Saturday, November 30, 2019

Turkey Week: The Devils Came Out Of Georgia

In the Trump regime mob, you do what Don Arancio Trumpino says or you get replaced by someone who does.  It's one thing for that to happen in the White House and executive branch where Trump can hire and fire.  But now Trump's picking Senators and not every red state governor is going along with his "requests", and there's a price to be paid.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) warned Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Friday that he could face a primary challenger when running for reelection if he doesn’t select President Trump’s favored candidate for the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

Gaetz’s tweet Friday comes amid reports that Kemp is expected to announce that financial executive Kelly Loeffler will be chosen over Trump’s preferred selection of Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.).

“You are ignoring his request because you THINK you know better than @POTUS,” Gaetz tweeted. “If you substitute your judgement for the President’s, maybe you need a primary in 2022. Let’s see if you can win one w/o Trump.”

Gaetz in a follow-up tweet said Kemp would be "hurting Trump" if he does not select Collins.

“It’s not the establishment you are screwing with your donor-induced stubbornness,” Gaetz wrote. “You are hurting President Trump. You know this because he told you.”

Gaetz is a vocal supporter of Trump and his message underscores the dilemma Kemp will face if he follows through with selecting Loeffler.

Kemp’s upcoming decision to select a new senator comes after he met with Trump at the White House on Sunday, with the two reportedly having a disagreement regarding who should fill the seat set to be vacated by Isakson, who is stepping down at the end of the year due to health issues.

You know those quiet parts that you're not supposed to say in public when you're shaking down a governor in your own party?  The Trumpino mob never got to that part in Mobstering for Dummies. It doesn't help Kemp's case that his reason to select Kelly Loeffler is because Trump is absolute poison among white suburban women in the Peach State.

Her appointment would do little to tamp down the internal Republican fighting over the seat. Trump and his allies have repeatedly pressed the governor to tap Collins, and the two were still at odds over Loeffler’s appointment even after Kemp brought her to a secretive meeting with the president last week.

And it would come as no surprise to Republican insiders, who have labeled Loeffler the presumptive favorite ever since she submitted her application hours before a deadline imposed by Kemp.

Collins’ allies have aggressively pushed Kemp to appoint the congressman in recent weeks, describing the Gainesville Republican as a champion for conservative causes – and a bulwark of defense against impeachment proceedings headed for the U.S. Senate.

And Collins has helped energize his supporters by telling The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is “strongly” considering a run for the Senate seat in next year’s special election if he’s not picked.
Kemp, however, has surprised even his critics with his appointments to key posts, and he’s long seen the U.S. Senate opening as a chance to help the Georgia GOP win back female voters.

He’s also mindful that his selection would not only be on the ballot in 2020 to fill out the remaining two years of Isakson’s term but also potentially alongside Kemp in 2022 when the governor runs for a second term.

We could have a major fight on our hands for Georgia's two senate seats in 2020.  There are multiple Dems running for David Perdue's seat next year with Stacey Abrams passing on the race, and I'm sure many will look for Isakson's seat in the special election next fall.

Bonus Republican fail: Isakson was chair of the Senate Ethics Committee and literally no Republican senator wants the job.

Turkey Week: Alexa, Bah Humbug!

Gizmodo's Adam Clark Estes goes the full Grinch on Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, and other smart speakers in this 2017 piece and why you should never buy one, have one, or give one as a gift this (or any other) holiday season.

Before getting into the truly scary stuff, though, let’s talk a little bit about utility. Any internet-connected thing that you bring into your home should make your life easier. Philips Hue bulbs, for instance, let you dim the lights in an app. Easy! A Nest thermostat learns your habits so you don’t have to turn up the heat as often. Cool! An Amazon Echo or a Google Home, well, they talk to you, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to figure out how to talk back in the right way and do random things around the house. Huh?

You don’t need an artificially intelligent robot to tell you about the weather every day. Just look outside or watch the local news or even look at your phone. You already do one or all of these things, so just keep it up. Same goes for turning on the lights. Use the switch. It works really well! A light switch also doesn’t keep track of everything you’re doing and send the data to Amazon or Google or Apple. What happens between you and the switch stays with you and the switch.

Which brings us back to security and surveillance. I’m not here to be Tin Foil Hat Man and convince you that companies like Amazon are spying on your every move and compiling data sets based on your activity so that they can more effectively serve you ads or sell you products. I am here to say that smart speakers like the Echo do contain microphones that are always on, and every time you say something to the speaker, it sends data back to the server farm. (By the way: If you enabled an always-listening assistant on your smartphone, now’s a good time to consider the implications.) For now, the companies that sell smart speakers say that those microphones only send recordings to the servers when you use the wake word. The same companies are less explicit about what they’re doing with all that data. They’re also vague about whether they might share voice recordings with developers in the future. Amazon, at least, seems open to the idea.

We do know that Amazon will hand over your Echo data if the gadget becomes involved in a homicide investigation. That very thing happened earlier this year, and while Amazon had previously refused to hand over customer data, the company didn’t argue with a subpoena in a murder case. It remains unclear how government agencies like the FBI, CIA, and NSA are treating smart speakers, too. The FBI, for one, would neither confirm nor deny wiretapping Amazon Echo devices when Gizmodo asked the agency about it last year.

Sinister ambitions of governments and multinational corporations aside, you should also worry about the threat of bugs and hackers going after smart speakers. Anything that’s connected to the internet is potentially vulnerable to intrusions, but as a new category of devices, smart speakers are simply untested in the security arena. We haven’t yet experienced a major hack of smart speakers, although there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they’re hardly bulletproof. Not long after its launch, the Google Home Mini experienced a bug that led to the device recording everything happening in a technology reporter’s house for dozens of hours. You can chalk that up to a very bad screw up on Google’s part, but it’s a tear in the fabric of trust that should encase these kinds of gadgets.

Hackers pretty much set that fabric on fire. A few months ago, Wired reported that a hacker successfully installed malware on an Amazon Echo and turned it into an always-on wiretap. The malware let the hacker stream all audio from the Echo to a remote server, which is some serious badass spy shit when you really think about it. This particular exploit only worked on devices made before 2017 and required the hacker to have physical access to the Echo. Nevertheless, it’s sort of the worst possible scenario for anyone who’s worried about having an always-on microphone in their home.

This is all to say that there are risks involved with owning a smart speaker. It’s not as risky as, say, running a meth lab out of your basement. But keeping an internet-connected microphone in your kitchen is certainly more trouble than owning a simple Bluetooth speaker that just plays music. You might be comfortable taking that risk for yourself. Think long and hard about buying an Amazon Echo or a Google Home for your friends and family. They might not like it. In my opinion, they shouldn’t.

It was a bad idea in 2017, its a bad idea now.  Don't give in and *especially* don't give these as gifts.  They haven't gotten more useful. They remain a massive privacy risk depending on where they are.  And they are provided by companies who are, quite frankly, terrible corporations who should be broken up.

Yes, you can get one for under $25 now.

That should be warning enough.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Turkey Week: The Road To Gilead

Ohio Republicans are back at it again, with yet another bill that not only criminalizes abortion by legally defining the procedure as murder, but makes the new crime of "aggravated abortion murder" punishable by death.  And somehow, the bill gets worse.

