Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Last Call For Preschool Of Hard Right Knocks

Even if Biden's Build Back Better plan passes President Manchin's desk, there's zero reason to believe any Red states will implement any social policy in the legislation, including universal preschool.

The White House’s proposal to create universal prekindergarten would face enormous implementation challenges, as GOP lawmakers in at least a half-dozen states are already balking and others are likely to follow.

The plan, which is included in the social spending package that recently passed the House and is now before the Senate, would provide $110 billion in federal funding for states to offer free prekindergarten for millions of 3- and 4-year-olds across the United States.

Universal prekindergarten has the potential to become one of the most transformative education programs in the country and is considered a legacy goal for the White House. The initiative comes at a time when an unusually large number of women have dropped out of the labor force and have yet to return, in part because of pandemic forces that temporarily closed or in some cases shut down prekindergartens and day cares nationwide. Meanwhile, worker shortages have hamstrung similar programs across the country.

Yet the success of universal prekindergarten would heavily depend on whether states participated and picked up billions of dollars in additional costs. States have had a very uneven approach to implementing federal programs meant to assist Americans in the past year. Emergency housing aid was hardly disbursed in some states, for example, and in states largely led by GOP governors, enhanced federal unemployment assistance was cut off months before it would have expired.

The universal pre-K program would prove another key test of this design.

White House officials have repeatedly said their proposal would mean that all American parents could enroll their children in free pre-K. But these promises depend on state governments kicking in substantial sums on top of the new federal funds in the legislation to create or expand state programs. Partially as a result of these requirements, GOP officials have expressed deep reservations about participating in the new federal system, according to interviews with state lawmakers, conservative policy activists and other early-education experts interviewed by The Washington Post.

“Legislators in Republican-run states are expected to voice opposition to what they see as a highly flawed pre-K plan and take action to stop it,” said Patrick Gleason, vice president of state affairs for Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group working with conservative state lawmakers.

Republican lawmakers in Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina and Minnesota told The Post that they will reject or are troubled by aspects of Biden’s proposed pre-K expansion. GOP state lawmakers in Texas and Arizona have also strongly criticized the plan, according to conservative advocacy groups working closely with officials in those states.

In interviews, Republican lawmakers expressed concern about the new prekindergarten education standards that would be required for participating states, as well as the risk that funding would evaporate, leaving states scrambling to cover expensive programs.

There “absolutely is going to be opposition from Republican state lawmakers,” said Jonathan Bydlak, director of the governance program at the R Street Institute, a conservative group that advocates for free markets. “There’s a philosophical disagreement that this is not the proper role of the federal government and that this is federal meddling, similar to opposition to other education standards in the past.”

Biden’s proposal would come close to fully funding the expansion of prekindergarten programs with federal dollars only in its fourth year, counting on state governments to make up the difference in every other year. Estimates vary, but the federal government’s plan may pay less than half the costs of providing free pre-K to all children ages 3 and 4, which could make it easier for lawmakers in GOP-run states to opt out. The funding is set to expire altogether in the program’s seventh year, because Democrats have sought to reduce the overall cost of Biden’s spending plan to meet the demands of centrist lawmakers. 

Of course, centrist idiocy aside, if the GOP gets into power in 2025, we won't have a Department of Education to begin with.

Remember however that Republicans don't want an educated populace, they want a stupid, easily manipulated one. They've been winning this game for 25 years now and it shows. Don't expect Red states to touch it.

The Vax Of Life, Con't

As America braces for Omicron Winter, WaPo's Philip Bump points out that MAGA country has suffered the most from COVID and the refusal of vaccines approaching more than 50% of the population in some areas. The death gap in Trump counties versus Biden counties has only gotten worse, and this winter it will only become more pronounced, as well, more are pronounced dead from the virus.

It’s worth putting a fine point on a subject I raised earlier Monday: It is red America, Donald Trump-voting America, that has seen the worst effects of the pandemic. With divergent vaccination rates, with the unvaccinated population that’s most at risk being made up of Republicans at three times the rate of Democrats, that gap is poised to grow.

If we break down monthly case and death figures by county vote in 2020, we see that Trump counties have been hardest hit by the pandemic on a per capita basis since last year. If we throw in vaccination rates, we see that it is those same counties that have been the slowest to get vaccinated. As of April of this year, the most red and most blue counties in the country began to diverge on vaccination rates. As of writing, data compiled by The Washington Post suggests that the counties that voted most strongly for President Biden are fully vaccinated at a rate 40 percent higher than the rate in the counties that voted most strongly for Trump.

Those are cumulative. If we look at how the monthly total of cases and deaths has compared to vaccination rates over time, the picture is different. Since June, the number of cases in the most-blue counties has grown more slowly than the number of cases in the most-red ones. The gap on deaths is even wider — even as the vaccination rates have moved in the inverse relationship.


It's possible things won't be as bad as last winter as we have more tools now. But the main tool remains the vaccine.

There is no guarantee that this pattern will hold. Winter is almost upon us and, last year, the Northeast got hammered. The Sun Belt was hit hard during this summer’s fourth wave, spurred by the delta variant, and may be less likely to see a surge this winter. It’s also possible that the omicron variant spurs a fifth surge of the virus that slams more-blue counties pushed indoors for the winter months.

All of the data, though, suggest that vaccination plays an important role in preventing infection, illness and death. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the unvaccinated are at far more risk of those worst-case outcomes — which might help explain why more-vaccinated blue counties saw slower growth in deaths during the fourth wave than cases. Hence Biden’s call Monday to get vaccinated with the new variant looming.

But the problem, as always, is that the people who disproportionately need to be convinced to get vaccinated are also those least likely to follow Biden’s lead.
And they will die. They will blame Biden for not stopping the virus, as I predicted months ago.
It's hard to defeat people willing to die to stop you. 

Gov. Charlie Baker expects a state-sanctioned COVID-19 vaccination passport program to be implemented in Massachusetts and several other states soon.

During an appearance on GBH News' Boston Public Radio, Baker said a scannable quick response code, commonly known as a QR code, would show a person's vaccination status and be made available for others to scan and verify.

"It's a universal standard and we've been working with a bunch of other states, there's probably 15 or 20 of them, to try to create a single QR code that can be used for all sorts of things where people may choose to require a vaccine," Baker said of the passport program.

Baker showed hosts Margery Eagan and Jim Braude his code while in the GBH’s studios in Brighton.

"It's my proof that I've been vaccinated," he said.
The problem is where this will be needed the most is where it where never be allowed to be implemented.

Insurrection Investigation, Con't

The big story today on Trump's January 6th insurrection conspiracy from The Guardian's Hugo Lowell is different: it directly implicates Donald Trump himself as the ringleader of the tragic events of that day.

Hours before the deadly attack on the US Capitol this year, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington and talked about ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January.

The former president first told the lieutenants his vice-president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with the plan to commandeer his largely ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term.

But as Trump relayed to them the situation with Pence, he pressed his lieutenants about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January, and delay the certification process to get alternate slates of electors for Trump sent to Congress.

