Saturday, May 12, 2018

Red State Dems Walk The Knife

I know that it's tough being a red state Democrat, living in Kentucky for over a decade has made it painfully clear just how wide the gulf between "Democrat" and "liberal" can be.  But I can only surmise that the move by Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and now Joe Donnelly to support Trump's torture-happy pick for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, is a way to give Republicans like Rand Paul cover for voting no without actually doing so, something I'm sure the GOP will reward both Joes for come November, right?

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) announced Saturday his support for Gina Haspel’s nomination to be CIA director, providing a crucial second Democratic vote that should provide enough margin for confirmation to overcome questions about her role in last decade’s controversial interrogation program.

Donnelly, who met with Haspel on Thursday, said in a statement that he had “a tough, frank, and extensive discussion” with her both about her vision for the agency and its past use of “enhanced” interrogations against terrorist captives, including methods such as waterboarding that are widely considered torture.

During her confirmation hearing, Haspel pledged to abide by current law that forbids those methods and that she would reject an order from President Trump to use those techniques against a terrorist now.

“I believe that she has learned from the past, and that the CIA under her leadership can help our country confront serious international threats and challenges,” Donnelly said in the statement released Saturday morning.

Of course, Haspel's efforts to cover up Bush-era torture should have ended her career anyway.

Haspel, whom under Pompeo became the agency’s deputy director, briefly ran the off-the-books prison in Thailand used as a torture laboratory for the earliest detained terrorism suspects. There, in 2002—including while Haspel oversaw the so-called black site—the man known as Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times; stuffed into a wooden box barely bigger than a coffin; had his body shackled in painful contorted positions; and had his head slammed into walls.

“If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from the past,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the intelligence committee who opposes her nomination, told The Daily Beast in a statement Tuesday.

“Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director. Her nomination must include total transparency about this background,” Wyden added.

Subsequently declassified CIA medical files assessed that Abu Zubaydah was likely willing to cooperate with his interrogators before his waterboarding, as he had with his FBI interrogators, who did not torture him.

Years later, Haspel drafted an instruction to CIA officers in the field to destroy videotapes of torturous interrogations at the site. Though the Justice Department later declined to bring charges, the destruction of the tapes was widely considered in human-rights circles to be a key moment in covering up the torture—and it prompted the Senate intelligence committee’s landmark 2014 investigation, which occurred amid the backdrop of the agency spying on the work product of the Senate investigators.

I would hope that we could get Dems who wouldn't compromise on torture, but it's not as if Obama made any effort to cashier in Haspel either.

This all sucks, and I hate it. And Manchin is in for the fight of his political life.

That Economic Anxiety Again

The Russians not only knew where to hit us when it came to maximum damage to our election process (voter registration and Facebook) but they knew us better than we knew ourselves when it came to getting those "economically anxious" voters to the polls for Trump.

The Russian company charged with orchestrating a wide-ranging effort to meddle in the 2016 presidential election overwhelmingly focused its barrage of social media advertising on what is arguably America’s rawest political division: race

The roughly 3,500 Facebook ads were created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which is at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February indictment of 13 Russians and three companies seeking to influence the election.

While some ads focused on topics as banal as business promotion or Pokémon, the company consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions. Some dealt with race directly; others dealt with issues fraught with racial and religious baggage such as ads focused on protests over policing, the debate over a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and relationships with the Muslim community.

The company continued to hammer racial themes even after the election.

USA TODAY Network reporters reviewed each of the 3,517 ads, which were released to the public this week for the first time by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The analysis included not just the content of the ads, but also information that revealed the specific audience targeted, when the ad was posted, roughly how many views it received and how much the ad cost to post.

Among the findings: 
Of the roughly 3,500 ads published this week, more than half — about 1,950 — made express references to race. Those accounted for 25 million ad impressions — a measure of how many times the spot was pulled from a server for transmission to a device. 
At least 25% of the ads centered on issues involving crime and policing, often with a racial connotation. Separate ads, launched simultaneously, would stoke suspicion about how police treat black people in one ad, while another encouraged support for pro-police groups. 
Divisive racial ad buys averaged about 44 per month from 2015 through the summer of 2016 before seeing a significant increase in the run-up to Election Day. Between September and November 2016, the number of race-related spots rose to 400. An additional 900 were posted after the November election through May 2017. 
Only about 100 of the ads overtly mentioned support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton. A few dozen referenced questions about the U.S. election process and voting integrity, while a handful mentioned other candidates like Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush.

Thousands of ads, targeted with pinpoint accuracy, seen tens of millions of times, designed to make white voters angry enough to go to the polls and back Trump and the GOP, and to make black voters angry enough to abandon Clinton and the Democrats.

And it worked.  All it took for Trump to win Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania was a swing of a few hundred thousand votes, a fraction of a percent of total votes cast.

That's how we lost this country.
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