Saturday, August 31, 2019

Last Call For Trump State TV

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent makes some excellent points here about Trump's fight with Fox News as State television, but the reality is that this is all the media equivalent of pro wrestling kayfabe to give Fox News plausible deniability as a "real" news outlet, and I'm suprised that Sargent can't see the rope-a-dope here.

For days now, President Trump has been embroiled in a public feud of sorts with Fox News, because he’s angry that the network isn’t functioning dutifully enough as his 24/7 propaganda channel.

This is mostly being discussed as another turn in Trump’s ongoing war on the media, one in which his ire has boomeranged on his media supporters. But the story here is bigger than this: Trump’s battle with Fox illuminates the multi-tentacled manner in which Trump is corrupting our democracy and political system, in a new and interesting way.

On Thursday night, Fox’s Neil Cavuto unleashed a lengthy rebuke to Trump. In it, Cavuto pointedly noted: “Mr. President, we don’t work for you.”

This was a response to Trump’s rage-tweet excoriating the network: “We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”

Trump is angry, Cavuto argued, because on occasion Fox doesn’t sufficiently whitewash his failures and lies. Cavuto noted that Trump chafes because Fox covers bad economic numbers, market drops and Trump’s ongoing trade disasters, and because Fox has pointed out that Trump lied when he claimed Mexico would pay for his wall, that Russia didn’t interfere in 2016, and that he inherited a recession from Barack Obama.
“To fact check him is to be all but dead to him,” Cavuto said, adding that many Trump supporters had contacted him to tell him that “I am either with him totally, or I am a Never Trumper fully.”

My purpose here is not to defend Fox. Yes, its news anchors sometimes do cover the administration aggressively, but the news coverage also has a heavy pro-Trump tilt, and its opinion hosts regularly traffic in outright pro-Trump agitprop and white nationalist conspiracy theories.

As Margaret Sullivan puts it, Fox writ large and Trump are the “conjoined twins of misinformation.” If anything, Trump’s attacks have given the network a way to hype its largely nonexistent independence from him.

Rather, what’s interesting here is Cavuto’s declaration that many Trump supporters have come to expect and demand from Fox absolute fealty to their leader.

Cavuto deserves some credit. In his rebuke, he exposed many of the false storylines that intertwine in Trump’s preferred narrative of the last few years: Russia never tried to sabotage our political system on his behalf. Trump deserves total credit for what has been good about the economy, having inherited nothing but wreckage from the Obama years. All the recent bad economic news is fake news, as are claims that Trump’s unhinged handling of trade is helping cause it. Trump’s buffoonish vow to subjugate Mexico and force it to pay for his wall has proved to be a mirage

C'mon Greg, you're being played here.  Give Neil Cavuto some credit?  That's exactly the angle that FOX News and Trump are working here.  Of course FOX is state TV.  The point here in admitting what everybody knows is so it can be countered by liberal columnists saying that FOX News deserves credit for "fighting" Trump. 

You can't say in one breath that FOX News is pushing white supremacy propaganda (which it is) and then say they get credit for standing up to Trump once in a while when even they get tired of coming up with excuses for his lies.

This is all 100% kabuki here and it was planned from the get-go.  FOX News can claim they are objective when it comes to Trump, and Trump can rile up his base with a fight tailor-made for them to watch, it's all a good show.  We're no longer asking if FOX being state TV is good or bad, we're now discussing the reframed fight on whether or not they are sufficiently deferential to Trump.

I honestly am shocked that Sargent doesn't get this soap opera.  This is Trump playing the distraction card 101 and he's falling for it, but media folks stick together.  In the end, they go to the same cocktail parties and their kids go to the same private schools and they know each other professionally and personally and they think it's one big game that each of them really has figured out.

I'm tired of it.

The American Dream Is In Canada

America's middle class is vanishing, millions of us are falling through the cracks every year, but north of the border our Canadian neighbors are finding the opportunities that have permanently passed a generation of Americans by.

Everybody knows that the U.S. version of capitalism is rougher and tougher than is the norm in other affluent countries. The rich are richer here, the poor poorer and the welfare state less exhaustive. Not surprisingly, the U.S. scores poorly versus other rich nations in terms of health outcomes, education levels and other such metrics.

Defenders of the U.S. approach can point, though, to the fact that per-capita gross domestic product has remained higher in the U.S. than in all but a few small nations with unique characteristics (Qatar, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Norway, etc.) — so much higher that even with the less-equal income distribution here, most Americans continue to have higher incomes than their peers in other large, affluent countries.

Times may be changing, though, and international income comparisons are definitely getting more precise. Five years ago, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy of the New York Times showed using numbers from the Luxembourg Income Study Database that the median income in Canada had caught up with that of the U.S. as of 2010, and speculated that Canada had probably passed the U.S. since. (The median is the income of a person in the middle of the income distribution, with as many people earning more as earning less.)

Now there’s more evidence. A report released this summer by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, an Ottawa nonprofit, contends that as of 2016 Canada had in fact pulled ahead of the U.S. in median household income, with a $59,438 to $58,849 advantage in U.S. dollars if (and this is a reasonably big if) you use the Canadian government statistical agency’s formula for converting Canadian dollars into U.S. ones. The study also compares incomes in every percentile of the income distribution, and finds that up through the 56th percentile Canadians are better off than their U.S. counterparts.

Canada's middle class is growing.  America's is shrinking.  And it's not just Canada who has caught up to us.

It’s not just in Canada that those in the middle of the income distribution have been gaining on their American peers. From 1990 through 2018, according to the World Bank, per-capita real gross domestic product grew at the same 1.5% annual rate in the U.S., the European Union and the OECD, which counts 36 affluent democracies on five continents as members. 1 In other words, the rough-and-tough U.S. approach to capitalism hasn’t delivered faster per-capita growth, and because growth in the U.S. has been concentrated at the very top of the income distribution, that means Americans in the middle and the bottom have been losing ground to their counterparts in other countries.

As of the mid-1980s, according to Luxembourg Income Study data originally compiled for the Times’ 2014 article, those in the bottom 20% of the income distribution in Canada and at least five European countries were on average better off than the bottom 20% in the U.S., but by the fourth decile (30th percentile to 40th percentile), average U.S. incomes were higher than all but Luxembourg’s. By 2010, U.S. fourth-decilers had also fallen behind Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada.

Given the excruciatingly slow pace of economic growth in Europe after 2010, I would guess that the continent’s catch-up march has slowed or stalled since then. My reading of another data source, the World Inequality Database created by French economist Thomas Piketty and several collaborators, 2 is that the middle 40% of the income distribution (the 30th percentile to the 70th percentile) in the Netherlands passed the U.S. middle 40% in 2007, then fell behind again in 2013. Still, the long-run trend is important.

The bottom line: When it comes to improving the lives of the middle class, other rich countries have been doing a better job than the United States.

Obama did what he could considering the massive recession Bush 43 handed him, but America's middle class destruction has only gotten worse in the age of Trump.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Donald Trump continues to be the most infamous Russian asset in US history, and his performance at last weekend's G-7 summit in France made it clear to the world that America now works solely to help Moscow.

Trump's attendance at the G7 summit was peppered with controversy, but none was more notable than his fervent defense of Russia's military and cyber aggression around the world, and its violation of international law in Ukraine.