The former president’s remarks came as part of strategy discussions he had from the White House with the lieutenants at the Willard – a team led by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Trump strategist Steve Bannon – about delaying the certification.

Multiple sources, speaking to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity, described Trump’s involvement in the effort to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Trump’s remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard. The conversations also show Trump’s thoughts appear to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the Capitol attack and halted Biden’s certification, until it was later ratified by Congress.

The former president’s call to the Willard hotel about stopping Biden’s certification is increasingly a central focus of the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack, as it raises the specter of a possible connection between Trump and the insurrection.

Several Trump lawyers at the Willard that night deny Trump sought to stop the certification of Biden’s election win. They say they only considered delaying Biden’s certification at the request of state legislators because of voter fraud.

The former president made several calls to the lieutenants at the Willard the night before 6 January. He phoned the lawyers and the non-lawyers separately, as Giuliani did not want non-lawyers to participate on legal calls and jeopardise attorney-client privilege.

Trump’s call to the lieutenants came a day after Eastman, a late addition to the Trump legal team, outlined at a 4 January meeting at the White House how he thought Pence could usurp his role in order to stop Biden’s certification from happening at the joint session. 
This was an open conspiracy to overturn a duly elected President in Joe Biden in order to execute a  violent, insurrectionist coup that would allow Trump to remain in the Oval Office. It was the worst-kept secret in Washington DC. It was an attempt to end American democracy and to halt the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump was calling the shots from the top, giving orders, and wanting options in case Pence got cold feet. The goal was to keep power despite Biden's clear victory.

It almost worked. He had a cadre of followers working on the plan. It fell through because Pence chickened out.

And we're all acting like Trump should get another shot at the apple.


Monday, November 29, 2021

Last Call For Coleman Has To Go

Kansas Democratic House Representative Aaron Coleman was arrested on Saturday, Nov. 27 for driving under the influence.

Douglas County jail records show that he was arrested on I-70 heading westbound by Kansas State Highway Patrol.

He was released on a $250 bond.

“I want to reiterate what I have said in the past: It is clear Representative Coleman is in dire need of help,” House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer said. “For the sake of the state of Kansas, his constituents, and himself, he should resign and concentrate on getting the help he badly needs. The stress of the legislature is not a healthy environment for someone in this mental state.”

Coleman has represented Kansas’ 37th District in the state House of Representatives for a year.

“Mr. Coleman’s most recent arrest is further evidence that he is not fit to serve in the Kansas House of Representatives and that his continued presence in the Legislature is a disservice to his constituents,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “He should resign immediately and seek the treatment that he needs. If he does not resign, the Legislature should use its process to remove him from office.”
Kansas Dems keep refusing to expel Coleman from the state legislature as Coleman has repeatedly refused to resign, saying that the people elected him and that he will serve no matter what, accusing his fellow Democrats of hypocrisy for refusing to oust Democratic Rep. Vic Miller over his DUI earlier this year.

It's a mess, and Kansas Dems need to clean house in the House.

Of course, where do I get off saying anything? Kentucky Dems are moribund at best...

Oh well.

If At First You Don't Secede, Con't

Over at the Never Trump clubhouse that is The Bulwark, Kristofer Harrison notes that Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz is cozying up to the Texas Secessionist Movement, and the TSM is definitely getting help from Putin's merry band of white supremacist wackos.

A couple weeks ago Senator Ted Cruz was speaking at Texas A&M University when someone asked him his thoughts on the Texas secessionist movement. He replied that he wasn’t “there, yet.” It is important to understand that the modern secession movement is not a product of Lone Star pride. It’s an idea that has been force fed into the American conservative movement by Russia.

Secession is one of the Kremlin’s “active measures” campaigns: Promote fringe wackos abroad and hope that, eventually, they break something. This may not sound like much of a plan, but it sometimes works. Putin has been openly building his portfolio of wackos for a while. And the wackos have begun breaking things.

The shiny ball that caught Cruz’s attention was The Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM). TNM is Texas’s most prominent secessionist organization. In 2015, TNM attended a St. Petersburg gathering of worldwide extremists organized by Rodina—that’s “Motherland” in Russian—the fascist-adjacent offshoot of Putin’s United Russia party.

That gathering was a safe space where the likes of German Neo-Nazis, the KKK, Greece’s Golden Dawn, and Roberto Fiore (the Italian terrorist responsible for a 1980 bombing in Bologna that killed 85), could gather and praise Putin’s defense of Western (read: “white”) culture. Here, featured on Rodina’s website, is Nate Smith, TNM’s executive director, in attendance. Howdy! Russia’s info warriors were very pleased with his comments at the event. This skulduggery got so bad and Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians who were working with the Texas secessionist movement in 2016 to—please put down your coffee—spread misinformation about Ted Cruz during the presidential primary in order to help Donald Trump.

There’s a nice symmetry there. Some day when when Hollywood comes calling the film can be titled, “From Victim to Dupe: The Ted Cruz Story.”

One of the nastier conferees at Putin’s 2015 conclave was the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group who was credited by Charleston shooter Dylann Roof in his manifesto for inspiring him to “take it to the real world.”

There’s a white nationalist group called Atomwaffen which venerates Roof as a hero. Atomwaffen was founded by a teenager in Florida using a messaging platform created by a Russian. You can find Roof’s manifesto—along with manifestos from other white nationalist killers—on 8chan, which has been relaunched as 8kun, by two Russians.

Fortunately for us, secessionists aren’t killing people—they’re not “there, yet”—but Putin’s propaganda can be convincing. Casey Michel notes that the fake Russian secessionist “Heart of Texas” Facebook page, which had more likes than the GOP and Democrat Facebook pages combined, organized a rally of white nationalists and AR-15 enthusiasts in downtown Houston in 2017.

Putin invests broadly in his pet extremist wackos. Richard Spencer used to appear regularly on RT where he commented as an expert on everything from Syria to U.S. cultural affairs. David Duke lived in Russia. The circular nature of this web can border on parody: Bringing it full circle to Texas A&M, Duke once rented his Moscow apartment to another American neo-Nazi named Preston Wiginton. Wiginton—a proud Aggie—organized presentations on the Texas A&M campus—the same place where Cruz was asked about secession!—for both Richard Spencer and Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, a man who befriended Duke in Russia.

The only way to understand the neo-Nazi mob and the secessionist movement is as Vladimir Putin’s weapons. And Ted Cruz—despite having been on the receiving end of this in 2016—has no problem cozying up to them today
Cruz may be the kind of dork to pick a Twitter fight with Big Bird and lose it publicly, but he's still a GOP US senator in Texas, and that automatically makes him dangerous by default.  Getting chummy with secessionist white supremacist terrorists is a major problem.

Or should be. At this point, nobody seems to care.

The Supreme Sinister Six

As Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus explains in a powerful essay, the next eight months of Supreme Court rulings will almost certainly result in a fundamental change in American rights, rights that will not be coming back in our lifetimes.
Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., the Eisenhower appointee who became the liberal lion of the Warren Court, had a tradition for introducing every new batch of law clerks to the realities of the institution.

