Lazy Caturday Reads: The Mueller Report So Far

A Girl with a Cat – Robert Braithwaite Martineau, 1860 British painter 1826-1869

Good Afternoon!!

I don’t know what to think this morning. I’m still suspicious that AG Bill Barr may have ended the Mueller investigation prematurely. I guess we’ll learn more over the weekend. Reportedly, Barr is in his office today and CNN says we could get an update sometime today.

I’m reserving judgment for now, but I can help but be disappointed that Mueller didn’t charge anyone in Trump’s inner circle. Of course there are still multiple other investigations going on, but it looks like the Russia probe will now have be pursued in the House committees.

Some media reactions to check out:

Natasha Bertrand: What Mueller Leaves Behind.

After one year, 10 months, and six days, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his final report to the attorney general, signaling the end of his investigation into a potential conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Mueller’s pace has been breakneck, legal experts tell me—especially for a complicated criminal investigation that involves foreign nationals and the Kremlin, an adversarial government. The next-shortest special-counsel inquiry was the three-and-a-half-year investigation of the Plame affair, under President George W. Bush; the longest looked into the Iran-Contra scandal, under President Ronald Reagan, which lasted nearly seven years. Still, former FBI agents have expressed surprise that Mueller ended his probe without ever personally interviewing its central target: Donald Trump.

The content of the special counsel’s report is still unknown—Mueller delivered it to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, and now it’s up to Barr to write his own summary of the findings, which will then go to Congress.

While aspects of the central pieces of Mueller’s investigation—conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and kompromat, the Russians’ practice of collecting damaging information about public figures to blackmail them with—have been revealed publicly through indictments and press-friendly witnesses, the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, and Mueller’s own legacy, still hang in the balance. Did Trump’s campaign knowingly work with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton and win the election? And how much was Mueller actually able to uncover?

Bertrand breaks down the knowns and unknowns in each of the three categories above. Read it all at The Atlantic.

Arsen Kurbanov, man and cat

Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel: After Mueller: An Off-Ramp on Russia for the Venal Fucks.

We don’t know what the Mueller report says, though given William Barr’s promise to brief the Judiciary Committee leaders this weekend and follow it with a public summary, it’s not likely to be that damning to Trump. But I can think of five mutually non-exclusive possibilities for the report:

  • Mueller ultimately found there was little fire behind the considerable amounts of smoke generated by Trump’s paranoia
  • The report will be very damning — showing a great deal of corruption — which nevertheless doesn’t amount to criminal behavior
  • Evidence that Manafort and Stone conspired with Russia to affect the election, but Mueller decided not to prosecute conspiracy itself because they’re both on the hook for the same prison sentence a conspiracy would net anyway, with far less evidentiary exposure
  • There’s evidence that others entered into a conspiracy with Russia to affect the election, but that couldn’t be charged because of evidentiary reasons that include classification concerns and presidential prerogatives over foreign policy, pardons, and firing employees
  • Mueller found strong evidence of a conspiracy with Russia, but Corsi, Manafort, and Stone’s lies (and Trump’s limited cooperation) prevented charging it

As many people have pointed out, this doesn’t mean Trump and his kin are out of jeopardy. This NYT piecesummarizes a breathtaking number of known investigations, spanning at least four US Attorneys offices plus New York state, but I believe even it is not comprehensive.

Read the rest at the link.

The New York Times: As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York.

Even as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, submitted his confidential report to the Justice Department on Friday, federal and state prosecutors are pursuing about a dozen other investigations that largely grew out of his work, all but ensuring that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.

By Francsco Ubertini

Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates, according to court records and interviews with people briefed on the investigations. They are being conducted by officials from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, with about half of them being run by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.

Unlike Mr. Mueller, whose mandate was largely focused on any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the federal prosecutors in Manhattan take an expansive view of their jurisdiction. That authority has enabled them, along with F.B.I. agents, to scrutinize a broader orbit around the president, including his family business….

At this point, it is unclear whether anyone will be charged with a crime. Some of the investigations involve allegations that may be too old to be prosecuted. Yet taken together, the investigations show that the prosecutorial center of gravity has shifted from Mr. Mueller’s office in Washington to New York.

“The important thing to remember is that almost everything Donald Trump did was in the Southern District of New York,” said John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge who was the United States attorney in the Southern District during the Carter and Reagan administrations.

“He ran his business in the Southern District. He ran his campaign from the Southern District,” Judge Martin said. “He came home to New York every night.”

Newsweek: Robert Mueller’s Report is “Just the Beginning” of Donald Trump’s Legal Troubles, Experts Say.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has finally completed his nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference, handing off his highly anticipated report to the attorney general on Friday. But legal experts warn that even though Mueller’s probe has stopped, there are still plenty more legal woes facing President Donald Trump.

Federico Andreotti (1847-1930, Italian) – The Great Cat

“The Mueller investigation is but a fraction of the president’s troubles. If anything, it’s just the beginning,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer and former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek….

“I think that [the Mueller report] certainly is not the end-all, be-all for legal problems and ethics problems for the president,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Newsweek.

“There’s just a lot of really problematic conduct that is being investigated, and that’s not to say that what special counsel Mueller found is not going to be incredibly important…but there’s some danger to looking at whatever he produces as the definitive statement on whether or not this president did anything wrong,” he said.

Bookbinder added that Mueller has a “very narrow mandate” as the special counsel, but “there’s a whole lot more out there.”

Read more at Newsweek.

The Washington Post: At the center of Mueller’s inquiry, a campaign that appeared to welcome Russia’s help.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation without charging any Americans with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 campaign and help elect Donald Trump.

But hundreds of pages of legal filings and independent reporting since Mueller was appointed nearly two years ago have painted a striking portrayal of a presidential campaign that appeared untroubled by a foreign adversary’s attack on the U.S. political system — and eager to accept the help.

When Trump’s eldest son was offered dirt about Hillary Clinton that he was told was part of a Russian government effort to help his father, he responded, “I love it.”

Hans Asper (1499-1571) – Portrait of Cleophea Holzhalb, 1538

When longtime Trump friend Roger Stone was told a Russian national wanted to sell damaging information about Clinton, he took the meeting.

When the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks published documents that the Democratic National Committee said had been stolen by Russian operatives, Trump’s campaign quickly used the information to its advantage. Rather than condemn the Kremlin, Trump famously asked Russia to steal more.

Even after taking office, Trump has been hesitant to condemn Russia’s actions, instead calling the investigation a “witch hunt” and denouncing the work of federal investigators seeking to understand a Russian attack on the country he leads.

Neal Kumar Kaytal: I wrote the special counsel rules. The attorney general can — and should — release the Mueller report.

The public has every right to see Robert S. Mueller III’s conclusions. Absolutely nothing in the law or the regulations prevents the report from becoming public. Indeed, the relevant sources of law give Attorney General P. William Barr all the latitude in the world to make it public.

Those regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer, require three types of reports. First, the special counsel must give the attorney general “Urgent Reports” during the course of an investigation regarding things such as proposed indictments. Second, the special counsel must provide a report to the attorney general at the end of the investigation, which Mueller delivered on Friday. And third, the attorney general must furnish Congress with a report containing “an explanation for each action … upon conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

Nikolai K Bodarevski (Rusia, 1850-1921). La petite fille au chat.