Trump repeatedly refused to hold Russia accountable for annexing Crimea in 2014, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia's move to annex it, expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and castigated other G7 members for not giving the country a seat at the table.

John Sipher, a former CIA clandestine operative who spent 28 years at the agency, told Insider of Trump's G7 attendance, "If it weren't for his constant shocking behavior and comments that have dulled our senses, this would register as one of the worst diplomatic blunders in years."

Since being booted from the G8 after annexing Crimea, Russia's done little to make up for its actions. In fact, by many accounts, it's stepped up its aggression.

In addition to continuing to encroach on Ukraine, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 US election and was behind the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in the UK. US officials also warn that as the 2020 election looms, the Russians are stepping up their cyberactivities against the US and have repeatedly tried to attack US power grids.

"What in God's name made Trump think it would be a good idea to ask to bring Russia back to the table?" the FBI agent told Insider. "How does this serve US national-security interests?"

Trump's advocacy for Russia is renewing concerns among intelligence veterans that Trump may be a Russian "asset" who can be manipulated or influenced to serve Russian interests, although some also speculate that Trump could just be currying favor for future business deals.

A former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director, didn't mince words when reacting to Trump's performance at the G7 summit: "We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office." 

Putin, the former GRU spymaster, treats Trump like an asset to be handled.  It's worked to the point of fulfilling Putin's wildest dreams.  Trump continues to be manipulated on a weekly basis by his regular contact with Putin, and in turn Trump makes Putin's case for him on the international stage.

It's obvious to anyone watching, and just as obvious that Putin in 100% in control of the man in the Oval Office.

And we do nothing about it.

Welcome To Bevinstan, Donny Jr.

Donald Trump Jr. came to Kentucky this week to stump for GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, and basically nobody cared.

Donald Trump Jr. spoke to a mostly-empty arena in Pikeville Thursday afternoon, hoping to muster support within a historically Democratic county for the reelection of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Like much of Eastern Kentucky, Pike County has long been a Democratic stronghold, but swung to the right during the last presidential election in a landslide victory for President Donald Trump.

Bevin won Pike County four years ago with 54.8% of the vote, but he narrowly lost Pike County and many other Eastern Kentucky counties to a lesser-known opponent during the 2019 Republican primary. He received fewer votes in Floyd, Johnson and Pike counties than Democrat Rocky Adkins, the most popular candidate within the region. Adkins lost to Attorney General Andy Beshear statewide.

As Bevin ramps up his reelection efforts, Trump Jr.’s visit illustrates his attempt to lean on President Trump’s popularity as he attempts to win over Registered Democrats who voted for Trump.

During the rally, Trump Jr. acknowledged this dichotomy to the crowd, saying he understood the cultural implications of the region’s historic alliance with Democrats, but that “this is not your grandfather’s Democratic Party.”

Trump Jr. spoke mostly about the successes of his father as president. He railed against Hillary Clinton and the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election by Robert Mueller, and against the media’s perceived bias against Trump.

In an area ravaged by the continuous decline of coal production, Trump Jr. also touted his father’s attempts to bolster economic growth within the manufacturing and energy sectors. He complimented Bevin for similar efforts within Kentucky.

“Bevin is selling Kentucky and bringing jobs here,” Trump Jr. said.

Matt Bevin of course remains the most unpopular governor in America and all the polls show him losing substantially to Andy Beshear in nine weeks, but we'll see.  As Bevin keeps reminding everyone who will listen, the polls showed him losing to Jack Conway four years ago, right up until the polls were off by 14 points.

It was a far cry from the Trump Senior campaign event with Bevin in Louisville last weekend but nobody seems pretty keen on Bevin winning right now.

Bevin's a loser, and Trump doesn't like losers.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Last Call For Score One For The Fake News Scolds

MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell messed up pretty badly this week, and the Trump regime will ride his stupidity for months, if not years to come.

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday retracted a story that alleged that Russian billionaires “close to Vladimir Putin” had co-signed a loan that was given to President Trump by a foreign bank. The brief report, which O’Donnell credited to a single source when it aired Tuesday night, led to the threat of a lawsuit by the president.

On Wednesday, O’Donnell opened “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” by saying his reporting had not gone through the network’s verification and standards process and he was wrong to repeat the allegations on air and for posting it on Twitter.

The previous night, O’Donnell had stressed that the report was unverified, noting that it would be a big deal “if true.” “I have not seen any documentation from Deutsche Bank that supports this and verifies this. This is just a single source who has revealed that to me,” he said.

He later noted that it was not confirmed by news reporters at MSNBC’s parent company, NBC. The next night, he said “saying if true” was “simply not good enough.”

“Tonight we are retracting the story,” he said Wednesday. “We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate but the fact is we do know it wasn’t ready for broadcast and for that I apologize.”

Now, the fact that Trump went bugnuts on this should have news organizations hounding this Deutsche Bank story like terriers at a rat convention, but nobody will touch it now because Larry here had to blow his wad.

It's far from the first time it's happened too.  Eager to get an exclusive, we've had people jump the gun: Rachel Maddow on Trump's 2005 tax returns (which for all intents and purposes looked like a trap by Trump that Maddow fell for hook, line and sinker) is just the most recent prior example of this, but the O'Donnell screw-up is just bad journalism, period.

The anti-Trump side has to do and be better, and right now it's failing all of us.

Buzz Lightyear Of Spaced Command


The final frontier of grifting and resource exploitation, and taking it over is a top priority of the Trump regime.

President Donald Trump on Thursday formally established a new military headquarters for space operations as part of his efforts to ensure the Pentagon maintains an edge over potential adversaries like Russia and China.

The U.S. Space Command will be responsible for defending military satellites and other space systems and will draw on troops from other branches of the military as well as Trump's proposed Space Force, which is awaiting approval from Congress.

"It will ensure that America’s dominance in space is never questioned and never threatened because we know the best way to prevent conflict is to prepare for victory,” Trump said during a Rose Garden ceremony with his top national security team.

He added that the move "will soon be followed very importantly by the establishment of the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States armed forces. That’s really something, when you think about it."

The new Space Command will be on par with other military headquarters that are responsible for different geographic regions of the world or have distinct missions such as cyber operations.

Gen. John Raymond, the current head of the Air Force Space Command who has also been tapped to run the new outfit, told reporters at the Pentagon earlier that a top priority will be to build new alliances with other militaries that similarly view space as a potential conflict zone.

“Historically, we haven’t needed allies in space," he said. "It was a benign domain. We absolutely are open for new partnerships.”

The Pentagon decided to reestablish the U.S. Space Command, which existed in another form between 1985 and 2002, after a review concluded the military's increasing reliance on space technologies required a dedicated "combatant command" due to advances in weaponry by China and Russia that could destroy satellites in orbit or disable them through other means such as cyberattacks.

Trump so badly wants to be remembered for US Space Force that it physically pains him that it'll never happen, but reestablishing Space Command to keep an eye on all the satellite junk in Earth orbit is useful up to a point, I guess.

Of course, considering how the Trump regime is more than happy to leave the door open to cyberattacks from Russia, one has to wonder what the point of Space Command actually is going to be, other than a cosmic joke.

Time To Whittle Down The Field

ABC News has announced the ten Democrats who have qualified for September's presidential primary debate.

Anyone still in the race not on this list?

