Thursday Reads

Isaak-Brodsky.-At-dacha, Socialist realism

At Dacha, by Isaak Brodsky, socialist realism

Good Afternoon!!

BREAKING…Parts of the Georgia special grand jury report were just released. You can read the report here. Just posted stories:

The Washington Post: Parts of Georgia grand jury report on Trump election investigation released.

A Georgia judge released parts of a report produced by an Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating efforts by President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia — though the panel’s recommendations on potential charges in that investigation remain secret.

The five-page excerpt made public on Thursday revealed that a majority of the grand jury concluded that some witnesses may have lied under oath during their testimony before the panel and recommended that charges be filed. The grand jury did not identify those witnesses in the unsealed excerpt.

“A majority of the grand jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it,” the report reads. “The grand jury recommends that the district attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”

The unsealed document offered no major clues about the grand jury’s other findings — though the panel pointedly noted that it unanimously agreed that Georgia’s 2020 presidential vote had not been marred by “widespread fraud” as has been claimed by Trump and his allies.

“The grand jury heard extensive testimony on the subject of alleged election fraud from poll workers, investigators, technical experts, and State of Georgia employees and officials, as well as from persons still claiming that such fraud took place,” the report reads. “We find by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.”

The New York Times: Live Updates: Georgia Grand Jury in Trump Inquiry Sees Signs of Perjury by Witnesses.

A special grand jury examined attempts by Donald J. Trump and the former president’s allies to overturn his 2020 loss in the state. A small portion of its report released on Thursday made it difficult determine what, if any, indictments the jury recommended….

A court on Thursday released portions of a report by a special grand jury investigating whether Donald J. Trump and his allies interfered in the presidential election in Georgia in an attempt to overturn the 2020 result. The released portions — just six total pages — do not delve into the grand jury’s conclusions or say whether they recommended indictments related to election interference.

But the jurors said they believed that at least one unnamed witness who testified in the inquiry may have committed perjury and should face indictment. They also found “that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election,” rejecting arguments made by Mr. Trump and his supporters.

Here are the details:

  • The publicly released portion of the report does not mention the names of anyone that the jurors think should or should not be indicted. Nor does it mention, beyond potential perjury, which Georgia laws the jurors believe may have been violated. Read the released parts of the report here.

  • A judge decided to release only a small portion of the grand jury’s full report. Here’s why.

  • The special jury in the Trump case heard months of private testimony from 75 witnesses, including the former president’s allies and state officials. But it will be up to the local district attorney to decide whether to bring any charges.

  • A central element of the investigation is the now-famous call by Mr. Trump on Jan. 2, 2021, during which he told Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, that he needed to “find” 11,780 votes — the number he needed to overcome Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead in the state.

View_of_Mylor_Creek_Mike Hall, British artist

View of Mylor Creek, Mike Hall, British

Lots of Trump investigation news broke yesterday. We learned that Mark Meadows received a subpoena from Special Counsel Jack Smith in January, before Mike Pence got his.  CNN: Exclusive: Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows subpoenaed by special counsel in Jan. 6 investigation.

Donald Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows has been subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating the former president and his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s office is seeking documents and testimony related to January 6, and Meadows received the subpoena sometime in January, the source said. An attorney for Meadows declined to comment.

The move to subpoena one of Trump’s most senior aides – in addition to the recent subpoena of former Vice President Mike Pence, as CNN reported last week – marks the latest significant step in the special counsel’s investigation into Trump’s role in seeking to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election.

Smith also is simultaneously investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving office. While the subpoena is related to January 6, Meadows also may be of interest in the documents investigation. He was one of Trump’s designees to the National Archives and played a role in discussions around returning government records in his possession.

The special counsel’s subpoena could set up a clash with the Justice Department and Meadows over executive privilege. The former White House chief of staff, citing executive privilege, previously fought a subpoena from a special grand jury in Georgia that was investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. A judge later ordered Meadows to testify, finding him “material and necessary to the investigation.”

