Friday, August 31, 2018

Last Call For It's Definitely Muller Time

With Labor Day on Monday, the scuttlebutt in DC is that Mueller would drop at least one final bombshell on the Russia case before "Justice Department guidelines" kicked in about non-interference in the 60 days before the 2018 midterms. (Didn't stop James Comey two years ago, right?)  

The man did not disappoint.  Not by a long shot.

A former Paul Manafort associate who pleaded guilty to a lobbying crime admitted that he helped foreign donors give money to President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

In a plea agreement made public Friday, prosecutors outlined other crimes that the lobbyist, Sam Patten, admitted to but wouldn’t be charged with. Among them was “causing foreign money” to be paid to the Trump inaugural committee. Patten signed off on the allegation.

Patten pleaded guilty earlier Friday to failing to disclose his lobbying on behalf of Ukraine, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

According to a court filing, Patten’s Ukrainian client wanted to attend the Trump inauguration in January 2017, but the Inauguration Committee couldn’t accept money from foreign nationals because of Federal Election Commission rules.

To get around that restriction, Patten enlisted a U.S. citizen to serve as a “straw” buyer, according to the filing. That individual, who wasn’t named, bought four tickets for $50,000, after receiving a check for $50,000 from the consulting firm run by Patten and Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s longtime fixer in Ukraine suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence. That firm, in turn, was reimbursed by a $50,000 wire from the Ukrainian oligarch’s Cypriot bank account, the filing says.

It’s unclear whether anyone on the Inaugural Committee was aware that the money came from a Ukrainian, or whether Patten has more to tell investigators about the matter.

“The big question seems to be whether he has testimony to offer about the purpose behind the payments to the inauguration committee,” said Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor in New York who’s now a white-collar criminal defense lawyer.

Konstatin Kilimnik has been Manafort's Putin contact for a while now.  I told you he was dirty two full years ago.  If Patten is ratting on Manafort and Kilimnik, then our old friend Oleg Deripaska can't be far behind.

To recap: the Trump inaugural committee took foreign donations from Putin's guys.

And we go into Labor Day weekend with that on the line.

The Battle Of Detroit

The US Army and National Guard troops are training in urban areas like Detroit in order to prepare for dealing with a terrorist attack on American soil.

As the Army and top leaders look to a potential urban fight in dense, dangerous and confusing terrain, their National Guard counterparts are working the complexities of urban response right now.

Recently, troops with the 46th Military Police Command of the Michigan National Guard began a three-year effort to respond to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack in Detroit. When they fill that role, soldiers in that unit fall under the command of the active Army, specifically U.S. Army North.

The first stage of the exercise ran for three days, from Aug. 21-23, with a “tabletop exercise” and terrain walk through for leaders and planners to identify who would do what as the Guard units fit into the intricate ways in which many groups coordinate disaster response in urban settings.

A key role of Task Force 46 and elements of the MP command is decontaminating those exposed to toxic elements in the CBRN environment. Local agencies, from city to state government and emergency response units, lead their respective areas, but Army assets can hit certain needs at a large scale.

“As you go, the intent is to fill larger gaps rather than take over,” said Robert Naething, deputy to the commanding general of U.S. Army North, which oversees such Army responses inside the United States.

"Army responses inside the United States" in a Trump regime should be a gigantic warning sign, folks.  I can think of a whole hell of a lot of scenarios besides a terror attack where Trump would have troops go into American cities, and we're really not far from that.

There are ongoing efforts to partner with cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and Cleveland in the coming years so that command groups from the various Guard units and Army North can build out their plans and better coordinate with the local contacts in each area.

That’s an area where the Guard has had experience, Stone said. But with this new event, they’re bringing in not only the working agencies but experts in academia and industry who study disaster related problems.

But, since its inside the U.S., the chain of command is somewhat different than in war time scenarios.

“We’re never in charge, we’re always in support,” Naething said. "Either FEMA or DHS is typically in charge.”

FEMA and DHS.  In charge of an army response inside the US.  Under Trump.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Brian Buetler games out where we go in the lame duck session between Election Day and January.  It's not pretty.

Yes, it’s possible that Republicans will lose control of the Senate in January, so they naturally feel a bit hurried. But they are intent on confirming Kavanaugh before the election in November, foreclosing on the possibility of using the lame duck session to more completely review Kavanaugh’s public-service record. Their haste looks fairly arbitrary, unless we interpret it as an effort to lock in another Supreme Court justice before Trump takes drastic steps to protect himself from Mueller—steps that might otherwise place the Supreme Court seat itself at risk, harm Republicans in the midterms, or both.

The implication of recent reporting is that those steps will include, at a minimum, pardoning Manafort and firing Sessions. We can see his intentions both in overt and behind-the-scenes steps he’s taken against McGahn and Sessions in recent days, and in reports that he has consulted with his personal, criminal lawyers about both pardoning Manafort, firing Sessions, and impeachment.

Depending upon how willingly Republicans in the Senate will go along with Trump’s designs, Trump may also seek to rush a new, unrecused attorney general through the confirmation process, or abuse the vacancies act to install an acting attorney general who might corruptly interfere with the Mueller investigation

If Republicans do well in the elections, all this scheming will have proved unnecessary, and Trump will be given a free hand to obstruct any investigation he’d like. But if Republicans lose one or both houses of Congress, the lame-duck period will be the critical window during which Trump can take corrupt steps to insulate himself from justice. By the time Democrats took control, their ability to set things right would be limited. They could conduct oversight, which would damage Republicans politically, but Republicans would at the very least have the power to block impeachment and the restoration of the Mueller investigation.

Demonstrations will certainly arise from that.  Those demonstrations against Trump may be too large for him to ignore.

He may then act.

It's not an impossibility.

Deportation Nation, Con't

In the Trump era, the regime is making it clear that corporations that do business with undocumented immigrants will face the wrath of the federal government, and as a result, these cowards are "self-policing" and shutting off non-citizens from business services like bank accounts.

Saeed Moshfegh woke up earlier this month to discover the strangest thing: though he had plenty of money in his Bank of America account, he couldn’t access it.

An Iranian getting his Ph.D in physics at the University of Miami, Moshfegh used the account for everyday transactions. All he had to do to maintain the account was show proof of legal residency every six months.

“I think it’s onerous, but I’d been doing it,” said Moshfegh, who has lived in the U.S. for the past seven years. He recently married an American.

That Thursday, Moshfegh went to his local branch near South Miami. He was told that the documentation he had provided could not be accepted. Bank officials insisted he produce a different form, according to Moshfegh. The bank was wrong, he maintains, because the form he had supplied was the correct one based on his current status as a student nearing graduation.

“This bank doesn’t know how the immigration system works, so they didn’t accept my document,” said Moshfegh, 36.

Locked out of his account, Moshfegh couldn’t pay his rent, which was due that week. Credit card payments were suddenly rejected.

