Discuss: Political Madness All the Time

Lynna is your curator. How are you all holding up, America?

(Previous thread)


  1. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 491 in the previous chapter of this thread.

    Giuliani has decided to double down on his claims that Trump was surprised by Michael Cohen peddling access to Trump. Avenatti’s continued release of corroborating evidence for Cohen’s unethical behavior is likely to taint Trump as well … sooner rather than later.

    More details regarding Giuliani’s recent interviews:

    In a pair of Friday interviews, Rudy Giuliani went all in on claims that President Trump had no idea his personal attorney spent the early months of 2017 trying to earn clients by pitching his access to the White House.

    Asked by the Associated Press if Trump knew Michael Cohen was trying to profit off his ties to Trump, Giuliani said, “The answer is that I am quite certain he didn’t.”

    Giuliani also told HuffPost that the President “had no knowledge” that Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies including AT&T, Novartis, and an investment bank associated with a Russian oligarch.

    “Whatever lobbying was done didn’t reach the president,” Giuliani insisted to HuffPost. “He did drain the swamp.” [Bullshit]

    These firm denials are much stronger than Giuliani’s response when the story of Cohen’s access peddling first broke earlier this week. On Wednesday, Giuiliani claimed he had “no idea” if Trump directed Cohen to accept the payments, saying only, “I doubt it.”

    The President has been distancing himself from his longtime “fixer” and personal lawyer as Cohen’s legal woes come into sharper focus. Trump recently referred to Cohen, who worked closely with him for over 10 years, as “an attorney” who did very little actual legal work for him.

    In his interview with HuffPost, Giuliani referred to Cohen as “collateral damage.” […]

    Giuliani is all over the place. No wonder his law firm pushed him to resign. No wonder Avenatti said on “AM Joy” that Giuliani used to be a good prosecutor, but that now he should be put out to pasture.

  2. says

    Oh, no, another anti-women’s-reproductive-rights move by Team Trump:

    The Trump administration last year reinstated — and expanded — a rule banning family planning clinics that get aid money from the United States from performing abortions or even discussing abortion with their patients. Often called the “global gag rule,” it’s led to clinic closures and reductions in crucial services around the world. And now it might be coming to the United States.

    The White House is reportedly considering a domestic gag rule that would essentially apply the restrictions of the global rule to providers that receive federal Title X funds, which help low-income patients get services like contraceptive counseling and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Such a rule would force Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers to either stop discussing abortions with their patients or stop receiving Title X money. […]

    The domestic gag rule on abortion, explained

  3. says

    From Michelle Obama:

    We’re still at that stage where we’re trying to figure out what it means to be women and what we think of ourselves and what we think of each other. And you know sorry, in light of this last election, I’m concerned about us as women and how we think about ourselves and about each other and what’s really going on. I mean, I think more about what is going on in our heads where we let that happen, you know?

    So I do wonder what young girls are dreaming about if we’re still there, when the most qualified person running was a woman and look what we did instead. I mean, that says something about where we are…Forget about everybody else–that’s what we have to explore.

    Because if we as women are still suspicious of one another, if we still have this crazy, crazy bar for each other that we don’t have for men, if we’re still doing that today, if we’re not comfortable with the notion that a woman could be our president—and compared to what? You know? It is frustrating to see a lot of men blow it—and win.

  4. says

    Trump administration rolls back transgender prison protections

    The Bureau of Prisons will use “biological sex” to determine where prisoners are housed.

    On Friday night, the Trump administration released new rules that change the way transgender people in prison are assigned housing, in a move that advocates said targeted the most vulnerable and posed a “direct threat to the safety of transgender people in our nation’s prisons.”

    Before the notice, for instance, a transgender woman could expect to be housed in a women’s prison, but under the new guidance she would be placed in a men’s prison because of her sex assigned at birth. […]

    The federal government’s own statistics show that 34 percent of transgender prisoners report sexual victimization, compared to 4 percent of all federal prisoners. A California study found that in prison, transgender people are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than non-transgender people. […]

    More at the link.

  5. says

    Jared Kushner made a mess of things at the VA.

    “Kushner-backed health care project gets ‘devastating’ review”: The first stage of a multibillion-dollar military-VA digital health program championed by Jared Kushner has been riddled with problems so severe they could have led to patient deaths, according to a report obtained by POLITICO.

    The April 30 report expands upon the findings of a March POLITICO story in which doctors and IT specialists expressed alarm about the software system, describing how clinicians at one of four pilot centers, Naval Station Bremerton, quit because they were terrified they might hurt patients, or even kill them. Experts who saw the Pentagon evaluation — it lists 156 ‘critical’ or ‘severe’ incident reports with the potential to result in patient deaths — characterized it as “devastating.”

    “Traditionally, if you have more than five [incident reports] at that high a level, the program has significant issues,” a member of the testing team told POLITICO.

    The project’s price tag and political sensitivity — it was designed to address nagging problems with military and veteran health care at a cost of about $20 billion over the next decade — means it is “just another ‘too big to fail’ program,” the tester said. “The end result everyone is familiar with — years and years of delays and many billions spent trying to fix the mess.”


  6. says

    Nashville Mayoral Candidate Explains Joys Of Racial Profiling To Room Full Of Black People

    Meet Ralph Bristol! Ralph Bristol is a former conservative radio host running for Mayor of Nashville […] and he is not here to make friends. At least not with black people. At a candidate forum on Thursday, in an audience that was largely black, while standing next to three black mayoral candidates, Bristol tried to make a case for racial profiling as a way to keep their families safe. Shockingly, the audience was not particularly receptive to this argument.

    “Profiling is absolutely necessary,” Bristol said when asked for his views on the topic. “Sometimes race might play some part in that.”

    “Obviously, that was unpopular,” Bristol continued after the crowd at Meharry Medical College had time to collect themselves, “and I am not afraid to say unpopular things if the experts tell me that a particular characteristic is part of necessary profiling in order to prevent crimes against your families. I’m willing to offend you in order to protect your family.”

    You know who probably doesn’t think that racial profiling protects their families? The families of people who have lost their lives due to the actions of racist cops. Also the people in that audience.

    “Oh my God. Oh my God!” one woman in attendance could be heard saying as the crowd was still in abuzz. “Did he really just say that?” […]

    More at the link.

  7. says

    “Documents Reveal How Russian Official Courted Conservatives In U.S. Since 2009”:

    Kremlin-linked Russian politician Alexander Torshin traveled frequently between Moscow and various destinations in the United States to build relationships with figures on the American right starting as early as 2009, beyond his previously known contacts with the National Rifle Association.

    Documents newly obtained by NPR show how he traveled throughout the United States to cultivate ties in ways well beyond his formal role as a member of the Russian legislature and later as a top official at the Russian central bank. These are steps a former top CIA official believes Torshin took in order to advance Moscow’s long-term objectives in the United States, in part by establishing common political interests with American conservatives.

    Torshin’s trips took him to Alaska, where he requested a visit with former Gov. Sarah Palin; to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.; to Nashville, where he was an election observer for the 2012 presidential race; and to every NRA convention, in various American cities, between 2012 and 2016.

    But the jig is up. Last month, Torshin was designated for sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department.

    Torshin’s outreach to the United States started well before Russia’s now-public campaign of electoral interference during the 2016 elections. And it appears to be a cultivated effort to reach out to conservatives, even in its earliest stages.

    “I really do think the Russians are looking at being able to reach out to the right … to say, ‘Hey, you know Russians actually share a lot of the same values,’ ” said [Steve] Hall, whose 30-year career in the CIA concluded in 2015.

    Hall said their message was: “You know, we don’t like LGBT causes any more than you conservatives on the right in the United States do; we are interested in engaging the NRA … the church plays an important role in Russia just as it should in the United States.”…

  8. says

    Trump praised North Korea … again:

    North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th. Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!

  9. says

    “Suspicions, Demands and Threats: Devin Nunes vs. the Justice Dept.”:

    …As Mr. Nunes sees it, the cycle of confrontation is part of a legitimate effort by him and other House Republicans to conduct oversight of obstinate law enforcement officials.*

    But increasingly, top officials at the Justice Department have privately expressed concern that the lawmakers are simply mining government secrets for information they can weaponize against those investigating the president, including the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

    The relationship between the Justice Department and Mr. Nunes has so eroded that when he trekked down Pennsylvania Avenue on Thursday from the Capitol to the department to discuss his latest request, Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, a Republican colleague and former federal prosecutor, tagged along at the encouragement of the House speaker to help keep the meeting civil, according to a person familiar with the matter.

    Democrats believe the pattern is clear: Mr. Nunes is abusing his authority to undermine the Russia investigation.

    For now, tensions between Mr. Nunes and Mr. Rosenstein appear to have eased somewhat after Thursday’s briefings, which included both classified and unclassified sessions. The department did not share the requested documents with lawmakers, but it convened officials from the F.B.I. and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to lay out their case.

    Afterward, Mr. Nunes and Mr. Gowdy said in a statement that they “had a productive discussion” and that they “look forward to continuing our dialogue next week.” Both sides signaled that they left with the impression that they had gotten the upper hand.

    But the distrust, built over months of interactions, current and former officials said, is unlikely to dissipate soon.

    In another meeting, Mr. Rosenstein felt he was outright misled by Mr. Nunes’s staff. Mr. Rosenstein wanted to know whether Kashyap Patel, an investigator working for Mr. Nunes who was the primary author of the disputed memo, had traveled to London the previous summer to interview a former British spy who had compiled a salacious dossier about Mr. Trump, according to a former federal law enforcement official familiar with the interaction.

    Mr. Patel was not forthcoming during the contentious meeting, the official said, and the conversation helped solidify Mr. Rosenstein’s belief that Mr. Nunes and other allies in Congress were not operating in good faith….

    The NYT is too credulous about Trump’s/Nunes’/Ryan’s claims about their motives. This is what Nunes says he’s doing. That’s not the same as what he actually is doing – Trump’s bidding? protecting himself or the Republican Party? responding to blackmail?

  10. says

    I mean, the facts that Nunes isn’t reading the documents he’s threateningly demanding; he moves on to another, more outrageous demand as soon as the previous one is satisfied; he and his aides are lying to the public and the DoJ about their actions; and he never even tries to justify the document demands would certainly appear to belie the claim that he sees this as “a legitimate effort by him and other House Republicans to conduct oversight of obstinate law enforcement officials.”

  11. says

    In light of Netta’s Eurovision victory remarks about inclusion and diversity and how much she loves her country…

    “Israel amassing its forces ahead of Nakba protests”:

    Israeli forces killed a Palestinian protester and injured hundreds more during the seventh consecutive Friday of the Great March of Return demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter.

    Jaber Salem Abu Mustafa, 38, died after he was shot in the chest east of Khan Younis. Forty-one Palestinians have been fatally injured during the protests that were launched on 30 March.

    During that same period, Israeli forces killed 13 additional Palestinians in Gaza who were not participating in the protests when they were fatally wounded.

    Nearly 200 people were injured by live fire on Friday. Ten persons were said to be critically wounded.

    Three medics and six journalists were also reported injured.

    Mass protests are expected to continue next week with the opening of the US embassy of Jerusalem on 14 May, the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the state of Israel on Palestinian lands.

    The Israeli military has “begun reinforcing battalions exponentially in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank” in the lead-up to what it says will be protests “far more violent and extensive than anything seen thus far,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

    Three Palestinian human rights groups are calling on diplomats and United Nations officials to boycott the opening of the Jerusalem embassy.

    Fewer than half of the foreign diplomats invited to a reception on Sunday marking the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have accepted, according to Israeli media reports. The event will reportedly be attended by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, as well as the US treasury secretary and elected American officials.

    Israel’s shooting of unarmed protesters in Gaza was meanwhile raised at the 95th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that convened over the past two and a half weeks.

    In a statement issued under its early warning and urgent action procedures, intended to prevent and respond to violations of the International Convention Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the body expressed its grave concern that many protesters were killed or injured when they posed no imminent threat.

    The body called for “an immediate end to the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian demonstrators,” lifting the blockade on Gaza and the implementation of appropriate measures “to combat the proliferation of racist acts and manifestations of racist hate speech that particularly target Palestinians in the territories under [Israel’s] effective control.”

    Humanitarian bodies continue to sound the alarm that essential services in Gaza are on “the verge of collapse” after 11 years of blockade, repeated Israeli military assaults and Palestinian political impasse:…

    More than 2,500 Palestinians have been wounded by live fire during the Great March of Return protests, straining Gaza’s already beleaguered healthcare system, which has seen elective surgeries canceled and hospitals closed since the beginning of the year due to medication, equipment and fuel shortages….

  12. says

    “LUPICA: The America that John McCain sees in a dying light is not the one for which he fought.”

    For most of the time McCain was a POW, the president was…Nixon. He became a Republican senator during the events described in #8 above (the article, naturally, doesn’t even begin to cover all of the evil of the Reagan administration, which included support for genocide). He’s joked about bombing Iran. A few years ago, he called people protesting war criminal Henry Kissinger, who plotted the overthrow of a democratically elected government and its replacement with a torturing dictator, “lowlife scum.” Give me a break.

  13. says

    The constant harping by pundits about McCain’s military service and “hero” status when talking about Sadler’s comment is strange and creepy. It’s relevant in the sense that it was the context in which he was captured and tortured and his rejection of Haspel’s nomination was in part based on that experience, and also in the sense that Trump falsely claims to respect and support the military while in practice doing nothing of the sort. But it doesn’t really have anything to do with the offensiveness of Sadler’s remark, which would have been just as callous and reprehensible if it had been about Nancy Pelosi or Ted Cruz or anyone else.

  14. says

    Things that happened Tuesday:
    -Trump moved to rescind $252 million set aside to fight Ebola
    -Top WH official in charge of pandemic response was pushed out by Bolton
    -Global health security team disbanded

    Also on Tuesday:
    -WHO confirms new Ebola outbreak”

    I saved a 2015 article, I believe it was from the SPLC’s magazine: “Right-wingers Depict Ebola Virus as Obama Conspiracy.” (Oh – here it is!)

    While politicians of all stripes ignored expert opinions suggesting that travel bans and quarantines could be counterproductive and instead called for both, right-wing personalities spread medically questionable “facts” about how the disease could spread and stoked nativist fears with panicked predictions that infected immigrants could swarm the border. Quite a few even suggested that President Obama was responsible for the virus’ spread.

    One of the conspiracy theorists discussed was Trump:

    Reacting on Oct. 24 to news that a doctor who treated Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the illness after returning to New York City, billionaire [sic] birther Donald Trump tweeted, “Ebola has been confirmed in N.Y.C., with officials frantically trying to find all of the people and things [the victim] had contact with. Obama’s fault.”*

    The article also discusses Erik Rush, Keith Ablow, Larry Klayman, Rand Paul, and Louis Gohmert. Not one of them has been held accountable for his false, dangerous, racist pronouncements, despite the fact that the Obama administration’s response proved effective as well as compassionate and constitutional.

    Given Trump’s gutting of federal agencies and the Right’s willful ignorance, apocalypticism, conspiratorial thinking, racism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism, the danger of a global pandemic is greatly compounded while they’re in power. Not only would the response to the outbreak itself be backwards, but it would be used as a pretext for other terrible actions.

    * One of the responses to the tweet above provides screenshots of his unhinged Ebola tweets.

  15. says

    Tampering with elections — this is current news.

    Investigators found evidence of a “malicious intrusion” into a Tennessee county’s elections website from a computer in Ukraine during a concerted cyberattack, which likely caused the site to crash just as it was reporting vote totals in this month’s primary.

    Cyber-security experts hired by Knox County to analyze the so-called “denial of service” cyberattack, said Friday that “a suspiciously large number of foreign countries” accessed the site as votes were being reported on May 1.

    That intense activity was among the likely causes of the crash, according to the report by Sword & Shield Enterprise Security.

    “Given the circumstantial evidence_especially the simultaneous proven malicious intrusion from a Ukraine IP address_I think it is reasonable to at least hypothesize that it was an intended event,” David Ball, the county’s deputy director of information technology, added in an email to The Associated Press.

    County officials said no voting data was affected, but the site was down for an hour after the polls closed, causing confusion before technicians fixed the problem.

    The vulnerability identified by Sword & Shield has been fixed and additional safeguards are now in place, said Ball.

    The election results, to be officially certified later this month, left Glenn Jacobs, also known as the pro wrestler Kane, ahead by 17 votes in the Republican primary for Knox County’s mayor. […]


  16. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Fox Host Jeanine Pirro says Donald Trump fulfilled biblical prophecy by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

    She compared Trump to Cyrus the Great.

    In related news:

    Israel is preparing a series of festivities Sunday to celebrate the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has ignited Palestinian protests and raised fears of a further outbreak of violence.

    As Israel marks Jerusalem Day, the 51st anniversary of what it refers to as the city’s “unification” following the 1967 war, it will also be hosting a gala reception for Monday’s embassy dedication that will include members of a delegation led by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

    Dozens of foreign diplomats are expected, though many ambassadors of European nations who oppose the move will skip it. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania have reportedly blocked a joint EU statement on the issue. […]

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile said Israel would be celebrating Trump’s decision.

    “President Trump promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and he did so. He promised to move the American Embassy to Israel and he is doing so. Of course we will all celebrate this day, a real celebration, tomorrow,” he said at a weekly Cabinet meeting.

    Most countries have traditionally kept their embassies in coastal Tel Aviv rather than the contested holy site of Jerusalem. But after Trump’s move both Guatemala and Paraguay announced that they planned to follow suit.


  17. says

    A summary of events in Paris where a knife attack killed two people and at least four others were wounded:

    A man killed a 29-year-old man and injured four others in a knife attack in the Opéra district of Paris on Saturday evening.

    Police shot and killed the attacker, a French citizen born in 1997 in Russia’s republic of Chechnya.

    Witnesses claimed to hear him shouting “Allahu akbar,” meaning “God is great,” during the attack. The Islamic State took credit for the attack.

    The assailant was on the police’s radar for potential radicalism, but he had no criminal record. His parents have been detained for questioning.

    According to BBC, citing France24, witnesses said police officers first tried to taser the attacker but then fired two shots after being unable to stop him.

    The French interior ministry warned the public to beware of rumors about the attack and to rely only on trusted sources for information.

    A witness told the UK’s the Independent that at first bystanders thought two men were fighting in the street before they realize there had been an attack.


  18. says

    Just spoke to official who oversaw launch of ZTE case during Obama administration and spent years working on it: ‘I am speechless’.”

    “‘We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing a company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks’.
    – FBI Director Christopher Wray, Feb. 2018″

  19. says

    Among other things making this Trump position curious, ZTE paid a record $1.2 billion penalty last year for violating US sanctions on Iran.”

    Sorry – my comments here and just above refer to a new Trump tweet: “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”

  20. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comments re ZTE, and link in comment 34.

    from Jon Passantino:

    Trump’s FBI director said ZTE “provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

    What else did ZTE do? A five-year investigation found ZTE conspired to evade U.S. embargoes by buying U.S. components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.

    So after all of this illegal activity and surveillance concerns, ZTE announced this month it would shut down. Now Trump is ordering his commerce department to help revive the company

  21. says

    Betsy DeVos does more damage:

    The Education Department has in recent months largely dismantled a team charged with investigating abuses by for-profit colleges […]

    The investigative team was created in 2016 to look into widespread fraud claims against for-profit colleges. Roughly a dozen investigators and lawyers were later added to the unit.

    […] the team now consists of three employees, who focus mainly on student loan forgiveness applications. The investigations into for-profit colleges have largely come to a stop, according to the report.

    […] members of the investigative unit had pushed as recently as this year for its work to continue. However, the probes were a point of dispute between Obama-era employees and officials who joined the department in the Trump administration.

    The newspaper reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has hired a number of aides who previously worked at for-profit colleges that were under investigation, including DeVry Education Group and Bridgepoint Education. […]


  22. says

    “Trump Vows to Save ZTE Jobs Lost After U.S. Sanctions Against the Chinese Company”:

    …Mr. Trump’s tweet on Sunday left many scratching their heads….

    Scott Kennedy, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that in expressing concerns about Chinese jobs, Mr. Trump was reiterating the case made by Beijing on ZTE’s imminent collapse.

    “Jobs is the talking point,” he said, adding that for Mr. Trump to write about Chinese jobs in the tweet, “it must have just been part of the conversation, which would have come from the Chinese side.”…

    I want to know who wrote that tweet, because I don’t believe it was Trump. He doesn’t generally use that many commas. Is it possible he was hacked?

  23. says

    A bit of reasonable action on gun legislation from Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, has prompted the NRA to threaten her:

    The NRA is steaming mad, and this time they cannot even blame those pesky liberal gun grabbers […] No, on the contrary, the target of their never ending outrage happens to be a Red State Gun Loving Republican. Oh, my, what is this world coming to? Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma has done what seems impossible in this year of our lord, 2018; she has vetoed pro-gun legislation.

    Oklahoma currently requires a license to carry a firearm openly or concealed, which really pisses the NRA off. So they decided to help legislators “fix” the law by letting people 21 and older, and those in the military age 18 and older carry, openly or concealed, without license. […] surely, law enforcement is just delighted with the idea of having no idea which concealed weapon might actually belong to a bad guy. And the business community will obviously side with the NRA on having anybody and everybody packing mad heat in a concealed manner all throughout the state. Right?

    Well, not really. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation opposed the bill, often called “constitutional carry” legislation, as did the Tulsa Regional Chamber, which Fallin cited in her reasoning for vetoing the legislation. […] The NRA is not impressed with her reasons at all and they are in the mood to fight back in order to allow untrained and unlicensed “good guys with guns” to treat Oklahoma like the Wild Wild West.

    Chris Cox, NRA executive director for legislative affairs says: “Make no mistake, this temporary setback will be rectified when Oklahoma residents elect a new and genuinely pro-Second Amendment governor.”

    [Fallin says], “I believe the firearms laws we currently have in place are effective, appropriate and minimal.”

    Before you get all happy and start thinking that Fallin might be seeing the error of her ways […] no metamorphosis on her part; Fallin is still a right wing hater […] At the same session where she vetoed “constitutional carry” for her state, she also signed a “religious rights” adoption bill. And by rights, we mean right to allow Christian adoption agencies to deny gay families the right to adopt children through their agencies. […]

    Wonkette link

  24. says

    SC @38, Trump’s Twitter account may or may not have been hacked, but in a way it doesn’t matter because the Chinese have already directly hacked his brain.

    My bet is that the Chinese more or less wrote the tweet for him and he just futzed with a little before he posted it.

    ZTE should just give Trump a bunch of phones to use. That way, Trump is pre-hacked in the easiest way possible.

  25. says

    Trump team sends mixed signals to Europe.

    The administration said it expects its allies will fall in line with its Iran policy but doesn’t exclude the possibility of punishing them.

    National security adviser John Bolton on Sunday carefully doubled down on President Donald Trump’s threat that European countries could be sanctioned by the United States if they continue to be involved with Iran.

    “It’s possible,“ Bolton said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” […]

    “I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with this,” Bolton said to CNN host Jake Tapper. […]

    Bolton again! Sheesh. I really don’t think European leaders will come around to Trump’s thinking on this.

  26. says

    From Bernie Sanders:

    The American people believe that we should move forward to comprehensive immigration reform, and Trump is moving in exactly the wrong direction and we see the cruelty of his immigration policies when you talk about the United States government separating children from their parents.

  27. says

    Follow-up to comment 41.

    China’s new train line to Iran sends message to Trump: We’ll keep trading anyway.

    New freight train connections usually have limited potential to make global headlines, but a new service launched from China on Thursday could be different. Its cargo — 1,150 tons of sunflower seeds — may appear unremarkable, but its destination is far more interesting: Tehran, the capital of Iran.

    The launch of a new rail connection between Bayannur, in China’s Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, and Iran was announced by the official news agency Xinhua on Thursday. Its exact path was not described in the dispatch, but travel times will apparently be shortened by at least 20 days in comparison to cargo ship. The sunflower seeds are now expected to arrive in Tehran in about two weeks. […]

    While the United States is now urging foreign companies to wind down their operations in Iran, China appears to be doing the opposite. Thursday’s launch of a freight train connection was only the latest measure that Beijing has taken to intensify trade relations with Iran, and there seem to be no plans so far to give in to U.S. demands.

    During a media briefing Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that Iran and China would “maintain normal economic ties and trade.”

    “We will continue with our normal and transparent practical cooperation with Iran on the basis of not violating our international obligations,” he said. China faces the same problem that U.S. allies in Europe are currently facing: Even if European governments are opposed to new sanctions on Iran, European companies would have to abide by those rules or risk severe fines by the United States. […]

    I think Trump is going to back down on punishing European and Chinese companies.

  28. says

    Update to #30 above. Avenatti is confirming what people were reasonably speculating about the identity of one of the people in the photos in his tweet: “Why was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?”

    Two articles:

    “Is Qatar Trying to Invest in Conservative Media to Curry Favor With Trump?”

    “Six Months After ‘Privatization’ Sale, Russia’s Rosneft Loses Two Big Buyers.”

    I don’t know if Avenatti has documents to back up any financial relationships, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he does.

  29. says

    “Qatari Investor Accused in Bribery Plot Appears With Michael Cohen in Picture Posted by Stormy Daniel’s Lawyer”:

    Members of the Trump transition team appear to have met on December 12, 2016 with a group from Qatar that included Ahmed al-Rumaihi, the former Qatari diplomat and current head of a division of Qatar’s massive sovereign wealth fund who is accused in a recent lawsuit of scheming to bribe Trump administration officials.

    …It has not previously been reported that Qataris, including al-Rumaihi, met with Cohen in December 2016….

    Ice Cube, the rapper and actor, and his business partner Jeff Kwatinetz recently filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit that includes an allegation that Al-Rumaihi and other Qatari officials attempted use an investment in the men’s BIG3 basketball league to gain access to Trump administration officials. “Mr Al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Stephen Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support,” Kwatinetz said in the court filing. Kwatinetz says he rejected the offer, which he viewed as bribe.

    In response, Kwatinetz claims, “Al-Rumaihi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘do you think Flynn turned down our money?’”…

  30. blf says

    How ACT for America encourages citizens to spy on Muslims (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    Internal document obtained by Al Jazeera reveals strategy of infiltrating university courses and monitoring mosques.
    A booklet published by [ACT for America, a powerful Islamophobic lobby group], The Art of Chapter Leadership, includes advice on how to map kindergarten to 12th Grade school boards for suspected Islamists, and how to monitor Muslim activities at US universities.

    The 129-page paper urges members of local chapters to select a few {university} courses/professors that would have a likelihood of presenting biased viewpoints regarding Islamic Jihad, immigration, terrorism, etc.

    The booklet continues: The two most highly suspect departments in which you will want to sign up for specific courses are as follows: The Political Science Department {and} Middle East Studies Department.

    These two departments have a real likelihood of being funded by the Saudis and will have professors who are generally pro-Sharia, anti-America and anti-Israel.

    ACT is one of the largest anti-Muslim groups in the US, which says it works to protect national security. Launched in 2007 by Brigitte Gabriel, it claims to have more than 750,000 members.


    ACT’s internal document recommends that members volunteer in the classroom{…} so that you can monitor the lessons in K–12 schools, and it suggests that parents join the PTA in order to meet the teachers who are going to open up to you and tell you what is being taught.

    Make copies of any homework that is biased and untrue so that it can be used as evidence later with elected officials.

    Written in 2015 by Kelly Cook, the former executive director of ACT for America, the booklet cites as its central theme the need to fearlessly speak out in defence of America, Israel and Western civilisation[].


    The document advises members to conduct title searches on Islamic school properties and lays out steps for how to pressure authorities into closing down such facilities.

    If the county commissioners sense that this is developing into a highly controversial lease situation, the liability picture alone could swing their decision to drop the lease.

    Many local imams have direct ties to Radical Islamism, the booklet warns.

    In a welcome message, founder Gabriel writes that the US must be protected from the rising tide of Islamism and jihad and urges members to drown out the foolish voices of political correctness.

    The pamphlet also stokes irrational fears, including exhortations to overthrow our constitutional form of government and replace it with Sharia law or bullying and intimidation in the public square.


    One chapter, titled Media Issues, urges extreme caution when dealing with journalists, instructing members to never give an interview that can be edited.

    Many reporters could become indignant and imply that you owe the public your side of the story.

    This is reporter-speak for ‘Please say something so that I can twist it out of context. I really want to make you look like a bigoted fool.’


    Commenting on the Islamophobia network, Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said its members aim to spread “conspiracy theories about Muslims”.

    “So for example, ‘all Muslims are terrorists. Muslims are incapable of fitting in in Western societies’.

    “I think of ACT For America as sort of the shock troops and the ground troops for the Islamophobic network with the United States.

    “They are the ones who actually have people on the ground in many, many communities doing anti-Muslim agitating”.

    Whilst there are images supporting some of Al Jazeera’s quoted excerpts, there does not seem to be a link to the booklet.

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has more on Brigitte Gabriel and ACT for America:

    […] Brigitte Gabriel believes that, America is at stage two Islamic Cancer. She also argues that every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim, a Muslim cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States, and that Arabs have no soul. ACT is linked to white supremacist and anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers, Identity Evorpa and Vanguard America. ACT hosted these groups at sanctioned anti-Islam rallies in 2017.


    According to the SPLC, “ACT also ran an online database allegedly for law enforcement called the Thin Blue Line. This McCarthyite project lists the names and addresses of prominent Muslim American leaders and Muslim Student Association (MSA) chapters alongside individuals who have been arrested on terrorism charges, referring to the MSAs as ‘radical organizations’ and the individuals as ‘persons of interest.'” And apparently Mike Flynn and Mike Pompeo are “both are close allies of the group.”

    Some more on their McCarthyite project, This Hate Group Is Teaching Cops to Track Muslims (Feb-2017):

    Inside the [thin blue line project’s] site — which is password protected and only accessible by law enforcement — much of the training focuses on stereotypes and generalizations. There are claims that law enforcement should watch for young boys, whom the site falsely says are used in Muslim households as sex objects. There are training videos to show law enforcement how to spot terrorists through racial profiling — suggestions include trolling someone’s social media, noting accents, and looking for Muslim student association pamphlets. The site makes it easy for state and local agencies to follow the federal government in adopting anti-Muslim policies. […]

    At the heart of the Thin Blue Line Project is a Radicalization Locator, a Yelp-like feature that allows users to see at a glance all potential targets for law enforcement by entering parameters such as state or zip code. The sites, however, appear random — linked only by the fact that they are affiliated with Muslims. Using geolocation, the locator also features places that have seen police activity, such as a personal home in Brooklyn that was raided by police. (The address is visible.) The maps include the offices of [CAIR], Muslim Student Associations, and the meeting place of the Muslim American Society. Other hot spots are the home addresses for the directors of CAIR or Islamic associations. One named target is Suhail Khan, a political activist who was a senior political appointee in the Bush administration. Other individuals include an art history professor with a PhD in Islamic Studies, an Islamic counsel spokesperson, a college-aged girl who is already spending time in prison for trying to travel to Syria, and a cleric.


    Despite the veil of secrecy, many of Guandolo’s [see below] lectures and source materials are easily found online and offer insight into his views on law enforcement. His own Slideshare page focuses on conspiracy theories: that the head of the CIA is a secret Muslim, that mainstream organizations like CAIR and the Muslim American Societyare funneling money to terrorist organizations like Hamas, and that all Muslims participate in […] honor killings and genital mutilation […]

    The [SPLC] points out that these tactics  — publishing specific locations and encouraging vigilante-style justice —  are the same ones used by other extreme right-wing groups. “The Thin Blue Line Project is taking a page from the playbook of oft-used tactics by extremists on the radical right, most notably by white supremacists and anti-abortion extremists, by publishing names and addresses of adversaries,” says Heidi Beirich […]. When I called CAIR to ask about the website, a public relations representative asked, “What else is new?”, adding that anything ACT was involved with was bound to be anti-Muslim in every possible way.


    The John Guandolo mentioned is the creator of that lynching site, and is a former FBI agentgoon: “the white, Christian majority […] Guandolo believes need to reinvent society to target those who don’t fit. In his view, everyone who isn’t Christian poses a threat — especially Muslims.”

    I wonder how long before these bigots fabricate a “Protocol of the Elders of Mecca” ?

      † Apropos of nothing except some poor editing on Al Jazeera’s part, I doubt the booklet uses the British spellings defence and civilisation.

  31. blf says

    Gun control on the ballot as activists seek reform through state initiatives:

    As November’s midterm elections approach, advocates of stricter gun laws hope to place the issue directly into the hands of voters. States such as Oregon and Washington will consider ballot initiatives including a ban on assault rifles and raising the minimum age for purchasing certain kinds of gun.

    Activists increasingly believe the issue will be litigated at the state level, given the National Rifle Association’s strength in Washington. After all, polling has found that voters are broadly supportive of modest gun restrictions […]

    “It’s not surprising that people are turning to the ballot to address gun safety,” said Donna De La Cruz, a spokesperson at the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a progressive group that focuses on ballot measure campaigns. “In poll after poll, common-sense gun laws are overwhelmingly popular.”

    “Many politicians are too beholden to the NRA to address the gun violence epidemic,” De La Cruz said, noting that the 2018 elections will see “a classic use of ballot measures to enact important reforms that corporate-controlled legislatures are unwilling to pass”.


    Efforts to pass new gun laws this way have still proved contentious. In 2016, groups on both sides of the debate poured millions into two ballot initiatives. In Maine, voters rejected mandated background checks on all gun sales. In Nevada, a similar proposal was narrowly approved, only to be blocked by the state’s Republican attorney general.

    At least a dozen states have tightened firearm regulations since Sandy Hook. About twice as many, however, have taken steps to loosen gun laws.


    I would not be surprised if one move teh NRA and its tame Congress makes is to try and outlaw most or all state-level / non-federal gun-related legislation using some bogus argument such as it’s a constitutional matter and hence not for the states to “take away the 2nd amendment”.

  32. blf says

    Indian college cut women’s sleeves before exam to prevent cheating:

    An Indian college has been banned from conducting exams after its staff cut the sleeves of women taking nursing tests to prevent cheating, officials said on Monday.

    A video aired on Indian TV showed staff at the school using scissors and razor blades to slash the women’s sleeves before allowing them into the exam building on Sunday.

    Many of the women can be seen carrying the cut-off sleeves into the exam hall as dozens of police stand guard outside in the Muzaffarpur district of Bihar state.

    The act led to protests outside other exam centres and a torrent of complaints on social media.


    Whilst the article doesn’t directly touch on it, a photograph at the link seems to show male students’s clothing wasn’t slashed — however, it is unclear if that photograph was of the exam in question. The article goes on to note there is apparently a very severe cheating problem, and some searching suggests there is a quite strict dress code for participants in some exams to try and prevent cheating.

  33. says

    Mitt Romney:

    >Robert Jeffress says “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,“ and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.

    I disagree. Hagee and Jeffress perfectly embody the religious bigotry and fanaticism behind this move. They’re exactly what the morally bankrupt and (self-)destructive people behind it deserve.

  34. says

    Josh Marshall:

    The bloodshed in Gaza this morning/afternoon makes any sarcasm or mockery out of place. But listening to Jared Kushner give the keynote here on behalf of Pres Trump at what amounts to a Trump campaign event just shows what a ridiculous mess of influence peddling and cynical pandering our whole regional policy is now reduced to. The bad actors in the region are so lucky to have this hapless and manipulable goober in such a position of power. Meaning Kushner here but could of course mean others.

  35. blf says

    Border agents can’t search your phone without good reason, US court rules:

    US border authorities cannot search the cellphones of travelers without having some reason to believe a particular traveler has committed a crime, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday [9-May].


    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had urged the 4th circuit to find that the government should be required to obtain a warrant or at least a determination of probable cause that evidence of a crime is contained on electronic devices before agents can search them at airports.

    The 4th circuit said it did not have to reach the question of whether probable cause or a warrant is required. Reasonable suspicion is a lower legal standard.

    Claire Gastanaga, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said the group was pleased that the appeals court “recognized correctly that border agents can’t conduct invasive searches on a traveler’s cellphone or other electronic devices just because the person is crossing the border”.

    Last year, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit claiming warrantless border searches are unconstitutional because of the vast amount of private personal and business information stored on electronic devices.


  36. says

    “Mueller’s Probe is Even More Expansive Than It Seems”:

    FBI agents working for special counsel Robert Mueller allegedly detained a lawyer with ties to Russia who is closely associated with Joseph Mifsud, the shadowy professor who claimed during the election that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

    The revelation was made in a book co-written by that lawyer, Stephan Roh, and set to be published next month. “The Faking of RUSSIA-GATE: The Papadopoulos Case” is the latest in a stream of books aiming to capitalize on the chaos of this political moment. But it sheds new light on the expansive nature of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Moscow. It also highlights Mueller’s interest in answering one of the probe’s biggest outstanding questions: whether the campaign knew in advance that Russia planned to interfere in the election.

    Roh and his co-author Thierry Pastor, who also knows Mifsud, write in the book that, upon arriving in New York City with his family in October 2017, “one of the co-authors” was “fished from the passport control” line at John F. Kennedy airport while his family “was retained with armed police force.” (Photos posted by Roh’s wife on social media in October 2017 suggest she was visiting New York in late October.) He was then interrogated for “hours,” they write, by “a team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigating Russia-Gate.” The book alleges that he and his family were then “observed, followed, and taped, at every moment and every place in New York” by the FBI and that his family was assigned to “special rooms at the hotel” while security personnel “patrolled the corridors.”

    According to the book, Mueller interviewed another Mifsud associate in the summer of 2017: Ivan Timofeev, a program director at a Russian government-funded think tank who Mueller described in court filings as “connected to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”…

    Mifsud has virtually disappeared since his name was made public late last year. In their book, Roh and Pastor say that “the head of the Italian secret services contacted the President of LINK Campus, Vincenzo Scotti,” and recommended that Mifsud “disappear.” Since then, Mifsud “has been requested to hide, not to communicate, and not to speak to the press,” Roh and Pastor write. “He has been ‘put away’ and threatened to stay quiet.”

    Much more at the link. (Bertrand mentions Malloch, but doesn’t answer the question of whether he in fact did testify before Mueller’s grand jury as he had claimed he’d been subpoenaed to.)

  37. blf says

    Populist voters less likely to trust news media, European survey finds:

    Europeans with populist views typically trust the news media much less than others and are far more critical of its coverage of key issues such as immigration, the economy and crime, according to a continent-wide survey.