The regulations anticipated there would be differences among these three. Generally speaking, the final report the special counsel gives to the attorney general would be “confidential,” and the report the attorney general gives to Congress would be “brief.” We wanted to avoid another Starr report — a lurid document going unnecessarily into detail about someone’s intimate conduct and the like. A subject of such a report would have no mechanism to rebut those allegations or get his or her privacy back.

But the mentions of “brief” and “confidential” in the regulations and accompanying commentary were just general guidelines for each type of report. The text of the regulations never required the attorney general’s report to Congress to be short or nonpublic. Rather, that text expressly included a key provision saying the “Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest,” even if the public release may deviate from ordinary Justice Department protocols.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

That’s all I’ve got. I just hope we learn more soon, because I’m not feeling good about this sudden end to the investigation. I’ve heard that the report is extensive, so that may be a good sign. We’ll just have to wait for more information.

Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers! Hang in there. This is an open thread.

Advertisements

Mueller Friday Reads: Republicans Know no Shame

KTIV viewer Aaron Voss shared these photos taken from the air over Ponca, Nebraska. Voss said he took them on March 13.

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Every one seems to be on Mueller Watch today as more rumors fly about the investigation’s report.  My issues appear to be more directly related to the absolute breakdown in the rules of how to be a polite person in a society of jerks when the jerks win the Presidency and Senate. Where ever you find a Trump supporter, you find filth, hatred, and calls to violence and I’m tired of it.

I actually dreamed last night that I met Cindy McCain at a convention/festival aimed at Anime fans that some how sprung up near my flooded out back yard of my last house in Omaha.  I felt like I had to apologize to her over and over and over.  My sleeping brain was obviously trying to figure out a lot of things.

One of my nuttiest hypereligious hyperTrumpy high school acquaintances was just regurgitating the Trump/Right WIng Party line on the late Senator John McCain on a mutual friends Facebook Thread on why attack the late Senator John McCain?  I had my issues with “Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran” John McCain but I’m not about to pretend that a man whose father faked a bones spurs deferment is a hero compared to a guy that had a chance to get out of the Hanoi Hilton early and let others go before him.

Former Senator and Nebraska Governor Bob Kerry actually said it best yesterday  (via HuffPo).  See, I keep coming back to my childhood/young adult days.

Kerrey, a former Navy SEAL who lost part of his right leg during the war, said on Wednesday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” that “you don’t grow out of bone spurs.” If Trump had them in the 1960s, Kerrey said, he’d still have them now (unless he underwent surgery, which Trump has never mentioned).

The challenge followed Trump’s latest disparaging remarks about the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years. McCain, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, died in August.

“While John McCain was flying combat operations in Vietnam, you were, I think, falsifying that you had bone spurs in order not to go to Vietnam,” said Kerrey, a 1992 presidential candidate who retired from the Senate in 2000. “Now, I know lots of people who avoided the draft, but this isn’t what he’s saying. He said ‘I physically couldn’t go.’ Well, Mr. President, get your feet X-rayed and let’s see those bone spurs. I don’t think he has them.”

Kerrey said he also believed Trump “sees all of us who went to Vietnam as fools. We were the suckers. We were the stupid ones. We were the ones that didn’t have the resources to be able to get out of the draft.”

Wahoo Fire & Rescue @WahoofireEMS Water is over the road. City will be closing Chestnut Street (Old Hwy 77) at the Wahoo Creek. Water is continuing to rise. March 13, 2019

My childhood stomping grounds are surrounded by floods.  Our home was way up in the hills of Council Bluffs and later way up on the hill my Dad found in West Omaha.  And, as you know, I’m on high ground here in the kathouse in New Orleans.  Grandad taught all of us to buy on the high ground when he and Nana lost everything to floods in Ohio back in the 20s.  That lesson stuck with me.

Farmland floods.  That’s what happens.  Towns on rivers experience floods all the time. They are getting worse but not a single person who gets flooded out doesn’t need a lot of help.  No one. No matter who they are or how they vote.  But, racist Republican Congressman Steve King just keeps at it with the inference that flooded Iowans take care of their own but flooded New Orleanians beg only for government handouts.  Why is every Republican these days such a hateful, horrid bigot and nut?  (Via The Hill)

Who endlessly speaks ill of a dead  Senator, Veteran, and former POW who certainly made policy gaffs but certainly his family shouldn’t have to endure this.  What kind of person can’t recognize the absolute wreckage and death brought by Hurricane Katrina and the weeks that folks were not allowed near their homes?  Banks were closed.  It took me until December to get my damned paycheck from the University of New Orleans.  I desperately needed that FEMA debit card and the help of a lot of people from St Charles, Louisiana, up through Texas, and well into Nebraska that included friends and strangers and yes, the government programs I used by heading to the Omaha Red Cross! I was raised in Steve King country.  I haven’t seen any difference in how Americans respond to flood if either victim or helping neighbor.

Huge disasters require huge responses on all levels..  Why are you dancing on the graves of dead New Orleans and all of us that suffered, and still suffer from that event?  What is wrong with you? I don’t like my tax money going to subsidizing noncompetitive businesses but I’ll write a check any day to rescue an American from a disaster over which they have no control.

Republican Rep. Steve King (Iowa) contrasted Iowans as being willing to help one another compared to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.“Here’s what FEMA tells me: We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying ‘who’s gonna help me?’ ” King said at a town hall event in a video posted to his Facebook page.

He said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told him that an Iowan, however, would say “wait a minute, let me get my boots, it’s Joe that needs help. Let’s go down to his place and help him.”

“They’re just always gratified when they come and see how Iowans take care of each other,” he added.

In this Monday, March 18, 2019, photo taken by the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and provided by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, shows flooding along the Missouri River north of Blair, Neb. (Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management via AP) (Associated Press)

This WAPO article really brings home the headline :  “Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes”. The Republican Party should be delegated a hate group.

Does Trump’s political rhetoric have a measurable link to reported hate crime and extremist activity?

We examined this question, given that so many politicians and pundits accuse Trump of emboldening white nationalists. White nationalist leaders seem to agree, as leaders including Richard Spencer and David Duke have publicly supported Trump’s candidacy and presidency, even if they still criticize him for not going far enough. The New Zealand shooter even referred to Trump as a “renewed symbol of white identity.”

So, do attitudes like these have real world consequences? Recent research on far-right groupssuggests that they do, especially when these attitudes are embraced and encourage by peers. Specifically, the quantity of neo-Nazi and racist skinhead groups active in a state leads to increased reports of hate crimes within that state.

How we did our research

Using the Anti-Defamation League’s Hate, Extremism, Anti-Semitism, Terrorism map data (HEAT map), we examined whether there was a correlation between the counties that hosted one of Trump’s 275 presidential campaign rallies in 2016 and increased incidents of hate crimes in subsequent months.

To test this, we aggregated hate-crime incident data and Trump rally data to the county level and then used statistical tools to estimate a rally’s impact. We included controls for factors such as the county’s crime rates, its number of active hate groups, its minority populations, its percentage with college educations, its location in the country and the month when the rallies occurred.

We found that counties that had hosted a 2016 Trump campaign rally saw a 226 percent increase in reported hate crimes over comparable counties that did not host such a rally.