Time to drop out.  Jay Inslee and Kirsten Gillibrand have already done the right thing.  I don't expect Tulsi Gabbard or Marianne Williamson to do so anytime soon, because neither of them are actually in the race to do anything other than to directly help Donald Trump.

But Bill de Blasio?  Tim Ryan?  Steve Bullock?  Michael Bennet?

Door's that way.  Hit the showers.  You're done.



Thursday, August 29, 2019

Last Call For It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

The Barr "Justice" Department has finally crapped out that special inspector general report on James Comey's misconduct, and Trumpistas are still calling for the former FBI Director's crucifixion.

Former FBI Director James B. Comey violated FBI policies in how he handled memos that detailed his controversial interactions with President Trump, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog found in a report released Thursday, both in engineering the release of their contents to the press and storing them at his home without telling the FBI.

The inspector general found that the memos — which described, among other things, how Trump had pressed Comey for loyalty and asked him about letting go an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — were official records, and as such, Comey’s treatment of them broke the rules.

The former FBI director gave one of the memos — which included information the inspector general called “sensitive,” but unclassified — to a friend and authorized him to share its contents. He also stored four of the documents in a safe in his personal home and provided copies to his personal attorneys without FBI authorization, the inspector general found.

One of those memos shared with the attorneys was later determined to contain information, such as the names of foreign countries being discussed by Trump, that was classified as confidential, the lowest level of secrecy, the inspector general wrote.

On Twitter, Comey noted that the inspector general found “no evidence” that he or his attorneys released any classified information to the media.

“I don’t need a public apology from those who defamed me, but a quick message with a ‘sorry we lied about you’ would be nice,” he wrote. “And to all those who’ve spent two years talking about me ‘going to jail’ or being a ‘liar and a leaker’—ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president.”

The report is the second time Inspector General Michael Horowitz has criticized Comey for how he handled FBI business during his abbreviated tenure in charge of the bureau. Last summer, Horowitz lambasted Comey for his leadership of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, accusing him of insubordination and flouting Justice Department policies in deciding only he had the authority and credibility to make key decisions on the case and speak about it publicly.

And yet all of this is sturm und drang because we know back from the first of the month that not even Bill Barr was going to try to prosecute a former FBI Director.

Senior Justice Department officials have concluded that former FBI director James B. Comey should not be charged in connection with his handling of memos documenting conversations with President Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

The determination comes amid ongoing internal reviews focused on federal authorities’ investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is conducting one of the reviews, is unlikely to produce a final report on that subject for at least a month, but one aspect of his work is largely complete, these people say: Comey’s handling of the memos.

Deciding not to charge the former FBI director, who has become an outspoken critic of President Trump since Trump fired him in May 2017, was “not a close call,” said a person who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity

In other words, nothing about this is new information.  The decision was made weeks ago not to prosecute, but Republicans are trying to work the refs on this anyway despite the fact the information was made clear four weeks ago.

Having said that, James Comey is still a shitbird grande whose interference in the 2016 race absolutely helped Trump, and if Trump ordered Bill Barr to abuse his powers as Attorney General, prosecuted Comey for mishandling classified info, and then chucked Comey in prison for a decade or so, I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep.

Deportation Nation, Con't

The Trump regime is already redefining who qualifies for US citizenship in a dangerous move involving children of US military and government employees, and we should expect more and more people to be excluded from automatic citizenship from now on.

Children born to U.S. service members and government employees overseas will no longer be automatically considered citizens of the United States, according to a policy alert issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Wednesday.

Previously, children born to U.S. citizen parents were considered to be "residing in the United States," and therefore would be automatically given citizenship under Immigration and Nationality Act 320. Now, children born to U.S. service members and government employees, such as those born in U.S. military hospitals or diplomatic facilities, will not be considered as residing in the U.S., changing the way that they potentially receive citizenship.

The change in policy was first reported by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Tal Kopan.

According to USCIS, previous legislation also explicitly said that spouses of service members who were living outside the U.S. because of their spouses were considered residing in the U.S., but "that no similar provision was included for children of U.S. armed forces members in the acquisition of citizenship context is significant."

That is one of the reasons why USCIS has now decided that those children are not considered to be residing in the U.S., and therefore will not be automatically given citizenship. Instead, they will fall under INA 322, which considers them to be residing outside the U.S. and requires them to apply for naturalization.

They will be allowed to complete all naturalization proceedings while living abroad, the new policy says.

"The policy change explains that we will not consider children who live abroad with their parents to be residing in the United States even if their parents are U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States and, as a result, these children will no longer be considered to have acquired citizenship automatically," USCIS spokesperson Meredith Parker told Task & Purpose.

"For them to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, their U.S. citizen parent must apply for citizenship on their behalf."The process under INA 322 must be completed before the child's 18th birthday.
While children of service members will be allowed to complete the citizenship process outside of the U.S., Parker added, children of government employees "must enter the U.S. lawfully with an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa and be in lawful status when they take the Oath of Allegiance."  

Let's recap.

As of today, if you are a US citizen, and your child is born outside of the US, your child is not a US citizen.  You have to apply for the child's citizenship.  That citizenship can now be denied. That's wholly up to the Trump regime now.

Now, this lays the basis for denying US citizenship to a whole host of people. The Fourteenth Amendment means what Trump says it means. If the courts agree that the Trump regime can carve out exceptions for who gets citizenship when they are born, then a whole lot of people can be denied.

Think Puerto Rico or Guam.

Once you introduce the idea that US citizenship is not automatic, then you introduce the idea that citizenship can be revoked based on those exceptions.

Then the mass detainment and deportations of undocumented become mass detainment and deportations of undesirable citizens.

History tells us exactly where that leads to.

Boris Versus The Clock

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday asked the Queen to suspend Parliament for five out of the nine weeks left between now and the October 31 deadline for a Brexit deal, and the Queen has agreed.  Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn is furious, calling the move a "coup" and saying Johnson will face a vote of no-confidence before the suspension starts.

Parliament will be suspended just days after MPs return to work in September - and only a few weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Boris Johnson said a Queen's Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his "very exciting agenda".

But it means the time MPs have to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October would be cut.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said it was a "constitutional outrage".

The Speaker, who does not traditionally comment on political announcements, continued: "However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of [suspending Parliament] now would be to stop [MPs] debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Suspending Parliament is not acceptable, it is not on. What the prime minister is doing is a smash and grab on our democracy to force through a no deal," he said.

He said when MPs return to the Commons next Tuesday, "the first thing we'll do is attempt legislation to prevent what [the PM] is doing", followed by a vote of no confidence "at some point
And this is apparently only the beginning of Johnson's bag of dirty tricks to run out the Brexit clock and force a worst-case disaster scenario which would of course require emergency powers for his office to be granted in order to steer the country through the mess.