Meadows was involved in the infamous phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and in a December 2020 White House meeting about election fraud claims. Meadows also visited a site where an audit of Georgia’s election was underway and sent emails to Justice Department officials about unsubstantiated fraud allegations.

On January 6, Meadows was in and out of the Oval Office and witness to Trump’s actions as rioters overtook the US Capitol that day.

The recent subpoena for Meadows also underscores the aggressive nature of the special counsel’s probe.

I’ve seen many people saying this means that Meadows is not cooperating, so I found this tweet from a former federal prosecutor interesting:

More Jack Smith news from CNN: Special counsel is locked in at least 8 secret court battles in Trump investigations.

Special counsel Jack Smith is locked in at least eight secret court battles that aim to unearth some of the most closely held details about Donald Trump’s actions after the 2020 election and handling of classified material, according to sources and court records reviewed by CNN.

The outcome of these disputes could have far-reaching implications, as they revolve around a 2024 presidential candidate and could lead courts to shape the law around the presidency, separation of powers and attorney-client confidentiality in ways they’ve never done before.

Yet almost all of the proceedings are sealed, and filings and decisions aren’t public….

A key sealed case revealed Wednesday is an attempt to force more answers about direct conversations between Trump and his defense attorney Evan Corcoran, where the Justice Department is arguing the investigation found evidence the conversations may be part of furthering or covering up a crime related to the Mar-a-Lago document boxes.

1923-064-houses-of-squam-light. Gloucester, Edward Hopper

House of Squam Light, Gloucester, Edward Hopper

About half a dozen cases are still ongoing in court, either before Chief Judge Beryl Howell or in the appeals court above her, the DC Circuit. Most appear to follow the typical arc of miscellaneous cases that arise during grand jury investigations, where prosecutors sometimes use the court to enforce their subpoenas.

More challenges from subpoenaed witnesses – including former Vice President Mike Pence – are expected to be filed in the coming days, likely under seal as well. Pence may raise novel questions about the protections around the vice presidency….

Investigations that implicate government officials often beget sealed court proceedings, because confidential grand jury witnesses become more likely to assert privileges that prompt prosecutors to ask judges to compel more answers, criminal law experts say.

“I think we are in extraordinary times. Part of it is I think President Trump continues to assert these theories long after they’ve been batted away by the court,” Neil Eggleston, a former White House counsel who argued for executive privilege during the Clinton administration and the Whitewater investigation.

That train derailment in Ohio has begun getting more attention. Here’s the latest.
Politico: ‘The longer the train, the heavier the train’ — Ohio disaster calls attention to freight’s growing bulk.

The toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, is drawing new attention to the dangers of increasingly long freight trains — part of a series of cost-savings efforts by freight railroads that have drawn scrutiny from the industry’s critics.

The sheer bulk of the 150-car train that went off the rails Feb. 3 is just one factor investigators are expected to consider amid the unfolding ecological disaster near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, which caused a massive fireball, forced an evacuation and has left a lingering odor, fears of lasting contamination and thousands of dead fish. But union officials, regulators and congressional researchers say the industry’s trend toward ever-growing train lengths is causing a host of safety concerns that regulators need to address.

“The longer the train, the heavier the train, the more wear and tear it puts on the actual rail itself, as well as the equipment,” said Jared Cassity, a legislative director for the country’s largest rail union, SMART-Transportation Division. “We’re seeing more wear and tear. We’re seeing more unintended train separations, which is where the train breaks apart.”

The Ohio derailment is still under investigation by multiple agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB, an independent agency, has said preliminarily that an overheated wheel bearing on one of the cars is partially the culprit for the derailment.

However, derailments like these typically have multiple points of failure, and the NTSB’s investigation will likely take over a year to complete. Such NTSB probes typically examine any conceivable cause that could have led to a crash, including equipment malfunctions, poor system design, the lack of safety precautions, inadequate training, crew fatigue and myriad other factors.

