Wednesday Reads: Dumb Place

It doesn’t stop…

If I close my eyes, sometimes a state of denial takes over and I feel a sense of comfort. Then I come back to reality….

Fuck Bernie Sanders.

The latest debate is over:

Take a look at this thread…

Other candidates can be found at the link above. It is a cute response to a monstrous situation.

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Was I the only one who felt that the moderators where giving Bloomberg a pass about all this, it was a disgusting push against Warren when it clearly needs to be addressed. At the same time however, Bernie Sanders has his own problems with anti-woman statements and actions. Warren needs to be consistent with her criticism. You can’t go after one misogynistic asshole, and leave the other alone.

Finally, I think this would be a good look for her:

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‘Tell Me About It, Stud,’ Says Pleather-Clad Elizabeth Warren On Debate Stage In Effort To Court Bad Boy Demographic

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This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: The Corona Virus and Finally Vetting Bernie

Good Morning!!

I had a flu shot in January, and since then I’ve had a week-long bout a stomach flu and now I have a full-blown case of the flu. I came down with it on Saturday morning and since then I’ve had a low grade fever that comes and goes along with a hacking cough, headaches, ear pain, and muscle aches. I felt better yesterday, and my temperature was normal until late last night. Now it’s already over 100 again.

I’m really not looking forward to catching the corona virus, but according to James Hamblin at The Atlantic, we are all likely to get it eventually: You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus. Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.

Coronaviruses are similar to influenza viruses in that they are both single strands of RNA. Four coronaviruses commonly infect humans, causing colds. These are believed to have evolved in humans to maximize their own spread—which means sickening, but not killing, people. By contrast, the two prior novel coronavirus outbreaks—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, named for where the first outbreak occurred)—were picked up from animals, as was H5N1. These diseases were highly fatal to humans. If there were mild or asymptomatic cases, they were extremely few. Had there been more of them, the disease would have spread widely. Ultimately, SARS and MERS each killed fewer than 1,000 people.

COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways. Last week, 14 Americans tested positive on a cruise ship in Japan despite feeling fine—the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all.

Hamblin explains that this COVID-19 is likely to spread and then keep coming back every year, because it is contagious even when people have no symptoms and it doesn’t kill off most of the people who get it.

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”

Containment is the first step in responding to any outbreak. In the case of COVID-19, the possibility (however implausible) of preventing a pandemic seemed to play out in a matter of days. Starting in January, China began cordoning off progressively larger areas, radiating outward from Wuhan City and eventually encapsulating some 100 million people. People were barred from leaving home, and lectured by drones if they were caught outside. Nonetheless, the virus has now been found in 24 countries….

Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”

The New York Times: ‘Recipe for a Massive Viral Outbreak’: Iran Emerges as a Worldwide Threat.

Religious pilgrims, migrant workers, businessmen, soldiers and clerics all flow constantly across Iran’s frontiers, often crossing into countries with few border controls, weak and ineffective governments and fragile health systems.

Now, as it struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Iran is also emerging as the second focal point after China for the spread of the disease. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates — even one in Canada — have all been traced to Iran, sending tremors of fear rippling out from Kabul to Beirut.

The Middle East is in many ways the perfect place to spawn a pandemic, experts say, with the constant circulation of both Muslim pilgrims and itinerant workers who might carry the virus. Iran’s economy has been strangled by sanctions, its people have lost trust in their government and its leaders are isolated from much of the world, providing little clarity about the extent of the epidemic.

Civil wars or years of unrest have shattered the health systems of several neighboring countries, like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. And most of the region is governed largely by authoritarians with poor track records at providing public transparency, accountability and health services.

“It is a recipe for a massive viral outbreak,” said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the former founding executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on H.I.V./AIDS.

An even more immediate threat is the rise of Bernie Sanders. Over the weekend Sanders used his 60 Minutes interview to defend his past support of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

The reaction in Florida-home was swift and angry.

Marc Caputo at Politico: Florida Dems in uproar after Sanders’ Cuba comments.

Florida Democrats insist he‘s the worst-equipped [to defeat Donald Trump] after Sanders’ refusal Sunday night to thoroughly condemn the Cuban revolution. His comments on 60 Minutes sent shock waves through the nation’s biggest battleground state, where Democratic members of Congress, state legislators and party leaders warned that his nomination — and Sanders’ self-described “Democratic socialism” — will cost them the biggest battleground state of them all.

“Donald Trump wins Florida if Bernie is our nominee,” said state Rep. Javier Fernandez, a Democratic candidate in a majority-Hispanic state Senate district….

As a state with an influential cross-section of Latinos whose families fled leftist Latin American regimes and violence, Sanders embrace of far-left leaders and his past refusals to wholeheartedly condemn Latin American strongmen and the Soviet Union have long been seen as fatal flaws.

Sanders on Sunday did nothing to allay those concerns in a 60 Minutes interview in which he was asked about his 1985 comments stating that the Cuban people didn’t “rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro” because “he educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society.”

There was no mention of the firing squads, political purges and mass arrests that accompanied the 1959 revolution.

There’s much more at the link.

At least Sanders is finally getting vetted by the media. For example, Griffe Witte at The Washington Post: In Cold War travels, Bernie Sanders found much to admire behind enemy lines. Now that’s a problem for his campaign.

The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.

The country’s Soviet-backed government — forged via armed rebellion — was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”

Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.

And a year after that, he returned from Cuba having tapped into a revolutionary spirit “far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be.”

With Sanders now surging to the top of the Democratic presidential field, those three-decade-old impressions introduced a volatile new element in the race Monday as rivals reacted to Sanders’s decision to defend his remarks, not disclaim them….

The fact that Sanders’s long-ago travels in the communist world have become an issue in the 2020 campaign reflects how unorthodox a choice he would be to lead the Democratic Party….

Returning home from visits to some of the United States’ most avowed enemies, Sanders offered some criticism but also plenty of praise in Vermont community television recordings. Many of the videos were kept in storage for decades — including during his 2016 campaign — and, even after being posted online, have remained relatively unknown.