His case isn’t unique. In recent months, Bank of America has been accused of freezing or threatening to freeze customers’ accounts after asking about their legal status in the U.S.. In July, the Washington Post reported that multiple customers had been locked out of their accounts after Bank of America questioned whether the account holders were U.S. citizens or dual citizens.

The Trump regime will start forcing more and more Americans to prove their citizenship, and simply tell those that it wants gone that their proof is invalid.  History tells us exactly how this goes, and those undesirables will be locked up and then deported, or will disappear into the permanent incarceration system as revenue streams for private prison contractors.  The rest will flee the country on their own volition, or hide.

We know exactly how this played out 80 years ago in Europe.  A government that is willing to declare you a non-citizen is a fascist government, period.

Not only can it happen here, it is happening as we speak.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Last Call For (Red) Meat The Press, Con't

The FBI has rounded up a Trump supporter in California for threatening to kill Boston Globe newsroom employees, as Trump's war on the press rolls on through the "we shoot journalists, don't we?" phase.

The F.B.I. said on Thursday that it charged a California man who threatened to kill employees of The Boston Globe after calling them the “enemy of the people” in a series of menacing phone calls.

Robert D. Chain, 68, was arrested on Thursday at his home in Encino, Calif. The F.B.I. said Mr. Chain owned several firearms and had recently purchased a small-caliber rifle.

According to federal documents, Mr. Chain began calling The Boston Globe immediately after the newspaper announced on Aug. 10 that it would publish a coordinated editorial response to political attacks on the media. Prosecutors said the threats were in retaliation for The Globe’s leadership in the editorial campaign.

In one call to the paper’s newsroom, Mr. Chain threatened to shoot the newspaper’s employees in the head, the F.B.I. said. Three days later, in another call, Mr. Chain said: “You’re the enemy of the people.” Using profane language, he threatened to kill “every” Globe employee.

Mr. Trump has embraced the phrase “enemy of the people.” Media executives have decried the expression, believing it a dangerous assault on the First Amendment, warning that it could trigger acts of violence among the president’s most ardent supporters in the United States and embolden authoritarian political movements overseas.

On Thursday, the president once again used the phrase.

I mean we've already got to the point where the leader of the country is cheering on the butchery of adversarial press.  This guy was caught because he was noisy and stupid.  When the next newsroom is shot up, and it's going to happen sooner rather than later, Trump will ignore it, the press will continue to be nice to him because they don't want to lose "access" to the White House, and more journalists will die.

It's not a matter of if, or even when, but of how many dead reporters it's going to take before America's news organizations realize their survival is at stake in much more than a metaphorical sense.

Puerto Rico And Other Trump Disasters

After almost a year, the official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria has been raised to a staggering 2,975 casualties, topping 9/11 and far outstripping the death toll of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast.  Donald Trump still insists the government did a good job however.

President Donald Trump lauded the U.S. response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year just a day after the commonwealth said almost 3,000 people died from the storm.

“I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico,” Trump told reporters Wednesday at the White House in response to a question about the new death tally. “Puerto Rico had a lot of difficulties before it got hit, and we’re straightening out those difficulties even now.”

Trump’s upbeat assessment of the disaster appears to have changed little from October 2017, when the official death toll was just 16 people. At that time, Trump compared the storm’s damage to the 1,833 people who were killed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Katrina became a millstone for then-President George W. Bush, who had praised his administration’s response before the true toll was known.

Puerto Rico’s revised death toll from Hurricane Maria -- 2,975 people -- was released Tuesday in a study that the commonwealth had commissioned from researchers at George Washington University. The study is based on researchers’ analysis of excess deaths that took place in Puerto Rico between September 2017 and February 2018. Another report to Congress earlier this month found there were 1,427 more deaths in the four months after Maria than was typical over the comparable four months in the previous four years.

“This is unprecedented devastation,” Governor Ricardo Rossello said Tuesday. Trump praised Rossello on Wednesday for his cooperation with Washington, calling him “an excellent guy” who is “very happy with the job we’ve done.”

Responding to Trump’s assessment of his administration’s handling of storm damage, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has been consistently critical of Trump’s response, said on MSNBC that the 2,975 deaths "will follow him wherever he goes for the rest of his life."

It won't, because of another much larger number: 62,984,828.

The number of Americans who voted for Trump in 2016, despite his racism.

The number of Puerto Ricans who get to vote for President?


Hey, in other news, FEMA employees and two million other federal workers just got their pay raises canceled.  All of them.  Because of the "nation's fiscal situation".

President Donald Trump is canceling across-the-board pay raises for civilian workers across the federal government, citing the “nation’s fiscal situation.”

“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the president wrote in a letter Thursday to congressional leaders.

Under Trump’s policy, roughly 1.8 million people won't get an automatic pay boost next year, including Border Patrol and ICE agents.

Most civilian workers were slated to receive 2.1 percent increase under a years-old government formula. But the president argues that pay raises should be tied to “performance,” rather than “across-the-board” increases.

The administration’s stance sets up a funding fight with the Senate, which has already backed a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees this year.

But we could afford a trillion dollars in tax cuts for America's wealthiest and corporations making record profits, right?


It's Mueller Time, Con't

Yesterday's announcement of the coming departure of White House Counsel Don McGahn as a prelude to the firing of Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, and Robert Mueller is far worse than we originally thought.

President Trump’s advisers and allies are increasingly worried that he has neither the staff nor the strategy to protect himself from a possible Democratic takeover of the House, which would empower the opposition party to shower the administration with subpoenas or even pursue impeachment charges

Within Trump’s orbit, there is consensus that his current legal team is not equipped to effectively navigate an onslaught of congressional demands, and there has been broad discussion about bringing on new lawyers experienced in white-collar defense and political scandals.

The president and some of his advisers have discussed possibly adding veteran defense attorney Abbe Lowell, who currently represents Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, to Trump’s personal legal team if an impeachment battle or other fights with Congress emerge after the midterm elections, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Trump advisers also are discussing recruiting experienced legal firepower to the Office of White House Counsel, which is facing departures and has dwindled in size at a critical juncture. The office has about 25 lawyers now, down from roughly 35 earlier in the presidency, according to a White House official with direct knowledge.

Trump announced Wednesday that Donald McGahn will depart as White House counsel this fall, once the Senate confirms Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. Three of McGahn’s deputies — Greg Katsas, Uttam Dhillon and Makan Delrahim — have departed, and a fourth, Stefan Passantino, will have his last day Friday. That leaves John Eisenberg, who handles national security, as the lone deputy counsel.

Trump recently has consulted his personal attorneys about the likelihood of impeachment proceedings. And McGahn and other aides have invoked the prospect of impeachment to persuade the president not to take actions or behave in ways that they believe would hurt him, officials said.

To recap, McGahn is leaving, and four of the five deputy counsels are going to be gone by the end of the week.  Trump doesn't care about the situation, because he figures as soon as Kavanaugh is confirmed, the game is over.

He will have five SCOTUS votes to end everything against him, if not a decision to protect himself from any state cases as well. Even with a Democratic House, we're not far off from the kind of one-semi-permanent party rule we're currently seeing in places like Poland and Hungary.