    The study also found that in many — but not all — countries, people with populist attitudes are more likely to get their news from social media, and that as many as one-third of all adults pay no attention to the original source of articles they see there.


    The survey found that only 47% of populist sympathisers in Germany trusted the traditional news media, compared with 78% of non-populists — a 31-point difference. It found gaps of 20-plus points in Spain, Sweden, Denmark and France, and a gap of 17 points in Britain.

    In seven of the eight countries surveyed, people with populist attitudes were also significantly less likely — by between 11 points (Denmark) and 24 points (Germany) — to say the news media were important to society.


    In general, public confidence in the media was higher in northern Europe than in the south and the UK, the survey found, with 64% of all adults in Germany saying they trusted their national media, compared with 32% in the UK and 29% in Italy.

    Across the eight countries, around 30% of people — ranging from 50% in Italy to 26% in Germany — got news at least daily from social media, with Facebook being by far the most popular platform.

    Amid widespread concerns about fake news, about one-third or more of regular social media news consumers in France, the Netherlands, Italy and the UK — though just 16% in Sweden — said they did not pay attention to where this news came from.

    There were marked regional differences in news habits, with roughly one-third or more of people in northern Europe (Sweden, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark) turning to the same few major news outlets for their news, compared with 21% or less in France, Italy and Spain.

    The Pew report itself, In Western Europe, Public Attitudes Toward News Media More Divided by Populist Views Than Left-Right Ideology, notes (page 3):

    [… I]n all but one of the eight countries, the top-named main source for news is a public news organization rather than a private one. The one exception is France, where both a private organization, TF1, and a public one, France Télévisions, are named at about equal rates.


    One consistent pattern across seven of the eight countries is that the most-named main news source is publicly owned, such as Rai News in Italy, the BBC in the UK and NPO in the Netherlands. This differs from the US, where even the largest public news outlets, NPR and PBS, are not used as universally as private news outlets. When US voters named their main source for election news in 2016, NPR was only cited by 4% of Americans and PBS was cited by only 1%, placing them behind at least seven other news sources, including Fox News, CNN and Facebook.

  38. says

    The US ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, is actually encouraging US businesses to participate in Putin’s economic forum later this month, but isn’t seeing much interest.* He’ll personally participate in a panel discussion with Victor Vekselberg. (“This is horrifying,” Brian O’Toole, a former senior adviser in Treasury’s sanctions unit and now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, wrote in Twitter of Huntsman’s plans. “Please don’t go be a pawn at Putin’s invest-in-Russia campaign. And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t do a panel with an SDN,” he added, using the abbreviation for those subject to the strictest sanctions, like Vekselberg.)

    * Bill Browder: “In spite of the US ambassador’s push for US companies to attend the St Petersburg Economic Forum, there’s not a big take up b/c 1) people don’t want to lose their money, 2) they don’t want to be arbitrarily arrested, 3) they don’t want to be killed. Simple.”

    Browder is currently working on behalf of the Bitkov family, a Russian family imprisoned in Guatemala.

  39. says

    “White House Aide’s Plan to Stop Leaks: Spy on His Co-Workers”:

    A former National Security Council official now working for Attorney General Jeff Sessions explored ways to surreptitiously monitor the communications of White House staff for leaks or perceived political disloyalty to Donald Trump, according to three former Trump NSC officials familiar with the effort.

    Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whom former national security adviser Michael Flynn brought onto the NSC as senior director for intelligence, sought technical solutions in early 2017 for collecting and analyzing phone and other data on White House colleagues for interactions with reporters. He portrayed his desired leak hunt as an “insider threat” detection effort, according to the ex-officials. Those who heard of it presumed it would focus on NSC staffers held over from the Obama administration.

    It is unknown whether Cohen-Watnick’s efforts actually resulted in any monitoring program. The former officials noted the overwhelming technical and legal hurdles to doing so. One called it “wholly inappropriate” for Cohen-Watnick, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, to do anything of the sort, considering it a blatant attempt at intimidating his colleagues. Another, who agreed the proposed effort was inappropriate, likened it to a “Keystone Cop thing.”

    “This seemed designed to intimidate rather than protect national security,” said a different ex-NSC official familiar with the proposal.

    Cohen-Watnick is now re-emerging from a post-White House stint at the software behemoth Oracle to take a senior advisory role to Sessions, ostensibly about counterintelligence and counterterrorism. It’s happening right as the White House is once again obsessed with leaks and angry at the Justice Department for the Russia probe. Yet practically every major administration figure, including Trump himself, is being accused of leaking.

    That’s caused Cohen-Watnick’s former colleagues, who spoke on condition of anonymity, to recall the insider-threat episode out of suspicion that his new role is to be a political commissar, ensuring Sessions toes the party line desired by a president who distrusts his attorney general. Unlike previous national-security aides to attorneys general, Cohen-Watnick is not a lawyer, and the Justice Department, for more than a decade, has a formal national-security division working on such issues.

    “I used to refer to him as the one most likely to end up like Ollie North,” said a former Trump NSC official, referring to the Marine officer and Reagan administration official central to the Iran-Contra scandal who turned a policy laboratory in the White House into an unauthorized operational agency….

    More at the link. C-W’s lawyer is quoted defending him in the piece. Matthew Miller argues: “With all respect to [Mark Zaid], I don’t understand why Cohen-Watnick’s attorney is serving as his spokesperson here. Don’t the NSC and DOJ have press teams? Unless he’s under investigation, it’s very odd and almost inappropriate to have an outside attorney serving this role.” Oddly, Zaid responds to comments in Miller’s thread, but not to Miller’s tweet.

  40. says

    US Supreme Court decisions today, at Scotusblog:

    SCOTUS today held as follows:
    States can legalize sports betting, as the federal prohibition on state laws authorizing sports betting violates the anticommandeering rule (opinion in Murphy v. NCAA here);
    Judge’s wiretap orders that authorized interception outside court’s territorial jurisdiction were not facially insufficient (opinion in Dahda v. U.S. here);
    Defense attorney in capital case cannot concede defendant’s guilt over defendant’s express objection (opinion in McCoy v. La. here);*
    Under the Fourth Amendment, driver of rental vehicle can challenge a search of the vehicle even if he is not listed as an authorized driver on rental agreement (opinion in Byrd v. U.S. here);
    A challenge to a federal district-wide policy of shackling defendants during pretrial proceedings is moot (opinion in U.S. v. Sanchez-Gomez here).

    I read about this case recently and I’m still kind of amazed it made it to the Supreme Court.

    This morning the Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana inmate’s death sentence because the inmate’s lawyer – hoping to save his client’s life – had told the jury that the inmate was guilty, even though the inmate had expressly objected to that strategy. The 6-3 ruling reiterated that the Constitution gives a criminal defendant the fundamental right to make decisions about his defense and therefore bars a defense lawyer from going against his client’s instructions, even when the lawyer’s defense strategy might seem perfectly reasonable.

    Of course.

  41. says

    blf @81:

    “I think of ACT For America as sort of the shock troops and the ground troops for the Islamophobic network with [within] the United States.”

    What is more shocking perhaps is that an “Islamophobic network” even exists in the USA. That’s a very bad sign. All we need is for bigotry to become even more organized. A “network”!

    Plus, you can bet that Russian bots and trolls are amplifying the Islamophobic network.

  42. says

    SC @64, Oh, FFS, not Cohen-Watnick again. That guy should have been fired long ago, (right after the Nunes’ “midnight ride” fiasco); or Cohen-Watnick should have never been hired in the first place.

    All the best people.

    And now, it looks like Cohen-Watnick is spying, sort of, on Jeff Sessions for Trump.

    Putin should hire Cohen-Watnick since he sounds like an FSB operative in training.

  43. says

    So, Ivanka and Jared are giving Trump-campaign-rally-ish speeches in Israel. Meanwhile, here are some sobering facts:

    At least 52 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and almost 1,960 others were wounded Monday [today] after thousands of protesters converged on the razor-wire fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel as the U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem.

    The Israeli Defense Forces opened fire on protesters approaching the barrier and accused Hamas of “leading a terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people,” adding that “firebombs and explosive devices” as well as rocks were being thrown toward the barrier.

    NBC News link

    In the latest news, we also hear that Israeli forces have stepped up the bombardment of what they say are Hamas positions. They are using artillery.

    SC noted up-thread Trump’s surreal tweet: “Big day for Israel. Congratulations!”

    There are no Trump tweets offering condolences to the families of those who have been killed.

  44. says

    Tuesday is primary day in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Trump is attempting to boost the chances of Lou Barletta in the Senate primary in Pennsylvania. Trump recorded a robocall that touts Barletta’s hardline approach to immigration.

    In other news, as everyone knows, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is likely to be indicted. Nevertheless Cohen continues to hold a position as national deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee. Maybe the RNC will boot him after he is indicted.

  45. blf says

    And speaking of the Islamophobic network — and also John Guandolo (see @51) — Ex-FBI agent caught teaching police Islamophobic ideas:

    Undercover Al Jazeera reporter films training session by John Guandolo as he spreads fabricated theories about Muslims.

    An Islamophobic former FBI agent, who provides counterterrorism training to members of US law enforcement, has been secretly filmed telling police officers that Muslim students at American universities pose a threat of jihad and that a prominent civil rights group is a front for terrorist organisations.

    During the training event, John Guandolo — a conspiracy theorist who has stated publicly that Muslim Americans should not have the same rights as other citizens — also told our reporter that he was in direct and regular contact with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.


    Guandolo’s claim demonstrates how the Islamophobia network — a well-funded circle of organisations and individuals propagating anti-Muslim racism — has reached its tentacles into the halls of power in Washington DC.


    During his lecture, he proposed several theories, including a claim that Muslim student associations in Arizona were recruiting people to jihad.

    He said the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) was a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, and compared the Muslim advocacy and civil rights group to Hamas […].

    “This is just a rhetoric of fear,” said Rick Schwein, a former FBI agent. “These organisations have a right to exist; they’re a part of America’s fabric.

    “To say that all of these organisations are the enemy, which is what he’s inferring here, is just ludicrous. What he’s advocating is dangerous.”

    Guandolo’s team also used execution videos by ISIL fighters to explain the concept of Islamic law to police officers.

    “He is a snake oil salesman, this stuff is toxic,” said Congressman Keith Ellison. “You don’t want a law enforcement community infected with these hateful ideas because they do have the power to deploy deadly force.”


    Islamophobia Inc[] enjoys multimillion-dollar funding, and Al Jazeera has traced the secretive donors who bankroll the movement.

    In financial documents seen by Al Jazeera, millions of dollars were provided by anonymous donor funds. So-called dark money is given to these groups by front organisations, while the real donor remains hidden.

    “Anti Muslim groups have budgets that range from hundreds of thousands up to millions of dollars a year. There’s probably tens of millions of dollars sloshing around if not a hundred million every year in budgets that they operate with,” said Eli Clifton, a fellow at the Nation Institute.

    [… One group,] the Centre for Security Policy[], has powerful allies in Washington DC, and is run by Frank Gaffney, a former member of President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

    Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, meanwhile, lead two of the most popular websites that characterise Muslims as a threat, Geller Report and Jihad Watch respectively.

    “The Islamophobia industry is a tight-knit group of individuals and organisations that, for lots of money, whip up fervour among the general public about the fear of Islam,” said Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims.

    Most of the donors shared a common association. Almost 80 percent had vocally or financially supported causes that promote the state of Israel.

    Further insight into donors’ motives was found in leaked financial records from the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, revealing a request for funding from an anti-Muslim group.

    The money, the document said, would be used to combat the Muslim Student Association, a non-profit organisation.


    The remaining donor groups that responded to Al Jazeera — Jewish community of San Francisco, Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and Donors Trust/Donors Capital fund — said they were simply doing what the anonymous benefactors wanted.

    “It’s extremely upsetting that a Jewish organisation would be funding and funnelling money to these organisations that are promoting Islamophobia,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, head of the Jewish Voice for Peace organisation. “Most of us who are Jewish have an awareness of the past and the scapegoating that Jewish people have experienced.”


    “When you see organisations like Donor’s Trust, like the Bradley Foundation… giving money to members of what is fundamentally a fringe anti-Muslim movement that means that’s we’re seeing a shift of the mainstream Republican party to the right” [said Clifton].

    “The worst-case scenario for this movement is that there is a continued and heightened persecution of Muslims and that Muslims are the canary in the coal mine for a white nationalist movement that’s moving across the United States.”

      † “Al Jazeera tracked the movement [Islamophobia network] over the past year as part of its latest investigation, Islamophobia Inc“:

    Across the United States, there has been a growth in organizations that portray Islam as a threat.

    Over two years, the number of groups that make up what’s become known as the Islamophobia industry has more than tripled.

    This investigation reveals the tactics these groups use to instigate a fear of Islam, including how they manipulate social media to create a false narrative that Muslims are trying to take over the country.

    Anti-Muslim messages proliferate social media with bought-in followers, fake accounts and robotic amplifiers.

    The investigation also shows how these organizations try to suppress the rise of a Muslim political voice in America. It uncovers the “dark money” that has fuelled the rapid growth of Islamophobia Inc — tens of millions of dollars which is funnelled through secretive, anonymous donor funds.

    We unveil the donors of the dark money and ask; what do they ultimately hope to achieve?

    There is a series of articles and videos at the “Islamophobia Inc” link.

      ‡ Come on, Al Jazeera, they almost certainly don’t use the British spelling Centre. (This is a trivial but distracting quirk.)

  46. says

    “Dublin mayor urges Eurovision boycott as Israel commits another massacre”:

    The lord mayor of Dublin has called for Ireland to boycott next year’s Eurovision song contest in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

    “The horrific ordeal of the Palestinian people needs to be highlighted,” Mícheál Mac Donncha stated. “There needs to be solidarity just as there was with the people of South Africa with the apartheid regime.”

    Israel won the right to host the high-profile annual competition after Netta Barzilai won this year’s event on Saturday.

    Dublin mayor Mac Donncha’s calls on Ireland to boycott Eurovision came a day after he opened the Palestinian Freedom Conference, organized by Palestine solidarity groups in Ireland.

    At the conference, attended by hundreds, Mac Donncha reiterated his and Dublin City Council’s full support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

    Last month Israel announced that it had banned Mac Donncha from entering any territory it controls, but the mayor got into the occupied West Bank anyway as Israeli authorities had misspelled his name on the banning order.

    At least two other elected officials have also called for a boycott of Eurovision.

    “Israel wins Eurovision so let’s make BDS more successful than ever in 2019,” Lynn Boylan, a member of the European Parliament and a colleague of Mac Donnacha in the Sinn Féin party tweeted.

    Nessa Childers, an independent MEP, retweeted and agreed with that call.

    Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu view the victory of Barzilai’s heavily promoted entry in this year’s Eurovision as a major coup for their international propaganda.

    The European Union was also quick to celebrate the propaganda win for Israel….

    It wasn’t until I heard Netta Barzilai’s remarks when she received the award that I realized the implications of this. I don’t know how much she’s knowingly involved in the pinkwashing effort (now I sort of wish it had gone to the Cypriot Beykira), but I suspect what is being seen now as a propaganda coup is going to come back to bite them.

  47. says

    As expected, Trump is softening his “denuclearization” stance toward North Korea by redefining the term.

    From Josh Marshall:

    From the outset, there was little reason to think that North Korea would agree to surrender its nuclear weapons and the infrastructure and labs required to build them. If we set aside the never-very-plausible idea that the Kims are madmen intent on prepping some secular apocalyptic nuclear confrontation with the U.S., a more prosaic, rational strategy becomes clear: build a credible nuclear deterrent, thus making military-backed regime change unthinkable. Then reach an accommodation with the U.S. from a position of strength and fundamental equality.

    Such an agreement might involve restrictions on nuclear weapons development, limits on numbers of warheads. But fundamentally it would mean accepting North Korea as a nuclear power.

    Now the Trump administration appears to be trying to define “denuclearization” in such a way as to bring it into line with that kind of agreement. Most notably he seems to be focused now on eliminating the nuclear threat to the United States rather than North Korea’s nuclear weapons in general. That seems like it can be addressed by restrictions on missile capacity and/or some treaty which eliminates by some definition how much we consider North Korea a “threat”. Indeed, at one point, Pompeo has suggested that the U.S. is more categorical about North Korea getting rid of chemical and biological weapons than nuclear weapons – another hint that ‘denuclearization’ does not imply denuclearization.

    Put it all together and you see a ‘deal’ in which North Korea gives up missiles that can reach the U.S., gets rid of chemical and biological weapons, and perhaps limits some ability to manufacture new nuclear weapons. In each case, North Korea gets an end of sanctions, partial withdrawal of U.S troops from South Korea and an undetermined amount of economic aid. […]

    More at the link.

  48. says

    Trump reportedly talks to Sean Hannity of Fox News every night:

    […] On the phone, he and the president alternate between the “witch hunt!” and gabbing like old girlfriends about media gossip and whose show sucks and who’s getting killed in the ratings and who’s winning (Hannity, and therefore Trump) and sports and Kanye West, all of it sprinkled with a staccato fuck … fucking … fucked … fucker. “He’s not a systematic thinker at all. He’s not an ideologue,” one person who knows both men said of Hannity. “He gives tactical advice versus strategic advice.”

    The talks may be more important for Trump than for Hannity in a therapeutic sense, even if it’s nearly impossible to accept what we’re seeing from the president reflects any kind of therapy. “He doesn’t live with his wife,” one person who knows both men said of Trump, explaining that he lacks someone “to decompress” with at the end of the day.

    When they spoke a few hours before Trump welcomed home the newly freed Americans who’d been held hostage in North Korea, he and Hannity told each other how proud they were, how happy the news made them. “You can’t function without that,” this person said, adding that Hannity “actually likes him” even though “he knows how nuts he is. He’s decided that you’re all in or you’re not.” […]

    New York magazine link. The article is by Olivia Nuzzi.

    Another excerpt:

    More than most politicians, Trump abides by the Groucho Marx law of fraternization. He inherently distrusts anyone who chooses to work for him, seeking outside affirmation as often as possible from as vast and varied a group as he can muster — but Hannity is at the center. “Generally, the feeling is that Sean is the leader of the outside kitchen cabinet,” one White House official said, echoing other staffers (current and removed).

    I was told by one person that Hannity “fills the political void” left by Steve Bannon, a statement Bannon seemed to agree with: “Sean Hannity understands the basic issues of economic nationalism and ‘America First’ foreign policy at a deeper level than the august staff of Jonathan Chait and the fuckin’ clowns at New York Magazine,” he said. The White House official assessed the influence of White House officials and other administration personnel as exactly equal to that of Fox News.

  49. blf says

    A disturbingly-common tactic used by supporters of Israel’s apartheid-like policies (a comparison which has been around for decades) is to call critics of those policies and related actions anti-Semites (for that reason I’ve been called that on numerous occasions). The same tactic is used by some critics of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. There is yet another attempt to write into law this slur, to dodge and silence the criticism, Critics denounce South Carolina’s new anti-Semitism law:

    A recently passed South Carolina law targets criticism of Israel in schools by branding it anti-Semitic.
    The new bill would effectively deem any criticism of Israel in publicly funded schools and state colleges as anti-Semitic.

    Unable to pass it as a standalone law for the past two years over questions about its constitutionality, supporters of the measure used a legislative tactic known as a “rider” to insert it into the state’s 2018–2019 budget. […]


    Barry Trachtenberg, director of the Jewish studies programme at Wake Forest University, who teaches a course on anti-Semitism, said there should be clear distinctions between “actual anti-Semitic hatred” and legitimate criticism of Israel.

    Cooper, also a member of the Academic Advisory Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, said that, as a Jewish person, he does not want to be identified with Israel when it commits human rights abuses and continues to occupy Palestinian territories.

    “The bill identifies Jews with Israel. As a Jew, I don’t want to be associated with Israel’s human rights abuses,” Cooper said.

    The bill’s sponsor, Representative Alan Clemmons, told Reuters news agency that Jews are subject to intense anti-Semitism in the US with Jews at the point of the hate spear in this country.


    Trachtenberg argued the legislation would actually reinforce anti-Semitic hatred against Jews, not decrease it.

    “It is my sense that such laws are more likely to exacerbate anti-Semitism rather than combat it for they reinforce the notion that Jews are an exceptional people who require laws that pertain only to them,” he said.

    “Speech that is racist, ethnically motivated, or discriminatory may be legal in the US, but it must be opposed by all concerned with freedom, equality, and human rights. Speech that questions Israel’s founding principles, policies, and actions is entirely legitimate.”


    Arya Novinbakht, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina and a member of the Jewish community in the area, told Al Jazeera “the law would only obstruct our community from discussing the Israeli policies and behaviour in the Middle East, and that’s not healthy or constructive for us”.


    There are already a number of anti-BDS laws. Here is a handy map.

  50. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 24.

    Yes, “-Trump moved to rescind $252 million set aside to fight Ebola.” That was such a short-sighted and dangerous move on the part of team Trump!

    An Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo has worsened, with officials there reporting a total of 39 suspected cases between April 4 and May 13, including 19 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated Monday.

    Three health care workers are among those who have been infected.

    The outbreak is currently confined to the Bikoro, Iboko, and Wangata health zones, in Equateur province. WHO experts say the outbreak has not yet met the criteria “of a public heath event of international concern,” which would require an emergency WHO Committee meeting.

    The regions affected by the outbreak, however, abut larger cities capable of spreading the virus much more quickly, including the port city of Mbandaka, which has a population of 1.2 million and sits directly along the Congo River, a major economic lifeline.

    “The cases are being reported from remote locations that are difficult to access,” WHO officials said. “However, the proximity of the affected area to the Congo River, which links to the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, increases the risk of cases occurring in neighboring countries.” […]


    More at the link.

  51. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 65.

    […] implications well beyond the realm of sports betting. Murphy isn’t simply good news for Atlantic City. It also bolsters the legal case against the Trump administration’s crackdown on so-called “sanctuary cities.”

    Murphy concerns the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a very odd statute which “makes it ‘unlawful’ for a State or any of its subdivisions ‘to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact . . . a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based . . . on’ competitive sporting events.”

    What makes this law unusual is that Congress typically does not forbid state lawmakers from taking a particular action. If Congress wants to ban sports betting, it can simply ban sports betting, and instruct federal agents to enforce that law. Banning state lawmakers from authorizing sports betting is a strangely roundabout way of accomplishing a similar goal. And it is also, as Justice Alito explains, unconstitutional. […]

    “Congress,” Alito explains, “cannot issue direct orders to state legislatures.”

    As a practical matter, it’s unclear whether Murphy will lead to an explosion of legalized sports betting. Congress still retains the power to ban such betting directly, so it could attempt to revive PASPA with a more artfully drafted statute that would achieve many of the same goals. And states may still choose to ban sports betting themselves.

    Murphy however, should stand as a warning to the Trump administration that a major prong of its effort to crack down on immigrants is unlikely to prevail in court. […]

    […] the Trump administration wants to conscript state and local police forces into the broader effort to round up and deport immigrants. The term “sanctuary cities” refers to municipalities that do not permit their police force to assist in such an effort. ICE may still lawfully target immigrants in such sanctuary cities, but they must use their own resources will not receive help from local cops.

    Under the anticommandeering doctrine, state and local governments have an absolute right to refuse such assistance to ICE agents. Moreover, while the anticommandeering doctrine does permit the federal government to withhold certain federal grant funding from sanctuary cities, the Trump administration’s efforts to do so have, at least so far, been amateurish and unlikely to survive in the federal courts. […]


    Maybe we should be glad that in many ways, Team Trump is “amateurish.”

  52. blf says

    Thousands attend far-right commemoration in southern Austria (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    Gathering in Bleiburg commemorates wartime Croatian fascists and civilians amid a counter-protest.
    Held annually for more than three decades, Saturday’s event in Bleiburg was held to mourn the killing of civilians and members of the Croatian Ustasa, a fascist group that controlled the Nazi-aligned Independent Croatian State (NDH), and others in May 1945 by Yugoslav Partisans.


    The memorial, which included a religious ceremony and political speeches, was attended by Croatian politicians and clergymen as well as Bosnian Croat political figures […].

    Upwards of 100 people staged a counter-protest against the event. Police were deployed in large numbers.

    In a statement provided to Al Jazeera by email, the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DOW), a group that monitors fascist and neo-fascist activity, described the Bleiburg commemoration as the “biggest annual neo-fascist reunion in Europe”.

    Having drawn as many as 30,000 participants in the past, Rudolf Edlinger, president of the DOW, said: “The Bleiburg commemoration glorifies the Croatian Nazi-collaborationist regime.”


    Vjeran Pavlakovic, a professor at the University of Rijeka, explained that the Bleiburg commemorations started during the communist rule of Josip Broz Tito in former Yugoslavia.

    “Bleiburg was for many years the gathering place of diaspora Croats who were opposed to the Tito regime,” he told Al Jazeera.

    “It was an attempt to draw attention to the situation of Croats in communist Yugoslavia,” he said, adding that former Ustasa organised the relatively small event with “efforts to justify and whitewash {the} fascist collaborationist state”.


    Since Croatia declared its independence in 1991, the event has grown in both size and scope, gradually obtaining a veneer of mainstream legitimacy owing to the Croatian parliament’s sponsorship of the commemoration in 1995.

    Although parliament revoked its sponsorship of the event in 2012, it was reinstated in 2016.

    In the past, the commemoration, which has grown to bring out tens of thousands of people, drew attention over participants’ use of fascist slogans and symbols, Pavlakovic said.


  53. says

    Unintended consequences?

    Last year, Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, who made a name as the country’s most infamous sheriff for racially profiling Latinos and arresting them on suspicion of lacking legal status.

    Now, in a little-noticed case, the courts could toss out that pardon, and with it the notion that the president’s pardon power is unlimited.

    If instead they uphold the pardon, as many observers expect, that could send two powerful if ominous messages: that law enforcement officials can violate the Constitution’s protections against things like racial discrimination and still gain presidential absolution, and that people caught up in the Russia investigation can refuse to cooperate with court orders without penalty if they have the president’s backing. […]

    […] some scholars see a different problem with the Arpaio pardon: It nullified the role of the courts to protect Americans’ civil rights. The pardon power, as laid out in the Constitution, is virtually unlimited. But in the case of Arpaio’s pardon, some prominent constitutional scholars believe the president exceeded his authority by overriding the constitutional rights of Arpaio’s victims. […]


  54. says

    Jeff Sessions is exerting unprecedented control over immigration courts — by ruling on cases himself.

    […] Sessions has stepped into the immigration system in an unprecedented manner: giving himself and his office the ability to review, and rewrite, cases that could set precedents for a large share of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants with pending immigration court cases, not to mention all those who are arrested and put into the deportation process in future.

    He’s doing this by taking cases from the Board of Immigration Appeals — the Justice Department agency that serves as a quasi-appellate body for immigration court cases — and referring them to himself to issue a decision instead. […]

  55. says

    Ivanka Blows Kisses While Gaza Strip Burns

    From Wonkette:

    While Israeli soldiers shot and killed at least 50 protesters (and injured an incredible 2,400 people) in the Gaza Strip, the USA opened its brand new embassy in Jerusalem today, a step sure to please the fundagelicals in Donald Trump’s base because it will surely help bring the End Times and the second coming of Jesus, or at least a very solid turnout for Republicans in this year’s midterms and the 2020 elections.

    While people in Gaza were getting shot and bombed, fundamentalist Christians who’ve said it’s a real bummer that Jews are damned (hey, it’s just prophecy, deal with it) celebrated the opening of the new embassy. [snipped description of John Hagee’s role.]

    Also invoking the God of the Holy Land (which will soon be wiped from the Earth, along with just about everyone, HOORAY!) was pastor Robert Jeffress, who explained that God handed the keys to Jerusalem 4,000 years ago: […]

    Ivanka blew the crowd a kiss [video at the link].

    Surely these will be the best End Times ever. […]

  56. blf says

    From life-threatening refugee boats to canal cruises in Amsterdam:

    A Dutch artist rescued migrant ships in Lampedusa, turned them into canal boats and employed refugees to run tours.

    The narrow canals of Amsterdam are overloaded with purpose-built tourist boats but two stand out from the crowd.

    Yeah, there are tourist boats bobbing everywhere in the canals (or so it seems). Despite that, it’s one of the very few tourist things to try I would suggest — I’m normally very allergic to such tourist’s-money-focused things — albeit, as always, it depends very much on the guide. (Some boats use pre-recorded “guides”, avoid those !) Some tours, such as the ones discussed in this excerpted article, are focused on this-or-that, I suspect they are the more interesting canal tours.

    The tall red Alhadj Djumaa and its sister-boat, the smaller, blue-licked Hedir are conspicuous not only for their size but also their stories.

    Both boats are, like their tour guides and captains, not from here.


    Dutch artist Teun Castelein and founder of Lampedusa Cruises discovered the boats at the Italian island [Lampedusa]. […] Castelein brought the boats to Amsterdam and repurposed them to offer tours focusing on the city’s migrant heritage.


    The tour’s narrative focuses on how migration stimulated the city’s rise to prominence in the Golden Age, as an increased workforce and influx of skills turned it into a powerhouse of trade and commerce.


    “In Amsterdam, you can be amazed where people come from,” says Tommy Hatim, a political refugee from Egypt and tour guide on the boats. “You can see all kinds of religions, cultures and traditions, it’s everywhere.”

    Like the Alhadj Djumaa, which also originated in Egypt, Hatim had a complicated journey to the Netherlands. He was a writer and activist in Cairo and worked at a TV station in the city; he also helped Syrian refugees who were flooding into the country in 2012.

    “One of my friends asked: ‘Why are you helping these refugees? They are taking our money, our houses, our jobs?’ So I told him, ‘Today I’m helping them maybe tomorrow I’ll be a refugee’.”

    His prediction was realised when his life was threatened after helping the Muslim Brotherhood […] “I became a fugitive. I was kidnapped by the authorities in 2014 and tortured and investigated. Then they let me go but they wanted me to work as a spy,” he says.

    Refusing to become an informer, Tommy fled and claimed asylum at Amsterdam airport.


    The project has also become something of a launch pad: Hatim regularly speaks to children in schools about migration and refugees and he is still in touch with visitors who took the tour last summer, a Cambridge PhD student and an American professor among them.

    […] Yusuf[], an asylum seeker from Somalia and captain on board, was more than happy to return to the water.

    “For me, it feels like my old life,” he says.

    Yusuf grew up on the south coast of Somalia and was a fisherman.

    “I’ve been doing it since I was young,” he says.


    The Alhadj Djumaa and Hedir have become tourist attractions themselves.

    “Other tour boat companies often point us out,” says Castelein […]

    Those who worked on-board last year have gone onto a variety of different projects. One is doing a masters degree and Hatim and Yusuf are writing a play together about their experiences of being a refugee.

    “I start to feel like I belong here because I know the history of the city. I start to feel like it’s home,” says Tommy. “That’s important for refugees who are leaving their country and leaving their families to go to a new place. It can be terrible.”

      † Al Jazeera only gives the one name, Yusuf. I don’t know if that is to protect his identity (seems odd, he’s the captain of the Alhadj Djumaa), an oversight, or he is a single-named individual (mononymous person).

  57. Oggie. says

    From SC’s quote at 64:

    A former National Security Council official now working for Attorney General Jeff Sessions explored ways to surreptitiously monitor the communications of White House staff for leaks or perceived political disloyalty to Donald Trump

    Oooh. Oooh. Ooooh. They can call this special group ‘The Plumbers’!

  58. says

    The Wisconsin Department of Justice has ruled that James O’Keefe is full of bull pucky (still a fraud, purveyor of deceptively edited videos, etc.):

    […] The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel […] obtained investigatory reports that show the probe into recordings made by conservative group Project Veritas during the run-up to the 2016 election ended on May 2 with no crimes substantiated.

    The investigative film group released footage in October 2016 of Scott Foval boasting about connections to the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Foval, who was based in Wisconsin, appears to say he had arranged for people to incite violence at Donald Trump rallies and that it would be easier to get away with voter fraud if out-of-state residents drive to the polls themselves rather than organizers busing them in.

    Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel said shortly after the videos were released that he was worried they suggest election fraud. Word broke in April 2017 that the state Justice Department Criminal Litigation Director Roy Korte had concluded that January that the statements in the videos were vague and lack context. He said there was no basis to believe the videos show or suggest violations of state law.

    James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who runs Project Veritas, accused Schimel of not mounting a serious investigation. Days later, Schimel said the investigation was ongoing.

    The reports the Journal Sentinel obtained show special agents reviewed the videos again and found no evidence of criminal activity. […]

    Investigators questioned the undercover Project Veritas operative who recorded the videos. The worker, whose name was redacted from the reports, acknowledged recording conversations with Foval. […]

    Investigators also reviewed six other Project Veritas undercover videos of Robert Creamer, a Democratic strategist who heads Democracy Partners of Washington, D.C., shot in 2016. Those videos haven’t been released.

    The person recording the videos [hired by James O’Keefe!] suggests moving workers who are in the U.S. illegally to Wisconsin and giving them paystubs and addresses of foreclosed properties so they can vote. Creamer did not agree to any of the proposals and talked about finding ways to get people to vote legitimately for Democrats, the reports said. […]


    No evidence of election fraud, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

  59. says

    Another “all the best people” moment:

    A top Interior Department official held meetings last year with staffers at a far-right group where he previously worked, even though the Koch-funded organization was involved in legal actions against the department at the time,[…]

    Douglas Domenech, while serving as a senior adviser to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, met twice in April 2017 with officials from the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), […] The TPPF is an advocacy group whose influence has grown over the past year as the Trump administration works with the organization on the president’s anti-regulatory agenda.

    Domenech’s meetings with his former employer about matters pending before his agency raise major ethics issues for yet another high-level Trump appointee. Zinke, Domenech’s boss, has faced criticism for his own questionable activities,[…]

    The TPPF’s ties with the Trump administration grew even tighter earlier this year when its president and CEO, Brooke Rollins, left the advocacy group to take a job in the White House Office of American Innovation, led by Jared Kushner, […]. The Austin, Texas-based group is heavily funded by major fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, and Koch Industries. […]


    More at the link, including a connection to Kathleen Hartnett White, a Trump nominees who was forced to withdraw. She was picked to be head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, but her anti-science beliefs and her “I am ignorant” performance at her confirmation hearing did her in.

  60. says

    Failed Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship lost, big time. He came in third in a West Virginia Republican primary race. Nevertheless, Blankenship is continuing to run illogical and very strange ads against Mitch McConnell.


    The ads can be seen at the link.

  61. says

    Let’s hope something good comes from this:

    Environmental advocates and organizations are calling on major industries to move against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The groups behind the push to keep oil and gas extraction out of the wildlife refuge include indigenous representatives, national environmental activists, and institutional investors representing more than $2.5 trillion.

    In a sweeping effort unveiled Monday, representatives from the Gwich’in Nation joined nearly 120 signatories opposing oil and gas drilling in the nation’s largest national wildlife refuge. Through two separate letters, advocates lobbied oil and gas companies along with major banks with potential interest in ANWR drilling. […]

    “We, as investors, encourage expanding support for the wide range of clean energy solutions and sustainable industries in Alaska, instead of helping to destroy this natural wonder,” the letter concludes. Signatories include BNP Paribas Asset Management and the David Rockefeller Fund. […]

    “Any oil company or bank that supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge faces enormous reputational risk and public backlash. Their brands would be associated with trampling on human rights, destroying one of the world’s last remaining intact wild places, and contributing to the climate crisis.”


    More at the link.

  62. blf says

    The Grauniad’s cartoonist Steve Bell on EU leaders’ lack of influence over Donald Trump (cartoon). A bit of decoding (the two small critters): The poodle is French president Macron, and the other creature is Boris Johnson (UK FM), both of whom went to Washington DC in an attempt to talk sense into hair furor and his dalekocracy over the Iranian nuclear deal. Mr Bell has drawn Macron as a (toothless?) friendly poodle at least since the French participated in the recent USAnnihilate!Annihilate!Annihilate!-led bombings of Syria. (And calling Johnson, a pro-brexitter, an “EU leader” is a bit snarky.)

    A less pithy but more serious analysis, The myth of Trump’s European allies: shows of friendship don’t signal influence:

    World leaders thought they gained traction in a last-minute bid to salvage the Iran deal, but Trump’s radicalism persisted

    It was clear within the first few minutes of Emmanuel Macron’s White House meeting with Donald Trump that there was little hope of saving the Iran nuclear deal, when the US president declared he was ready to impose the worst ever sanctions on Tehran.

    [… Marcon] was just the latest ally to discover Europe had little — if any — sway on this president.

    “Do you want a war?” Macron asked Trump, astonished.

    Accounts from diplomats and officials of the last few desperate weeks of the European bid to salvage the Iran deal [(JCPOA) …] reveal how Trump’s radicalism constantly took other world leaders by surprise.

    Each time the Europeans thought they had gained traction in negotiations, it turned out to be an illusion. […]


    The officials they were talking to had little influence on Trump and could only guess at his plans. Even Bolton, Trump’s newest hire, was taken by surprise by Trump’s tweeted revelation last Monday that he would announce his decision on the JCPOA the following day.

    He was informed by an European official who saw the tweet while they were having a phone conversation, in which Bolton was supposed to be the one imparting information about US plans.


    France, the UK and Germany — the European parties to the JPCOA — had spent months negotiating with US diplomats […] in the hope of saving the agreement.

    After painstaking to-and-fro talks, the Europeans thought they were close to a compromise text with the Americans […].

    But Trump gave the impression during his 24 April meeting with Macron that he was not even aware those negotiations had been taking place. It was also clear that even after years of campaigning against the Iran agreement, the US president did not know what was in it.

    Trump told Macron he thought his policy of maximum pressure had forced Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table ready to make concessions, and that the same approach would work on Iran. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has told European officials the same thing.

    “They call it the North Korean scenario. You squeeze the Iranians and they will do the same as Kim Jong-un. They will surrender in front of the American power,” a European diplomat said.

    However, US officials have not explained to their European counterparts how, even if they scare western companies out of Iran, they intend to stop big purchasers of Iranian oil, like China, India and Malaysia, to join a new boycott after Washington had violated the JCPOA.


    The absence of a plan became evident in a phone conversation over the weekend between Pompeo and European foreign ministers, in which the US secretary of state asked his counterparts: “How do you see the future?”

    The European response, summed up by one diplomat, was: “You broke this. What’s your plan?”

