Monday, September 18, 2017

Last Call For The Man Who Saved The World

We come to pay respects tonight to Stanislav Petrov, a Russian man who died in May, and if you don't know the name, the fact you're breathing non-irradiated air is thanks to him.

Early on the morning of Sept. 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov helped prevent the outbreak of nuclear war. 
A 44-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, he had begun his shift as the duty officer at Serpukhov-15, the secret command center outside Moscow where the Soviet military monitored its early-warning satellites over the United States, when alarms went off. 
Computers warned that five Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles had been launched from an American base. 
“For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock,” he later recalled. “We needed to understand, ‘What’s next?’ ” 
The alarm sounded during one of the tensest periods in the Cold War. Three weeks earlier, the Soviets had shot down a Korean Air Lines commercial flight after it crossed into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a congressman from Georgia. President Ronald Reagan had rejected calls for freezing the arms race, declaring the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” The Soviet leader, Yuri V. Andropov, was obsessed by fears of an American attack. 
Colonel Petrov was at a pivotal point in the decision-making chain. His superiors at the warning-system headquarters reported to the general staff of the Soviet military, which would consult with Mr. Andropov on launching a retaliatory attack.

After five nerve-racking minutes — electronic maps and screens were flashing as he held a phone in one hand and an intercom in the other, trying to absorb streams of incoming information — Colonel Petrov decided that the launch reports were probably a false alarm. 
As he later explained, it was a gut decision, at best a “50-50” guess, based on his distrust of the early-warning system and the relative paucity of missiles that were launched. 
Colonel Petrov died at 77 on May 19 in Fryazino, a Moscow suburb, where he lived alone on a pension. The death was not widely reported at the time. It was confirmed by his son, Dmitri, according to Karl Schumacher, a political activist who, after learning in 1998 of Colonel Petrov’s Cold War role, traveled to Russia to meet him and remained a friend. The cause was hypostatic pneumonia.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we're not living in a nuclear wasteland.

Well, not yet, anyway.

Thank you for making the right call, Colonel Petrov.  Nazhderovye.

I (Don't) Want My Trump TV

If you still think FOX News is the center of Trump regime propaganda these days, it's not.  Your local Sinclair Broadcasting network affiliate is, and America's trusted neighborhood news outlets are now in the business of playing pro-Trump messages several times a week, including "Terror Alert" broadcasts that are manipulating people through fear in places like Provicence, RI.

The company that owns WJAR-TV is mandating the broadcast of multiple programs favorable to President Donald Trump on the state’s most-watched television station. 
Sinclair Broadcast Group, a rapidly growing media company that bought Channel 10 in 2014, produces “must-run” segments and distributes them to its local stations nationwide. They must air during daily news programming, Sinclair executives said. 
Sinclair is poised to become the nation’s largest owner of TV stations and, with its recent hire of former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn, viewers can expect to see more of the chain’s political programming. 
The practice, which has infused a political flavor into the 68-year-old WJAR’s broadcasts, started quietly there at least a year ago. 
Three of the segments have rattled viewers and WJAR’s own news reporters, according to Fletcher Fischer, the business manager and financial secretary of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1228, the union that represents broadcast workers there: 
‒ The Terrorism Alert Desk, advertised as a daily news update about terrorist activity. 
‒ News pieces from Epshteyn, Sinclair’s chief political analyst. 
‒ A clearly labeled opinion show featuring Mark Hyman, a former vice president of the company. 
These pieces are fed to Sinclair’s 174 stations in the United States every day.

Sinclair’s insertion of the segments into news programming has been harshly critiqued by Rhode Islanders and national commentators. 
Gloria Crist, a 54-year-old actress from Tiverton, says she’s stopped watching the station.
Rep. David N. Cicilline condemned the practice, saying: “Rhode Islanders rely on our local news being produced in Rhode Island, not directed by a national conglomerate for local broadcasters to deliver.” 
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote, “What Fox News is for cable, Sinclair could become for broadcast: programming with a soup├žon — or more — of conservative spin.” 
And HBO’s John Oliver dedicated a show to what he calls Sinclair’s corporate propaganda. 
But Sinclair says it’s providing national commentary to “free up” reporters “to create more local news, which we considered to be squarely in the public interest.”

All while screaming about the "liberal media".

Sinclair mandating what news local stations have to broadcast should disturb the hell out of everyone but if you think Republicans are going to do anything about it, you're mad.   Some of the nation's largest local stations are running fake "terror alerts" daily, and believe me, people you know are watching.