The Guardian: What do we know about the Ohio train derailment and toxic chemical leak?

On the night of Friday 3 February, at least 50 out of 150 train cars of a train heading from Conway, Pennsylvania, to Madison, Illinois, derailed. The train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, a town of about 5,000 residents along the Ohio and Pennsylvania border. A huge fire that spanned the length of the derailed cars erupted. No injuries or deaths were reported.

Marshall's House, Edward Hopper

Marshall’s House, Edward Hopper

Residents within a one-mile radius of the derailment were evacuated as officials noted that over a dozen cars carrying vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic chemical, were involved in the derailment and could have been exposed to the fire.

On Monday 6 February, officials enacted a mandatory evacuation, threatening to arrest residents who refused to evacuate, as fear of an explosion rose. Governor Mike DeWine told residents that leaving was “a matter of life and death”. Crews ended up releasing toxic chemicals from five derailed tanker cars to prevent an explosion. Small holes were made into the train cars, whose chemicals were released into pits that were lit on fire. Pictures of the chemical release showed huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky over homes.

Evacuated residents, who were staying at shelters and schools, were given the clear to return to their homes on Wednesday 8 February as officials deemed air and water samples safe for residents.

On the chemicals that were released:

The most concerning chemical being carried by the derailed train was vinyl chloride, which is used to make polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a hard resin used in plastic products. Vinyl chloride is colorless and highly flammable. It has been linked to a rare form of liver cancer, as well as other types of cancer like leukemia and lung cancer. Short-term exposure effects include dizziness and drowsiness, while high exposure can lead to hospitalization and death. Another chemical on board was butyl acrylate, also used in plastic production.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later released information that showed three previously unreported chemicals were also released upon the derailment: ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether. Exposure to the chemicals can cause shortness of breath, burning in the skin and eyes, coughing, headaches and nausea, among other symptoms.

In total, the EPA has reported five chemicals that were contained in rail cars that were “derailed, breached and/or on fire”, in a letter the agency wrote to Norfolk Southern.

There’s more at the link, if you’re interested.

This story on Elon Musk’s giant ego is a couple of days old, but I wanted post it, just in case you haven’t heard about it. Platformer: Yes, Elon Musk created a special system for showing you all his tweets first.

At 2:36 on Monday morning, James Musk sent an urgent message to Twitter engineers.

“We are debugging an issue with engagement across the platform,” wrote Musk, a cousin of the Twitter CEO, tagging “@here” in Slack to ensure that anyone online would see it. “Any people who can make dashboards and write software please can you help solve this problem. This is high urgency. If you are willing to help out please thumbs up this post.”

Andew Wyeth

By Andrew Wyeth

When bleary-eyed engineers began to log on to their laptops, the nature of the emergency became clear: Elon Musk’s tweet about the Super Bowl got less engagement than President Joe Biden’s.

Biden’s tweet, in which he said he would be supporting his wife in rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles, generated nearly 29 million impressions. Musk, who also tweeted his support for the Eagles, generated a little more than 9.1 million impressions before deleting the tweet in apparent frustration.

In the wake of those losses — the Eagles to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Musk to the president of the United States — Twitter’s CEO flew his private jet back to the Bay Area on Sunday night to demand answers from his team.

Within a day, the consequences of that meeting would reverberate around the world, as Twitter users opened the app to find that Musk’s posts overwhelmed their ranked timeline. This was no accident, Platformer can confirm: after Musk threatened to fire his remaining engineers, they built a system designed to ensure that Musk — and Musk alone — benefits from previously unheard-of promotion of his tweets to the entire user base.

A bit more:

In recent weeks, Musk has been obsessed with the amount of engagement his posts are receiving. Last week, Platformer broke the news that he fired one of two remaining principal engineers at the company after the engineer told him that views on his tweets are declining in part because interest in Musk has declined in general.

His deputies told the rest of the engineering team this weekend that if the engagement issue wasn’t “fixed,” they would all lose their jobs as well.