In both countries the ruling parties — Law and Justice in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary — have established regimes that maintain the forms of popular elections, but have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent. The result seems likely to be one-party rule for the foreseeable future.

And it could all too easily happen here. There was a time, not long ago, when people used to say that our democratic norms, our proud history of freedom, would protect us from such a slide into tyranny. In fact, some people still say that. But believing such a thing today requires willful blindness. The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule.

It will come much closer when Trump shuts down justice.  Oh, and speaking of justice, it seems George Papadopoulos is sticking with his plea deal with Mueller after all.

Stay tuned however.  Things are moving quickly now.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

The Trump regime moves on to the next step of its mass deportation of US citizens plan, now saying that "certain US citizens" aren't actually citizens, and deporting them.

On paper, he’s a devoted U.S. citizen.

His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.

But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.

As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown on their citizenship.

In a statement, the State Department said that it “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications,” adding that “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”

But cases identified by The Washington Post and interviews with immigration attorneys suggest a dramatic shift in both passport issuance and immigration enforcement.

In some cases, passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings. In others, they are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to reenter the United States. As the Trump administration attempts to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, the government’s treatment of passport applicants in South Texas shows how U.S. citizens are increasingly being swept up by immigration enforcement agencies

This is being done on purpose of course, and soon this process will be extended to a whole lot more US citizens whose citizenship is "suddenly being questioned".  Invariably, the people caught up in this will be Hispanic at the beginning, but it will start being applied to other "undesirables" as well.

The people targeted by these sweeps won't have the resources to fight back.  The Trump regime will simply say "Your birth certificate isn't legitimate.  You aren't a US citizen.  Goodbye."

This is what fascist regimes do, folks.  It is happening here as we speak.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Three stories on the plate for today in Mueller investigation news, first up yes, Attorney General Jeff Sessions's days are indeed numbered, and no, congressional Republicans aren't going to do a thing about it as long as they get Kavanaugh confirmed first.

President Trump, who levied extraordinary public attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions in recent weeks, has privately revived the idea of firing him in conversations with his aides and personal lawyers this month, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

His attorneys concluded that they have persuaded him — for now — not to make such a move while the special-counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is ongoing, the people said.

But there is growing evidence that Senate Republicans, who have long cautioned Trump against firing Sessions, are now resigned to the prospect that he may do so after the November midterm elections — a sign that one of the last remaining walls of opposition to such a move is crumbling.

“We wish the best for him, but as any administration would show, Cabinet members seldom last the entire administration, and this is clearly not an exception,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in an interview Tuesday.

“Nothing lasts forever,” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told The Washington Post, describing the Trump-Sessions dynamic as “a toxic relationship.”

Added Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a longtime defender of the attorney general: “My sense is the fix is in.”

Getting rid of Sessions means the Saturday Night Massacre and end of the Mueller probe is now all but assured, the only question is when.  It would be a nightmare if it happened before the midterms, but after, well.  And that brings us to story #2, that White House Counsel Don McGahn is also on his way out.

Top White House officials and sources close to White House counsel Don McGahn tell Axios that McGahn will step down this fall — after Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, or after the midterms.

The big picture: That potentially puts a successor in charge of fielding a blizzard of requests or subpoenas for documents and testimony if Democrats win control of the House in the midterms. And if the White House winds up fighting special counsel Robert Mueller, an epic constitutional fight could lie ahead. 
  • We're told that Trump has not formalized a successor.
  • But McGahn has told a confidant he would like his successor to be Emmet Flood, a Clinton administration alumnus who joined the White House in May to deal with the Russia probe.
  • Flood also served for two years during George W. Bush’s second term as his top lawyer handling congressional investigators.
A source familiar with Flood's thinking said: “The reason he can represent both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump is because he thinks these investigators come and basically put a target on their backs, trying to overturn every aspect of their lives searching for a crime."

Note that McGahn was the main reason Mueller wasn't immediately fired in June 2017.  If McGahn's departure comes in September or October instead of after the midterms, Trump may make his move on Sessions, Rosenstein, and Mueller sooner rather than later.  The Mueller investigation would have ended after just a month.

And that brings us to Story #3, a massive new Justice Department money laundering investigation, but the fugitive suspect has a whole hell of a lot of familiar Republicans on his defense team.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether a fugitive Malaysian financier laundered tens of millions of dollars through two associates and used the funds to pay a U.S. legal team that includes former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and a lawyer who represents President Trump, according to people familiar with the matter

Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman, has been described in U.S. court filings as playing a central role in the alleged embezzlement of $4.5 billion from a Malaysian fund called 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Malaysian authorities this week separately charged Mr. Low with money laundering in the case, which investigators suspect may be one of the biggest financial frauds in history. He has been moving around Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China in recent months, according to people with knowledge of his whereabouts.

Mr. Low was close to former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Rajak, who unexpectedly lost an election in May and was arrested last monthin Kuala Lumpur. Mr. Najib has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and criminal breach of trust in connection with the 1MDB scandal.

The Justice Department, in July 2016 and last year, filed civil lawsuits in federal court in California seeking to recover assets from Mr. Low and others including mansions, artwork and a yacht allegedly bought with 1MDB funds. It is now pursuing a criminal investigation in which Mr. Low, who has U.S. assets, is a target, these people said.

Chris Christie, former US Attorney, defending the biggest money laundering case in US history, huh.

The team of lawyers and consultants working for Mr. Low includes Mr. Christie, who briefly headed Mr. Trump’s presidential transition team; Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz ; Bobby Burchfield, a lawyer who has served as the Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser; and Ed Rogers, a Washington lobbyist with close ties to the Republican Party.

Mr. Christie is representing Mr. Low in the asset-forfeiture cases in California, a spokesman for the former governor said. “There has been no communication by Governor Christie with any other area of government on Mr. Low’s behalf,” the spokesman said, adding there has been “no inquiry made to him by the Department of Justice with regard to any other investigation regarding funding or otherwise."

A spokesman for Kasowitz Benson Torres, Mr. Kasowitz’s New York law firm, confirmed the firm represents Mr. Low in Justice Department matters. “Here, as with all of our clients, our job as attorneys is to represent and vindicate our clients’ interests; and here, as with all of our non-pro-bono clients, we are paid for the legal services we provide,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Nothing to do with Trump's money laundering, except for all the Republicans making sure the guy goes free.

Now that's interesting.  Put this all together and I see Trump, once Kavanaugh becomes the fifth vote he needs on SCOTUS, doing whatever he likes and going straight to authoritarianism.

Stay tuned.

Trump Cards, Con't

The NY Times got a hold of audio of the meeting between Donald Trump and evangelical leaders (note I didn't say evangelical Christian leaders, because the Christianity espoused by them isn't actually Christianity that is recognizable by the tenets of Christ) and as usual, he lied to them while offering some hefty quid pro quo.

President Trump warned evangelical leaders Monday night that Democrats “will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently” if Republicans lose control of Congress in the midterm elections.