Now, Sanders’s comments are coming back to life as opponents say his warm feelings toward his hosts decades ago make him vulnerable to attack and reveal a soft spot for left-wing despots.

Read the rest at the WaPo. More Bernie critiques:

Jonathan Chait: If Democrats Aren’t Terrified of Bernie, They’re Not Paying Attention.

William Saletan at Slate: The Great Socialism Gap. Socialism doesn’t freak out Democratic voters the way it freaks out other Americans. That’s a problem.

Never Trumper Michael Gerson at The Washington Post: A Trump-Sanders election would destroy our politics.

The South Carolina primary is coming up on Saturday, followed three days later by Super Tuesday. There’s another debate tonight, and I hope Elizabeth Warren will finally get up the nerve to address Sanders’ many weaknesses instead continuing to focus on Mike Bloomberg. I’m pretty sure the other candidates won’t hesitate to attack Bernie.

Natasha Korecki at Politico: Sanders under fire in South Carolina from all directions.

Joe Biden’s campaign is airing a new digital ad in South Carolina accusing Bernie Sanders of trying to undermine Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection by threatening to primary him. Pete Buttigieg was on TV in South Carolina hitting Sanders over health care and Mike Bloomberg targeted Sanders’ past gun votes.

“When it comes to building on Barack Obama’s legacy, Bernie Sanders just can’t be trusted,” the Biden ad, first obtained by POLITICO, warns.

The fusillade targeting Sanders on the eve of a Democratic debate in the fourth early state of South Carolina marked the latest turn in a Democratic primary that now has a decisive frontrunner. Each of the candidates, competing for a fraction of the moderate vote, are attempting to blunt the Vermont senator’s momentum coming off a landslide win in Nevada.

“When we rallied together to defend our president and all the progress he made they had his back,” the narrator says. Panning to then-Vice President Biden, the voice-over continues, “He had his back,” and moving to images of African American supporters at an Obama rally, says: “And you had his back.”

“But back in Washington, there was one guy with another plan,” the narrator says before an audio clip is heard of Sanders saying, “I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”

More at the WaPo.

Are you going to watch the debate? I might give it a try. The last one was pretty entertaining, and it would be fun to see Bernie get his ass kicked. As always, this is an open thread.


Mixed Emotions Monday Reads: Fatal Carnival and Political Purges

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Skeleton Krewes photo by @VarleyPix

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m entering my second coughing, sniffling, miserable week of influenza Type 2 and there are only two people I would wish it on.  We will get to both of them later because frankly I’m stressed and worried.  Not only did we not get an infrastructure week and a signed bill that would help us revitalize our country’s roads, grids, and public goods and services provisions, we’ve got less infrastructure than we did two years ago.

We are facing climate change essentially leaderless. We are facing the potential of the corona virus essentially leaderless and without a fully functional CDC.  We are staring down Hurricane and Tornado season and undoubtedly more fires, mudslides, and floods. We essentially have dysfunctional, leaderless agencies ill prepared and staffed for that too.

Okay, I couldn’t make it to the second paragraph with up bringing the two guys least prepared to deal with any of this and who could use a good dose of a bad virus. The current President needs a good dose of something and he can just hang out with the other old white pure ID Geezer and discuss why philosophical diatribes and political purges accomplish anything out here in the real world. Maybe if either of them actually had a few real problems they would go away and we could find some people that actually have lived through some real problems and can deal with it

So, down here in New Orleans we’ve been living in dysfunctional infrastructure hell since Katrina.  We lack a basic tax commitment to public health and safety.  Our sewers and pumping systems do not work adequately. The mega privatized utility that gives us our gas and electricity can’t keep their grid up and the lights on. Building inspectors that okay-ed the Hard Rock Hotel site which collapsed, killed people,and still serves as a macabre sepulchre were shown by their GPS trackers to never, ever been near the site.

And, we’re so stretched by things we’ve ceased doing Carnival safely this year.  Two people were killed by floats.  Two people fell off floats.  Two people fell of a balcony.  I feel like Mardi Gras 2020 is way too symbolic of symptoms plaguing our tired old country.

A man was hit and killed by a Mardi Gras float in New Orleans on Saturday evening, the second such death in a week.’   That headline comes from The Guardian.   This is probably why the only thing I want to see on the actual Mardi Gras Day are the skeleton Krewes and the Indians.  The rest can just take those sewer cluttering, earth damaging plastic beads and slip on mule dung on Bourbon Street. I’m now firmly committed to the stodgy ideas that superkrewes are not a super idea where ever thing is oversized but our public safety and infrastructure commitments.  And screw all those Hard Rock Hotel Developers and AirBnB parasites while we’re at it.

The individual, who was not immediately named, was killed at around 7pm after he appeared to fall underneath a large tandem float during the Krewe of Endymion parade near the city centre.

Witness video posted online suggested the man fell at a point in the parade route where there were no barricades to separate onlookers from floats, which often pass close to the roadside.

Eyewitnesses speaking to local media suggested the man jumped to catch an item thrown from the float then slipped on beads left on the floor.

On Wednesday, 58-year-old Geraldine Carmouche was run over and killed by a tandem float. Witnesses suggested Carmouche tripped on a hitch holding the two floats together and fell underneath the second trailer.

Such deaths are rare at the annual carnival event. Local reports suggested the last similar incident occurred in 2008, when a man was struck by a float after the parade ended. In 1981 a three year-old girl was killed by a rolling float.

New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell instructed all remaining parades to end the use of tandem floats.

 

CL Thomas of Nashville blogs about and photographs Skeleton Krewe

I will now briefly discuss some of the floats for Krewe D’etat whose good ol boy designers still don’t seem to have gotten over Hillary being succesful or Bill Clinton’s blow job in an “Epstein didn’t kill himself float”, took a huge whack at Bernie in a “communist float”, and then did an ugly parody on the impeachment with a horrible portrayal of Speaker Pelosi.    I turned off the TV pretty quickly and returned to coughing fits.

This one was way over the top for the family route imho and you’ll remember I raised very young two daughters in the French Quarter for five years.  There is satire and then there is tasteless, tacky, mean,  and unfunny.  I thought the dick stuff at KDV was a bit much.  This was just tacky and gross.