Floodwaters on the southwest side of Hamburg, Iowa, Sunday, March 17, 2019. Residents in parts of southwestern Iowa were forced out of their homes Sunday as a torrent of Missouri River water flowed over and through levees (Photo: RYAN SODERLIN / AP)

These folks are even cannibalizing their own.  From Raw Story: “Trump fans launch all-out attack on ex-Navy SEAL GOP lawmaker for defending McCain: ‘You’ll be a one-term wonder’”

Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Dan Crenshaw — who now serves as a Republican congressman — defended former Navy Captain John McCain on Thursday. Supporters of President Donald Trump quickly suffered an online meltdown.

Crenshaw is a former Navy SEAL who earned two Bronze Stars and a purple heart for his service in Afghanistan, where he lost his right eye from an improvised explosive device explosion. He was subsequently elected to represent Texas in Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.

“Mr. President, seriously stop talking about Senator McCain,” Crenshaw suggested.

This did not go over well with some of Trump’s most fervent supporters.

His twitterfeed became a toxic wasteland of very sick and disturbed people. That’s just about what’s going on with both Meghan and Cindy McCain too.

Cindy McCain shared with the world on Tuesday an aggressive message she received that attacked her late husband, Sen. John McCain, and her daughter, “The View” co-host Meghan McCain

Cindy McCain posted a screenshot of the message that called the former Arizona Republican “traitorous” and “warmongering.” Peppered with profanity, the message reads, “I’m glad he’s dead.” The writer said she hopes Meghan McCain “chokes to death.” 

Cindy McCain said she posted the message so the poster’s “family and friends could see.” 

“I want to make sure all of you could see how kind and loving a stranger can be,” McCain wrote.

How long can we maintain a veneer of civilization if these people keep getting hyped about by mentally ill President who can’t seem to behave like a normal, polite, responsible adult?  It’s impacting all of us and I keep wanting to scream “think of the children!!”.  Well, some one did (Via WAPO): “An online threat of violence shuts down all Charlottesville schools”

Public school campuses in Charlottesville will be shuttered Friday for a second straight day — and more than 4,300 students will be kept out of classrooms — after a threat of racial violence surfaced online.

In a message to families, Rosa Atkins, superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, said an investigation involving state and federal authorities remains active, necessitating the unusual step of keeping schools closed.

“We would like to acknowledge and condemn the fact that this threat was racially charged. We do not tolerate hate or racism,” Atkins said.

“The entire staff and School Board stand in solidarity with our students of color — and with people who have been singled out for reasons such as religion or ethnicity or sexual identity in other vile threats made across the country or around the world. We are in this together, and a threat against one is a threat against all.”

I am so worn down over this daily display of the worst of humanity parading around with threats of guns and violence, nasty attacks on every one for no other reason than disagreeing with this disagreeable President, and just plain rudeness and discourteousness.  Can we return to some concept of disagreement on things without an entire section of the republican base behaving like poo flinging  rage baboons and the rest ignoring them?

Meanwhile, I’m just tired and I’ve got grading to do so I’ll leave you to figure out how we best get rid of all this. I’ll probably choose one of the Democratic Primary candidates and work my ass off for them.  Just again, none of the Bad News B’s for me.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Take me to the River

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’ve been watching the Mississippi River rise the last month knowing that some where upstream that water must be a problem.  The Corps opened the  Bonnet Carré Spillway  but has started to close it up. My guess is they’ll open it wide shortly. The spillway lets the fresh water of the Mississippi River into the salty Lake Pontchartrain. It always wrecks havoc with the local critters, plants, and trees so they try to be judicious about it.

I can always tell the height of the river by looking down the street to see if any oil tankers look like they’re on the river road.  By this, I mean that I see the entire ship and not just the top of it.  It’s odd when you’re driving and look over to see a huge cruise ship looking as though it’s just  driving a few blocks over.  Whatever goes on up there eventually comes out down here. The Mississippi has been at flood stage for months. It’s about to get worse because what’s upstream is horrible.

More is coming my way as the folks in Nebraska and Iowa–where I grew up–are dealing with flooding they haven’t seen for at least 50 years and probably then some.  I’m thanking my lucky stars that my youngest is now in Denver since her last home is some where in the lake that’s formed in Western Douglas County.  The most jaw dropping news is that Offutt Air Force Base is under water and has extensive damage.

Small towns in Iowa are completely underwater where many of the families of farmers who bought cars and trucks from my dad still live. A dam on the Niobrara–west of Omaha and Lincoln–collapsed earlier.  That devastation is surreal too.

So, people have died, crops will be lost, towns are totally under water and where are the tweets from the White House?   Wouldn’t you think a “bomb” cyclone would get some attention?

The unprecedented flooding has affected up to 74 million Americans from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast.

  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers deployed the state National Guard after declaring an emergency as flooding was magnified by “rapid snowmelt.” Columbus, Wisconsin, opened shelters for people who had been evacuated.
  • In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly issued a state of emergency for Doniphan County as flash floods wreaked havoc on the community.
  • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds also issued a disaster proclamation on Friday.

So far, the only Federal Disaster declared and discussed by Trump is–you guessed it–the Trumped up Border Wall lunacy. Check out his TIme line on Twitter.  It’s the usual manic meltdown of nonsense and lies plus, you know, WITCHHUNT!!  SNL sucks!  John McCain is a secret Democrat!

So, are we blaming him for all fueling all this crappy White supremacist terrorism and hate?  Yes. we are!  It’s not the news media. It’s what spews out of Trump’s nasty smoochy mouth and it’s all about his priorities and paranoia.

So, people in the heartland will just have to drown while Trump continues to hate on people of color and minority religions.

But, his base …. let’s visit a bit about what these morons actually think.  First. they think white people face discrimination. This is from Rolling Stone on a poll done earlier this month.

The victimization of white America put forth by conservatives and right-wing media has taken hold, according to the results in a new poll from Hill-HarrisX. A whopping 75 percent of registered Republican voters said that white Americans face discrimination.

A majority of Independents, 55 percent, sided with Republicans and said white Americans are discriminated against. Meanwhile, only 38 percent Democrats agreed, and sixty-two percent of Democrats said that white Americans face little or no discrimination at all.

However, the poll did find some agreement among the different political spectrums. Seventy-eight percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Independents and 95 percent of Democrats said that African-Americans are discriminated against. And, in total, 81 percent of the registered voters polled said Hispanics also face discrimination.

Interestingly, only 19 percent of white respondents said they personally faced racial discrimination, proving the point that the fear tactics of Fox News and other conservative media who sell the myth of “reverse racism” are working.

Second, Republicans in office continually deny Trump’s bigotry. Jonathan Chait–writing for the New Yorker–had this to say today about Trump’s open hostility to people of Muslim faith.

The man who murdered 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, has hailed President Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity.” But Trump’s supporters piously deny he is any such thing. “If you find yourself using the tragedy in New Zealand to take backhanded swipes at conservatives in America — many of my colleagues already have — then you really have no shame and you are part of the problem,” complains Texas representative Dan Crenshaw. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney appeared on Face the Nation to insist, “I don’t think anybody can say that the president is anti-Muslim.”

Anybody? Really? If bald-faced lying were not already a mundane practice for this administration, it would be astonishing to watch its defenders deny such a plainly obvious truth.

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration made a concerted effort to distinguish between the radical sectarians who carried out the attacks and the broader Muslim population. By the end of the Bush era, though, a nativist hysteria was bubbling up from the grassroots, as evidenced by vivid scenes from McCain–Palin campaign stops in which delirious Republican voters voiced paranoid theories that Barack Obama was a secret Arab or Muslim.

