Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Last Call For Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Something tells me that the State Department's push to designate actual, literal, self-identifying neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen as a terrorist organization is going to conveniently vanish in the next few weeks.

The State Department is pushing to designate at least one violent white supremacist group as a foreign terrorist organization, an unprecedented move that national security experts say would be a big step toward fighting a growing threat on U.S. soil.
State Department officials want to have the designation finalized by next week, according to four people familiar with the effort. But the White House, where top officials have long preferred to focus on terrorism by Islamist extremists, has yet to give the green light.

Former U.S. officials and counterterrorism analysts say the top candidate for the designation is Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group that was founded in the United States but has expanded into the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Estonia.

Designating Atomwaffen or another neo-Nazi group like The Base as a terrorist outfit would send a major signal that the U.S. views far-right terrorism as a rising danger that increasingly ignores national boundaries, thanks in no small part to the internet.

But it also could place an uncomfortable spotlight on President Donald Trump’s troubled history with white nationalist activists who support his populist message. The president infamously insisted there were “very fine people” on both sides of the racial debate following violent 2017 clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, leading to furious criticism followed by a series of White House efforts to walk the comments back. 
The Trump administration has nonetheless increased its focus on far-right extremism. In February, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that his agency has “elevated to the top-level priority racially motivated violent extremism so it’s on the same footing in terms of our national threat banding as [the Islamic State terrorist group] and homegrown violent extremism.”

The FBI arrested five alleged Atomwaffen members last month and eight alleged members of white supremacist group “the Base” in January. Six members of Atomwaffen have been convicted since 2018 on charges including planning terrorist attacks and murder.

Designating a white supremacist group such as Atomwaffen as a foreign terrorist organization will allow federal prosecutors to more easily charge suspected members with providing material support to terrorists if the suspect has trained with and/or offered advice, personnel or funding to the group.
The existence of Atomwaffen was first announced in October 2015 on a now-defunct online forum called Iron March, which was founded out of Russia.

Joshua Geltzer, a counterterrorism expert who served on the National Security Council from 2015 to 2017, called the discussions about such a designation “long overdue.”

“There are 68 groups on the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations, and not one is a violent white supremacist group,” Geltzer said. “We don’t use national security tools just to be symbolic, but I think finally adding to this list a white supremacist organization would really show that the U.S. recognizes the threat these groups pose, is willing to confront them using appropriate tools, and is now awakened to their distinctly transnational nature.”

But curiously, the White House will shelve this as unnecessary.

You see, the White House doesn't want white supremacists to be considered terrorists.

They want them to vote for Trump.

Trump Goes VIral, Con't

So what's the White House plan to save the economy that's crashing around us?

Tax cuts for Trump resorts and hotels.

I wish I was kidding.

The travel and tourism industries are facing their worst crisis since the 2001 terrorist attacks, prompting White House officials to consider deferring taxes for the cruise, travel and airline industries to stem the economic fallout from the coronavirus, according to two people briefed on the discussions.
The discussions are a sign that the White House is grappling with how to respond to an outbreak that officials have publicly played down. The talks remain fluid and are preliminary.

The tax deferrals for the travel industry are being considered as airlines cut back on routes and warn about declining ticket sales. Hotel chains are struggling with vacancies in Asia and are bracing for similar waves in the United States. Business travel is falling, and trade shows, music festivals and conventions are being canceled from San Francisco to Chicago to Austin to Miami. Families and college students are reconsidering spring break excursions and distant summer plans.

Other countries have already enacted tax relief for their hardest-hit industries. On Sunday, Italy announced a tax credit for any company that has seen revenue decline by more than a quarter. That is on top of Italy’s announcement last month that companies and individuals in areas affected by the “epidemiological emergency” would be granted an extension on spring tax filings.

It’s not clear how U.S. relief would be administered or whether President Trump’s own hotels could be beneficiaries. Administration officials also disagree on the extent to which some of these measures could be undertaken without Congress.
On Friday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow confirmed that the administration is considering “timely and targeted” federal interventions to help workers, businesses and industries most vulnerable economically to the outbreak.

If you think Trump's hotels won't benefit from this by billions of dollars, then you really haven't been paying attention at all.   The rest of us?  Well, good luck.  Hope you have sick time and paid leave.

You know, in the only western country that doesn't guarantee sick time and paid leave.

States are stepping in where Trump does nothing, unless you're a business sector that needs tax relief during these trying times.  New York is moving to contain public gatherings parts of the NYC metro.

With New Rochelle, a small city just north of New York City in Westchester County, emerging as the center of the state’s outbreak, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York on Tuesday announced a targeted containment strategy to halt the spread of the virus.

The state’s plan focuses on a “containment area” in New Rochelle with a one-mile radius centered around a synagogue believed to be at the center of the cluster, officials said.

Schools and other large gathering facilities like community centers and houses of worship within the area will be closed for two weeks beginning on Thursday, Mr. Cuomo said. Businesses such as grocery stores and delis would remain open. The state did not plan to close streets or implement travel restrictions, he said.
“You’re not containing people,” he said. “You’re containing facilities.”