  63. says

    More corruption at the Environmental Protection Agency … and more pressure from Team Trump to be even more corrupt:

    Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a “public relations nightmare,” newly disclosed emails reveal.

    The intervention early this year — not previously disclosed — came as HHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.

    The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails.

    “The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email forwarded on Jan. 30 by James Herz, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the OMB. The email added: “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.” […]

    Politico link

    Much more at the link, including a discussion of the controversies surrounding the ways in which scientists evaluated risks, and the ways in which other officials evaluated the risks.

  64. says

    blf @89:

    France, the UK and Germany — the European parties to the JPCOA — had spent months negotiating with US diplomats […] in the hope of saving the agreement.

    After painstaking to-and-fro talks, the Europeans thought they were close to a compromise text with the Americans […].

    But Trump gave the impression during his 24 April meeting with Macron that he was not even aware those negotiations had been taking place. It was also clear that even after years of campaigning against the Iran agreement, the US president did not know what was in it.

    Yes, that’s the Trump administration in a nutshell. Shocking and dispiriting.

  65. says

    Israel’s apartheid-like policies (a comparison which has been around for decades)

    If that was a subtle dig at my comment @ #54, I’m well aware. I was struck by the resemblance of the images in the article I linked to to those I remember from the apartheid era.

  66. says

    Avenatti news:

    […] Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing adult-film star Stormy Daniels, threatened legal action against two reporters at The Daily Caller on Monday if they continued to author “hit pieces” about him while issuing a warning that “significant damages” will be recovered. […]

    “Off the Record … If you and your colleagues do not stop with the hit pieces that are full of lies and defamatory statements, I will have no choice but to sue each of you and your publication for defamation,” Avenatti, 47, wrote.

    “During that process, we will expose your publication for what it truly is. We will also recover significant damages against each of you that participated personally,” he continued.

    “So if I were you, I would tell Mr. Trump to find someone else to fabricate things about me. If you think I’m kidding, you really don’t know anything about me. This is the last warning,” Avenatti added.

    The threat from Avenatti comes less than a day after Hasson and reporter Joe Simonson published a story breaking down a financial dispute between the attorney and David Morris, CEO of Dillanos Coffee Roasters.

    Morris had accused Avenatti on Twitter of not paying him $160,000 he claims he was owed per a prior agreement. Morris also alleged the money was needed to keep the business running.

    “So @StormyDaniels hot shot lawyer Michael owes my small company @Dillanos $160,179 for coffee,” Morris wrote on Twitter. “He talks a big talk about integrity. We trusted him,” Morris wrote in a since-deleted tweet on May 9.

    Morris followed up with another tweet hours later stating he and Avenatti had “worked out an arrangement.” Terms were not disclosed. […]


    From Jesse Singal:

    Am obviously more sympathetic to Avenatti, in a lot of ways, than to the Daily Caller, but bullshit legal threats against journalists ALWAYS need to be called out. It’s a terrible and irresponsible look. And something’s not “OFF THE RECORD” just because you type it, of course

    From Olivia Nuzzi:

    This would be getting more attention if it was a reporter for a mainstream or liberal publication and a lawyer representing the other side, but intimidating reporters is despicable no matter who it’s directed at.

  67. blf says

    I haven’t been paying much attention, but there is a move afoot in the UK by several prominent anti-brexitters to well, do something, about brexit (Morgan, Miliband and Clegg launch cross-party campaign on Brexit bill). As a bit of background, “They launched their campaign […] at the Tilda rice mill in Essex, one of the biggest suppliers of the grain in Britain. It has said it may have to scale back its business, which employs 250 people, if the UK crashed out of the single market and the customs union.”

    That location is ever so perfect for a good snarking. Up steps the Grauniad, Rice is the perfect Brexit metaphor: white and getting stickier by the moment:

    So this is what Brexit boils down to: rice. Brexit doesn’t mean Brexit, it means … rice. Bags and bags, literally, of rice. It means three Artists Formerly Known As Cabinet Ministers (Nick Clegg, Nicky Morgan and David Miliband) standing in a rice factory […]

    Only in the UK is rice made in a factory. Other places grow it.

    Tilda rice: it sounds like a public school prefect, or every woman to ever appear on Made in Chelsea, but is actually a popular basmati. The company needs all the help it can get, though, given that it was chosen as the perfect example of a business that would be horrifically affected by Brexit, with its Essex plant under threat. And this is what this event was all about, with Miliband saying that Brexit was “holding the country to ransom”, and that Britain would be impoverished if it left the customs union and single market.

    He’s not wrong. […]

    [… some amusing riffs on not-exactly-the-symbol-we-intended symbolic locations for political stunts…]

    Tilda rice does however seem a good choice, given its ethical credentials referenced on its website, with sections dedicated to the Modern Slavery Act and its gender pay gap filings. It’s not like when Clegg and Ed Miliband wore “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirts — only for the T-shirts to be allegedly made in a Mauritian sweatshop by women paid 62p an hour.

    And Tilda rice is a proper British company, established in the 1970s in the UK. Brexiteers, remember, have been up in arms about our iconic blue British passports […] being tendered to a French company, and fighting for them to be made by a company with the completely un-French name De La Rue, which partly originated in a venture co-founded with an Italian man who lived in Switzerland.

    I am not sure of the government’s official position on rice, but I imagine at the moment it would be: if it’s white it can stay, if it’s brown send it back. Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg talks about how uplifting food banks are and May serves boiled potatoes and lasagne at Chequers. The unpalatable Brexit rolls on. We used to be lucky enough to get to pick and choose from the EU buffet — we had the best available deal — and now the government pretends we’ll get caviar, but all the evidence points towards being served slop. Food for thought.

    The ridiculous passport row mentioned started when the überbrexitters claimed the EU forced the UK to change the color of its passport’s cover from a very dark (almost black) blue to the current burgundy. Which is absurd. The contract for post-brexit UK passports, which will be blue, was awarded to a French company (Gemalto), causing the brexitters and the more-expensive UK company De La Rue to get their panties in a twist.

  68. blf says

    SC@92, “If that was a subtle dig at my comment…” It was not. Just some background to my description of certain Israeli policies as “apartheid-like”, a description I do not recall using for quite some time but whose re-usage now was motivated Mícheál Mac Donncha and you reminding me of that long-standing highly appropriate description.

  69. blf says

    Women dominate congressional primaries — now to win office:

    Increase in women hoping for success in 2018 midterms indicative of shifting landscape
    Female candidates dominated in the first multi-state Democratic congressional primaries of the 2018 midterms. Out of 20 open primaries with women on the ballot on Tuesday night, voters selected a female nominee in 17 of them.

    The development is only fitting after women orchestrated the opening salvo of the national post-Trump resistance, bringing tens of millions into the streets the day after the inauguration for the Women’s March. In the aftermath there has been a deluge of women intent on channeling that energy into political candidacy. Emily’s List, a women’s candidacy advocacy group reported a more than 20-fold increase in inquiries from women interested in running after Trump’s election.

    According to Politico’s Women Rule candidate tracker, 599 women nationwide have run or have said they’ll run for US House, Senate or governor in 2018. Of the more than 100 who have already stood for primaries this year, 56% have won so far.


    Most of the winning Democratic candidates from Tuesday are facing an uphill climb in the November general elections, as nearly all are in districts that Republicans are heavily favored to win, but it’s still representative of a shifting candidacy landscape. A number of women also stood for Republican nominations on Tuesday but they did not fare as well as Democratic women, winning less than half the seats they competed for.

    House races aren’t the only places women are making huge imprints on the ballot. In Georgia’s 22 May gubernatorial primary, voters will be choosing between one of two Democratic Staceys — Stacey Evans and Stacey Abrams. Either would be the first female executive in the state’s history, and despite the fact that the state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the office since 1998, polling suggest the race could be very competitive.


  70. blf says

    France currently does not have a legal age of consent. Following several incidents, the government is trying to introduce one. This is going wrong, Misdemeanour or rape? Revised French bill on child sex sparks outrage:

    A bill initially aimed at tightening French child sex laws has been turned on its head and sparked widespread outrage, with critics accusing it of not only lessening the protection of children, but opening up a new legal loophole for child rapists.
    While much of the bill has been praised both at home and abroad for introducing on-the-spot fines for sexual harassment on the street, targeting cyber mobbing and extending the statute of limitations for child rape claims (from 20 to 30 years), the second of a proposed four articles, “Article 2”, has caused child protection activists to see red.

    The current law reads that today it is illegal in France for an adult to “have sexual contact” with a minor under the age of 15, but it is not considered rape. An initial draft of the bill proposed rectifying this by setting the minimum age of consent at 15, but this age of consent clause was quickly deleted after critics argued it would infringe on the defendant’s presumption of innocence.

    That alleged problem sounds like it was made by a certain troll currently infesting other threads: The alleged child rapist might be innocent, so we must presume the child is capable of informed consent.

    Pascal Cussigh, a lawyer and president of the child protection group “Coup de Pouce”, told FRANCE 24 that: “If you interpret the current text literally, an infant could consent to a sexual act involving penetration.”

    “We’re one of the only countries in Europe who haven’t adopted the principal of a minimum age for sexual consent. Last August, even Tunisia applied this principle with a very simple definition: ‘Consent doesn’t exist for children under the age of 16’,” he said.

    Cussigh […] also criticised the fact that in the bill it is still up to the child to provide evidence that a rape has indeed taken place (through violence, force, surprise or lack of choice).

    “So in essence, the bill doesn’t change anything,” he said.

    In cases where so-called “hard evidence” cannot be presented by the alleged victim that a rape has taken place but there is enough proof to show that sexual penetration has in fact occurred, the government has proposed introducing the lesser crime of “sexual abuse of minors”, which is considered a misdemeanour in France. […]


    “It’s counter-productive,” Cussigh said, adding that “even if the suspect is convicted, the act might never be considered as having been non-consensual”.


    Another problem is that if rapist is convicted for the lesser crime, the perpetrator may never be considered a rapist in the eyes of society, but a minor offender.

    [… The open letter said:] “Since 1810, rape has been considered a crime in France. By requalifying a crime as a sexual aggression or sexual assault that is thereby ruled a misdemeanour, it reduces the seriousness of the acts committed for both the victims and the perpetrators.”


  71. says

    blf @ #95:

    SC@92, “If that was a subtle dig at my comment…” It was not. Just some background to my description of certain Israeli policies as “apartheid-like”, a description I do not recall using for quite some time but whose re-usage now was motivated Mícheál Mac Donncha and you reminding me of that long-standing highly appropriate description.

    Ah. Sorry for assuming the worst.

  72. says

    “$1 million mystery gift to inauguration traced to conservative legal activists”:

    One of the largest contributions to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee in 2016 appears to have been orchestrated by a set of powerful conservative legal activists who have since been put in the driver’s seat of the administration’s push to select and nominate federal judges.

    The $1 million inaugural gift came from a Northern Virginia company called BH Group, LLC. Unlike other generous corporate inaugural donors, like Bank of America and Dow Chemical, though, BH Group was a cipher, and likely was set up solely to prevent disclosure of the actual donor’s name.

    Almost nothing is known about the company, including who runs it or its reason for being beyond writing a seven-figure check on Dec. 22, 2016, almost a month before Trump was sworn in.

    While the source of the money used to make the gift was masked from the public, a trail of clues puts the contribution at the doorstep of some of the same actors — most notably Leonard Leo, an executive vice president at the conservative Federalist Society — who have helped promote Trump’s mission, and that of his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to fill judicial vacancies as quickly as he can with staunchly conservative, preferably young jurists.

    At the center of the convoluted network through which the inaugural contribution flowed is Leonard Leo, the executive vice president at the Federalist Society, one of the nation’s most influential conservative legal organizations — to which some say the White House has outsourced its judicial nomination process.

    For example, when then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was asked how he had come to Trump’s attention, he wrote, “On about December 2, 2016, I was contacted by Leonard Leo.”

    It’s unlikely that Leo himself is the source of the $1 million, but his role at the Federalist Society allows him to meet and mingle with some of the wealthiest conservative donors in the country. The organization counts among its funders conservative billionaires like Charles and David Koch, as well as industry groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Fortune 500 companies like Walmart and Pfizer, according to its 2017 annual report.

    Leo and another vice president at the Federalist Society, Jonathan Bunch, are also involved in a nonprofit called the BH Fund. A public records request by alumni and students at George Mason University shows that the BH Fund was set up to enforce a donor agreement with GMU’s Antonin Scalia Law School on behalf of an anonymous donor who pledged $20 million to the program, according to a report last year from Buzzfeed.

    The donor providing the $20 million that Leo’s BH Fund administers is “low-profile, very wealthy and on the young side,” a source told McClatchy. But he or she is still anonymous….

  73. says

    “Peace Plan-Pushing, Ukrainian Pol To Appear In Front Of Mueller’s Grand Jury”:

    Andrii Artemenko, a Ukrainian politician who sought to put a peace plan for the region in front of the Trump administration early last year, will testify in person in front of special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury Friday, Politico reported.

    The politician told Politico he was subpoenaed last week and plans to comply.

    Cohen has denied leaving the proposal for Flynn and has claimed to have thrown it out, according to Politico.*

    The revelation of Artemenko’s back-channel efforts was a major scandal in Ukraine, causing him to be ousted from his political party and making him the subject of a treason investigation, according to Politico. He was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in May 2017.

    * In fact, Cohen told I believe five different and mutually contradictory stories. I think of this episode every time he makes any claim – he’s a liar. (Also, according to the Democrats on HPSCI, IIRC, Cohen, despite his vehement denials and since-dropped lawsuit against BuzzFeed, refused to provide the committee any evidence that he wasn’t in Prague during the period described in the Steele memos. People keep strangely suggesting that “you can’t prove a negative,” so I have to assume they’re unfamiliar with the concept of an alibi. With today’s technology, it would be easy, and in Cohen’s interest, to offer evidence that he was somewhere other than Prague throughout this entire period. In any event, Mueller knows.

  74. blf says

    How rightwing groups wield secret toolkit to plot against US unions:

    Internal documents obtained by the Guardian reveal a nationwide drive to persuade union members to quit and stop paying dues

    Rightwing activists are launching a nationwide drive to persuade public-sector trade union members to tear up their membership cards and stop paying dues, posing a direct threat to the progressive movement in America.

    Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that a network of radical conservative thinktanks spanning all 50 states is planning direct marketing campaigns targeted personally at union members to encourage them to quit. The secret push, the group hopes, could cost unions up to a fifth of their 7 million members, lead to the loss of millions of dollars in income and undermine a cornerstone of US progressive politics.

    Well run opt-out campaigns can cause public-sector unions to experience 5 to 20% declines in membership, costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in dues money. This can affect the resources and attention available for union leaders to devote to political action campaigns, the internal documents say.

    The anti-union marketing drive is the brainchild of the State Policy Network (SPN), a coast-to-coast alliance of 66 rightwing thinktanks [sic] that has an $80m war chest to promote Donald Trump-friendly regressive policies such as low taxes and small government. The group is funded by such billionaire conservative donors as the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation that stems from the Walmart fortune.

    Previous SPN literature exposed by the Guardian has revealed the political motives behind the network’s attacks on unions. It aims to defund and defang public sector unions as a means to reverse the failed policies of the American left.

    The goal, the group said, was permanently depriving the left from access to millions of dollars in dues extracted from unwilling union members every election cycle.

    The Guardian has now obtained what SPN is calling a toolkit of advice to its followers on how to go about fomenting union reform — a euphemism for draining unions of members and cash. The toolkit sets out four tactics for depleting their power&nbsp’— effective union reform, in its language.

    One of those tactics is the opt-out campaign.

    [… T]he US supreme court is poised to deliver its ruling any day in Janus v AFSCME, one of the most important trade union cases in recent times. If the five conservative justices on the highest court vote in favor of the anti-union plaintiff, as many expect, they would deal a severe blow to organized labor by giving employees the right to opt-out of paying their share of the costs of collective bargaining even though they benefit from negotiated higher wages and improved conditions.

    That in turn would give the green light to conservative groups like SPN to step up their efforts to encourage mass resignations of union members. As a clear statement of intent, SPN invited Mark Janus, a child support worker in Illinois who is the named plaintiff at the center of the supreme court case, to speak at its annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, last August.


    Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the Guardian [sic] documents revealed the extent of secret planning by rightwing groups in advance of the supreme court’s Janus ruling. “These documents make clear that Janus v AFSCME is not a case brought by individuals trying to have a voice, it’s a case brought by wealthy forces to eliminate worker voice and power.”

    She added that rightwing billionaires such as the Kochs “know working families only have power through their unity as a union, and they will stop at nothing to destroy that. […]”


    In 2016 the Freedom Foundation [SPN stooges in Olympia, Washington state] ran a brazen campaign in Washington and Oregon in which it went knocking on the doors of more than 10,000 childcare and home care workers telling them that under a previous US supreme court ruling they could opt out of paying union dues. In the document obtained by the Guardian, SPN boasts that the foundation’s operation cost the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in those states $8.8m in lost dues and legal fees.

  75. blf says

    In New Zealand, MP who called [PM] Jacinda Ardern a stupid little girl refuses to own up:

    A male MP from New Zealand’s opposition party who called the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, a stupid little girl remains unidentified more than a week after making the remark in parliament.

    A search of parliamentary records and an investigation by Newshub have so far not uncovered the identity of the man who blasted Ardern — the third woman to lead the country. The speaker of the house, Trevor Mallard, halted proceedings immediately after the comment was made, and demanded the man apologise […]

    The MP who spoke the words has yet to own up to the incident. In doing so, he would have to issue an official apology to Ardern and withdraw the remark. According to comments made by Mallard at the time, the MP was sat somewhere behind the opposition leader, Simon Bridges. Newshub approached 10 MPs from the New Zealand National party who could have made the remark and all denied it had come from them.


    The currently-unknown MP is clearly another bestesterest-ever peoples for hair furor to recruit. I suggest as the Secretary for Trvth and Warship (Special Weapons Dalek for Media CensorshipCorrection). The (presumed) lack of States citizenship has never bothered Putin previously, so it should not be a problem now.

  76. says

    There’s been a slight change in Gina Haspel’s attempts to distance herself from torture that was done by CIA personnel during the Bush era (Dick Cheney era).

    [Haspel] says in a new letter that the CIA should not have conducted then-President George W. Bush’s interrogation and detention program where waterboarding and other brutal interrogation tactics were used on detainees.

    In the letter to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haspel takes a position she wasn’t willing to state publicly last week, writing that the interrogation program “is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”


    More details and analysis of the letter:

    […] In the letter, obtained by several news organizations, including NBC News, Haspel wrote, “While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world. With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”

    […] Haspel appears to be trying to find some kind of middle ground. Trump’s nominee apparently isn’t prepared to condemn the abuses, the abusers, or concede that torture is morally reprehensible, but she’s now willing to say the CIA shouldn’t have implemented the brutal program.

    I suppose that’s marginally closer to what Haspel should’ve said last week – the fact that this new letter exists at all suggests she doesn’t believe her nomination is already a slam-dunk – but on a substantive level, I’m not sure this new posture should reassure senators concerned with her record. […]

    Other news related to Gina Haspel:

    The Democratic staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee has prepared a classified background document on [Haspel] that includes details some senators and aides have found disturbing, […]

    The document, which has been made available to senators and cleared aides, describes Gina Haspel’s role in the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, citing cable traffic and internal CIA messages that were not discussed in her public confirmation hearing. […]

    Finally, the Daily Beast’s Spencer Ackerman reported this morning on Haspel’s claims about the taping of a tortured detainee, and the evidence that there were two taped detainees, not one. […]


  77. says

    From Anne Applebaum:

    Guess how many people are working on Iranian nuclear proliferation at the State Department? As of today … zero.

    From Foreign Policy:

    One of the State Department’s top experts on nuclear proliferation resigned this week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in what officials and analysts say is part of a worrying brain drain from public service generally over the past 18 months.

    Richard Johnson, a career civil servant who served as acting assistant coordinator in State’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation, had been involved in talks with countries that sought to salvage the deal in recent weeks, including Britain, France, and Germany – an effort that ultimately failed. […]

    The office Johnson led has gone from seven full-time staffers to none since Trump’s inauguration […]

    From Steve Benen:

    […] to recap, Trump rejected an international agreement that was working, despite not fully understanding what the policy was or what it did. He replaced the deal with nothing, And in case that weren’t quite enough, the president has no plan for what comes next, and a hollowed out team responsible for working on the underlying issue.

    This, according to the White House and its allies, is evidence of a great Trump accomplishment.

  78. says

    Follow-up to comment 104.

    Also from Steve Benen:

    […] in the run-up to Trump’s decision, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson each made separate visits to the White House to discuss the effective international agreement, and each came away with “the feeling Trump had not read the five-page document they had prepared and perhaps was even unaware of the effort.” […]

    Defense Secretary James Mattis, who’s said for months that the Iran deal was working, opposed the Trump’s decision, but his voice was ignored. The article added, “Even if Mr. Mattis had wanted to fight for the deal, it is not clear how much he would have been heard. [White House National Security Advisor John Bolton], officials said, never convened a high-level meeting of the National Security Council to air the debate.”

  79. says

    Typically self-contradictory tweet from Trump:

    The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!

    Background info for the tweet quoted above:

    […] Last week, during a meeting on Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA, a White House official mocked Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) failing health, deeming his concerns about Haspel irrelevant because “he’s dying anyway.” Kelly Sadler, the White House’s director of surrogate and coalitions outreach, has not yet issued any kind of public apology.

    But as the controversy grew over the incident, Trump World decided the real problem wasn’t Sadler’s comment, but rather, the fact that the public learned about Sadler’s comment. What was leaked, the president’s aides said, was less important than the fact that the quote was leaked at all. […]


    From Axios:

    “To be honest, it probably falls into a couple of categories,” one current White House official tells me. “The first is personal vendettas. And two is to make sure there’s an accurate record of what’s really going on in the White House.”

    “To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers’ idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me,” the current White House official added.

    “The most common substantive leaks are the result of someone losing an internal policy debate,” a current senior administration official told me. “By leaking the decision, the loser gets one last chance to kill it with blowback from the public, Congress or even the President.”

    “Otherwise,” the official added, “you have to realize that working here is kind of like being in a never-ending ‘Mexican Standoff.’ Everyone has guns (leaks) pointed at each other and it’s only a matter of time before someone shoots. There’s rarely a peaceful conclusion so you might as well shoot first.”

    The problem is Trump, Trump’s incompetence, and the tone he has set from the top. It is trickle-down dysfunction.

  80. says

    Follow-up to comment 93.

    Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, critiqued journalists who have come to the defense of the Daily Caller after Avenatti publicly mused [about] filing a defamation lawsuit against the publication.

    “If an attorney engaged in unethical behavior or conduct, I wouldn’t naturally jump to their defense just because they’re a member of the bar,” he said on a Tuesday episode of Pod Save America. “I think it’s somewhat improper for other journalists to jump to this knee-jerk reaction and defense of the Daily Caller without knowing all the facts.”

    He added that he “isn’t doing anything wrong,” that the Daily Caller disregarded journalistic standards and “engaged in basically unethical conduct.”


    Yes, this part is true: “the Daily Caller disregarded journalistic standards.” That’s how the Daily Caller operates. More opinion than fact. More indulging in conspiracy theories and fear mongering.

    The Daily Caller is an American news and opinion website based in Washington, D.C.. It was founded by Tucker Carlson, a libertarian conservative political pundit, and Neil Patel, former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney. The Daily Caller produces sensational headlines and has a right wing bias in reporting and has made false claims according to Snopes and Politifact.

    Avenatti has a point there.

  81. says

    An update on Mueller and Manafort news:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained a secret order from a federal magistrate judge to suspend the statute of limitations on one of the charges he ultimately brought against Paul Manafort, a court filing revealed Monday evening. Mueller did not inform Manafort of the secret order until after the former Trump campaign chairman had requested that charge be thrown out […]

    Mueller also disclosed in the Monday court filing that, as recently as April 30 of this year, the government of Cyprus was still turning over documents related to the special counsel’s Manafort investigation.

    Because investigators were relying on a foreign government to produce certain evidence, Mueller last June asked a magistrate judge in Virginia to suspend the statute of limitations on the charge that Manafort failed to to file a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR),[…] Mueller ultimately brought that charge against Manafort in February. The judge’s decision granting Mueller’s request to suspend the statute of limitations was previously under seal, […]

    The revelation came in a response to Manafort’s motion to dismiss the FBAR charge in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he is also facing tax fraud and bank fraud charges. That case is in addition to the one brought in Washington, D.C., where Manafort has been charged with money laundering and failure to disclose foreign lobbying. […]


  82. says

    Follow-up to comments 31, 32, 34, 36 and 38.

    Money flowing from China to back Trump’s business ventures … no wonder Trump is working to save ZTE:

    […] just days before […] Trump tweeted that he was intent on saving that sanctions-busting Chinese telecommunications company [ZTE], China had agreed to loan $500 million to a major Trump-backed development in Indonesia.

    […] Trump’s connection to the operation and potential profits look considerably tighter than what I’d been led to expect yesterday from early reports.

    […] the Lido City development [is] about an hour outside of Jakarta. It’s like a mini-luxury city set on 3,000 hectares, which is just over 7,400 acres. Trump has a hotel there and a golf course and various other facilities. There’s also an amusement park planned on the grounds. That’s going to be built by a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned company called Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC). They appear to be essentially bringing with them $500 million in Chinese-government backed loans for the development of the amusement park. […]

    Now, the question I had was “is this just one more component of a huge development that Trump also just has one part of?” The answer seems pretty clearly to be no. The overall project has two backers: MNC corporation of Indonesia (huge diversified mega corp) and the Trump Organization (family company of American strongman). […]

    […] MNC actually says that it and Trump Org. are developing the theme park jointly. That sounds pretty tight. They actually refer to the whole project as a “Trump Community.” In other documents, they refer to the Trump Organization having licensing and management contracts for facilities in Lido City beyond the Trump buildings and residences.

    […] the press references to this project being “connected to” Trump seem to significantly understate the relationship.


  83. says

    More ugly, anti-immigrant sentiment is making its way into politics:

    A Republican candidate for governor in Georgia will drive around in a “deportation bus” […] to raise awareness about the “dangers of sanctuary cities,”[…]

    Georgia state Sen. Michael Williams — who claims he’s the “most outspoken anti-illegal candidate” in the state’s history — plans to visit each of “Georgia’s dangerous sanctuary cities” in coming days, […]

    “Through his bus tour of sanctuary cities, William will expose how dangerous illegal aliens ruin local economies, cost American jobs, increase healthcare costs and lower education standards,” the statement said, before touting Williams’ history as the Georgia co-chair for President Trump’s campaign.

    “Williams champions implementing the federal 287(g) deportation program in every Georgia county to deputize officers as ICE agents,” the statement said. “His anti-illegal alien program would expedite the deportation process and send a clear message to illegal communities that they are not welcomed in Georgia.” […]


    All the best people.

  84. says

    From Avenatti:

    If the president is, quote, taken down, unquote, he will have no one to blame but himself and Michael Cohen.

    So true.

  85. blf says

    Fairly recently in Ozland there was a series of absurd claims that conveniently white S.African farmers were being deliberated killed by teh “thems” and “their” land stolen and babies roasted but not eaten and so on. As pointed out previously in this series of poopyhead threads, that is all a nonsense on stilts. That absurdity has now made it to the States, South African group under fire for lobbying US for white rights (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    A group representing many [sic] white Afrikaners has gone to the US to lobby for the interests of white farmers.

    A South African organisation that represents many [sic] white Afrikaners, has come under fire over their decision to travel to the United States to lobby for the interests of the Afrikaner community [sic].

    The group, Afriforum, who describe themselves as a civil rights group, but who have also called apartheid a so-called historical injustice, are currently in the US to lobby government officials about the murders of white farmers and to warn investors about the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party’s proposed plan to expropriate land without compensation.


    Last week [Kallie Kriel and Ernst Roets, the CEO and deputy CEO of Afriforum respectively,] met John Bolton […], staffers with Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and spent time on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News.

    For many South Africans, the group’s decision to take this issue to the US government and caution foreign investors was outrageous enough; the decision to meet Bolton or Cruz, was ample confirmation that the group was a mouthpiece for racist Afrikaners.

    “Their role is to create a panic, peddle in fear. They say the government is going to take away all farms. It is a fundamentally racist group of people,” [journalist Max] du Preez said.

    On social media, others berated the group for its meetings in the US. In a tweet, Adam Habib, Wits University vice-chancellor, said Afriforum’s “associations in the US prove what disgusting human beings you truly are”.


    Elmien du Plessis, an associate professor in law at the North-West University in South Africa, told Al Jazeera that the way in which Afriforum has framed the question of land is what has caused the outrage.

    “In South Africa, we are busy with a democratic process of looking at whether we need to change the constitution (to provide for the expropriation of land without compensation) in order to fulfill the constitutional obligation of land reform.

    “It is a very precarious process, but the table has been opened and all parties invited, and the brief is fairly wide. This is an inclusive process, and the feeling is just that we as a country are trying to solve this process inclusively, while the perception is that Afriforum looks at their members’ interest in isolation, and in a way that excludes,” du Plessis said.


    [Roets] accused the South African government of being complicit in these attacks {on white farmers} through creating a political climate in which these attacks are romanticised.

    He also claimed the attacks on farmers were taking place on a disproportionate level.

    Between 2016/17, there were 19,016 murders in South Africa. This means the murder rate was 34.1 people per 100,000 people of the population.

    During the same period, police statistics show that there were 74 farm murders.

    According to Afriforum, the murder rate translates to 156 commercial farmers killed per 100,000 people.

    Fact checking website Africheck says that given that it is not clear how many people live and work on farms, this estimate is fundamentally flawed.

    One of the previously-cited comments about the absurdity of these claims noted (in part):

    Gareth Newham at the Institute for Security Studies, one of South Africa’s leading authorities on crime statistics, said there was no evidence to support the notion that white farmers were targeted more than anyone else in the country.

    “In fact, young black males living in poor urban areas like Khayelitsha and Lange face a far greater risk of being murdered. The murder rate there is between 200 and 300 murders per 100,000 people,” he said. Even the highest estimates of farm murders stand at 133 per 100,000 people, and that includes both black and white murder victims.”

    Back to the recent Al Jazeera article on the racists’s visit to the States (which also mentions Newman (redacted)):

    The problem, du Preez says, is that Afriforum has positioned itself as representing the Afrikaner people, who speak the Afrikaans language, in what he describes as irresponsible and objectionable.

    “They have bullied their way into becoming the most dominant voice among Afrikaans people and there are many Afrikaners, like me, who don’t want them to speak for me,” du Preez said.

    Teh Afriforum racists were previously unknown to me. Judging by the comments of Kriel, they are exceptionally foul, Apartheid was not a crime — AfriForum:

    The AfriForum CEO claims, contrary to statistics, that only about 700 people were murdered by the apartheid security forces.

    Apartheid was not a crime against humanity, AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said on Monday.

    My definition of crime against humanity is when there are mass murders like in the case of Nazi Germany, he told Pretoria Rekord East.


    He said the racial policy that saw the killing, torture and dispossession black people was not as bad as some other systems in the world.


    I do not think that apartheid was a crime against humanity because an alternative to that was communism, under which hundreds of thousands of people were murdered.

    [… A]ccording to the submissions made by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996, 21,000 black people were killed.


    AfriForum deputy president Ernst Roets said the organisation could not comment on Kriel’s remarks.

    Our view as Afriforum is that the law around crime against humanity is not applied consistently because you have systems in countries where millions of people were murdered, but those systems were never considered crimes against humanity.

    (Headdesk…!) Hair furor will eat this garbage up. The previous comments also noted that it is Rupert Murdoch’s “News Corp, who are spreading this nonsense via Fox” in both the States and Ozland.

  86. says

    Surprise, surprise, Scott Pruitt lied.

    […] Scott Pruitt has one all-purpose excuse for his first-class flights, his 20-man security team, his taking over an entire floor of the EPA building, and his hiding of many facets of his schedule and activities: Threats. He’s claimed that he was subject to threats that were so bad, so “unprecedented” that it justified surrounding the EPA administrator with $3 million in personal security, taking military jets across the country, first-class flights around the world, and in every way making sure he never has to associate with the people who are paying his bills.

    Every last word of it has turned out to be a lie.

    The letter Pruitt showed to Congress, supposedly proving that the inspector general ordered up his special security precautions, was nothing of the sort.

    The “threats” that Pruitt actually accumulated over the last year were not even a handful—and were so ridiculous, they wouldn’t have frightened a nervous child.

    To keep hiding the fact that there are no genuine threats, Pruitt has forced out employees who dared to challenge his “unprecedented threat” narrative.

    And now it’s absolutely clear: No one demanded Pruitt’s kid-glove treatment except Pruitt, and he made that demand from the moment he came in the door. In response to a letter sent by Democratic Senators Sheldon WhiteHouse and Thomas Carper, the inspector general gave the actual timing of Pruitt’s security and the actual origin of the request: “… Mr. Pruitt requested 24/7 protection once he was confirmed as Administrator.” […]

    The inspector general’s office, which investigates threats made against any EPA employees, “played no role in this decision,” Elkins added. […]


  87. says

    Duke Energy monopoly prevents the sale of solar power to a Black church in North Carolina:

    A partnership between a predominately Black church and an environmental group in North Carolina aiming to provide solar power lost its appeal to the state’s highest court after an ongoing battle. […]

    On Friday, the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected a challenge brought by the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN), a clean-energy advocacy group attempting to challenge the monopoly held by Duke Energy Corp.

    In a one-word opinion, the court ruled that regulators were within their rights when they decided NC WARN broke electric-service rules in the state in selling cheap and clean power to the Faith Community Church in Greensboro. Duke Energy has a government-sanctioned monopoly and argued such efforts threatened the corporation. […]

    “It’s very unfortunate that Duke Energy remains able to protect its monopoly against clean competition and to keep stifling the growth of cheaper solar power across North Carolina,” NC WARN said in a statement released following the decision. […]

    Solar proponents face an uphill battle throughout the Southeast, where efforts to break through the monopolies held by energy companies have proven particularly challenging. Nine states currently ban or restrict third-party power purchase agreements for solar. Of those, four are Southeastern: North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas, the other states impacted, are all Southern or border the region. […]


  88. says

    Trump spoke at the 37th annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service on Capitol Hill today. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

    The first duty of government is to protect our citizens. That is why we are calling on Congress to secure our borders, support our border agents, stop sanctuary cities, and shut down policies that release violent criminals back into our communities.

    […] If we want to bring down violent crime, then we must stand up for our police. We must confront and condemn dangerous anti-police prejudice.

    Can you believe this prejudice with respect to our police? We’re not going to let bad things happen to our police.

    […] We believe criminals who kill our police should get the death penalty.

  89. says

    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley blamed Hamas for the violence in Gaza.

    […] Let’s remember that the Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy. This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday. […]

    No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has. In fact, the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained. […]

    Yep, not Trump’s fault at all. He bears no blame for the decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, nor for the timing of the grand opening.

  90. Oggie. says

    As I read about the Haspel nomination, and all of the excuses made for violating international and US laws by using torture, and all of the secret memos declassified to help her nomination effort, I am struck by a thought (yes, I do occasionally have thoughts (not often, but I do)). Picture, a few years down the road, as a Democratic President appoints a new DCIA, how many GOP Senators will either (a) demand that a nomination be withdrawn as the person in question was in some way involved in torturing detainees, or (b) demand that a nomination be withdrawn as the person in question was apposed to the torture of detainees? Given the levels of hypocrisy that GOP lawmakers (and appointees) are willing to stoop, it would not surprise me in the least.

  91. says

    From former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates:

    There is a time-honored tradition at the Department of Justice, at least since Watergate, that is nonpartisan. There is a wall between the Department of Justice and the White House when it comes to criminal investigations and prosecutions. […]

    It used to be a big news story that would say,”‘In an unprecedented step, Trump said this.” Now it doesn’t even make it through the full 24-hour news cycle because it happens so frequently.

  92. says

    Trump is transforming America’s Israel policy into something new: completely unconditional support.

    […] Trump is pioneering a new, hardline pro-Israel stance — one that fits comfortably in today’s Republican Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

    “Even Reagan criticized Israel. Trump seems to be in lockstep with Bibi,” says Guy Ziv, a professor of international relations at American University, using a common nickname for Netanyahu. […]

    Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice similarly called for an end to the violence “as soon as possible” and led a negotiating effort aimed at stopping both the war and the rocket fire that gave rise to it.

    The situation today is different than in 2008: Israeli soldiers aren’t facing an opposing military with tanks and rockets, but rather mostly civilian protesters — some armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails — mixed in with an unknown number of Hamas fighters. If anything, you’d expect the US government to be calling on more restraint from Israel in this situation rather than that one. […]

    The Trump policy is clear: Israel will face no pressure from America to moderate its aggressive response. […]


  93. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] Superfans will note the irony of Cohen-Watnick playing leak hunter, when he himself is accused of leaking to everyone’s favorite traitor-hack Devin Nunes that night when the Congressman ninja-ed out of his Uber to give that press conference on the White House lawn. Cohen-Watnick denies being Nunes’s source, although the DB [Daily Beast] notes his own colleague refers to him as “the one most likely to end up like Ollie North.”

    And oh, lookee here! Seems Donald Trump personally ordered the Justice Department to appoint Cohen-Watnick as a senior advisor to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Did we mention that Cohen-Watnick is not a lawyer? But he sure does love him some Donald Trump! Bet Jeff Sessions will be delighted to have that little weenie follow him around all day. […]

    Much more at the link, including a rare photo of “White House Moppet Ezra Cohen-Watnick.”

  94. says

    Trevor Noah discussed the fact that he once thought Trump could not possibly make discord in the Middle East worse, but now he sees that he was wrong.

    To be honest, this is one of those issues where part of me was willing to give Trump a chance. I mean, Israel and Palestine have been fighting for 70 years, right? In my head, I was like, What’s the worst thing Trump can do? […]

    The skit goes on from there. The video is five minutes long.


  95. Oggie. says

    I have given up wondering what the worst thing Trump could do might be. I expected his administration to get bad quickly, but I was blown away how fast it got bad. I was expecting a bad cabinet, but was blown away by how bad. I was expecting bad decisions, but all of them have been atrociously bad. Every time I think it cannot possibly get worse, he does something so mindblowingly stupid that I realize I was, once again, wrong. The worst he could do? Start a thermonuclear war (not sure with whom as he is getting hundreds of millions from China and from Russia)? If it looks like he is going down, I will not be surprised if he decides to nuke someone just so he can remain President (even if Maralago becomes a radioactive wasteland (along with DC)).