“Brennan liked to greet his new clerks each fall by asking them what they thought was the most important thing they needed to know as they began their work in his chambers,” Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel write in “Liberal Champion,” their Brennan biography. “The … stumped novices would watch quizzically as Brennan held up five fingers. Brennan then explained that with five votes, you could accomplish anything.”

Brennan, master vote-counter and vote-cajoler, was right — but there is an important corollary to his famous Rule of Five, one powerfully at work in the current Supreme Court. That is the Rule of Six. A five-justice majority is inherently fragile. It necessitates compromise and discourages overreach. Five justices tend to proceed with baby steps.

A six-justice majority is a different animal. A six-justice majority, such as the one now firmly in control, is the judicial equivalent of the monarchy’s “heir and a spare.” The pathways to victory are enlarged. The overall impact is far greater than the single-digit difference suggests.

On the current court, each conservative justice enjoys the prospect of being able to corral four colleagues, if not all five, in support of his or her beliefs, point of view or pet projects, whether that is outlawing affirmative action, ending constitutional protection for abortion, exalting religious liberty over all other rights or restraining the power of government agencies.

A six-justice majority is emboldened rather than hesitant; so, too, are the conservative advocates who appear before it. Such a court doesn’t need to trim its sails, hedge its language, or abide by legal niceties if it seems more convenient to dispense with them.

A conservative justice wary of providing a fifth vote for a controversial position can take comfort in the thought that now there are six; there is strength in that number. Meantime, a court with a six-justice majority is one in which the justices on the other side of the ideological spectrum are effectively consigned to a perpetual minority. They craft dissents that may serve as rebukes for the ages but do little to achieve change in the present. The most they can manage is damage control, and that only rarely.
Follow Ruth Marcus‘s opinions

That is the reality — exhilarating for conservatives, chilling for liberals — as the court, with a membership that has not been this conservative since the 1930s, embarks on what could be its most consequential term in decades. The October 2021 term is the first with six conservatives in place from Day One; the newest, Amy Coney Barrett, was not confirmed until several weeks into the court’s previous term, and the first year for any new justice tends to be a time of settling in.

Now, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who occupies what passes for this court’s center, holds the reins but is no longer firmly in control of his horses. Some of his most conservative justices are champing at the bit. Sometimes he can curb them, but not always; sometimes he is delighted to head in the same direction. And if any five agree, they can go galloping off anywhere they choose. If Roberts isn’t with them, the court’s most conservative member, Justice Clarence Thomas, has the power to assign the majority opinion or write it himself.

“The difference between six and five is exponential,” said Mike Davis, president of the Article III Project, which worked to confirm conservative judges during the Trump years. “With five justices to the chief’s right, they no longer need to compromise with the chief to win. And this means it is much more likely that the court is going to get to the conservative result most of the time."

The justices have defied some earlier liberal predictions of catastrophe, but there’s reason to believe this term may be different — and if not this term, then one not far off.
We're looking at a generational shift on civil, voting, and religious rights, where the country is permanently shifted towards a Christian Dominionist theocracy, where states become fiefdoms without a strong federal government tying them together, where a hopelessly deadlocked Congress, jammed by the GOP is unable to do anything to restore rights, and where people of color and women are afforded scraps of second-class citizenship, rights granted if and only if those rights do not impinge on the desires of white Christian men.
It will be a dark return to Jim Crow, segregation, and misery, where the status quo is enforced by any White man who chooses to take up arms to do so. This court has already destroyed enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. It's about to end Roe and affirmative action. It may end civil rights altogether, and eliminate 95% of federal agencies.
This decade is going to be one of abject enslavement.


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Last Call For The Manchin On The Hill, Con't

Democrats across the party are raising alarms about sinking support among some of their most loyal voters, warning the White House and congressional leadership that they are falling short on campaign promises and leaving their base unsatisfied and unmotivated ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

President Biden has achieved some major victories, signing a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill and moving a nearly $2 trillion social policy and climate change bill through the House. But some Democrats are warning that many of the voters who put them in control of the federal government last year may see little incentive to return to the polls in the midterms — reigniting a debate over electoral strategy that has been raging within the party since 2016.

As the administration focuses on those two bills, a long list of other party priorities — expanding voting rights, enacting criminal justice reform, enshrining abortion rights, raising the federal minimum wage to $15, fixing a broken immigration system — have languished or died in Congress. Negotiations in the Senate are likely to further dilute the economic and climate proposals that animated Mr. Biden’s campaign — if the bill passes at all. And the president’s central promise of healing divisions and lowering the political temperature has failed to be fruitful, as violent language flourishes and threats to lawmakers flood into Congress.

Interviews with Democratic lawmakers, activists and officials in Washington and in key battleground states show a party deeply concerned about retaining its own supporters. Even as strategists and vulnerable incumbents from battleground districts worry about swing voters, others argue that the erosion of crucial segments of the party’s coalition could pose more of a threat in midterm elections that are widely believed to be stacked against it.

Already, Mr. Biden’s approval ratings have taken a sharp fall among some of his core constituencies, showing double-digit declines among Black, Latino, female and young voters. Those drops have led to increased tension between the White House and progressives at a time of heightened political anxiety, after Democrats were caught off-guard by the intensity of the backlash against them in elections earlier this month. Mr. Biden’s plummeting national approval ratings have also raised concerns about whether he would — or should — run for re-election in 2024.

Not all of the blame is being placed squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Biden; a large percentage of frustration is with the Democratic Party itself.

“It’s frustrating to see the Democrats spend all of this time fighting against themselves and to give a perception to the country, which the Republicans are seizing on, that the Democrats can’t govern,” said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who leads the A.M.E. churches across Georgia. “And some of us are tired of them getting pushed around, because when they get pushed around, African Americans get shoved.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a leading House progressive, warned that the party is at risk of “breaking trust” with vital constituencies, including young people and people of color.

“There’s all this focus on ‘Democrats deliver, Democrats deliver,’ but are they delivering on the things that people are asking for the most right now?” she said in an interview. “In communities like mine, the issues that people are loudest and feel most passionately about are the ones that the party is speaking to the least.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats acknowledge that a significant part of the challenge facing their party is structural: With slim congressional majorities, the party cannot pass anything unless the entire caucus agrees. That empowers moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia to block some of the biggest promises to their supporters, including a broad voting rights bill.

A more aggressive approach may not lead to eventual passage of an immigration or voting rights law, but it would signal to Democrats that Mr. Biden is fighting for them, said Faiz Shakir, a close adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Shakir and others worry that the focus on the two significant pieces of legislation — infrastructure and the spending bill — won’t be enough to energize supporters skeptical of the federal government’s ability to improve their lives.

“I’m a supporter of Biden, a supporter of the agenda, and I’m frustrated and upset with him to allow this to go in the direction it has,” said Mr. Shakir, who managed Mr. Sanders’s presidential run in 2020. “It looks like we have President Manchin instead of President Biden in this debate.”