A bill to ban abortion introduced in the Ohio state legislature requires doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus – a procedure that does not exist in medical science – or face charges of “abortion murder”.
This is the second time practising obstetricians and gynecologists have tried to tell the Ohio legislators that the idea is currently medically impossible.

The move comes amid a wave of increasingly severe anti-abortion bills introduced across much of the country as conservative Republican politicians seek to ban abortion and force a legal showdown on abortion with the supreme court.

Ohio’s move on ectopic pregnancies – where an embryo implants on the mother’s fallopian tube rather than her uterus rendering the pregnancy unviable – is one of the most extreme bills to date.

“I don’t believe I’m typing this again but, that’s impossible,” wrote Ohio obstetrician and gynecologist Dr David Hackney on Twitter. “We’ll all be going to jail,” he said.

An ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition, which can kill a woman if the embryonic tissue grows unchecked.

In addition to ordering doctors to do the impossible or face criminal charges, House Bill 413 bans abortion outright and defines a fertilized egg as an “unborn child”.

It also appears to punish doctors, women and children as young as 13 with “abortion murder” if they “perform or have an abortion”. This crime is punishable by life in prison. Another new crime, “aggravated abortion murder”, is punishable by death, according to the bill.

The bill is sponsored by representatives Candice Keller and Ron Hood, and co-sponsored by 19 members of Ohio’s 99-member House.

This bill is absolute insanity, but if Roe v. Wade is struck down by SCOTUS, and states are allowed to define their own abortion laws like this, it will be horrific.  Here's hoping it will die in the state Senate and that Gov. Mike DeWine will veto it, but let's remember DeWine signed the six-week heartbeat bill into law as one of his first acts this year, and it's currently going through the courts on the way to SCOTUS.

We'll see what becomes of this, but understand that if things shake out the way I think they will, there's a good chance by this time next year that abortion will be illegal and punishable by the death penalty in several states.

Ohio may very well be one of them.

Turkey Week: Section 412

The Trump regime is the first to invoke Section 412 of the PATRIOT Act in order to detain a non-US citizen indefinitely, without charges.

Adham Amin Hassoun, now in his late 50s, has spent nearly the entire war on terrorism in cages. First picked up on an immigration violation in June 2002, he ended up standing trial alongside once-suspected “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla. But Hassoun was never accused of any act or plot of violence. His crime was cutting checks to extremist-tied Muslim charities operating in places like Kosovo and Chechnya that Congress outlawed after the 9/11 attacks. Hassoun wrote all but one of those checks before 9/11.

Sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, Hassoun should have been a free man in 2017. Instead, he found himself in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which locked him up in western New York. It was there that Hassoun’s case turned extraordinary.

ICE wanted to deport Hassoun, but his statelessness as a Palestinian got in the way
. No country—not the Lebanon of his birth, not the Israel that occupies the West Bank and Gaza—was willing to take him. Aided by attorneys at the University of Buffalo Law School, Hassoun in January won what should have been his freedom, on the grounds that his deportation was unlikely.

The Trump administration instead declared him a threat to national security. It did so at first using an also-obscure immigration regulation designed to sidestep a 2001 Supreme Court ruling imposing a six-month detention limit. And it was aided by a testimonial, under seal, of Hassoun’s alleged misdeeds behind bars as related by what his attorneys describe as jailhouse snitches who provided second- or third-hand accounts. But as the government fought what had become a habeas corpus case for Hassoun’s release, the Department of Homeland Security invoked, for the first time in U.S. government history, section 412 of the PATRIOT Act.

Section 412 gives the government broad powers to detain non-citizens on American soil whom it can’t deport but deems, on “reasonable grounds,” to be engaged in “activity that endangers the national security of the United States.” It makes that determination for a six-month period that it can renew without limit.
To little fanfare, the former acting secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, informed Hassoun on Aug. 9 that “you will therefore remain in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pending your removal from the United States or reconsideration of this decision.”

Attorneys for Hassoun, who were in federal court on Friday to argue for his freedom, are stunned at the invocation of Section 412. They noted that the PATRIOT Act provision is written to “take [a non-citizen] into custody,” not to retroactively designate someone already in detention as a threat.

“If the government were to prevail in its claim of extraordinary and unprecedented executive power, the government would be free to lock up non-citizens indefinitely based solely on executive say-so, even after they completed serving their sentences,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

ICE, citing the ongoing litigation, declined comment. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.

McAleen claimed in his August invocation of the PATRIOT Act that he did so because Hassoun “assumed a leadership role in a criminal conspiracy to recruit fighters and provide material support to terrorist groups, and because you pose a continuing threat to recruit, plan, participate in, and provide material support for terrorist activity.”

Yet the federal judge in his criminal case, Marcia G. Cooke, painted a far different picture of Hassoun during his 2008 sentencing. There was “no evidence that these defendants personally maimed, killed or kidnapped anyone in the United States or elsewhere,” and the government could find “no identifiable victims” as the result of their actions, she said.

Cooke, a George W. Bush appointee, specifically rejected the life sentence the Justice Department sought for Hassoun, noting that years of government surveillance on him never resulted in his criminal arrest. “This fact does not support the government’s argument that Mr. Hassoun poses such a danger to the community that he needs to be imprisoned for the rest of his life,” Cooke ruled

This will not be the last time this happens, either.

The reason why Section 412 was never utilized until now was because of the obvious unconstitutionality of it.  But that was before the Roberts Court with two Trump appointees.  The Trump regime is betting it will pass muster now.

And it will be used again, especially if Trump goes through with his threat to designation multiple Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups.

We'll have the Warren Terror on our southern border.

That's the point.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Turkey Week: Preaching To The Blue Choir

Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman lays out a grim  a highly likely 2020 scenario, one where Donald Trump loses the popular vote by a whopping five million or more and still wins the electoral college easily.

The nation's two most populous states, California and Texas, are at the heart of Democrats' geography problem.

Both behemoths are growing more diverse at a much faster rate than the nation — owing to booming Asian and Latino populations — and are trending toward Democrats. Yet neither blue California nor red Texas would play a pivotal role in a close 2020 election, potentially rendering millions of additional Democratic votes useless.

Over the past four years for which census estimates are available, California's population of nonwhite voting-age citizens has exploded by 1,585,499, while its number of white voting-age citizens has declined by a net 162,715. The Golden State's GOP is in free fall: In May 2018, the state's Republican registrants fell to third place behind "no party preference" voters for the first time. In 2016, Clinton stretched Barack Obama's 2012 margin from 3 million to 4.2 million votes. But padding that margin by another 1.2 million votes wouldn't yield the 2020 Democratic nominee a single additional Electoral vote.

Over the same time period, Texas has added a net 1,188,514 nonwhite voting-age citizens and just 200,002 white voting-age citizens. Texas' economic boom has attracted a diverse, highly professional workforce to burgeoning urban centers of Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio and shifted the state's politics leftward — especially as GOP votes have begun to "max out" in stagnant rural areas. In 2016, Clinton cut Obama's 2012 deficit from 1.2 million to just over 800,000. But again, even cutting Trump's margin by 800,000 wouldn't yield the 2020 Democratic nominee a single additional Electoral vote.

