Thursday, January 17, 2019

Last Call For Rats Fleeing The Ship

It's clear that Republicans definitely don't like being in the minority in the House, and we're already seeing outright resignations as GOP lawmakers start securing private sector jobs.  First out the door after just being re-elected: Pennsylvania Republican Tom Marino.

Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican, announced Thursday he'll resign from Congress to pursue a private sector job, after just starting his fifth term in Congress. 
"As of January 23, 2019, I am officially stepping down from Congress," Marino said in a statement. "Having spent over two decades serving the public, I have chosen to take a position in the private sector where I can use both my legal and business experience to create jobs around the nation." 
Marino thanked his constituents, saying serving in Congress was "one of the greatest honors of my life" and was "confident that the area will continue to thrive." 
Marino won 66% of the vote in November and his district covers a wide swath of northern and central Pennsylvania. 
He was an early Trump supporter among congressional Republicans. He was nominated to be the president's Drug Czar but withdrew after a joint CBS "60 Minutes" and Washington Post report revealed he took nearly $100,000 from pharmaceutical lobbyists.

I guarantee you that Marino will land on his feet with a big pharma lobbyist job somewhere...and nobody will bat an eyelash.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Facebook has finally gotten around to taking down pages and accounts linked to Russian "news agency" Sputnik International, itself a front for Russian propaganda for years, even though the accounts happily bought more than $100,000 in ads over the years as a cost of doing propaganda business, and Facebook was more than happy to take their money.

Facebook announced early Thursday morning that it had removed hundreds of troll pages and accounts posing as eastern European news outlets that were actually linked to staff of the Russian state news agency, Sputnik.

The batch of removed content included 289 pages and 75 Facebook accounts that pumped out anti-NATO sentiment alongside posts on anti-corruption and promoting protests. Nearly 800,000 users followed the accounts, which targeted people in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The pages and accounts spent $135,000 on Facebook ads between October 2013 and this month, and created roughly 190 events. Facebook could not confirm whether or not any gatherings actually occurred.

Facebook said it has been in contact with US law enforcement, the US Congress, other technology companies, and policymakers in impacted countries about the accounts.

The accounts often acted as an amplifier for Sputnik’s content as well as content from its parent organization Rossiya Segodnya, while never mentioning any tie to the media outlets, according to an analysis by the Atlantic Council, based on information Facebook provided ahead of its Thursday announcement.

“The pages represented a systematic, covert attempt to improve Rossiya Segodnya’s online audience across more than a dozen countries. Some had little impact, but others racked up tens of thousands of followers. Sputnik was the main beneficiary, as it was often the only source the Facebook pages amplified,” The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab concluded.

The company also revealed on Thursday that, as the result of a tip from American law enforcement, it had deleted a separate batch of 107 Facebook troll pages, groups, and accounts, as well as 41 Instagram troll accounts, all with Russian origins, but operated in Ukraine.

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, noted in a postthat the accounts exhibited “behavior that shared characteristics with previous Internet Research Agency activity.” (The IRA is a Russian government online disinformation bureau.)

The over 400 pages and accounts removed on Thursday are the first set of accounts originating from Russia Facebook has deleted since 2017. The company announced in September 2017 that it had discovered accounts linked to the IRA that aimed to influence discourse about American social issues and politics around the time of the 2016 presidential election.

It took them nearly 18 months to remove the Russian propaganda accounts after discovering them, so don't tell me the problem is just Russia and not the greed of Facebook.

The Un-State of the Disunion

Apparently in the era of Trump, the traditional invitation by the Speaker of the House to the President to give the State of the Union address is no longer a sure thing.

House Democrats on Wednesday were making plans to undermine President Trump at his Jan. 29 State of the Union address. Just past 8:30 a.m., the leadership’s communications arm sent an email to lawmakers urging them to bring furloughed federal workers or other “message-related” guests to the nationally televised event.

Unknown to most of her caucus, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had decided on a more confrontational approach.

Addressing a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, the speaker read a letter she had just sent to Trump asking him to either postpone the speech until the federal government reopens or deliver the text in writing, citing security concerns.

Surprised Democratic lawmakers cheered their leader’s rationale: If the government stays shut down, Pelosi would deprive Trump of the spotlight he craves. To a president especially sensitive to acts of disrespect — and one with a hearty appetite for pomp and circumstance — the so-called unvitation was not merely a ­power play. It was a calculated personal slight.

In the two weeks since she reclaimed the speaker’s gavel, Pelosi has moved aggressively to leverage her decades of congressional experience to needle, belittle and undercut Trump with swipes at his competence and even his masculinity.

The two leaders are locked in a standoff over a partial government shutdown instigated by Trump’s demand that U.S. taxpayers fund a portion of his promised border wall. Both Trump and Pelosi are gambling that the other will bear the brunt of the blame as the economic impact worsens, with the shutdown now dragging on for nearly a month.

But Pelosi’s challenge to Trump also comes with a degree of risk, for her and for Democrats. The more she becomes the face of Trump’s opposition, the more Republicans will probably use her unpopularity nationally to label vulnerable House Democrats as Pelosi clones — a potentially potent line of attack against sitting lawmakers who cast votes in lock-step with party leaders.

Still, with a self-declared mandate to provide a check on the president’s power, Pelosi is helping to keep Democrats largely united while energizing liberals who have yearned for a leader to challenge Trump directly

This is what America elected Democrats to be a check on, and Nancy Pelosi is not shy at all about using the powers granted to her by the US Constitution to act as that check and that balance on Trump.  Good for her.

Besides, I have no intention of watching any Trump State of the Union, or any Trump speech, unless he's resigning.   Still, no doubt that Trump will be furious, and that's exactly what he deserves.


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