Also, there was a huge Trump 2020 signs at the top of one of the big floats.  That’s shenanigans imho.   This was clearly just more Trumpy White Male mean spiritedness on display. Save that crap for protests and rallies creeps!!!!

For some reason, all of this clusterfuck seems appropriate during the Trumpist Regime Chaos with the Berner steriods thrown in.   All it needed was a bunch of really old guys wagging their fingers and screaming and women and people of color.  Really.

Here’s some real leadership from Forbes’ Jeff McMahon writing on a Climate Change Activist and Former UN Climate Change Christiana Figueres.

In a book out tomorrow, the woman who led the negotiations for the Paris Agreement calls for civil disobedience to force institutions to respond to the climate crisis.

“It’s time to participate in non-violent political movements wherever possible,” Christiana Figueres writes in The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis,” which will be released tomorrow by Knopf.

Figueres served as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-16. She co-authored the book with her strategic advisor, Tom Rivett-Carnac. The two also support voting:

“Large numbers of people must vote on climate change as their number one priority,” they write. “As we are in the midst of the most dire emergency, we must urgently demand that those who seek high office offer solutions commensurate with the scale of the problem.”

But they note that electoral politics have failed to meet the challenge, largely because of systemic roadblocks including corporate lobbying and partisan opposition.

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Photo by Rick Olivier Mardi Gras Day With The Skull And Bones Gang

Science Denial or ignorance and profiting from trashing the planet and commiting acts of extraction terror typifies our two least favorite guys too. Remember Bernie making money from dumping toxic nuclear waste on a poor border town down in Texas? Well, read this in WAPO today written by Fred Hiatt.  ” How Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both reject the reality of climate change.”

We have at hand a bipartisan, rigorous plan to address that danger.

And now it is more than possible that we will end up with two presidential candidates who reject that plan in favor of two varieties of utter unseriousness.

The first is the denialism of President Trump. He either believes or cynically pretends to believe that climate change is not a threat. His administration has gravely aggravated the threat, for example by recklessly relaxing regulation of the super-warming gas methane.

The second version is the fantasy extremism of Sen. Bernie Sanders. He would prosecute oil executives “for the destruction they have knowingly caused” (he “welcomes their hatred”) and phase out carbon-neutral nuclear power. The Vermont independent would ban the fracking of natural gas, which is — if you control the methane emissions — a useful transitional fuel from dirty coal to clean wind and solar.

As though by magic, Sanders’s proposals will “dramatically decrease the cost of energy storage” and (why not?) make electricity “virtually free” after 2035 (though, sadly, we would still have to pay for “operations and maintenance costs”). All fossil fuels will be gone by 2030, the renewable energy that takes its place will be “publicly owned,” and — not to worry — the plan “will pay for itself over 15 years.”

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to make such things happen, as Patrick Pouyanné told me last week. Pouyanné is one of those people whose hatred Sanders might welcome; he is chairman and chief executive of Paris-based Total, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies.

I particularly liked this point made by  Pouyanné:

Pouyanné said a U.S. ban on fracking — or the jailing of oil executives, for that matter — would have little impact on climate change. Why? Because much of the world’s oil is located in poorer countries that depend desperately on oil exports, and they will gladly make up any shortfall.

“Change will not come from changing the source of supply,” he said. “You have to reduce demand.”

“Which brings us back to the plan, put forward this month by the Climate Leadership Council, that would actually work. Supported by energy companies (including Total) and environmental groups alike, it would impose a steadily rising tax on carbon. That would lead to reduced consumption and increased innovation in alternatives, including battery storage for solar and wind power. To get buy-in from industry, the plan would do away with a lot of regulation — but only so long as emissions were, in fact, going down.

Katherine Johnson, part of a small group of African-American women mathematicians who did crucial work at NASA, in 1966.

And we’ve lost one of the best math minds on and off the planet. She was recently celebrated in a movie. “Katherine Johnson Dies at 101; Mathematician Broke Barriers at NASA” is the lede for her NYT Obit. Katherine Johnson was  part of a small group of African-American women mathematicians who did crucial work at NASA, in 1966. They were featured in “Hidden Numbers” in 2016.

They asked Katherine Johnson for the moon, and she gave it to them.

Wielding little more than a pencil, a slide rule and one of the finest mathematical minds in the country, Mrs. Johnson, who died at 101 on Monday at a retirement home in Newport News, Va., calculated the precise trajectories that would let Apollo 11 land on the moon in 1969 and, after Neil Armstrong’s history-making moonwalk, let it return to Earth.

A single error, she well knew, could have dire consequences for craft and crew. Her impeccable calculations had already helped plot the successful flight of Alan B. Shepard Jr., who became the first American in space when his Mercury spacecraft went aloft in 1961.

The next year, she likewise helped make it possible for John Glenn, in the Mercury vessel Friendship 7, to become the first American to orbit the Earth.

Yet throughout Mrs. Johnson’s 33 years in NASA’s Flight Research Division — the office from which the American space program sprang — and for decades afterward, almost no one knew her name.

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Vintage Mardi Gras Costumes

And the Corono Virus looks like it’s spreading.  Italy is the latest country dealing with death and illness.  This update is from WAPO.

The World Health Organization declined to declare the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on Monday, saying the rapidly spreading disease has “pandemic potential” but does not yet require that designation.

China’s leaders also postponed the biggest event on their political calendar, the National People’s Congress, as the country’s battle against the virus disrupts the ruling Communist Party’s agenda and hammers the domestic economy.

In a speech to party officials Sunday, President Xi Jinping warned that the outbreak was a “crisis” that would inevitably jolt the country’s economic development, but he pledged that the disruption would be temporary and manageable.

Beijing also abruptly backtracked on an earlier announcement that it would relax travel restrictions on the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan, amplifying concerns about the government response to the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the epidemic is surging around the world. Just four days ago, Italy had only confirmed three cases. As of Monday, it has the largest known outbreak outside Asia.

One of Big Chief Al's suits

OffBeat Magazine Photographer: Rick Olivier Chief Al Morris

This is bad news for the US Intelligence community. Eli Clifton writes this for Responsible Statecraft: “Trump’s new acting Director of National Intelligence conducted undisclosed work for Hungary’s far-right government”.