Democrats' potential inefficiencies aren't limited to California and Texas: The list of the nation's top 15 fastest-diversifying states also includes the sizable yet safely blue states of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington and Oregon.
Meanwhile, demographic transformation isn't nearly as rapid in the narrow band of states that are best-positioned to decide the Electoral College — a factor that seriously aids Trump.

In 2016, Trump's victory hinged on three Great Lakes states he won by less than a point: Michigan (0.2 percent), Pennsylvania (0.7 percent) and Wisconsin (0.8 percent). All three of these aging, relatively white states have some of the nation's highest shares of white voters without college degrees — a group trending away from Democrats over the long term
. And the nonwhite share of the eligible electorate in each of the three has increased at only a quarter to a half of the rate it has surged in California, Texas and Nevada.

Democrats eagerly point out that they swept Senate and governors' races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2018. And they flipped two seats in Michigan and four in Pennsylvania on their way to taking back the House.

But Trump could lose Michigan and Pennsylvania and still win the Electoral College, so long as he carries every other place he won in 2016. And Wisconsin didn't provide as clear a verdict in 2018. Even with favorable turnout in a "blue wave," Democrats won Wisconsin's governor's race only by a point and failed to gain a House seat. If enough Trump voters who sat out 2018 — particularly white working-class men — return to the polls in 2020, the Badger State could easily stay red.

There are a lot of scenarios that could happen in 2020, but the most likely ones keep coming back to Wisconsin as the sole state that decides the presidency.  Running up the score in California and Texas isn't going to help Dems one bit when it comes to beating Trump.

And if Trump holds Florida and NC, he can lose PA and MI and still win if he keeps Wisconsin and Arizona, and should a 269-269 split occur -- again, not impossible -- the GOP wins because they have more state House delegations.

However, we can trade Arizona for Wisconsin.

Like I said, lot of scenarios.

Turkey Week: Bye Bye Bibi

If you want to know what America will look like in a few months after articles of impeachment are approved by the House, take a look at this week in Israel at the response by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his indictments on bribery.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was struggling to both stoke and contain a popular backlash against prosecutors as some of his supporters distanced themselves from the bellicose rhetoric he has employed since being indicted last week on bribery and fraud charges.
The divisions were on display Tuesday night at a raucous pro-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv. Angry supporters reportedly chanted “Die Leftist” and “Arrest the Investigators” and carried signs reading “Cops — Or Criminals?”

Speakers railed against the attorney general and prosecutors — who have been given security details in recent days — parroting the prime minister’s portrayal of the indictments as a “coup” attempt by an unaccountable deep state and a biased media. One protester attempted to grab the microphone of an on-air journalist as another spat on him.
But, following a day of speculation about his plans, Netanyahu failed to make an appearance at the gathering as discomfort over his scorched-earth response to the indictments grew. Few senior officials of his Likud party — who have been markedly silent in recent days — attended the rally, many citing scheduling conflicts when pressed by journalists.

Others, while supporting Netanyahu, have criticized the attacks on law enforcement as misguided and corrosive. Culture Minister Miri Regev, one of the senior officials who did speak under the banner reading “Safeguarding the Country, Stopping the Coup,” beseeched the crowd to tone it down.

“We can’t let our feeling of disappointment hurt the rule of law,” Regev said, according to reports. “We in Likud uphold the law, and we want the law to protect us.”

Her appeal to take down some of the more offensive banners, some naming and picturing the lead attorneys in the case, was probably derived from the same sensitivities that kept most senior Likud leaders away — a fear that the constant attacks on state institutions could turn into violence.

Since the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, any hint of political incitement, particularly against individuals, invokes the high emotions of that period. Many in Israel, including Rabin’s family, recall the fiery opposition to Rabin’s peace plan with the Palestinians and some draw a direct line between the fierce criticism and the fatal shot.

According to Israeli media reports, Likud officials cautioned Netanyahu and his proxies to back off the incendiary rhetoric, warning that a war on law enforcement would come back to hurt the party politically.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who oversaw the three-year investigation into the prime minister’s dealings with wealthy business executives, decried the attacks on his office at a gathering of prosecutors Tuesday.

“I hear threats, I hear lies, I hear baseless slander; it’s shocking,” Mandelblit said, defending the state prosecution’s role of protecting Israel from crime and government corruption, human rights violations and abuse of power. “The fact that [the lead prosecutors] now have bodyguards solely because they carried out their duties is inconceivable.”

Likudniks are smart enough to realize that Netanyahu is definitely heading for a violent uprising in order to have the window to secure power for himself, and they are backing away as quickly as they can.  Without their support, Netanyahu isn't going to be able to hold on much longer.  He's played his cards and he's waiting to see everyone else's hand.

The problem is in the American version of this screenplay, Trump holds multiple rallies and openly calls for somebody to "do something" about the Democrats who impeached him, and to "do something" about the Democratic voters who put them in charge of the House.

And then things get ugly and violent very, very quickly.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Turkey Week: Climate Of Disaster

The latest UN report on climate change has reached to admission that humanity failed to prevent environmental disaster and that the Paris Accord goals are now meaningless, the question now is how badly it will get over the next 80 years.

The world has squandered so much time mustering the action necessary to combat climate change that rapid, unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas emissions offer the only hope of averting an ever-intensifying cascade of consequences, according to new findings from the United Nations.

Already, the past year has brought devastating hurricanes, relentless wildfires and crippling heat waves, prompting millions of protesters to take to the streets to demand more attention to a problem that seems increasingly urgent.

Amid that growing pressure to act, Tuesday’s U.N. report offers a grim assessment of how off-track the world remains. Global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, according to the United Nations’ annual “emissions gap” report, which assesses the difference between the world’s current path and the changes needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

As part of that deal, world leaders agreed to hold warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels; the current trajectory is nearly twice that.

Should that pace continue, scientists say, the result could be widespread, catastrophic effects: Coral reefs, already dying in some places, would probably dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Some coastal cities, already wrestling with flooding, would be constantly inundated by rising seas. In much of the world, severe heat, already intense, could become unbearable.

Global greenhouse gas emissions must begin falling by 7.6 percent each year beginning 2020 — a rate currently nowhere in sight — to meet the most ambitious aims of the Paris climate accord, the report issued early Tuesday found
. Its authors acknowledged that the findings are “bleak.” After all, the world has never demonstrated the ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions on such a scale.

Keep in mind the Trump regime has 100% walked away from the accords.  The Republican party will never allow for meaningful reductions in carbon while they are in power.

“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said in a statement announcing the findings. “We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.”

The sobering report comes at a critical moment, when it remains unclear whether world leaders can summon the political will to take the ambitious action scientists say is essential. So far, the answer has been no.

Global emissions have risen about 1.5 percent annually on average over the past decade. In the coming decade, that trend must reverse — profoundly and rapidly — if world leaders are to limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) or even 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial levels, scientists say.