BuzzFeed News has learned that in the last few days, Johnson’s senior team — led by his chief of staff Dominic Cummings and director of legislative affairs Nikki da Costa — has explored a number of increasingly controversial proposals it could deploy depending on the success of rebel attempts to thwart Brexit. The ideas under consideration include the following:

  • Attempting to disrupt a Commons debate on Northern Ireland power-sharing due on Sept. 9, a day which could be used by rebels to attempt to delay Brexit. It is described by Johnson allies as a “time bomb” set for them in the final weeks of Theresa May’s premiership.
  • Determining whether Johnson would be breaking the law by ignoring any successful rebel legislation or refusing to resign in the event he lost a vote of no confidence.
  • Using a variety of mechanisms, including a potential budget, to create new Commons debates and further reduce time for rebels to act.
  • Using the prorogation of Parliament to “kill the bill” by rebel MPs and force them to table it again after the Queen’s Speech on Oct. 14.
  • Creating new bank holidays to prevent the House of Commons from being recalled during the prorogation period.
  • Filibustering any bill by rebel MPs attempting to force Johnson to delay Brexit when it reaches the House of Lords.
  • Ennobling new pro-Brexit peers as a last resort to kill any such bill in the Lords.
  • Exploring what the consequences would be if Johnson advised the Queen not to give royal assent to any legislation passed by Parliament delaying Brexit.

The measures were devised by the prime minister’s senior aides who have spent the summer in their Downing Street bunker war-gaming how to respond to potential parliamentary manoeuvres by MPs determined to block no deal. The rebels, by contrast, spent the August holidays debating whether they would back Ken Clarke as a potential caretaker prime minister in an unlikely government of national unity.

Number 10's prorogation plan was ready to go and be put into action on Tuesday evening, just hours after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed to a pact with the so-called Remainer “rebel alliance” seeking to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Downing Street’s official line is that it is not preventing MPs from debating Brexit policy, that it is routine for a new administration to hold a Queen’s Speech and for Parliament to be prorogued in the run-up, and that MPs will have sufficient time to scrutinise plans before and after the Commons is suspended.

But privately, Johnson allies admit their principal aim in the next two months is to reduce the number of days when MPs can act to stop no deal, in order to give the government the best-possible negotiating hand ahead of the European Council on Oct. 17, where it hopes to strike a new Brexit deal with the EU.

“Every sitting day, there is a risk of something going wrong,” a government source said.

One senior Brexiteer equated Downing Street’s strategy to a football team wasting time at the end of a match. “We are into the final 10 minutes, and we are holding the ball by the corner flag,” they said

The European Union has made it painfully clear that Johnson's not going to get another extension or a better deal on October 17, but apparently his plan is "If the United Kingdom is literally on fire, the EU will give in."

So at this point the UK is barrelling down the "worst-case scenario" path at record speed, and the crash could leave the country unable to function come November.  At that point, I'd expect emergency powers to come into play, and at that point, the UK ceases to be a Western Democracy and becomes something I'd expect Donald Trump would very much like to see here in the States 15 months from now.

Here there be dragons, guys.  Big ones.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Last Call For Johnny Come Lately

Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson says that health issues are forcing him to retire at the end of 2019, meaning both of Georgia's senate seats will be up for grabs in 2020.

Isakson, a three-term Republican, said he decided to resign because of the “mounting health challenges” that include several falls from Parkinson’s disease and surgery this week to remove a growth on his kidney.
“It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state,” the 74-year-old Isakson said in a statement.

Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, will appoint a replacement for Isakson, who was elected to a third term by a wide margin in 2016. Though Isakson’s term doesn’t expire until 2022, the timing of his retirement means the seat will be on the ballot next year.

Three Georgia Democrats have already announced challenges to U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a first-term Republican who is up for election in 2020. Isakson’s seat will likely draw several other Democrats, who see Georgia as increasingly competitive.

It’s not yet clear who Kemp will appoint to fill Isakson’s seat, though potential candidates include Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, state Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Among the potential Democratic contenders for the seat are the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church; Jon Ossoff, a former candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District; Jason Carter, the runner-up for governor in 2014; and Michelle Nunn, who was defeated by David Perdue in the 2014 Senate race.

Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost last year’s race for governor and earlier ruled out a 2020 bid for Perdue’s seat, said through a spokesman that she would not run next year. Instead, she said, she’s focused on an expansion of her voting rights initiative

“While she will not be a candidate herself, she is committed to helping Democratic candidates win both Senate races next year,” said the spokesman, Seth Bringman.

So to recap, Isakson is retiring, Brian Kemp gets to name a replacement for 2020, both Senate seats are up from grabs, and Stacey Abrams isn't running for either one.

Dems just got handed the opportunity of a generation here, a shot at two Senate seats in a rapidly purpling Southern state with a wildly unpopular Trump at the top of the ticket.

Let's see this done, guys.

The Great Wall Of Fascism

In any remotely sane section of the multiverse, this Washington Post story would be the end of the Trump regime.

President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.

He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said.

Trump has repeatedly promised to complete 500 miles of fencing by the time voters go to the polls in November 2020, stirring chants of “Finish the Wall!” at his political rallies as he pushes for tighter border controls. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed just about 60 miles of “replacement” barrier during the first 2½ years of Trump’s presidency, all of it in areas that previously had border infrastructure.
The president has told senior aides that a failure to deliver on the signature promise of his 2016 campaign would be a letdown to his supporters and an embarrassing defeat. With the election 14 months away and hundreds of miles of fencing plans still in blueprint form, Trump has held regular White House meetings for progress updates and to hasten the pace, according to several people involved in the discussions.

When aides have suggested that some orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said. He has waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying “take the land,” according to officials who attended the meetings.

“Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” he has told officials in meetings about the wall.

“He said people expected him to build a wall, and it had to be done by the election,” one former official said.

I mean, that would be it right there.  Both House and Senate Republicans would say this is unacceptable and that they would expect Mr. Trump to resign immediately.

Sadly, nothing will happen.  Well, right up until armed troops come in and start taking people's land for the wall, that is.

But he's joking, right?

It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the prosecution of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for his involvement in the Muller investigation.  More than anyone else, Trump sees McCabe as a traitor, because to Donald Trump, the chief goal of the FBI is to protect DOnald Trump and his interests.  McCabe refused to play that game and was fired days before his retirement pension became effective.  Trump has been grumbling about McCabe on Twitter ever since.

But last week McCabe was hired by CNN as an on-air commentator, and that was Trump's final straw.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who became one of President Donald Trump’s top enemies within his own administration, is joining CNN as a contributor, a network spokesperson said. His first day is Friday.

McCabe spent two decades in the FBI before he was fired in March 2018 by then Attorney General Jeff Sessions just more than 24 hours before his planned retirement.

The CNN gig comes as McCabe is fighting that termination in court. Earlier this month, McCabe filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that his removal was part of a scheme by the president to remove government employees “because they were not politically loyal to him.”

McCabe’s hiring was reported earlier by CNN’s senior media reporter Oliver Darcy.
The Justice Department said he was fired because he broke FBI rules by improperly disclosing information to the press related to an investigation into Hillary Clinton. A Justice Department inspector general report later found McCabe had “lacked candor, including under oath” in describing those disclosures to investigators.

Neither the Justice Department nor the White House immediately responded to a request for comment. A formal response to McCabe’s lawsuit is not due in court until October.

That was last week.  Over the weekend, Trump decided that McCabe is going to jail and his Justice Department is going to bury McCabe in a box somewhere.

Federal prosecutors in Washington appear to be in the final stages of deciding whether to seek an indictment of Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director and a frequent target of President Trump, on charges of lying to federal agents, according to interviews with people familiar with recent developments in the investigation.