An investigation by Responsible Statecraft has found  that President Trump’s newly installed acting Director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, knowingly provided public relations services directed at U.S. media on behalf of a project funded by Hungary’s far-right government. Grenell didn’t register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which is a requirement applying to individuals and entities operating inside the U.S. as an “agent” of a “foreign principal.”

Grenell’s appointment as acting Director of National Intelligence, which was announced last week, was met with widespread ridicule and disbelief.

“President Trump selected an unqualified loyalist as his top spy,” said  International Institute for Strategic Studies senior fellow Jonathan Stevenson in a New York Times op-ed.

“Mr. Grenell, who currently serves as ambassador to Germany, is manifestly unqualified for the job, even in an acting capacity,” the Washington Post editorial board said. “He has no experience in intelligence or in managing large organizations – like the 17 agencies that will now report to him.”

Craig Engle, Grenell’s attorney, told Responsible Statecraft that Grenell “knew that the Hungarian government was the sponsor” of work he undertook, but claimed that Grenell’s activities did not require him to file under FARA.

According to the Justice Department, activities requiring registration as an “agent” to a “foreign principal” includes engaging in “acts within the United States as a public relations counsel, publicity agent, information-service employee or political consultant for or in the interests of such foreign principal.”

On Friday, ProPublica reported that Grenell took undisclosed payments for advocacy work on behalf of Vladimir Plahotniuc, a Moldovan politician who was later accused of corruption. Engle told ProPublica that Grenell was not required to file under the FARA because “he was not working at the direction of a foreign power.”

Grenell’s history as a Twitter troll and political operative is well documented, but his work for foreign entities and governments has largely gone unreported.

In 2009, Grenell founded Capitol Media Partners (CMP), a public relations firm with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC.

And then there is this:

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If you haven’t watched the Production “The Music Makers of Gennett Records” about small town Richmond, Indiana and all the Roots music and popular music it recorded and pianos it made, you simply must!!  It’s produced by the Indianapolis Public TV station.  Hint:  Louis Armstrong and a lot of the greats from down here figure prominently but it also includes Hopi Ritual music and Hill music. This was essentially one of three early recording studios. Its history is fascinating and you’ll hear a lot of that ragtime and blues in their early incarnations.

During the early 20th century, one tiny recording studio in Richmond, Indiana, had a big impact on the soundtrack of the Jazz Age. The Music Makers of Gennett Records tells the unlikely story of the Gennett Recording Studios, where many of the greatest artists in American jazz, blues, country, and gospel music first recorded.

Discover the unlikely story of the Gennett Recording Studios, where many of the greatest artists in American jazz, blues, country, and gospel music first recorded. The documentary traces the careers of early Gennett musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, and the singing cowboy Gene Autry, among other popular artists of the era, and features several of their rare 1920s recordings.

Produced by WTIU for Indiana Public Media. Click here to learn more about the film.

And, I have officially thrown in with Elizabeth Warren. I wrote her a check and I’m making phone calls for her. I’m really at a loss of what else to do at this point. I’m also slightly less panicked about Joe Biden because what will be a complete disappointment is better than the other two shitfests at the top of their respective nominations now.

If she gets through SC and Super Tuesday I will likely vote for her.  I’m pretty sure that Louisiana will not be an important state for any one but I’m just going to do what I can.

So, that’s enough for me today.  Back to coughing and escapism.

What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Sunday Reads: 12 Monkeys

The last few days have made me sick…like, make me wanna puke sick.

There has to be a joke in that monkey tweet, I’m just too disgusted to think of one.

This is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

The Nevada Caucuses will wrap up this afternoon, but thousands of people have already voted. Political pundits have already crowned Bernie Sanders the winner, but that may not be a sure thing.

David Byler at The Washington Post: We lack the data to predict Nevada’s outcome. Be wary of pundits’ gut instincts.

Nobody really knows what’s going on in the upcoming Nevada Democratic caucuses. Sure, we have a little bit of polling to go on — the RealClearPolitics average includes three recent polls, and it shows Bernie Sanders leading the pack at 30 percent, with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar all clustered between 16 percent and 10 percent of the vote. But it’s hard to nail down the electorate in a caucus state, and Nevada is flush with the sort of young, Hispanic voters that pollsters often have trouble contacting. So all we really know is that Sanders has a lead, but that he’s not invincible.

In a normal election, this lack of concrete information wouldn’t be a problem: Nobody ever died because they didn’t see enough Nevada polling. But primaries aren’t normal elections. The trajectory of the race is often influenced by media-created “expectations” and narratives about “momentum.” And in Nevada, many political pros will be setting those crucially important expectations using gut feelings and groupthink rather than real information. That’s a riskier undertaking for them than they might acknowledge — and for the voters who listen to them.

Much more at the link.

Harry Enten at CNN: Why Nevada could surprise us.

There have been just eight polls released publicly over the last three months. Two of those were internal polls. Only five of those have been taken since the primary season began a few weeks ago, and of those, a grand total of zero meet CNN standards for publication….

Put all together, Sanders is something around a seven in 10 favorite to win in Nevada. That’s based off of the prediction markets and how good the polling in Nevada has been since 2008 (the first year in which Nevada was one of the first four states to vote). Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are next with somewhere around a one in 10 chance to win. Everybody has less than a one in 10 shot in Nevada.

Sanders clearly has a better shot than anyone else to win, but a seven in 10 shot is not an overwhelming favorite. It means that there’s a decent chance Sanders won’t win.
The lack of confidence we should have in the Nevada outcome is partially because of the lack of polling data, but also because the polling data has not been particularly predictive in the past.

Since 2008, Nevada has b een a polling wasteland. Looking at all candidates who polled at 10% or better after undecideds were allocated, Nevada polls taken after the Iowa caucuses have had an average error per candidate of 8 points. The 95% confidence interval for each candidate above 10% is something closer to +/- 20 points. That is, to put it mildly, a huge range.

Read the rest at CNN.