The world already has warmed more than 1 degree Celsius.
Tuesday’s report, which is viewed as the benchmark of the world’s progress in meeting its climate goals, underscores how the pledges that nations made years ago in Paris are woefully inadequate to achieving the goals of the accord. To hold warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, the authors found that countries would need to triple the ambition of their current promises. To hit the more ambitious target of no more than 1.5 degrees of warming, they found, nations would need to ramp up their pledges fivefold.

“Every year of delay beyond 2020 brings a need for faster cuts, which become increasingly expensive, unlikely and impractical,” the report states. “Delays will also quickly put the 1.5C goal out of reach.”

A Washington Post analysis this year found that roughly 20 percent of the world has already warmed to troubling levels. Slowing future warming will require monumental changes, such as phasing out gas-powered cars, halting the construction of coal-fired power plants and overhauling how humans grow food and manage land.

And that's what the fossil fuel industry requires: for things to get so bad that any action is simply written off as too expensive, because it will be.

Billions will die, but who cares, right?  It's all a hoax...

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Turkey Week: The Reach To Impeach

Impeachment proceedings the House Intelligence Committee are done, but that only means it's time for the main event in the House Judiciary Committee to begin next Wednesday.

The first House Judiciary Committee hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 4, will consist of legal experts on the impeachment process
. The announcement of the hearing comes after the House Intelligence Committee held fact-finding hearings about Trump’s alleged plot to withhold millions in aid to Ukraine until the country announced an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, whom Trump saw as a chief political rival.

“At base, the President has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, in a statement. “I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other Presidents have done before him.”

Nadler wrote in his letter to Trump that he was “hopeful that you and your counsel will opt to participate in the Committee’s hearing, consistent with the rules of decorum and with the solemn nature of the work before us.”

House investigators haven’t heard from some of the figures at the center of the alleged plot, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn had to testify before Congress, a decision which could impact other congressional subpoenas.

But the Trump administration has appealed, and a Democratic aide said that if they simply waited for the judicial process to play out, the administration would be successful in interfering in the congressional investigation.

We'll see what happens next week.

Turkey Week: The Battle For Bevinstan

As I said when Andy Beshear won Kentucky's governor's race earlier this year, expect the state's GOP legislature to immediately start transferring as much power away from the office as possible.  It's already beginning and Beshear hasn't even taken office yet.

State Senate leaders are backing a bill that would limit the governor’s power to name a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet secretary, essentially shifting that role to a citizen board nominated by influential business and government groups.

The newly created board would develop the first draft of the state’s two-year road budget and base it on an “objective scoring system.” The governor’s administration now creates the plan sent to legislators.

Among other duties, the nine-member Kentucky Transportation Board would compile a list of candidates for Transportation Secretary, then send the names to the governor. He or she would choose from that list.

The bill also would make the Transportation Secretary subject to Senate confirmation – the only cabinet leader in a governor’s administration with that requirement.

The measure is sponsored by three Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature – Sen. Jimmy Higdon; vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee; committee chair Sen. Ernie Harris; and Senate President Robert Stivers. It was prefiled on Nov. 5, the day Democratic Gov.-elect Andy Beshear defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Higdon said the timing was coincidental. “It’s not directed at (anyone),” he said. “We had no idea who the governor would be when that was filed.”

Instead, he said the proposal is an effort to insulate the state's transportation spending process from the politics that for years have held sway over road projects. It's modelled after a similar approach in Virginia, where an independent board oversees transportation projects, he added.

A governor still would have some influence over the Kentucky board’s makeup. But first, the Kentucky Association of Counties, the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce would nominate one person from each of the state’s six Congressional districts as potential members, as well as three at-large candidates.

The governor then would appoint the nine members from the list of candidates, with no more than five board members of the same political party. Louisville’s Congressional district would have one member; the bill would also require that one of the at-large members represent an area with more than 50,000 people.

The Senate would ultimately confirm the board members.

So the bill is going to be a "good governance" approach to the state's transportation, road, and bridge issues, but mysteriously it's the Republican-dominated State Senate who would get final say over the members of the state Transportation Cabinet board, the Transportation Cabinet secretary, transportation budget planning, and of course be able to pass and then override the governor's veto on any road budget items.

Literally the only thing the governor would get to do is pick the board, and the governor's hands would be tied by a 5-4 party alignment.  In other words, Beshear would have virtually no input over how the state spends billions in transportation funds.

I'm sure this bill would have been summarily killed in committee if Bevin had won the election, but since he didn't, suddenly this bill is very, very popular.

Expect other aspects of the governor's power to be stripped over the next few months.

The Battle for Bevinstan is far from over with these turkeys.

And speaking of Andy Beshear, he and Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards took to the Washington Post with an op-ed making the case on how Democrats can beat Trump in red states.

The secret sauce is not really a secret. To win, we had to reach out to people across the political spectrum, including people who voted for President Trump. So we campaigned everywhere, treating every voter with respect, as winnable, because showing up still matters to the people we wanted to lead.

For one of us (Edwards), it meant visiting the 53 parishes that voted for Trump. For the other (Beshear), it meant many trips to Kentucky counties that hadn’t voted for a Democrat in a decade or more. We met the voters where they are, running on greater access to health care, education and good-paying jobs. Only by talking about the issues voters care about can you earn back their trust.

Here’s why: Voters are worried about whether getting sick means they will go bankrupt. Or whether a daughter in 2nd grade will get the education she needs and deserves. They care more about having a champion who fights for good-paying, stable jobs in the local economy than who fights about whatever is generating the latest debate on Twitter.

Our opponents attempted to nationalize our races, making them about the politics of Washington. The president came to each of our states to campaign for our opponents. This was not likely to change the outcome because the people we met on the campaign trail do not believe the politics of Washington are working for them. And they certainly don’t want their governor to follow in the footsteps of what they see coming out of the nation’s capital.

Instead, people are looking for leaders who will bring us together to make progress for their families. Neither of us could afford to speak only to loyal Democrats or people who agree with us on every issue. Engaging with people who are frustrated with the system is critical not only to winning an election but also to advancing an agenda.

Governing requires that we work with everyone, regardless of party, who comes to the table in good faith. We must all go forward together.

Families in both Kentucky and Louisiana worried that their health-care coverage and our states’ Medicaid expansions were going to be ripped away by a Republican governor. They were similarly worried about their local schools keeping the doors open and retaining quality teachers. They want policies to provide solutions to the challenges they face in their daily lives. Voters went to the polls because they felt heard and believed we would work with members of both parties to fight for them.

Medicaid expansion won in both states, guys.  It wasn't rocket science.  Republicans have destroyed the ACA and Medicaid expansion at every opportunity.




Monday, November 25, 2019

Turkey Week: Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

The House Intelligence Committee is in possession of audio and video recordings and photographs provided to the committee by Lev Parnas, an associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly played a key role in assisting him in his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

The material submitted to the committee includes audio, video and photos that include Giuliani and Trump. It was unclear what the content depicts and the committees only began accessing the material last week.

"We have subpoenaed Mr. Parnas and Mr. [Igor] Fruman for their records. We would like them to fully comply with those subpoenas," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN Sunday, with a committee spokesperson adding they would not elaborate beyond the chairman's comments.

