at the facts. But as much as Trump and right wing media outlets complain about the lack of coverage, I don’t think they are even attempting to reach a mainstream audience with this story. Instead, it is designed to prep Trump’s supporters for coming news from the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. In some cases, they’re not even being subtle about that. Take a look at how RedState introduces the story:

As the left and its media buddies continue to search for the elusive Russia/Trump collusion monster roaming forested hillsides, the FBI has actual evidence of a Russian plot that occurred in 2009 under Barack Obama’s watch. 
Beyond thinking that they can point fingers and say, “Clinton and Obama did it too, only worse,” this story is designed to discredit the people who are involved in the current Trump/Russia investigation. Here is what they’re all saying about Solomon’s first report that focused on the FBI’s investigation of “racketeering scheme” by Russian nuclear industry officials: 

Who was the prosecutor leading the investigation? Rod Rosenstein. That would be the same Rod Rosenstein who is now Deputy Attorney General and supervising the Russia probe.
Who was the FBI Director? Robert Mueller. That would be the same Robert Mueller who is leading the Russia probe. 
Who was leading the FBI investigation? Andrew McCabe…This would be the same Andrew McCabe who approved his own refusal to recuse himself from the Russia investigation both because of his Clinton ties and because of his personal vendetta against Mike Flynn. 
Only in Washington could this mess be carried out and the perpetrators still not only walk free but be thought of as men of integrity. 
Whoa! So the guys who uncovered a plot by Russians working in the U.S. to provide kickbacks to their country’s oligarchs are now perpetrators who don’t deserve to be walking free? Do you see how far down the rabbit hole all of this has gone? 
That’s the news bubbling all over right wing web sites and Fox News and spread via social media. It is nothing more than a pre-emptive use of Trump’s ubiquitous pattern of lie, distract and blame designed to provide him and his base with a response when/if charges of collusion with Russia are brought against his campaign.

Bingo.  Remember, the GOP is counting on Trump's support among Trump voters to be unwavering.  If it is, he can survive pretty much anything thrown at him, the cowards in the GOP will see to that.  They can scream "partisan witch hunt" all day and get away with it.

But if Trump does something bad enough, he's done for.  The GOP knows this, they'll be joining him in obscurity and infamy as a result.  Therefore, the Trump faithful are being inoculated now, they'll point to the uranium deal and blame a "massive Obama/Clinton conspiracy" for Trump's problems.

House Republicans on Tuesday launched new probes into several Obama-era controversies, covering both the Justice Department’s 2016 handling of the Clinton email case and the administration’s 2010 approval for the sale of a mining company that gave the Russians partial control over American uranium reserves. 
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced his committee and the House Oversight Committee will investigate the so-called Uranium One deal. 
“We’re not going to jump to any conclusions, but we’re going to try and get the facts,” Nunes said. 
Separately, the House oversight and judiciary committees announced a joint investigation into the Justice Department and FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

"Decisions made by the Department of Justice in 2016 have led to a host of outstanding questions that must be answered,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said in a statement.

Endless Clinton investigations as a smokescreen for Trump's malfeasance was always the plan.  For the GOP to move on this story now means Mueller's recommended charges and indictments are coming sooner rather than later.  This will be "both sides do it" to the max as a result, all through the 2018 midterms.

And why now?  Why are these old Clinton wounds being ripped open again so that the GOP must investigate?

Maybe it's because they are covering for truly bad news for Trump.

The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is pursuing an investigation into possible money laundering by Paul Manafort, said three people familiar with the matter, adding to the federal and state probes concerning the former Trump campaign chairman. 
The investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is being conducted in collaboration with a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into Mr. Manafort and possible money laundering, according to two of these people.

Stay tuned.  Things are moving quickly now into a dangerous new stage.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Last Call For A Power Play In Puerto Rico

As millions in Puerto Rico remain without power, the Trump regime is turning to private industry to restore the power grid on the island.  The Senate is expected to finish up a $36.5 billion disaster relief package for Florida, Texas, California and Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands this week, and the biggest recipient of Puerto Rico's power grid contract, some $300 million to start with, is going to...a two-person company in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown.

For the sprawling effort to restore Puerto Rico’s crippled electrical grid, the territory’s state-owned utility has turned to a two-year-old company from Montana that had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall.

The company, Whitefish Energy, said last week that it had signed a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to repair and reconstruct large portions of the island’s electrical infrastructure. The contract is the biggest yet issued in the troubled relief effort.

Whitefish said Monday that it has 280 workers in the territory, using linemen from across the country, most of them as subcontractors, and that the number grows on average from 10 to 20 people a day. It said it was close to completing infrastructure work that will energize some of the key industrial facilities that are critical to restarting the local economy.

The power authority, also known as PREPA, opted to hire Whitefish rather than activate the “mutual aid” arrangements it has with other utilities. For many years, such agreements have helped U.S. utilities — including those in Florida and Texas recently — to recover quickly after natural disasters.

The unusual decision to instead hire a tiny for-profit company is drawing scrutiny from Congress and comes amid concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico’s spending as it seeks to provide relief to its 3.4 million residents, the great majority of whom remain without power a month after the storm.

“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish,” said Susan F. Tierney, a former senior official at the Energy Department and state regulatory agencies. “I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.”

It adds up because Zinke wanted to bring home the bacon for his home state.  Guy still thinks he's a Congressman and of course this is a crapload of money awarded in a no-bid process because "emergency".

Whitefish Energy is based in Whitefish, Mont., the home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Its chief executive, Andy Techmanski, and Zinke acknowledge knowing one another — but only, Zinke’s office said in an email, because Whitefish is a small town where “everybody knows everybody.” One of Zinke’s sons “joined a friend who worked a summer job” at one of Techmanski’s construction sites, the email said. Whitefish said he worked as a “flagger.”

Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract for work in Puerto Rico. Techmanski also said Zinke was not involved.

Techmanski said in an interview that the contract emerged from discussions between his company and the utility rather than from a formal bidding process. He said he had been in contact with the utility two weeks before Maria “discussing the ‘what if’ scenarios” of hurricane recovery. In the days after the hurricane, he said, “it started to make sense that there was a need here for our services and others.”

Just a total coincidence, I'm sure.

The scale of the disaster in Puerto Rico is far larger than anything Whitefish has handled. The company has won two contracts from the Energy Department, including $172,000 to replace a metal pole structure and splice in three miles of new conductor and overhead ground wire in Arizona.

Shortly before Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Whitefish landed its largest federal contract, a $1.3 million deal to replace and upgrade parts of a 4.8-mile transmission line in Arizona. The company — which was listed in procurement documents as having annual revenue of $1 million — was given 11 months to complete the work, records show.

Yeah, these guys are the best experts in restoring power in the entire country, two guys whose biggest ever project took 11 months to fix five miles of power lines in Arizona when Puerto Rico has tens of thousands of downed transmission and distribution lines.

But sure.  These guys will help Puerto Rico get the lights on, as the island heads into its second miserable month without power, water, sewage, and hope.  Did I mention Zinke's son worked for these guys?

Totally not relevant, I'm sure.

They're not even pretending anymore that it isn't all about the graft and the grift.
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