  96. says

    Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no!

    Jon McNaughton, infamously bad pro-Trump painter, has depicted Trump beating up on Robert Mueller.

    Some background:

    […] You might have seen, for example, “The Forgotten Man,” in which Obama ignores a weeping citizen on a park bench while the Founding Fathers implore him to pay attention. Or, “The Demise of America,” in which he fiddles while the U.S. Capitol burns. Or, “One Nation Under Socialism,” in which he has lit the Constitution on fire.

    After the 2016 election, McNaughton’s paintings gained a hero in Donald Trump instead of just a villain in Obama: a sequel to “The Forgotten Man,” “You are Not Forgotten,” features the same weeping citizen, now planting a tree as Trump looks on benevolently.

    Yes. McNaughton is that guy. […]

    “I’m just honestly a little perplexed,” says McNaughton, 50, a soft-spoken Mormon father. “I have no idea where [buyers] are hanging them, I just know I sell a ton. Sometimes I’m shocked at how many I sell. That one I told you about, Obama burning the Constitution? When I painted it, I worried, this thing is just hideous — why would anybody hang that in their living room?” […]

    McNaughton is a repeat guest on “Fox and Friends.” Sean Hannity owns several originals […]

    And now, the news about the Mueller-themed painting:

    […] we flew to Utah to watch McNaughton put the finishing touches on his latest work, which he planned to release by the end of the week. Over the phone, he’d said only that the painting would be “Mueller-themed.” […]

    The new painting was “Mueller-themed” in the same way a banana is “fruit-themed”: there might have been a layer to peel back, but for the most part, the thing was just the thing. In the work, which McNaughton had tentatively titled “Exposing the Truth,” Trump grabbed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III by the necktie, roughly pulling him close while Mueller shrunk back in fear. In Trump’s other hand was a magnifying glass, which he held inches from Mueller’s face.

    “It’s about how it’s all kind of coming to a head,” McNaughton explained. “How Trump is turning the tables on Mueller. It does have a bit of a bully feel — Trump is saying, ‘I’m not going to be the victim here.’ ” McNaughton thinks that the president will end up firing Mueller, and the painting reflects that. […]

    Washington Post link

    You can see the painting at the link. It will scar your mind.

  97. says

    Oggie @122, I agree. I feel the same way.

    I was especially surprised at how quickly Trump could damage and then take down a lot of government institutions. The FBI and the courts are barely hanging on against the Trump tidal wave of contemptible decisions and rhetoric.

  98. says

    “Julian Assange Operation Hotel Revealed: Ecuador spent millions on spy operation for Julian Assange”:

    Ecuador bankrolled a multimillion-dollar spy operation to protect and support Julian Assange in its central London embassy, employing an international security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, embassy staff and even the British police, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

    Over more than five years, Ecuador put at least $5m (£3.7m) into a secret intelligence budget that protected the WikiLeaks founder while he had visits from Nigel Farage, members of European nationalist groups and individuals linked to the Kremlin.*

    Other guests included hackers, activists, lawyers and journalists.

    Documents show the intelligence programme, called “Operation Guest”, which later became known as “Operation Hotel” – coupled with parallel covert actions – ran up an average cost of at least $66,000 a month for security, intelligence gathering and counter-intelligence to “protect” one of the world’s most high-profile fugitives.

    An investigation by the Guardian and Focus Ecuador reveals the operation had the approval of the then Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, and the then foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, according to sources.

    In addition to giving Assange asylum, Correa’s government was apparently prepared to spend money on improving his image. A lawyer was asked to devise a “media strategy” to mark the “second anniversary of his diplomatic asylum”, in a leaked 2014 email exchange seen by the Guardian.

    But the documents showed the way in which the relationship between Assange and his hosts deteriorated over time.

    In an extraordinary breach of diplomatic protocol, Assange hacked into the communications system within the embassy and had his own satellite internet access, according to a source who wished to remain anonymous. By penetrating the embassy’s firewall, Assange was able to access and intercept the official and personal communications of staff, the source claimed.

    In 2014, the company hired to film Assange’s visitors was warning the Ecuadorian government that he was “intercepting and gathering information from the embassy and the people who worked there”.

    The escalating cost of the Operation Hotel surveillance operation was also an issue for Ecuador’s financial controller’s office….

    * So…are there tapes?

  99. says

    Luke Harding with more about the article @ #125. “Security logs show that #Assange received more than 80 visitors to the embassy, in June and early July 2016, just before his leak of DNC emails. The enduring mystery (and a subject for Mueller): how the emails allegedly hacked by #Russia reached WikiLeaks?”

  100. says

    Trump frequently claims that, due to his leadership, the USA is held in higher regard around the world than ever before. He is wrong.

    America’s three closest friends in Europe — Britain, France and Germany — are near-bursting with anger and exasperation at the United States. In a frenzy of meetings and phone calls among them over the past week, their leaders have tried to figure out what they can do about President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran and his plans to impose sanctions on their companies that continue doing business there. […]

    Trump’s continuing effort to circumvent global rules has thrown the multilateral order into “real crisis,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday in a speech to a religious conference.

    The text above is an excerpt from a Washington Post article.

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] The same day, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, appeared at a conference, and while she didn’t mention Trump by name, there were no doubts about her intended rhetorical target. “It seems that screaming, shouting, insulting and bullying, systematically destroying and dismantling everything that is already in place, is the mood of our times,” Mogherini said, adding, “This impulse to destroy is not leading us anywhere good. It is not solving any of our problems.”

    She went on to argue that even the United States needs global partners, explaining, “No country is big enough to face this world alone.”

    None of this stopped White House National Security Advisor John Bolton two days later from threatening our European allies with sanctions if they do business with Iran – which came on the heels of his boss from threatening our European allies with trade tariffs. […]

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has long dreamed of the day in which the Western trans-Atlantic alliance splintered, and thanks to his preferred American politician, Trump is helping deliver that vision in ways that were hard to imagine in the recent past.

  101. says

    Amazing statistics, amazingly dedicated teachers:

    Every year Anna Graven dips into her modest teacher salary and spends her own money to buy bulletin boards, pencils, paper, highlighters and tissues for her high school students in Oklahoma City. So do almost all of her colleagues across the nation.

    Nearly all public school teachers report digging into their pockets to pay for school supplies, spending nearly $480 a year, far more than the federal $250 tax deduction available to teachers, according to a study by the National Center of Education Statistics released Tuesday.

    […] Helping teachers pay for classroom supplies was a key demand during the Arizona teachers’ strike.

    Ninety-four percent of public school teachers say they spent their own money on notebooks, pens and other supplies in the 2014-15 school year without reimbursement, according to the study. The average amount spent was $479. About 44 percent spent $250 or less, while 36 percent spent $251 to $500.

    Teachers who spend their personal money on children’s classroom needs are able to reduce their taxable income by $250. That amounts to roughly $30-to-$60 in savings for each teacher, […]

    Teachers pushed back strongly last year when the tax bill passed by the House called for eliminating the deduction altogether. […]

    “There is no other job I know where the workers subsidize what should be a cost borne by an employer as a necessary ingredient of the job.”

    The study also found that teachers in high-poverty schools were more likely to spend personal money on school supplies. […]


  102. says

    Follow-up to comments 31, 32, 34, 36, 38 and 109.

    More detail on the ZTE fiasco perpetrated by Trump, (this may be repetition of information already presented, but I think it needs to be emphasized):

    Under questioning by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., [Bill] Evanina said U.S. intelligence agencies are on record as assessing that Chinese telecommunication firms are used as a vehicle by the Chinese government to conduct espionage.

    And, answering a question from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., he said he would never use a ZTE phone.


  103. says

    Follow-up to comment 116.

    Nikki Haley is rude and she refuses to hear the Palestinian side of the events unfolding in Gaza.

    U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley walked out of a Security Council meeting on Tuesday when the Palestinian envoy began to speak, just hours after she praised Israel for acting with “restraint” in handling the protests in Gaza.

    The Security Council was holding an emergency meeting to discuss the violence in Gaza. Israeli forces killed at least 62 Palestinians protesting along the border fence on Monday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. That number included several children, one of whom was just 8 months old. More than 3,100 others were wounded.

    Haley told the Security Council that Hamas, with the help of Iran, was to blame for the violence and pointed to Molotov cocktails being flown into Israel via kites. […]

    Haley did not mention the Israeli soldiers and snipers firing at the Palestinian protesters or the death toll from Monday. Less than two later, when Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour began to speak, she walked out of the meeting. […]

    As Israeli forces dropped drones with tear gas and shot at Palestinian protesters in Gaza on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner called the protesters “part of the problem and not part of the solution.” Kushner’s family has longtime ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and previously failed to disclose that he once led a group that funded West Bank settlements, which are illegal under international law. […]


  104. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 131.

    North Korea on Tuesday said a planned summit next month between President Trump and Kim Jong Un is at risk because of joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.

    North Korea said it was ending talks with South Korea, and a confusing statement from the country’s state news agency strongly suggested that the drills threatened the fate of the historic summit.

    “The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities,” North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency said in a statement first reported by the Yonhap News Agency in South Korea.

    The news agency said the drills between the South Korean and U.S. air forces are an “intentional military provocation” to undermine recent diplomatic talks. […]


  105. says

    Federal judge Amy Berman Jackson has denied Manafort’s motion to dismiss criminal charges against him brought by the Special Counsel in DC federal court, @kpolantz reports.”

    Here are the reasons.* Hasn’t been posted by the bot yet.

    * For all the focus on the other judge’s comments in the recent hearing, there was little attention to the fact that Dreeben was able to argue the point (in addition to other significant points) about the regulations not creating enforceable rights. Pretty big problem for Manafort’s attorneys.

  106. says

    southpaw: “Appropriately, Judge Berman-Jackson writes about as clear and thoroughgoing a denial as you’re ever likely to read. Would be surprised if Judge Ellis disagrees with any substantial part of this.”

  107. says

    I have two problems with this report:

    1. It appears to be based on a single source: “a senior Kuwaiti government source close to Al-Rumaihi.”
    2. It’s the Daily Mail.

    It could well be true, and Al-Rumaihi’s statements so far don’t lend him a great deal of credibility in my view (did he not watch the video? does he not know what C-SPAN is?), but I would need more than this to believe it.

  108. says

    “Justice Department and F.B.I. Are Investigating Cambridge Analytica”:

    The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct political data firm, and have sought to question former employees and banks that handled its business, according to an American official and other people familiar with the inquiry.

    Prosecutors have questioned potential witnesses in recent weeks, telling them that there is an open investigation into Cambridge Analytica — which worked on President Trump’s election and other Republican campaigns in 2016 — and “associated U.S. persons.” But the prosecutors provided few other details, and the inquiry appears to be in its early stages, with investigators seeking an overview of the company and its business practices.

    The federal investigation in the United States appears to focus on the company’s financial dealings — investigators have reached out to the company’s banks, for instance — and how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources, according to the American official, who was briefed on the inquiry, and other people familiar with it.

    In addition, the investigators have contacted Facebook, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. The official would not provide any other details, and Facebook declined to comment.

    In a sign of the inquiry’s scope, one of the prosecutors involved is the assistant chief of the Justice Department’s securities and financial fraud division, Brian Kidd. The effort is being assisted by at least one agent who investigates cybercrime for the F.B.I., those people said.

    It was not clear whether the investigation is tied to the inquiry being led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel,…

    Reference to Emerdata at the end.

  109. says

    “Twitter Is Going To Limit The Visibility Of Tweets From People Behaving Badly”:

    On Tuesday, Twitter announced a massive change to the way its conversations will work, evaluating not just the content of individual tweets, but the way users behave more broadly on the service. Twitter will now use thousands of behavioral signals when filtering search, replies, and algorithmic recommendations. If it believes you are trying to game its system, or simply acting like a jerk, it will push your tweets lower down. It’s the biggest update so far in the company’s push to create healthier conversations, an initiative announced by its CEO Jack Dorsey in March.

    Among the signals Twitter will use: whether you tweet at large numbers of accounts you don’t follow, how often you’re blocked by people you interact with, whether you created many accounts from a single IP address, and whether your account is closely related to others that have violated its terms of service.

    “A lot of our past action has been content-based, and we have been shifting more and more toward conduct and behaviors on the system,” Dorsey said in a briefing at the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Monday.

    The push is meant to get out ahead of problems that might normally result in an abuse report under the existing system….

    The company will make the new behavioral filters optional, and they will be on by default. People will be able to turn them on or off with a “show everything” toggle in search. The changes will begin to roll out this week.

    Twitter’s product tweaks are meant to roll back the reach of everything from abusive tweeters to scammers using fake accounts to boost their presence in search results. Dorsey was also clear that while he’s optimistic, he’s under no illusion that they’ll fix everything.

    “This is not an endpoint,” he said. “We have to be constantly ten steps ahead. Because even a system like this, a new model, people will figure out how to game it, take advantage of it.”

  110. KG says


    The WP) report you link to makes me somewhat dubious about the child pornography charges against Schulte:

    In documents, prosecutors allege that they found a large cache of child pornography on a server that was maintained by Schulte. But he has argued that anywhere from 50 to 100 people had access to that server, which Schulte, now 29, designed several years ago to share movies and other digital files.

    Of course, there may be more conclusive evidence, but I wouldn’t consider it beyond the CIA to press prosecutors to bring such charges as a means to keep someone in jail, as a way of discrediting them, or both.

  111. blf says

    ‘CEOs don’t want this released’: US study lays bare extreme pay-ratio problem:

    The first comprehensive study of CEO-to-worker pay reveals an extraordinary disparity — with the highest gap approaching 5,000 to 1

    The study, titled Rewarding Or Hoarding? [PDF], was published on Wednesday by Minnesota’s Democratic US congressman Keith Ellison, and includes data on almost 14 million workers at 225 US companies with total annual revenues of $6.3tn.

    Just the summary makes for sober reading.

    In 188 of the 225 companies in the report’s database, a single chief executive’s pay could be used to pay more than 100 workers; the average worker at 219 of the 225 companies studied would need to work at least 45 years to earn what their CEO makes in one.

    It also shows how some of the most extreme disparities in CEO-to-worker pay exist in industries that are considered consumer discretionary, such as fast food and retail, with a 977 to 1 disparity, one of the widest gaps.

    “Now we know why CEOs didn’t want this data released,” says Ellison, who championed the implementation of the pay ratio disclosure rule as it was written into the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill of 2010. “I knew inequality was a great problem in our society but I didn’t understand quite how extreme it was.”


    “If wealth is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, then obviously wealth is being dissipated from more and more people,” Ellison said.

    “We have people who are paying more half their income in rent, and we have whole school districts where poverty is erasing any opportunity for Americans to climb that ladder.”

    According to a recent Bloomberg analysis[] of 22 major world economies, the average CEO-worker pay gap in the US far outpaces that of other industrialized nations.

    The average US CEO makes more than four times his or her counterpart in the other countries analyzed.


    Companies singled out for criticism in the report include Marathon Petroleum, a gas station operator, whose CEO Gary Heminger took home an astonishing 935 times more pay than an average employee in 2017.

    Sarah Anderson, the policy director at Inequality.org, said the data that’s now coming out from corporate America could prove historic.

    “We’ve known for many years we have an extreme gap between CEO and worker pay but this report goes into detail about which companies are doing the most to contribute to inequality by having extreme gaps in pay scales.”

    Anderson’s advocacy group had previously identified at least five US firms where workers would have to work more than 1,000 years to catch up with their top bosses. The companies include the auto-parts maker Aptiv (CEO-worker pay ratio: 2,526 to 1), the temp agency Manpower (2,483 to 1), the amusement park owner Six Flags (1,920 to 1), Del Monte Produce (1,465 to 1), and the apparel maker VF (1,353 to 1).


    Ellison said the data remains imperfect, as companies are still able to exclude contracted workers from their reporting. He singled out Newmont Mining, which claims 30,000 workers and contractors on its website but only reported 12,500 to the SEC.

    “What happened to the other workers? They’re missing some. But even then the CEO is making 114 times the average employee.”

    Ellison hopes that the issue is beginning to break out of the political echo-chamber and that changes are beginning to occur.

    The city of Portland, Oregon, for instance, recently imposed a 10% business tax surcharge on companies with top executives making more than 100 times what their median worker is paid — and a 20% surcharge on firms with pay gaps that stretch exceed 250 to 1.


    From the report: “The company with the largest ratio is Mattel, a toy manufacturing company, with a ratio of 4,987:1.”

      † I suspect the Grauniad linked to the wrong Bloomberg report. The linked-to report, Alphabet CEO Page Makes a Tiny Fraction Compared to Its Median Employee, does not seem to mention the situation outside the States at all. The Grauniad probably meant to link to this report (which is cited in Eilison’s study), CEOs in US, India Earn the Most Compared With Average Workers (summary, there is a PDF link to the full report at this link):

    Chief executive officers in the US are paid much better than their peers abroad, and the gap between their compensation and that of average American workers is wider than in other countries.

    CEOs of the biggest publicly traded US companies averaged $14.3 million in annual pay, more than double that of their Canadian counterparts and 10 times greater than those in India, according to a Bloomberg analysis that used benchmark stock indexes in 22 nations.


    As the report the Grauniad linked-to notes (presumably only about the situation in the States): “A long-running study by the AFL-CIO shows leaders of S&P 500 companies made about 347 times more than their average employees in 2016, up from 41-to-1 in 1983.”

  112. says

    KG @ #151:

    The WP) report you link to makes me somewhat dubious about the child pornography charges against Schulte:…

    Of course, there may be more conclusive evidence, but I wouldn’t consider it beyond the CIA to press prosecutors to bring such charges as a means to keep someone in jail, as a way of discrediting them, or both.

    I share your skepticism. Also, it’s presented as though they don’t have sufficient evidence to charge him with the leak, but my read of the article was that they don’t have any evidence to charge him with the leak. It doesn’t point to anything concrete at all to explain why he’s the target. Which makes them confirming that he’s a suspect in an ongoing investigation all the stranger. I suppose one explanation in their favor could be that they do have real evidence that he’s the leaker but it’s not something they could use in court, so they’re putting it out there to try to smoke out more information or accomplices, but the story so far is odd and suspect.

  113. says

    I hadn’t commented on this because I thought he’d ask for a 30-day extension – “Trump Files Financial Disclosure With Ethics Office”:

    President Donald Trump has submitted his annual financial disclosure to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, and it is expected to be released publicly in the coming days.

    Trump’s disclosure, which includes all of 2017 and part of 2018, is being closely watched to see whether it will disclose the $130,000 paid to porn star Stormy Daniels on his behalf by his attorney Michael Cohen. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said during a Fox News interview that the president had repaid Cohen.

    Ethics experts say that if that money isn’t disclosed, Trump could be in violation of ethics laws for failing to disclose a reportable item, a violation for which others have been prosecuted.

    Trump’s disclosure will also be the first extended look at how his businesses have performed since he became president in January 2017….

  114. says

    Walter Shaub on the story @ #109:

    Just a reminder that the bribery law (18 U.S.C. § 201) is still one of the few ethics laws that applies to the president, and ordering a cabinet agency to take action is one of the few things that would still qualify as an “official act” after the Supreme Court gutted the law.

  115. blf says

    Murder forces women using Chinese ride-hailing app to change profile photos:

    Users also switch listed gender to male after the stabbing to death of a 21-year-old and revelations that drivers review female users for their appearance

    Women using China’s largest ride-hailing platform, Didi Chuxing, are changing their profile photos after the death of a female passenger and revelations that drivers have been reviewing female users based on their appearance.

    Last week Didi apologised and closed its ride-sharing service, Hitch, after a 21-year-old woman was found dead […]. Police suspected her driver, a 27-year-old man […]. Didi said the man had stolen the profile of his father to use the app.


    Chinese media have reported that a little-known function on the ride-sharing app allowed drivers to leave comments visible to other drivers about passengers. […]

    That drivers-only messaging was used very inappropriately.

  116. blf says

    Trump attorney fed statement to publicist for Russians about Trump Tower meeting:

    Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 documents of interviews with Trump’s son and others who met with Russian attorney at Trump Tower

    The Trump Organization fed a prepared statement to a representative of Russians involved in the notorious 2016 meeting at Trump Tower on what to tell the press about what was discussed, it emerged on Wednesday.

    An attorney for the Trump family’s company sent the proposed statement in an email and said it would be our preference if the representative did not say anything else in response to inquiries about the meeting.


    The proposed statement about the meeting was sent by Alan Futerfas, an attorney for the Trump Organization, to Rob Goldstone, a British publicist who arranged the meeting on behalf of his Russian clients.


    To the best of my knowledge, suggesting statements (or at least part of their content) is fairly routine and can be — although isn’t always — benign. I’ve suggested material to include in statements (on technical matters). What is unusual, as far as I am aware, is also suggesting that nothing else be said (nominally in response to questions), excepting perhaps on legal matters / lawsuits (which was not the case at the time of the incident in the above excerpt).

  117. says

    European Council president Donald Tusk: “Looking at latest decisions of @realDonaldTrump someone could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies. But frankly, EU should be grateful. Thanks to him we got rid of all illusions. We realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.”

  118. says

    SC @156, the North Koreans are right, John Bolton is repugnant. Hair Furor often magnifies his own faults by bringing people like Bolton onto Team Trump. I wonder if Steve Miller pushed for the addition of Bolton to the team. Or did Trump just say that he wanted to find the most war-mongering warmonger on planet earth?

    Bolton seems to have screwed up the negotiations with North Korea by, among other things, referring to the “Libya model” as a guideline for dealing with North Korea. Libya disarmed, complied with international inspection regulations, and then the Libyans saw their dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, violently murdered. Near the end, Gaddafi hid in a culvert, then he was killed after first being beaten and sodomized with a bayonet by rebel fighters. From this, the North Koreans can draw the lesson that they need their nuclear weapons for protection and as a bargaining tool to prevent regime change via humiliation and murder.

    “If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” North Korean negotiator Kim Gye Gwan said Wednesday.

    From Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

    The President is very used (sic) and ready for tough negotiations, and if they want to meet, we’ll be ready, and if they don’t, that’s okay too. And we’ll continue with the campaign of maximum pressure if that’s the case. But like I just said, if they want to meet, the President will certainly be ready, and we will be prepared, but if not, that’s okay.

    Everybody on Team Trump must act tough. Everybody must act like a bully. Everybody must act like they are willing to walk away from the table and then kill any Gaddafi-like-dictators with their own hands.

    More from Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

    This is the President Trump model. He’s going to run this the way he sees fit. We’re 100 percent confident, as we’ve said many times before, and as we all know that you’re aware, he’s the best negotiator. And we’re very confident on that front.

    Translation: We’re very deluded on that front.

  119. says

    An update on the election in Pennsylvania, from Steve Benen:

    Democrat Helen Tai won a state House special election yesterday, flipping a “red” seat that Donald Trump and Mitt Romney narrowly carried. It’s the 41st state legislative seat Democrats have flipped since Trump took office.

    Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Gay Scanlon and Susan Wild won Democratic congressional primaries in a state that currently has an all-male congressional delegation. In light of Pennsylvania’s new district map, some of these women are very likely to win in November. (Note, Wild narrowly defeated John Morganelli, who recently made headlines for his pro-Trump, anti-progressive record.)

  120. says

    Donald Trump Jr.’s memory apparently failed him when he testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee under oath:

    […] transcripts reveal that Trump Jr. gave conflicting answers as to whether his father was involved in creating the statement that attempted to paint the meeting as an innocent discussion of “adoption.” When initially asked about Trump’s involvement, Trump Jr. responded that he didn’t know, and that “I never spoke to my father about it.” However, he later admitted that Trump Sr. “May have commented through Hope Hicks,” and admitted that Trump may have taken a role in creating the statement issued by Trump Jr. […]

    The transcripts also show that Donald Trump Jr. was more than willing to engage in the “I don’t recall” defense, stating that he could not remember details of the meeting, calls to and from Russia, and the circumstances of his talk with Air Force One while the excuse memo was being prepared. […]


    From Brian Krassenstein:


    That’s the number of Times Donald Trump Jr. said that he didn’t recall during his testimony in front of The Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the Trump Tower meeting on June 9.

    103 Freaking Times!

  121. says

    BREAKING: Elena Gremina, writer of play One Hour Eighteen Minutes about the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, found dead in Moscow at the age of 61. This is 6 weeks after her husband Mikhail Ugarov director of same play died. ‘Heart attacks’ in both cases.”

  122. says

    Burr and Warner released statements about Senate Intel’s closed hearing today completing their review of the ICA on Russian election sabotage.

    Warner: “CONFIRMED: After a thorough review, Senate Intel has found no evidence to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia, on orders from Putin, carried out an unprecedented election interference effort to help the Trump campaign and hurt the Clinton campaign in 2016.”

  123. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 170.

    Whistleblower Christopher Wylie said:

    […] two senior staffers for Cambridge Analytica had connections to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, having served as aides to former Assange lawyer John Jones in London. And he laid out Cambridge Analytica’s alleged links to Russia, saying the company used Russian researchers, shared information with Russian companies and executives tied to the Russian intelligence, “pitched Russian-led profiling projects to its other clients” and referred to hiring former Russian intelligence agents in internal documents. […]

    Wylie’s message to Congress is that the tactics employed by Cambridge Analytica — which involved spreading violent and anti-Muslim images in one unnamed country, he said, in an effort to suppress voter turnout — should be thoroughly explored.

    “If a foreign actor dropped propaganda leaflets by aeroplane over Florida or Michigan, that would universally be condemned a hostile act. But this is what is happening online,” Wylie told the committee. “We must address these issues before disinformation and information warfare become pervasive in American cyberspace.”


  124. blf says

    Follow-up to @96, Female candidates win big at state primaries in sign of things to come:

    Women won big on Tuesday night, as four states held primaries that will play a consequential role in determining control of Congress next year.

    In Pennsylvania, the state’s all-male congressional delegation is poised to change after eight women won their party’s nomination for US House seats, some of which are safe seats.

    In Idaho, Democrats nominated four candidates to statewide executive office and all were women. Former state representative Paulette Jordan has the potential to make history if elected in the November midterm elections, as the first female governor of Idaho and the first Native American governor in US history.

    In Nebraska, non-profit executive Kara Eastman, a progressive candidate who supports a Medicare-for-all universal health insurance policy, narrowly defeated former congressman Brad Ashford in a surprise result. He was a top Democratic recruit for this electoral cycle, for a congressional seat the party believes is crucial to winning back the House majority in 2018. […]

    Now watch the dummies’s “leadership” sabotage Ms Eastman — she’s progressive and is not that “leadership”‘s mandated candidate.

    In total on Tuesday night, 13 of the 29 women seeking election to the US House of Representatives won their primaries, while two more races with female candidates remained too close to call by Wednesday morning, according to an analysis by Gender Watch 2018. This follows another successful primary night for women last week, when 27 out of of 43 female candidates running for the House won their party’s nomination.

  125. says

    It’s amazing how names circle back around.

    Jeff Silvester from AIQ is testifying before the parliamentary committee today. Carole Cadwalladr is livetweeting and recently tweeted: “Woah. AIQ working for Ukrainian political party, Osnova. He says he’s being paid by client in the US. ???”

    Osnova was founded by Serhiy Taruta, and both he and the party are quite mysterious:

    Why Serhiy Taruta decided to put his faith in people related to the Yanukovych regime is not entirely understandable. Is this the personal initiative of the oligarch himself or is it at the request of some silent investor? It’s not clear who actually is funding the party, but it seems unlikely that Taruta is putting up his own money. Although this oligarch’s worth was estimated at over US $2 billion back in 2008, he claims today that his wealth has shrunk a thousand-fold. In an interview with Hard Talk in 2015, he announced that he had preserved only 0.1% of his former wealth.

    Which brings the story around to Taruta’s business interests. In 2010, 50%+2 shares of the Industrial Union of Donbas (IUD), founded by the oligarch, was bought up by Russia’s Vneshekonombank, the foreign trade bank. That means that Taruta and the bank are partners. Taruta himself holds only 24.999% of IUD, while the bank is 100% state-owned and Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev is the chair of its supervisory board. And so, whether he intended it to be so or not, Serhiy Taruta is business partners with the Kremlin.

    What kind of influence the Kremlin has over the Donetsk oligarch and his party is not entirely clear and, so far, there is no evidence. Nor is there evidence that Osnova is being financed by Russian money. Given the political histories of the party’s spokespersons, however, and the nature of Taruta’s business interests, it’s worth getting a good glimpse into its inner workings. It’s entirely possible that, under the aegis of a pro-European politician, some more agents of influence from an enemy state could find their way to seats in the Rada.

    I don’t know how credible this publication is, but it also has a section on a bizarre event about which I’d forgotten:

    On September 25, NewsOne reported on Serhiy Taruta’s event in Washington, “The highest level in the US, the Special Congressional Committee for Financial Issues [sic], will find out about the corruption at the NBU, Only thanks to the systematic work of the team that collected evidence about the corruption of the top officials at the National Bank of Ukraine, will the strongest in the world find out about this.” At the event, Taruta and Oleksandr Zavadetskiy, a one-time director of the NBU Department for Monitoring individuals connected to banks, were planning to report on the deals by-then-departed NBU Governor Valeria Hontareva had cut. The event did take place… in a tiny basement room at the Capitol where the Congress meets, with a very small audience—and NewsOne cameras.

    The speakers at the event were introduced, not without some problems in pronunciation, by Connie Mack IV, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives from 2005 to 2013. Since leaving his Congressional career behind, Mack has been working as a lobbyist and consultant. Over 2015-2016, his name often came up as a lobbyist for Hungary’s Viktor Orban Administration in the US.

    Former CIA director James Woolsey Jr. offered a few generalized comments about corruption….

    Interestingly, there were no current elected American officials in attendance at the event. Moreover, there is no such creature as a “Special Congressional Committee for Financial Issues” in the US Congress….

    The identity of AIQ’s US client paying for their work on behalf of Osnova would seem to be important.

  126. says

    What’s happening with net neutrality? A June 11 deadline is fast approaching:

    In December, the Federal Communications Commission’s Republican members officially killed Obama-era net neutrality rules. It was the completion of a plan shaped by Donald Trump, who appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai […]

    The specific regulations, however, are still in place, though not for much longer: effective June 11, service providers will no longer have to treat all online content equally. […]

    The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution that aims to undo a sweeping act of deregulation […]

    If successful, the legislative gambit could restore the agency’s regulations and hand a victory to tech companies, activists and consumer advocacy groups. […]

    To save net neutrality, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) filed something called a discharge petition, which skips the committee process, and which enjoys the support of 50 senators. In this case, net neutrality is backed by all 49 members of the Senate Democratic conference, plus Maine’s Susan Collins (R).

    When the resolution, which would block the FCC’s decision through the Congressional Review Act, reaches the floor, it cannot be filibustered. If it gets a simple majority, it passes. Barring any last-minutes changes of heart or unexpected absences, it’s likely today’s vote will succeed.

    So is that it? Will net neutrality survive after all? Not so fast.

    The resolution is effectively just another bill, which means, after today, it would go to the Republican-led House, where it’s likely to face serious resistance from GOP leaders. […]

    Yeah. Oh, no, not the asshats in the House of Representatives!

    But let’s say, just for the sake of conversation, that the measure passes the Senate today, and then somehow passes the House sometime fairly soon. At that point, it would go to Donald Trump for a signature, and though there’s no reason to think the president has any idea what net neutrality is, he’s nevertheless convinced himself that he’s against it.

    […] net neutrality is likely to remain dead so long as Republican officials control the levers of federal power. Today’s Senate vote will likely be a morale boost for supporters of the idea, but the real action on net neutrality appears to be taking place at the state level. […]


  127. says

    Update to #157 (Trump’s financial disclosure):

    NEW: Ethics office sending letter to Rod Rosenstein stating that Michael Cohen’s payment on behalf of Trump was a debt and may be relevant to ‘any inquiry’ Rosenstein may be pursuing.”

    Matthew Miller: “Wow, this is essentially a criminal referral to DOJ for Trump making a false statement in his previous financial disclosure.”

    Walter Shaub: “This is tantamount to a criminal referral. OGE has effectively reported the president to DOJ for potentially committing a crime. Dave Apol comes through in the end!!”

  128. blf says

    (Cross-posted from More death and destruction thread here at poopyhead’s.)

    In America’s news headlines, Palestinians die mysterious deaths:

    Judging by some stories, it’s almost as if bullets just hang in the air, waiting for Palestinians to walk deliberately into them

    It is the peculiar fate of oppressed people everywhere that when they are killed, they are killed twice: first by bullet or bomb, and next by the language used to describe their deaths. A common condition of oppression, after all, is to be blamed for being the victim, and that blame gets meted out in language designed to rob the oppressed of their very struggle.

    Such a situation has for decades been the tragic destiny of the Palestinians, who are themselves so routinely assigned the blame when they are killed by Israel — and not just by the Israeli government but by the American media and political establishment — that we have now basically come to expect it.


    Consider the headlines. On Monday, the Israeli military killed more than 60 protesters in Gaza. The deadly violence was one-sided — no Israelis were killed — and disproportionate. In the midst of the carnage, the New York Times sent out a tweet about its story on the bloody events. “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the US prepares to open its Jerusalem Embassy,” read the tweet.

    Have died? Really? We should note how the passive voice in this tweet hides the one performing the action, which is exactly what passive voice constructions can do. In this tweet, Israel is assigned no responsibility for killing protesters. On the contrary, Palestinians appear, simply and almost mysteriously, to “have died”.


    To be fair to the New York Times, the headline in Tuesday’s physical paper […] was much clearer. “Israelis Kill Dozens in Gaza,” it read, though one is still left wondering who these “Israelis” are. Wouldn’t “Israel” be a more accurate noun? The military represents the state, after all, and not individual citizens.

    But the Times is hardly alone in these obfuscating headlines. […]

    The Wall Street Journal has a video on its website with the headline “Clashes Over New US Embassy in Jerusalem Leave Dozens Dead”. Frankly, this headline is even worse than the others. To label this massacre as “clashes” is not only disingenuous but also grossly misleading, as is the idea that the Palestinians were only protesting against the new US embassy in Jerusalem. […]

    And then there’s the ever-present “leave dozens dead” in the headline, which again tells us nothing about who shot whom, suggesting instead that “clashes” rather than people kill while insinuating that Palestinians are, once again, basically responsible for their own slaughter.

    It’s almost as if bullets just hang in the air, waiting for Palestinians to walk deliberately into them.

    Headlines like these are the journalistic equivalent of US ambassador Nikki Haley telling the UN’s security council that no country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has. Such language works not only to buffer Israel from criticism but also and more fundamentally to shield Israel from accountability.


    Over 70 years ago, George Orwell wrote that modern political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”. […]

    The current Grauniad headline is Global protests grow after Israeli killing of Palestinian demonstrators, which seems Ok except for the “Israeli” with either needs a “military” or should be “Israel”. However, their video report obfuscates, Palestinians killed as US opens embassy in Jerusalem (video) albeit the description is good: “Israeli forces have killed at least 58 Palestinians and injured more than 1,200 during protests on the Gaza side of the border with Israel. It marks the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war. In a video message played at the US embassy opening ceremony, Donald Trump said: The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement.”

    (I tried to find Al Jazeera’s initial(-ish) report for comparison, but weirdly wasn’t able to. I plead soccer eejits: In arounds an hour’s time, the local(-ish) team, Marseille, will be playing in some Europe-wide final. There’s a zillion yahoos outside at the moment making a metric feckton of noise including firecrackers and loud music, and I can barely “hear” myself think. It will only get worse once the so-called “game” starts, and will be fecking unbearable for hours afterwards if Marseille wins with (based on experience) cars and motorcycles and scooters zooming all over the place honking their sodding horns. I am not in a good mood (but have a fairly quiet restaurant scoped out).)

  129. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 176.

    […] Trump on Wednesday released his annual financial disclosure, including in it a note that he paid his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, back for an expense listed at between “$100,001–250,000.”

    The note appeared to reflect the hush money payment Cohen sent adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016, and for which, according to Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, Trump paid Cohen back personally. […]

    Despite Trump’s claim in a footnote attached to the disclosure that the payment was “not required to be disclosed as ‘reportable liabilities’” — in other words, that Trump contests it was not technically a debt he owed Cohen — the Office of Government Ethics said differently. […]


  130. says

    The Senate intelligence committee does not agree with the House intelligence committee:

    The Senate intelligence committee says it agrees with a 2017 assessment by intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the presidential election earlier to hurt the candidacy of Democrat Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.

    Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said in a statement Wednesday that his staff has spent 14 months “reviewing the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work, and we see no reason to dispute the conclusions.”

    That’s in contrast to the House intelligence committee, which agreed with the majority of the report but said last month that the agencies “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft” while assessing Russian president Vladimir Putin’s intentions.

    Lawmakers on that committee said they agreed that Putin had wanted to hurt Clinton, but did not agree that meant he wanted to help Trump.


    More people willing to say that Devin Nunes was wrong, is wrong?

  131. says

    Follow-up to comments 156 and 165.

    […] representatives of North Korea threatened to pull out of the upcoming summit with Donald Trump. North Korea balked over concerns about ongoing US–South Korea military maneuvers, US insistence on North Korea surrendering nuclear weapons, and, in general , the kind of threatening language that implied that failure to give the US what it wanted would result in an immediate attack. In short: Everything Donald Trump has been saying.

    Kim Jong-un also seemed a bit miffed that the ever-reasonable John Bolton suggested that the model for negotiating with Kim should be Libya. By which Bolton apparently meant Kim should agree to putting all his bombs in a box and sign them over. Just like Libya did … except for the fact that Libya never had any nuclear bombs. Kim might have also had that little incident in mind where the US conducted air strikes against Libya in a concerted effort to kill the country’s leader. That might not endear him to the analogy.

    In response to Kim’s threatened pull out, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump would be “just fine.” Really. Don’t worry. Fine.

    It’s not as if every single person who ever had to deal with North Korea in the past warned Trump that something along these lines was likely. Or Trump just got through poo-poohing those concerns with a statement that Kim is “honorable.” Or that Trump already buckled to China over breaking sanctions to save ZTE just so his chocolate cake buddy Xi would make this all go well. Trump has this under control.