An attorney for Parnas, Joseph A. Bondy, also declined to comment, directing ABC News to a statement released earlier in the day Sunday reading in part, "Mr. Parnas has vociferously and publicly asserted his wish to comply with his previously issued subpoena and to provide the House Intelligence Committee with truthful and important information that is in furtherance of justice, not to obstruct it."

The statement goes on to say, "His evidence and potential testimony is non-partisan, and not intended to be part of a battle between the left and the right, but rather an aid in the determination by our government of what is in the best interests of our nation."
Sources tell ABC News the tapes were provided as part of that congressional subpoena issued to Parnas, and the former Giuliani ally also provided a number of documents both in English and Ukrainian to the committee in two separate productions, sources told ABC News.

However, some of the material sought by congressional investigators is already in possession of federal investigators within the Southern District of New York and thus held up from being turned over, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Have a great Thanksgiving, Rudy.

This time next year you'll be eating prison mashed potatoes.

The other big revelation today is that we know the White House absolutely covered up Trump's decision to extort Ukraine's government by blocking military aid to Kiev, and we know because they did such a horrendous job of hiding their tracks.

A confidential White House review of President Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records.

The research by the White House Counsel’s Office, which was triggered by a congressional impeachment inquiry announced in September, includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after the president had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance, according to the three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It’s unclear whether the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly. 
People familiar with the Office of Management and Budget’s handling of the holdup in aid acknowledged the internal discussions going on during August, but characterized the conversations as calm, routine and focused on the legal question of how to comply with the congressional Budget and Impoundment Act, which requires the executive branch to spend congressionally appropriated funds unless Congress agrees they can be rescinded.

“There was a legal consensus at every step of the way that the money could be withheld to conduct the policy review,” said OMB spokeswoman Rachel K. Semmel. “OMB works closely with agencies on executing the budget. Routine practices and procedures were followed, not scrambling.”

The hold on the military aid is at the heart of House Democrats’ investigation into whether the president should be removed from office for allegedly trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals in exchange for the U.S. support that President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately wanted in the face of Russian military aggression.

In the early August email exchanges, Mulvaney asked acting OMB director Russell Vought for an update on the legal rationale for withholding the aid and how much longer it could be delayed. Trump had made the decision the prior month without an assessment of the reasoning or legal justification
, according to two White House officials. Emails show Vought and OMB staffers arguing that withholding aid was legal, while officials at the National Security Council and State Department protested. OMB lawyers said that it was legal to withhold the aid, as long as they deemed it a “temporary” hold, according to people familiar with the review.

A senior budget lawyer crafted a memo on July 25 that defended the hold for at least a short period of time, an administration official said.

Mulvaney’s request for information came days after the White House Counsel’s Office was put on notice that an anonymous CIA official had made a complaint to the agency’s general counsel about Trump’s July 25 call to Zelensky during which he requested Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as an unfounded theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

This official would later file a whistleblower complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general, which ignited the impeachment push when its existence became public.

The White House released the funding to Ukraine on Sept. 11. The timing has drawn scrutiny because it came two days after the House was formally alerted to a whistleblower complaint, who raised concerns about the call and whether the president was using his public office for personal political gain.

We knew all this before from the extensive testimony over the last two weeks, as well as the stories that I've covered here in this blog on Ukraine and the Trump regime's extortion.

This however is coming from Mick Mulvaney, or sources close to him.  This is coming from the White House side.  This is Mulvaney, who used to run the Office of Management and Budget before he became acting WH chief of staff, covering for his old agency and his friends there.

And this is Mulvaney leaking that he's not going to go down for this, anticipating the dagger in the back from Trump himself.  Note the phrase "It’s unclear whether the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly" right there in the lead paragraph.

This is Mulvaney setting down a marker.  You'd think Mulvaney would be forced to testify over this, but of course he won't be.  It doesn't mean he can't hurt Trump.

Like I said, gonna be a real interesting Thanksgiving for Donny this week.

Turkey Week Time Off

Gobble gobble, y'all.

Taking a bit of break for the holiday, light posting schedule but I'll post anything big that happens over Thanksgiving week.

I should be back on a regular schedule by this time next week (Monday December 2) and there will be a lot on everyone's plates, not just leftovers.

Good luck with those Thanksgiving conversations with the family about impeachment!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday Long Read: Filling The Silence

Shortly after this Chicago Tribune/ProPublica Illinois story appeared on the state's treatment of putting schoolkids in the equivalent of solitary confinement as a disciplinary practice in the era of zero tolerance public education, state lawmakers and Gov. Pritzker ended the practice. If any piece deserves a Pulitzer this year, it's our Sunday Long Read for this week.

The spaces have gentle names: The reflection room. The cool-down room. The calming room. The quiet room. 
But shut inside them, in public schools across the state, children as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger and beg to be let out. 
The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens. 
In Illinois, it’s legal for school employees to seclude students in a separate space — to put them in “isolated timeout” — if the students pose a safety threat to themselves or others. Yet every school day, workers isolate children for reasons that violate the law, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois has found. 
Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos. School employees use isolated timeout for convenience, out of frustration or as punishment, sometimes referring to it as “serving time.” 
For this investigation, ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune obtained and analyzed thousands of detailed records that state law requires schools to create whenever they use seclusion. The resulting database documents more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018. 
Of those, about 12,000 included enough detail to determine what prompted the timeout. In more than a third of these incidents, school workers documented no safety reason for the seclusion. 
State education officials are unaware of these repeated violations because they do not monitor schools’ use of the practice. Parents, meanwhile, often are told little about what happens to their children. 
The Tribune/ProPublica Illinois investigation, which also included more than 120 interviews with parents, children and school officials, provides the first in-depth examination of this practice in Illinois. 
Because school employees observing the students often keep a moment-by-moment log, the records examined by reporters offer a rare view of what happens to children inside these rooms — often in their own words. 
Without doubt, many of the children being secluded are challenging. Records show school employees struggling to deal with disruptive, even violent behavior, such as hitting, kicking and biting. Workers say that they have to use seclusion to keep everyone in the classroom safe and that the practice can help children learn how to calm themselves.

But disability advocates, special-education experts and administrators in school systems that have banned seclusion argue that the practice has no therapeutic or educational value, that it can traumatize children — and that there are better alternatives. 
No federal law regulates the use of seclusion, and Congress has debated off and on for years whether that should change. Last fall, a bill was introduced that would prohibit seclusion in public schools that receive federal funding. A U.S. House committee held a hearing on the issue in January, but there’s been no movement since. 
Nineteen states prohibit secluding children in locked rooms; four of them ban any type of seclusion. But Illinois continues to rely on the practice. The last time the U.S. Department of Education calculated state-level seclusion totals, in 2013-14, Illinois ranked No. 1.

And again, Illinois has now banned the practice pending reform legislation.  This story changed the law. It made a difference and the impact was real, a change measured in days, not years. This is what I mean when I say our media is a force for good and must be used as such.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Last Call For Climate of Disaster, Con't

Australia's record-setting bushfires, stoked by climate change and unprecedented drought, have all but wiped out the habitat for the island's koalas.