He added: “It’s made the president look weak.
At the very least, without voting rights, there will be no free and fair elections in the future. Republican state legislatures will simply overturn Democratic candidate wins as fraud.  And it's Black folk who are, as always, suffering the most from Manchin's bullshit.

The problem is, there's not a lot we can do. Push Manchin hard enough and he jumps ship, and we get nothing instead of a slim chance. It's hard, but Manchin continues to go on the Sunday shows week after week and proclaim him agenda while Biden just twiddles his thumbs.

At this point, there's no reason to believe the Build Back Better plan will get a Senate vote at all, and it's Manchin's doing, not Biden's.

I hate this "Dems in Disarray" crap as much as you all do, but that still means Manchin is calling the shots, and that remains a terrible reality.

Israeli A Problem Here, Con't

Why yes, as I said six months ago, Israel deliberately targeted a Gaza City high-rise that they knew housed Associated Press and Al Jazeera journalists in order to take out Hamas agents they suspected were in the building. Six months and a pack of lies later, including the ouster of Benjamin Netanyahu, we finally learn the truth.

The intelligence file Israel gave the United States concerning the airstrike on a Gaza high-rise building that housed foreign news agencies was retroactively edited, according to Israeli sources.

This was done in order to justify Israel’s claim that the bombing of the Al-Jalaa tower during the last Gaza conflict was necessary, after it became clear that the intelligence in the hands of the Israel Defense Forces was less than solid, say the sources.

The report was given to senior U.S. officials after President Joe Biden demanded an explanation for the May 15 attack from then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli officials expressed concern that submitting the altered report could adversely affect the trust between the two countries, especially on defense issues of strategic importance to Israel.

The Al-Jalaa tower in Gaza City housed the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera news agencies. During Operation Guardian of the Walls Israel destroyed the tower, claiming that Hamas had been operating from the building in a way that justified the strike. Immediately after the attack, the United States demanded to see evidence supporting that claim. The IDF submitted intelligence on the tower to the U.S. the following day, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken said afterward that the information he was given did not prove that the attack was necessary. That same day, Biden conducted an uncomfortable phone conversation with Netanyahu in which the president demanded additional information explaining what led to the order to bomb the tower. Blinken has confirmed that additional information was delivered, but said that he could not discuss it.

As reported recently in Haaretz, IDF investigations found that Military Intelligence only discovered that The Associated Press and Al Jazeera had offices in Al-Jalaa during the “knock on the roof” protocol, a small missile strike meant to warn occupants to evacuate before an imminent airstrike. The military said previously, however, that it learned of the media organizations’ presence a few days before the attack. Since the beginning of the war with Hamas in May, international news organizations had given the IDF information about the location of their offices in the Gaza Strip, yet these offices were not designated as sensitive targets. Due to poor coordination, the information was not delivered to Military Intelligence or the Israel Air Force, and it was not in the building’s target file when the decision to destroy it was made.

When it became clear that foreign media organizations were housed in the tower, IDF Chief-of-Staff Aviv Kochavi convened an urgent meeting with several high-ranking officers. Sources with detailed knowledge of the discussion say Kochavi was determined to carry out the strike anyway, and the decision became final when Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek, the military advocate general at the time, ruled that it did not violate international law. A few senior defense officials warned, however, of the PR damage the strike would cause.

Military officials, as well as Hidai Zilberman, who was the IDF spokesperson at the time of Operation Guardian of the Walls, claim that the defense establishment failed to comprehend the consequences of the attack, even after it was completed. “They posted videos of the strike, before-and-after pictures,” says one knowledgeable source. “For an hour the whole world watched the building crumble in live coverage, and even that didn’t get the most senior figures to understand what Israel had got itself into.” The source said the attack had undermined the legitimacy of Israel in the operation. “Until it knocked down that tower the IDF enjoyed broad legitimacy to operate against Hamas, even from the Arab world. The collapse of the building ended that, and even if the establishment won’t admit it publicly, that was the moment that Israel understood the fighting would have to end soon," the source said.
They knew.
They bombed the building anyway.
That's fascism.

Sunday Long Read: In A Maze, Mint

Our Sunday Long Read this week comes to us from Nicola Twilley at the New Yorker, with the story of one of the premier designers of our age: Adrian Fisher, a man who makes...mazes.

Yes, those mazes. 

Dude's famous.
On the afternoon of March 25, 1980, Robert Runcie was enthroned as the hundred-and-second Archbishop of Canterbury, senior prelate of the Anglican Communion. For his first sermon following his ascension to the Chair of St. Augustine, Runcie told the assembled ranks of bishops, bewigged members of the judiciary, and assorted royalty about a recent dream. “You know how sometimes in an English garden you find a maze,” Runcie said. “The trouble is to get to the center of all those hedges. It is easy to get lost.” The Christian church, in Runcie’s slightly strained analogy, was in such a maze, and could progress toward its goal only by turning back, toward the periphery, in order to engage with those still outside the church’s embrace.

“He said, ‘I had a dream of a maze, and in this maze blah, blah, blah,’ ” the maze designer Adrian Fisher recalled, when I visited him late this summer, at his home in Dorset, in southwest England. In 1980, Fisher was twenty-eight years old and working for I.T.T., a multinational manufacturing company, where he was responsible for productivity enhancement. He was increasingly drawn to the idea of designing mazes; he’d even formed a company, Minotaur Designs, with a wealthy labyrinthologist and former diplomat, Randoll Coate. But public commissions proved elusive. “At first, I thought it was impossible,” Fisher said. “How do you start? How do you do it?”

Runcie’s dream gave him an idea: Fisher wrote to the letters page of the London Times, briefly outlining the maze’s long history as a Christian symbol and noting that, as in the Archbishop’s dream, a maze’s goal is typically reached not by “pressing toward the center” but, rather, by “returning almost to the edge,” in order to find the proper path. In his signature, Fisher styled himself a “Maze Consultant,” and, before long, this stealth marketing had reeled in a customer, and Minotaur’s first public commission. Lady Elizabeth Brunner, a former actress who was married to a chemical magnate, invited Fisher to tea. Over scones and jam, she wondered aloud whether he might create an Archbishop’s Maze, inspired by Runcie’s words, in her garden at Greys Court, a Tudor manor house in Oxfordshire.

Fisher didn’t yet have official stationery, or even a typewriter, so he submitted his proposal as a handwritten letter. His design was circular: a brick path, set in a lawn, that formed seven concentric rings winding toward a sundial in the center. At first glance, it seemed to replicate the traditional Christian pavement labyrinth, the most famous example of which is found in the nave of Chartres Cathedral. Medieval labyrinths of this kind aren’t puzzles; there is only a single path, arranged in a snaking pattern of concentric folds, and to process along it to the center is to participate in a physical allegory of the soul’s progress through life and toward salvation. But at Greys Court a maze walker—or aspirant, to use the technical term—encounters a junction within seconds and has to make a choice. Fisher cunningly combined the appearance of the old Christian labyrinth with the function of the puzzle maze, whose solution, taking its cue from Runcie’s metaphor, involves turning away from the center initially, to journey around the entire periphery.