Speaking to the group in the State Dining Room of the White House, Mr. Trump painted a stark picture of what losing the majority would mean for the administration’s conservative agenda, according to an audiotape of his remarks provided to The New York Times by someone who attended the event.

“They will end everything immediately,” Mr. Trump said. “When you look at antifa,” he added, a term that describes militant leftist groups, “and you look at some of these groups, these are violent people.”

A White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, declined to elaborate on what the president meant.

The blunt warning — delivered to about 100 of the president’s most ardent supporters in the evangelical community — was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s attempts to use the specter of violence at the hands of his political opponents and to fan the flames of cultural divisions in the country.

In the wake of racial violence last year in Charlottesville, Va., Mr. Trump said there was “blame on both sides” and equated liberal, anti-fascist protesters with Nazis and white supremacists. In spring 2016, the president warned of violence by his own supporters if he did not get the Republican presidential nomination, saying “I think you’d have riots.”

Mr. Trump acknowledged to the evangelical leadership that his conservative base may not turn out at the polls in big numbers for Republican congressional candidates because he is not on the ballot in November.

The racism and division aside (that part of evangelical is definitely recognizable) Trump's plan was basically "If you don't vote for us, Democrats will destroy your megachurch empires, so you'd better start telling your flock to vote GOP in those Sunday sermons.  And don't worry about the IRS and the Johnson Amendment, I've taken care of it."

Eliminating the provision in the law would require Congress to act. Instead, Mr. Trump signed an executive order in May 2017 directing the Internal Revenue Service not to aggressively pursue cases in which a church endorses a candidate or makes political donations.

Legal experts have said the I.R.S. has very rarely pursued such cases against churches, and religious leaders have often been outspoken about politics even if they have had to stop short of officially endorsing a candidate.

Mr. Trump ignored that reality Monday night. He urged religious leaders to use what he described as their newfound freedom of speech to campaign from the pulpit on behalf of Republican candidates.

“You have people that preach to almost 200 million people — 150 to, close, depending on which Sunday we are talking about, and beyond Sunday, 100, 150 million people,” he said.

Mr. Trump bantered with the religious leaders at the dinner, noting at one point that Robert Jeffress, a Dallas evangelical pastor who once said Jewish people were going to hell, had observed that Mr. Trump “may not be the perfect human being, but he’s the greatest leader for Christianity.”

“Hopefully, I’ve proven that to be a fact,” Mr. Trump said, prompting applause, before adding, “In terms of the second part, not the first part.”

Mostly the first part.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Last Call For the Great Google Goofball Grifting Game

The enemies list that the Trump regime will take action against now includes Google, for the crime of not having enough good articles about Trump in its news searches.

The Trump administration is “taking a look” at whether Google and its search engine should be regulated by the government, Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s economic adviser, said Tuesday outside the White House.

“We’ll let you know,” Kudlow said. “We’re taking a look at it.”

The announcement puts the search giant squarely in the White House’s crosshairs amid wider allegations against the tech industry that it systematically discriminates against conservatives on social media and other platforms.

Kudlow’s remark to reporters came hours after Trump fired off a series of predawn tweets complaining about Google search results for “Trump News.”

Trump understands that all publicity is good publicity, but he needs enemies to rally his hate-filled base and to play along with the political kayfabe.

Google, in a statement, said its searches aren’t politically biased: “When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds. Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.

“Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries,” Google said. “We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

The White House has not responded to requests for further comment.

Trump’s tweets came the morning after Fox Business host Lou Dobbs aired an interview Monday night with the pro-Trump commentators Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as Diamond and Silk, who have long claimedthat their online videos are being suppressed by tech companies.

“I am not for big government, but I really do believe that the government should step in and really check this out,” Hardaway told Dobbs in the interview.

Google search results are affected not only by region but also by personal search history. It was unclear whether the president had Googled himself, or whether he was referring to a recent piece in PJ Media, a conservative blog, alleging that 96 percent of Google search results for news about Trump were from “left-leaning news outlets.” His accusations appeared to mirror those in the Aug. 25 piece.

Right-wing noise machine websites like Breitbart and PJ Media, and grifters like Diamond and Silk helped put Trump in office by playing this bad faith game, and everyone profits from it.  Everyone involved knows the truth, but they go along anyway. 

That's how this works, guys.  Trump names an enemy, and his base attacks it to distract the press from whichever self-caused disaster has the upper hand on his merry band of rotten eggs. There's always an enemy to bully, whether it's Google, the memory of John McCain, Robert Mueller, or reality itself.

And if that fails, there's always Hillary Clinton to attack, right?

The Party Of Law And Order

California Republican voters are most likely going to re-elect a man indicted for massive campaign fraud, and they will give him more campaign funds to misuse because they only thing that matters is putting those people in their place.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) holds an 8-point lead over his Democratic opponent despite being indicted on charges of misusing campaign funds, according to a new poll.

A Survey USA poll published Monday found that among likely voters in California’s 50th District who were surveyed, 47 percent plan to vote for Hunter, compared to 39 percent who favor Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar, if they are the only two candidates on the ballot. President Trump won the district by 15 points in 2016.

Among Republicans, 77 percent of likely voters said that despite his indictment, they would vote for Hunter if the election was held today, the poll found.

Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted last week after being charged with misusing at least $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.

Hunter is accused of using the funds to pay for trips to Italy and Hawaii, his family’s dental work, his children’s tuition and travel for relatives, among other personal expenses.

Hunter has dismissed the charges as politically motivated, calling them the product of a “witch hunt” carried out by the Department of Justice.

The excuse that the Obama/Clinton Deep State manufactured these charges, despite the Trump regime controlling the Justice Department, is good enough for more than three-quarters of Republicans.

Besides, his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is Muslim and related to one of the 1972 Munich terrorists who died 16 years before he was born, so that's apparently infinitely much worse than being a white Republican indicted on federal charges, who will almost certainly be convicted and tossed from the House before November 2020.

To be fair, Hunter was going to win by a comfortable double-digit margin before the indictment.  Now he'll end up winning by a comfortable single-digit margin instead, because that's how politics works in America.

Better to be a white felon than a person of color with no criminal record in America after all.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

According to Aruna Viswanatha at the WSJ, Paul Manafort really was indeed trying to work a deal with Robert Mueller for the federal trial that starts next month, but apparently he overplayed his hand and he ended up losing it all.

Paul Manafort’s defense team held talks with prosecutors to resolve a second set of charges against the former Trump campaign chairman before he was convicted last week, but they didn’t reach a deal, and the two sides are now moving closer to a second trial next month, according to people familiar with the matter.

The plea discussions occurred as a Virginia jury was spending four days deliberating tax and bank fraud charges against Mr. Manafort, the people said. That jury convicted him on eight counts and deadlocked on 10 others. Prosecutors accused Mr. Manafort of avoiding taxes on more than $16 million he earned in the early 2010s through political consulting work in Ukraine.

