Saturday, November 4, 2017

Last Call For Neighbors: The Movie

Seems Rand Paul had a bit of an altercation with a neighbor out in Warren County because, well, people really should beat up senators at all, that's bad, but hey, America's a different place now.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is recovering after being assaulted at his Kentucky home on Friday, joining a growing list of lawmakers who have been injured or threatened with violence this year.

Paul, a second-term senator, suffered a minor injury when he was assaulted at his Warren County, Ky., home Friday afternoon. Kelsey Cooper, Paul’s Kentucky-based communications director, said in a statement Saturday that the senator “was blindsided and the victim of an assault. The assailant was arrested, and it is now a matter for the police.”

Kentucky State Police charged 59-year-old Rene Boucher with fourth-degree assault with a minor injury. He is being held at Warren County jail on $5,000 bond, state police said.

Paul and Boucher live in the same gated community along Rivergreen Lane in Bowling Green, Ky., according to two people close to Paul who asked for anonymity out of respect for the senator. Boucher is an anesthesiologist who has been recovering from injuries related to a recent bike accident, according to one of the people close to Paul.

He is the inventor of the Therm-a-Vest, a cloth vest partially filled with rice and secured with Velcro straps that is designed help with back pain, according to the Bowling Green Daily News.

Troopers responded to Paul’s residence at 3:21 p.m. on Friday after reports of an assault. Upon arrival, troops determined Boucher “had intentionally assaulted Paul causing a minor injury,” state police said.

Paul, 54, has served in the Senate since 2011. He is an ophthalmologist who has practiced in Bowling Green, Ky., where he moved with his wife in 1993. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016, focusing the closing months of his bid on attacking then-candidate Donald Trump and his readiness for office. In recent months, he was a lead opponent of Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But more, recently Paul has emerged as a leading defender of Trump’s policies and has golfed with the president at Trump’s Virginia golf course.

It’s unclear whether the attack against Paul was politically motivated. But an unprecedented wave of threats against House and Senate lawmakers this year has prompted congressional security officials to review and follow up on thousands of threatening messages to members of both parties.

There's no excuse for assault, none, period, sorry.  Boucher is probably going to be spending a lot of time thinking about what he did in decidedly substandard housing conditions.  Especially after the attempted assassination of Rep. Steve Scalise earlier this year, I have to say that I hope this guy gets the full weight of the law hammering him down.

Political disagreements are one thing, physical violence is entirely another.

And yeah, I know this means punching Nazis is wrong.  It also means it's going to have consequences when you do it.

I loathe Rand Paul, he's caused damage to me personally with his voting record, but I'm not going to beat him with assault.  I'm going to beat him by voting against him and getting other Kentuckians to do the same.

Turtling Up To Tear It Down

If you're still expecting Mitch McConnell to lift a finger to protect Robert Mueller's job as special counsel or to rein in social media giants, remember he's a Republican, and he only cares about empowering Trump and stealing power.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday that special counsel Robert Mueller is not in need of congressional protection from President Donald Trump.

"I don’t hear much pressure to pass anything," McConnell told MSNBC's Hugh Hewitt. "There’s been no indication that the President or the White House are not cooperating with the special counsel."

McConnell added, "I think the view up here is let him do his job."

Senators on both sides of the aisle have introduced bills to shield Mueller, whose investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion between Moscow and Trump's campaign yielded two indictments and an unsealed guilty plea this week.

But those proposals have stalled in the chamber. And given that McConnell determines what bills get floor time in the Senate, it seems unlikely that will change.

He also doesn't care about Russian interference in social media.

McConnell also threw cold water on legislation requiring social media companies to disclose who pays for ads — part of a bipartisan effort intended to thwart future Russian attempts to secretly interfere in an election.

"I’m a little skeptical of these disclosure-type proposals that are floating around, which strikes me would mostly penalize American citizens trying to use the internet and to advertise," McConnell told Hewitt.

McConnell has a long history of pushing back on campaign finance regulations he sees as a threat to the First Amendment.

Asked by Hewitt if he would support a 9/11-style commission that looks at some of these issues, which Graham has floated, McConnell suggested it wasn't needed. "Yeah, I don’t know whether we need some special entity to do it or not. We have committees here."