The new Archbishop dedicated the Greys Court maze in October, 1981, and the resulting publicity generated more maze commissions. With new customers lining up, Fisher took out a business loan, bought a computer, a printer, and a secondhand car, and reinvented himself as a full-time maze designer. The course of his career, built on equal parts passion and self-promotion, was set. “See, you create events out of nothing,” he told me. Fisher realized that if he wanted to make mazes he first had to make people want mazes. From his Runcie letter to his (successful) campaign to have Britain declare 1991 the Year of the Maze, he has devoted the past four decades to creating both the market and the product. Today, at the age of seventy, he seems to have no intention of retiring. By his own count, he has created more than seven hundred mazes, in forty-two countries. He is the world’s leading maze-maker by a margin so large that he has no real competition.

“He’s the only one who’s managed to make mazes a business rather than a hobby,” Jeff Saward, a historian of mazes and labyrinths, told me. Saward, who edits the research journal Caerdroia—the Welsh name for a turf labyrinth—estimates that, when Fisher started out, there were no more than fifty public mazes and labyrinths in the U.K. There was just one text on the subject: “Mazes and Labyrinths: A General Account of Their History and Development,” by W. H. Matthews, from 1922. Matthews, a civil servant who had fought in the First World War, wrote the book in the Reading Room of the British Museum on his return from the trenches. Despite his fondness for mazes, Matthews was convinced that they were no more than a historical curiosity. “Let us admit at once that, as a favorite of fashion, the maze has long since had its day,” he wrote. The book, proving his point, sank almost without trace, and its poor sales became a family joke.

Yet today maze observers agree that there are more mazes than ever before, and more being built each year. Mazes, under Fisher’s watch, have become part of the British heritage business, de rigueur at stately homes, where, along with tearooms and gift shops, they can raise money to pay for otherwise crippling repair and tax bills. They have also diversified: Fisher helped invent the corn mazes that pop up alongside pumpkin patches on farms across America each fall, and reintroduced mirror mazes to piers, theme parks, and malls worldwide. He will happily design a labyrinth inscribed with religious quotations for a megachurch in North Carolina; a maze adventure with an artificial volcano, lake, and safe room for a Middle Eastern princess; a thumb-size maze tattoo for an anonymous female client; and a vertical maze for a fifty-five-story skyscraper in Dubai, with meanders that double as balconies. He does eighty per cent of his business overseas, and he told me that he has won nine Guinness World Records for superlative mazes of various sorts. “Of course, I wrote the rules about how a maze qualifies for the Guinness Book of Records,” he added.
You know what they say, it's the journey, not the destination.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Turkey Week: Ukraine In The Membrane

Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelensky are back in the news this week with Russian troops and materiel building up on the border, and tensions have gotten high enough that Zelensky is now outright accusing provocateurs including one of Ukraine's wealthiest tycoon of an imminent coup plot.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that a group of Russian and Ukrainians is planning to stage a coup d’etat in Ukraine next month and that the plotters are trying to enlist the help of the country’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov.

Zelensky, speaking at a “press marathon” for local and international media, said that audio recordings, obtained by Ukraine’s security services, caught plotters discussing their plans and mentioning Akhmetov’s name. Akhmetov was not involved in the actual coup plot, however, Zelensky said.

“I believe [Akhmetov] is being dragged into the war against Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “This will be a big mistake, because it is impossible to fight against the people, against the president elected by the people of Ukraine.”

Zelensky said the alleged coup was being planned for Dec. 1 or 2. He did not provide further details, however.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any Russian role in the alleged plot.

“Russia never engages in such things. There have never been such plans,” he said.

Ukrainian media in recent weeks have commented on the growing tensions between Zelensky and Akhmetov. Zelensky has launched a “de-oligarchization”campaign to reduce the political influence of Ukraine’s richest people, who control key sections of the economy.

Akhmetov, a mining and steel tycoon, also owns media holdings, which in recent weeks have increased their criticism of Zelensky and his administration.

Zelensky’s comments also come against a backdrop of rising tensions between Kyiv and Moscow.

Western and Ukrainian officials say that they have observed a buildup of Russian forces on the country’s border with Ukraine.
Very few of the possible scenarios that could unfold after this are going to exactly contribute to Eastern European stability, folks. I hate to say this, but it really depends on what Putin does from here now that Zelensky has called his hand. He may do nothing, he may already have a backup plan, or he may decide that the Crimea needs defending.

With nearly all ballots counted in the run-off vote, Mr Zelensky had taken more than 73% with incumbent Petro Poroshenko trailing far behind on 24%.

"I will never let you down," Mr Zelensky told celebrating supporters.

Russia says it wants him to show "sound judgement", "honesty" and "pragmatism" so that relations can improve. Russia backs separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The comments came from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a Facebook post on Monday (in Russian).

He said he expected Mr Zelensky to "repeat familiar ideological formulas" that he used in the election campaign, adding: "I have no illusions on that score.
A comedian who played the Ukrainian president on TV became the actual president.  We've seen worse, but the point is, he's in charge, not Putin.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Turkey Week: Banking On Blue Dogs

Not all the turkeys this week are Republicans, apparently.

Five Democratic senators have told the White House they won't support Saule Omarova to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, effectively killing her nomination for the powerful bank-regulator position.

Why it matters: The defiant opposition from a broad coalition of senators reflects the real policy concerns they had with Omarova, a Cornell University law professor who's attracted controversy for her academic writings about hemming in big banks. Their opposition also hints at a willingness of some Democratic senators to buck the White House on an important nomination, even if it hands Republicans a political — and symbolic — victory. Republicans have attacked the Kazakh-born scholar in remarkably personal terms, and turned her nomination into a proxy battle over how banks should be regulated.

Driving the news: In phone call on Wednesday, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), all members of the Senate Banking Committee, told Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) — the panel's chairman — of their opposition. They're joined in opposing her by Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). The five senators' offices either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper: Biden officials also have heard directly from the senators. They're aware of their deep opposition and know Omarova faces nearly impossible odds for confirmation.
Still, they continue to back her publicly. "The White House continues to strongly support her historic nomination," a White House official told Axios. "Saule Omarova is eminently qualified for this position," the official said. "She has been treated unfairly since her nomination with unacceptable red-baiting from Republicans like it’s the McCarthy era."

Omarova tried to salvage her candidacy during a hearing last week, where Republicans savaged her for her previous academic writings about how community banks should be regulated. Her nomination, reflected in an ugly hearing in which Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) questioned whether he should call the native of the former Soviet Union "professor" or "comrade," became a proxy battle.
It split between the banking industry and progressives eager to impose more regulation on it.

To see five Democratic senators come out on the side of Republican John Kennedy asking "professor or comrade" in his fake Loosy-Anna backwater country lawyer drawl when he's an Oxford graduate and was Treasurer of the state of Louisiana for 17 years who damn well knows how banks work is really pissing me off.

But turkeys they be. Mark Kelly, Jon Tester and John Hickenlooper should especially know better.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Turkey Week: Turkey Of The Year Award

Was there ever really any doubt as to which obnoxious, performative, narcissistic, vile little chode would end up as the biggest Thanksgiving Turkey in 2021?

