Thursday, August 31, 2017

Last Call For Black Lives Still Matter

Black Lives Matter, even when police freely admit our lives are worthless. Breanna Edwards at The Root:

Y’all, these cops ain’t even trying to pretend anymore. Released dashcam footage provided to a local Georgia news station shows an officer’s interaction with a white female driver who claimed she was afraid to move her hands during a traffic stop due to all the recent videos of cops shooting and/or attacking folks. 
That’s when the Cobb County, Ga., police officer could be heard reassuring the woman that she wouldn’t get hurt because she’s not black.

“But you’re not black. Remember, we only kill black people. We only kill black people, right?” the officer, identified as Lt. Greg Abbott by WSBTV could be heard saying. 
Now Police Chief Mike Register is attempting to do damage control, launching an internal investigation and placing Abbott on administrative duties pending the outcome of that investigation.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, and I do not know all the nuances of the legal system, but what the hell exactly is there left to investigate?

“The statements was [sic] made by an individual. They are not indicative of the values and the facts that surround the Cobb County police department and this county in general,” Register said. 
Register indicated that the recording was taken from a DUI traffic stop last year, before he became chief, and that Abbott made his comments after the woman indicated that she was just too nervous to reach down to get her phone due to her exposure to videos on police brutality. 
“No matter what context it was said in, it should not have been said,” Register added. “We’re not making excuses. We’re meeting this head on and we’re going to deal with it.”

No, you're not going to "deal with it".  America has been "not dealing with it" quite pointedly for 400 years now, it's what America does.  The notion that Abbott's statements didn't reflect Cobb County Georgia PD as a whole is horseshit, because Abbott's statements represent the views of basically every police department in America.

There's nothing about the possible humorous intent of the statement that changes it from being the truth.  We are allowed to exist only because the police haven't decided to kill us yet, and that goes for every black person in this country, full stop.

That tree of liberty we keep hearing about often gets refreshed with the blood of black people.  The cops know it, the people know it, we all know it, and any efforts to do something about it get us labeled as terrorists.

When that becomes official under Trump, that's only when the horrors see the light of day.  They'll happen anyway, they are occurring right now and will continue to do so.

I wouldn't wish being black in America on anyone, and I live it daily.

Houston, We Have A Problem, Con't

America's fourth-largest city is underwater and will remain so for months, and as Chuck Pierce points out, the fate of Baghdad on the Bayou was sealed decades ago by Governors and state and local lawmakers in both parties.

It is the Christian thing to do in the middle of tragedies like the one currently unfolding along the Texas-Louisiana Gulf coast not to politicize human suffering and, certainly, the stories of people rescuing their fellow citizens from this calamity deserve to be told and they deserve to be spread as widely as possible. But there is nothing I can find in the Gospels that would forbid us from politicizing politics. So let us summon the ghost of Walter Winchell and review some of the events of the past few days.

Item: In Crosby, Texas, there is a place called the Arkema chemical plant where they work with something called organic peroxides. This plant is located amid a residential and business district where, remarkably, human beings live and work. If the cooling systems in the plant fail, as they apparently have, these organic peroxides can explode. A 1.5 mile radius around the plant has been evacuated. 

That plant exploded early this morning, by the way.

Item: Houston is home to a great number of SuperFund sites—at least a dozen in Harris County alone—because, what the hell, they have to be somewhere, right, and some place has to be the Petrochemical Capital Of America? From the WaPo:

With its massive petroleum and chemical industry, Houston, part of the "Chemical Coast," presents a huge challenge in a major flooding event, said Mathy Stanislaus, who oversaw the federal Superfund program throughout the Obama administration. Typically the EPA tries to identify Superfund sites in a major storm's path to "shore up the active operations" and "minimize seepage from sites," Stanislaus said. "This is not the time to dictate; it's the time to work together well with state and local officials to think about needs that need to be met." 
Item: In Baytown, there is a Chevron Phillips petrochemical facility in a place called Cedar Bayou. As you might have guessed from that name, the facility is, at present, fish food. ExxonMobil has similar problems, which it is involuntarily sharing with its fellow Texans and will be for some time. 
Item: And this one may be my favorite, which is to say, the one that pushes me under the bed the furthest. On Galveston Island, there is the Galveston National Laboratory, which is part of the University of Texas Medical Branch. This laboratory contains some of the most deadly biological agents found in the known world, many of them of the airborne variety. It contain several Bio-Safety Level 4 labs, which are basically the places where plagues are studied. And here's the thing, as HuffPost explains—nobody knows what's going on there at the moment:

There has been almost no news from Galveston as journalists have reported being blocked from reaching the island because of severe flooding. There has been no reporting at all on the condition of the lab. A call to the laboratory on Tuesday immediately went to voicemail. 
Here's a professor with some happy news.