As Australia experiences record-breaking drought and bushfires, koala populations have dwindled along with their habitat, leaving them “functionally extinct.”

The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, estimates that over 1,000 koalas have been killed from the fires and that 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed.

Recent bushfires, along with prolonged drought and deforestation has led to koalas becoming “functionally extinct” according to experts.

Functional extinction is when a population becomes so limited that they no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem and the population becomes no longer viable. While some individuals could produce, the limited number of koalas makes the long-term viability of the species unlikely and highly susceptible to disease.

Deforestation and bushfires destroy the main nutrient source of koalas, the eucalyptus tree. An adult koala will eat up to 2 pounds of eucalyptus leaves per day as it’s main staple of nutrients. While eucalyptus plants will grow back after a fire, it will take months, leaving no suitable food source for koalas and starvation a likely scenario for many.

Many are urging the Australian government to enact the Koala Protection Act, written in 2016 but never passed into law and molded after the Bald Eagle Protection Act in the U.S. The Koala Protection Act would work to protect habitats and trees vital to koalas as well as protect koalas from hunting.

Recent viral videos of Australians rescuing koalas has led to increased donation to support hospitalization and help for burned koalas.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital setup a Go Fund Me page seeking donations to help the hospital treat injured koalas. To date, they have raised $1.33 million, well over their $25,000 goal. This comes from over 30,000 donors.

Expect this to continue for the rest of your lifetime, and for the systematic obliteration of wildlife habitats to continue across the globe.  THousands of species are going to go extince in the next decade or so, and it's only a matter of time before humans end up on that endangered list.

Well, the poor members of our species, at any rate.  The rich ones will be fine.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

More news from late last night, as the Washington Post broke the story that Trump is outright buying off dozens of House Republicans on the subject of impeachment with weekend trips to Camp David.

President Trump, partial to gold and marble elegance, never took a shine to rustic Camp David. So acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney pitched to him an unusual idea at the start of the House impeachment inquiry: Use the secluded mountainous presidential retreat to woo House Republicans.

Since then, Mulvaney and top White House officials have hosted weekend getaways for Republicans at the historic lodge, seeking to butter up Republicans before the big impeachment vote
. The casual itinerary includes making s’mores over the campfire, going hiking, shooting clay pigeons and schmoozing with Trump officials, some of whom stay overnight with lawmakers.

During dinners, Trump has called in to compliment members personally.

“I’ve worked with a number of Republican presidents over various administrations . . . and I’ve never, ever been invited to Camp David,” said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.). “It was amazing to go for the short weekend. So historic.”
The Camp David excursions are one prong of a broad White House charm offensive, meant to hold House and Senate Republicans in line through a House impeachment vote and a trial in the Senate that appears all but inevitable. 
Never shy to feud with his own party, Trump has for weeks refrained from full-throated attacks against Republicans who have been even remotely critical of the conduct now under scrutiny by the House: The president’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

The White House has made sure that a small clutch of Republican lawmakers have accompanied Trump to a trio of recent sporting events, whether at the Ultimate Fighting Championship in New York, the World Series in Washington or at the football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., between the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University

In recent weeks, the White House has also invited a group of GOP senators every Thursday to have lunch with the president, where the mealtime conversation rarely centers on impeachment but inevitably veers toward it, according to participants.
Trump’s message to the senators echoes what he has said publicly against charges that he abused the powers of his office, and Republicans who’ve attended say they feel no overt pressure from the president to stay on his side.

The corruption at this point is open and the whole Republican Party is coming along for the ride.  Transactional Trump is buying off lawmakers with trips and events because that's how he's always done business, so why should it be any different among House Republicans passing judgment on Trump's lawlessness?

It's the equivalent of a mob boss buying off grand jurors.

Oh, but it gets worse.  It always gets worse for the corrupt Trump regime, doesn't it?  Ethics watchdog group American Oversight released multiple documents from the State Department late Friday night obtained through FOIA requests, and they show contact between Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and between Giuliani and House Intelligence Committee GOP ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes all the way back in March of 2019.

Statement from American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers:

“We can see why Mike Pompeo has refused to release this information to Congress. It reveals a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to Secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani’s smear campaign against a U.S. ambassador.

“This is just the first round of disclosures. The evidence is only going to get worse for the administration as its stonewall strategy collapses in the face of court orders.

“That American Oversight could obtain these documents establishes that there is no legal basis for the administration to withhold them from Congress. That conclusively shows that the administration is engaged in obstruction of justice. The president and his allies should ask themselves if impeachment for obstruction is worth it if the strategy isn’t even going to be effective.

“This lawsuit is just one of several American Oversight is pursuing to bring transparency to the Ukraine investigation. The public should expect more disclosures, over the administration’s strong objection, for the foreseeable future.”

In the Documents:

New: The documents show a March 26, 2019, call between Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pompeo. (Page 39 of document)

A March 28, 2019, email includes a list of scheduled calls for Pompeo. Calls include Rudy Giuliani on March 29, and Rep. Devin Nunes on April 1, 2019.

On March 27, 2019, Rudy Giuliani’s assistant contacted Madeleine Westerhout, who was serving as the president’s Oval Office gatekeeper at the time. She asked Westerhout for a “good number” for Pompeo, adding that she had “been trying and getting nowhere through regular channels.” Westerhout contacted someone at the State Department to ask for a number she could provide. (Page 55)

During his closed-door testimony, career diplomat David Hale mentioned two calls between Pompeo and Giuliani, one on March 28, 2019, and one on March 29. The documents include a March 28 email to Hale indicating that Pompeo had been the one to request a call with Giuliani. (Page 45)

The March 29 call appears on page 46, and the confirmation of its scheduling is on page 44.

Also in the documents: An April 5 letter to the State Department from six former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine (including Bill Taylor), expressing their concern about the attacks on U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. (Page 13)

On April 12, 2019, Reps. Steny Hoyer and Eliot Engel wrote to Pompeo, also expressing their concern (page 28). The State Department responded on June 11, saying “Yovanovitch was due to complete her three-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv this summer.” (Page 34).

The documents are here.

This criminality continues to be overwhelming at this point.  The corruption is across the board.  After Justin Amash's political career was butchered and hung to bleed out for everyone to see, no Republican will dare to lift a hand against Trump. 

So Trump will continue to buy loyal lawmakers with trips to Camp David and sporting events and more to protect himself, and the Republican party is now so utterly corrupt that they cannot escape Trump's criminal gravity without destroying themselves.