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal — the legislative branch’s highest honor — to Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who last week was found not guilty of homicide and other charges related to his fatal shooting of two men during a protest against police violence last year.

Greene introduced a bill Tuesday to give Rittenhouse the award. While the bill’s full text was not immediately available, a summary states that the measure would “award a Congressional Gold Medal to Kyle H. Rittenhouse, who protected the community of Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) riot.”

The likelihood that Greene’s effort will be successful is low. A bill requesting a Congressional Gold Medal must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of the House and the Senate, both now controlled by Democrats, before it is considered by the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. After it is passed in Congress, the measure must be authorized by the president.
Nominating Kyle Rittenhouse for the Congressional Gold Medal is so transparently stupid that it actually causes me physical pain. To give to a young man famous for killing two protesters an award is the height of ludicrousness, and Greene is doing it on purpose to make decent people angry because she thinks it's hysterical, and she won't pay a price for it at all.
Yes, let's give a guy a Congressional medal for killing race traitors! It's just cruelty. That's what passes as Republican in 2021.
A turkey, indeed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Turkey Week: Come For The Charcuterie, Stay For The Insurrection

Rolling Stone's Hunter Walker has the goods on a bevy of text messages on January 6th that make a pretty ironclad case that the Trump regime had not only planned the insurrection from the get-go with multiple white supremacist domestic terrorist groups (which Walker reported on earlier this month) but that they were actively communicating with the rioters and directing the attack on the Capitol.

At 5:30 pm on Jan. 6, police were in their third hour of battle with supporters of former President Trump on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Meanwhile, about a mile away in a suite at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Amy Kremer, a conservative activist who organized a major pro-Trump rally near the White House that preceded the violence, apparently had hors d’oeuvres on her mind.

Kremer sent her fellow rally organizers a text preceded by three siren emojis. It was an urgent update.

“We ordered dinner again tonight. Sorry, but we forgot to take orders in the chaos of the event this morning, so we just ordered the same thing as last night. I figured that was better than not eating. Lol,” Kremer wrote. “Cheese & Charcuterie should be here at 6PM and dinner around 7PM.”

An emergency curfew took effect and National Guard troops arrived at the Capitol to clear the remaining crowds at roughly the same time Kremer and her fellow organizers received their cured meats. Three sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigations into the rally, told Rolling Stone that, along with food, people were drinking champagne in the suite while rioters skirmished with law enforcement at the Capitol complex.

Kremer’s insurrection night dinner order was detailed in a series of text messages and group chats from January 6 rally organizers that were obtained and reviewed by Rolling Stone. The messages included months of discussions as Kremer’s “March For Trump” group staged a bus tour around the country to protest the former president’s election loss. The conversations revealed new details of the rally organizers’ coordination with the Trump White House.

Kremer’s Jan. 6 rally took place on the White House Ellipse as Trump’s election loss was being certified at the U.S. Capitol. The event featured a speech by Trump where he urged the crowd to “fight like hell,” and indicated he expected them to march to the Capitol complex. Some of the audience at the rally began making the approximately mile-and-a-half long trek to the Capitol as Trump concluded his remarks. The barricades at the Capitol were breached minutes before the former president finished the speech.

Two sources who were involved in planning the Ellipse rally previously told Rolling Stone they had extensive interactions with members of Trump’s team, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The text messages provide a deeper understanding of what that cooperation entailed, including an in-person meeting at the White House. Rally organizers also described working with Trump’s team to announce the event, promote it, and grant access to VIP guests. A spokesperson for the former president did not respond to a request for comment on the record.

Group chats also provided a glimpse of tensions between rally planners. And the conversations showed how their core group reacted to the chaos that erupted that day in real time, including Kremer rejecting calls to hold a press conference denouncing the violence.

Rolling Stone reviewed the text messages in a phone where they were originally received and timestamped. The messages from Amy Kremer and her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, came from phone numbers that have been used by both women. We are publishing excerpts of these messages as they were originally written including some typos.
Kremer, in particular, texted quite a bit of stuff about the insurrection. She knew it was coming, because she had been in on the Trump meetings where this was being planned. She used "burner phones" intentionally to try to hide her actions.

Some of the organizers who planned the rally that took place on the White House Ellipse on Jan. 6 allegedly used difficult to trace burner phones for their most “high level” communications with former President Trump’s team.

Kylie Kremer, a top official in the “March for Trump” group that helped plan the Ellipse rally, directed an aide to pick up three burner phones days before Jan. 6, according to three sources who were involved in the event. One of the sources, a member of the “March for Trump” team, says Kremer insisted the phones be purchased using cash and described this as being “of the utmost importance.”

The three sources said Kylie Kremer took one of the phones and used it to communicate with top White House and Trump campaign officials, including Eric Trump, the president’s second-oldest son, who leads the family’s real-estate business; Lara Trump, Eric’s wife and a former senior Trump campaign consultant; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; and Katrina Pierson, a Trump surrogate and campaign consultant.

The member said a second phone was given to Amy Kremer, Kylie Kremer’s mother and another key rally organizer. The team member said they did not know who the third phone was purchased for.

“That was when the planning for the event on the Ellipse was happening, she needed burner phones in order to communicate with high level people is how she put it,” the March For Trump team member tells Rolling Stone, referencing Kylie Kremer.

Kylie and Amy Kremer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on record.

According to the three sources, some of the most crucial planning conversations between top rally organizers and Trump’s inner circle took place on those burner phones. “They were planning all kinds of stuff, marches and rallies. Any conversation she had with the White House or Trump family took place on those phones,” the team member said of Kylie Kremer.

Rayne over at Marcy Wheeler's place makes it plain:

The purchase of the burner phones, though, look like an overt act to advance a conspiracy (18 USC 371).

Sure hope both of the Kremers as well as the aide who was asked to buy the burners, the third team member who received a burner phone, and Meadows all realize this is only getting worse for them.

Same for the Trump family members Eric and Lara who must be getting a little itchy after Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen resurfaced.

Especially for Meadows if he continues to blow off Congress with his refusal to comply with the January 6 Committee’s subpoena; it won’t be just contempt of Congress (two counts under 2 USC 192) with which he may be charged and prosecuted.

Hello, 18 USC 1505 otherwise known as Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees.

Perhaps with a domestic terror enhancement?
The bigger problem is that Trump planned a coup, and had his minions try to carry it out. People died as a result. Our country was irreparably damaged.

He needs to be in prison at the top of the list, and this criminal seditious conspiracy alongside with him.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Another Turkey Week In Gunmerica

Living in the a country where mass school shootings happen regularly enough to not make the news is expensive for governments when it comes to civil suits and failing to stop massacres like Parkland.

The Justice Department will pay about $130 million to 40 survivors and families of victims of the 2018 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla., over the F.B.I.’s failure to properly investigate two tips in the months before the shooting that suggested the gunman might open fire at a school.