But the generators run on fuel that would have to be replenished. It is not known if the lab is accessible to emergency crews to refuel the generators, which are stored on the roof, according to the 2008 Times piece. "As I see it the existential problem is this: What happens if and when the fuel for the back-up generators runs out?" asked University of Illinois professor Francis Boyle, an expert in biological weapons. "The negative air pressure that keeps (the) bugs in there ends. And (the) bugs can then escape."

To recap, 6.5 million plus people from Corpus Christi to Beaumont and Port Arthur into Louisiana (so really more like 10 million) are screwed.  The biological, ecological, and chemical damage to Houston from Harvey will take years to fix, if not decades.  I don't think people are actually ready for the price tag on this, because I'm thinking it's going to be somewhere around "Apple's current cash reserves on hand" give or take a few tens of billions or so, and I might be lowballing it.

And again, there's a lot of blame to go around for Democrats locally and Republicans state-wide, and that includes everyone from Dubya to Rick Perry to Ann Richards and everyone in between. Houston said "Hold my beer" and turned into a massive sprawl in an antediluvian flood plain, and Harvey came along and filled that flood plain the hell up. The oil money was good, and everyone took it.

Here's the best part:  Trump is only going to make this worse, so much worse.  It really won't be long before the talking heads on FOX are telling the locals that Houston maybe shouldn't be rebuilt because we can't afford it.  You thought getting rid of those people in New Orleans was a massive undertaking, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.  Wait until the Republicans rewrite Houston's history.

As goes Baghdad on the Bayou, goes the rest of America.  Just watch.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Two more developments in the Trump/Russia saga as the Mueller investigation shifts into higher gear this week.  First, one of the Russian lobbyists present at Donald Trump Jr.'s now infamous June 2016 meeting gave hours of grand jury testimony earlier this month.

A new report reveals that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe has heard testimny from at least one of the Russians who attended Donald Trump, Jr.’s infamous June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting

According to the Financial Times, Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian lobbyist and former Soviet army official who attended the meeting in Trump Tower last summer, has testified before Mueller’s grand jury.

According to two sources close to the testimony, Akhmetshin testified for “several hours” on August 11. Though Akhmetshin declined FT‘s requests for comment, the report claims his testimony centered around a “dossier” provided by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

The dossier reportedly contained information about “how bad money ended up in Manhattan and that money was put into supporting political campaigns.”

The report also noted that Akhmetshin is currently under investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, who are looking into the circumstances surrounding his American citizenship, his role in the Soviet military and “whether he improperly lobbied for Russian interests.”

This is pretty big.  Akhmetshin is almost certainly a spy working for Putin's interests, and having him testify means Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner are directly in the cross-hairs. It also means that Mueller isn't sticking to the money laundering side of the investigation, but rather is investigating the espionage and collusion side as well.

But speaking of the money laundering investigation, well that brings us to our second development this week: Mueller isn't alone looking at Trump's dirty money slime trail.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.

The two teams have shared evidence and talked frequently in recent weeks about a potential case, these people said. One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering.

No decision has been made on where or whether to file charges. “Nothing is imminent,” said one of the people familiar with the case.

Manafort has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has previously denied it. A spokesman for Manafort didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

The other issue besides cooperation and sharing of information is that Trump cannot pardon sate crimes, only federal ones.  If Schneiderman brings charges against Manafort as New York Attorney General, there's not a thing Trump can do about it.  Schneiderman has long been Trump's bane and he's hired former US attorney for Manhattan Preet Bharara, whom Trump fired for looking into his finances too closely.

Chuck Pierce makes the "game-changer" argument on Schneiderman's involvement:

Manafort seems to be a pile of bones by the side of the road at this point. He'll flip, or he already has. His testimony would open a lot of doors that a lot of people would prefer stay shut. But the alliance between Mueller and New York AG Eric Schneiderman is the most important news in this story. As has been pointed out by practically everyone, the presidential pardon power does not extend to state crimes, and Schneiderman has been after Camp Runamuck since before the voters installed it in the White House last November. He's already won a $25 million settlement on behalf of the marks who were scammed by the president* through his Trump University long con. The president* already has yapped about Schneiderman in public, a sure sign that he's worried about what else Schneiderman might have. Whatever Schneiderman does, there isn't a damn thing the president* can do about it. And, of course, Mueller knows this as well as Schneiderman does.

All this to me says that things are moving fast and that while I wouldn't expect charges anytime soon, it does mean that the Mueller investigation is moving along at a solid pace.  The leaks from the grand jury proceedings are definitely part of the pressure on Manafort to turn states' evidence, and on Trump to do, say, or tweet something stupid.

And remember that the end goal is Trump.  Easily baited, is our Donny.


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