During Obama’s presidency, control of the Republican line on Muslims unmistakably passed into the hands of the bigots. Trump, who led the birther crusade, played a key role in this change. While Trump usually confined his racist sentiments about the African-American community to private conversations, he regularly articulated slanders against the Muslim community in public. He spread the lie that thousands of American Muslims cheered the 9/11 attacks. He insinuated that Ghazala Khan, a Muslim-American Gold Star mother whose husband spoke at the Democratic National Convention, “wasn’t allowed” to speak publicly. He claimed “Islam hates us,” and has deliberately refused to recognize a distinction between radical Islamists and the broader population: “It’s very hard to separate, because you don’t know who is who.”

Trump naturally attracted and promoted the most viciously anti-Islamic figures within his party. His first strategist, Steve Bannon, calls Islam “a religion of submission” and has tried to build a global religious conflict between Christians and Muslims. His first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, made wild public claims like, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” They attempted to enact a Muslim travel ban, later couched in euphemism, as an effort to prevent a “multidimensional and multigenerational” threat from Muslim-American communities — enshrining into official policy the notion that Muslim-Americans posed an inherent security threat and could not assimilate.

Trump’s fans deliberately adopt racist words and symbols including co-opting the okay hand signal.  Then, they tell us we’re just imagining things.  (Via SPLC)

From its adoption first by white nationalists, and then by 4chan trolls intent on ‘triggering the libs,’ the well-known hand signal’s use points to deeper concerns.

The smirk that almost inevitably accompanies the “OK” sign, that simplest of hand signals, is the dead giveaway in the shroud of internet-age befuddlement: Does the sign, the thumb and forefinger joined together in a circle, the remaining three fingers splayed out behind, mean “all’s good?” Or does it mean “white power” instead?

The smirk gives away the proper answer: You’re being trolled.

The social-media-driven controversy over the meaning of the well-known hand sign has arisen in part as the result of a deliberate hoax concocted on the internet message board 4chan, which in addition to its well-earned reputation as a gateway to the racist “alt-right” is perhaps more broadly known as the home of trolling culture.

So when it gets flashed during a national broadcast, or during a video being shot to promote the Coast Guard, or by a cluster of Proud Boys and “Patriots,” what it’s about most of the time is a deliberate attempt to “trigger liberals” into overreacting to a gesture so widely used that virtually anyone has plausible deniability built into their use of it in the first place.

The problem, of course, is that there are white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen who have increasingly begun using the use of the symbol both to signal their presence to the like-minded, as well as to identify potentially sympathetic recruits among young trolling artists flashing it. To them, the configuration means WP, for “white power.”

This use of the signal preceded the 4chan hoax that made it go viral. A number of alt-right figures, notably white-nationalist guru Richard Spencer, published photographs of themselves using the symbol as early as 2016. Milo Yiannopoulos adopted the symbol on social media as early as 2015.

But by then, the alt-right had already long weaponized the trolling culture and its use of irony to create a hall of mirrors surrounding such “memes.” These can easily be found in other alt-right “ironic” constructs, such as the hoax religion of “Kek” (and its home country, Kekistan), or its adoption of Pepe the Frog as a mascot.

So, are we surprised when “New Zealand Mosque Shooting Suspect Brenton Tarrant Flashes White Power Sign in Court”?  Uh, nope….

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand—The self-described racist who allegedly carried out massacres in two mosques flashed a white power sign during his first court appearance.

Photos from the brief proceeding showed Brenton Harrison Tarrant, flanked by police, using his shackled hand to make an “OK” symbol that has been appropriated by white supremacists and is also used by right-wing internet trolls.

The 28-year-old Australian personal trainer is charged with one count of murder in connection with the back-to-back mass shootings that left 50 people dead and dozens more wounded—but authorities said more charges will be coming. His court-appointed attorney did not apply for bail, and he will be jailed until his next appearance on April 5.

The public was not allowed into the courtroom, which was packed with media. Tarrant wordlessly swayed in the dock, looking back and forth from the gallery to the bench.

Tarrant did not seek a suppression order that would have prevented media from using his name in New Zealand—perhaps not a surprise given his apparent lust for notoriety as evidenced by an online manifesto and a sickening live-stream of the attack.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the symbol Tarrant used was adopted by white nationalists and neo-Nazis “to signal their presence to the like-minded, as well as to identify potentially sympathetic recruits among young trolling artists flashing it.”

The Washington Post reports that new video, now taken offline, shows him in his Subaru Outback moments before he started the deadly rampage. “All right,” he said after starting the car. “Let’s get this party started.”

And hell yeah, to this NYT opinion piece today by David Leonhardt. It Isn’t Complicated: Trump Encourages Violence. He doesn’t deserve blame for any specific attack. He does deserve blame for the increase in white-nationalist violence.”

The president of the United States suggested last week that his political supporters might resort to violence if they didn’t get their way.

The statement didn’t even get that much attention. I’m guessing you heard a lot more about the college-admissions scandal than about the president’s threat of extralegal violence. So let me tell you a little more about the threat.

In an Oval Office interview with writers from the right-wing news site Breitbart, President Trump began complaining about Paul Ryan. As speaker of the House, Ryan blocked efforts by other House Republicans to subpoena and investigate people on the political left. Trump’s loyal allies in the House “wanted to go tougher,” Trump said, “but they weren’t allowed to by leadership.”

To Trump, the incident was part of a larger problem: “You know, the left plays a tougher game. It’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. O.K.? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

The president of the United States suggested last week that his political supporters might resort to violence if they didn’t get their way.

The statement didn’t even get that much attention. I’m guessing you heard a lot more about the college-admissions scandal than about the president’s threat of extralegal violence. So let me tell you a little more about the threat.

In an Oval Office interview with writers from the right-wing news site Breitbart, President Trump began complaining about Paul Ryan. As speaker of the House, Ryan blocked efforts by other House Republicans to subpoena and investigate people on the political left. Trump’s loyal allies in the House “wanted to go tougher,” Trump said, “but they weren’t allowed to by leadership.”

To Trump, the incident was part of a larger problem: “You know, the left plays a tougher game. It’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. O.K.? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

So, for all you nice wipipo in Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, right on down the Missouri River to the mouth of the Mississippi, I hope you get your Federal Emergency pretty soon and that FEMA does better by you under your Trump than it did by New Orleans under your Dubya Bush.   He’s your fault.  He’s not nor will he ever be my president.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 

And, I hope you enjoy the Super Sunday 2019 pictures from Mid City yesterday in New Orleans.  The craftsmanship that goes into the costumes of the Mardi Gras Indians is super amazing.

 


Ides of March Reads

It’s Mueller Friday Sky Dancers!

And it’s the Ides of March!  Who needs to beware today?

Let’s start with this from Reuters: “Mueller, in U.S. court filing, says multiple probes continue” and asks for a sentencing delay for Rick Gates.  I imagine he’s cooperating on the Trump inauguration scam but it’s just a guess on my part.

 The U.S. Special Counsel’s Office on Friday asked a court to delay sentencing for U.S. President Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, amid “ongoing investigations” stemming from the Russia investigation.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller cited Gates’ continued cooperation with multiple probes and asked permission to update the judge on the case again by May 14.

“Gates continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations, and accordingly the parties do not believe it is appropriate to commence the sentencing process at this time,” Mueller’s team said in the court filing.