    Trump responds to NKorea threat to cancel Kim Jong Un summit, says he will still insist on denuclearization.
    Sure. That’ll do it. Someone contact the Nobel Committee.


  132. says

    Re my comment 181, sorry, SC I didn’t see your earlier comment on the same subject.

    In other news, weird white people call the police on innocent black people … again. This time the incident is in a Hobby Lobby store.

    A Hobby Lobby in the Trussville suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, called the police on a man returning a circuit cutter. […] Brian Spurlock was returning the item to the store for his girlfriend. The receipt and original packaging in hand, he was asked to wait while the employee went to speak with the manager, who in turn said they needed to speak with corporate. Spurlock waited.

    The cashier returned to Spurlock and told him the manager was calling the store’s corporate office, as if Hobby Lobby has a staff of operators on standby waiting to approve trinket returns. The manager asked Spurlock to step aside and wait while she called Hobby Lobby’s Cricut Emergency Return Squad.

    The manager called the police instead. According to the police, the manager thought Spurlock looked like someone who had been returning stolen items to their store.

    Spurlock says he still didn’t think anything was wrong, even when a local law enforcement officer entered the store, walked up to him and asked for his identification. As customers looked on, Spurlock handed over his ID to the cop and asked what was the reason for this embarrassment.

    “He said: ‘You’re about to be trespassing,’” Spurlock explained. “I still didn’t know what was going on. I figured, ‘OK, some stores do ask for ID when you return things.’”

    The cop ran Spurlock’s ID out in his squad car, found nothing which is why Spurlock says he wasn’t “worried,” and then came back and told Spurlock he should get his refund and promptly leave so that he wouldn’t be arrested for trespassing.

    That’s fucking insane. It’s bad enough that Mr. Spurlock had to suffer the indignity of being treated poorly for the crime of being black in a Hobby Lobby store, but now that it’s been grossly verified that he is just a person, he’s being run out of the store because of their racist ignorant “mistake?” […]

    Daily Kos link

    The Root link

  133. says

    From Rex Tillerson:

    As I reflect upon the state of our American democracy, I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity. If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sector — and regrettably, at times, even the non-profit sector — then American democracy, as we know it, is entering its twilight years.

    If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not, what a fact is and is not, and begin by holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness, and demand our pursuit of America’s future be fact-based.

    The excerpts above are from a speech former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave today during a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute.

  134. says

    This is an interesting take on John Bolton’s approach to the negotiations with North Korea: It Sure Looks Like John Bolton Is Trying to Sabotage the North Korea Talks.

    […] In several interviews, Bolton has cited former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s 2000 decision to abandon his nascent nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief as a model for the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea. As Bolton well knows, North Korea has specifically cited the Libya example as a reason why it should pursue a nuclear deterrent […]

    Of course, that may be exactly why Bolton cited it. Bolton has advocated pre-emptive military action against North Korea and has sounded highly skeptical about the recent diplomatic opening. In an interview with Radio Free Asia just before Trump hired him, Bolton said he suspected the North Koreans were merely “buying time to perfect the last stages of the nuclear weapons program and their ballistic missile program” and was “skeptical that they’re serious.” Unless Kim were willing to commit to complete denuclearization, it could be a “very short meeting” with Trump, Bolton said. […]

    Bolton upped the ante again over the weekend, telling CNN that in addition to denuclearization, the talks would encompass North Korea’s ballistic missile program, its chemical and biological weapons, and other issues including the abductions of South Korean and Japanese citizens. He suggested the talks could result in North Korea becoming “a normal nation, to behave and interact with the rest of the world the way that South Korea does,” which could be read in Pyongyang, given Bolton’s record, as a suggestion of regime change. It was also, as Fred Kaplan points out, at odds with comments made the same day by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggesting that North Korea might be allowed to keep its nuclear weapons if it gets rid of the long-range missiles that could strike the United States.

    […] a national security adviser who seems to view these talks as a dangerous waste of valuable time has been making statements that seem perfectly tailored to either scuttle the talks or make meaningful progress at them impossible. Judging by North Korea’s outburst this week, the strategy—if that’s what it is—is working. The White House says it is still hopeful that the meeting will happen, but one might ask why Bolton is the person Trump chose to advise him before he took on this ambitious and highly risky diplomatic project.

  135. says

    NYT – “Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation”:

    Within hours of opening an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. dispatched a pair of agents to London on a mission so secretive that all but a handful of officials were kept in the dark.

    Their assignment, which has not been previously reported, was to meet the Australian ambassador, who had evidence that one of Donald J. Trump’s advisers knew in advance about Russian election meddling. After tense deliberations between Washington and Canberra, top Australian officials broke with diplomatic protocol and allowed the ambassador, Alexander Downer, to sit for an F.B.I. interview to describe his meeting with the campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.

    The agents summarized their highly unusual interview and sent word to Washington on Aug. 2, 2016, two days after the investigation was opened. Their report helped provide the foundation for a case that, a year ago Thursday, became the special counsel investigation. But at the time, a small group of F.B.I. officials knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane.

    The name, a reference to the Rolling Stones lyric “I was born in a crossfire hurricane,” was an apt prediction of a political storm that continues to tear shingles off the bureau….

    This month, the Justice Department inspector general is expected to release the findings of its lengthy review of the F.B.I.’s conduct in the Clinton case. The results are certain to renew debate over decisions by the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, to publicly chastise Mrs. Clinton in a news conference, and then announce the reopening of the investigation days before Election Day. Mrs. Clinton has said those actions buried her presidential hopes.

    Those decisions stand in contrast to the F.B.I.’s handling of Crossfire Hurricane. Not only did agents in that case fall back to their typical policy of silence, but interviews with a dozen current and former government officials and a review of documents show that the F.B.I. was even more circumspect in that case than has been previously known. Many of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

    Agents considered, then rejected, interviewing key Trump associates, which might have sped up the investigation but risked revealing the existence of the case. Top officials quickly became convinced that they would not solve the case before Election Day, which made them only more hesitant to act. When agents did take bold investigative steps, like interviewing the ambassador, they were shrouded in secrecy.

    Fearful of leaks, they kept details from political appointees across the street at the Justice Department….

    Only about five Justice Department officials knew the full scope of the case, officials said, not the dozen or more who might normally be briefed on a major national security case.

    The facts, had they surfaced, might have devastated the Trump campaign: Mr. Trump’s future national security adviser was under investigation, as was his campaign chairman. One adviser appeared to have Russian intelligence contacts. Another was suspected of being a Russian agent himself.

    …Underpinning both cases was one political calculation: that Mrs. Clinton would win and Mr. Trump would lose. Agents feared being seen as withholding information or going too easy on her. And they worried that any overt actions against Mr. Trump’s campaign would only reinforce his claims that the election was being rigged against him.

    The F.B.I. investigated four unidentified Trump campaign aides in those early months, congressional investigators revealed in February. The four men were Michael T. Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said. Each was scrutinized because of his obvious or suspected Russian ties.

    Counterintelligence investigations can take years, but if the Russian government had influence over the Trump campaign, the F.B.I. wanted to know quickly. One option was the most direct: interview the campaign officials about their Russian contacts.

    That was discussed but not acted on, two former officials said, because interviewing witnesses or subpoenaing documents might thrust the investigation into public view, exactly what F.B.I. officials were trying to avoid during the heat of the presidential race.

    Top officials became convinced that there was almost no chance they would answer the question of collusion before Election Day. And that made agents even more cautious.

    The F.B.I. obtained phone records and other documents using national security letters — a secret type of subpoena — officials said. And at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said. That has become a politically contentious point, with Mr. Trump’s allies questioning whether the F.B.I. was spying on the Trump campaign or trying to entrap campaign officials.

    Looking back, some at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. now believe that agents could have been more aggressive….

    Crossfire Hurricane began with a focus on four campaign officials. But by mid-fall 2016, Mr. Page’s inquiry had progressed the furthest. Agents had known Mr. Page for years. Russian spies tried to recruit him in 2013, and he was dismissive when agents warned him about it, a half-dozen current and former officials said. That warning even made its way back to Russian intelligence, leaving agents suspecting that Mr. Page had reported their efforts to Moscow.

    In late October, in response to questions from The Times, law enforcement officials acknowledged the investigation but urged restraint. They said they had scrutinized some of Mr. Trump’s advisers but had found no proof of any involvement with Russian hacking. The resulting article, on Oct. 31, reflected that caution and said that agents had uncovered no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”

    The key fact of the article — that the F.B.I. had opened a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — was published in the 10th paragraph.

    A year and a half later, no public evidence has surfaced connecting Mr. Trump’s advisers to the hacking or linking Mr. Trump himself to the Russian government’s disruptive efforts. But the article’s tone and headline — “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia” — gave an air of finality to an investigation that was just beginning….

    Much, much more at the link.

  136. says

    Avenatti: “Mr. Trump’s disclosure today conclusively proves that the American people were deceived by Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump, Mr. Schwartz, the WH, and Mr. Giuliani. This was NOT an accident and it was not isolated. Cover-ups should always matter. #Basta”

  137. says

    The special counsel’s office collected about 1.5 to 2 terabytes of social media data—largely in Russian–related indicted Russians and companies’ use of social media to influence the 2016 presidential election, prosecutor Jeannie Rhee told a federal judge today.”

    I believe one of the Manafort judges just issued an order, but still just on PACER.

  138. says

    “Vote Leave and BeLeave used identical datasets to target Facebook users”:

    Two Brexit campaign groups under investigation for potential collusion during the EU referendum used identical datasets to target potential adverts at Facebook users.

    Vote Leave, the lead campaigner for a Brexit vote, and BeLeave, a campaign group run by an activist named Darren Grimes, used identical data to target audiences, according to a letter from Facebook to the Electoral Commission that raises new questions about potential coordination between the two groups.

    “They were the exact same audiences,” said Facebook’s Gareth Lambe, who also revealed that $2m (£1.5m) of AggregateIQ’s entire $3.5m Facebook advertising spend over the last four years appeared to be associated with the EU referendum.

    In addition to Vote Leave and BeLeave, AggregateIQ ran adverts for the Democratic Unionist party’s pro-Brexit campaign, as well as another campaign group called Veterans for Britain….

  139. says

    “Mueller issues grand jury subpoenas to Trump adviser’s social media consultant”:

    U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued two subpoenas to a social media expert who worked for longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

    Sullivan told Reuters that he heads Cyphoon.com, a social media firm, and “worked on the Trump campaign serving as Chief Strategist directly to Roger J. Stone Jr.”

    “Welcome To The Age of Weaponized Social Media,” said a strategy document Sullivan prepared for Stone and seen by Reuters. He described a “system” he devised for creating Twitter “swarms” as “an army of sophisticated, hyper-targeted direct tweet automation systems driven by outcomes-based strategies derived from REAL-TIME actionable insights.”

    One of the two subpoenas delivered last week requests that Sullivan appear before a grand jury on May 18 at the Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C. The other orders Sullivan to bring documents, objects and electronically stored information.

  140. Oggie. says

    From Lynna’s quote in 172:

    “We must address these issues before disinformation and information warfare become pervasive in American cyberspace.”

    Too late. The only thing new is that the Fox News/Limbaugh/Beck/Russia axis has discovered that the internet is good for more than porn.

  141. Oggie. says

    SC @198:

    That is delightfully surreal. Not quite Dadaist, but heading in that direction.

    Now I wonder what Dadaist artists could do with Twitter.

    I need sleep.

  142. says

    From Josh Marshall, here is a closer look at at certain segment of the interview transcripts and related documents that were released today. Marshall focuses on “the Sad Sack tale of Rob Goldstone”:

    […] as the press swarms around him he [Goldstone] reminds Emin on more than one occasion that he said at the time the whole thing was a bad idea. […] I definitely get the sense Goldstone didn’t know the fullness of what he was getting himself into. When the shit hit the fan, he felt very badly used by Emin and his father Aras. And with good reason. The Agalarovs were in Russia, beyond anyone’s reach. It wasn’t their problem.

    For Goldstone, on the one side are the Agalarovs who he no longer worked for but was keen to protect and lawyers for the Trump organization who were coaching him on what to say.

    “I hope this favor was worth it for your dad — it could blow up big” Goldstone tells Emin in one text message. “This has and will have a disastrous effect on my Business also and I trust we will be compensated in some way — already one new client has walked away over this and it can only get worse.”

    At other times, Goldstone gets more intense. “I have 20 years of reputation basically destroyed by this dumb meeting which your father insisted on even though Ike and Me told him would be bad news and not to do.” […] “I did say at the time this was an awful idea and a terrible meeting.”

    All of the back and forth is with Emin, the son and singer, not Aras, the oligarch who is close to Vladmir Putin. That makes sense. Emin’s the singer who can’t seem to get traction outside of Russia where his father appears to have largely bought him his career. Still, the distance and cushion Emin provided in this caper looks to have been convenient to Aras and whoever was directing him. […]

    At one point Goldstone is harping on the press storm engulfing him when Emin asks: “Why does this destroy your reputation?”

    Goldstone: “Because I work in music and it’s FULL of Liberals and I am seen as some weird link to the kremlin.”

    Goldstone: “Have you been watching the news!”

    Goldstone: “And because I am not able to respond out of courtesy to you and your father”

    Goldstone: “So am painted as some mysterious link to Putin”

    Emin Agalarov: “That should give you mega PR [wide open eyes emoji]”

    Later Emin wishes Rob a Happy Birthday. “Wish you all the very best, for all the clouds to pass and sunshine always be above!!! Missing our good times. hope you are well! Emin” At this point, Goldstone is thoroughly low energy and sad sack. “Thanks. All I can do I somehow also hope for the best. Rob.”

  143. says

    Follow-up to comment 175.

    The bill to protect net neutrality by reversing Team Trump’s (Ajit Pai and others) decision to end net neutrality has passed the Senate. The final vote was 52 “ayes” to 47 “nays”.

    From Senator Edward Markey:

    This vote is our moment to show our constituents that the united States senate can break through the partisanship and break past the powerful outside influences to do the right thing. The right thing for our economy, the right thing for our democracy, the right thing for our consumers, and the right thing for our future.

    This is common sense to Americans around the country, with the only exception being telecom lobbyists and lawyers inside the beltway. How do I know? Because 86% of all Americans in polling agree that net neutrality should stay on the books as the law of the united States. The public is telling us loud and clear to vote for this resolution. They’re telling us that they don’t trust their internet service provider to show up on time for a customer service appointment at their house, so they certainly don’t trust them to put consumers ahead of profits.

    The bill goes next to the House, where it will probably die an ignominious death. Pessimism born of experience.

  144. says

    Oh, FFS. Trump is blaming Democrats for his policy of separating immigrant families, including separating mothers from their children.

    Those are the bad laws the Democrats gave us. We have to break up families. Democrats gave us that law. It’s a horrible thing we have to break up families. They don’t want to do anything about it.


    […] Democrats, however, never had a policy explicitly targeted towards splitting up undocumented families […]

    As of early May, separating families who cross into the United States from Mexico illegally is now government policy. […]

    The entire premise of this harmful policy is based off of a faulty statistic, […] From July to November 2017, the Trump administration tested out a zero tolerance policy for parents in the El Paso sector of the border. The administration has used the El Paso pilot program as an example of the effectiveness of zero tolerance policies. The Department of Homeland Security claims illegal crossings of family members in El Paso dropped by 64 percent, when in reality the policy resulted in a 64 percent increase in apprehensions.

    […] John Kelly […] described the threat of separating undocumented families as a potential “deterrent” for others considering immigrating to the United States. […]

    During another part of Thursday’s event, Trump characterized undocumented immigrants as subhuman, saying of some who cross the border illegally, “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”


  145. says

    Follow-up to comments 157 and 176.

    This is how Trump’s most recent financial disclosure is playing on Fox News:

    During a Fox News interview on Thursday afternoon, Republican National Committee spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany downplayed […] Trump’s admission that his personal attorney made a hush payment to an adult film actress (Stormy Daniels) who says she had an affair with Trump. McEnany argued that $130,000 payments for false accusations are totally routine for people like the president.

    “The president was very clear on this, he said on Twitter he paid Michael Cohen a monthly retainer — that’s not unusual for celebrities, people of power, businessmen to sign non-disclosures with people who are accusing them of things they haven’t done,” McEnany said, before quickly trying to change the topic.

    “You know, I think the real takeaway from all of this is a Quinnipiac poll I saw recently that said 73 percent of voters do not think the Stormy Daniels saga is of any importance,” she continued. “So this is a Democratic effort to replace the failed Russia collusion narrative with another one, but it’s not going to work as we approach midterms.”


    Well, at least the RNC spokesperson had to tap dance … a lot.

  146. says

    SC @195, so Trump told Jeff Sessions to prosecute the mayor of Oakland. Sheesh.

    If he lives through this stressful period, Sessions is going to have nightmares for the rest of his life.

  147. says

    Re #207: “After the ‘animals’ remark,* House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy praised Trump as “a new president that understands this problem” of illegal immigration and the rule of law.”

    * I’m also fuming as an animal rights advocate. Trump constantly calls humans he’s attacking “animals.” The whole family bears a violent hatred towards nonhuman animals, and treating animals terribly is so deeply rooted in our culture that few speak up on their behalf.

  148. blf says

    Can’t imagine heartbroken fans will be fun to be around, but at least they’ll probably be relatively quiet.

    Indeed, Marseille lost to Atlético Madrid 0–3, so it’s been fairly quiet. Unfortunately, the (fairly new) whisk(e)y-rum-cognac-… specialist bar closed early(?), so my post-dinner celebrations of a quiet night were curtailed (at least insofaras I haven’t opened the drinks cabinet yet). I also didn’t wind up at the planned restaurant: They were closed, as was my second choice (my pre-survellience was obviously defective). The third choice was open, and nicely quiet and obviously filled with soccer-refugees, but unfortunately the maître d’ (a friend) is suffering from a back injury and was in some pain; nonetheless, she coped admirably. I’d thought the problem was corrected by some previous surgery, but apparently she will be returning for some additional surgery soon.

    Perhaps now more importantly, the mildly deranged penguin is nowheres to be seen, heard, smelled, or otherwise in evidence. This is probably a temporary aberration. Unfortunately, none of that can be said for hair furor & delakocracy, the UK “government”, and other assorted kooks — all still seem to be misfiring and belching great sinking globs of toxic poo, spittle, smoke, and far worse…

  149. says

    “Erdoğan ends UK state visit by calling jailed journalists ‘terrorists'”:

    Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has ended his three-day state visit to the UK by insisting that all the journalists locked in Turkish jails were terrorist criminals, ignoring a warning from Theresa May not to lose sight of democratic values as he sought to defend his country from “the extraordinary pressures of a failed coup and Kurdish terrorism”.

    At a press conference in Downing Street alongside May, Erdoğan made no reference to May’s remarks about human rights, but instead urged her to do more to extradite Turkish exiles from the Gulenist or Kurdish movements, saying that if she did not act act against terrorists, it would come back to bite her.

    According to the P24 press freedom group, there are more than 160 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested under the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt….

  150. says

    Ronan Farrow – “Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records”:

    Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.

    The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

    The report also refers to two previous suspicious-activity reports, or SARs, that the bank had filed, which documented even larger flows of questionable money into Cohen’s account. Those two reports detail more than three million dollars in additional transactions—triple the amount in the report released last week. Which individuals or corporations were involved remains a mystery. But, according to the official who leaked the report, these SARs were absent from the database maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN. The official, who has spent a career in law enforcement, told me, “I have never seen something pulled off the system. . . . That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.” The official added, “That’s why I came forward.”

    …[A] former prosecutor who spent years working with the FinCEN database said that she knew of no mechanism for restricting access to SARs. She speculated that FinCEN may have taken the extraordinary step of restricting access “because of the highly sensitive nature of a potential investigation. It may be that someone reached out to FinCEN to ask to limit disclosure of certain SARs related to an investigation, whether it was the special counsel or the Southern District of New York.” (The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. The Southern District is investigating Cohen, and the F.B.I. raided his office and hotel room last month.)

    Whatever the explanation for the missing reports, the appearance that some, but not all, had been removed or restricted troubled the official who released the report last week. “Why just those two missing?” the official, who feared that the contents of those two reports might be permanently withheld, said. “That’s what alarms me the most.”…

    Suspicious-activity reports are kept strictly confidential, as a matter of law. “SARs are secret, to protect the government and to protect financial institutions,” the former prosecutor told me. “I don’t think there’s a safe harbor for somebody who discloses it.” According to FinCEN, disclosing a SAR is a federal offense, carrying penalties including fines of up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for up to five years. The official who released the suspicious-activity reports was aware of the risks, but said fears that the missing reports might be suppressed compelled the disclosure. “We’ve accepted this as normal, and this is not normal,” the official said. “Things that stand out as abnormal, like documents being removed from a system, are of grave concern to me.” Of the potential for legal consequences, the official said, “To say that I am terrified right now would be an understatement.” But, referring to the released report, as well as the potential contents of the missing reports, the official also added, “This is a terrifying time to be an American, to be in this situation, and to watch all of this unfold.”

  151. says

    “Trump’s personal attorney solicited $1 million from government of Qatar”:

    Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, solicited a payment of at least $1 million from the government of Qatar in late 2016, in exchange for access to and advice about the then-incoming administration, according to several people with knowledge of the episode.

    The offer, which Qatar declined, came on the margins of a Dec. 12 meeting that year at Trump Tower between the Persian Gulf state’s foreign minister and Michael Flynn, who became Trump’s first national security adviser. Stephen K. Bannon, who became chief White House strategist, also attended, the people said.

    Cohen did not participate in the official meetings but spoke separately to a member of the Qatari delegation, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who at the time was head of the investments division of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.

    Cohen’s offer to Qatar came as he was bragging to others that he could make millions from consulting on Trump and that foreign governments would be interested in having his expertise. At the time, Cohen was also angling, unsuccessfully, as it turned out, to enter the White House, telling associates that he might become counsel or chief of staff.

    As Cohen collected clients, he texted associates articles that described him as Trump’s “fixer” and asked them to spread them around….

  152. says

    “US ambassador walks out on Palestine at UN”:

    Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, had already made her point, defending Israel’s use of lethal force at the border with Gaza and America’s provocative decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

    Her next action during Tuesday’s emergency session left no one in doubt about the deep rifts at the UN Security Council or her government’s hard-line stance. She gathered her briefing papers, stood and turned her back just as the Palestinian envoy began speaking, before walking out.

    The other diplomats offered little reaction but her extraordinary breach of protocol provoked angry condemnation from around the world.

    Critics said it revealed the Trump administration’s callous disregard for Palestinian life….

  153. says

    “Special Counsel Lawyer Duels In Federal Court With Attorney for ‘Putin’s Chef'”:

    Lawyers for a Russian company accused of funding an Internet troll factory that sought to undermine the 2016 election signaled in federal court Wednesday they’ll adopt an aggressive approach to their defense.

    Eric Dubelier, a U.S.-based lawyer for Concord Management and Consulting, told a federal judge in Washington D.C. that he expected to file motions attacking Constitutional questions including due process, the mandate of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, allegations of selective prosecution and other issues.

    Dubelier also complained about an expected 2 terabytes of data on social media accounts, mostly in Russian, the government plans to “dump” on him.

    As for the volume of data, Rhee said, “it is evidence of the defendant’s conduct and statements.” The fact it is so “voluminous,” she said, illustrates the extent of the information warfare Russia has waged against the United States and its democratic process….

  154. says

    Shane Harris from WaPo on #215 above: “This is a remarkable story. I’ve never heard of SARs reports going missing. Some plausible explanations are spelled out in the story, but these are clearly rare. And that a US official was concerned enough to leak, and then admit to leaking to draw attention to this, says a lot.”

  155. blf says

    Farcebork (1) Tries to evade soon-to-apply EU regulations, Facebook lets advertisers target users based on sensitive interests:

    Facebook allows advertisers to target users it thinks are interested in subjects such as homosexuality, Islam or liberalism, despite religion, sexuality and political beliefs explicitly being marked out as sensitive information under new data protection laws.


    A Guardian investigation in conjunction with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation found that Facebook is able to infer extremely personal information about users, which it allows advertisers to use for targeting purposes. Among the interests found in users’ profiles were communism, social democrats, Hinduism and Christianity.

    The EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on 25 May, explicitly labels such categories of information as so sensitive, with such a risk of human rights breaches, that it mandates special conditions around how they can be collected and processed. Among those categories are information about a person’s race, ethnic origin, politics, religion, sex life and sexual orientation.

    The information commissioner’s office says: “This type of data could create more significant risks to a person’s fundamental rights and freedoms, for example, by putting them at risk of unlawful discrimination.”


    Facebook already applies those special categories elsewhere on the site. As part of its GDPR-focused updates, the company asked every user to confirm whether or not “political, religious, and relationship information” they had entered on the site should continue to be stored or displayed. But while it offered those controls for information that users had explicitly given it, it gathered no such consent for information it had inferred about users.


    The findings are reminiscent of Facebook’s previous attempts to skirt the line between profiling users and profiling their interests. In 2016 it was revealed that the company had created a tool for “racial affinity targeting”.

    At the time, Facebook repeatedly argued that the tool “is based on affinity, not ethnicity”. Discussing a person who was in the African American affinity group, for instance, the company said: “They like African American content. But we cannot and do not say to advertisers that they are ethnically black.”

    Almost a year later, after it was revealed that advertisers could use the ethnic affinity tools to unlawfully discriminate against black Facebook users in housing adverts, Facebook agreed to limit how those tools could be used.

    Farcebork (2) Outrage as new rules bar undocumented migrants from buying political ads:

    Facebook announced last month that it would start requiring political ad buyers in the US to verify their identities in an effort to combat fake news and misinformation and avoid a repeat of the 2016 election when it allowed Russia-backed posts to reach millions of Americans. Because users must now confirm their social security number and submit their US driver’s license or passport, millions of undocumented people in America are also no longer able to post political ads.

    “This is Facebook telling undocumented people you’re not allowed to participate in this part of the political process,” said Justino Mora, co-founder of advocacy group UndocuMedia and an undocumented immigrant currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program. “They are essentially banning a certain political view from being expressed … They are going to allow anti-immigrant xenophobes and racists to have more power.”

    In addition, Farcebork is collecting more sensitive information, such as real names, social security numbers, and passport details. You might as well give them your banking details, sign over your first-born child, and obtain their approval to breathe.

    Rights groups argued this week that Facebook has an obligation to allow ads from undocumented people, with some pointing to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stated support for Daca recipients.

    Jess Morales Rocketto, political director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said Facebook had been critical to educate immigrants about their rights and organize against harmful campaigns — and that many undocumented activists were buying and designing ads to support their efforts: “This will make it extremely difficult for them to do their jobs.”


    “This has the markings of a decision made in a room with a handful of executives who may not have fully thought through the implications,” said Brendan Fischer, of the Campaign Legal Center. “That’s the distinction between public policy crafted by democratic institutions and policy crafted by private corporations.”

    Many of the Russia-backed ads targeted “issues”, often aiming to sow division on topics like race and immigration. Still, Fischer said, Facebook could find an alternative way to verify undocumented activists and allow them to promote issues.


    “It’s really important to have a platform that reaches people to let them know they are not alone,” said Melody Klingenfuss, a 24-year-old undocumented activist with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (Chirla), a group with a large undocumented staff. “Facebook must continue to allow undocumented folks in the United States to participate in the flow of ideas. Mr Zuckerberg must understand the power of his platform.”

    Chirla regularly posts Facebook ads, said communications director Jorge-Mario Cabrera, adding: “I believe this may even go to court if folks feel their first amendment rights are curtailed.”

  156. says

    Amy Siskind: “As the woman who uniquely tracks this, I can say this is the most active day of news since the election of 2016. Flooding out and none of it [good] for Trump. He has it coming from all ends now.”

  157. KG says


    Wikipedia has the followong to say about Rob Goldstone:

    In 1987 he founded Oui 2 Entertainment, a publicity, marketing and event planning company.[5] Oui 2 clients have included the New York’s Friars Club, the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, Steinway & Sons, the Russian Tea Room, and Azerbaijani pop star Emin Agalarov. Oui 2 assisted the Trump Organization in bringing the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow

    Given how one would normally pronounce “Oui 2”, perhaps Goldstone also organised another (alleged) Trump-including event in Moscow?

  158. says

    Chris Hayes’ show last night was great, as others have already noted up-thread. It bothers me that I often cannot find all of his segments posted on MSNBC’s site. Some knowledgeable techie needs to fix that.

    Hayes presented an impassioned indictment of team Trump’s plan to separate children from their parents at the border; to house some immigrant children at military bases, etc. Hayes also condemned Trump’s statement:

    You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals and we’re taking them out of the country.”

    See comments 207 and 209.

    Here’s the link to Chris’ show, as presented on the MSNBC site.

    Maybe someone else can find a link to the segment about immigration.

  159. says

    Trump doesn’t think he needs to prepare for talks with North Korea:

    With just one month until a scheduled sit-down with North Korea’s leader, President Donald Trump hasn’t set aside much time to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un, a stark contrast to the approach of past presidents.

    “He doesn’t think he needs to,” said a senior administration official familiar with the President’s preparation.

    Aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim’s psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person, but so far a detailed plan hasn’t been laid out for getting Trump ready for the summit.


  160. says

    NEW: Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today asked Treasury’s Inspector General to probe the alleged disappearance of suspicious activity reports (SARs) on Michael Cohen.”

  161. says

    Trump doesn’t think he needs to prepare for talks with North Korea:…

    I was just laughing this morning at how it appears their only talking point after the recent developments is that Trump is totally “prepared” for if and when the summit takes place. It’s not just a pathetically low bar but obvious bullshit given that he’s incapable of it. Now a few hours later confirmation that, once again, their public talking points are simply created by claiming the inverse of what’s really happening.

  162. says

    “Donald Trump Can’t Stop Discovery in ‘Apprentice’ Alum’s Defamation Lawsuit”:

    A New York appeals court has refused Donald Trump’s bid to pause discovery in the defamation lawsuit brought by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos.

    Looking to take advantage of this decision, Zervos’ lawyers have sent out subpoenas. Trump has been given to May 29 to respond to a demand that he be deposed.

    Trump hoped to delay everything by pushing New York’s appeals court for a stay on the case while he continues to press his constitutional arguments to higher authorities. That won’t happen.

    The appellate decision today also could be meaningful to third parties, in particular, MGM, which is facing a demand for Apprentice footage and documents showing any inappropriate comments from Trump towards women. It’s possible that MGM may look to quash the subpoena or attempt to limit it in scope.

    Zervos’ attorneys have also subpoenaed records from the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Zervos says Trump made unwelcome advances in 2007.

  163. says

    BREAKING: special counsel robert mueller has filed the unredacted august 2017 rod rosenstein memo, under seal.

    VA judge TS ellis wants to see it before deciding on paul manafort’s motion to dismiss.”

  164. says

    Adam Schiff: “Just introduced a bill requiring any Executive Branch spending at Trump-owned businesses, like golf courses and hotels, be disclosed to the public. Americans deserve to see how their tax dollars are being used to enrich the nation’s chief executive and his family.”

    (I have to add a period at the end of about 75% of tweets I quote here. I don’t understand why so many people just leave their tweets without closing punctuation.)

  165. says

    (I have to add a period at the end of about 75% of tweets I quote here. I don’t understand why so many people just leave their tweets without closing punctuation.)

    Oh – ha. Turns out I cut off the period when I copied Schiff’s tweet. Seemed uncharacteristic for him. My point still stands.

  166. says

    Fucking outrageous – “Kushners Near Deal With Qatar-Linked Company for Troubled Tower”:

    The company controlled by the family of the White House adviser Jared Kushner is close to receiving a bailout of its financially troubled flagship building by a company with ties to the government of Qatar, according to executives briefed on the deal.

    Charles Kushner, head of the Kushner Companies, is in advanced talks with Brookfield Properties over a partnership to take control of the 41-story aluminum-clad tower 666 Fifth Avenue in Midtown, according to two real estate executives who have been briefed on the pending deal but are not authorized to discuss it. Brookfield is a publicly traded company, headquartered in Canada, one of whose major investors is the Qatar Investment Authority….

  167. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Lynna, OM #232:

    Chris Hayes’ show last night was great, as others have already noted up-thread. It bothers me that I often cannot find all of his segments posted on MSNBC’s site.

    Video DailyMotion – All In with Chris Hayes 5/16/18 (42:05)
    That source may start blurry for a few seconds, as the player adjusts its quality (or maybe it was recorded that way).

    Maybe someone else can find a link to the segment about immigration.

    That’s at 32:57.

  168. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @SC #239:

    so many people just leave their tweets without closing punctuation.

    Trump takes them all to use in his.
    Colbert voice: “dot dot dot, dot, dot DOT dot”

  169. says

    The Publisher of Yisrael Hayom is leaving. In his place: Miriam Adelson- Sheldon Adelson’s wife.* Never mind that in the past lawyers have claimed that Sheldon Adelson did not really own the newspaper or control it.”

    A journalist at the paper critical of Netanyahu is leaving:

    “So why did I leave? In the limited of the media world, which is saturated with tension and subject to extraneous influences, the ability to maneuver and be an independent and influential actor has been eroded. I could have continued writing comfortably and remaining within my comfort zone, and even spent a little time with my children, but what kind of world would I be leaving to them, in which comfort takes precedence and priority over the motivation to make a change?”

    He’s worked there for 11 years.

    * You might remember her from this moment of grotesque servility from Rudy Giuliani.

  170. says

    “Cohen Confides In Friends: ‘I Just Can’t Take This Anymore’”:

    President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has reportedly confided in friends that he’s at his wit’s end with federal investigations into his business dealings, Vanity Fair reported Wednesday.

    According to two people familiar with Cohen’s thinking who spoke to Vanity Fair, Cohen is “fuming” over Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti’s release of information about his bank records and has grown weary of all the news coverage surrounding his attempts to sell access to Trump after the 2016 election. Cohen has reportedly confided in friends that he “just can’t take this anymore” and is focused on protecting his family, whom he thinks is suffering because federal investigators want to get to Trump, a friend told Vanity Fair.

    Despite his exasperation over the probe, he spends hours every day with his lawyers reading through documents that the government has returned to him after the FBI raided his house, hotel and office last month and has told friends, “I’m not going to roll over.”…

  171. says

    News update from Avenatti:

    Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti hinted Thursday morning that he is currently in touch with at least two women who claim to have been paid more than $130,000 each through agreements with Michael Cohen to stay quiet about their affairs with President Donald Trump.


    In a separate interview, Avenatti referred to the payment to Stormy Daniels as “the tip of the iceberg.”

  172. says

    Follow-up to comment 209, and other comments regarding Trump characterizing undocumented immigrants as “animals.”

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] the full context is about as damning as the President’s context in isolation. The comment isn’t restricted to MS-13 gang members. It’s a more general discussion of state laws interfering with Sheriffs’ ability to work with ICE to facilitate deportations. So it’s really about anyone swept up into the criminal justice system, for everything from the most trivial to the most heinous acts. More generally, the clear thrust of Trump’s comment is that the country is being overridden by a wave of criminal aliens even though there is voluminous evidence that immigrants, legal and not, commit crimes at significantly lower rates than the native-born. There’s no salvaging this hideous comment.

    I think it’s important to add that labeling classes of people subhuman is really always wrong. It leads to horrific actions. That’s still true even if we’re talking about people in gangs who do commit horrific acts.


    Partial transcript:

    SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you, Mr. President. You know, sheriffs in California are now in an untenable position when it comes to trying to figure out — now, we have state law, we have federal laws, and here we are stuck in the middle. Sheriffs, especially, because most of us run our county jails.

    When there became a legal challenge to the 48-hour holds for ICE, it was very frustrating for us. So what I did is I invited ICE to put their officers in my jails so they’re able to do their work. We didn’t have the staffing to be able to help figure out who they wanted to talk to or didn’t. I said, come on in, work with our people to keep our community safe. Two weeks later, Mr. President, Kate Steinle was murdered.

    Now, I wasn’t the only sheriff to do that. Sheriff Youngblood did, Sheriff Christianson. And it was perfect — because we didn’t have to take our time, with our staff, to do anything. ICE was in there doing their work in a safe, controlled, environment. And then, the initiatives started happening — the TRUST Act, the TRUTH Act, and finally, SB 54, the Values Act. And that is causing us all kinds of turmoil.

    So here we are, stuck in the middle, trying to decide. We have federal law, we have state law. And that’s why I welcomed Attorney General Sessions’s lawsuit, because that will provide us the clarity that we need and direction that we need. What do we do? Because here we are.

    And I appreciated Mr. Homan and ICE. We had a great relationship; we still do. But now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.

    THE PRESIDENT: It’s a disgrace. Okay? It’s a disgrace.

    SHERIFF MIMS: It’s a disgrace.

    THE PRESIDENT: And we’re suing on that, and we’re working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It’s so ridiculous. The concept that we’re even talking about is ridiculous. We’ll take care of it, Margaret. We’ll win.

    SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

    THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

    The dumbest laws — as I said before, the dumbest laws on immigration in the world. So we’re going to take care of it, Margaret. We’ll get it done. We’re going to ask that man right there, because that man can do it. (Laughter.) Right now he’s the most important man in the room. Kevin can do it.

  173. says

    From Rebekah Entralgo:

    […] Trump wasn’t solely talking about MS-13 or gang members when he made his comments on Wednesday. At no point in his response did Trump say the words “MS-13” or “gang members” — rather, as the video shows, he was simply following Mims’ comments, shifting gears and explaining that his administration was cracking down on undocumented immigrants, deporting those he considered to be “animals” or “bad” people.

    Trump, for his part, never clarified the intention of his comments. However, in the past, he has repeatedly conflated immigration with crime and has used that fear to bolster his own immigration policies — to assume he was doing the same on Wednesday, then, wouldn’t be that much of a stretch. […]


    Meanwhile, Kellyanne Conway is calling for the media to apologize:

    Others who rushed to judgment to get the President rather than to get the story owe @POTUS – and the grieving loved ones who have lost family members to gang violence – an apology.

  174. says

    China just bought more soybeans from Russia. That’s a reaction to Trump’s trade /tariff threats. Farmers in the USA will suffer the consequence.

    China has purchased record amounts of soybeans from Russia in recent months amid trade tensions with the U.S. […]

    The world’s biggest soybean importer, China has nearly tripled its imports from Russia, according to Bloomberg. Russian trade data show the country sold 850,000 metric tons of soybeans to China between last July and mid-May. […]

    The move comes amid China’s halt on purchases from the U.S., the world’s largest producer of soybeans.