They would rather destroy the country than risk what happened to Amash happening to them.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

Several stories related to the impeachment inquiry broke late last night, so we'll review.  First, and arguably most important: indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas's lawyer says Parnas is willing to testify to Congress against Giuliani...and GOP Rep. Devin Nunes.
A lawyer for an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani tells CNN that his client is willing to tell Congress about meetings the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee had in Vienna last year with a former Ukrainian prosecutor to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden. 
The attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, represents Lev Parnas, the recently indicted Soviet-born American who worked with Giuliani to push claims of Democratic corruption in Ukraine. Bondy said that Parnas was told directly by the former Ukrainian official that he met last year in Vienna with Rep. Devin Nunes. 
"Mr. Parnas learned from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin that Nunes had met with Shokin in Vienna last December," said Bondy
Shokin was ousted from his position in 2016 after pressure from Western leaders, including then-vice president Biden, over concerns that Shokin was not pursuing corruption cases. 
Nunes is one of President Donald Trump's key allies in Congress and has emerged as a staunch defender of the President during the impeachment inquiry, which he has frequently labeled as a "circus." Nunes declined repeated requests for comment. 
Bondy tells CNN that his client and Nunes began communicating around the time of the Vienna trip. Parnas says he worked to put Nunes in touch with Ukrainians who could help Nunes dig up dirt on Biden and Democrats in Ukraine, according to Bondy. 
That information would likely be of great interest to House Democrats given its overlap with the current impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and could put Nunes in a difficult spot. 
Bondy tells CNN his client is willing to comply with a Congressional subpoena for documents and testimony as part of the impeachment inquiry in a manner that would allow him to protect his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Bondy suggested in a tweet on Friday that he was already speaking to House Intel though the committee declined to comment

Somebody's gonna have a rotten Thanksgiving. Several somebodies, in fact.  And this is pretty huge news because Nunes's direct involvement in the Ukraine scandal means he has to recuse himself from the hearings, oh and yeah, there's the legal issues too.

And over in the Senate?  Republicans there were briefed that Russia was running disinformation ops to blame Ukraine for the 2016 election meddling, something Donald Trump has bought into full bore.

In a classified briefing this fall, US intelligence officials told senators and their aides that Russia has engaged in a years-long campaign to shift the blame away from Russia and onto Ukraine for interfering in the 2016 American presidential campaign, according to two US officials.

That briefing aligns closely with Thursday’s testimony from Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia expert. The message conveyed by US intelligence officials to lawmakers also takes on new relevance as many of those conspiracy theories have been increasingly repeated by Republican lawmakers.

Senators were told that the Russian disinformation operation focused on a handful of Ukrainians who openly criticized or sought to damage Trump’s candidacy — efforts that were significantly less organized than the multi-faceted election interference push ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, one US official said, confirming details first reported by the New York Times.

US intelligence officials also told lawmakers that Russia used intelligence operatives to spread now debunked conspiracies, along with established facts, to frame Ukraine for the interference in the 2016 campaign, the official said.

Russian intelligence officers conveyed that information to prominent Russians and Ukrainians, including oligarchs, to pass along to US political figures and some journalists who likely were unaware of where it came from, according to the same official.

All roads lead to Russia and Putin in the end with Trump and the GOP.  They are compromised so badly that our republic is failing because of it.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

President Donald Trump's criticisms of NATO have been one of the most concerning elements of his presidency to date for career diplomats and Pentagon officials.

A new book written by an anonymous White House insider published this week has shed further light on the president's aversion to the Cold War-era alliance, alleging Trump claimed the U.S. is "getting raped" by its allies and pushed to ditch the accord.

A Warning, by Anonymous, was published earlier this week. It is written by the same unnamed White House official who authored an op-ed for The New York Times last year, claiming to be part of "the resistance" against Trump within his own administration, working to frustrate much of the president's policy agenda.

A portion of the book is dedicated to Trump's belligerent stance on NATO. Since coming into office, the president has repeatedly maligned the alliance and its members, accusing members of not spending enough on joint defense and suggesting the transatlantic bloc is no longer fit for purpose.

Trump even publicly questioned Article 5, the cornerstone of the alliance which requires NATO nations to come to the defense of a member if it is attacked. The article has only been involved once in NATO's 70-year history, by the U.S. following the 9/11 attacks.

According to Anonymous, Trump "has repeatedly astounded advisors" by suggesting he wishes to withdraw from NATO, which is underpinned by American money and military might.

"This would be a huge gift to the Russians, who have long opposed the twenty-nine nation group," Anonymous wrote

Anonymous may be a coward and an enabler, but I absolutely believe that a second-term Trump will do to Eastern Europe and Germany what he's already done to Syrian Kurds and walk away from NATO as an alliance, turning everything over to the EU to deal with while we leave the region militarily.

Trump has repeatedly attacked NATO and repeatedly said he wants to cut funding, if not end it. Ukraine's Crimea invaded by Moscow is a trial run.  Putin wants the old Soviet states back.

If Trump is reelected, Putin will get them. Trump will gladly hand them over.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

The Republican party only exists to enable Donald Trump to do the things they've wanted to do for decades now, namely reverse the Civil Rights and Voting Rights era and to return the country back to the historical norms as a white supremacist regime.  Paul Krugman on the Death Cult of Trumpism:

Formally, the House of Representatives is holding an inquiry into the question of whether Donald J. Trump should be impeached. In reality, we’ve known the answer to that question for a long time. In a different era, when both parties believed in the Constitution, Trump’s abuse of his position for personal gain would have led to his removal from office long ago.

No, what we’re actually witnessing is a test of the depths to which the Republican Party will sink. How much corruption, how much collusion with foreign powers and betrayal of the national interest will that party’s elected representatives stand for?

And the result of that test seems increasingly clear: There is no bottom. The inquiry hasn’t found a smoking gun; it has found what amounts to a smoking battery of artillery. Yet almost no partisan Republicans have turned on Trump and his high-crimes-and-misdemeanors collaborators. Why not?

The answer gets to the heart of what’s wrong with modern American politics: The G.O.P. is now a thoroughly corrupt party. Trump is a symptom, not the disease, and our democracy will remain under dire threat even if and when he’s gone.

Even if Trump resigned this weekend, the damage he has done to the country will most likely outlive myself.  It will take us decades just to get back to the relative progressiveness of say, 2013.

The usual explanation you hear for G.O.P. acquiescence in Trumpian malfeasance is that elected Republicans fear being defeated in a primary if they show any hint of wavering. And that’s certainly an important part of the story.

Republicans haven’t forgotten what happened in 2014, when David Brat, a Tea Party insurgent, ousted Eric Cantor, at the time the House majority leader. Cantor was a hard-line conservative, but mild-mannered in affect, and perceived as soft on immigration. The lesson was that the G.O.P. base demands red meat, and these days that means supporting Trump no matter what.

But electoral fears aren’t the only thing keeping Republicans in line.

On one side, I don’t think most observers realize, even now, the extent to which many Republicans view their domestic opponents not as fellow citizens but as enemies with no legitimate right to govern.

William Barr, the attorney general, says that progressives are “militant secularists” out to “destroy the traditional moral order.” If that’s how you see the world, you’ll support anything — up to and including soliciting and/or extorting intervention by foreign powers in U.S. elections — that helps defeat those progressives

I've been saying this for years.  Republicans want to make sure that non-Christians, non-whites, LGBTQ+ folks, women, and immigrants are second-class citizens, legally, morally, and socially. I keep referring to the Republic of Gilead, the fictional dystopia of the Handmaid's Tale, for a reason.

It's not fiction any longer.  It's a civil planning manual.

For those to the manor-born, the safety of being the right people.  For the rest of us, we are tolerated only as long as we support the system.  The second we speak out against the arrangement, we become enemies of the state.