In two meetings last week, Mr. McCabe’s lawyers met with the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who is expected to be involved in the decision about whether to prosecute, and for more than an hour with the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie K. Liu, according to a person familiar with the meetings. The person would not detail the discussions, but defense lawyers typically meet with top law enforcement officials to try to persuade them not to indict their client if they failed to get line prosecutors to drop the case.

An indictment of a former top F.B.I. official is extremely rare and would be the latest chapter in the saga of Mr. McCabe, who was fired last year over the issue now under criminal investigation — whether he failed to be forthcoming with internal investigators examining the F.B.I.’s dealings with the news media.

An indictment would be certain to draw praise from Mr. Trump, who has made his attacks on Mr. McCabe a centerpiece of his yearslong campaign to discredit the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the Russia investigation.

As Ben Wittes of Lawfare points out, the fact that this story made the NY Times means McCabe is now absolutely facing imminent political prosecution.

Let me translate this paragraph for you: Such meetings generally take place when indictment is imminent; they happen when the government plans to bring charges. You should thus expect charges against McCabe to be forthcoming any day. And if such charges don’t happen, that doesn’t mean they weren’t planned but, rather, that some extrinsic event has intervened.

Why is that shocking? Because as best as I can tell, the facts available on the public record simply don’t support such charges. The only visible factor militating in favor of the Justice Department charging McCabe, in fact, is that the department has been on the receiving end of a sustained campaign by President Trump demanding McCabe’s scalp.

To be sure, the inspector general’s report that prompted McCabe’s firing paints a deeply troubling portrait of McCabe’s conduct. It describes, in brief, how McCabe authorized an October 2016 disclosure on background to the Wall Street Journal and then misrepresented his role in the story on several occasions—including to the inspector general. I have no reason to disbelieve the inspector general’s account of this episode and no interest in defending McCabe’s alleged conduct. While McCabe has disputed the findings, he has not—at least not as of yet—presented a plausible alternative narrative that accounts for the facts the inspector general recounts. My point here is thus not to suggest that McCabe did nothing wrong.

But criminal charges? At least based on what’s in the inspector general’s report, this is very far from a criminal case. Criminal dispositions on false statements matters in internal investigations are exceptionally rare. Absent some gross aggravating factor, I struggle to think of any other examples. Workplace false statements are normally handled through internal disciplinary means, not criminal charges. There are countless public cases of gross misconduct and lies about that misconduct that are routinely declined as criminal matters.

But not this time, because Trump called up his Attorney General over the weekend and said "This McCabe asshole is not gonna be on CNN, you put him in prison or else."  You can make the argument that CNN messed up by hiring McCabe because he's too close to the news still and it probably did.

But sending him to prison is far worse and far more indicative of corruption and abuse of power. Bill Barr is doing what Trump hired him to do.

Expect more political prosecutions coming.  Lots more.  


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

Under the Trump regime, where right-wing nutjobs are busy screaming about how college campuses are "indoctrination centers" and where "free speech" is supposedly no longer tolerated, if you're a university student here on a visa, your social media history is grounds for deportation now.

With classes scheduled to start next week, incoming Harvard freshman Ismail B. Ajjawi, like many of his fellow students, was set to arrive on campus for the first time this week. But the 17-year-old Palestinian’s hard-won education at perhaps the world’s preeminent university is now in doubt. American immigration officials stopped Ajjawi, a Palestinian resident of Tyre, Lebanon, at Boston Logan International Airport on Friday night, the Crimson reports, where he was held in custody for eight hours and subjected to invasive questioning by a female immigration officer, who then abruptly told him his study visa was being canceled and that he was being deported.

“Upon arrival, Ajjawi faced questioning from immigration officials along with several other international students. While the other students were allowed to leave, Ajjawi alleges an immigration officer continued to question him about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon,” according to the Crimson. “The same officer then asked him to unlock his phone and laptop, and left to search them for roughly five hours, Ajjawi alleges. After the search, the officer questioned him about his friends’ social media activity.”

“When I asked every time to have my phone back so I could tell [someone] about the situation, the officer refused and told me to sit back in [my] position and not move at all,” Ajjawi wrote in a statement. “After the 5 hours ended, she called me into a room , and she started screaming at me. She said that she found people posting political points of view that oppose the US on my friend[s] list.” University officials told the Crimson they still are trying to resolve the situation in time for Ajjawi—whose enrollment at Harvard was made possible by a scholarship from a nonprofit organization—to be in class when the semester starts Sept. 3.

“I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics,” Ajjawi wrote. “I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn’t like, [s]hare or comment on them and told her that I shouldn’t be held responsible for what others post

Doesn't matter though, he's a Palestinian coming to Harvard on a full ride, and white Christian America can't have that happen.  Not in a million years.

Free speech means whatever the Trump regime is willing to allow you to say.  And that goes for all of us these days.

Meanwhile, better hope there aren't any Atlantic hurricanes this season that his the US, because all of FEMA's disaster emergency funds just went to ICE for more concentration camps.

The Trump administration is pulling $271 million in funding from the Department of Homeland Security, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund, to pay for immigration detention space and temporary hearing locations for asylum-seekers who have been forced to wait in Mexico, according to department officials and a letter sent to the agency by a California congresswoman.

To fund temporary locations for court hearings for asylum-seekers along the southern border, ICE would gain $155 million, all from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, according to the letter from Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., which was seen by NBC News.

The allocations were sent to Congress as a notification rather than a request, because the administration believes it has the authority to repurpose these funds after Congress did not pass more funding for ICE detention beds as part of an emergency funding bill for the southwest border in June.

Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security will lose $116 million previously allocated for Coast Guard operations, aviation security and other components in order to fund nearly 6,800 more beds for immigrant detainees, the officials said.

“We would not say this is with no risk but we would say that we worked it in a way to…minimize the risk. This was a must pay bill that needed to be addressed,” said a DHS official, who noted that the funds would begin transfer immediately to fund ICE through Sept. 30.

The only infrastructure in America that gets built these days are concentration camps for more undocumented.  Better hope there's no hurricanes, wildfires, or earthquakes in the next few months, because there are zero dollars for FEMA to respond with as of right now.

Not in Trump's America.

Time To Pound The Pavement, Dems

For the 2020 Democratic nominee to beat Trump, former Obama organizer Joy Cushman says Democrats are going to have to do what worked so well for Barack Obama in 2008 and for House Democratic candidates in 2018: go door to door and earn every single vote the hard way.

Republicans know how President Obama won, yet there is a contentious debate among progressives about how to run campaigns. One side says you engage your most excited supporters, organizing them into local leadership teams and helping them host trainings, house parties and voter registration drives so that they can build support and gather accurate data about their neighborhoods.

This creates the capacity for millions of authentic, person-to-person conversations about families’ experiences, and their hopes and fears — the kinds of conversations that can expand an electorate, energize a base and demobilize the opposition. Data and technology are tools to improve this work, not the machinery for controlling people. 
The other side, louder and better funded, says that data, technology and analytics should drive campaign strategies and voter outreach programs. So campaigns hire tech companies to create lists of potential supporters based on algorithms and statistical modeling. And they develop apps through which supporters are meant to blast, but not actually engage, their social networks. Staff members and volunteers parachute into communities to knock on doors and recite poll-tested scripts. 
Over the past decade, the party elites — consultants, strategists and donors — have caught the data-and-analytics fever and largely abandoned organizing. This has meant that entire neighborhoods have been politically redlined out of engagement in our most fundamental democratic practice.