Cat Nap – A Pink Chair by the Window, Lara Meintjes

And we can’t forget that early voting has already been going on in many Super Tuesday states. I’ll be voting early here in Massachusetts next week.

Kelly Mena at CNN: Forget Nevada. Almost 2 million votes have already been cast in Super Tuesday states.

Super Tuesday is still more than a week away, but almost 2 million ballots have already been cast — including in delegate-rich California and Texas.

More than 1.3 million vote-by-mail ballots have been returned in California since February 3, according to county data provided by Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla. That’s out of more than 16 million ballots sent out — a flood that allows the vast majority of the state’s more than 20 million registered voters to cast their ballots before March 3.

“The California presidential primary may be on Super Tuesday, but for millions of Californians, it is really Super February,” Padilla said in a news release earlier this month.
California, with 494 delegates at stake — the most of any single state — has taken on new prominence this year after moving its primary date up in the calendar. Democratic candidates need 1,991 to clinch the nomination.

The other big delegate haul up for grabs on Super Tuesday is Texas, with 261 delegates. Almost half a million ballots have already been cast since early and by-mail voting opened on February 18, according to the secretary of state’s office. Texas has more than 16 million registered voters.

Unfortunately, Bernie is also leading in California polls; and he’s so confident of winning Nevada that he has already left to campaign in CA.

Cat on a chair, Diane Hoepner

Two polls released this week in California show Bernie Sanders holding a comfortable lead. The latest poll from The Public Policy Institute of California, released on Tuesday, shows Sanders ahead at 32%, with Joe Biden (14%), Elizabeth Warren (13%), Pete Buttigieg (12%) and Michael Bloomberg (12%) closely knotted in a race for second. Amy Klobuchar stood at 5% in that poll, with Tom Steyer at 3% and Tulsi Gabbard at 1%.

Monmouth University also released a California poll this week. Their poll finds Sanders leading with 24%, Biden at 17%, Bloomberg at 13%, Warren at 10% and Buttigieg at 9%. Behind them, Steyer (5%) and Klobuchar (4%) were about even, with Gabbard at 2%.

Yesterday we learned that Russia is trying to help Bernie win the Democratic nomination. The Washington Post reports:

U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump.

So Bernie has known this for a month and did and said nothing about it. And he’s not happy with the media for reporting the news. He attacked the Post for reporting the story.

He is also furious with MSNBC for some reason. As far as I can tell, he is getting full support from Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Ali Velshi, but I guess he’s angry with some of the guests on the network. Page Six: Bernie Sanders calls out MSNBC over campaign coverage.

Bernie Sanders went ballistic at NBC and MSNBC execs ahead of the Democratic debate this week — jabbing one top TV exec repeatedly in the face with his finger and accusing the networks of offensive negative coverage.

Surging Sanders stormed through the walk-through for the Las Vegas debate, singling out one top producer at the end and aggressively sticking his finger in his face. One shocked witness said, “Bernie marched right up to NBC and MSNBC’s head of creative production and began jabbing his finger right in his face, yelling, ‘Your coverage of my campaign is not fair . . . Your questions tonight are not going to be fair to me.’ ”

Sanders did not hold back as he continued to rant about MSNBC coverage. According to the witness, “The NBC exec told Sanders he would be treated fairly.”

A separate insider confirmed the confrontation, saying Sanders was so steamed he also sparred with MSNBC boss Phil Griffin outside the green room moments before the debate began. “Sen. Sanders stated, ‘Phil, your network has not been playing a fair role in this campaign. I am upset. Is anything going to change? . . . I hope you will do better.’ ”

The Democratic front-runner has been left seeing red over repeated slights against him by liberal MSNBC pundits and hosts, including Chris Matthews, who suggested the senator might cheer socialist executions in Central Park. And Chuck Todd — a moderator of Wednesday’s debate — even quoted a story that described Sanders supporters as a “digital brownshirt brigade.” Todd was also tackled by seething Sanders onstage after the debate: “I do not appreciate your comment about my supporters,” adding the Holocaust reference was “offensive.”

Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir has said that even Fox News has been “more fair than MSNBC . . . which . . . is constantly undermining the Bernie Sanders campaign.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bernie is just a “socialist” mirror image of Trump. But Trump is actually president right now, and he’s undermining democracy in every way he and his thugs can think of. His latest efforts include a Stalinist-style purge of anyone who crosses him and a hostile takeover of the Intelligence community.

The Washington Post: Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates.

President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.

Maine Coon Cat Sitting On Chair, by Rosanne Olson.

Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month.

“We want bad people out of our government!” Trump tweeted Feb. 13, kicking off a tumultuous stretch of firings, resignations, controversial appointments and private skirmishes that have since spilled into public view.

The New York Times: Richard Grenell Begins Overhauling Intelligence Office, Prompting Fears of Partisanship.

Richard Grenell’s tenure as the nation’s top intelligence official may be short-lived, but he wasted no time this week starting to shape his team of advisers, ousting his office’s No. 2 official — a longtime intelligence officer — and bringing in an expert on Trump conspiracy theories to help lead the agency, according to officials.

Mr. Grenell has also requested the intelligence behind the classified briefing last week before the House Intelligence Committee where officials told lawmakers that Russia was interfering in November’s presidential election and that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia favored President Trump’s re-election. The briefing later prompted Mr. Trump’s anger as he complained that Democrats would use it against him.

Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence, and his deputy, Andrew P. Hallman, resigned on Friday. Mr. Grenell told Mr. Hallman, popular in the office’s Liberty Crossing headquarters, that his service was no longer needed, according to two officials. Mr. Hallman, who has worked in the office or at the C.I.A. for three decades, expressed confidence in his colleagues in a statement but also referred to the “uncertainties that come with change.”

The ouster of Mr. Hallman and exit of Mr. Maguire, who also oversaw the National Counterterrorism Center, allowed Mr. Grenell to install his own leadership team.

Much more at the WaPo link.

Finally, here’s a deep dive into Trump’s attack on our National Security by Garrett Graff at Wired: How Trump Hollowed Out US National Security.