The plea talks on the second set of charges stalled over issues raised by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, one of the people said. It isn’t clear what those issues were, and the proposed terms of the plea deal couldn’t immediately be determined.

Representatives for Messrs. Manafort and Mueller declined to comment.

The talks were aimed at forestalling a second, related trial for Mr. Manafort, which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 17 in Washington.

Manafort apparently thought he was going to skate on the charges earlier this month and shopped a deal to Mueller, but as we now know, Manafort was convicted on 8 charges and was one holdout juror away from being convicted on all 18.

Marcy Wheeler tries to figure out what the hell Manafort was thinking from the get-go by betting everything on the Virginia trial and it wasn't a totally awful plan considering, but the chances of it working were low at best.

Still, getting one trial in EDVA almost worked, with a holdout juror that hung the jury on 10 of 18 charges (though that won’t have that big an effect on sentencing) and lots of good press stemming from Ellis beating up the prosecution, both during Manafort’s challenge to Mueller’s authority and during the trial in general.
Add in the fact that Manafort (again, with his seemingly endless supply of funds to pay defense attorneys) got two bites at key challenges to Mueller’s case in chief — his authority generally, and the search of Manafort’s condo for things including evidence about the June 9 meeting — and the dual trial strategy probably wasn’t a total flop (unless, of course, it means Manafort is running out of money). Along the way, he also got full discovery on what Rick Gates has provided Mueller, presumably including the real goods Gates gave Mueller on the conspiracy with Russia.

But Manafort’s still facing another trial in a less friendly venue before a no-nonsense judge, a trial he seems to have done nothing to prepare for. (WSJ reports the two sides did consider a plea on the DC charges while waiting for the EDVA verdict, to no avail.) And all of Rudy’s squealing about how indictments or even further investigation during the campaign season might be a distraction, Manafort’s trial (one that’s sexier than the EDVA one) will remain a constant focus in the last six weeks before the election.

To be fair, it’s hard to measure how Manafort’s strategy is playing, as it’s not clear what — besides a full pardon — his goals are. Plus, he’s got a shitty hand, no matter how you look at it (except for the seemingly endless supply of defense fund dollars).

But Manafort’s bid for a second trial seems like an even worse strategic decision than Michael Cohen’s bid for a Special Master (which I now admit at least gave Trump and his company an opportunity to undercut any Cohen bid for a plea deal) not least because he’ll be a felon in his DC trial which will in turn make sentencing worse if he is found guilty there.

At least the defense bar is making money.

Maybe Manafort is trying to lose so spectacularly that Trump will have no choice but to pardon him.  Manafort, now a convicted felon, with a federal trial starting six weeks before the election, is going to be a nightmare for the GOP, one bad enough that Trump may go rogue as Vanity Fair's Gabe Sherman suggests and pardon him.

We'll see.  Here’s what I do know: Manafort shopped a deal and Trump has been openly floating the idea of pardoning him. Maybe Mueller already knows whatever Manafort knows about Trump, but whatever it is, Donald Trump is terrified of it becoming public in Manafort’s trial next month. There’s no other explanation for trying to pardon Manafort at this point.

Look for how Trump reacts to the news that Manafort was trying to cut a deal.  If Trump still hints at a pardon, then Manafort is sitting on a keg of TNT at a nitroglycerin factory. If this causes Trump to turn on him like he did to Cohen however, all bets are off.

The only person who knows for sure is Mueller, and he’s not going to say a word.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Last Call For Like A Kansas Tornado, Con't

The GOP Gov. Sam Brownback era in Kansas, which could very well be followed up by the even worse Kris Kobach era, will be something Kansans will be paying for over generations.

The state allowed hundreds of residents in two Wichita-area neighborhoods to drink contaminated water for years without telling them, despite warning signs of contamination close to water wells used for drinking, washing and bathing.

In 2011, while investigating the possible expansion of a Kwik Shop, the state discovered dry cleaning chemicals had contaminated groundwater at 412 W. Grand in Haysville.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment didn’t act for more than six years.

It didn’t test private wells less than a mile away. Nor did it notify residents that their drinking wells could be contaminated with dry cleaning chemicals, known as perchloroethylene, so they could test the water themselves.

“We didn’t find out for 7 years,” said Joe Hufman, whose well was contaminated by a Haysville dry cleaner. “Haysville knew it. KDHE knew it. Kwik Shop knew it.”

They knew it and they didn't care, because this is what happens when Republicans run your government.  They make sure it doesn't work.

It had happened at least once before, at a dry cleaning site near Central and Tyler in Wichita, where the state waited more than four years between discovering contamination nearby and notifying residents of more than 200 homes.

Some fear it could happen again at 22 contaminated sites where the state has not checked for people on well water — or that it could happen at a yet unknown site of contamination.

Kansans aren’t required to use city water if they already have a well, and some Wichita neighborhoods still rely on private well water.

The delays stem from a 1995 state law that places more emphasis on protecting the dry cleaning industry than protecting public health.

The Kansas Drycleaner Environmental Response Act was passed at the request of the dry cleaning industry to protect the small businesses from the potentially crippling cost of federal involvement. The Environmental Protection Agency, through its Superfund program, can pay to clean up water pollution and then bill any and all companies ever associated with the property to recover its money. Cleaning up pollution can easily cost millions of dollars; state law limits the liability of a dry cleaning shop to $5,000.

To raise money to investigate and clean up pollution, the state passed a tax on dry cleaning chemicals. While the KDHE supported the bill, one KDHE official warned the Legislature that a tax on cleaning solvent “would not be sufficient funding.”

The Legislature passed the law, including a line that directed the KDHE not to look for contamination from dry cleaners. The Legislature also directed the KDHE to “make every reasonable effort” to keep sites off the federal Superfund list.

So instead, Kansas Republicans made sure dry cleaners had priority over people who drink water.

The Old Pilot And The Tangerine Tyrant

As I've said before, Donald Trump is driven by petty vindictiveness more than anything else.  Any slight, real or perceived, must be punished, even if the transgressor has passed from this life.

President Trump nixed issuing a statement that praised the heroism and life of Sen. John McCain, telling senior aides he preferred to issue a tweet before posting one Saturday night that did not include any kind words for the late Arizona Republican.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and other White House aides advocated for an official statement that gave the decorated Vietnam War POW plaudits for his military and Senate service and called him a “hero,” according to current and former White House aides, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. The original statement was drafted beforeMcCain died Saturday, and Sanders and others edited a final version this weekend that was ready for the president, the aides said.

But Trump told aides he wanted to post a brief tweet instead, and the statement praising McCain’s life was not released.

“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” Trump posted Saturday evening shortly after McCain’s death was announced.

Sanders declined to comment Sunday afternoon.

“It’s atrocious,” Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team and a longtime Republican strategist, said of Trump’s reaction to McCain’s death. “At a time like this, you would expect more of an American president when you’re talking about the passing of a true American hero.”

Trump never thought McCain was a hero.  He thought McCain was a gigantic loser.

This largely goes for all of Trump's supporters, too.  In return, John McCain made it clear he thought Trump was an asshole.