Those of us who have spent our lives talking to regular folks on campaigns now walk around neighborhoods with lists created by someone at a computer far away. We have skipped many doors and missed entire families because the data experts didn’t have addresses or phone numbers for poor people, young people, people of color or people who moved a lot — many of those who carried Barack Obama to victory. 
Going into 2020, Democrats cannot fall into the trap of being overly seduced by shiny tech-only tricks. They must get back to the hard work of pounding the pavement to organize the people who already want to vote for them. That’s how we’ll create the power to build a movement that attracts others. In fact, data from 2016 and 2018 show that organizing increases voter turnout more than any other single outreach method, including mail, TV and digital advertisements, and twice as much as contact from a stranger. 
Part of the reason the debate has unfolded this way is because the story that took hold about how Barack Obama won, and has since permeated the voting industry, is that sophisticated data, technology and analytics twice won him the White House, not organizing or volunteers. That a few dozen tech nerds in the Chicago headquarters tipped the campaign to victory. This story, and the realignment of progressive interests and infrastructure around it, has baffled me and other top campaigners. 
People won Mr. Obama’s campaigns. From the black beauticians in South Carolina to the white and black retirees in Pennsylvania to the Latinx supporters in Nevada, hundreds of thousands of volunteers knocked on doors and made calls from the primaries through the general elections. And Barack Obama saw them, spoke to them and loved them.

Barack Obama used both data and organizing to win.  He did it better than anyone else. Dems need to get back to that era, where Obama took Howard Dean's 50-State Strategy and ran with it.  I'm tired of hearing about "battleground states" like the other 45 don't matter, because we're giving away state legislatures in a Census and redistricting year.

We have to contest everything in 2020.  Every seat, every vote, every legislature, every governor's mansion, everything.

Beshear Beatng Bevin Bigly

With ten weeks to go before the 2019 gubernatorial election here in Kentucky, the polls have Democratic AG Andy Beshear up substantially over GOP Gov. Matt Bevin.

An internal poll from the campaign of Andy Beshear shows the Democratic attorney general leading Gov. Matt Bevin by 9 percentage points in the race for governor, with a little over two months until the election.

The Courier Journal obtained a copy of the polling memo from the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, which surveyed 501 likely voters in Kentucky from Monday through Thursday last week.

The poll found 48% of respondents would vote for Beshear, while 39% said they would vote for Bevin. Libertarian candidate John Hicks picked up 6% in the poll.

Of the 501 people surveyed, 43% self-identified as Republican and 37% self-identified as Democrat, while 48% considered themselves as conservative and 22% as liberal.

The results closely resemble an internal poll conducted by the Democratic Attorneys General Association a week earlier, which found Beshear leading Bevin by the exact same margin.

The last independent polling of Kentucky's race for governor came from the Gravis Marketing Survey in June. It found Bevin leading Beshear 48% to 42%.

If anything the poll favors Bevin, and yet the numbers clearly show Bevin has burned a number of bridges in the last three-plus years: with state and local government employees, teachers, farmers, and miners.

Still, if anything, Bevin shouldn't be sweating in the least.

Polling of statewide races in Kentucky has been notoriously flawed in recent years, especially the race for governor in 2015, when the Bluegrass Poll found Democrat Jack Conway leading Bevin by 5 percentage points late in the race. Bevin wound up winning on Election Day by 9 percentage points.

Bevin is fond of bringing up the erroneous polling from 2015 whenever he is asked about surveys showing him with a low approval rating, saying they are not a true indicator of the support he has throughout the state.

He's not wrong.  That Bluegrass poll from 2015 was cataclysmically wrong, off by 14 points.  In every instance turnout was much, much higher than anticipated and Kentucky voters turned out for Matt Bevin.  Bevin doesn't feel the need to do anything differently because he simply dismisses all polls showing Beshear ahead.  He's counting on that to happen again.

But they can't all be wrong, can they?


Monday, August 26, 2019

Last Call For The Court War On Drugs

Oklahoma Republicans took opioid manufacturers to court to recover some of the billions the state has spent dealing with opioid addiction.  The first of those cases against Johnson & Johnson reached a verdict today and it was a whopper: more than a half-billion in damages awarded.

A judge Monday found Johnson & Johnson responsible for fueling Oklahoma’s opioid crisis, ordering the health care company to pay $572 million to redress the devastating consequences suffered by the state and its residents.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman’s landmark decision is the first to hold a drugmaker culpable for the fallout of years of liberal opioid dispensing that began in the late 199os, sparking a nationwide epidemic of overdose deaths and addiction. More than 400,000 people have died of overdoses from painkillers, heroin and illegal fentanyl since 1999.

“The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma and must be abated immediately,” Balkman said, reading part of his decision aloud from the bench Monday afternoon.

With more than 40 states lined up to pursue similar claims against the pharmaceutical industry, the ruling in the first state case to go to trial could influence both side’s strategies in the months and years to come. Its impact on an enormous federal lawsuit brought by nearly 2,000 cities, counties, Native American tribes and others, which is scheduled to begin in October, is less certain.

“As a matter of law, I find that defendants’ actions caused harm, and those harms are the kinds recognized by [state law] because those actions annoyed, injured or endangered the comfort, repose, health or safety of Oklahomans,” Balkman wrote in the decision.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) had brought suit in 2017 against three major drug companies, accusing them of creating “a public nuisance” by showering the state with opioids, while downplaying the drugs’ addictive potential and persuading physicians to use them even for minor aches and pains. Before the late 1990s, physicians reserved the powerful drugs primarily for cancer and post-surgical pain and end-of-life care.

More than 6,000 Oklahomans have died of painkiller overdoses since 2000, the state charged in court papers, as the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies reached 479 every hour in 2017.

Oklahoma settled with Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OxyContin, in March, accepting $270 million from the company and its owners, the Sackler family. Most of that will go to a treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University, although the federal government is seeking a portion of the money.

In May, two days before the trial began, the state settled with Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli-based manufacturer of generic drugs, for $85 million.

That left corporate giant Johnson & Johnson, which denied any wrongdoing and chose to fight the accusations in what became a seven-week trial before Balkman. There was no jury.

Should have settled out of court, boys.

Another Republican Heading For The Exits

The latest Republican to leave the House is Wisconsin GOP Rep. Sean Duffy, retiring at the end of next month to be with his family.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) will resign from Congress at the end of September, the most recent in a string of Republicans who have decided against running for re-election.

Duffy, who was elected in 2010 during a GOP wave, said he and his wife are expecting a child in late October who will "will need even more love, time, and attention due to complications, including a heart condition."

"With much prayer, I have decided that this is the right time for me to take a break from public service in order to be the support my wife, baby and family need right now," Duffy said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. "It is not an easy decision – because I truly love being your Congressman – but it is the right decision for my family, which is my first love and responsibility."

Duffy will leave Congress on Sept. 23. Duffy's district, anchored in the northern reaches of Wisconsin, has been solidly Republican in recent years. Duffy won re-election by 22 points, and Donald Trump won the district by 21 in 2016.