The state also planned to deploy the National Guard to the containment area to clean the schools and deliver food to quarantined residents, Mr. Cuomo said.

The cluster in Westchester County first came to the authorities’ attention last week, when a lawyer who lives in New Rochelle and works in Manhattan, Lawrence Garbuz, became the second person in New York to be diagnosed with coronavirus last week.

Meanwhile here in Kentucky, Gov. Beshear is acting where the Trump regime is failing miserably.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced two new novel coronavirus cases in Kentucky late Monday, bringing the state’s total to six.

The newest positive tests were conducted in Fayette County and Harrison County, bringing the total in Harrison County to three patients and the total in Lexington to two patients. Beshear said he does not know if the person who tested positive in Lexington is a resident of the city. The sixth patient is in Louisville.

“We are now up to six positive cases and folks, we’re going to have more,” Beshear said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not ready, we are, and it doesn’t mean that people should overly worry. We’ve just got to make sure that we take the necessary steps to move forward and we will come out of this on the other side.”
Both of the people who tested positive Monday are being treated in isolation. The Fayette County resident who tested positive Sunday is also being treated at a hospital, Beshear said.

University of Kentucky spokesman Jay Blanton said the newest Fayette County patient is not being treated at a UK HealthCare hospital.

Beshear said he hopes to release more information about the patients, such as their age and gender, Tuesday morning.

Beshear said 34 people in Kentucky have been tested so far for the virus, including 13 tests conducted Monday. Twenty-eight of the tests have come back negative.

The state can now test individuals for COVID-19 in under 12 hours, he said. Samples received at the state lab in Frankfort by noon are generally completed before 6 p.m., he said.

“That turnaround time is one of my beliefs in why we’re reporting some more cases than some other states,” Beshear said. “I don’t think we’ve been hit harder, I just think we’re more aggressive in how we’re responding.”

Beshear has declared a public health emergency in the state, and has ordered free COVID-19 testing that will be covered by health insurance.  Democrats in the State Senate have filed bills that would guarantee sick leave for all workers and to require the Kentucky Health and Family Services Cabinet to estimate the costs of battling COVID-19 in the state and to include it in the state budget while the legislature is in session between now and April 15.

Kentucky Democrats are coming through.  Whether or not Kentucky Republicans, who control the state House and Senate, and have already moved to strip almost all power from Beshear's office and give the legislature the power to object to any executive order and force a full legislature vote on it, will agree to any of these measures?

I have no idea.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Political science professor Ray La Raja argues that Democrats are so concentrated on helping Amy McGrath getting rid of Mitch McConnell here in Kentucky in November in a quixotic attempt to unseat him that they are going to leave flippable GOP seats behind in NC, CO, ME and IA.

Democrats are eager to depose not just President Trump, but his congressional enablers and defenders, too. And they’re opening their wallets to prove it. In Kentucky, Amy McGrath, the retired fighter pilot who hopes to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has raised $16.9 million. Last quarter, Democrats sent $3.5 million to South Carolina to Jaime Harrison, who is challenging Sen. Lindsey O. Graham.

But McGrath, Harrison and several others like them face a problem: They’re probably going to lose. Meanwhile, the candidates challenging less famous, workaday Republicans are struggling to find donors — and many of them are in states or districts that could actually flip. This dynamic is a classic case of pragmatism versus passion in an era when party leaders are losing control of contributions and rank-and-file donors are increasingly inclined to go their own way. But liberal pockets are not bottomless. In a zero-sum competition for cash, the search for brand-name scalps the Democrats may never claim could keep Democrats from winning the seats, and the Senate majority, that is truly within reach.

To put the situation in context, Democrats need to pick up three seats to take control of the Senate (currently 53-47), assuming that none of their incumbents lose. But since Democrats will likely lose Sen. Doug Jones’s seat in Alabama, they must win four seats if a Democrat wins the presidency (with the vice president serving as a tiebreaker) and five if voters reelect Trump.

Forecasters say the most vulnerable Republicans incumbents are Sens. Cory Gardner in Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Martha McSally in Arizona and Joni Ernst in Iowa. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, three of the likely Democratic candidates have raised less than half of their opponents’ haul in the last reporting period. Some of those Democrats have also spent considerable funds trying to win primaries or gain some early name recognition. For example, the Democratic nominee in North Carolina, Cal Cunningham, spent more than $3 million during the primary period and is left only with $1.5 million in cash-on-hand compared to the incumbent, Tillis, who has $5.4 million in his bank account.

Previously, a pragmatic party would use its money as efficiently as possible by amassing resources in winnable seats. But small donors have become a crucial force within the party. They can be a boon to the nation’s politics, which continues to rely on megadonors to finance big races, but the way they make decisions — following their policy and personality preferences without regard to overall majority — can undermine their potential power.

That's where the DSCC would need to step in and help.  Of course, the DSCC has managed to piss off everyone and is often portrayed as the "evil corporate PAC money" in big races like this.

I appreciate the donations to Amy McGrath here in Kentucky.  I want Mitch gone too.

But do me a favor.

Donate to:

Cal Cunningham in NC,

Sara Gideon in Maine,

John Hickenlooper in Colorado, and

Mark Kelly in Arizona.


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