The president was reportedly disinvited to McCain's funeral months ago, after McCain's battle with cancer took a turn for the worse.

The veteran Arizona Republican senator, 81, died Saturday, a day after his family announced he had decided to discontinue medical treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Throughout McCain's illness, Trump continued to publicly snub him — including a recent appearance in which the president declined to say McCain's name when signing a bill that was named for him.

But you know what?  That didn't stop McCain from voting with Trump five out of six times on average in his final year, including passing the Trump tax cut scam, neutering Obama-era rules on the Department of Education and the Interior, supporting all of Trump's cabinet picks (with the singular exception of Mick Mulvaney at OMB) and "being a maverick" and voting against the debt limit increase to fund hurricane relief last year for Texas and Puerto Rico.

For a "bipartisan" senator from a purple state who hated Trump, McCain sure supported a lot of Trump's positions.  Trump may be petty and vindictive, but he's using his "opposition" to McCain as much as McCain used his "opposition" to Trump whenever it was politically convenient.

Shoes to Be Filled That Won't Quite Fit

The country must function without the late Sen. John McCain, and the question turns to who Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint, and when

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will be tasked with appointing a successor to John McCain, the six-term Republican senator who died Saturday at age 81.

As McCain battled brain cancer, Ducey, a Republican, did not speculate publicly about who he might tap to replace him. Since McCain died after the deadline to file for this November’s election, most close observers have concluded that the new senator will not face voters until the 2020 general election.

Republicans in the state have privately discussed a long list of potential appointees in recent months, including McCain’s wife, Cindy; Ducey’s chief of staff, Kirk Adams; State Treasurer Eileen Klein; former congressman John Shadegg; and former U.S. senator Jon Kyl. Most recently, Kyl has been in Washington helping Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh navigate the Senate confirmation process.

Arizona law says the appointee must be from the same party as the person vacating the seat.

A Republican strategist familiar with the governor’s thinking told The Washington Post earlier this year that Ducey would want someone who could function in the post and keep the job.

Ducey is up for reelection this year. His spokesman has said he would not appoint himself to the Senate seat.

Republicans are defending a narrow, 51 to 49 Senate majority in this year’s midterm elections. Uncertainty about McCain’s health this year caused party leaders to brace for the possibility of having to defend his seat in November.

But when the May 30 deadline to qualify for the ballot came and went without McCain’s seat becoming vacant, worries about having to protect another seat from Democrats faded.

In addition to empowering the governor to appoint a near-term successor, state law says the vacancy shall be filled “at the next general election.” Many Republicans believe that now means the election in 2020, given that this year’s filing deadline has passed.

Ducey has a landmine of a choice here, considering he's running himself for governor and the primary is Tuesday.  Most likely he'll end up facing Democrat David Garcia, an Army veteran and Arizona State University education professor, in the general in November.  Garcia has a decent chance of winning, and as such Republicans have been attacking him relentlessly.

However now all eyes are on who Ducey has to snub in order to name McCain's successor.  He's only going to piss off the base if he picks Cindy McCain or Jon Kyl, or the general electorate if he decides to pick one of Tuesday's primary losers (like say Joe Arpaio.)  And who knows what Trump wants?  If Ducey doesn't fill the seat with Arpaio, Trump could sink his chances in the state overnight with a tweet barrage.

Ducey appointing himself would hand the seat to Garcia I would suspect, but if somehow Ducey loses on Tuesday to former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Ducey would be nuts not to.

We'll see what happens Tuesday, but Ducey will be under a lot of pressure to move on this later this week.  John McCain's service will be on Sunday, so he may be able to put off a decision until after Labor Day, but not much longer then that.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Last Call For All About The Garbos

At least in Sweden, money does indeed buy you happiness, as a new study from two Stockholm University researchers (and one from NYU) finds, and there's direct evidence that increased overall life satisfaction can be attributed to people who win lotteries. Justin Wolpers from the NY Times explains.

New research suggests that more money really does lead to a more satisfying life. Surveys of thousands of Swedish lottery winners have provided persuasive evidence of this truth.

Lottery winners said they were substantially more satisfied with their lives than lottery losers. And those who won prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars reported being more satisfied than winners of mere tens of thousands.

These effects are remarkably durable. They were still evident up to two decades after a big win
. (The researchers lacked the data to trace out even longer-term consequences.)

The findings appear in a research report, “Long-Run Effects of Lottery Wealth on Psychological Well-Being,” that has generated a lot of buzz among economists over the summer. The working paper, by Erik Lindqvistfrom the Stockholm School of Economics, Robert Ostling from Stockholm University and David Cesarini from New York University.

It is certain to feed a long-running debate about the role that personal finances play in shaping subjective well-being.

Many previous analyses — including several that I have conducted with my partner, Betsey Stevenson, a fellow University of Michigan economist — have documented that people with higher incomes tend to report higher levels of life satisfaction. The relationship between income and satisfaction is remarkably similar across dozens of countries, suggesting that findings about Sweden likely apply to the United States.

Those earlier studies merely documented a correlation. What’s new here is the evidence that higher income is causing higher life satisfaction.

The study also makes the distinction between happiness and life satisfaction, much like the difference between weather (a snapshot in time) vs climate (a long-term observable trend).  Not having to worry about basics like food, shelter, and the like does relieve a lot of stress, turns out.

That's something America should keep in mind, I think.  We still believe that being able to eat and live in a place is something that must be earned through a lifetime of hard work, and then through the discipline of a lifetime of frugal savings once retired, resulting in being able to pass a home on to your children, or having a home passed down to you from a parent or grandparent that did the same to earn the privilege of land ownership, otherwise you're "lazy" and deserve to be homeless.

It's not right, but there it is, and of course that will never change while we have the current administration in power.

The End of the Session(s), Con't

Donald Trump has definitely settled on Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the bad guy in all this after the worst week of his regime (so far at least) and Trump continued to attack Sessions over the weekend on the Tweeting machine.

President Trump lashed out again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying he lets "real corruption" go untouched while special counsel Robert Mueller's team is "having a field day."

Trump appeared to be responding to an unusual statement by the attorney generals this week defending himself against the president’s attacks, with Sessions saying: "While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

The president shot back in a tweet Saturday morning that Sessions "doesn't understand what is happening" beneath him. The tweet reiterated the president's attack on the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election as politically motivated and a distraction from "real corruption."

The president also quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said this week that he thinks the president may fire Sessions and appoint a new attorney general, though the senator said he hopes that won't happen until after the November midterms. 

Again, the goalposts here will be moved: Sessions is gone before the end of the year for sure, he may be gone before the end of the summer. Maybe he'll resign, maybe he'll be fired, but he won't be Attorney General in January, that much is clear.

Trump doesn't have much of a choice left.  The wall of secrecy that has protected him for thirty years of criminal activity is cracking.

The result has been a moment where Trump seems politically wounded, as friends turn and embarrassing revelations about his alleged affairs and his charity trickle out, uncontained. In coming months, certain cases could force Trump’s company to open its books about foreign government customers, or compel the president to testify about his relationships with ­women.