Yeah, Sean "from MTV's Real World Boston" Duffy, same guy.  Arguably the most famous Gen Xer in politics, married Rachel Campos from Real World San Francisco.  Again, this is a safe GOP district, no real danger of it flipping blue, Wisconsin's 7th covers the area north of Eau Claire and the Wisconsin Dells all the way up to the border with the UP of Michigan, it's reliably rural and red.

But Duffy is only 47.  He could have had this district for another 30 years, and frankly being a member of Congress means you and your family get excellent medical care options.

He's out nonetheless.

Yes, We'll Take You Up On That

Native American activism has been growing exponentially across the country this decade and the Cherokee Nation is finally taking up the US government on the treaty put in place after the Trail of Tears that allows for the appointment of a delegate to the US House.

The Cherokee Nation announced Thursday that it intends to appoint a delegate to the US House of Representatives, asserting for the first time a right promised to the tribe in a nearly 200-year-old treaty with the federal government. 
It was a historic step for the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation and its nearly 370,000 citizens, coming about a week after Chuck Hoskin Jr. was sworn in as principal chief of the tribe. The Cherokee Nation says it's the largest tribal nation in the US and one of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes. 
The move raises questions about what that representation in Congress would look like and whether the US will honor an agreement it made almost two centuries ago. 
Here's what's at stake.

The Cherokee Nation's right to appoint a delegate stems from the same treaty that the US government used to forcibly remove the tribe from its ancestral lands. 
As a result of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, the Cherokee were ultimately made to leave their homes in the Southeast for present-day Oklahoma in exchange for money and other compensation. Nearly 4,000 citizens of the tribe died of disease, starvation and exhaustion on the journey now known as the Trail of Tears. 
A delegate in the House of Representatives was one of the ways the US government promised to compensate the Cherokee Nation.

So why is the tribe only taking up the offer now? 
Ezra Rosser, a law professor at American University, told CNN that the US government has long made it difficult for tribes to exercise rights afforded to them in treaties. But now, tribes are asserting themselves in a way that demands the attention of non-Native Americans. 
"We have to recognize that we imposed a genocide on tribes and we imposed harsh measures toward any government structure that they had," Ezra Rosser said. "To me, it's not surprising that it would take somewhat deep into the self-determination era for tribes to be in a position to assert some of these rights." 
Hoskin echoed that sentiment, telling CNN that "the Cherokee Nation is today in a position of strength that I think is unprecedented in its history."

Not that my opinion is in a position to chance anything on this subject, but I'm 100% behind this and I think 2020 Democrats should be falling all over themselves embracing this across the country.   I don't know how much Republicans will try to block this, but pissing off 300,000 Oklahomans seems like a bad idea for even the GOP in the state.

This seems like the kind of thing there should be bipartisan support for.

Naturally, I expect Trump to find a way to foul it up.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Last Call For Enemies of the State

The White House is significantly escalating its war on press, using conservative outlets to specifically target critical journalists in order to discredit and destroy them with opposition research, and the operation is already under way.

A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists.

It is the latest step in a long-running effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to undercut the influence of legitimate news reporting. Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.

The group has already released information about journalists at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times — three outlets that have aggressively investigated Mr. Trump — in response to reporting or commentary that the White House’s allies consider unfair to Mr. Trump and his team or harmful to his re-election prospects.

Operatives have closely examined more than a decade’s worth of public posts and statements by journalists, the people familiar with the operation said. Only a fraction of what the network claims to have uncovered has been made public, the people said, with more to be disclosed as the 2020 election heats up. The research is said to extend to members of journalists’ families who are active in politics, as well as liberal activists and other political opponents of the president.
It is not possible to independently assess the claims about the quantity or potential significance of the material the pro-Trump network has assembled. Some involved in the operation have histories of bluster and exaggeration. And those willing to describe its techniques and goals may be trying to intimidate journalists or their employers.

But the material publicized so far, while in some cases stripped of context or presented in misleading ways, has proved authentic, and much of it has been professionally harmful to its targets.

It is clear from the cases to date that among the central players in the operation is Arthur Schwartz, a combative 47-year-old conservative consultant who is a friend and informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. Mr. Schwartz has worked with some of the right’s most aggressive operatives, including the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon.

“If the @nytimes thinks this settles the matter we can expose a few of their other bigots,” Mr. Schwartz tweeted on Thursday in response to an apologetic tweet from a Times journalist whose anti-Semitic social media posts had just been revealed by the operation. “Lots more where this came from.”

The information unearthed by the operation has been commented on and spread by officials inside the Trump administration and re-election campaign, as well as conservative activists and right-wing news outlets such as Breitbart News. In the case of the Times editor, the news was first published by Breitbart, immediately amplified on Twitter by Donald Trump Jr. and, among others, Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and quickly became the subject of a Breitbart interview with Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary and communications director.

To recap, the White House has a operation to go after specific journalists, and we've already seen attacks on April Ryan, Don Lemon, Sarah Jeong, and NY Times editor Jon Weisman in the last week.  A lot more is coming.  The White House will be calling for the firing of journalists on a regular basis and expect the Perpetual Outrage Machine™ to do it for them.  A lot of them will be fired.

Our free press is going to be dismantled in order to get Trump a second term.


The Once And Futureless Steve King

Sensing his demise in Iowa, Republican donors in Rep. Steve King's district are flocking to his primary challenger Randy Feenstra instead as the avowed white supremacist has finally become too much of an albatross, even in the era of Trump.

As he gears up for a difficult re-election cycle, Rep. Steve King’s campaign is strapped for cash. Individual donations to the Iowa Republican have continued to flow but support from corporate donors and King’s own colleagues have vanished entirely.

King has not received a single contribution this year from a political action committee associated with a sitting member of Congress.
Corporate PACs and interest groups have also completely shunned him. Through the first six months of the year, King received just two contributions from third party political entities: $2,000 donations from PACs associated with two former members of Congress, Lamar Smith (R-TX) and the infamous Todd Akin (R-MO).

It is a remarkable though not entirely unpredictable abandonment of a sitting member of Congress. Though he was always controversial and further to the right than most of his colleagues, King has burned virtually all his bridges in the party this year with outlandish comments about white supremacy and abortion.

But while those comments have made King a pariah in the party—with House Republican leaders stripping him of his committee assignments—King has refused to leave office. Now, as he faces the toughest campaign since he was first elected in 2002, he is doing so with a potentially catastrophic lack of resources. The $18,365 that King’s campaign had in the bank at the end of June was the least cash on hand he’s ever reported after the first six months of a cycle.

King is dealing with that lack of resources as he faces very immediate threats to his incumbency. His 2018 Democratic opponent, former professional baseball player J.D. Scholten, lost by fewer than three points last year, and is making another run for the seat. This time around King also has a formidable Republican primary opponent, state senator Randy Feenstra, who has already scored endorsements from influential Iowans such as evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats. At the end of July, Feenstra’s campaign committee reported having $337,314.30 cash on hand, compared to King’s $18,000.

Things weren’t always so financially dire for King. Throughout his time in the House, he has received more than $3 million from political groups associated with private companies, trade associations, members of Congress, and ideological advocacy groups. That support peaked during the 2012 cycle, when such groups donated nearly $700,000 to his re-election campaign.

King’s top industry donors throughout his career, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records, were the American Bankers Association, the National Association of Homebuilders, AT&T, Crystal Sugars, and the Rain and Hail Insurance Society. All of them last donated to King during the 2018 election cycle but have so far declined to do so in this cycle.