    China has cancelled multiple U.S. shipments in recent weeks ahead of tariffs, including a 62,690-ton purchase on April 19 […]

    China included soybeans on a list of tariffs on U.S. products last month totaling $50 billion, a direct response to the Trump administration’s announcement of $50 billion of tariffs against Chinese imports. […]


  175. says

    Well, at least the Republicans in the House of Congress do not always go along with Trump’s bad ideas:

    The House Appropriations Committee unanimously accepted an amendment to an appropriations bill on Thursday that reinforces sanctions against Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, a rebuke to President Trump, who earlier this week tweeted support for the company.

    “This amendment would prevent the Commerce Department from renegotiation of the sanctions it just enacted last month on ZTE,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who authored the amendment to the 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. […]

    Lawmakers say ZTE has been a national security threat, not only breaking American sanctions, but allegedly stealing intellectual property on behalf of the Chinese government.

    “Supporting this amendment will show that the U.S. government stands behind the sanctions that it enacts, and will enforce them. It also further prevents foreign companies beholden to their governments from further infiltrating our U.S. networks,” said Ruppersberger.


  176. says

    From SC’s link in comment 255:

    […]Even before the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, FBI agents investigating Russia’s interference in the election learned that Cohen was in frequent contact with foreign individuals about Trump Moscow — and that some of these individuals had knowledge of or played a role in 2016 election meddling, according to two FBI agents. The agents declined to name those individuals. Both agents have detailed knowledge about the bureau’s work on the collusion investigation that predated Mueller’s appointment. […]

  177. says

    More from SC’s link in comment 255:

    […] Cohen has said that he informed Trump the deal was dead in January 2016, but new records show he was still working on it with Sater at least into June.

    Cohen lied.

    In May, six weeks before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Sater asked Cohen when he and Trump would go to Moscow. In a text message, Cohen replied: “MY trip before Cleveland. Trump once he becomes the nominee after the convention.”

    Throughout the nine-month effort, Sater, who was born in the Soviet Union and worked for years as an undercover source for US intelligence agencies and the FBI, told Cohen he had connections to top Russian officials and businessmen: Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, brothers who grew up with Putin and were considered his “shadow cabinet”; Andrey Molchanov, a billionaire Russian politician Sater was introduced to by a close personal friend, who proposed building the tower on his property; and a former member of Russia’s military intelligence to whom Sater passed photographs of Cohen’s passport to obtain a visa.

    Whatever the significance of the negotiations to the election, the men took measures to keep the plans secret. Text messages often ended with a simple “call me.” They communicated, at times, via Dust, a secure, encrypted messaging application. Sater once warned that they “gotta keep this quiet.” […]

  178. says

    Laurence Tribe: “In a rational world, Rudy’s announcement that Trump will ‘rip apart’ any Mueller report he doesn’t like would reduce the credibility of Trump’s pre-announced attack to zero. But this isn’t a rational world.”

  179. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Trump’s obnoxious statements about undocumented immigrants:

    [lTrump] held a round-table discussion of California’s “sanctuary” laws at the White House yesterday, so he could hear from all the affected parties, as long as the affected parties were state and local officials who agree with Trump. […] There were no seats at the table for undocumented migrants, who are criminals, DUH, or for California officials who oppose Trump, because obviously they hate America and are advocating for criminality.

    After one sheriff complained she was pretty certain she knew of some MS-13 gang members who need to be deported, but the stupid laws won’t let ICE come and grab them, Trump said something has to be done about these monsters. Wait, which monsters: MS-13 members or all undocumented border crossers? Pfft, is there a difference? […]

    And now all sorts of liberal America haters are lying and saying that Donald Trump called all undocumented immigrants “animals,” when he clearly meant we’re deporting MS-13 members, who are animals and not even human. Of course, as Vox’s Dara Lind points out, quoting Trump “in context” is almost meaningless, because Trump is happy to encourage confusion. He frames every single discussion of immigration in terms of how we have to deport everyone, to make sure we get rid of all the animals.

    And as Slate illustrates today, the New Cruelty is all about eliminating such distinctions. Even if they have to straight out lie about a Dreamer kid whom ICE falsely accused of being affiliated with a gang. […]

    Meanwhile, back at the oblong table discussion, Trump was awfully sad to learn […] that California’s recent legalization of recreational weed has fueled an increase in “organized crime,” and illegals are all up in THAT […]

    Then it was time for ICE director Thomas Homan to nearly come to tears over all the mean, unfair things liberals have been accusing ICE of doing, because don’t you people understand ICE agents face death at the hands of those animals every day they go to work?

    Remember, it’s unfair to accuse Trump of calling undocumented migrants “not people” or “animals,” because he only meant MS-13, and ICE should be allowed to do whatever it wants in pursuing those animals. And if that includes lying in court and conflating all immigrants with criminals, well, you have to break some families if you want to make an omelette. Oh, and it’s also the Democrats’ fault that Trump has to break up families; we really have no choice, you see.

    Also, Sarah Huckabee Sanders just explained to the press that Donald Trump was “very clearly referring to MS-13 gang members, who enter the country illegally and deportations are hamstrung by our laws,” and also she thinks maybe “animals” is too kind for the likes of them […]

    […] And of course, anyone suggesting Trump — and now Sanders — was deliberately conflating all immigrants with the most bloodthirsty gang in the country, well then they’re clearly just big fans of horrific gang violence: “If the media and liberals want to defend MS-13, they’re more than welcome to.” […]


  180. says

    ICE claimed a Dreamer was “gang-affiliated” and tried to deport him. A federal judge ruled that ICE was lying.

    On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez shot down the federal government’s efforts to strip Daniel Ramirez Medina of his DACA status. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had arrested and detained Ramirez last year, then falsely claimed that he was affiliated with a gang and attempted to deport him. He filed suit, alleging that ICE had violated his due process rights. Martinez agreed. His order barred the federal government from voiding Ramirez’s DACA status, safeguarding his ability to live and work in the United States legally for the foreseeable future. […]

    The facts of Ramirez’s case are extremely disturbing. In February 2017, shortly after President Donald Trump unleashed immigration agents to amp up arrests and deportations, ICE agents went to Ramirez’s father’s house in Seattle to arrest him. (The father is undocumented, and brought Ramirez to the U.S. illegally as a child.) While there, they encountered Ramirez and asked him whether he was “legally here.” He responded that he was—a truthful statement given his DACA status, which he had renewed the previous May. Yet ICE officers detained him anyway. They took him to a processing center, where, once again, he told them that he had a work permit. […]

    A group of renowned attorneys then stepped in to defend Ramirez, arguing that virtually every action ICE had taken against their client was unlawful. They also alleged that ICE’s key claim—that Ramirez is “gang-affiliated”—was a complete falsehood. One of his lawyers, Mark Rosenbaum, presented evidence indicating that ICE had doctored Ramirez’s statement by erasing words he had written in the pencil provided to make it seem as if he had confessed to being in a gang. (The original statement asserts he has no gang affiliation.) During his initial interrogation, ICE officers asked him five times whether he belonged to a gang, and he repeatedly said no. Instead, he asserted that he had “fled California [to Washington] to escape from the gangs.” […]

  181. says

    Mo Brooks, a Republican Congress critter from Alabama, likes to compete for the title of Dumbest Congressman. Here is a report on his latest effort:

    Rep. Mo Brooks on Wednesday claimed that falling “rock or whatever” is contributing to rising sea-levels and that global warming was actually causing the Antarctic ice sheets to grow, not shrink, […]

    During a hearing before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on how technology can be used to address global warming, Brooks tried to convince Philip Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center and a former senior adviser to the Global Change Research Program, that soil and rocks falling into the ocean off of cliffs along the coast of California was causing sea levels to rise. He also argued that sediment and silt from large rivers, like the Mississippi, were contributing to the problem.

    “Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up,” Brooks said, according to the report.

    Duffy said that the impact of rocks falling into the ocean was causing “minuscule effects” when assessed on “human time scales.”

    Brooks then argued that ice sheets in the Antarctic are growing, not shrinking, which, according to E&E News, was accurate a few years ago, but is not relevant to the global warming debate because “different factors affect the Arctic and Antarctic rates of melting.” Duffy told Brooks that he had satellite records that show “an acceleration” of the shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet.

    “Well, I’ve got a NASA base in my district, and apparently, they’re telling you one thing and me a different thing,” Brooks reportedly said. “But there are plenty of studies that have come that show with respect to Antarctica that the total ice sheet, particularly that above land, is increasing, not decreasing. […]


  182. says

    “As Mueller probes Seychelles meetings, details emerge on Russian plane: exclusive”:

    A Russian plane linked to the country’s government flew into the Seychelles the day prior to a 2017 meeting now under review by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to the airport flight data obtained by NJ Advance Media.

    The Russian aircraft in question departed from Moscow and landed in the Seychelles at 4:21 p.m. Jan. 10, 2017, according to the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority — one day before Prince arrived on the island. The aircraft carried six passengers, including flight crew.

    Two individuals familiar with the aircraft’s purchasing history said the aircraft is owned by Andrei Skoch, a Russian billionaire who made his fortune in the mining business and is now a deputy in the Russian State Duma, the country’s legislative body. The individuals requested to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to give out private aircraft owner information.

    It is unclear if Skoch was on the aircraft, but employees at the Seychelles airport and the Four Seasons Hotel told NJ Advance Media that the plane’s passengers stayed at the resort during their time on the island. The hotel was the setting of meetings among Prince, UAE representatives and Dmitriev, according to Prince’s testimony with the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017. (The Daily Beast reported last week Prince has also been interviewed by Mueller).

    What makes Skoch a particularly interesting figure in the ongoing drama? The U.S. Treasury Department in April placed him on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list, a list that blocks an individual’s assets and prohibits people from the U.S. from doing business with them.

    (Dmitriev’s fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, is also subject to U.S. sanctions.)

    Whatever was discussed on the island that week in January 2017, flight records and interviews conducted with those familiar with Mueller’s probe suggest the meetings in the Seychelles connect powerful players from Russia, the U.S., the UAE and Saudi Arabia across the political, financial and defense worlds.

    Other individuals on the island that week include Alexander Mashkevitch, an alleged financier of Bayrock, an investment vehicle linked to Trump, was in the Seychelles. Mashkevitch’s spokesman said the businessman was on the island for a family trip. Flight records show he flew in alone Jan. 10, 2017.

    Sheikh Abdulrahman Khalid BinMahfouz, whose father was a billionaire and former chairman of Saudi Arabia’s first private bank, was also on the island, as was George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman with ties to the White House and the Republican National Committee….

  183. says

    “Exclusive: Manafort’s former son-in-law cuts plea deal, to cooperate with government: sources”:

    The former son-in-law of Paul Manafort, the one-time chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign, has cut a plea deal with the Justice Department that requires him to cooperate with other criminal probes, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

    The guilty plea agreement, which is under seal and has not been previously reported, could add to the legal pressure on Manafort, who is facing two indictments brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

    Jeffrey Yohai, a former business partner of Manafort, was divorced from Manafort’s daughter last August.

    Yohai has not been specifically told how he will be called on to cooperate as part of his plea agreement, but the two people familiar with the matter say they consider it a possibility that he will be asked to assist with Mueller’s prosecution of Manafort.

    Andrew Brown, a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, had been overseeing an investigation into Yohai’s real estate and bank dealings in California and New York several months before Mueller was appointed to his post in May 2017.

    Yohai’s agreement, which was concluded early this year, included him pleading guilty to misusing construction loan funds and to a count related to a bank account overdraft.

    While the deal was cut with Brown’s office, the federal government “can ask for help at any time,” said one of the people familiar with the matter.

    As a close business partner, Yohai was privy to many of Manafort’s financial dealings, according to the two people familiar with the matter and court filings in the bankruptcies of four Los Angeles properties in 2016. In addition to co-investing in California real estate, the two cooperated in getting loans for property deals in New York, Manafort’s indictments show….

  184. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    SC @267,

    Until they change their name, I have decided to refer to them as the Potatoes.

  185. blf says

    This is what REAL feminism looks like: how women’s rights are being used to sell guns:

    A photo of a woman brandishing a weapon in her graduation picture is the latest example of gun enthusiasts using female empowerment to further their agenda

    Firearms, it would seem, have become a feminist issue. Both second amendment proponents and the gun industry are using female empowerment, and even the #MeToo movement, to sell their products and fight back against gun control. Meanwhile, the last few months have seen a spate of viral social posts by women brandishing guns, apparently in the name of feminism.

    On Tuesday, a 22-year-old Kent State University graduate, Kaitlin Marie, garnered headlines after posting graduation photos in which she was holding a semiautomatic rifle. Marie wrote: As a woman, I refuse to be a victim & the second amendment ensures that I don’t have to be.

    You’d probably be safer in France, or indeed much of Europe and some other areas in the world, and would have no “need” of a murder device. For instance, in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and here in France, c.40% of the legislature is female — all countries noted for being quite safe relative to the States. Or Ireland or Great Britain, where the police don’t routinely carry guns. Or…

    Then you have the conservative pundit Tomi Lahren, who recently posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing yoga pants with a gun tucked in the front. Ladies, chances are your assailant is gonna be bigger, stronger and faster and that’s why you have @alexoathletica for your gun, wrote Lahren. The post was a promotion for Alexo Athletica, which sells gun-friendly women’s sportswear. Alexo’s website explains: While big name athletic companies shy away from promoting one’s second amendment right and certainly have never built in the ability to do so, Alexo will never back down from supporting a woman’s right to choose how she defends herself.

    You have got to be fecking kidding here ! One is supposed to, e.g., go jogging / running / bicycling with a (presumably loaded) murder device? Ignoring the probably high potential for accidents (that seems like a rather good way of setting off an improperly safed weapon), and for scaring everyone else (and don’t even think about trying this is you’re not white-skinned), the hypothetical attacker is somehow magically not armed and will wait while you fumble with something you’re probably not familiar with (no sneaking up or jumping out here, that’s unfair!). Plus, shooting when scared is exceptionally dangerous.

    Much of this messaging seems to echo the NRA line that guns empower women. After the Pulse massacre in Orlando in 2016, the NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch claimed that calls to ban the AR-15 constituted a war on women. Loesch argued that because the AR-15 is the most popular rifle with women, you’re talking about disarming women. […]

    (Headdesk !) A women is supposed to carry a fecking assault rife ? Whilst jogging? Shopping? Gardening? Picking up children from school? Now that seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do — and then consider what could happen with hair furor’s scheme to arm school staff. (As an aside which applies to relatively few people, an exception I can think of is when one is in genuine “bear country”, that is, where there is a real tangible threat, albeit an assault rifle is still the wrong gun.)

    Framing gun rights as a feminist issue feels disingenuous and exploitative when there is a huge amount of research that shows women are more likely to be killed by a gun than saved by one. As Jessica Valenti wrote for the Guardian: “The NRA wants us to believe that guns protect the most vulnerable among us, instead of realizing the truth — that they kill the most vulnerable.”

    Nevertheless, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that an increasing number of women do find guns empowering; women are the fastest-growing gun ownership demographic. According to a study from Harvard and Northeastern universities, gun ownership among American men dropped from 42% in 1994 to 32% in 2015, while female ownership increased from 9% to 12%.


    According to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, women are more likely than men to say that the only reason they own a gun is for protection. While 27% of women say protection is the sole reason they own a gun, only 8% of men say the same.

    Many female gun owners who own a gun for protection also have deeply personal experiences that led them to the purchase. Dion, a […] professional in California, for example, told the Guardian she first bought a handgun when she was 27 after someone tried to mug her. “That’s when I decided I do need to empower myself,” she explained. “Owning a gun has made me feel more comfortable. I really do think it’s an equalizer.”

    Shayna Lopez-Rivas […] who recently graduated from Florida State University, also bought a gun after being attacked. Lopez-Rivas grew up in an anti-gun household and always had a negative view of guns until she was raped on campus in 2014. “I had pepper spray, he had a knife,” she said. “I wasn’t fast enough or strong enough.” […]

    A gun does not make one faster, or stronger. Nor must it “work” any better than the pepper spray, being harder to actually use — that is, much easier to miss — and why would one think that just because pepper spray didn’t work once, it won’t work should there ever be a need to try again?

    It’s important to listen to women like Lopez-Rivas, who have found guns to be empowering. It’s crucial we don’t dismiss their experience. Nevertheless, it’s also crucial that we don’t let gun rights activists cynically exploit women’s rights to sell more guns. While firearms may empower some women, they kill a whole lot more.

    I concur on not dismissing the experiences and problems. It seems very unlikely any part of the solution involves guns, so I’d suggest one of those problems is the faulty thinking being used, in addition to the exploitation — it’s not real “empowerment”, it’s fear-mongering — for moar profits.

  186. blf says

    Dutch city uses penis fountain to rebel against art project:

    Fountain which squirts when toilet is flushed made in protest against use of non-local artists for Leeuwarden project

    When the Dutch city of Leeuwarden commissioned 11 fountains by modern artists to celebrate being made European capital of culture 2018, it probably didn’t expect such stiff opposition.

    Internationally renowned sculptors […] each designed a fountain for one of 11 cities in the province of Friesland. For the city of Workum, [Cornelia] Parker took her inspiration from a pair of lions on a 17th-century coat of arms, designing two huge replicas, with water spouting from their claws.

    But a group of local artists were not happy with what they saw as the elitist imposition of outside art on their small city. Their response? A crowdfunded 7.5-metre (25ft) fountain adorned with more than 220 wooden penises. Inside is a public toilet. When you flush, the penises start to squirt.

    Henk de Boer, the artist behind the penis fountain, says he decided on a phallic design from the Dutch expression Jan Lul, used to describe someone who is excluded […]. Besides, the penis is “the quintessential fountain”, he says.

    “What we are protesting against is that these fountains have been imposed on us,” he says. “The theme of the celebration of Leeuwarden capital of culture is ‘community’, so it’s ironic that the Frisian population was not involved in the decision-making and that no Frisian artist has been asked to design a fountain. It’s like you are talking with a group of friends and suddenly an enormous stranger steps in and takes over the conversation.”


    When the 11Fountains project opens today, De Boer’s penis fountain will be part of the official programme — and capital of culture organisers even chipped in with a €10,000 (£8,740) donation. “It’s easy to be critical, but in Workum they really created something,” says spokesman Radboud Droog. “They’ve shown a good sense of humour. We can appreciate that.”

    The thing is apparently portable, and de Boer plans to take it on a tour. Ms Parker collaborated with local artist Floor van der Leun, who apparently made quite an effort to explain the work. My immediate reaction, judging strictly from the photographs at the link, is neither fountain / sculpture is particularly remarkable, albeit both are clearly whimsical.

  187. rietpluim says

    Are those things penises? You gotta be kidding. They are clearly swans.

  188. blf says

    They are clearly swans.

    Amusingly, I had exactly the same thought when I first saw the pictures.

    What’s a bit disappointing is the pictures only show dry fountains, a video (e.g.) of the fountains “in the wet” could be a good addition.

  189. says

    Random unsolicited opinion: Michael Avenatti has a weirdly thin skin. He doesn’t need to keep petulantly responding to criticism of his style and tactics and threatening legal action. His actions have been effective, and he should just let them speak for themselves.

  190. says

    SC @275, I agree. Avenatti needs to fall back a bit. He is an effective lawyer and an effective TV/media representative for his client. He weakens his case by responding to people like Tucker Carlson on Daily Caller.

  191. blf says

    Trump administration to revive Reagan-era abortion ‘gag’ rule:

    ● Rule will ban federally funded clinics from discussing abortion
    ● Clinics to be barred from sharing space with abortion providers

    Donald Trump’s administration will reinstate a decades-old policy that will strip federal funds from family planning clinics providing abortion or related services, marking its latest salvo to curtail women’s reproductive rights.

    The Department of Health and Human Services will announce the proposal on Friday, an administration official confirmed to the Guardian. The move would revive a policy first implemented by Ronald Reagan in 1988, which effectively barred reproductive health organizations that received federal grants from providing or even discussing abortion with patients.

    The policy has been derided as a “gag rule” by abortion rights supporters and medical groups, and it is likely to trigger lawsuits that could keep it from taking effect.

    “This is an attempt to take away women’s basic rights, period,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice-president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

    She added: “Everyone has the right to access information about their health care […] and every woman deserves the best medical care and information, no matter how much money she makes or where she lives. No matter what. They won’t get it under this rule.”

    The Reagan-era rule never went into effect as written, although the US supreme court ruled that it was an appropriate use of executive power. The policy was rescinded under Bill Clinton […]


    Doctors’ groups and abortion rights supporters say a ban on counseling women trespasses on the doctor-patient relationship. […]


    “The notion that you would withhold information from a patient does not uphold or preserve their dignity,” said Jessica Marcella of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, which represents family planning clinics. “I cannot imagine a scenario in which public health groups would allow this effort to go unchallenged.”

    She said requiring family planning clinics to be physically separate from facilities in which abortion is provided would disrupt services for women across the country. […]

  192. says

    Trump continues to flounder around in “Watergate” comparisons that don’t quite hold water.

    […] Uranium One, for example, is [according to Trump] Watergate. So is the non-existent wiretapping of Trump Tower. Benghazi, Trump has assured us, is “bigger than Watergate.” What’s more, Joe Arpaio’s investigation into Barack Obama’s birth certificate, Trump wrote in 2012, “could dwarf Watergate.”

    In March, the president said the Justice Department’s investigation into his campaign is “bigger than Watergate,” and yesterday […] Trump added that the FBI had an “informant” in his political operation, which he said is — you guessed it — “bigger than Watergate!” […]

    “‘Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit,'” Trump wrote in a tweet Friday morning, quoting Fox Business Network anchor David Asman. He also tagged FBN anchor Lou Dobbs and Fox News Channel anchor Gregg Jarrett. He added, “Really bad stuff!”

    The president added soon after that he thinks this may be the “all time biggest political scandal,” which might be more compelling if (a) his latest claims weren’t so dubious, and (b) all of the other times Trump said he’d uncovered the all-time biggest political scandal hadn’t turned out to be nonsense.

    […] Rudy Giuliani – somehow, still the president’s lawyer – added this morning that he had a secret source about a possible Justice Department informant who was embedded in Trump’s presidential campaign, but as the Washington Post noted, Giuliani “admitted that he and the president do not know if that’s true or not.”

    I don’t know, Rudy, Trump seems pretty convinced.

    Media Matters did a nice job unpacking the story, explaining the background of the president’s new theory […]

    It’s almost as if the idea that the FBI hatched some kind of scheme to undermine Trump’s candidacy is ridiculous on its face.


  193. says

    From Media Matters, (link in comment 279):

    Right-wing media is pushing the “spy” theory

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed he knows “who the spy is” and that this person was “like an operative employed by the FBI to basically entrap somebody who worked with the Trump campaign in a peripheral way.” He also said that Papadopoulos “was entrapped by three people, including the person who is reputed to be the spy.”

    Fox’s Sean Hannity argued that there was a spy embedded in the campaign and called the Strassel op-ed a “stunning new development” that raises “serious concerns and questions about the possibility [of] the F.B.I. planting a mole inside the Trump campaign.”

    The hosts of Fox & Friends devoted multiple segments to Strassel’s op-ed and also highlighted Limbaugh’s theory that the FBI planted a “spy” to “entrap” Trump associates. Fox’s Pete Hegseth argued that Limbaugh is “on to something,” and co-host Steve Doocy asked, “Was the FBI out to frame candidate Donald Trump?”

    Trump sycophant and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs tweeted: “#ExposeTheMole- FBI & DOJ planted an spy in @realDonaldTrump’s 2016 campaign & didn’t tell congressional investigators.”

    During an appearance on Hannity’s radio show, Fox’s Sara Carter claimed, “It appears [the FBI] had somebody that was reporting back on information inside the Trump campaign, which would mean that they had a mole connected to people in the Trump campaign or within the Trump campaign.” Carter repeated the report on Hannity’s prime-time Fox News show, claiming, “Yes, I believe [the FBI] did have an informant, somebody that was reporting back to them.”

    The Daily Caller pushed the narrative in an article about Rep. Ron DeSantis’ (R-FL) appearance on Fox News: “Ron DeSantis Says He May Know Who Was Spying On The Trump Campaign: ‘There Needs To Be Follow Up’.”

    Pro-Trump site The Gateway Pundit ran multiple articles by founder Jim Hoft that pushed the claim, including one in which Hoft claimed to know the “probable” identity of the “spy,” and another that argued there were multiple “deep state” sources.

    Far-right fringe blog Zero Hedge posted Strassel’s op-ed with the headline, “WSJ: The FBI Hid A Mole In The Trump Campaign,” even though Strassel never claimed the “mole” was actually inside the campaign.

  194. says

    From Bill Gates’ description of his meetings with Trump:

    In both of those two meetings he asked me if vaccines weren’t a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill-effects of vaccines. And somebody, Robert Kennedy Jr., was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things and I said, “No, that is a dead end, that would be a bad thing, do not do that.”

    Both times he wanted to know the difference between HIV and HPV and so I was able to explain that those are things that are rarely confused with each other.

    NBC News link. Video available at the link.

    More excerpts from Bill Gates’ description:

    When I walked in his first sentence kind of threw me off. He said, “Trump hears that you don’t like what Trump is doing.” And I thought, “Wow, but you are Trump.”

    He knew my daughter, Jennifer, because Trump has this horse show thing down in Florida. He went up and talked to Jen and was being super nice. And then around 20 minutes later he flew in on a helicopter to the same place. So clearly he had been driven away and he wanted to make a grand entrance on a helicopter.

    Anyway, so when I first talked to him it was actually kind of scary how much he knew about my daughter’s appearance. [Gates’ wife] Melinda did not like that too well.

  195. blf says

    In Ozland, the nazi-in-government überbigot is überbigoting, again (again), Religious schools should be free to follow beliefs, Dutton says:

    [… The home affairs minister] Peter Dutton has called for the entrenchment of religious freedoms, including the right of religious schools to sack gay teachers, and for parents to withdraw their children from the anti-LGBTI bullying program Safe Schools.


    Dutton told Sky News the government needed to consider protections for people who send their children to a particular school, to an independent school, to a Catholic school … whatever it might be, a Jewish school an Islamic school, whatever, that there is the ability for that curriculum to be taught in accord with that religious belief.


    The government had refused to extend federal funding for Safe Schools beyond mid-2017. […]

    On Thursday, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the director of LGBT rights group COC Nederland, Koen van Dijk, urged Australia to reinstitute LGBT-specific anti-bullying programs because bullying on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is the most common form in the Netherlands and around the world.

    As a reminder, the nazi-in-government is the loon who wants fast-track visas for white South African farmers based on completely unsubstantiated and probably false reports such people are being murdered and their land seized. As per @112, that nonsense on stilts has reached the States.

  196. KG says

    The potential Far Right coalition has moved closer to reality in Italy.. Along with populist economic measures (tax cuts which look designed to benefit the rich, and a so-called basic income scheme, which isn’t really what is normally meant by that phrase, as it requires recipients to seek work, without any attempt to show how what they are promising will be paid for*) and demands for the EU’s austerity policies to be scrapped (with the latter at least, I could agree), they propose prioritising the deportation of 500,000 migrants, to be rounded up and held in “temporary stay facilities” (I know, they could call them “campi di concentramento”). They also want sanctions against Russia lifted. The two components of the proposed coalition are now, supposedly, going to consult their members.

    *It’s true, of course, that it’s a gross oversimplification to say that governments, as opposed to households, have limited money to spend and must balance their budgets. But since Italy is in the Euro, and despite earlier signs of Euro-scepticism from both parties, they do not propose to leave it, they cannot just print more money.

  197. says

    North Korean leaders must be pulling their hair out. Here’s Trump’s latest reassuring/threatening explanation meant to put the talks between the USA and North Korea back on track:

    Well, the Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all, when we’re thinking of North Korea. In Libya, we decimated that country. That country was decimated. There was no deal to keep Gadhafi. The Libyan model that was mentioned was a much different deal. This would be with Kim Jong-un — something where he’d be there, he’d be in his country, he’d be running his country. His country would be very rich. His people are tremendously industrious. […]

    But the Libyan model was a much different model. We decimated that country. We never said to Gadhafi, “Oh, we’re going to give you protection. We’re going give you military strength. We’re going to give you all of these things.” We went in and decimated him…. This is just the opposite.

    How is anyone supposed to understand that blather from Trump, let alone act on it?

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Part of the problem here is that Trump, even after weeks of discussion, doesn’t seem to know what the “Libya model” is. The Republican appears to be under the impression that the model refers specifically to the NATO military offensive in 2011. It doesn’t. What Bolton was describing was the model from 2003 in which a country voluntarily gave up its nuclear program and welcomed weapons inspectors. […]

    Trump seems a little too eager to make Kim Jong-un happy. Confronted with the dictator’s dissatisfaction over John Bolton’s comments on the White House’s perspective, the American president scrambled to reject the “Libyan model” his national security advisor publicly endorsed.

    Which came on the heels of Trump praising Kim for his “excellent” treatment of American hostages.

    Which followed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisting that Kim “shares the objectives of the American people.”

    Which came just a couple of weeks after Trump touted North Korea’s “very honorable” dictator.

    Wanting to reach a peaceful agreement is one thing; pandering to a tyrant is something else. For months, Trump World described its approach to North Korea as “maximum pressure.” That’s apparently been replaced with “minimum pressure.”

    The Washington Post noted this week that Trump’s critics “fear that a president determined to declare victory where his predecessors failed will allow his desire for a legacy-making deal to override the substance of the negotiations.” By all appearances, that’s already begun.


  198. says

    Some more nonsense (and some good sense) from Rudy Giuliani:

    […] 1.) On FBI Director Chris Wray’s assertion that the Mueller probe is not a witch hunt: “He’s wrong,” Giuliani said. “I know more about the case than he does.”

    Giuliani added that Wray should “disassociate himself from Comey’s misdeeds” and that Wray should only be involved in the investigation to “get the information” and “plug up the leaks in the FBI.” […]

    2.) On the FBI informant who reportedly met with Trump campaign officials in the run-up to the 2016 election: “I don’t know for sure, nor does the President, that there really was [an informant],” Giuliani said. “We’re told that.”

    This admission of uncertainty comes as Trump is doubling down on smoking out the informant, causing the FBI to cobble together protection measures for the source, should he or she be compromised by Trump’s efforts. […]

    3.) On Trump’s old accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower: “At one point, the President thought there was a wiretap,” said Giuliani. “We were never notified that he was on a tap,” he added, admitting that there has never been any proof of that claim.


    At least that last point is correct. And, please note, we now have on record for the first time that Trump’s attempt to blame Obama for wiretaps was bugnuts bonkers.

    At this point, it is clear the Giuliani is not really acting as a lawyer for Trump, he is instead acting as a propagandist … and not a very good propagandist at that.

  199. says

    All the best people:

    A Republican House candidate running in California’s 44th District filmed herself on Tuesday following a trans woman into a public bathroom […]

    Jazmina Saavedra, a “Latinos for Trump” spokeswoman who’s looking to unseat Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), streamed the incident via Facebook Live while at a Denny’s.

    “I’m trying to use the ladies’ room right now,” Saavedra told viewers as she entered the bathroom. “And there is a man here saying that he’s a lady.”

    She then pointed the camera at the cubicle and asked, “Why are you using the ladies’ bathroom?”

    “Okay first off, you’re harassing me,” the woman responded. “I’m just using the restroom.”

    “No, you’re invading my privacy because I’m a woman and I deserve to use the ladies’ room,” Saavedra said.

    The woman asked incredulously, “I’m in the toilet, how am I invading your privacy?”

    Saavedra left the bathroom and waited for the woman to come out, saying “I want everyone to see this.”

    Throughout the seven-minute video, she repeatedly called the woman a “stupid guy” while ranting about “sick politicians” in California who believe in allowing people to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

    “You’re invading my privacy,” Saavedra told the woman she had accosted.

    On Friday, Rep. Barragán slammed Saavedra’s actions. “Everyone has the right to their own identity, and the right not to be discriminated against for who they are,” she tweeted.


  200. says

    I meant to include this detail in comment 287:

    At the end of Saavedra’s video, the candidate showed viewers her stun gun and pepper spray.

    That’s a threat of physical violence towards a trans woman.

  201. blf says

    Follow-up to @97, French lawmakers approve tough new bill on sexual harassment:

    Men who wolf-whistle or sexually harass women on French streets face fines of up to 750 euros ($885) after lawmakers in the National Assembly approved tougher legislation to combat sexual violence.

    However, a proposal to change age of consent laws to protect minors in rape cases was diluted after the highest legal authority, the Council of State [Conseil d’État], weighed in to warn it could be ruled unconstitutional.


    In a drive to discourage sexual harassment on the street, cat-callers and aggressively lecherous individuals of either sex can be hit with on-the-spot penalties ranging from 90 to 750 euros.

    Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa had previously outlined plans to also change age of consent laws so that minors under 15 who have sex with adults over 18 would be presumed not to have given consent.


    After the court said the bill’s automatic assumption of coercion might be unconstitutional, it was redrawn to state that sex between a person of 15 or under and an adult can be considered rape if the victim “lacked the necessary discernment to consent”.


    The new legislation will also give underage victims of rape an extra decade to file complaints. The deadline will now be 30 years from when they turn 18, up from 20 years now.


    The legislation will now be debated in the Senate.

    The child rape provisions still sound weak, but perhaps not as bad as reported in @97 — there now seems to be an acknowledgement a young person’s “consent” is not necessarily informed. Having said that, I don’t know if there was actually a change or not, it is possible the proposed law is the same one criticised in @97.

  202. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 276.

    As far as we know, eight people were killed in the shooting at a school in Texas. The shooter is in custody. One “person of interest” has also been detained.

    In a disturbing wrinkle, a MAGA-hat-wearing guy with a gun showed up at the school:

    CNN is reporting as many as eight people have been murdered at Sante Fe High School in Texas after an assailant entered the school with a shotgun. With students still being screened on the lawn of the high school, with eight of their peers and/or teachers deceased, at least one Trump supporter decided this was the time to put on his MAGA hat, grab his American flag, strap his open-carry pistol to his hip and head on down to the high school. Watch as he tries to justify his deplorable display and another man calls him out […]


    Video available at the link.

  203. says

    Some follow-up details regarding the $500 million loan from a Chinese bank to a Trump-branded property in Indonesia (see comment 109):

    […] China’s second-largest state-owned bank offered wealthy clients the opportunity to have dinner with the American president for $150,000 a ticket, spurring a complaint from Donald Trump’s re-election campaign to the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Kinda of surprised they complained. This is just their style of corruption.

    A branch of China Construction Bank Corp. invited high-net-worth clients willing to pay the ticket price to a May 31 dinner in Dallas, according to an invitation seen by Bloomberg News and confirmed with bank staff. Chinese participants would have the opportunity to communicate with U.S. “tycoons,” take photos with Trump and get his autograph, according to the invitation.

    While Trump was expected to host a $50,000-a-head fund-raising dinner with the Republican National Committee in Dallas that night, it’s illegal for U.S. political campaigns to accept donations from foreign nationals or from corporations. That means only the Chinese bank’s customers with U.S. passports would be eligible to attend. […]

    Bloomberg News link

    This corruption scandal associated with the Chinese bank is also tied into Trump’s promotion of ZTE, a Chinese phone company.

    As Sino-U.S. trade frictions have eased recently, Chinese businessmen including representatives from ZTE were invited to Dallas to attend President Trump’s dinner, and thus discuss cooperation and development with U.S. political and business elites,” the invitation said. The Shenzhen branch later reissued the invitation Thursday to remove references to trade friction and ZTE.

    Trump is creating a swamp that includes the White House, China, Chinese banks, Chinese companies, Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Putin, golf courses in Scotland, and more.

    I think we should watch for Trump to find a way around the objections of the Donald Trump re-election campaign. He’ll find a way to show up for the Chinese.

  204. blf says

    Journalists going beyond their jobs / profession, in a good way, Sierra Leonean athlete can stay in UK after three-year legal fight:

    A Sierra Leonean sprinter who absconded from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and was found sleeping rough on the streets of London has been granted leave to remain in the UK after a long legal battle.

    After three years of attempts by the Home Office to force Thoronka out of the country under its hostile environment policy, a court ruled in Jimmy Thoronka’s favour last month.

    In a psychiatric report seen by the Guardian, [Jimmy] Thoronka was said to be in a chronic traumatised state exacerbated by the lengthy legal process and having discovered that Ebola had killed his mother and four siblings since he left his home country.


    The Guardian’s reports of his plight provoked widespread public sympathy and offers of food, shelter and money for Thoronka, who was once Sierra Leone’s top 100m sprinter.

    Thoronka […] had been homeless for about five months when the Guardian journalist Diane Taylor first met him living in Burgess Park, Southwark [central-ish London]. He had survived by begging or carrying people’s heavy shopping in exchange for money. Thoronka washed himself and his few clothes in public toilets.


    On the advice of his lawyer, he applied for leave to remain rather than asylum. As a result he was released from Home Office accommodation, shortly after which he moved in with Taylor and her partner, Simon Hattenstone, also a Guardian journalist.

    I should note this excerpted Grauniad article is not written by either Ms Taylor nor Mr Hattenstone.

    Thoronka was offered a sports scholarship by the University of East London (UEL) but the Home Office rejected his application to stay in the UK as clearly unfounded […]

    […] In April this year, three years after his first application to the Home Office, he was granted leave to remain.

    He is now hoping to start a degree in computer studies in September at UEL, where he currently volunteers.

    “My dream has always been to be the best sprinter,” said Thoronka. “But an even bigger dream is to go to university and pursue my education.”

    Apparently an interview(?) with Taylor (and I presume Thoronka and Hattenstone) will be published this weekend.

  205. says

    On CNN, Giuliani shouts over tape of 1998 interview exposing his hypocrisy.

    Video available at the link.

    Think Progress link

    […] First, Cuomo asked him how he could make the claim that contradicted his earlier argument. “I never heard of a subpoena for the president’s person,” Giuliani argued. “Let’s distinguish between a subpoena for documents and a subpoena that takes the President out of the oval office and puts him in front of a grand jury or hearing. Can’t do it. Can’t do the second. You can’t do the first.”

    When Cuomo noted that that was exactly what was going on in 1998 when was asked by Charlie Rose whether Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr could bring Clinton before a grand jury, Giuliani responded, “Oh come on. It’s not even relevent.”