Gates is probably the one person who is still in the best position to spill a lot of beans in a lot of areas.  He was active during and past the campaign and transition.  This is from the AP via ABC News.

Gates is a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. But he is also helping federal authorities in New York who are looking into Trump’s inaugural committee as well as lobbying on behalf of foreign interests by prominent Washington insiders.

The joint filing by Mueller’s office and Gates’ attorneys comes amid signs the Russia investigation is winding down. But it’s unclear if Friday’s delay is an indication that Mueller may submit his confidential report soon or if it’s related to the status of the other investigations.

The filing asked for another 60 days to update U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on whether Gates can proceed to sentencing. The judge granted the request later Friday.

Gates pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and false statement charges related to Ukrainian lobbying and political consulting he carried out with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Gates helped the government in obtaining a trial conviction of Manafort last year. Prosecutors have noted that he continues to provide information about Manafort’s time on the Trump campaign, though neither man has been charged with any crimes related to Russian election interference.

Still, Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who led the Manafort case, told a federal judge earlier this year that a meeting Gates attended with Manafort in August 2016 went to the “heart” of the Russia investigation. The meeting at the Grand Havana Room cigar club in New York was with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort associate who the FBI says has ties to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have not revealed exactly what piqued their interest in the meeting, though court papers show it involved a discussion of a possible Russia-Ukraine peace plan.

Separately, federal prosecutors in New York are investigating the Presidential Inaugural Committee, where Gates served in a senior role. Investigators are looking into whether foreigners illegally contributed to the committee, which raised $107 million for Trump’s inaugural events, and how that money was spent.

The same office is also investigating lobbying for Ukraine in which Gates was involved.

Another mass murder by white nationalist terrorists shocks the world.

Yesterday, New Zealand became a site of right wing white nationalist terror.  There were mass shootings at Muslim Mosques that have taken many lives. A video from the attacks has been streaming on the internet and is said to be from an attacker.

Facebook, where a man claiming to be the attacker livestreamed footage of the shootings, removed the original video about an hour later, but by that time copies of the footage had started to circulate across other social media sites.

Facebook’s community standards explicitly ban “individuals engaged in mass murder” from having a presence on its network, and the company has deleted the account associated with the suspect. But eight hours after the attack videos were still live, obscured behind a warning that they may “show violent or graphic content” but not deleted.

Traditional news outlets have taken starkly different positions. MailOnline’s version of the story features an autoplaying clip of 18 seconds of the suspect’s livestream, showing him leaving his car, weapon in hand, cutting it as he enters the front door of Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue. There was a version of the clip autoplaying on its homepage.

The Sun took a similar approach. A spokesman for the paper told the Guardian: “We recognise that in the aftermath of horrific events such as these there will be sensitivities around reporting, and we take those responsibilities seriously.

“We have thought long and hard about how much of the easily available material currently on social media we should host on our site in order to shed light on this barbarous attack and the twisted ‘motive’ behind it. We have not published any video which depicts any act of actual violence, nor have we published or linked to the hate-filled manifesto.”

On the Mirror’s website, a longer clip of the same video led the story, showing the same footage of the attacker entering the mosque, cutting over the footage of the attack, and resuming the clip as the gunman walks back out of the building towards his car. That video was removed following inquiries from the Guardian, and the paper’s editor later apologised, saying “It is not in line with our policy relating to terrorist propaganda videos.”

A Fox News Analyst has found bottom on what not to say about an attack of this magnitude.  No thoughts and prayers from the Fox propaganda lair. This is from the Daily Beast.

Fox News analyst Walid Phares called Friday’s white nationalist terrorist attackin Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 49 people and injured 40 others, “very understandable” on a “political level.” Phares said that New Zealand has now joined countries fighting terrorism “on all sides” adding, it’s very understandable what (the shooter) was trying to do on a political level, obviously it’s horrific and should be condemned completely on the action level.” Earlier in the segment, Phares called the horrific attack “pure evil, more than that it’s successful pure evil.” “Unfortunately New Zealand now has joined the community of probably 100 countries that are fighting terrorism from any side and all sides, mosques, churches have been attacked by extremists on all sides.” Phares is an author and right-wing political pundit. He worked for the Republican presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney in 2012, and President Donald Trump in 2016.

The primary attacker has left a manifesto which can be found on The Daily Mail.  The DM also shared the first person footage of the attack.

The Daily Mail’s website uploaded the Christchurch mosque attacker’s 74-page “manifesto”, allowing readers to download the entire document just hours after the massacre on Friday which left at least 49 people dead.

The Mail was one of several British news outlets which defied requests from New Zealand police on Friday not to spread the terrorist’s first-person footage, which had been repeatedly shared across social media platforms in the wake of the attack.

The latest news is that there are 49 confirmed dead.  Four suspects have been arrested to include one woman.

KEY POINTS:
• 49 confirmed dead in ‘terrorist’ shootings at two Christchurch mosques
• Seven died at Linwood, 41 at mosque near Hagley Park
• Four people initially arrested, including one woman
• Man, 28 due in court tomorrow charged with murder
• One of the gunmen livestreamed shooting at Al Noor Mosque in chilling 17-min video

Forty-nine people have been killed and 48 more hurt after mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques in the worst terror attack on New Zealand soil.

Nour Tavis said he was in the front row of the Al Noor Mosque in Deans Ave with his friend when the shooting started. At first they did not know what the noise was.

“Then we heard screaming … everyone panicked,” he said. “There was shooting and shooting and shooting … people were running and all of a sudden you saw them fall.”

Tavis saw someone smash a window and jump out. “It was the only way to escape,” he said. “I followed.”

As he and others ran for cover the shooting carried on inside the mosque.

The questions now start about where these folks are getting their inspirations.  Here’s some speculation from WAPO’s James McAuley.  The sources is the main suspect’s manifesto.

Before embarking on a deadly shooting rampage Friday targeting Muslim worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand, the suspected gunman — a 28-year-old, self-styled “regular white man from a regular family” — posted a 74-page manifesto on Twitter.

The sprawling, angry text sheds some light on the motivation behind an attack that killed 49 Muslims during Friday prayers and wounded dozens of others. Among other things, that suspect — who Christchurch police say posted the manifesto and whom they have since charged with murder — wrote that a trip to France in 2017 convinced him that the country was under “invasion” by “nonwhites.”

“The final push was witnessing the state of French cities and towns. For many years I had been hearing and reading of the invasion of France by nonwhites, many of these rumors and stories I believed to be exaggerations, created to push a political narrative,” the suspect wrote.

“But once I arrived in France, I found the stories not only to be true, but profoundly understated,” he continued. A significant detail is that the suspect titled his manifesto “The Great Replacement,” a clear reference to the title of a 2012 book by right-wing French polemicist Renaud Camus.

In that book, Camus expounds on the “theory” that Europe’s white majority is being replaced by nonwhite North African and sub-Saharan African immigrants, many of whom are Muslim.

The “great replacement” has been a battle cry of the French far right, even after immigration arrivals into Europe fell significantly after their peak in 2015. In the words of Marion Maréchal, granddaughter of convicted Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen and a darling of the American far right, the idea perfectly corresponds to reality.

Unsurprisingly, the shooter also finds inspiration in the current occupant of the US White House.  I am fully ashamed of this.  This is from Salon and the keyboard of Chauncey DeVega.

Words are weapons. Those weapons can be lethal.