In fact, some are even funding his primary challenger. At least six industry PACs that have donated to King in the past, including those affiliated with shipping giant UPS and trade associations representing construction and agricultural firms, have chipped in to Feenstra’s campaign this year instead.

Contributions from Republican Party organs have also evaporated completely. King never relied too heavily on such donations—he generally received about $5,000 per cycle from GOP committees, with the most, about $32,000, coming during the 2010 cycle. But it appears he’ll be fighting for re-election next year without any financial assistance from his party, which is raising record sums this year.

Even Liz Cheney has abandoned King at this point. Expect a major effort to get behind Feenstra from the GOP for the rest of the year.

Of course the actual answer to Iowa's Steve King problem is Democratic candidate J.D. Scholten, who came within three points of toppling King in 2018.

Toss him a few bucks, eh?

Sunday Long Read: A Car Detective Named Ford

This week's Sunday Long Read comes to us from Esquire's Stayton Bonner: the story of Joe Ford, the man millionaires call to get their priceless stolen cars back, and his white whale of a $7 million case he's been tracking down for six years.

Joe, sixty-two, is more Magnum P.I. than Sam Spade—tall, trim, tan, usually wearing a fitted polo or a Hawaiian shirt. Drinks sweet tea by the gallon and speaks like the New Orleans native he is. (“I grew up in east New Orleans, near the Ninth Wah-ard.”) Likes to swim and dive for lobsters and drive boats. He recently cruised on a sixty-­five-footer down to Utila, “this coral-reef island off the coast of Honduras,” he says. “It was incredible—diving with whale sharks and drinking with outlaws. One guy didn’t come back.”

People end up doing all kinds of jobs in this life. You sometimes wonder if, given a few left turns and different choices, the guy playing center field at Yankee Stadium could have ended up a taxi driver instead. Or vice versa. But Joe . . . Joe Ford is what happens when a particular set of skills, personality traits, and turns of phrase lead a person into the only thing he should be doing. It’s rare. And when you see him at work—when you see him move easily among both the shady creatures of criminality and the millionaires on those yachts—you wonder whether you, like him, have found your place in the world.

The FBI agent was calling about a new lead in Joe’s current case. It’s a big one, the kind that could set Joe up for a long time. Maybe help him get his own boat, his own rare sports car. Help his daughter be more comfortable as she copes with the disease that’s taking away her eyesight. Help him disappear into the sunset.

He’s been working this case for six years. “Everyone loves cars, but this is different,” Joe says. “At this level, it’s about bragging rights for the rarest and the best. That’s what makes the Teardrop so coveted.”
The Teardrop. Otherwise known as the 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C SS teardrop coupe, chassis number 90108, current value $7.6 million. Built by two men, names of Figoni and Falaschi—Italian immigrants to France who ran the world’s top custom-car shop in Paris from the thirties through the fifties—the T150 is a prime example of a model that the Robb Report once called “the most beautiful car in the world.” One of only two models built with a race-car engine, it’s an art deco masterpiece, a long, sleek body powered by ground-shaking horsepower. The C stands for competition—it gets 140 bhp out of a 3,996cc six-cylinder engine—but the Teardrop was built as rolling art, a metallic blue car with a red leather interior and red wire wheels. It’s shaped like a teardrop, pure aerodynamics.

When it debuted, its wealthy owners commissioned custom wardrobes to match its colors and lines—society-page fixtures using it to make grand entrances at balls.

The T150, chassis number 90108, however, now holds another distinction: It was stolen in one of the boldest automobile heists in history. In fact, one of the most brazen and spectacular heists of any kind at all.

And Joe Ford, a P.I. from Fort Lauderdale nursing a Corona who has to get home to walk his girlfriend’s teacup poodle after she goes to work, is working his ass off to get it back.

“Some cars speak to me,” he says, finishing his beer and heading to get his parking validated. “This one screams.” 
The rare-car market is like a pyramid.

The base layer is mostly American cars of the fifties—Bel Airs and Packards in garages across the U. S. that can sell for up to $125,000. Next come the muscle cars and rarer European cars—Mustangs, Mercedes, Jaguars. They can go for up to $350,000. At the top are the European racers and one-of-a-kind creations whose blend of history and craftsmanship can put their value in the millions: a Ferrari raced at Le Mans, perhaps, or a ’68 Mustang driven by Steve McQueen. A 1927 Bugatti Royale, one of six ever made, a twenty-one-foot-long, seven-thousand-pound commercial failure upon its debut, would be worth an estimated $100 million should one ever become available. In 2017, classic cars topped the Coutts Passion Index, a list of the British bank’s top passion investments, increasing in value by more than 300 percent in the past decade to bypass assets like wine, jewelry, and artwork.

Like jewelry and artwork, valuable cars are stolen. Thieves have pulled off elaborate heists of million-dollar vehicles, sometimes smuggling them to international locales, retrofitting them with fake paperwork, and then reselling them on the global market.

That’s when people call Joe

Settle in for a good heist story worthy of Steven Soderbergh or Guy Ritchie, folks.

The DNC Presents Caucus Blockers

Let's get something straight right out of the gate here: the Democrats wanting to try a virtual phone-based caucus system in 2020 in order to increase accessibility for voters is a wonderful concept.  In-person caucuses, as opposed to primary voting where absentee ballots can be cast, present a physical and accessibility barrier to voting that Democrats should absolutely work to get rid of.

Having said that, the problem of course is the data security angle, and it's a complete dumpster fire.

The Democratic National Committee has raised substantial cybersecurity concerns over virtual caucusing, potentially dooming the effort just five months before Iowa begins its process of choosing a presidential nominee.
At a closed-door session of the Rules and By-Laws Committee on Thursday, the DNC told the panel that experts convened by the party were able to hack into a conference call among the committee, the Iowa Democratic Party and Nevada Democratic Party, raising concerns about teleconferencing for virtual caucuses, according to three people who were at the meeting.

For the first time the DNC is requiring states that hold caucuses instead of primary elections to offer voters a way to participate without showing up at sites across the state. Iowa and Nevada are building a teleconference system for 2020, and Alaska plans a phone and web-based operation.

The state parties are waiting for final approval of their plans for the February caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and hoped it would come at the DNC’s summer meeting this week in San Francisco.

“We are continuing to work with Democrats in these states to address the Rules and By-Laws committee’s questions about their proposed plans," the DNC said in a statement Saturday.

The DNC is particularly sensitive to cybersecurity issues, given the hack into DNC emails in 2016, believed to have be carried out by Russian operatives.

The test and the revelation of hacking enraged party officials in caucus states who say the systems were not fully built and the hack of a general teleconferencing system is not comparable. The state party officials also said they were continuing to address any potential vulnerabilities as they build the system.

Caucus-state officials offered a litany of complaints: That the DNC created the rules about absentee participation without considering how the states should achieve that goal; that the DNC offered little help in devising a virtual system, what state officials called the most significant change in caucus procedure since modern caucuses began in 1972; and were slow to raise concerns about security.

In states that caucus, voters gather in homes, businesses and other places in each precinct to choose their preference for a nominee. Some have said the fact that a voter’s physical presence is required has diminished participation.

The solution presents itself quite handily here, of course...

Get rid of caucuses altogether and go to a primary system in every state.

Problem solved.
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