While vacancies and acting officials have become commonplace in this administration, the moves by President Donald Trump this week represent a troubling and potentially profound new danger to the country. There will soon be no Senate-confirmed director of the National Counterterrorism Center, director of national intelligence, principal deputy director of national intelligence, homeland security secretary, deputy homeland security secretary, nor leaders of any of the three main border security and immigration agencies. Across the government, nearly 100,000 federal law enforcement agents, officers, and personnel are working today without permanent agency leaders, from Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

All the posts, and many more top security jobs, are unfilled or staffed with leaders who have not been confirmed by the Senate. Trump has done an end-around, installing loyalists without subjecting them to legally mandated vetting and approval by Congress.

Trump’s surprise ouster of Maguire, who took over as acting director of national intelligence last summer, came apparently in a tantrum over a congressional briefing that outlined how Russia is already trying to interfere with the 2020 election and help reelect Trump.

But understanding the true cost of Maguire’s firing requires understanding how the role first came to be. The director of national intelligence position was created after 9/11 specifically to coordinate the work of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies and help “connect the dots” on disparate data and threats, work that wasn’t done before September 11, 2001. DNI is an immensely challenging job that includes serving legally as the president’s top intelligence adviser, and traditionally involves giving the president’s daily briefing on potential threats.

Graff also address Trump’s destruction of the Department of Homeland Security–including FEMA. I hope you’ll read the whole article.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.


Presidential Political Purges Friday: Trump Goes All in for Putin’s help

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Good Day Sky Dancers!

What happens in an autocratic government when someone tells the Tin Pot Fattie something he doesn’t want to hear?  Well, it’s something akin to off with his head Amerikkkan style.  Heaven forbid we get to decide our own elections here without Russian or Saudi or Chinese or Israeli interference!  Yeah, if we’re lucky Susan Collins might raise an eyebrow and Lindsey Graham might find one tiny pearl to clutch on Sunday’s news programs.  But, it’s more like Moscow Mitch will keep them all in the pack like good little playing card soldiers.

Bye Bye National Security!

From The Daily Beast: “Russia Is Helping Elect Trump Again, Intel Official Says”.

Intelligence officials briefed House lawmakers last week that Russian actors were interfering in the 2020 elections, once more to the benefit of Donald Trump. The contents of the briefing, which was first reported by The New York Times, sparked a series of dramatic events that have further eroded relations between Hill Democrats and the White House, and prompted the president—it appears—to appoint a top political ally to oversee the nation’s national security apparatus.

The meeting, which took place on Feb. 13, was conducted for the House Intelligence Committee by an aide to the outgoing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. According to a legislator who was present, the aide, Shelby Pierson, Maguire’s election security chief, described a Russian elections-intrusion effort that never stopped from 2016.

“It continues with the same target, and the same purpose, and it’s clear that they [the Russians] favor one candidate over the other,” is how the lawmaker described it.

“The Republicans [on the committee] went nuts,” over Pierson’s presentation, the member told The Daily Beast. A second source familiar with the briefing said that Republicans didn’t understand why the Kremlin would try to boost Trump, since he had been so tough on Russia, in their view. Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Will Hurd (R-TX) and Chris Stewart (R-UT)—who, according to The Times, has been a Trump favorite to replace Maguire—were particularly vocal in their skepticism, the member said. A spokesperson for Wenstrup said the congressman does not comment on classified or closed-door matters before the Intelligence Committee. Spokespersons for Stewart and Hurd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Raise your hand if you learned in first or second grade why the Russians want our country in eternal and internal disarray.  So now, The Tin Pot Fattie has replaced an experienced National Intelligence official with a Republican Politico operative that goes on Fox and twitter to stroke the orange snot blob’s bottomless need for adoration.  This is from WAPO: “Senior intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected”.  Yes he knows his electoral illegitimacy really knows no bounds!

Trump announced Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments.

After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, seeing Maguire and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Trump’s furious response ­ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

Maguire, a career official who is respected by the intelligence rank and file, was considered a leading candidate to be nominated to the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a Republican ally about the official’s remarks.

The official, Shelby Pierson, said several times during the briefing that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump, according to a U.S. official familiar with her comments. That conclusion was part of a broader discussion of election security that also touched on when the U.S. government should warn Democratic candidates if they are being targeted by foreign governments.

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So, now what?   He’s got help from the Russians and as usual, we’ve got the GOP trying to suppress the vote and minority participation in the US Census which sets up all kinds of political and funding priorities in the country.  From the L.A. Times: “GOP is accused of sending misleading ‘census’ forms ahead of the actual count”

The Republican National Committee is sending documents labeled “2020 Congressional District Census” to people in California and across the country just weeks before the start of the official nationwide count of the country’s population.

Critics say the misleading mailers — in envelopes labeled “Do Not Destroy. Official Document” and including a lengthy questionnaire on blue-tinted paper similar to the type used by the real census — are designed to confuse people and possibly lower the response rate when the count begins in mid-March.

The top of the mailer states it is “commissioned by the Republican Party.” In smaller print on the second page, below a request for donations, is a notice that it is paid for by the Republican National Committee. Included in the envelope is a four-page letter from National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel asking for donations to the party and a promise to support Trump in 2020.

Unlike the official census form, the RNC survey is largely made up of political questions, such as whether the respondent supports using military force against Iran, thinks race relations in the country are getting worse and believes “political correctness” has gotten out of hand.

From the UK Daily Mail: “Russia is interfering AGAIN in 2020 election to help Donald Trump get a second term, intelligence officials secretly told Congress – prompting fury from president and Republicans”  I’m pretty sure the fury is they’ve just been caught again and that’s about it.

One lawmaker told the Daily Beast that the officials briefed them that: ‘It continues with the same target, and the same purpose, and it’s clear that they [the Russians] favor one candidate over the other.

Trump was furious when he learned that Schiff had been briefed that intelligence officials believe Russia is trying to aid his re-election – and wrongly believed it was only the Democrat who had been briefed.

The president believed the information would be used against him, sources told the New York Times.

Schiff was the lead Democratic house manager at Trump’s impeachment trial, which ended in his acquittal earlier this month.

In the wake of learning that Schiff had been briefed, Trump had a furious confrontation with the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire.