The president of the United States gives both permission and encouragement for public’s behavior, values and norms. This is true both in the United States and around the world. He or she is that powerful.

Earlier on Friday, a 28-year-old white man who appears to have described himself as “an actual fascist” entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, armed with assault rifles and killed at least 49 people, injuring many 20 others. New Zealand authorities also report that the attacker had placed two explosive devices on his vehicle, which apparently did not detonate.

In an especially gruesome contemporary twist, the gunman apparently streamed parts of the terror attack live on Facebook. Although that feed and other accounts apparently associated with the shooter have been taken down, the New York Times reports that both the 17-minute video and a manifesto apparently posted by the shooter have been widely disseminated on social media.

Three men and one woman have been taken into custody by New Zealand law enforcement, who have since said that one of those people is likely not involved. At this writing, reports suggest that the 28-year-old man, who by his own account was born and raised in Australia, may have been the sole shooter.

hat man appears to have posted his hate-filled manifesto online before the attack. In it, he rages against “Islamic invaders” who are “occupying European soil,” and specifically writes that he used guns to commit this massacre in order to call attention to debate about the Second Amendment in the United States. The alleged mass murderer also wrote that he had donated money to American white supremacist organizations, and quoted the “14 words” pledge often used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

According to various reports, the alleged terrorist specifically cited President Trump as an inspiration. His online manifesto praises Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Friday’s massacre appears to be another example of what is known as “stochastic terrorism” or “scripted violence.” It is also another case study in how right-wing terrorists, with no official group affiliation, can be radicalized online

Stephen A. Crockett Jr.–writing for The Root– leaves us with this lede. “New Zealand Mosques Shooting Suspect Called Trump a ‘Symbol of White Supremacy’ and Claimed He Was Just a ‘Regular White Man’ Ensuring a ‘Future for My People’ “

The suspected gunman who killed dozens of worshippers inside two New Zealand mosques is an Australian man who reportedly posted a 74-page manifesto that called Donald Trump as a “symbol of white supremacy” before the shooting .

According to Yahoo News, the alleged killer who live-streamed the attack identified himself as Brenton Tarrant. He claimed that he was motivated by “far-right extremism he saw in the United States to carry out the attack at Al Noor Mosque.”

The shooting left 49 people dead inside two mosques. Some 41 people were killed inside Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch while several more were killed inside Linwood Masjid Mosque.

The suspect was captured and has been charged with murder. Three other people are also being held in custody, Yahoo News reports.

Someone using the username ‘Brenton Tarrant 9’ posted footage of the attack that “shows the gunman firing 205 times on men, woman and children and stopping only to reload his weapons.”

The last few years have put the worst of our country on display.  It is out there inspiring the worst of humanity.  Not a day goes by that I do not wonder what type of hell realm beings find inspiration in this atrocious lump of air brushed flesh.  Well, we see at least one of them today.  It’s at this point where you know that thoughts and prayers can never be enough.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Strange Creatures then and now

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

JJ is spending time with her mother this week so BB and I will be taking her days so she can focus entirely on her journey at hand.  Please keep JJ, her mother, and their family in your kind thoughts as they go through this difficult transition.

Delphyne posted the work of this artist on JJ’s page earlier in the week. I loved it so much and I knew JJ’s day was the perfect day to post it.  So, thank you Delphyne for the great visual find on My Modern Met.  Links to Robert Benavidez’s pinata art, his shows and his gallery are in the article.  More can be found at the link clear at the end.  This is Mr. Benavidez’s site.  He also makes some gorgeous sugar skulls.

Contemporary artist Roberto Benavidez finds inspiration in imagery and literature from hundreds of years ago. Influenced by works like Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, he manages to fuse the famous source materials with elements that are significant to his own life. Benavidez grew up in rural southern Texas where the party piñata is commonplace. He uses the crepe paper creations as the basis for his sculptures. In the past, Benavidez recreated the strange beasts found in Bosch’s triptych but has more recently turned to the Luttrell Psalter, a famous medieval manuscript.

Among the writing in the Luttrell Psalter are illustrations of saints and Bible stories. They go beyond everyday scenes, however, and depict many fantastical hybrid creatures—a fact that Benavidez chooses to highlight. He calls this series Illuminated Piñata, and he crafts the three-dimensional beasts contained within the pages. They include oddities like a hare with a giraffe-like neck and hooved feet, as well as a dotted rodent with only one back leg and a tongue that looks like a tree branch.

The Trump Family Crime Syndicate and Paul Manafort’s jail time are squarely on page one.   ABC news has the information on today’s sentencing of Manafort in the DC court. This is reported by Allison Pecorin: “Paul Manafort’s sentence in DC case means he faces 81 months total behind bars.”

Paul Manafort was sentenced to 73 months in his Washington, D.C., unregistered foreign lobbying and witness tampering case on Wednesday.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced him to 60 months on the first count, running concurrently to 30 months of the 47-month sentence imposed in his Virginia case last week.

She also sentenced him to 13 months on the witness tampering count to be served consecutively with the count one sentence and his Virginia sentence.

That would mean an additional 43 months overall, bringing the total time he faces behind bars, including the nine months that he has already served in Virginia, to 81 months.

Put another way, the combined sentences of 90 months amount to seven-and-a-half years.

The judge also ordered Manafort to pay one-time restitution of $6.16 million to the Internal Revenue Service, the same amount he was sentenced to pay in the Virginia case.

The sentencing in the D.C. case is the latest chapter in the former Trump campaign chairman’s year-and-a-half-long legal battle.

The truly exciting headline comes from the New York Times where we learn that New York state is going after Manafort.  This is great because he cannot be pardoned by Trump in these crimes and if Trump does pardon him he will lose his 5th amendment privileges in these matters.  This is the headline from William K Rashbaum.  New York Charges Manafort With 16 Crimes. If He’s Convicted, Trump Can’t Pardon Him.”

Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been charged in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said Wednesday, an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

News of the indictment came shortly after Mr. Manafort was sentenced to his second federal prison term in two weeks; he now faces a combined sentence of more than seven years for tax and bank fraud and conspiracy in two related cases brought by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but has no such authority in state cases.

While Mr. Trump has not said he intends to pardon his former campaign chairman, he has often spoken of his power to pardon and has defended Mr. Manafort on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man.”

The new state charges against Mr. Manafort are contained in a 16-count indictment that alleges a yearlong scheme in which he falsified business records to obtain millions of dollars in loans, Mr. Vance said in a news release after the federal sentencing.

“No one is beyond the law in New York,” he said, adding that the investigation by the prosecutors in his office had “yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.”

The indictment grew out of an investigation that began in 2017, when the Manhattan prosecutors began examining loans Mr. Manafort received from two banks.

Last week, a grand jury hearing evidence in the case voted to charge Mr. Manafort with residential mortgage fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records and other charges. A lawyer for Mr. Manafort could not immediately be reached for comment.

Another Manafort tale–showing the activities of a perpetual thug–has come across the desk of Betsy Woodruff writing for The Daily Beast. “The Wacky Tale of Paul Manafort, Anne Hathaway’s Fraudster Ex-Boyfriend, and a Vatican Land Scam. Manafort and his then-partner talked about their plans to do business with the Italian who lured in investors with phony claims about sweetheart deals on the church’s real estate.”