“The myth of Trump is now unraveling,” said Barbara Res, a Trump Organization executive from 1978 to 1996. “He’s becoming more obvious and people are starting to know what he’s like, and what he’s doing.”

Whether the president faces legal peril is not clear, but his presidency is at a precarious point. Recent polls suggest his repeated attacks on Mueller for leading a “witch hunt” have lost their effectiveness. And if the Democrats win a majority in at least one house of Congress in the midterm elections, now less than 10 weeks away, they would gain the power to investigate or even impeach.

“The whole reason he is freaking out is he can’t get rid of any of this,” said a longtime adviser to Trump, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House dynamics.

The president’s sense of betrayal came through last week when he derided cooperating witnesses as “flippers.” “Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they — they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go,” he told Fox News. In contrast, he tweeted that his “brave” former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who was convicted last week of bank fraud and tax fraud, had “refused to ‘break.’ ”

Trump has also focused his ire on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom he has repeatedly and publicly attacked for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. White House aides have explained to him that firing Sessions would not end the probe, but he remains livid, officials said, particularly after Sessions responded last week with a statement declaring that “the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

Again, in the end, Trump will try to save himself.  He will do whatever he thinks is necessary.

That is when we find out if we still have a Republic.

Sunday Long Read: Hack The Planet

Wired's Andy Greenberg gives us this week's Sunday Long Read, with the story of Russia's most wide-ranging cyber warfare strike to date.  Last summer's NotPetya worm devastated Ukraine and the European Union and served as a clear warning shot that Russia could disable computer networks around the globe if it chose to, and the truth behind the attack was that it was far more powerful and destructive than first thought, reading like a modern Bond villain's plot.

IT WAS A perfect sunny summer afternoon in Copenhagen when the world’s largest shipping conglomerate began to lose its mind.

The headquarters of A.P. Møller-Maersk sits beside the breezy, cobblestoned esplanade of Copenhagen’s harbor. A ship’s mast carrying the Danish flag is planted by the building’s northeastern corner, and six stories of blue-tinted windows look out over the water, facing a dock where the Danish royal family parks its yacht. In the building’s basement, employees can browse a corporate gift shop, stocked with Maersk-branded bags and ties, and even a rare Lego model of the company’s gargantuan Triple-E container ship, a vessel roughly as large as the Empire State Building laid on its side, capable of carrying another Empire State Building–sized load of cargo stacked on top of it.

That gift shop also houses a technology help center, a single desk manned by IT troubleshooters next to the shop’s cashier. And on the afternoon of June 27, 2017, confused Maersk staffers began to gather at that help desk in twos and threes, almost all of them carrying laptops. On the machines’ screens were messages in red and black lettering. Some read “repairing file system on C:” with a stark warning not to turn off the computer. Others, more surreally, read “oops, your important files are encrypted” and demanded a payment of $300 worth of bitcoin to decrypt them.

Across the street, an IT administrator named Henrik Jensen was working in another part of the Maersk compound, an ornate white-stone building that in previous centuries had served as the royal archive of maritime maps and charts. (Henrik Jensen is not his real name. Like almost every Maersk employee, customer, or partner I interviewed, Jensen feared the consequences of speaking publicly for this story.) Jensen was busy preparing a software update for Maersk’s nearly 80,000 employees when his computer spontaneously restarted.

He quietly swore under his breath. Jensen assumed the unplanned reboot was a typically brusque move by Maersk’s central IT department, a little-loved entity in England that oversaw most of the corporate empire, whose eight business units ranged from ports to logistics to oil drilling, in 574 offices in 130 countries around the globe.

Jensen looked up to ask if anyone else in his open-plan office of IT staffers had been so rudely interrupted. And as he craned his head, he watched every other computer screen around the room blink out in rapid succession.

“I saw a wave of screens turning black. Black, black, black. Black black black black black,” he says. The PCs, Jensen and his neighbors quickly discovered, were irreversibly locked. Restarting only returned them to the same black screen.

All across Maersk headquarters, the full scale of the crisis was starting to become clear. Within half an hour, Maersk employees were running down hallways, yelling to their colleagues to turn off computers or disconnect them from Maersk’s network before the malicious software could infect them, as it dawned on them that every minute could mean dozens or hundreds more corrupted PCs. Tech workers ran into conference rooms and unplugged machines in the middle of meetings. Soon staffers were hurdling over locked key-card gates, which had been paralyzed by the still-mysterious malware, to spread the warning to other sections of the building.

Disconnecting Maersk’s entire global network took the company’s IT staff more than two panicky hours. By the end of that process, every employee had been ordered to turn off their computer and leave it at their desk. The digital phones at every cubicle, too, had been rendered useless in the emergency network shutdown.

Around 3 pm, a Maersk executive walked into the room where Jensen and a dozen or so of his colleagues were anxiously awaiting news and told them to go home. Maersk’s network was so deeply corrupted that even IT staffers were helpless. A few of the company’s more old-school managers told their teams to remain at the office. But many employees—rendered entirely idle without computers, servers, routers, or desk phones—simply left.

Jensen walked out of the building and into the warm air of a late June afternoon. Like the vast majority of Maersk staffers, he had no idea when he might return to work. The maritime giant that employed him, responsible for 76 ports on all sides of the earth and nearly 800 seafaring vessels, including container ships carrying tens of millions of tons of cargo, representing close to a fifth of the entire world’s shipping capacity, was dead in the water.

Maersk recovered, but since businesses around the world treat IT as an grudging expense that destroys profit and data protection as a waste of resources that should never be needed, the NotPetya scenario will happen again and again.

The Old Pilot's Last Flight Ends

Sen. John McCain passed away last night, and his legacy is that of a veteran and senator who saw his party crumble into the abyss, his hand more than a bit responsible.  When it was clear he was done ten years ago, he made the call to bring in Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain was not a "maverick" and the words of then candidate Barack Obama make that clear.

[T]he record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives — on health care and education and the economy — Sen. McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisers — the man who wrote his economic plan — was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud autoworkers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

The very next day, August 29, 2008, McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.

You can draw a direct line from that event to the Trump regime today.  I spoke my mind yesterday about it and I haven't changed my mind from then.

This is a man who voted against a federal Martin Luther King holiday in 1983 because it was politically expedient for him to do so then.  When it was no longer politically expedient because he was running for president, he announced he had been wrong.  He's not the first politician to do this, he won't be the last.  Very few did it regarding the legacy of Dr. King however.

Chuck Schumer wants to rename the Senate's Russell Office Building after McCain.  I don't particularly believe he deserves that honor, but this is why I'm not an elected official. Nine years ago to the day yesterday, Ted Kennedy passed.  Would that this be the Kennedy Senate Office Building, but no.

It is not something I will forgive McCain for anytime soon.  Maybe someday, when America emerges from the hell it is in today.  John McCain is a better man than Donald Trump to be sure, but that bar to clear is on the ground.  McCain requested that his eulogies be read by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  Donald Trump?  He'll probably be at a rally.