We are only subject to rights as long as they are earned by being one of the good ones. Everyone else is a traitor.  The GOP wants this so badly they can taste it.  They'll never turn on Trump, because he is letting them do whatever they want, and they win as long as they continue to support him.

Tens of millions of Americans now support a criminal enterprise out of necessity, failure to do so means they will be destroyed by the monster they created.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

With the twin investigations into the investigators by Trump's personal lawyer AG Bill Barr almost complete, we're already getting leaks about what the report contains as the regime's efforts to get impeachment off of America's front pages goes into overdrive.

There's little doubt now that another round of big font type headlines like this will end Trump's regime, so the subject is being changed.

A former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation after allegedly altering a document related to 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, several people briefed on the matter told CNN.
The possibility of a substantive change to an investigative document is likely to fuel accusations from President Donald Trump and his allies that the FBI committed wrongdoing in its investigation of connections between Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign. 
The finding is expected to be part of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's review of the FBI's effort to obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. Horowitz will release the report next month. 
Horowitz turned over evidence on the allegedly altered document to John Durham, the federal prosecutor appointed early this year by Attorney General William Barr to conduct a broad investigation of intelligence gathered for the Russia probe by the CIA and other agencies, including the FBI. The altered document is also at least one focus of Durham's criminal probe. 
It's unknown how significant a role the altered document played in the FBI's investigation of Page and whether the FISA warrant would have been approved without the document. The alterations were significant enough to have shifted the document's meaning and came up during a part of Horowitz's FISA review where details were classified, according to the sources. 
Some witnesses who have been interviewed in Horowitz's investigation have said they expect the inspector general to find mistakes in the FBI's handling of the FISA process, but that those mistakes do not undermine the premise for the FBI's investigation. 
American intelligence agencies and the Justice Department have not swayed from their finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election by hacking the Democrats and spreading pro-Trump propaganda online. And even former top Trump campaign officials have corroborated special counsel Robert Mueller's finding that the Trump campaign planned some of its strategy around the Russian hacks, and had multiple contacts with Kremlin-linked individuals in 2016. 
Horowitz's investigators conducted more than 100 witness interviews in their review. During one of interviews this year, they confronted the witness about the document. The witness admitted to the change, the sources said. 
The identity or rank of the FBI employee under investigation isn't yet known, and it's not clear whether the employee still works in the federal government. No charges that could reflect the situation have been filed publicly in court. 
The Justice Department and inspector general's office declined to comment. 

So now it becomes a race, which happens first, House Democrats vote on and pass articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, or Barr starts indicting Russia collusion investigators in an obvious attempt to derail impeachment?

Ahh, but Trump and company are getting a major assist from Sen. Lindsey Graham.  The Senate has their part to play in this mess too, and if Trump can't convince Ukraine to investigate Biden, then Lackey Lindsey will.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday requesting documents related to former vice president Joe Biden and his communications with Ukrainian officials, a step seen as a GOP effort to counter the House impeachment investigation of President Trump.

The inquiry by Graham (R-S.C.) is focused on any calls Biden may have had with Petro Poroshenko, then the Ukrainian president, regarding the firing of the country’s top prosecutor, as well as any that referenced an investigation of Burisma, the Ukrainian natural-gas company that employed Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

Graham’s document request suggests he is seeking to legitimize Trump’s accusations that Biden, then vice president, put pressure on Ukraine to fire its lead prosecutor to protect his son, a claim without evidence that has been disputed by officials familiar with the investigation. 
Graham, one of Trump’s fiercest defenders on Capitol Hill, told The Washington Post in late October that he was under intense pressure to launch an investigation into Biden by Trump and his allies.

But he said he would not “turn the Senate into a circus” and would instead focus his committee’s work on the investigation into the Justice Department’s launch of the Russia investigation.

Taylor Reidy, a spokeswoman for Graham, said the senator is now seeking the documents because “Adam Schiff and the House Intel Committee have made it clear they will not look into the issues about Hunter Biden and Burisma.” Rep. Schiff (D-Calif.) is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“Graham is requesting documents which could shed additional light on that issue and hopes they will be able to answer some of the outstanding questions,” she said.

We're coming up on the crossroads.  The second week of December is when the House is expected to vote on impeachment before the holidays.  Barr is going to wreck as much as he can in order to try to save his boss, and Graham is going to flood the zone with bullshit hearings and subpoenas in order to counter-program impeachment.

It's going to get truly nasty.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Last Call For A Taxing Explanation, Con't

I expected California's tax return requirement law for presidential candidates not to stand up to any federal Constitutional tests, but the Trump regime won a unanimous victory in California's state Supreme Court today as the law was struck down.

President Donald Trump won’t have to release his tax returns to get on California’s 2020 primary ballot following a unanimous ruling from the state Supreme Court on Thursday that invalidated a new state law.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 27 into law in July to compel presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release five years of tax returns to get on California’s primary ballot. Jessica Patterson, chairwoman of the Republican Party then sued the state.

Under California’s constitution, the state must administer an “open presidential primary whereby the candidates on the ballot are those found by the secretary of state to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California.”

The court ruled the added requirement for tax returns “is in conflict with the (state) constitution’s specification of an inclusive open presidential primary ballot.”

Republicans arguing against California’s law claimed it would force “recognized candidates” off the ballot and discourage potential candidates from running for office, thus defying the constitution’s mandate for an “open” primary.

“Lawmakers didn’t even take into account the conflicts it may have with the state constitution,” Patterson said of the struck down law. “This is a pretty direct example that California Democrats here have been completely arrogant and their overreach knows no bounds. This was a solution in search of a problem.”

Patterson had worried fewer Republicans would show up for the primary if Trump weren’t at the top of the ticket, especially as Democrats appear fired up going into the 2020 primary, which the state had bumped up from June to March.

Under the state’s primary system, the two highest vote-getters could both be Democrats, which would prevent a Republican from advancing to the general election in down-ballot races.

“If we didn’t have our presumed nominee on the ballot in the 2020 primary, there would be Republicans that stayed home,” Patterson said.

The bill targeting Trump’s taxes came with a pressing deadline, and the Supreme Court’s decision provides clarity ahead of a key date. The law Newsom signed would have required those running for president to submit their tax returns to Secretary of State Alex Padilla by Nov. 26 in order to appear on the primary ballot.

I said this was a waste of time back in May and that it would never survive SCOTUS if it got there when Newsom signed it in July, but it ended up not even surviving state courts.

Other states have similar bills pending, but I would almost certainly expect them to be scrapped after this.  If it can't even pass California's courts, there's no possible fate for this but a 9-0 drubbing by the Roberts Court.

This was a stupid idea six months ago, it's a stupid idea now, and it's going to be even more stupid to appeal it.  Let it go, guys.  The Constitution is pretty clear about what the requirements for running for President are, and "your tax returns" isn't in there.

Besides, since the whole point was to expose Trump's tax returns (and let's not pretend that anything else was the motive) that's being fought in federal courts by House Democrats currently.  Let's stick to that and not open up the 55-gallon worm drum of red states being able to name their own requirements for who gets on the 2020 ballot, shall we?
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