According to two people with knowledge of the conversations, Manafort and then-business partner Rick Davis said numerous times that they planned to go into business with a handsome Italian businessman named Raffaello Follieri, and that they expected to use his purported access to the Vatican to get a sweetheart deal on the Catholic Church’s real estate.

In 2008, Follieri pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering, as well as one conspiracy count. He was sentenced to more than four years in prison. The access he claimed to have to the Vatican was part of an elaborate, intercontinental scam that made international news and generated a tabloid feeding frenzy. Federal prosecutors said the Italian businessman, who dated actress Anne Hathaway for four years before his arrest, claimed to investors that he was the CFO of the Vatican and that he would use his connections in Rome to arrange lucrative real estate deals. He claimed the Vatican was eager to sell off unused properties to raise quick cash to help offset the costs related to its ballooning child sex abuse scandals, as New York magazine noted.

A host of political power-brokers got roped into Follieri’s scheme. The Wall Street Journal reported that he became close with Clinton ally Doug Band, and offered to help Hillary Clinton court Catholic voters in the lead-up to her 2008 presidential bid. Bill Clinton even invited him on stage at a Clinton Foundation event, per New York, to thank him for a donation commitment on which he never delivered. The Italian newspaper L’Immediato reportedthat American super-lobbyist Tony Podesta called him “un visionario.” And Sen. John McCain drew considerable heat after celebrating his 70th birthday aboard a yacht Follieri had rented, as The Nation reported. Hathaway was on hand for the festivities.

And according to New York, Follieri was staying at his parents’ apartment in Trump Tower when he got arrested.

Now, people with knowledge of Manafort’s businesses say he and Davis also looked to get in on Follieri’s purported Vatican real-estate fire sale.

The Vatican–and its bank–have been at the center of international crimes for about as long as it was invented by the Romans.

Boeing stock is not going to be worth much for awhile given the tragedy that occured in Ethiopia earlier in the week and the apparent cover up of problems with its newest version of the 737 max.  Politico has this headline with the story written by Kathryn A. Wolfe: “Pilots complained at least 5 times about Boeing 737 MAX problems, records show”.

Pilots in the U.S. complained at least 5 times in recent months about problems controlling their Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets during critical moments of flight, federal records show, adding to questions raised by deadly crashes involving that model of jetliner in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Some of the incidents appear to involve the same anti-stall system that has come up as a potential cause of October’s Indonesia crash, according to a review of a Federal Aviation Administration incident database that lets pilots self-report trouble. Investigators have not said whether the same technology had emerged as a possible cause of Sunday’s crash in Ethiopia, although both involved airliners that mysteriously plunged to the ground minutes after takeoff.

For one U.S. incident in November 2018, a commercial airline pilot reported that during takeoff, the autopilot was engaged and “within two to three seconds the aircraft pitched nose down,” in a manner steep enough to trigger the plane’s warning system, which sounded “Don’t sink, don’t sink!”

After the autopilot was disengaged, the plane climbed as normal, according to the report.

The reports are submitted anonymously to help improve reporting of safety problems and so do not include any information about which airline was involved. In addition, though the reports have a spot to note what airport was involved, often pilots do not fill out that field.

The Trump Administration and its appointees have really done a job on this.  The FAA doesn’t have a real director and the Secretary of Transportation is best known for being Mitch McConnell’s beard. Plus, Trump evidently took a phone call from the head of Boeing who asked he not ground the jetline. Boeing’s CEO has recently become a Mar a Loga crony along with the Maraloga Day Spa Madam and other grifters.

This is from WAPO:  “FAA doubles down on decision not to ground the Boeing 737 Max, as counterparts around the world have done” with several bylines.

U.S. aviation safety officials found themselves virtually alone Tuesday, after their counterparts in Europe and around the world ordered hundreds of Boeing aircraft grounded while investigators work to find the cause of an Ethio­pian Airlines crash that killed 157 this week.

The Trump administration resisted bipartisan calls to temporarily suspend use of the Boeing 737 Max 8, even as President Trump consulted by phone with the besieged company’s CEO.

With the European Union and others following China’s move to bar flights by some of the American aviation giant’s most important airplanes, former transportation safety officials said the Federal Aviation Administration risked losing its status as the world’s aviation safety leader. India became the latest country to ground the aircraft late Tuesday, declaring that none of the planes will be allowed to enter or transit airspace starting Wednesday afternoon. Hong Kong, New Zealand and United Arab Emirates have followed suit.

Is this quid pro quo and pay for play or what?

Mr. Trump jumped into the fray on Tuesday morning, posting Twitter messages deploring what he described as the technological complexities of modern commercial aircraft. “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” Mr. Trump said. Much of what he asserted, however, was misleading or lacked context, aviation experts said.

The Boeing chief, Mr. Muilenburg, in his conversation with the president reiterated that the plane was safe, outlining the company’s position. He also updated Mr. Trump on the status of the 737 Max models. The call came after the Mr. Trump’s tweets, but was in the works the night before, according to one of the people.

Mr. Muilenburg has worked to cultivate a relationship with the president, although it has sometimes been uneasy.

Shortly after he was elected president, Mr. Trump assailed Boeing for the estimated cost of its program to build new Air Force One planes that serve as mobile command centers for the president.

The “costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter a month after winning the election but before he took office. A couple of weeks later, Mr. Muilenburg visited Mr. Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., to try to smooth things over.

“It was a terrific conversation,” Mr. Muilenburg told reporters after the meeting, explaining that he had given Mr. Trump “my personal commitment” that Boeing would build new Air Force One planes for less than the $4 billion estimate. Weeks after the conversation, Boeing donated $1 million to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee. The company had donated the same amount to help finance President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2013.

The Senate may actually act on this.  Elizabeth Warren is acting presidential.  Let’s hope she can elbow out Sanders and Biden so the she and the others can run without these two old leather bags in the way.

In the United States, calls to ban the plane are mounting.

Several senators, including Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, and the Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have called on the F.A.A. to ground the Boeing planes until the investigation into the Ethiopia crash is completed.

“The world has now witnessed the second tragic crash of one of these planes in less than six months. While we do not know the causes of these crashes, serious questions have been raised about whether these planes were pressed into service without additional pilot training in order to save money,” Ms. Warren, who is running for president, said in a statement. “Today, immediately, the F.A.A. needs to get these planes out of the sky.”

So, these are the two stories that seem to be defining today.  I’m waiting to hear from my mechanic and doing grading and prep work for my lecture tonight.

All of our love and thoughts are with you, JJ!  Just take care of yourself!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  And again, check out these pinatas!!


It was a Dark and Stormy Monday Read …

Joan Miró, This is the Color of My Dreams, 1925

I’d say good morning Sky Dancers but the first Monday of the torture that is known as Daylight Savings Time was bleak and foggy. I suppose the fact my morning walk with Temple looked a bit like I was in a horror movie was only fitting as I look through today’s headlines for today’s suggested reads. This may seem disjointed because I’ve started it while waiting for AAA to take the Mighty Mustang in to the mechanic once more.  It seems the new fuel pumping isn’t pumping.  At least it’s under warranty.  As I approach my 20th year of being in my kathouse and zooming around in the mighty mustang I realize that we’re all not what we used to be and are in desperate need of a lottery win to be rejuvenated.

That being said I’m hoping this is the year I get my solitude among huge trees.

So, here’s one on Jared Kushner’s buddies that needs some time to absorb.  “Trial of prominent Saudi women’s rights activist Al-Hathloul to start this week, family says”.  Saudi Arabia is not an easy place to be a woman.