Late Sunday night, Musk addressed his team in-person. Roughly 80 people were pulled in to work on the project, which had quickly become priority number one at the company. Employees worked through the night investigating various hypotheses about why Musk’s tweets weren’t reaching as many people as he thought they should and testing out possible solutions.

There’s more at the link, believe it or not. I never thought anyone could be more of a malignant narcissist than Donald Trump, but Musk might actually surpass him.

I’ll end there. Please share your thoughts on these stories, and post links to stories you have found interesting.

21 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice Thursday afternoon and evening!

    • dakinikat says:

      Musk is a more dangerous narcissist than Trump.

      • NW Luna says:

        Wow, my TL must be immune to those Musk tweet algorithms. I got a few, but not very many — usually when someone I followed mentioned him, which wasn’t very often. I think I muted him anyway. Also I set my TL display preference to be on “Follow” rather than the “For You” once I noticed that change. I haven’t had to re-set that TL display, although I’ve seen other say they need to change a Chrome browser setting to do this. Chrome is a privacy-thief browser so I don’t use it. I use Firefox and Safari.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      Unfortunately behind a paywall.

      What Not to Ask Me About My Long COVID.

      Before I got long COVID, I tuned out virtually all stories about it. They were tedious because I was tired of the pandemic, because we are all tired of the pandemic, because it is as familiar as rain and honestly just as dreary; I can hardly believe we once called the coronavirus novel.

      Today, I still tune out most long-COVID stories, though for different reasons. (Busman’s holiday. I outsource the job to my family.) But millions of us suffer from long COVID (“the pandemic after the pandemic,” as a Washington Post editorial put it last week), so today I’d like to discuss … etiquette. That’s right: manners. I’d like to offer a civilian’s guide to navigating the sensitivities of those furious, frustrated, irritable millions—and to better understanding them.

      • quixote says:

        That is a *brilliant* article.

        I have a gloom-and-doomy feeling that people are going to do their best to ignore the connection between the tsunami of long covid and being stupid about public health. I mean, admit you were wrong? And now you’re stuck? All it would achieve is avoiding the _next_ problem? Pfft, who cares about that.

        Be nice if I was too pessimistic again.

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. dakinikat says:

    Beautiful paintings today! I’d like a rocker on that top porch to sit in anytime!

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. VA in SC says:

    Norfolk Southern passes near my home. This derailment strikes literally too close.
    I have observed since the building up of the Ukraine war,the unusual length of the trains. One morning,there were 5 locomotives pushing,pulling a length that was nearly 4 miles. Many were fuel tanker cars with toxin labels(guess was LNG) to be sent before they had the receiving platform built in North Sea. Other massive trains at night, move very slowly,vibrate w/ low frequency, waking me.
    A horror is a derailment near where hazardous material is stored.

    • dakinikat says:

      They come through here too. Oil tanks and tankers are all over the place too. Very scary!

    • NW Luna says:

      Trump rolled back safety regulations on train brakes and limits on number of cars in a train. What could go wrong?

    • NW Luna says:

  8. NW Luna says:

    Can You Trust Machine Learning Chat Applications for Weather Information?

    Today, machine learning (ML) applications such as chatGPT are all the rage, with folks worried about the displacement of humans, bogus homework, and more. So I was not a little curious to evaluate OpenAI’s chatGPT abilities in the meteorological realm.

    My conclusion: human meteorologists currently don’t have much to worry about.

    • quixote says:

      AI has been *made* to be a bullshit generator. And the techbros thought that would be enough because they seem to swim in the stuff.

      In fact, AI could be trained in any number of ways. Not a near-infinite number, like humans, but a lot. AI could be good at turning raw data into natural language, human-readable sentences or visuals. Which could be useful. You could have your bot argue with the cable bot about your bill and when to send a repairman. Those are based on data.

      But you’re not going to get an AI to *think*. Maybe when we get quantum computers, but we’re nowhere near it now. All they can do is that facsimile of it which is bullshit and bafflegab.