One of the tips, six weeks before the shooting, detailed how the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, was posting on Instagram about amassing weapons and ammunition. “I know he’s going to explode,” the woman said on the F.B.I.’s tip line, adding that she feared Mr. Cruz, then 19, “was going to slip into a school and start shooting the place up.”

Forty days later, Mr. Cruz did just that, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had previously been a student.

The F.B.I. acknowledged two days after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting that it had received the tips about Mr. Cruz but had not investigated them in accordance with its protocols. Mr. Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder last month. He is scheduled to go on trial early next year. A jury will decide if he faces capital punishment or life imprisonment.

“Although the financial details of the agreement are presently confidential, it is an historic settlement and the culmination of the Parkland families’ long and arduous efforts toward truth and accountability,” the law firm representing the families, Podhurst Orseck, said in a statement.

The Justice Department said in court papers that it was in the process of completing a settlement, without disclosing the amount. Two people familiar with the case said it would total about $130 million, though the precise number could change before the final agreement.

The revelation that the F.B.I. had received information about the gunman ahead of the shooting devastated victims’ families and the Parkland community in the days immediately following the shooting. Fred Guttenberg was picking out a casket for his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, two days after the shooting when he got an urgent call from an F.B.I. agent working with the families. The agent delivered the difficult news.

“Are you telling me that if the F.B.I. did not make a mistake and did their job a month sooner, my daughter would still be alive today?” Mr. Guttenberg asked the agent, according to the lawsuit Mr. Guttenberg and the 39 other families eventually filed against the bureau.

“I’m afraid so, sir,” the agent replied, according to Mr. Guttenberg.

The first tip had come five months before the shooting, in September 2017, when a bail bondsman in Mississippi reported that a commentator with the user name “nikolas cruz” had left a disturbing message on his YouTube channel: “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” it read. Two F.B.I. agents interviewed the bondsman about the comment but found no particular information linking it to a specific person and closed the inquiry the following month.

The second tip came on Jan. 5, 2018, from a woman who called the F.B.I.’s tip line and gave the bureau information about Mr. Cruz’s social media accounts and troubled family life and school record. She mentioned that he had posted photos of mutilated animals and that his mother had died recently — both considered by experts to be warning signs or triggers for potential shooters.

“I do believe something’s going to happen,” said the woman, who identified herself as a family friend.

Mr. Guttenberg and his wife, Jennifer Guttenberg, sued the F.B.I. for negligence in November 2018 and were eventually joined by 39 other families. They argued that the shooting had been “completely preventable.”

The case had been scheduled to go to trial in January 2022. In its court filing on Monday, the Justice Department asked the court for a stay of all upcoming hearings and deadlines pending completion of the settlement.
The Trump-era FBI was so totally broken, and it's going to take years to finish cleaning up the messes there. I'm glad Merrick Garland did the right thing here and settled. The money will help immensely.

I'm hoping that the money will be used for more gun safety activism. Guttenberg has been very outspoken since the death of his daughter.

We'll see.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Turkey Week: A Taxing Explanation

The Trump Organization owns an office building at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan. In 2012, when the company was listing its assets for potential lenders, it said the building was worth $527 million — which would make it among the most valuable in New York.

But just a few months later, the Trump Organization told property tax officials that the entire 70-story building was worth less than a high-end Manhattan condo: just $16.7 million, according to newly released city records.

That was less than one-thirtieth the amount it had claimed the year before.

That property is now under scrutiny from the Manhattan district attorney and New York attorney general, along with several others like it for which the Trump Organization gave vastly different value estimates, according to public records and people familiar with their investigations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing inquiries.

After the indictment of the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer this summer for income tax fraud, prosecutors now appear to be examining whether the company broke the law by providing low values to property tax officers, while using high ones to garner tax breaks or impress lenders.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has said she is considering a lawsuit, and prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office have also convened a new grand jury, which could vote on criminal charges, according to the people familiar with the investigations.

Among the other properties under scrutiny: former president Donald Trump’s California golf club, for which he valued the same parcel of land at $900,000 and $25 million depending on the intended audience, and an estate in suburban New York, for which Trump’s valuations ranged from $56 million up to $291 million. The valuations were all given in the five years before Trump won the presidency.

Prosecutors appear to have dug deeply into these properties, according to court papers and people familiar with the investigation. They have compiled reams of emails, planning documents and financial data, even seeking the initiation fees Trump charged golf club members as far back as a decade ago. In Los Angeles, they have asked for geology reports on the rock layers under Trump’s course — where the value was affected by a history of landslides.

They have also sought detailed records from two outside companies that worked with the Trump Organization to formulate these valuations: appraisal firm Cushman & Wakefield and law firm Morgan Lewis. In court filings, prosecutors have referred to emails in which they said Trump executives or a Morgan Lewis lawyer pushed appraisers to change their findings. Neither Morgan Lewis nor Cushman & Wakefield responded to questions.

Real estate appraisers said it was highly unusual for any property owner to give such widely different values for the same property during the same time period.

“This is way, way beyond anything that’s believable,” said Norm Miller, a professor of real estate finance at the University of San Diego who has appraised properties for 50 years. “I’ve never seen anything with a gap that extreme.”

But extreme is not the same as illegal. Legal experts said that if prosecutors wish to prove a crime, they will need to do more than simply prove Trump’s valuations were wrong.

“Is it an overly optimistic? Is it an enthusiastic perception?” said Robert Masters, a former top aide to the district attorney in Queens. “Does that make it a lie?”

Masters said prosecutors would probably need to show that the figures were wrong on purpose — falsified deliberately, with an intent to deceive a lender or the government. Masters said that may require a witness on the inside, who could explain the decision-making behind the numbers.

“Is there somebody there who can translate the books?” he said.

The Trump Organization declined to comment for this article. Trump’s political office did not respond to questions. In the past, Trump has said the New York investigations are a political attack by Democrats: “an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime.”
Bottom line is if they can prove Trump ordered the books cooked, Trump is cooked too.  The bad news is Trump has been getting away with this for decades. Hoping he was sloppy on the paper trail is not going to produce a verdict.

We'll see if the forensic accountants and the tax investigators can do their thing.

Turkey Week: The Return

It's Thanksgiving, and that means light posting this week. Still, there should be a lot to talk about, and there's a lot to be grateful for still, like you folks who still read me after 13 years.

Have a peaceful week, folks.  I'll be along later today.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Insurrection Investigation, Con't

As the January 6th Committee considers whether or not to charge former Trump WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with contempt and Steve Bannon's own contempt trial gets underway in the weeks ahead (probably), Trump has named a third player he expects to keep his mafia code of omerta in the latest round of January 6th Committee subpoenas in former Trump trade representative Peter Navarro
Former President Donald Trump told his former White House trade adviser to defy a House committee that subpoenaed him in a probe into the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m telling Peter Navarro to protect executive privilege and not let these unhinged Democrats discredit our great accomplishments,” Trump said in a statement on Saturday.

Peter Navarro, who was director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and assistant to the president, was subpoenaed Thursday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus. Trump’s directive opens up another front in his effort to keep former aides and allies from cooperating with congressional inquiries and demands.