Here in Cincinnati, Sinclair owns the CBS and the CW affiliates and the ABC and FOX affiliates in Dayton, as well as the ABC, CBS and CW affiliates in Columbus.  If the additional affiliates are approved, they'd have stations in Louisville and Lexington too.

And considering Sinclair is launching a "national investigative news team" to create these right-wing news segments to be played on nearly 225 stations daily, if you think the Democrats being able to get their message out was tough before, wait until two-thirds of the country is inundated by Sinclair's garbage for four years.

Russian To Judgment

I'm not a lawyer (IANAL as the Balloon Juice crew would say) but I gotta say that the first rule of being a White House lawyer when the boss is under federal investigation is "maybe you shouldn't get into lunchtime shouting matches about legal strategy with coworkers in public places where reporters from the New York Times can overhear."

President Trump’s legal team is wrestling with how much to cooperate with the special counsel looking into Russian election interference, an internal debate that led to an angry confrontation last week between two White House lawyers and that could shape the course of the investigation.

At the heart of the clash is an issue that has challenged multiple presidents during high-stakes Washington investigations: how to handle the demands of investigators without surrendering the institutional prerogatives of the office of the presidency. Similar conflicts during the Watergate and Monica S. Lewinsky scandals resulted in court rulings that limited a president’s right to confidentiality.

The debate in Mr. Trump’s West Wing has pitted Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, against Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the investigation. Mr. Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the emails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible in hopes of quickly ending the investigation — or at least its focus on Mr. Trump.

Mr. McGahn supports cooperation, but has expressed worry about setting a precedent that would weaken the White House long after Mr. Trump’s tenure is over. He is described as particularly concerned about whether the president will invoke executive or attorney-client privilege to limit how forthcoming Mr. McGahn could be if he himself is interviewed by the special counsel as requested.

When you understand that Cobb's job is to make sure that he's in it for saving Trump's ass and everyone else is expendable (including White House Counsel McGahn) you can see why things might be a little tense about Trump essentially ratting out his own people in order to try to save himself.

The Mango Mussolini ain't loyal.

The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out,” meaning Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been a previous source of dispute for the legal team.

Oops.   Maybe not so loud next time, guys.

After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation who asked not to be named describing internal matters. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, sharply reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion, the people said.

Mr. Cobb sought to defuse the conflict in an interview over the weekend, praising Mr. McGahn as a superb lawyer. “He has been very helpful to me, and whenever we have differences of opinion, we have been able to work them out professionally and reach consensus,” Mr. Cobb said. “We have different roles. He has a much fuller plate. But we’re both devoted to this White House and getting as much done on behalf of the presidency as possible.”

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is investigating connections between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including whether they conspired to influence last year’s election. Mr. Mueller is also looking into whether Mr. Trump’s decision to fire James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director initially leading the investigation, constitutes obstruction of justice. He has asked the White House for emails and documents related to these matters, and Mr. Cobb has organized the requests into 13 categories, but officials would not describe them in more detail. So far, officials said the White House has not turned down any request.

Mr. Trump’s aides said they were scrambling to respond to the requests to avoid a subpoena that might make it look as if the White House was not cooperating. Mr. Cobb hoped to turn over a trove of documents this week, according to people close to the legal team.

Mr. Cobb argues that the best strategy is to be as forthcoming as possible, even erring on the side of inclusion when it comes to producing documents, because he maintains the evidence will show Mr. Trump did nothing wrong. Mr. McGahn has told colleagues that he is concerned that Mr. Cobb’s liberal approach could limit any later assertion of executive privilege. He has also blamed Mr. Cobb for the slow collection of documents.

Complicating the situation is that Mr. McGahn himself is a likely witness. Mr. Mueller wants to interview him about Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the White House’s handling of questions about a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer said to be offering incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Mr. McGahn is willing to meet with investigators and answer questions, but his lawyer, Bill Burck, has asked Mr. Cobb to tell him whether the president wants to assert either attorney-client or executive privilege, according to lawyers close to the case. Mr. McGahn could face legal jeopardy or lose his law license should he run afoul of rules governing which communications he can divulge. He did not respond to requests for comment.

If Cobb gives up McGahn and everyone else, they can't invoke executive privilege later and get out of the trap.  And given Trump's long, long history of screwing his employees whenever it becomes slightly inconvenient for him personally, if I were Don McGahn I'd strongly consider rolling over on Trump before I ended up with a very long federal prison sentence.

After all, if everyone's innocent, McGahn should be taking Cobb's view.  The fact that Mueller is deep into grand jury proceedings and subpoenas, and with tomorrow's testimony by Trump business partner Michael Cohen in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee ready to happen, the clock for "giving up Trump to save yourself" may be running out.

And McGahn knows it.


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