Thursday, April 18, 2019

Last Call For Finally, Mueller Time

The Atlantic's Yoni Applebaum calls the Mueller report for what it is: Robert Mueller's impeachment referral of Donald Trump to Congress.

The redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report released on Thursday runs 448 pages. But its most important implication can be summarized in a single sentence: There is sufficient evidence that President Donald Trump obstructed justice to merit impeachment hearings.

A basic principle lies at the heart of the American criminal-justice system: The accused is entitled to a fair defense and a chance to clear his name. Every American is entitled to this protection, from the humblest citizen all the way up to the chief executive. And that, Mueller explained in his report, is why criminal allegations against a sitting president should be considered by Congress and not the Justice Department. The Mueller report, in short, is an impeachment referral.
In his report, Mueller took pains to detail why he “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” as to whether the president had broken the law by obstructing justice. He began by noting that he accepted the opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)—which issues guidance for the executive branch on questions of law—that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

That, Mueller explained, posed an insurmountable problem. A normal investigation would end with a prosecutor deciding to bring charges, or to drop the case. It’s a binary choice. But “fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought.” Ordinarily, a criminal charge would result in “a speedy and public trial, with all the procedural protections that surround a criminal case.” But if Mueller were to state plainly that, in his judgment, the president had broken the law and obstructed justice, it would afford “no such adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.” In other words, because a sitting president cannot be indicted, making such a charge publicly would effectively deny Trump his day in court, and the chance to clear his name.

Mueller also pointed to the OLC’s guidance on seeking sealed indictments, which could be unsealed when a president leaves office, or leveling such charges in an internal (and, presumably, nonpublic) report. Secrecy, the OLC counseled, would be difficult to preserve—and so either step could place a president back in the same unfair situation, accused of a crime without the chance to clear his name.

Crucially, the same concerns don’t operate in reverse. If—examining the evidence and the law—a prosecutor were to determine not to charge an individual, there would be no fear that public disclosure of that decision would be unfair. But if Mueller believed he could not fairly say that the president had committed a crime, he also believed he could not honestly say that he hadn’t. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report explained:

Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him

Attorney General William Barr reviewed the same evidence, though, and came to a different conclusion. In his summary of the report, he wrote, “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

There is a vital distinction here between the two findings. Mueller wrote that his evidence was not sufficient to clearly establish that the president had not committed a crime; Barr insisted that it was not sufficient to establish that he had. It’s possible to read the two conclusions as different ways of stating the same finding; it’s equally possible to read them as fundamentally at odds with each other.

This points back to Mueller’s basic concern about fairness. In the report, he laid out 10 specific incidents his team examined, each of which might constitute—singly or in aggregate—evidence of obstructive conduct on the part of the president
. “The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime,” Barr wrote.

But there is another, simpler way to understand Mueller’s report. A footnote spells out that a criminal investigation could ultimately result in charges being brought either after a president has been removed from office by the process of impeachment or after he has left office. Mueller explicitly rejected the argument of Trump’s lawyers that a president could not be guilty of obstruction of justice for the conduct in question: “The protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person—including the President—accords with the fundamental principle of our government that ‘[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.’”

But if Mueller believes a president could be held to account after he leaves office, he also spelled out another concern with alleging a crime against a sitting president: the risk that it would preempt “constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”

The constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct is impeachment.

House Democrats immediately dumped cold water on this.

After the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told CNN that impeachment of President Trump is not worth the trouble with an election just 18 months away. “Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point,” Hoyer reportedly said. “Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement.” Earlier Thursday, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that impeachment was “one possibility.” “We obviously have to get to the bottom of what happened and take whatever action seems necessary at that point,” he told reporters in a news conference. “It’s too early to reach those conclusions. It’s one reason why we wanted the Mueller report, we still want the Mueller report in its entirety and we’ll want other evidence too.”

So impeachment is not going to happen.

It has to or else.

America now has to decide if we're willing to go on with a president who was elected with Russian help and then tried to obstruct an investigation into that help — 10 times. What we're learning for sure is something Russia has known for years: Trump is eager and willing to accept its help, even if that means lying to the American people.

The Republican Party and Barr have made their decision — to let Democrats carry this burden alone. They know the responsibility to impeach a president will be a distraction for a party that just took over the House by campaigning on issues voters care about, like health care and corporate tax cuts.

But with an attorney general willing to do almost anything to protect this president, the question isn't "What's politically advantageous?" It's what will be left of our democracy if Congress doesn’t do its job.

Mueller brought the case for doing it. And so at this point, we are reduced to hoping that 2020 is a free and fair election that Democrats can even win, and that Trump will somehow leave office if he is defeated.

That's it.

That's where the story is right now.

We've bet our country on November 2020.

Louisville Slugged By Google

The whole Google Fiber disaster in Louisville is officially dead, and the tech giant will pay the city nearly $4 million as it was no match for incompetent installations, structural mishaps, legal roadblocks and its own greed.

Google Fiber yesterday shut off service in Louisville, Kentucky, and has agreed to pay the local government $3.84 million to remove exposed fiber cables left behind by the ISP's failed nano-trenching experiment.

Google Fiber service was scheduled to be shut off at midnight last night, according to a Louisville Metro Government (LMG) announcement of the exit agreement. Google Fiber had announced its intention to leave Louisville two months ago, admitting that it did such a bad job with fiber installation that it would have to "essentially rebuild [the] entire network" in order to fix the problems.

In Louisville, Google Fiber reportedly was burying cables in nano-trenches that were just two inches deep. The method was supposed to speed up deployment, but it didn't work as Google Fiber expected.