Trump lawyers have already instructed several others, including Steve Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to defy subpoenas to testify and turn over documents to a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Whether executive privilege grants them immunity is a question that’s likely to take some time to wind through the courts.

Democrats who control the House voted in October to hold Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for his defiance and referred the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution. A federal grand jury indicted him on two counts of contempt of Congress this month.

Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democrat who chairs the coronavirus panel, has said Navarro was subpoenaed after refusing to cooperate with requests from the committee.

The subpoena demands that Navarro produce documents by Dec. 8 related to his work on the administration’s pandemic response and to appear for a deposition on Dec. 1. That includes evidence that he complied with federal laws on the preservation of presidential records
The Committee was willing to burn Bannon in a court fight that will almost certainly be dragged out until SCOTUS can bury it and the Committee's mandate expires at the end of next year. Bannon will never testify, and worst case for him is he flees the country. Meadows, as I linked at the top of the post, still has hopes of being in the next Republican administration or a major lobbyist player, so he'll most likely cooperate. 

Navarro I think will follow suit. We'll see, as much of the Committee's work will stop in the next six weeks due to the holidays. But the larger point is that time is not on the Democrats' side here. It's already been ten months, and we've gone through almost half of the Committee's max of two years.

After Mueller and impeachment, it's definitely time to temper expectations here.

Sunday Long Read: Time To Unplug Big Tech

Not only are Facebook and Google destroying information systems around the globe with their clickbait ad greed, it turns out they are actively funding disinformation brokers around the world in order to profit from it, and the results are an open door to destabilize a nation-state or three if you have the money or the resources.
In 2015, six of the 10 websites in Myanmar getting the most engagement on Facebook were from legitimate media, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-run tool. A year later, Facebook (which recently rebranded to Meta) offered global access to Instant Articles, a program publishers could use to monetize their content.

One year after that rollout, legitimate publishers accounted for only two of the top 10 publishers on Facebook in Myanmar. By 2018, they accounted for zero. All the engagement had instead gone to fake news and clickbait websites. In a country where Facebook is synonymous with the internet, the low-grade content overwhelmed other information sources.

It was during this rapid degradation of Myanmar’s digital environment that a militant group of Rohingya—a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority—attacked and killed a dozen members of the security forces, in August of 2017. As police and military began to crack down on the Rohingya and push out anti-Muslim propaganda, fake news articles capitalizing on the sentiment went viral. They claimed that Muslims were armed, that they were gathering in mobs 1,000 strong, that they were around the corner coming to kill you.

It’s still not clear today whether the fake news came primarily from political actors or from financially motivated ones. But either way, the sheer volume of fake news and clickbait acted like fuel on the flames of already dangerously high ethnic and religious tensions. It shifted public opinion and escalated the conflict, which ultimately led to the death of 10,000 Rohingya, by conservative estimates, and the displacement of 700,000 more.

In 2018, a United Nations investigation determined that the violence against the Rohingya constituted a genocide and that Facebook had played a “determining role” in the atrocities. Months later, Facebook admitted it hadn’t done enough “to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence.”

Over the last few weeks, the revelations from the Facebook Papers, a collection of internal documents provided to Congress and a consortium of news organizations by whistleblower Frances Haugen, have reaffirmed what civil society groups have been saying for years: Facebook’s algorithmic amplification of inflammatory content, combined with its failure to prioritize content moderation outside the US and Europe, has fueled the spread of hate speech and misinformation, dangerously destabilizing countries around the world.

But there’s a crucial piece missing from the story. Facebook isn’t just amplifying misinformation.

The company is also funding it.

An MIT Technology Review investigation, based on expert interviews, data analyses, and documents that were not included in the Facebook Papers, has found that Facebook and Google are paying millions of ad dollars to bankroll clickbait actors, fueling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world

It's not just the US media that Facebook and Google are deliberately destroying in order to become the only media sources in town. And this is just an astonishing reminder that the disinformation these companies are pushing has very bloody real-world consequences.
Even more, it's deliberate.

Time to break up the tech giants.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Several white supremacist domestic terrorism groups are celebrating the Rittenhouse acquittal, and they see it as proof they can kill as many non-white folk and white allies as they want to "purify" the nation.

In the minutes after a jury acquitted 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse on all counts, jubilation lit up on social media spaces where far-right extremists gather.

In one Telegram channel for the far-right Proud Boys, some noted they had taken the day off work to await the verdict. "There's still a chance for this country," wrote one. In another channel, a member stated that political violence must continue. "The left wont stop until their bodied get stacked up like cord wood," he wrote.

Rittenhouse himself is not known to be a member of an extremist group. But the trial, which from its beginning became a cause and rallying cry among conservatives who champion gun rights, has been particularly alarming to extremism researchers.

As it played out against the backdrop of an increasingly polarized nation, experts of far-right movements say opportunists found a growing audience for their violence-fueled messaging that targets the left. Now that a jury has found that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, those concerns are recentering on the question of whether it may embolden others to engage in political violence.

"This might be interpreted across the far right as a type of permission slip to do this kind of thing or to seek out altercations in this way, believing that there is a potential that they won't face serious consequences for it," said Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council. "I worry that that might end up being interpreted by some people as a proof of concept of this idea that you can actually go out and seek a 'self-defense situation,' and you'll be cheered as a hero for it."

Holt said the verdict also prompts questions about whether far-right extremists may become more visible at public demonstrations.

"Broadly speaking, the far right has been a bit reluctant to turn out in person for things, especially on larger national scales or on issues with a lot of national attention," he said. "But this could change that dynamic."
I don't know if this will spawn copycat killings, where lunatics will test "stand your ground" laws during Black Lives Matter demonstrations or rallies. All I know for sure is that Black folk are going to be made to suffer.

You should be terrified of angry white men as CNN's John Blake points out.They have free license to kill.

The Brute. The Buck. And, of course, the Thug
Those are just some of the names for a racial stereotype that has haunted the collective imagination of White America since the nation's inception. 
The specter of the angry Black man has been evoked in politics and popular culture to convince White folks that a big, bad Black man is coming to get them and their daughters.
I've seen viral videos of innocent Black men losing their lives because of this stereotype. I've watched White people lock their car doors or clutch their purses when men who look like me approach. I've been racially profiled.
It's part of the psychological tax you pay for being a Black man in America -- learning to accept that you are seen by many as Public Enemy No. 1. 
But as I've watched three separate trials about White male violence unfold across the US these past few weeks -- the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, the Ahmaud Arbery death trial and the civil case against organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville -- I've come to a sobering conclusion: 
There is nothing more frightening in America today than an angry White man. 
It's not the "radical Islamic terrorist" that I fear the most. Nor is it the brown immigrant or the fiery Black Lives Matter protester, or whatever the latest bogeyman is that some politician tells me I should dread. 
It's encountering an armed White man in public who has been inspired by the White men on trial in these three cases.

Fear. Terror. Anguish.

Every day for us.

The psychic damage is enormous.

But Black Lives Matter.
Related Posts with Thumbnails