    Cuomo then played the clip in which Rose specifically asked Giuliani, “If the president is asked to testify, subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and says no, not gonna do it?” and the former federal prosecutor had responded, “You gotta do it.”

    As Cuomo played the clip, an angered Giuliani screamed, “That’s really unfair. What you’re doing right now is extremely unfair. It’s the reason people don’t come on this show.

    Giuliani then changed the subject, slamming CNN for giving airtime to Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, calling him an “ambulance chaser.”

  206. says

    Follow-up to comments 24 and 77.

    Ebola outbreak spills over into major port city in Congo, 5 new cases reported

    The outbreak, once confined to isolated areas, has spilled over into a city of around 1.2 million people.

    […] The latest update is especially alarming because of the location of the newly discovered cases. Originally confined to the Bikoro, Iboko, and Wangata health zones in Equateur province, officials were concerned that the outbreak might spill over into the crowded Mbandaka region, which serves as a major hub of activity and sits directly along the Congo River, a crucial economic lifeline. Health officials now confront a growing epidemic that may spread more quickly and easily through the densely-populated region.

    “The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban centre located on major national and international river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighbouring countries,” WHO spokespersons stated, saying they had raised the public health risk level to “very high” at the national level and “high” on the regional scale. […]

  207. blf says

    @294, Of course it’s unfair — “Quoting what I said” is a heinous crime. Jut ask Teh Ministry of Trvth. Now, where’s that Memory Hole, again ?

    Ignorance Is Strength !

  208. says

    From Parkland, Florida students in response to the shooting in Texas:

    Donald Trump does not care about school shootings.

    Donald Trump does nothing to stop school shootings.

    Don’t talk to me about the ‘stop school violence act,’ because that does nothing to stop school shootings.

    Donald Trump does not care about you or your kids getting shot. [Cameron Kasky]
    Today is my last day of school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high and I find out there’s been a shooting in Texas at Santa Fe high school. My heart aches for them. [Kyra Parrow]
    To all Santa Fe students and staff, Parkland stands with you and your community. My DMs are open if you’d like to talk. I’m going to try to answer all of them. I’m so so sorry, my community and I are absolutely heartbroken. [Sarah Chadwick]
    Santa Fe High, you didn’t deserve this. You deserve peace all your lives, not just after a tombstone saying that is put over you. You deserve more than Thoughts and Prayers, and after supporting us by walking out we will be there to support you by raising up your voices. [Emma González]

  209. says

    Oh, FFS. Not this again. Trump is railing against ormer FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe:

    Why isn’t disgraced FBI official Andrew McCabe being investigated for the $700,000 Crooked Hillary Democrats in Virginia, led by Clinton best friend Terry M (under FBI investigation that they killed) gave to McCabe’s wife in her run for office? Then dropped case on Clinton!

    McCabe was fired in March by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who ousted the longtime bureau official just hours before he was set to retire and collect his full benefits.

    McCabe was less than forthcoming with former FBI Director James Comey about his decision to allow two FBI officials in October 2016, just a month out from the presidential election, to speak to The Wall Street Journal about the bureau’s probes into Clinton. McCabe has disputed the findings, saying his disclosures were authorized.

    The inspector general referred the case on McCabe to federal prosecutors. However, it remains unclear whether they are actively pursuing a case against him.

    Trump has most of the facts dead wrong, or twisted so much that they are not recognizable as having any relation to reality.

  210. says

    Update on the school shooting in Texas:

    Police in Santa Fe, Texas, said they found multiple explosive devices in and around the school campus […]

    Law enforcement authorities are reported to be actively searching for more devices, […]

    A male student was taken into custody after the shooting, and another person of interest, also a student, was reportedly questioned by authorities.

    Police have locked down and evacuated Santa Fe High School, located about 30 miles from Houston, county police said.

    The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is on the scene, along with police from Galveston County. […]

    9 people are dead, (8 students and 1 teacher).

  211. says

    Dysfunction in the House of Congress, (food stamps and DACA fall by the wayside):

    The House farm bill died in a vote on the floor Friday 198-213, and it all came down to a fight over immigration.

    The passage of the farm bill was far from certain […] The $868 billion legislative package that subsidizes agriculture and funds food assistance programs has been mired in partisan fighting for weeks […]

    Democrats and moderate Republicans dislike the harsher work requirements on food stamps in the bill, which experts estimate could amount to more than $20 billion in cuts to the program’s benefits and impact more than 1 million people. Conservatives don’t like it because they think those work requirements don’t go far enough. Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity came out against the bill ahead of the vote, calling it a “missed opportunity” and decrying its “wasteful subsidy programs.” In the end, it lost 30 Republican votes, killing it altogether.

    But outside the farm bill policy, support for the legislation has been on shaky ground for completely separate reasons: Lawmakers are demanding House leaders do something on immigration.

    Knowing the farm bill will need as much support as it can get, Republican lawmakers used the bill as leverage to make a separate demand on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Somewhat surprisingly, that request came from both conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus and moderates like California Rep. Jeff Denham.

    Now the revolt over immigration has killed the farm bill. Somehow, with midterms just six months away, and against all efforts by House leadership to avoid immigration, the House seems poised for another fight on DACA. […]

    Vox link

  212. says

    Mimi Rocah: “If a subject of a gang or narcotics investigation tried to out an informant who had helped LE in that investigation, fed prosecutors would seriously consider whether they could charge the would-be-outer with witness tampering, obstruction, and other serious crimes. Just sayin.”

  213. says

    “Trump Lawyer Met With Qatari Government Official Days Before FBI Raid”:

    President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, who made millions over the past 18 months soliciting funds from clients seeking entree and influence at the White House, met with a senior Qatari official in Florida last month, just days before the FBI raided Cohen’s home and office, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

    The sources would not say what was discussed at the meeting with Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce, Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani. But the Washington Post reported this week that Cohen had offered his services to a different Qatari official at a meeting in December 2016, promising access to the White House in exchange for $1 million.

    The Qatari turned down the offer at the time, according to the report.

    The meeting last month took place on the sidelines of the glitzy Qatar-U.S. Economic Forum in Miami. The gathering brought together U.S. investors and Qatari businessmen for talks on joint projects and promoted investment opportunities tied to the 2022 World Cup.

    A Qatari Embassy spokesman said Cohen requested the meeting with Al Thani but would not say if it took place. “The State of Qatar has never been a client of Mr. Cohen,” the spokesman said.

    Qatar has in recent months hired teams of lobbyists and public relations consultants in the United States to win White House support for the lifting of a blockade on the resource-rich emirate imposed by its adversaries in the region, including Saudi Arabia.

    Qatari state-backed investors have pledged to inject $45 billion into the U.S. economy, including in possible infrastructure projects prized by the Trump administration. Investors linked to Qatar have also eyed investments in Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family real estate company….

  214. says

    I remember reading a few months ago about how news organizations had embraced research-based guidelines on covering mass shootings (some here) and there seemed to be increasing recognition about the problems with descending on small towns and interviewing traumatized people in the immediate aftermath of an attack, but they seem to have fallen back into their old ways. There is no point to this marathon coverage featuring looping images and speculative analysis. They should just stop doing it.

  215. says

    “Exclusive: Special Counsel subpoenas another Stone aide in Russia probe – sources”:

    U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed a key assistant of long-time Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone, two people with knowledge of the matter said, the latest sign that Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is increasingly focusing on Stone.

    The subpoena was recently served on John Kakanis, 30, who has worked as a driver, accountant and operative for Stone.

    Kakanis has been briefly questioned by the FBI on the topics of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the WikiLeaks website, its founder Julian Assange, and the hacker or hackers who call themselves Guccifer 2.0, one of the people with knowledge of the matter said.

    Mueller has not scheduled a grand jury appearance for Kakanis, the person said.

    During the 2016 Republican primaries, a Stone political action committee paid more than $130,000 to an entity called “Citroen Associates” for “voter fraud research and documentation” and “research services consulting,” according to Federal Election Commission filings.

    Florida state records identify the owner of Citroen Associates as John P. Kakanis.

    Reuters reported earlier this week that FBI agents working for Mueller delivered two subpoenas to Jason Sullivan,* a social media and Twitter expert who worked for Stone during the 2016 campaign, and that agents told him Mueller’s team wanted to question him about Stone and WikiLeaks….

    * Sullivan is appearing before the grand jury today – see #193 above.

  216. says

    “Assange’s guest list: the RT reporters, hackers and film-makers who visited embassy”:

    Julian Assange received more than 80 visitors in the seven weeks leading up to the release of hacked Democratic party emails by WikiLeaks, including two journalists from the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT, the documentary film-maker Michael Moore, the philosopher Slavoj Žižek and a German hacker.

    Visitor logs seen by the Guardian and Focus Ecuador show a frenetic period for the WikiLeaks founder in the summer of 2016, around the time he declared that he would release emails from Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign. Assange has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012.

    Among his guests were senior staff members from RT, the Moscow TV network described by US intelligence agencies as the Kremlin’s “principal international propaganda outlet”.

    The visits by RT’s London bureau chief, Nikolay Bogachikhin, who is Russian, and Afshin Rattansi, a British citizen, are likely to attract attention.

    The visitor logs were drawn up by an international firm brought in by Ecuador’s then president, Rafael Correa, to provide security for Assange. The secret programme was called Operation Hotel.

    Among the journalists, activists and artists who visited Assange in June and July 2016 were two Russian citizens, Bogachikhin and Yana Maximova, 28, a Russian émigré to the US who has worked as a volunteer journalist for a community radio station in Portland.

    Assange has a longstanding relationship with RT. He has regularly appeared in interviews with the Russian broadcaster and hosted a programme on RT in 2012.

    Bogachikhin was described by a former colleague as a journalist who had quickly risen up the ranks at RT and wholeheartedly adopted the more aggressive pro-Russian editorial line that was established after 2008. His Twitter feed mirrors Moscow’s official view.

    When she was contacted by phone, Maximova declined to discuss the meetings, and said an attorney in Washington DC would provide a written statement to the Guardian, which she described as “protocol”. The attorney’s statement never materialised and Maximova did not respond to repeated follow-up phone calls.

    While many of Assange’s visitors are well known in professional circles, Maximova is not. On LinkedIn, her occupation is described as “Dreamer”.

    Rattansi made three visits to Assange in June, including one that ended at 4.30am. The RT journalist has been a staunch defender of Assange and of Putin’s government. One of the visits, on 23 June 2016 – the day the UK voted to leave the EU – Rattansi hosted a broadcast at the Ecuadorian embassy.

    He returned with an RT camera crew on 2 August 2016 to interview Assange about his DNC email release. Rattansi’s broadcast was titled: “Do WikiLeaks have the email that will put Hillary Clinton in prison?”

    RT said: “At no point during those visits was there a discussion with either Mr Bogachikhin or Mr Rattansi about emails that related to the Clinton campaign. RT learned about those emails at the same time as everyone else – when WikiLeaks began publishing them.”…

  217. says

    NEW: Fed judge in VA Manafort case [Ellis] delays hearing on suppression & other motions by 2 weeks, from 5/25 to 6/8. Cites ‘crowded docket’. He’s got an espionage trial about to kick off.”

    Link to the order at the link.

  218. says

    I’m assuming this wasn’t featured in the glossy $14 magazine:

    “Saudi Arabia Detains Activists Who Pushed to End Ban on Women Driving”:

    Saudi Arabia has detained at least five people connected to the campaign to end the kingdom’s longtime ban on women driving, despite the fact that the government has promised to lift the ban next month, associates of the detainees said on Friday.

    The Saudi government has billed the lifting of the driving ban as part of a reform push spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The changes have also included curtailing the powers of the religious authorities and expanding the entertainment options available in the conservative kingdom.

    But those efforts have coincided with waves of arrests that have scooped up clerics, businessmen, members of the royal family and activists who have a history of challenging the government’s positions. Many of them have not been officially charged with crimes despite having been held for months.

    The Saudi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new detentions, and it remained unclear whether those detained had been charged with anything.

    Among those detained were women who had challenged the government’s driving ban by getting in their cars and driving, and men who had supported their cause or had defended them in court.

    Around the time last year that the government announced that it was going to lift the ban on women driving, the authorities contacted a number of women who had campaigned against the ban and warned them to avoid talking about the issue on social media or with journalists, some of them said later.

    Many of them assumed that the government did not want them to take credit publicly for the policy change in an absolute monarchy that suppresses activism.

    One of them was a student in UAE when she was forcibly brought back to SA and prevented from leaving.

  219. says

    Vladimir Kara-Murza – “The Kremlin revives a Soviet-style law against dissent”:

    …The “crimes” used most often for political prosecutions in the Stalin era were the ones detailed in Article 58 of the criminal code, from “counter-revolutionary activity” and “anti-Soviet agitation” to “contacts with foreigners with counter-revolutionary purposes” and “urging a foreign entity to [conduct] aggressive actions against the USSR.” Reshaped and renumbered as Article 70 in the post-Stalin era, the criminal penalty for political opposition was finally abolished in September 1989 as the Soviet regime was nearing its end.

    This week the Russian authorities brought it back. On Tuesday the State Duma approved on the first reading a law making it a criminal offense, punishable by up to three years in prison, for Russian citizens to “intentionally enable foreign states, alliances of foreign states, or international organizations to impose restrictive measures on Russian persons and public entities.” Allowing for a different historical era, the formulation is almost identical to parts of the old Article 58. The vote in the Duma was unanimous. (Even the annexation of Crimea was ratified in 2014 with one vote against and three abstentions, but the few dissenting voices have since been purged from the legislature.)

    In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, laws are often passed with specific people in mind, whether it is to reward or to punish….

    The latest addition to the criminal code has an intended recipient, too, and apparently it is the author of this piece….

    The official justification behind the measure is that participation in the imposition of such restrictions is directed “against Russia.” Of course, it is not. There can be nothing more pro-Russian than to bring much-needed accountability to those who violate the rights of Russian citizens and steal the money of Russian taxpayers — and continue to spend that money, buy real estate and park their families in the West. That is precisely what the Magnitsky legislation, now adopted in six Western countries, does, by prohibiting individuals responsible for human rights abuses and corruption from receiving visas or holding assets in their territories. Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov called it “the most pro-Russian law in the history of any foreign parliament.”

    The Magnitsky legislation is a pale substitute for justice. The penalty for torture, murder, wrongful imprisonment or grand corruption should not be canceled vacations in Miami Beach or on the Côte d’Azur but a real trial in a real court of law. One day, this will be possible in Russia. For now, it is not, and targeted sanctions from Western democracies serve as the only mechanism of accountability for corrupt Kremlin officials and human rights abusers.

    I will continue this work, as I know will many of my colleagues, regardless of any legislative novelties from the Russian government….

  220. says

    “Ex-KKK Leader Ordered to Hand Over Charlottesville Emails”:

    Overruling the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard’s objections, a federal judge in Louisiana ordered David Duke to produce his communications with the organizers of last year’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    “While some burden may be imposed upon movant in responding to these requests, I cannot conclude that his burden or expense is outweighed by the likely benefit to the truth-finding objective of requiring production,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson Jr. wrote Thursday in his order issued in New Orleans federal court.

    Duke must turn over the emails and other correspondences by June 18.

    The subpoena relates to discovery in a lawsuit pending in Charlottesville federal court.

    There, the plaintiffs allege organizers of the Aug. 11-12, 2017, march conspired and put on a “series of violent and threatening demonstrations” that left three people dead and many others injured. Counterprotester Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police officers were killed at the rally.

    The plaintiffs in the Virginia case say the organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally caused them to suffer physical injuries, emotional harm and violations to their constitutional rights. And buried within Duke’s communications lie insights into that alleged conspiracy, they claim….

  221. blf says

    Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms:

    President [sic] Trump has personally pushed US Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations […].

    Brennan so far has resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president [sic] that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

    Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.


    Trump says Amazon is being subsidized by the Postal Service, and he has accused the Post as being Amazon’s chief lobbyist as well as a tax shelter — both false charges. […]


    Because the Postal Service has lost money for 11 straight years, it has had to repeatedly borrow funds from the Treasury Department’s Federal Financing Bank, totaling $15 billion. Its reliance on taxpayer funds has allowed [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin — one of Trump’s closest advisors — to gain a foothold in its future.

    One of Mnuchin’s counselors, Craig Phillips, is leading Trump’s review of the Postal Service, along with Kathy Kraninger, associate director for general government at the Office of Management and Budget. […]


    Trump’s attacks on Amazon date to 2015, when he accused [Jeff] Bezos of using the [Washington] Post as a tax shelter to allow Amazon to avoid paying taxes, a false accusation. (Amazon is a publicly traded company, and the Post, wholly owned by Bezos, is private. The companies’ finances are not intermingled. The Post’s editors and Bezos also have declared that he is not involved in any journalistic decisions.)


    The article is unclear if Mnuchin agrees with Gary Cohn (and the USPS) that they make money on the Amazon deal, or with others who say they don’t. (Many more details at the link.)

  222. blf says

    Yes, President [sic] Trump, there is a difference between HIV and HPV. Here’s a handy tipsheet:

    “Both times, [hair furor] wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV,” Gates recounted […]. “I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other.”


    HIV, short for human immunodeficiency virus, wreaks havoc on the immune system. If not kept in check with proper treatment, the virus will rob the body of its ability to withstand infections. HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), a condition that makes people vulnerable to opportunistic infections. These infections can be fatal.

    HPV (human papillomavirus) is the name for a family of viruses that affect the skin and other organs. More than 150 viruses have been identified, though not all of them are dangerous. About 40 types infect the genital area, including at least 13 that can cause cancer. Some types of HPV produce warts elsewhere on the body, including on the hands, elbows and feet.


    Who’s infected?
    HIV: More than 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV.
    HPV: About 79 million Americans have an HPV infection.

    Do they know?
    HIV: About 14% of Americans with HIV don’t know they are infected.
    HPV: Most people with HPV don’t even know that they’re infected.


    What about a vaccine?
    HIV: There is no vaccine to prevent HIV, though several candidates are in the works.
    HPV: There are vaccines to prevent infection with up to nine types of HPV that cause cancer.

    What else do I need to know?
    HIV: Once a person becomes infected, doctors can’t eliminate all traces of the virus. But patients on ART can have a normal life expectancy. There is no cure for HIV.
    HPV: It is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and nearly everyone becomes infected at least once in their lives.

    Bonus material: HSV
    Now that you’ve mastered the difference between HIV and HPV, you might be interested in a third virus with a similar name — HSV.

    Short for herpes simplex virus, HSV causes genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease that afflicts more than 17% of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49. It spreads through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Symptoms include itching, pain, small sores or blisters, ulcers and scabs. There is no vaccine or cure, but there are medicines that can shorten an active outbreak or prevent a future one.

    The Grauniad points out Gates got it a bit wrong, Bill Gates: Trump twice asked me the difference between HIV and HPV: “The UK’s National Health Service [NHS] website lists ‘What’s the difference between HPV and HIV?’ as one of its common health questions. […]” Whilst, pedantically, asking what the difference is is not quite the same as confusing the two, that common question suggests there is more confusion than perhaps one expects.

  223. blf says

    Will Trump’s pick to run the EPA office in San Francisco show up for work?:

    The White House has finally found someone to take on the stress of overseeing President [sic] Trump’s fossil fuel-friendly environmental agenda in the heart of hostile territory: California and nearby states.

    But there’s one glaring problem.

    The guy who will lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters in San Francisco doesn’t appear to want to live anywhere near San Francisco.

    That didn’t stop the administration from hiring Santa Barbara County GOP stalwart Mike Stoker, a politico well positioned to annoy the powers that be in California.

    He credits himself with conceiving the lock her up chant […]. He was the spokesman for one of the state’s most embattled oil companies. He questions the scientific consensus on climate change.

    None of those things are disqualifying, even if some in California think they should be. But Stoker’s refusal to work in the liberal City by the Bay has put the administration in a pickle. Instead he wants to oversee the 700 or so enforcement officers, scientists, researchers and others guiding environmental protection in California and nearby states from a small, sparsely staffed Los Angeles satellite office.


    California Sen Dianne Feinstein fired off a letter to Pruitt on Thursday warning of the consequences of allowing Stoker to be an “absentee” chief of EPA Region 9. The Democrat demanded to know how the arrangement could possibly work, and what costs taxpayers would bear.


    The last time a regional EPA chief tried juggling work at the San Francisco headquarters with trips home to Southern California, federal investigators discovered some $69,000 in flights they said may have been inappropriately billed to taxpayers. That was during the late years of the George W Bush administration. Feinstein reminded Pruitt about that investigation, and questioned if his EPA is heeding the lessons learned from it.


    Environmental groups joined Feinstein in expressing bewilderment that the region chief may keep living in Carpinteria, which is hours from even the Los Angeles office.

    “You can’t do that job without face-to-face contact with the scientists, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals in Region 9’s office who do the heavy lifting,” said Eric Schaeffer, a former chief of civil enforcement at EPA who now runs the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. “Phoning it in is not going to work.”

    Finding a leader for Region 9 was vexing for the Trump administration. One ally of industry after another rejected its overtures to lead the feisty office of career professionals who have little enthusiasm for the Trump agenda. [… T]he neighbors are not particularly hospitable to folks carrying the Make America Great Again torch.

    […] Pruitt said [Stoker] understands the environmental challenges facing the region and will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to EPA.

    [… A former chair of the Santa Barbara County GOP, Dale] Francisco said in an interview that Stoker has never managed a major organization.

    “[… W]ithout any management experience, you should not be managing as large an organization as EPA Region 9. Period,” Francisco said in an interview. “How is he going to manage this agency in a state where elected leadership is utterly opposed to Trump and get anything done?”


    Stoker’s record suggests he will be an unflinching champion of the rollbacks of fuel economy standards, air quality rules and other federal environmental protections that are riling California’s leaders.

    He criticized lawsuits that California municipalities filed against the oil industry for their role in climate change, telling the Santa Barbara News-Press last year that they ignore the conflicting evidence about global warming, and as we all know, there is conflicting evidence.

    One of the oil companies in the area most despised by environmentalists, Santa Maria-based Greka Oil & Gas, which has a history of regulatory troubles, spills and violations at its California facilities, was represented by Stoker.

    That company, now known as HVI Cat Canyon Inc, has been in a years-long legal fight with the EPA and federal prosecutors over pollution from its operations.

    Greka is ringing a faint bell with me — “faint”, that is, in the sense the Cloister Bell in the TARDIS is faint…

    Alls teh bestingerest peoples !

  224. says

    Mark Warner: “It would be at best irresponsible, and at worst potentially illegal, for members of Congress to use their positions to learn the identity of an FBI source for the purpose of undermining the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election.”

  225. says

    This is stupid. She’d endured months of anti-Semitic harassment at the hands of people he provoked. Of course the point is that she wanted to show she wasn’t intimidated by a Nazi. This isn’t a clever turn of phrase. It’s just callous.

  226. says

    “I’m expressing my opposition to racism by condescendingly berating and ganging up on a Jewish journalist who’s suffered harassment and threats from Nazis” is a brilliant use of a progressive’s time.

  227. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This is totally stupid and unpopular.
    I receive medical supplies, delivered by USPS, but the originator may be Amazon, UPS, or FedEx. If Trump interferes, he will be to blame….

  228. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Sorry about the non-sequitur in #330. The Rachael Maddow Show was showing the Trump Assholes wanted to charge Amazon more than other agents to have the USPS deliver their good. In my area, Amazon delivers their goods, with only UPS/FedEx going through the USPS. Link to videos in the morning.

  229. says

    The rightwing media has been claiming to identify the source for days, by name (I won’t link).

    Matthew Miller:

    If you follow right-wing media, he’s basically already been named. In other words, he’s blown, and I just hope the FBI was able to button things up before anyone was put in harm’s way. This has been such outrageous conduct by Trump and his enablers.

    I don’t know if there will ever be a legal or political reckoning for everyone who was willing to risk national security and undermine the rule of law to protect Trump, but they will certainly be remembered by history.

  230. says

    Avenatti: “Why is Mr. Cohen’s attorney Mr. Ryan representing Mr. Cohen at the same time he is working for Qatar? Especially in light of the Qatar bribery allegations revealed earlier this week? Are they paying MC’s legal bills? No wonder he is trying to keep me out of the case! #Conflict”

  231. blf says

    Italy’s far right use Irish vote to boost anti-abortion campaign:

    Activists and far-right politicians have seized on Italy’s low birth rate and the attention on Ireland’s referendum on abortion [25 May] to boost their pro-life [sic†] campaign.


    Ahead of the 22 May anniversary [of Italy’s legalisation of abortion], ProVita, the Italian pro-life [sic†] association, has published a booklet repeating debunked claims that women who have an abortion could be more prone to breast cancer and suicide or become alcoholics or drug addicts.


    Toni Brandi, the president of ProVita, joined counterparts in Ireland on a recent visit […]

    Italians voted to legalise abortion in a similar plebiscite in 1978. But 70.4% of gynaecologists still refuse to terminate pregnancies for moral reasons, which means it is almost impossible for women to access a safe procedure. That number is around 90% in southern regions, while in the central Molise region only one doctor carries out terminations. Last year a woman in Padua, a city in the northern Veneto region, had to visit 23 hospitals before finding one that would end her pregnancy. Doctors in Rome who do not object to the procedure are banned from going for jobs at hospitals managed by the Vatican.


    If the League succeeds in entering government, the party has pledged to make it a priority to better inform women of what they say are the physical and psychological consequences of abortion.


    Emma Bonino, a politician who had an illegal abortion at a young age, was at the forefront of bringing about the enactment of the so-called Law 94. Until 1978, illegal abortions were the third-biggest cause of death for women in Italy.


    Many medics fear being pushed out of the system or not being hired if they perform abortions. And those that do are often shamed. In the late 1990s a doctor killed himself after being exposed for terminating pregnancies in secret.

    Ministry of Health data shows that the number of abortions performed each year fell from 233,976 in 1983 to 84,926 in 2016, while the number of moral objectors has risen. Unwanted pregnancies also significantly decreased after Law 94 was introduced, as people could avail themselves of information about contraception which until then had been forbidden thanks to a ban stemming from the Benito Mussolini-era.

    There is no data available on the real demand for abortion or on the numbers carried out illegally. In recent years a significant demand is said to come from migrant women who have been forced into prostitution.


    There are fears that access to safe abortion will become even more difficult in future, as fewer medical students are receiving training.

    “The Catholic-right has conquered the hospitals — there are so many militants,” said Elisabetta Canitano, a gynaecologist and president of the feminist association Vita di Donna.

    “Even if the foetus is incompatible with life — they say God sent it, so God will take it when he decides. They insist that the woman must go ahead with the pregnancy, even if the child is then sent to a hospice to die.”

      † Come on Grauniad, you can do better: Not the highly-misleading pro-life but either “anti-abortion” (to be polite) or “misogynistic” (to be accurate) or “afraid of cooties” (to be snarky).

  232. blf says

    Ed Sheeran denounces use of song in anti-abortion campaign in Ireland (my added emboldening):

    The British pop star’s song Small Bump was reportedly being played by anti-abortion activists campaigning in Dublin’s city centre. Sheeran distanced himself from those using his song, saying in a post on Instagram that “it does not reflect what the song is about”.


    In his Instagram post, Sheeran, who is currently playing a series of concerts in Ireland, said: “I’ve been informed that my song Small Bump is being used to promote the pro-life campaign, and I feel it’s important to let you know I have not given approval for this use, and it does not reflect what the song is about.”

    Ireland’s referendum has attracted interest from groups from around the world seeking to influence the vote. A significant proportion of Facebook posts aimed at influencing voters were shown to have come from pages managed partly or entirely outside Ireland. Even some groups registered with Ireland’s ethics watchdog, the Standards In Public Office Commission, had Facebook pages managed from abroad.


    The emboldened sentence cites an article from last weekend I may have overlooked, [… T]he overseas anti-abortion activists using Facebook to target Irish voters:

    Facebook users had an accidental glimpse of the international scope of campaigning in Ireland’s historic abortion referendum […] which has intensified concern about foreign influence on the vote.

    For a brief period last Friday [11 May?], a new tool designed to boost transparency around elections enabled users to see the real-life location of people who were managing Facebook campaign pages. Activists collected a snapshot of posts from 180 groups that were targeting Irish voters, before the social media giant turned off the location tool, saying it had been “mistakenly launched”.

    This evidence showed that a significant proportion of posts aimed at influencing voters came from pages managed partly or entirely outside Ireland. Even some groups registered with Ireland’s ethics watchdog, the Standards In Public Office Commission (Sipo), had Facebook pages managed from abroad.

    Foreign influence seemed particularly strong in messages urging Irish voters not to overturn the country’s near-total ban on terminating pregnancies. Ireland is the only western democracy with such strict rules, and the upcoming vote has drawn worldwide attention from opponents of abortion rights. […]


    Analysis of the posts, by social media news agency Storyful, found that only a third of advertisements urging a No vote […] came from Facebook pages managed solely in Ireland. In contrast, four-fifths of posts urging repeal of the amendment came from pages which had no foreign-based managers.

    The anti-abortion pages that had at least some foreign managers included those of some influential groups campaigning for Ireland to keep its abortion ban. One had listed managers, of whom some were based in the UK, some in Hungary and others in unidentified countries.

    The data also showed that posts supporting a No vote were more likely to have come from organisations that were not registered with Ireland’s ethics watchdog.


    The brief revelation gave further insights into how much important data Facebook holds — but has chosen to keep secret — about election campaigning and advertising. These are areas that all democracies have traditionally monitored to ensure that votes are free and fair.


    One group that paid for ads aimed at Irish voters was US group EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, which claims on its website to rescue moms and babies. In January it was fined by New York City authorities for misleading women about their healthcare options. Another is Toronto-based LifeSiteNews, whose headlines include: Social media uses #fakenews and Stalinist efforts to help repeal Ireland’s pro-life 8th amendment […]

  233. blf says

    London activists paper over TV show poster of actors pointing guns:

    Two men have papered over a billboard in east London due to concerns that it glamorises violence at a time of rising crime in the capital, earning praise from the local MP and attracting criticism from the actors portrayed on the hoarding.

    The poster for Sky’s police comedy Bulletproof features two gun-toting actors, one of whom is pointing his weapon as though he were about to enter combat.

    Richard Selby […] decided to act after he saw the billboard over a busy Walthamstow street when leaving a leisure centre with his eight-year-old son.

    “It felt wrong to me,” he told the Guardian. “Especially in the light of the shootings and stabbings that we’ve endured all over London, but particularly in this area, so I thought I’d cover up the guns with something else.”

    Selby enlisted the help of his friend Graham Clifford, a local headteacher, and plastered a cardboard carrot and hairdryer over the two handguns.

    The poster provider, Primesight, subsequently covered it up with a blank canvas, prompting the two men to replaster the carrot and hairdryer.

    […Selby said:] “I’m totally against the idea that carrying a handgun is normal for anyone in our society, and this contributes to a culture where guns are considered cool and acceptable.”

    Stella Creasy, the Walthamstow MP, commended the act […].

    Wasn’t a priest but a local dad who felt that promoting guns in a community with a gun crime problem not the way to tackle it so applied some creative thinking to alternatives

    It did, however, provoke an angry response from the actors Noel Clarke and Ashley Walters.

    They only vandalised our poster and made it a cute story because it’s us, Clarke wrote on Instagram. If they covered posters with white actors holding guns it would be a full-time job. And would it even make news?

    Another bestest people for hair furor? Seems to have the qualifications: Knows nothing except it’s always about me me me ! (No idea if he has enough money to qualify for teh kleptocracy. He might also actually be competent at his job. Either would handicap or disqualify him from a position in teh dalekocracy.)

    Creasy replied in an attempt to communicate local concerns. She invited Clarke to Walthamstow “to meet the parents who are upset to understand why the location of the poster was so potent”.


    The poster with me and [Clarke] holding guns is not glamorising violence. Our characters are armed policemen, [Walters] wrote.

    No, no, no, Mr Walters. To join teh dalekocracy it’s I am a armed police !

    It is possible the action did “trigger” both Clarke and Walters. Judging by the photograph of the altered poster at the link, both are black and it is possible — Clarke’s quote above hints at this — they interpreted the modification as racist. It’s fairly clear that was not Mr Selby, et al., intent.

  234. tomh says

    Only in America, where it’s more dangerous to go to school than to be in the military.
    From the Washington Post
    “2018 has been deadlier for schoolchildren than service members”

    “The school shooting near Houston on Friday bolstered a stunning statistic: More people have been killed at schools this year than have been killed while serving in the military.”

  235. says

    NYT – “Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election”:

    Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.

    The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.

    Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.

    The company, which employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.

    It is unclear whether such a proposal was executed, and the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute. But Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting, and after those initial offers of help, Mr. Nader was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser. At the time, Mr. Nader was also promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

    After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Nader paid Mr. Zamel a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million. There are conflicting accounts of the reason for the payment, but among other things, a company linked to Mr. Zamel provided Mr. Nader with an elaborate presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Mr. Trump’s victory.

    The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election. The interactions are a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, who was originally tasked with examining possible Trump campaign coordination with Russia in the election.

    Mr. Nader is cooperating with the inquiry, and investigators have questioned numerous witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Tel Aviv and elsewhere about what foreign help may have been pledged or accepted, and about whether any such assistance was coordinated with Russia, according to witnesses and others with knowledge of the interviews….

    Much, much more at the link.

  236. blf says

    Not exactly political, albeit politics does intrude, Physicist Kate Shaw: ‘Even in conservative places, you do not have to be in conflict with scientific ideas’:

    The Cern scientist on her dual role in studying quarks and helping to train a new generation of scientists from Palestine to Peru

    Kate Shaw is a physicist based at the University of Sussex, where she studies the data that pours out of the Atlas experiment, one of the huge detectors that forms part of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, in Geneva. She is also the founder of Physics Without Frontiers, a Unesco-backed organisation that runs lectures, workshops and schools in war-torn nations to help kindle an interest in science and help local recovery.


    I founded [Physics Without Frontiers] in 2012. I was working in Palestine — at the Birzeit University, near Ramallah on the West Bank. I gave a talk on the Large Hadron Collider and people suggested I come back. So a year later I came back with two Palestinian colleagues who were also working on the Atlas experiment and we started training students. It really grew because the quality of students is very high but they only have a master’s programme, not a PhD programme.


    You do not know who is going to be the next great person, the next Abdus Salam or Alan Turing. So it is our job as scientists to make sure that everyone has access to education and to be able to get involved in research no matter what country you are from. It cannot really be the luxury by the western, richer countries.


    […] It can get complicated — in Palestine in particular. With the West Bank there are fewer problems but in Gaza the political situation is disastrous. It has been under siege since 2005. They have three universities which are all doing some great physics. But the faculties there are completely isolated. They cannot leave or travel and the students we get really struggle. Sometimes they miss opportunities because they cannot get out. It is very frustrating.


    Hard lines: realities of life for scientists in the Gaza Strip
    ● While students in Gaza may apply for, and be offered opportunities on, courses in other parts of Palestine or other countries, they encounter a great number of regulatory hurdles before they can take them up. It is common for students to offered a number of places but be unable to transfer due to the refusal of the authorities to issue the relevant permits.

    ● Gaza students are often refused permits to attend scientific conferences in other parts of Palestine. […]

    ● On a practical basis, operating a science lab in Gaza is extremely challenging. The electricity supply to the strip is erratic and can last between four and eight hours a day, making it difficult to use electronic instruments and perform experiments.

    ● Border regulations mean that many of the materials required for science, particularly chemicals, are impossible for Gaza scientists to obtain. “The infrastructure of the laboratories is very bad because Israel considers that everything is dangerous to their security,” says Dr Rami Morjan of the Islamic University.

    ● Equipment is also hard to fund and import. Potential overseas funding partners are nervous about buying equipment for Gaza institutions because they know from experience that it may be destroyed in a bombing raid. […]

    Similar to the criticism of @178, this seems obfuscated. I rather suspect it should read “… destroyed by Israel’s bombing raids”.

    ● Gaza-based scientists who win grants for their research often end up losing the funding because they are unable to secure the equipment and materials needed to carry out their research because of the challenges outlined above.

  237. blf says

    Apparently, 20 March was « Journée de la Francophonie » so there’s been usual slew of hand-wringing about Franglais, for instance, Has France become ‘lazy’ about increasing Franglais?:

    Hacktivism, fashionista, queer, SUV, and dark net have all been officially added to France’s two main dictionaries this year. This is just the tip of the iceberg, with detox, startup, clubbing and chatbot also listed.

    The most surprising fact about these additions to ‘Le Petit Robert’ and ‘Le Petit Larousse’ (France’s two main dictionaries) has been the lack of uproar.

    A few years ago, there would have been a furore about Anglicisms being added to the language of Molière, Voltaire and Simone de Beauvoir. […]

    [… W]hy have the defenders of the French language remained quiet this year?

    President of the French Defence Association Didier Berberat, told French daily Le Matin: “I regret that people are using more and more French words, but if they are in everyday life, they should be in the dictionary. But it’s a shame as French equivalents exist or could be created. It’s down to a certain laziness.”

    MEP and defender of the French language Jean Romain […] explains that the battle to keep out English words often ended up with, “ridiculous French terms that no one used”.

    Yup. For instance, instead of “e-mail” the term is « courriel » which is formed from « courrier electronique ». I’ve never(?) seen either term used, with the possible exception of government paperwork.

    French MPs have already lowered the legal quota from 40% to 35% for national radio stations to play French language music after coming under increasing industry pressure. The quote [sic] was introduced to stop what the government saw as the “Anglo-Saxon cultural invasion”, but with more and more French artists such as Daft Punk now singing in English it is harder to argue the point from a cultural standpoint.

    Presumably due to the number of English-speaking yacht crewmembers in the area (and other reprobates, such as myself), the local cinema sometimes has a few showings of the VO (version originale) version of movies, as well as the VF (version française). Whist in principle the VO language doesn’t have to be English, I have no recollection of ever noticing that (I suspect they tend to be VOST (version originale sous-titrée, i.e., French subtitles)).

  238. says

    [Vice President Mike Pence] delivered a commencement address last weekend at Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian college in Michigan of notable significance in Republican politics, […] Faith in America, the vice president said, is “rising again” because of Trump and his administration.