But Donald Trump would not be in the Oval Office at all if it wasn't for John McCain.

I will forgive the man someday, yes.  He lived a full life, he served his country for decades, he suffered like no human being should ever have to suffer, but in the end he was flawed and he made terrible decisions that hurt the country he loved.

I will forgive the man someday, yes.  But not today.  I leave with this tweet from author Dianne Anderson:

And so, John McCain is gone.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Last Call For Superdelegate Superdeletion

The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday to neutralize the votes of unpledged convention delegates, part of a package of hard-fought reforms designed to prevent a repeat of the bitter 2016 presidential primary as the party looks toward the 2020 election.

“We listened and we acted, and I’m proud that our party is doing everything we can to bring people in and make it easier to vote,” said DNC Chairman Tom Perez after the reforms were unanimously approved.

The new party rules undo decades-old reforms that empowered hundreds of party activists and elected officials, often referred to as “superdelegates,” whose presidential convention votes were not bound to the results of primaries or caucuses. They also affirm the decision of six states to move from caucuses, which have favored insurgent candidates, to primaries, which tend to have higher turnout.

The Democrats’ journey to that decision lasted more than two years, and divided party leaders even as activists who had supported both Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) organized behind them. Anger at the results of that primary campaign, and at Clinton’s defeat, has dogged the DNC under Perez’s leadership; despite a run of election wins, it has raised $116.5 million since the start of the cycle, compared with $227.2 million for the RNC.

To mollify supporters of Sanders, Democrats in July 2016 created a Unity Reform Commission that met four times through 2017. It originally proposed a cut to the total number of superdelegates, a move that was changed when the reform package got to the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which met four more times to debate amendments. The eventual compromise — to prevent all superdelegates from voting unless a convention went to a second ballot — was proposed by Ken Martin, the chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL).

“This is a way for us to heal the wounds of the 2016 election,” Martin said in an interview before the vote. “Minnesota was a 62 percent Bernie state. People cared about this. We were dealing with a perception problem more than a reality problem, but that perception problem mattered. People believed so passionately that this issue cost their candidate the nomination, that we had to fix it.”

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I honestly believe that when Bernie fails to secure the nomination in 2020, they'll find some other conspiracy to blame for his loss besides superdelegates, because given all the 50 states (plus DC and territories) caucuses and primaries, he still lost the nomination in 2016 convincingly.  It wasn't close, but blaming superdelegates was the way to go.

Moving six states from caucuses to primaries is a bigger issue and something that will help settle things, but again, this doesn't mean that the fight is over.

Perez and other delegate reform supporters succeeded in weakening the establishment opposition by giving it more time to protest. But the opposition made one final push, picking up on a theme that the Congressional Black Caucus had aired last month — that to take away the votes of black superdelegates was to effectively suppress them. The unofficial leaders of that faction, former party chair Don Fowler and California DNC member Bob Mulholland, are white. But Mulholland, a gruff Vietnam veteran, invoked the legacy of the civil rights movement to argue that his party risked alienating its most loyal voters to appease a faction of elite Sanders fans.

“There’s an awful lot of white males pushing this [reform] idea, and they have no idea of the message this is sending to the Latino community and the African American community,” Mulholland said Friday. “If I was Trump, and the DNC decided it’s not going to let black members of Congress on the floor to vote, I’d exploit the hell out of that. ‘The Democrats just threw out your vote!’ ”

But that message did not unify the DNC’s black members, some of whom pointed out that the 2016 pool of superdelegates skewed whiter than the delegates elected through primaries. While former party chair Donna Brazile gave a 10-minute speech decrying the reform, Nina Turner, president of the Sanders-founded group Our Revolution, whipped votes in favor of it.

Real voter disenfranchisement is living in a state where you forfeit your rights if you’re a felon,” Turner said. “Real disenfranchisement is officials closing down polling places that disproportionately affect black voters. This is a false equivalency, to talk about something that happens in the DNC and compare it to the hard, bloody fight to secure the franchise in the real world.

It pisses me off to no end to say this, but Nina Turner is correct here, mainly because being on the opposite side of the CBC is an easy layup.   If this was the real battle, and fighting GOP voter disenfranchisement of black and Hispanic voters united the Democrats going forward in 2018 and 2020, we'd be in much better shape.

Sadly, experience tells me that this won't happen.  More infighting is ahead, because it's what Democrats do.

Where The Country Goes From Here

"Surely," you say, "Donald Trump's personal lawyer pleading guilty and implicating Trump in commission of a felony for an illegal payoff of campaign funds for a playmate mistress, the same week his former campaign manager was convicted on fraud, the same week his long-time business CFO agreed to immunity from prosecution, is enough to break the hold on Trump's supporters and allow us to end this long national nightmare, correct Zandar?  Surely this is the inflection point where it all comes apart, yes?"

To which, I point you to this week's NY Times column by Roger Cohen, where the answer is "No, and they will never abandon him."

The thing about all the shocking Trump revelations — Michael Cohen’s about violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women in coordination with a “candidate for federal office” being the latest — is that they are already baked into Trump’s image. His supporters, and there are tens of millions of them, never had illusions. I’ve not met one, Babcox included, who did not have a pretty clear picture of Trump. They’ve known all along that he’s a needy narcissist, a womanizer, a lowlife, a liar, a braggart and a generally miserable human being. That’s why the “Access Hollywood” tape or the I-could-shoot-somebody-on-Fifth-Avenue boast did not kill his candidacy.

It’s also why the itch to believe that the moment has come when everything starts to unravel must be viewed warily. Sure, Trump sounds more desperate. But who’s the enforcer if Trump has broken the law? It’s Congress — and until things change there (which could happen in November) or Republicans at last abandon a policy of hold-my-nose opportunism, Trump will ride out the storm.

There’s a deeper question, which comes back to the extraordinary Western landscape and the high American idea enshrined in it. Americans elected Trump. Nobody else did. They came down to his level. White Christian males losing their place in the social order decided they’d do anything to save themselves, and to heck with morality. They made a bargain with the devil in full knowledge. So the real question is: What does it mean to be an American today? Who are we, goddamit? What have we become?

Trump was a symptom, not a cause. The problem is way deeper than him.

It will take decades to clean up the mess that Trump has caused after just 19 months.   If he is allowed to serve out a full term, the rest of my lifetime will be required just to get us back to the post-Bush era of world mistrust against us.  If he is re-elected in 2020, it will never happen.

The main reason for that is the GOP enablers who have covered for Trump, most of all his supporters.  They simply don't care anymore.  We've reverted, full-form, to the American status quo, a country founded on slave labor, racism, Calvinist hypocrisy, and greed, the country that has to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing, and only after everything else has been tried.

The Obama experiment was the right thing, but now everything else must be tried.  The fact we followed up with Trump, rather than elect America's first woman president, is everything you need to know.

Trump's not the problem.  It's the people who voted for him, and support him now.

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