Nothing will change until McConnell is removed from power.  Count on that.  The only reason he hasn't already killed the investigation is because it's still possibly a useful tool to hurt the Democrats with.  Once that ceases to be, expect Mueller to be dismissed.

Vladimir's Build-A-Troll Factory

Twitter user Jenna Abrams built up 70,000 followers over 3 years, was featured in dozens of stories, and fought with journalists. advocates, and social media stars over immigration and Donald Trump. She was a right-wing troll who championed everything from segregation to Trump.

She was also a 100% manufactured product of Russian intelligence operatives designed to sow political chaos.

Jenna Abrams, the freewheeling American blogger who believed in a return to segregation and said that many of America’s problems stemmed from PC culture run amok, did not exist
But Abrams got very real attention from almost any national news outlet you can think of, according to a Daily Beast analysis of her online footprint. 
Abrams, who at one point boasted nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, was featured in articles written by Bustle, U.S. News and World Report, USA Today, several local Fox affiliates, InfoWars, BET, Yahoo Sports, Sky News, IJR, Breitbart, The Washington Post, Mashable,New York Daily News, Quartz, Dallas News, France24, HuffPost, The Daily Caller, The Telegraph, CNN, the BBC, Gizmodo, The Independent, The Daily Dot, The Observer, Business Insider, The National Post, Refinery29, The Times of India, BuzzFeed, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, and, of course, Russia Today and Sputnik. 
Many of these stories had nothing to do with Russia—or politics at all. Instead, stretching back to 2014, Abrams’ account built up an image of a straight-talking, no-nonsense, viral-tweet-writing young American woman. She was featured in articles as diverse as “the 15 funniest tweets this week” to “#FeministAMovie Proves Why Twitter Can’t Have Nice Things.” Then, once she built her following, she would push divisive views on immigration, segregation, and Donald Trump, especially as the 2016 election loomed. 
Abrams’ pervasiveness in American news outlets shows just how much impact Russia’s troll farm had on American discourse in the run-up to the 2016 election—and illustrates how Russian talking points can seep into American mainstream media without even a single dollar spent on advertising.

Remnants from some of Abrams’ most elaborate conspiracies and xenophobic opinions still remain in replies from celebrities sparring with—or agreeing with—her account.
Roseanne Barr responded to one of Abrams’ tweets on Feb. 2, 2016, to call a common enemy “pro-pedophile.” Abrams’ tweet earlier in the day about a Saudi Arabian Starbucks went viral, meriting pickup from The Telegraph and Russia Today, and even a response from Starbucks’ corporate Twitter account. 
Barr elaborated in a tweet later in the month, saying “dems repubs libertarians indies greens, black white yellow red-all religions” are “#PEDOPHILES.” 
Even Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and an expert in Russian propaganda, got into a number of Twitter spats with Abrams. McFaul responded to Abrams’ posts in 10 separate months between February of 2015 and August of 2016.
Before they knew the account was run by paid disinformation agents, Abrams’ ahistorical slavery revisionism irked journalists and historians alike. 
Al Letson, the host of the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal podcast, received over 65,000 retweets and 153,000 likes when he refuted Abrams’ incorrect Civil War claim
“It’s much easier to say the Civil War was about money, when your ancestors weren’t the currency,” said Letson, whose tweet is still pinned to the top of his Twitter page.
Historian Kevin Kruse’s quote-tweet of Abrams accrued over 41,000 retweets.
“No, the Civil War was about slavery,” he wrote. “Sincerely, Historians.” 
“I responded to the tweet because it echoed an argument I’ve heard many times: that the Civil War was somehow not about slavery, even when the seceding states and the Confederate government made it quite clear, in their own words at the time, that it was entirely about slavery,” Kruse told The Daily Beast.

The Russians knew exactly how to use social media against the country.  That helped to elect Trump and the GOP by stocking voter anger and depressing Democratic turnout.   We were played for suckers, and now we may lose our country because of it.

And both our broken media and Congress went along.  But let's not forget the blame lies on the shoulders of Twitter itself, more interested in taking money than policing its sewers.

In early 2015, a Twitter employee discovered a vast amount of Twitter accounts with IP addresses in Russia and Ukraine. The worker, Leslie Miley, said most of them were inactive or fake but were not deleted at the time. Miley, who was the company's engineering manager of product safety and security at the time, said efforts to root out spam and manipulation on the platform were slowed down by the company's growth team, which focused on increasing users and revenue.