    Pence added, “We live in a time when traditional values, even religious conviction, are increasingly marginalized by a secular popular culture — a time when it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign religious belief. I still believe with all my heart that faith in America is rising…. Religion in America isn’t receding — just the opposite. Faith is gaining new life with every passing day.” […]

    […] the only prominent political figure I can think who’s maligned others’ religious beliefs is Donald Trump — the Washington Post noted that there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest the vice president’s claims are mistaken.


    But whatever the cause for the societal shifts, the vice president’s assertions don’t stand up well to scrutiny.the latest survey from the Washington Post and ABC News highlighted the fact that there’s been a noticeable “rise in the number who profess no religion” over the last 15 years.

    It’d be a mistake to attribute these developments to Trump, just as it was a mistake for Pence to argue that the president and his administration is responsible for religion “rising again.” […]


  239. says

    Trump can’t spell his wife’s name … and is it possible that he doesn’t know where she is? Trump tweeted:

    Great to have our incredible First Lady back home in the White House. Melanie is feeling and doing really well. Thank you for all of your prayers and best wishes!

    Melania Trump was at her parent’s home in Potomac, Maryland at the time.

    Trump deleted the tweet with the misspelling and replaced it with a corrected tweet.

    Melania has since returned to the White House.

  240. says

    All the best people.

    A white candidate running for local office in Dallas, Texas admitted that a living trust he set up for his adult children several years ago contains a clause rewarding them for marrying within their race.

    Vickers “Vic” Cunningham, a former criminal district judge who is running for a seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court, acknowledged Friday in a videotaped interview that he inserted the offensive clause in the trust he set up in 2010 to dissuade his children from marrying someone who is not white. It also aims to discourage them from marrying a non-Christian or someone of the same sex. […]


  241. says

    Trump claims to champion women, and to support equal pay. He says those things, but his actions speak otherwise.

    Women employed by President Trump’s golf club in Turnberry, Scotland receive pay bonuses worth less than half of what men get, according to an internal audit.

    The average median bonus paid to men at Trump’s Scottish resort is £2,506 (US$3,375), compared to only £1,116 (US$1,503) paid women, a difference of 53.5 per cent, The Scotsman reported Saturday. […]

    the huge pay gap at Trump’s golf resort reflects poorly on the business executive-turned-president who has often sold himself as a longstanding champion of women in the workplace.

    The management at the Turnberry golf resort said the bonus gap was “due to the number of senior leadership roles undertaken by males,” with eight men in executive committee leadership positions compared to just two women.

    The golf resort’s reasoning is easily countered by the simple fact that the business has had years to recruit skilled women to fill these high-level positions.

    Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of Close the Gap, told The Scotsman that employers, as they are criticized for pay discrimination against women, are increasingly citing the fact that more men are in senior roles as a justification for the gap.

    “This feeds the misconception that having men in high-paid jobs and women in low-paid jobs is an inevitable outcome,” Allan said. […]


  242. says

    “Texas school shooter killed girl who turned down his advances and embarrassed him in class, her mother says”:

    …One of Pagourtzis’ classmates who died in the attack, Shana Fisher, “had 4 months of problems from this boy,” her mother, Sadie Rodriguez, wrote in a private message to the Los Angeles Times on Facebook. “He kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no.”

    Pagourtzis continued to get more aggressive, and she finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, Rodriguez said. “A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she wrote. “Shana being the first one.” Rodriguez didn’t say how she knew her daughter was the first victim.

    The gunman repeatedly taunted students during the attack, according to another harrowing account posted to Facebook by one survivor’s mother….

    “Texas shooting: Houston police chief ‘hits rock bottom’ on gun reform”:

    …”I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue. Please do not post anything about guns aren’t the problem and there’s little we can do,” Chief Acevedo said in his Facebook post.

    “This isn’t a time for prayers, and study and inaction, it’s a time for prayers, action and the asking of God’s forgiveness for our inaction (especially the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing),” he added.

    None of the victims has yet been identified by US authorities, but family members of the victims have spoken to media outlets. The embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC confirmed that exchange student Sabika Sheikh, 17, was among the dead.

    She had been on a special study abroad programme set up by the state department in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks to bring students from Muslim-majority nations to the US on a cultural exchange….

  243. says

    Remember the images of Trump with his hands on the glowing globe opening a supposed counter-terrorism computer center in Saudi Arabia? I think the responses here, calling women’s rights activists (see #314 above) traitors and telling people to stay out of it, are some of their handiwork.

  244. says

    I took a brief break from Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to read Stephen Greenblatt’s Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, which I very much enjoyed* and recommend. It’s a quick read, featuring not at all subtle allusions to contemporary characters.

    * Political psychology! The childhood roots of authoritarianism! Resistance pitfalls! What’s not to like?

  245. says

    “Lawmakers Propose To Extend Putin’s Term Limits As President”:

    Lawmakers in Chechnya submitted a proposal on Friday that would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to run for office in 2024, giving him another six years at Russia’s helm.

    A president cannot be elected to more than two consecutive terms, according to the country’s constitution. The proposed amendment would allow for a third consecutive term.

    The measure, posted online and addressed to State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, a former Putin aide, said that a “complex external political situation” makes it important to have “continuity of state power.”

    The proposal doesn’t come as a surprise to Alina Polyakova, a Russian foreign policy expert at The Brookings Institution. “Whether he is prime minister of agriculture, he will still run the government from the shadows,” she told NPR. “The surprise is not whether Putin will try to stay, the surprise will be in how the Kremlin will do it.”

    Polyakova thinks it is inevitable that he will want to stay in power, if for no other reason than self-protection.

    “He has made a lot of enemies. For him to leave, he would need the kind of protection and security that he gave to [former President Boris] Yeltsin in 1999. He protected his entire so-called family from prosecution and from being killed,” said Polyakova. “Putin has been in power much longer and he’s stolen a lot more money, so he’s in a much more vulnerable position. If he leaves power then that’s almost a death sentence.”

  246. says

    Thread on the Saudi state’s attacks on feminists.

    “The Saudi regime has just declared war on women’s rights activism, put *all* of the country’s leading women’s rights activist in jail, and threatened the rest into silence by threatening their families. This is a crisis situation. The survival of Saudi feminism is at stake.

    The women’s rights activists are being charged with *treason*, and there’s an intense character assassination campaign against them now being waged in state media, official newspapers, and government-friendly social media accounts.

    We need coverage. We need progressive voices to cover this. We need large accounts to cover this. We need celebrities to cover this. We need the media to cover this. Please flag them down until they pay attention….”

  247. says

    “Mueller Probe Expands to Israeli Entrepreneur With U.A.E. Ties”:

    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is looking more closely into Middle Eastern involvement during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, as it is now exploring the role of an Israeli entrepreneur with ties to a Gulf monarchy, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Mr. Mueller has been conducting interviews about the work of Joel Zamel, an Australia-born Israeli businessman with experience in social media and intelligence gathering. Mr. Zamel is the founder of several private consulting firms—including a crowdsourced analysis firm called Wikistrat as well as the Psy Group, a secretive private intelligence firm with the motto “shape reality.”

    A subpoena concerning Mr. Zamel’s work, but not issued to Mr. Zamel, was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal….

  248. says

    Nahal Toosi: “I asked @StateDept for comment on these arrests from 2 DAYS ago & – surprise – this is all I get: ‘We’ve seen press reports of the arrest of several activists in Saudi Arabia. We are monitoring these events but have no further comment at this time’.”

  249. says

    Well done, Kushner’s classmates.

    “Alas, our most infamous class member probably won’t even attend the Reunion; life’s busy where you’re unwittingly shooting the History Channel documentaries of tomorrow.”

  250. says

    Joy Reid’s segment, (the one discussing the fact that Donald Trump Junior met with a “gulf emissary” and others offering to help the Trump campaign), was good. “The crown princes [from Saudi Arabia and U.A.E.] were eager to help Trump win the election.”

    As has been noted up-thread, the main players here are:
    – Erik Prince, Blackwater Founder and brother of Betsy DeVos
    – George Nader, emissary for two Arab princes
    – Joel Zamel, an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation, motto: “Shape Reality.”
    – Donald Trump Junior


    Clint Watts, Malcom Nance, Jennifer Rubin, and Matthew Miller are on Joy’s Reid’s discussion panel. The video is about 17 minutes long.

    Clint Watts, “[…] can’t tell fact from fiction.”

    Clint Watts, “The president and his team have made themselves the filter for their audience, and they do that [in part] through capitalizing key word [like Trump does in his tweets].”

    See SC’s comment 342.

  251. says

    Follow-up to comment 361.

    I forgot to mention that Stephen Miller was also in that August meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader, Joel Zamel, and Donald Trump Junior.

  252. says

    Trump’s tweet storm from this morning:

    I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
    Things are really getting ridiculous. The Failing and Crooked (but not as Crooked as Hillary Clinton) @nytimes has done a long & boring story indicating that the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt has found nothing on Russia & me so now they are looking at the rest of the World!
    ….At what point does this soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt, composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years, STOP! They have found no Collussion with Russia, No Obstruction, but they aren’t looking at the corruption…
    …in the Hillary Clinton Campaign where she deleted 33,000 Emails, got $145,000,000 while Secretary of State, paid McCabes wife $700,000 (and got off the FBI hook along with Terry M) and so much more. Republicans and real Americans should start getting tough on this Scam.
    Now that the Witch Hunt has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the World, they should easily be able to take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party. Don’t worry about Dems FISA Abuse, missing Emails or Fraudulent Dossier!
    What ever happened to the Server, at the center of so much Corruption, that the Democratic National Committee REFUSED to hand over to the hard charging (except in the case of Democrats) FBI? They broke into homes & offices early in the morning, but were afraid to take the Server?
    ….and why hasn’t the Podesta brother been charged and arrested, like others, after being forced to close down his very large and successful firm? Is it because he is a VERY well connected Democrat working in the Swamp of Washington, D.C.?

    From Matt Shuham:

    […] The article did not say, as Trump claimed, that Mueller’s investigation had found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    And aside from his claim that the Times’ article was “long & boring,” none of Trump’s tweets — chock full of oft-used attacks and conspiracy theories — addressed the paper’s reporting.

    A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, acknowledged to the Times that the meeting occurred: “[P]rior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel,” he said. “They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”


  253. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] We are now faced with the stunning circumstance in which a sitting President is conspiring with friendly members of Congress against his own Justice Department and FBI, trying to out an FBI informant in order to protect himself from the law. (The Times and the Post pieces both contain enough information about the informant that anyone reasonably knowledgable able the DC foreign policy world could determine the man’s identity.)

    Indeed, the name of a man who appears to be that informant has already been circulating for days in the rightwing press – apparently courtesy of a leak from Rep. Devin Nunes. […]Probably more important, recruiting other informants will undoubtedly be more difficult when it becomes clear that domestic political fights in the US lead to informants being publicly exposed.

    These revelations point to a deep sediment of irony and bad faith underlying all the storms and argument over the fairness of the Russia probe. Far from ‘spying’ on the President or acting out of some anti-Trump bias, every new detail we learn underscores the combination of luck Trump had and special treatment he received at every stage of the investigation. Even the use of an informant, as opposed to simply having FBI agents question operatives in the Trump campaign, was part of an effort to keep the very existence of the investigation a secret rather than having it dribble out into the news with all the negative repercussions that would obviously have had on Trump’s campaign.

    […] the steady fire of pro-Trump propaganda can affect the thinking even of those not at all sympathetic to the President. […] This is what counter-intelligence operations do. Finding out whether a hostile foreign power has taken control of a campaign to elect the next President is probably near the top of the risks counter-intelligence agencies are designed to disrupt. […]

    Everyone needs to wake up and realize that this is not a black eye on the FBI or President Obama. This is what counter-intelligence agencies do: they investigate and try to disrupt efforts of foreign powers to infiltrate and subvert the country, its government, its assets. In 2016, the FBI and the DOJ were faced with just such a situation at the highest level with a hostile foreign power. They went to extreme lengths to keep the probe confidential so as not to impact the presidential campaign. President Trump and his allies are now using the gravity of the threat and the efforts to protect the President as somehow facts in their favor. […]

  254. says

    Good news:

    The pace of new voter registrations among young people in crucial states is accelerating, a signal that school shootings this year — and the anger and political organizing in their wake — may prove to be more than ephemeral displays of activism.

    They could even help shape the outcome of the midterm elections. If voters in their teens and 20s vote in greater numbers than usual, as many promised during nationwide marches for gun control this spring, the groundswell could affect close races in key states like Arizona and Florida, where there will be competitive races for governor, the Senate and a number of House districts in November. […]

    In addition to the registration figures, new polling of younger voters from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics found a significant jump from two years ago in those who say their involvement will make a difference. Such optimism indicates a voter is more likely to actually turn out. […]

    NY Times link

  255. says

    Bad news, especially for people living Puerto Rico:

    […] The Lifeline program, created in 1985 during the Reagan administration, is the only federal program that helps connect poor and marginalized communities to telecommunications services. Lifeline provides access to affordable broadband and voice for nearly 13 million Americans by providing a modest subsidy of $9.25 a month to help ease the high-cost of communications for individuals and families living on the margins, […]

    Despite the positive role Lifeline played to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Trump administration’s FCC has proposed changes that would sharply alter the purpose and scope of the program, further antagonizing hurricane victims who are still struggling to rebuild.

    Before the catastrophic 2017 hurricane season, over 500,000 island households relied on the Lifeline program to stay connected. After the storms, 95.6 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico were out of service. Although the number has been reduced to 4.2 percent of cell sites, access to Lifeline is instrumental in helping Puerto Ricans recover and rebuild.

    The FCC’s proposals cruelly and inexplicably threaten to disconnect over 369,000 Lifeline customers in Puerto Rico alone.

    The FCC’s justification for these proposals relies on the pretext that the changes would stimulate investment in broadband networks; but there simply is no evidence that these changes would bring such a result. […]

    What is abundantly clear is that the FCC proposals would not only result in unnecessary hardships to Puerto Ricans, Texans, and Floridians impacted by the 2017 hurricanes, but particularly harm low-income Americans across the United States. […]

    The Hill link

  256. says

    NRA president blames Santa Fe school shooting on Ritalin

    Oliver North thinks the solution is 5 metal detectors for each school, not action on guns.

    There was no way to detect a firearm being brought into the building [at Santa Fe High School].

    If you want to stop the carnage, look, you’re not gonna fix it by taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens. You’ve got to fix it in a way that hardens the place sufficiently that those kids are safe inside the door. If that means five metal detectors getting in and out of the high school, you get five metal detectors.

    The problem we’ve got is we’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease. And the disease, in this case, isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence, they’ve been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male and they’re young teenagers in most cases.

    Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten. Now I’m certainly not a doctor, I’m a marine, but I can see those kinds of things happening […].

  257. says

    What ever happened to the Server, at the center of so much Corruption, that the Democratic National Committee REFUSED to hand over to the hard charging (except in the case of Democrats) FBI? They broke into homes & offices early in the morning, but were afraid to take the Server?

    It makes me angry that he keeps repeating this nonsense and no one points out that the server was related to a crime in which Democrats were the VICTIMS.

  258. says

    SC @369, Moreover, the FBI was satisfied with the forensics they received on the server, and with the responses they got from Hillary Clinton.

    Here’s what’s happening: repetition is Trump’s weapon. And it works.

    Recent forums featuring Trump voters reveal that almost all of them call the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” and that they still believe that Hillary Clinton committed crimes for which she should be locked up.

    Trump now has Rudi Giuliani on the Repetition Team. Repetition works to obscure all of Trump’s lies, his misunderstandings and/or ignorance. Trump has created his own reality.

    Russian bots and trolls, (in addition to Trump’s Repetition Team), are also still helping to magnify the lies.

    Mostly, though, it is Trump and his Twitter account as repeated and magnified by rightwing news. If you talk to Trump voters, you will find cult followers.

  259. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed in an interview Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had assured him that the obstruction of justice portion of Mueller’s probe would conclude by Sept. 1. […]

    “You don’t want another repeat of the 2016 election where you get contrary reports at the end and you don’t know how it affected the election,” Giuliani said, referring to then-FBI Director James Comey’s reopening of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server days before the 2016 presidential election.

    Giuliani claimed Mueller had shared his schedule for the obstruction probe “about two weeks ago,” […] “amid negotiations over whether Mr. Trump will be questioned by investigators.”

    Allowing for preparation time, Giuliani told the Times, Trump could be questioned by Mueller’s team around July 4th.


    Not believing a word that Giuliani says.

  260. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Not believing a word that Giuliani says.

    Me neither.

  261. says

    Jonathan Swan:

    BREAKING: DoJ’s Sarah Isgur Flores: The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence…

    “investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election. As always, the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct…

    “The Deputy Attorney General issued the following statement: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

  262. says

    The other dangerous aspect of these sorts of concessions is that their public refusal to accede to such outrageous demands in the past few months have likely inspired others to stand strong in the face of pressure (see #176 above). This tends to have the opposite effect.

  263. says

    UGH, MSNBC – correct your chyron. Rosenstein didn’t say “if anyone infiltrated or surveilled campaign, we need to ‘take appropriate action’.” He said if they did that for inappropriate purposes. Big difference.

  264. says

    SC @376, right.

    “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.

    Trump assumed that the entirely appropriate FBI inquiry into the Russia contacts of two campaign officials was inappropriate. I don’t think anyone, including the FBI, can convince Trump otherwise.

    Papadopoulos and Page drew attention to themselves.

  265. says


    Trump assumed that the entirely appropriate FBI inquiry into the Russia contacts of two campaign officials was inappropriate. I don’t think anyone, including the FBI, can convince Trump otherwise.

    I don’t think Trump really believes any of his string of claims, but, more importantly, he would continue to insist on them in the full knowledge that they’re false. It’s all about self-protection and power.

    Papadopoulos and Page drew attention to themselves.

    That’s another of their goals – to shift attention away from the solid grounds for the investigation.

    Papadopoulos had extensive contacts with Russian operatives, told an Australian diplomat that these contacts had told him that the Kremlin had Clinton emails (which it turned out they did), and later destroyed evidence of these relationships and lied to the FBI about them. This is all laid out in his indictment and his guilty plea, and he’s been a cooperating witness (likely himself wearing a wire) for almost a year.

    Page apparently told Russians under surveillance about the FBI’s warnings to him. A FISA warrant, which has a high standard of evidence that someone is a Russian agent, was not only granted for him, but extended three times by top officials and by judges, many of them Republicans, which required showing evidence each time that the surveillance was producing new evidence of his actions as a Russian agent. He also told very obvious lies about his trips to Russia and interactions with Russian officials to the House Intel Committee. Anyone who thinks Carter Page is innocent or that he’s just going to walk away from this isn’t reasonably evaluating even the limited public evidence.

  266. says

    I’m not sure I’ve even heard the faintest pretext for the demand that Trump/Nunes learn more about the FBI source, before Trump is interviewed or otherwise.

  267. says

    I’m re-reading the Carter Page House Intel transcript* to see if there was something I was forgetting about his time in London, and I was reminded of his very intriguing jaunt to Budapest in August 2016 (pp. 181-194), during which Page met with the Hungarian ambassador and other Hungarian officials, although he claims he can’t really remember who they were or what they talked about. But when he’s asked if the ambassador discussed other members of the Trump campaign he volunteers that, yes, she did mention knowing Joseph Schmitz – the von Steuben-obsessed Blackwater stooge from the podcast @ #350.

    * It’s still pretty fun. He’s such a slippery eel, and Swalwell’s “Dr. Page, there’s no question”s and several of the exchanges still make me laugh.

    ** She’s since been replaced. “When asked about the news by ATV, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said: ‘I’m not concerned with women’s issues’.” He’s a real prize.

  268. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    OMG this friggin’ family.

    Excuse while I take a moment to pick my jaw up off the ground.
    Musically, I never got better than a technician. Bravo to those real artists!

  269. KG says

    Now I’m certainly not a doctor, I’m a marineconvicted criminal – Oliver North quoted by Lynna, OM@367

    FTFY, Olly!

  270. says

    “Pompeo set to unveil US “Plan B” to confront Iran”:

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will unveil the administration’s “Plan B” for countering Iran on Monday, an idea that some critics call a “pipe dream,” while others question whether the administration is coming clean on its goals for the country.

    The plan, administration officials say, is to assemble a global coalition to pressure Iran into negotiations on “a new security architecture” that goes beyond its nuclear program. Pompeo’s address, his first major foreign policy speech as secretary, will take place at 9 a.m., ET, at the conservative Heritage Foundation policy group.

    “We need a new framework that’s going to address the totality of Iran’s threats,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning told reporters Friday. “This involves a range of things around its nuclear program – missiles, proliferating missiles and missile technology, its support for terrorists, and its aggressive and violent activities that fuel civil wars in Syria and Yemen.”

    But many former officials, foreign diplomats and analysts are skeptical, both of the chances a broader pact can come together, and of the administration’s interest in diplomacy with Iran.

    US officials say the White House will aim to roll back Iran’s influence in the region through this new maximum pressure campaign. But people close to the administration say the end goal of the new plan seems to vary depending on who is doing the talking.

    But the decision to pull out of the deal, along with the Trump administration’s approach to Europe, means sanctions might not be as effective this time, making it all the harder to realize the goal of a broader deal, many analysts said.

    A maximum pressure campaign requires a unified coalition, they argue. Russia and China aren’t particularly inclined to help out with a second Iran nuclear deal, having voiced their displeasure at the US decision to leave the original agreement.

    And Trump’s rejection of the JCPOA has left close allies in Europe angry and alienated, particularly as he has told them that the US will sanction their companies should they continue to honor contracts with Iranian businesses.

    That declaration has deepened European uneasiness about the administration’s commitment to the trans-Atlantic relationship, particularly as Trump is already threatening tariffs against key European industries, a decision due June 1.

    And it has created resentment due to a perception of US bullying, as Trump administration officials explain that when faced with the prospect of US sanctions, Europe will buckle under and choose the US over small agreements with Iran.

    Indeed, European leaders have already said they are working on enacting a statute that protects European companies that continue to do business with Iran. They are also looking at having the European Investment Bank provide a funding stream for Iran’s Central Bank.

    “It’s hard to overstate how angry and resentful the Europeans are,” said Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of the Brookings’ program on Foreign Policy.

    Many analysts have asked why Iran, Europe, or countries such as North Korea should trust the US in general or this administration in particular to be a reliable interlocutor if it is willing to walk away from established agreements.

    Others, such as Maloney, and former Obama administration officials and foreign diplomats involved in the Iran talks, say it would have been impossibly unwieldy to negotiate a deal that encompassed all the issues the US and Europe had with Iran.

    Some observers, such as Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, don’t believe the administration is negotiating in good faith, particularly as Bolton is on the record, speaking a year ago to an Iranian dissident group, advocating an overthrow of Iran’s government.

    “What I’m seeing is a strategy to drive this toward a major confrontation,” Parsi said. “What I think the Trump administration is doing is putting the pieces into place to have a major confrontation with Iran.”…

  271. says

    “Confusion and squabbling undermine Trump’s steps forward on the world stage”:

    On North Korea, the government of dictator Kim Jong Un threatened to walk away from a planned summit after bellicose words from national security adviser John Bolton — who was then publicly overruled by President Trump.

    On China, trade negotiations have been undermined by fierce infighting among Trump’s own advisers — including a profane shouting match in Beijing between two members of the economic team.

    And the pattern is evident on domestic policies as well. Trump has undercut his own aides and Republican congressional leaders with sudden threats to shut down the government over his promised wall at the border with Mexico.

    As an emboldened Trump reaches for historic triumphs in hopes of bolstering his party’s prospects in November’s midterm elections, he finds himself repeatedly stymied by his old patterns of chaos and contradiction.

    Trump’s agenda has been undermined by mixed messages and internal squabbles from within his administration — all compounded by the president’s own lack of discipline and his inconsistent ideology.

    Amy Zegart, co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said “the one consistent policy that Trump seems to have is that America is getting a raw deal in the world, but how to address that raw deal varies day to day and hour to hour. It is enormously important to have message discipline, and this administration is fundamentally unable to have it.”*

    That lack of discipline has been on vivid display over North Korea….

    * Of course they can’t have it, because the belief in a raw deal isn’t a factual assessment but a reflection of Trump’s psychological issues. He’s been making those claims since at least the Reagan administration; it’s just a projection of his personal psychology onto world affairs. (That he often publicly claims that the – “supposed,” “so-called” – allies of the US in particular are taking advantage is in part his doing Putin’s bidding or Putin psychologically manipulating him (“You know you can’t trust the Europeans, right? They’ve been screwing the US for decades. You and I are men of the world – we understand that everyone’s out for themselves and that alliances are just a means for them to freeload.”).

  272. says

    “RNC paid nearly half a million dollars to law firm representing Hope Hicks and others in Russia probes”:

    The Republican National Committee paid nearly half a million dollars to a law firm that represents former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others in the Russia investigations, according to a new federal filing.

    The RNC’s $451,780 payment to Trout Cacheris & Janis adds to the mounting legal fees associated with the investigations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and several congressional committees of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Hicks hired Robert Trout, founder of the law firm, as her personal attorney in September, according to news reports. The report of the payments for legal and compliance services, contained in the Federal Election Commission report filed Sunday, is the first public disclosure of RNC payments to the law firm since Hicks hired Trout.

    Three lawyers at the firm represent people in addition to Hicks in the investigations by Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees, according to the firm’s website….

    Last year, the RNC began tapping a pool of money stockpiled for election recounts and other legal matters to pay the ballooning legal fees of Trump and his associates drawn into the Russia investigations….

  273. says

    Trump this morning is attacking and lying about John Brennan on Twitter.

    Susan Hennessey: “Trump slimes the deeply popular former CIA Director while simultaneously insulting the intelligence community generally on the morning he is headed to Langley to swear in a new director.”

  274. blf says

    This review of another book on hair furor’s mob / Russia connections ends with an interesting bit of speculation (which is new to at least me), Trump/Russia review: Le Carré meets Mario Puzo in Moscow and Manhattan:

    [In Trump/Russia: a Definitive History, Seth] Hettena also does the standard review of the contents of the Steele dossier […]. He quotes experts who are skeptical of the most salacious allegation, concerning the prostitutes Trump allegedly met with in a $13,000-a-night suite at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow.

    “Sex stuff comes up a lot and it’s often nonsense,” one Washington attorney who often hires private investigators told the author.

    [… T]he novelist with the best credentials to evaluate the Steele dossier is undoubtedly John le Carré, the author of all the finest cold war thrillers, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

    And Le Carré has said on NPR that he believes “it’s perfectly possible that Trump was taken into what I call a honey trap — that he had ladies found for him, and he misbehaved in Russia.”

    The full Le Carré quote from the NPR transcript, Novelist John Le Carré Reflects On His Own ‘Legacy’ Of Spying (Sept-2017, link embedded in above excerpt):

    Let’s look, first of all, at the operation influence, if you like, and how that’s exerted, what we suspect the Russians are doing, not only in the United States, but they did in Britain for the referendum, maybe, in Britain for the election. They certainly interfered in Macron’s election in France. So who are these forces? And what is really spooky, I think, and profoundly disturbing is they come from the West as well as the East — that there are oligarchs in the West who are so far to the right that they make a kind of natural cause with those on the other side of the world. Both of them have in common a great contempt for the ordinary conduct of democracy.

    They want to diminish it. They see it as their enemy. They see — they’ve made a dirty word of liberalism — one of the most inviting words in politics. They’ve — and so they’re closing in on the same target from different points of view. That’s the first thing. So whether they’re called Cambridge Analytica, whether they’ve got some spooky name and they’re hidden away in the Ukraine, they’re actually doing much the same job. They’re undermining the decent processes of democracy, and that’s having its effect. It’s had its effect in Europe, in Hungary, in Poland. And I think it’s had a quite disturbing effect in my own country. […]

    Now, as to what is happening in the other areas of Russian behavior and Mr Trump’s association — there, I think we follow the money trail. I think it’s perfectly possible that Trump was taken into what I call a honey trap — that he had ladies found for him, and he misbehaved in Russia. I don’t think — if that film was shown tomorrow worldwide, Trump would get away with it. People would say, well, boys will be boys. Or they would say the different parts of the body in the video don’t add up; this is all fake stuff. And 35 experts would testify to that — so wouldn’t get any distance on that.

    But on the money, that’s a deep and persistent theme in Trump’s business affairs. It’s gone on for a long, long time. It relates, also, to a great extent to property held in the United States, which brings the thing closer to home. And it relates, also, to Mr Trump’s family.


    The power of oligarchs in Russia, what the oligarchs have lent Trump directly or indirectly for his enterprises, the protection they’ve given him in far places — but none of that will play so well for the downfall of Trump as the domestic stuff, as the properties that he owns around America — how they’ve been bought, who they’ve been bought by, in what sums, whether the sums were actually consonant, whether they were gross, whether they look like some kind of backhander or bribe, and the extraordinary number of Russians with criminal records or Eastern Europeans with criminal records who frequent Trump’s company.

    [… R]emember that Putin, when he was running the KGB from Dresden in East Germany, was a master of kompromat. So when he wanted to obtain a Western diplomat, a Western official, a target of some kind, he would surround them. He would tempt them. He would set stuff up. He would fake a background. They couldn’t deny whatever it was.


    So I think the kompromat, if it’s taken place, has taken place very largely through Trump’s own endeavors to raise money in all sorts of dark places. And together, all those efforts amount to a self-compromising activity, which the Russians have embraced. I think they have him by the short hairs.

  275. says

    “Roman Abramovich thought to be caught up in UK visa crackdown”:

    The Chelsea football club owner, Roman Abramovich, appears to have been caught up in a government crackdown on wealthy investors coming to the UK after the Salisbury poisoning, further increasing tensions between Britain and Russia.

    Downing Street confirmed it was taking a fresh look at tier 1 visas, the type the Russian oligarch is understood to hold, which allow anyone who invests more than £2m in the British economy to stay for 40 months.

    Responding to reports of the delay to Abramovich’s visa, Moscow claimed Russian businesses often encountered “unfair and unfriendly” actions when applying to come to the UK.

    No 10 confirmed the government was tightening the rules on Russian investors who wanted to stay in the UK. Last month, Amber Rudd, the then home secretary, announced a review of investment visas.

    The prime minister’s official spokesman said he would not discuss individual cases but did not rule out a link between Abramovich’s failure to renew his visa and the crackdown on the visa category.

    A Labour MP on the foreign affairs select committee, Chris Bryant, said he regarded the delay in granting Abramovich a visa as “a sign that the card of Putin and his allies is finally being marked”.

    He added that with the imminent passage through parliament of the sanctions bill, it would be possible to put those close to Putin on an open list either for sanctions, or visa refusal. “It is best this is done as openly and transparently as possible, with carrots and sticks for good behaviour,” he said.

  276. says

    “Advising Bolton Is a ‘Shadow N.S.C.’”:

    In the weeks after President Trump chose John Bolton to be his third national security adviser in March, Mr. Bolton, a veteran of the George W. Bush State Department whose bellicose manner kept him from a high-level job at the beginning of the Trump administration, engaged in his own speeded-up transition process, aided by a handful of longtime associates.

    Drawn from the world of conservative politics, international consulting and defense contracting, and working out of the downtown Washington offices of Mr. Bolton’s political organizations, the group of advisers provided advice on National Security Council operations, while helping to vet prospective new hires for views that would be compatible with his own.

    Nearly two months into Mr. Bolton’s tenure, some people familiar with the N.S.C. say the influence of his associates can be seen in the agency’s effort to crackdown on leaks, as well as an exodus of agency staff and a roster of candidates now under consideration to take their place, and have taken to calling the associates a “shadow N.S.C.”

    One of Mr. Bolton’s longtime associates, Charles M. Kupperman, a former Reagan administration official and defense contracting executive, has taken a temporary leadership post on the N.S.C., while at least three others — Frederick H. Fleitz, Sarah Tinsley and David Wurmser — are believed to be under consideration for posts.

    Mr. Bolton’s continued reliance on longtime associates in either informal or temporary capacities at the N.S.C. has raised concerns among government watchdog organizations and N.S.C. veterans and scholars, who say it raises questions of conflicts of interest, and creates an echo chamber of identical views with little room for dissent at the agency charged with coordinating policy throughout the government’s military, foreign policy and intelligence communities and synthesizing the best advice for the president.

    “Very much like the president, Bolton has picked a small coterie of people from past lives who look more like cronies and buddies than they do the array of senior experts on different issues that past national security advisers have brought in,” said David J. Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official who wrote a definitive history of the National Security Council.

    Rather than fulfilling Mr. Trump’s promise that he would fill his administration with “the best people,” Mr. Rothkopf said, the president has got “this highly controversial national security adviser who has never crossed a bridge he hasn’t burned behind him, who is surrounding himself with what appears to be a second-tier group of advisers, who have spent a disproportionate amount of time on the swamp side of things — as consultants or working on his extreme political projects.”

    People familiar with Mr. Bolton’s cadre of advisers say that arguably the most influential among them is a low-profile 64-year-old consultant named Matthew C. Freedman,*…

    Also complicating Mr. Bolton’s transition back into government was a network of advocacy groups that are linked to major donors, political figures and interest groups seeking to influence the Trump administration’s foreign policy.

    Mr. Bolton also is close to the Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, an influential hawk and supporter of Israel from whom Mr. Bolton has sought assistance for his political ventures….

    * “After his early foray in government, Mr. Freedman went on to become a foreign lobbyist working with Paul Manafort in the 1980s and 1990s for sometimes unsavory but well-paying foreign leaders, including Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine strongman….”

  277. blf says

    In Ozland, apparently there’s been a string of wafe-theft scandals in restaurants (and the hospitality industry in general). First Dog on the Moon on Who will be the Celebrity Restaurant Defalcator of the Year? (cartoon): “The winner will be treated like a hero on TV even though they are sometimes ripping off low paid workers!”

    A bit on the situation, Online union launched to fight ‘wage theft’ and harassment of hospitality workers:

    A survey of 624 workers conducted by United Voice last year estimated 76% of hospitality businesses were underpaying their staff. In recent months, high-profile restaurants have become embroiled in wage theft scandals involving allegations of underpayment of workers […]

    And, Unions call for tough new penalties after restaurants accused of ripping off staff:

    Underpayment of superannuation and wage theft are so common in the hospitality industry that unions are calling on state governments to introduce tough new penalties that would make ripping off staff a criminal offence.


    The acting fair work ombudsman, Kristen Hannah, said she was concerned that cashback schemes were being used by unscrupulous operators in an attempt to get around record-keeping laws and disguise serious underpayment of wages.

    “It is hard to see a legitimate reason why an employer would require employees to be regularly paying back significant parts of their wage,” she said.


  278. blf says

    SC@408, Yes, it is a thing. Technically, it is called a challenge coin, albeit apparently presidential ones are a fairly new development (see link). The coin hair furor had redesigned recently — remove the States’s motto, replace it with make america great again, and so on — is another example.

  279. blf says

    I don’t know precisely what what suggested — I haven’t been able to find a report — but apparently yet another magical idea for the Ireland–N.Ireland land border serious brexit problem is to fix tracking devices to lorries. Then what I don’t know. In any case, it makes absolutely no fecking sense, since the concern is the cargo not the trucks; on a trip from A to B the cargo may be carried by several different vehicles (and even go by train or plane or similar at some point). Truckers in N.Ireland have just pointed this out in no uncertain terms, Tracking lorries won’t solve Irish border issue, hauliers say (some obvious Tpyos offerings in the original corrected (not marked)):

    Freight Trade Association tells David Davis idea of fitting tracking devices to vehicles is a ‘non-starter’

    The use of tracking devices on lorries crossing the Irish border after Brexit would be pointless, the Brexit secretary, David Davis, has been told during a hastily arranged visit to Northern Ireland.

    The Freight Trade Association told Davis that knowing when a lorry crossed the border would serve no purpose and that the idea was not a potential solution to the problematic border issue.

    “We told him that it doesn’t work and is a non-starter,” said Seamus Lehany, the head of the Freight Trade Association in Northern Ireland.

    “A haulier could lift a full trailer in Birmingham but it could contain 40 different consignments from 40 different producers. Then it comes to Northern Ireland and is broken down with mixed loads on different trucks going to different places, so a tracking device telling you the original truck had crossed a border doesn’t tell you anything,” said Lehany.


    One haulier at the meeting, William Dennison, said Davis repeatedly told them there would not be any infrastructure on the border. “If there was going to be no hard border why were we having a meeting?” said Dennison, who transports furniture across Ireland […]


    The FTA also pointed out that an invisible border raised the prospect of Northern Ireland becoming a smuggler’s paradise for goods that were cheaper in the UK.

    More than that. It’s also a route for stuff & people banned or otherwise restricted in the EU to enter the EU almost hassle-free. And for stuff from the EU to be creatively smuggled out, again almost hassle-free. And for people on the run in the EU to leave the jurisdiction.

    Jennifer McKeever, the president of the Derry chamber of commerce, said: [&hellp] “They need to understand businesses are people: people run businesses, their customers are people. We asked them to try to understand this and suggested if they imagined what would happen if they put a border down the middle of Glasgow or Leeds or Birmingham, they could get to understand what the impact of a border is.”

  280. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    It used to be that the quintessential definition of chutzpah was killing your parents and asking the court for mercy because you are an orphan. Trumplethinskin saw that definition and said, “Hold my beer!”

  281. Oggie. says

    That Presidential Challenge Coin (from SC’s link at 408) reminds me an awful lot of the pins and coins I collected back when the Soviet Union was falling to pieces. It really looks like an old Communist Bloc commemorative piece.

    And it is a disgusting piece of pandering. Peace talks? Bullshit.

  282. says

    Follow-up to SC @ 395.

    Gorsuch wrote that despicable ruling.

    The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that companies can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to prohibit workers from banding together to take legal action over workplace issues. The vote was 5 to 4, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority. The court’s decision could affect some 25 million employment contracts.

    NY Times link

  283. says

    More follow-up to SC’s comment 395.

    From Helaine Olen:

    This ruling is a significant blow to the #MeToo movement, as well as to people attempting to combat wage theft and on-the-job discrimination. “It drastically tilts the playing field in favor of employers,” Ceilidh Gao, a staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project, told me. “It is a backdoor way to repeal workplace laws.”

  284. says

    Portents of disaster on the horizon:

    […] aides who have recently left the administration say Mr. Trump has resisted the kind of detailed briefings about enrichment capabilities, plutonium reprocessing, nuclear weapons production and missile programs that Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush regularly sat through. […]

    NY Times link