Google Fiber's payments totaling $3.84 million will be made over 20 months and cover the costs for "removing fiber cables and sealant from roads; milling and paving activities where needed; [and] removal of above-ground infrastructure," Louisville Metro said.

"Louisville Metro Government and Google Fiber agreed to these payments to fulfill the company's obligations under its franchise agreement and local regulations, which require restoration of rights-of-way should a service provider end service in Louisville," the announcement said.

The city said it will repair the roads itself over the next 20 months. Google Fiber had been offering service in Louisville since late 2017.

"The agreement addresses network installations in Portland, Newburg and the Highlands, where Google Fiber offered services," Louisville Metro said. "Where necessary, construction will begin as part of the Public Works paving season currently underway."

With the city instead of Google Fiber performing repairs, Google Fiber General Manager Mark Strama said the agreement will let the local government "prioritize and execute all aspects of the required work based on the needs of the community."

In addition to the $3.84 million payment, Google Fiber is donating $150,000 to the Community Foundation of Louisville's Digital Inclusion Fund to support projects such as "refurbishing used computers for low-income individuals and the enrollment of public housing residents in low-cost Internet access through other companies providing service in Louisville." Google Fiber will also donate 275 refurbished computers to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority.

Good on Google to throw a pittance at the city before slinking away, but the reality is Google screwed up cabling so badly in order to do it cheap and fast that the entire infrastructure had to be scrapped.  If this were any other company on Earth, they'd have been driven into bankruptcy by the bad press from this alone.

Instead, Louisville now has one of the least competitive internet markets in America as a direct result, with 90% of service now falling to AT&T and Spectrum, and entire neighborhoods locked into one provider or the other with zero competition.

So yes, I believe the big tech companies need to be broken up, and what Google did to Louisville is a perfect example why.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Ten years ago, Dave Neiwert warned us of what the white supremacist GOP was becoming with his book The Eliminationists in which he described the right's violent rhetorical reaction to Obama's election as a precursor to what was coming in deeds, not just words, should they ever regain power. 

Eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

Neiwert saw this coming a decade ago.  Here in 2019, the Anti-Defamation League has defined the next step in the process as the eliminationists have now become the accelerationists, to turn the words and strategy of eliminationism into the collapse of societal norms into chaos in order to take advantage.

Accelerationism is a term white supremacists have assigned to their desire to hasten the collapse of society as we know it. The term is widely used by those on the fringes of the movement, who employ it openly and enthusiastically on mainstream platforms, as well as in the shadows of private, encrypted chat rooms. We have also recently seen tragic instances of its manifestation in the real world.

The concept of acceleration has existed for years as a fringe philosophy. Some of the earliest examples are rooted in a Marxist notion that the intensification of an unhinged force, such as capitalism, for example, will inevitably result in that force’s own self-destruction. However, some white supremacists have adopted the terminology and determined that a societal collapse is both imminent and necessary. On March 21, 2019, one anonymous 8chan user, who promoted white supremacist views, wrote, “I used to think acceleration was a marxist [sic] trick…Now, however, I see its value.”

Brenton Tarrant, the alleged perpetrator of the mosque massacres in New Zealand, subscribed to accelerationism -- the concept was specifically articulated in his manifesto, which he posted moments before his shooting spree. Tarrant dedicates an entire section of his manifesto to this concept under the heading “Destabilization and Accelerationism: Tactics for Victory.”

Tarrant’s actions seemed to breathe new life into the discussion of accelerationism and spurred a resurgence of references, paired with praise for his actions, on platforms including Gab, YouTube, Reddit, 8chan and others.

The term “acceleration” references and encompasses two opposing forces. On one end, extremists identify “acceleration” as the perceived escalation by nefarious entities to advance “degenerate” values and influences such as multiculturalism, liberalism and diversity, among others. In line with deeply anti-Semitic views that dominate white supremacist beliefs, Jews are often blamed for their perceived role in promoting these elements—which white supremacists believe contribute to an imminent “genocide” of the white race. This view is expressly articulated by Discord user EagleJarl on November 4, 2017, “The jews [sic] are the real accelerationists.” Discord is a chat platform for gamers to communicate with each other in real time.

Accelerationism, however, also serves as a reactionary call against the antagonistic forces that are causing society to spiral out of control. In one Discord post from December 22, 2017, user Dr. Goebbowls wrote, “Anyone with half a brain and enough time can find the information to realize that accelerationism is the last resort of the white man of the modern age.”

Fueled by the perception that the future of the white race is bleak, these white supremacists believe they must employ any means necessary to expedite the collapse of the current system. Solutions to bring down the system range from the most extreme form, violence, to deliberate political engagement that supports destructive and divisive societal elements. For example, Tarrant referenced the need to bring about collapse by leaning in to disruptive forces, even those antithetical to white supremacist beliefs, writing, “A vote for a radical candidate that opposes your values and incites agitation or anxiety in your own people works far more in your favour than a vote for a milquetoast political candidate that has no ability or wish to enact radical change.”

Accelerationists believe that setting off a series of reactions, even if they result in changes that directly threaten the white race, can actually be a useful tool for motivating more reticent white supremacists. Following an extremist terrorist attack such as the Tree of Life shooting or Christchurch rampage, accelerationists identify a domino effect that is set into motion – a chain of societal reactions that further exacerbate the feeling of alienation among white supremacists, and, theoretically, a greater impulse to engage in violence or other destructive behavior.

And if this doesn't succintly explain what is going on right now, from the White House on down to the grubby social media cesspools of Discord, Reddit, and Gab, I've yet to see a better explanation.

Break the world, indeed.


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