"Anything we would do that would slow down signups, delete accounts, or remove accounts had to go through the growth team," Miley said. "They were more concerned with growth numbers than fake and compromised accounts."

Facebook too was glad to have millions of fake users in order to generate revenue numbers and goos stock prices. They deleted millions of fake accounts before the election, but they left hundreds of millions of fake accounts untouched.

Facebook has admitted that up to 270m accounts on the social network are illegitimate, raising questions over the social network's integrity as it is under pressure over Russian meddling in elections across the world. 
Buried in the social network's results on Wednesday night, it disclosed that there are tens of millions more fake and duplicate accounts than it had previously thought. 
Around 2-3pc of its 2.1bn monthly users in the third quarter of 2017 were "user-misclassified and undesirable accounts", Facebook said, up from the 1pc it had estimated in July. 
Another 10pc of its accounts are duplicates of real users, almost doubling its estimate of 6pc from last quarter's results. This suggests that in total, up to 13pc of its 2.1bn monthly users - almost 270m accounts - are illegitimate.

And there's no doubt that a major chunk of fake accounts were made for Russian influence of our political system in order to help Donald Trump and the GOP.

Oil's Well That Ends Well For US Diplomacy

Donald Trump keeps isolating the US from international agreements and diplomatic cooperation on a number of area, and no executive agency has taken damage quite like the State Department.  We're now a year into his term and Trump continues to refuse to appoint diplomatic staff to key positions.  It's gone way past the fact he doesn't care, as far as American diplomacy still exists, it's now "you deal with Trump, and you do what he wants." 

President Trump pushed back Thursday on concerns about a lack of nominees for key positions at the State Department, arguing it wouldn't affect his agenda.

"Let me tell you, the one that matters is me, I'm the only one that matters because when it comes to it that's what the policy is going to be," Trump said on Fox News when pressed about vacancies by Laura Ingraham.

"We don't need all the people that they want," Trump continued. "Don't forget, I'm a business person and I tell my people, well you don't need to fill slots, don't fill them."

A number of top positions remain unfilled at the State Department, among other agencies, including officials overseeing Southeast Asia and arms control.

Trump has fallen behind his four predecessors in the number of appointments confirmed by the Senate by this time, while he also has fewer nominations sent compared to the four previous administrations, according to an appointee tracker from The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service.

The president blamed Senate Democrats for more nominees not being approved, though acknowledged that he has focused on nominating fewer people.

"We're filling up roles. And, don't forget, Schumer and the Democrats are just obstructing. You can't get anything through. We have almost about half the number of people coming through as Obama had. They are obstructing," Trump said.

And when it comes to anything involving transparancy and international cooperation to rein in corruption, the US is now freely abandoning its leadership role instead.

The United States has withdrawn from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international effort to fight corruption in managing revenues from oil, gas and mineral extraction.

There had been doubts about continued U.S. participation in the EITI since earlier this year when Congress killed the so-called resource extraction rule, which required companies like Exxon Mobil Corp to disclose taxes and other fees paid to foreign governments, such as Russia.

In a letter to the EITI board on Thursday, the director of the U.S. Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Gregory J. Gould, wrote that “effective immediately” the United States was withdrawing as an EITI implementing country.

He wrote that while the U.S. remains committed to fighting corruption “it is clear that domestic implementation of EITI does not fully account for the U.S. legal framework.”

The EITI, which was founded in 2003, and which the United States joined in 2014, sets a global standard for governments to disclose their revenues from oil, gas, and mining assets, and for companies to report payments made to obtain access to publicly owned resources, as well as other donations.

“It put more information in the hands of the public,” said Michael Ross, executive director of the Project on Resources Governance and Development at the University of California Los Angeles.

“It involved the U.S. government disclosing all the money it was getting from oil, gas and mining companies and getting these companies to publicly disclose the payments they were making.”

There are 52 countries in the EITI, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South America.

In just one year Trump has reduced the US to corrupt proto-fascist regime and international pariah status, bordering on dangerous rogue nation that the rest of the world may have to take action against.  The danger of a major global war has never been higher, and the instigator will be us when it happens.

We're the bad guys in 2017, and nobody's worse than Trump.
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