Maguire was replaced Wednesday night by Rick Grenell, Trump’s ultra-loyal ambassador to Germany.

The New York Times reported that two Trump officials said the timing was a coincidence and not because of the row about the briefing.

The official who told lawmakers Russia was meddling was named as Maguire’s aide Shelby Pierson, who serves as the intelligence community’s top election security official.

Trump blew up at Maguire in the Oval Office last week over what the president perceived as staff disloyalty, citing Pierson’s briefing.

That ruined Maguire’s chance of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, sources told The Washington Post.

Trump incorrectly believed Pierson gave the information exclusively to Schiff and gave Maguire a ‘dressing down’ that left him ‘despondent,’ sources told the newspaper.

Pierson chairs the Election Executive and Leadership Board, which was created in July 2019 to specifically deal with election security matters.

She gave the closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee last Thursday.

One of Trump’s Republican allies on the committee told him what she said, the Post reported.

Some of Trump’s biggest defenders during the House impeachment inquiry – including Reps. Devin Nunes and Elise Stefanik – sit on the intelligence panel.

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So, the president is still a moron.  This may not rival the Night of the Long Knives but combined with granting pardons to people who have abused their power in public positions and absconded with public treasure seems particularly relevant to the crime family occupying the Oval Office.

Guess who is in charge of that process now?  This is from Salon: “Trump’s controversial pardons came after Kushner wrestled control from Justice Department: report. Kushner supported clemency for Rod Blagojevich even as White House officials allegedly “argued heavily against it”

I suppose after you’ve cribbed and stolen your plan for an Israeli Palestinian peace process off of a 40 year old book and it’s going nowhere you have to look for other hobbies.

President Donald Trump’s controversial pardons of numerous supporters convicted of corruption came after his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner wrestled control of the process from the Department of Justice, according to a new report.

While the Justice Department has traditionally overseen the pardon process and made recommendations to the White House, Kushner has taken “a leading role” as the Trump administration seeks to exert more control over clemency decisions, The Washington Post reported.

Trump, who granted clemency to 11 people on Tuesday, tasked Kushner and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who served on the president’s impeachment legal team, last year with revamping the pardon process, according to the report. All clemency applications must now be submitted directly to the White House Office of American Innovation, which is headed by Kushner. Trump’s son-in-law has also been tasked with solving Middle East peacereforming the immigration systembuilding the border wall and re-electing the president, among a variety of other responsibilities.

Kushner has personally reviewed applications before presenting them to Trump for approval, two senior administration officials told the outlet.

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So far, this is going really well for crooked elected officials and political appointees isn’t it?  What’s next?  Pardoning Jared’s Dad?  Or Roger Stone? This is via CNN.

President Donald Trump said Thursday he won’t act to grant clemency to his friend and former associate Roger Stone right now, saying he wants the process to play out before making a decision.

“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States, I want the process play out, I think that’s the best thing to do,” Trump said in Las Vegas. “Because I’d love to see Roger exonerated and I’d love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly.”

The President didn’t rule out an eventual pardon or commutation, but said the process should play out first.
“At some point I’ll make a determination, but Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process,” Trump said.
Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison earlier Thursday. He was convicted last fall of lying to Congress and threatening a witness regarding his efforts for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Meanwhile, meet the Acting DNI RIchard Grenell via TPM .  Maybe Hope Hicks should have the job next.

Grenell, a vocal Trump loyalist who is currently the ambassador to Germany, brings to the job of acting Director of National Intelligence years of experience aggravating the German government coupled with a background in strategic communications.

The political operative’s appointment has raised questions of his fitness for the job. As director of national intelligence, Grenell will oversee the 17 constituent agencies of the country’s intelligence community, managing the flow of information gathered by the country’s spies to President Trump.

“It’s difficult to contemplate managing 17 different organizations without having any experience with the intelligence process overall,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a former director for Russia on the National Security Council and a former CIA intelligence analyst, told TPM. “I just think it’s quite dangerous in the sense that the right information might not get to the right people.”

Since DNI Dan Coats stepped down from the position in August 2019, the government has lacked a Senate-confirmed official in the job.

So, I’m depressed enough and still coughing way too much with this flu so I’ll end with these two things. But, please add more!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

 


Thursday Reads: Democratic Debate, Roger Stone Sentencing, and Other News

Good Morning!!

I ended up watching the debate last night, and I have to admit it was entertaining. I’m not sure how much it accomplished for the candidates. Elizabeth Warren opened with a vicious smackdown of Mike Bloomberg, and he never really recovered as she continued the beatdown throughout the two-hour debate. I actually started to warm up to her for the first time. There’s no doubt she clearly dominated last night. Here’s the full transcript at NBC News.

Unfortunately for Warren, her efforts will likely help Biden the most. There are many more moderate voters than those who support Sanders and Warren. If those voters consolidate around a candidate, it might be possible to stop Bernie, but it would be a moderate, not Warren.

What Warren needed to do was attack Bernie Sanders; and, although she got in a couple of jabs, she didn’t really do enough. I was absolutely stunned when she went on a long rant about the dumping of toxic chemicals in poor areas without mentioning Sanders’ role in doing just that. She did criticize his health care plan, calling it a “good start.” She also tore down all the other candidates’ plans pretty effectively. She also criticized Bernie’s mean bro supporters.

Bloomberg almost gave Sanders another heart attack when he called him out for being a millionaire with three houses. Warning: there’s a lot of screaming in this video.

Biden also had a good debate. If he had done as well in the previous debates, I don’t think he would be doing as poorly as he is now.

Finally, Klobuchar and Buttigieg mostly attacked each other.

Moving on from the debate, Roger Stone’s sentencing hearing is this morning. Here’s what I’ve seen on Twitter so far.

Click here to read a long thread on the hearing by Dan Friedman.

It looks like Judge Jackson is considering a longer sentence than Billy Barr would like.

Associated Press: Trump ally Roger Stone to be sentenced as case roils DOJ.

Roger Stone, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, faces sentencing Thursday on his convictions for witness tampering and lying to Congress.

The action in federal court comes amid Trump’s unrelenting defense of his longtime confidant that has led to a mini-revolt inside the Justice Department and allegations the president has interfered in the case.

Trump took to Twitter to denounce as a “miscarriage of justice” the initial recommendation by Justice Department prosecutors that Stone receive at least seven years in prison. Attorney General William Barr then backed off that recommendation, prompting four prosecutors to quit Stone’s case.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said during the hearing that Stone’s use of social media to stoke public sentiment against the prosecution and the court was intended to reach a wide audience, including using a photo of Jackson with crosshairs superimposed.

“This is intolerable to the administration of justice,” Jackson said.

Outside the courthouse, a small crowd gathered for Stone’s arrival. Two people held a large banner featuring a sketch of Stone and #PardonRogerStone emblazoned underneath. Next to it was a large multimedia figure of a rat constructed to look like Trump, with his distinctive red tie and hair. Stone had no comment as he arrived.

I’ll move on to other news,, while the hearing continues.

Yahoo News: Rohrabacher confirms he offered Trump pardon to Assange for proof Russia didn’t hack DNC email.

Former California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher confirmed in a new interview that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.

In a phone interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered on the streets of Washington in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery.

A lawyer for Assange in London on Wednesday cited the pardon offer from Rohrabacher during a court hearing on the U.S. government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.

Rohrabacher said that not only did talk of a Trump pardon take place during his meeting, but he also followed up by calling then White House chief of staff John Kelly to discuss the proposal. He did not, however, ever speak to Trump about it, he said.

“I spoke to Julian Assange and told him if he would provide evidence about who gave WikiLeaks the emails I would petition the president to give him a pardon,” Rohrabacher said. “He knew I could get to the president.”

When he spoke to Kelly, the then chief of staff was “courteous” but made no commitment that he would even raise the matter directly with the president.

I think we’ll eventually learn that Trump did initiate this quid pro quo. It fits the pattern.

Another one of Trump’s “best people” has been appointed acting ODNI, even though he’s completely unqualified. The Washington Post: Trump to name Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting head of intelligence.

President Trump on Wednesday named Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, as the next acting director of national intelligence, placing a fiercely loyal ally atop an intelligence structure he has frequently railed against.

It is unclear whether Trump intends to nominate Grenell to fill the top intelligence post on a permanent basis, which would require Senate confirmation.

The appointment took many in Washington, including on Capitol Hill, by surprise.

Grenell, a former State Department official and communications executive, has been a Trump confidant and ad hoc adviser on issues beyond his ambassadorial work in Berlin.

He is a conservative foreign policy hawk and sometime media critic, as well as a vocal supporter of Trump on social media. He has sparked controversy in his diplomatic role, but also won praise in Germany and elsewhere for taking on issues such as gay rights in Eastern Europe and the long-running tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.

Richard Grenell

Grenell would be the first openly gay member of the Trump Cabinet. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump was being pushed by some in the intelligence community to nominate the current acting intelligence director, Joseph Maguire, to take the job permanently, but the president has been fixated on appointing people he believes are loyal to him…

Politico: Trump allies target Mueller team, one by one.

For months, a loose network of pro-Trump commentators and outside agitators has been urging the president to purge his administration of anyone and everyone involved in the Russia probe.

They’ve celebrated as many of the FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the investigation have left government. And now, with an angry and newly liberated President Donald Trump seeking retribution in the wake of his impeachment acquittal, they’re pressing him to finish the job.

“Why would they expect not to be fired?” said Kurt Schlicter, a conservative political commentator and Trump supporter, referring to the roughly half-dozen prosecutors and officials who worked in special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and are still employed by the Justice Department.

Trump’s allies have long called for a “cleaning out” of DOJ and FBI, aimed at career officials perceived as hostile to the president. Several of Trump’s top targets have been forced out, including former FBI Director James Comey, his former deputy Andrew McCabe, and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, all of whom worked on the Russia probe.

Read the rest at Politico.

Bloomberg: White House Admits That Trump Trade Stance Did Depress Economy.

The White House acknowledged what many economists considered obvious through much of last year: President Donald Trump’s trade stance depressed economic growth and business investment.

“Uncertainty generated by trade negotiations dampened investment,” Trump chief economist Tomas Philipson told reporters in a briefing on the annual Economic Report of the President released on Thursday.

The admission contrasted with Trump’s repeated assertions that his tariff tactics hadn’t hurt the economy while swelling the government’s tax coffers.

Even so, the deleterious effect of trade uncertainty got barely a mention in a 435-page economic report that frequently extolled the president’s programs and argued that they’ve led to a “great expansion” that is benefiting a broader swathe of Americans.

Philipson, who is acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declined to say how much of an effect trade uncertainty has had.

Finally, George Conway has an op-ed at The Washington Post on Trump’s pardon spree: Trump’s ‘King Kong’ nickname has come into full fruition.

Not for nothing did President Trump’s first White House counsel give him the nickname “King Kong.”

Former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who resisted Trump when he sought to violate the law and sometimes engaged in “epic” “shouting matches” with him, reportedly selected the sobriquet to connote Trump’s “volcanic anger” and “emotional decision-making.”

But as Trump’s behavior this week demonstrates, the moniker fits for another reason as well. It reflects Trump’s desire to escape constraints — in particular, legal constraints. That Kong-like urge was illustrated by two developments: the president’s latest executive clemency spree and his continued attacks against the federal judiciary.

Trump revels in issuing pardons, because that power is essentially absolute. The Constitution sets out no standards for granting pardons. They require no consent from Congress, and courts can’t second-guess them.

They also offer instant gratification to a president who desperately craves it. As one source close to Trump told Axios last year: “What he enjoys most about this job is finding things he has absolute power over,” which is why he gets “a kick out of pardons,” and the fact that “he could pardon anybody he wants and people would come to him to court him and beg him.”

Trump’s specific invocations of the pardon power, moreover, appear unwedded to any notion of mercy or public good; they are not guided by the ordinary process of careful review. Rather, they are impulsive expressions of Trumpian spite and self-interest.

Read more at the WaPo.Still no sentence in the Stone case. It should be coming soon. As always, this is an open thread. Have a great Thursday!