The trial of Loujain al-Hathloul, one of nearly a dozen prominent Saudi Arabian women’s rights activists detained since last year, will begin on Wednesday, her family said on Twitter.

Activists claim some detainees, including 29-year-old Hathloul, were held in solitary confinement and subjected to mistreatment and torture, including electric shocks, flogging, and sexual assault. Saudi officials have denied those allegations as “false.”

The arrests have intensified international criticism of Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sparked global outrage.

Three dozen countries, including all 28 EU members, called on Riyadh last week to release the activists, the first rebuke of the kingdom at the U.N. Human Rights Council since it was set up in 2006.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his British counterpart have also said they had raised the issue with the Saudi authorities during recent visits.

The Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the public prosecutor’s office said earlier this month it had completed its investigations of the detainees and was preparing their trials.

Pablo Picasso: Prostitutes at a Bar, 1902 (Blue Period)

Loujain al-Hathloul has been seeking women’s right to drive in the country.  Concern has been growing about her status and that of other women for some time. Our country has not been outspoken recently on human rights violations and the creepiest of the international creeps are taking advantage.

In 2014, a 25-year-old Saudi woman, Loujain al-Hathloul, got behind the wheel of a car and drove from the United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia. She took a video in which she’s shown wearing sunglasses, a headscarf and a huge smile.

For women, driving was banned in the ultra-conservative Saudi kingdom, and Hathloul’s road trip landed her in jail for more than two months.

Despite her arrest, Hathloul, who had a driver’s license from the UAE, continued to battle for Saudi women’s right to drive. But her efforts took a more grave turn last March, when she was arrested in the UAE, says Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch.

“She was … pulled over while she was driving and apparently taken and put on a plane to Riyadh in very murky circumstances,” he says. She was briefly detained in Riyadh before being released. Then, Coogle says, in May, just before Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on female drivers last June 24, Hathloul was “picked up again in the larger crackdown against the women’s rights movement.”

Coogle says between 10 and 12 women, including academics and journalists, were swept up in that crackdown. Saudi authorities still haven’t clarified why the women, most of whom remain in prison to this day, were arrested.

“When they arrested them, they accused them publicly of treason and ran a smear campaign against them,” he says. “In fact, the women have not actually been presented with any charge.”

Music Pink and Blue II, 1918 by Georgia O’Keeffe

The Trump itty bitty tiny inauguration celebration sure did contain a lot of grift and graft and illegal stuff.  From the UK Guardian: “Trump inauguration took money from shell companies tied to foreigners. Creators of firms that donated revealed by Guardian as Indian financier, lobbyist with links to Taiwan and Israeli real estate developer.”

Donald Trump’s inauguration received tens of thousands of dollars from shell companies that masked the involvement of a foreign contributor or others with foreign ties.

The Guardian has identified the creators of three obscure firms that contributed money to Trump’s inaugural committee, which collected a record $107m as he entered the White House in 2017.

The three companies each gave $25,000 to Trump’s inaugural fund. At least one of the contributions was made for a foreign national who appears ineligible to make political donations in the US.

A spokesman for Thomas Barrack, the chairman of Trump’s inauguration committee, declined to comment. The contributors denied wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors in New York and the attorney generals of New Jersey and Washington DC have in recent weeks issued subpoenas to the committee, demanding records and information on its contributors and spending.

US election law prohibits non-resident foreigners from contributing to political campaigns, including inaugurations. Donors or campaigns who “knowingly and willfully” breach this rule may be fined or prosecuted.

One of the $25,000 donations to Trump’s inauguration was made through a Delaware shell company for a wealthy Indian financier based in London, who appears to not hold US citizenship or residency.

Another was made by a company formed in Georgia by a lobbyist with connections to the Taiwanese government. His wife said the firm was funded by Chinese investors. One of their daughters was later given an internship in Trump’s White House, which they said was unrelated to the donation.

A third $25,000 contribution was made through a company formed anonymously in New York by an Israeli real estate developer who has helped other foreign developers with legal issues in the US. The Israelideveloper said he held US residency, commonly known as a “green card”, which permitted him to contribute legally.

Ann Ravel, a former commissioner at the federal election commission (FEC), said the use of anonymous companies was the biggest problem for authorities trying to ensure transparency and legality in political donations.

Edgar Degas. Dancers in Blue ,1890

We’ve all known Tucker Carlson is a jerk for a very long time.  His conversation with Bubba the Love Sponge unearthed should ruin any bit of thought he’s a nice person or a clean cut family dude.  This is from Audrey McNamara at The Daily Beast.

Fox News star Tucker Carlson once argued that women are “extremely primitive” beings who “just need to be quiet and kind of do what you’re told,” according to newly unearthed audio of the host ranting on a shock jock radio show.

According to the media watchdog organization Media Matters, Carlson repeatedly called into the popular radio program Bubba the Love Sponge between 2006 and 2011 and let loose with sexist and misogynistic language—often at the expense of well-known female figures, including Arianna Huffington and Elena Kagan, a then-Supreme Court nominee and now an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Carlson was working for MSNBC and Fox News while he was reportedly devoting about an hour a week to these rants, in which he appeared to defend statutory rape and called for the elimination of rape shield laws, among other things.

During a 2009 conversation about polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs, who was convicted of felony rape as an accomplice, Carlson suggested Jeffs was only sent to prison because “he’s weird and unpopular.”

On Jeffs facilitating marriages between grown men and underage girls, Tucker said: “I just don’t think it’s the same thing exactly as pulling a child from a bus stop and sexually assaulting that child.”

“The rapist, in this case, has made a lifelong commitment to live and take care of the person, so it is a little different. I mean, let’s be honest about it.”

When the show’s co-host called the defense “twisted” and “demented,” Carlson responded by doubling down on his defense of Jeffs. “He’s not accused of touching anybody, Carlson said. “He is accused of facilitating a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man.”

Carlson also called the charges against Jeffs “bullshit.” Jeffs was convicted of two felony counts of child sexual assault in 2011, for which he is currently serving a life sentence plus 20 years.

Carlson also suggested that if he were to “make the laws,” Warren Jeffs would not be in prison.

Vincent Van Gogh. Starry NIght over the Rhône , 1888

You may follow the link for more disgusting misogyny or better yet, start phoning and writing his few remaining advertisers and suggest they stop funding this horrid man.

Well, it appears the love affair between the two craziest leaders in the world is off according to The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell.  US-North Korea tensions approach boiling point.”

The Trump administration — which canceled two large-scale spring war games between the United States and South Korea in an effort to move along nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea — is now grappling with reports that Pyongyang is preparing to launch a missile soon.

The reports follow President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s failure to reach an agreement at their summit last month. North Korea’s account for the failure differs from Trump’s, a fact that has increased tensions between the countries.

Experts warn that tensions could rise before negotiations move forward.

“I worry a little bit that this could get worse before it gets better because both sides want to try to figure out how to get the other side back to the table,” said Victor Cha, a former official in charge of Korea relations in the George W. Bush administration. “And they may say pressure is the way to do that.”

National security adviser John Bolton on Sunday said Trump would be “pretty disappointed” should North Korea carry out a nuclear test or a missile launch.

Bolton had been asked about new commercial satellite images taken Friday that show activity at a North Korean missile site near the border with China. Beyond Parallel, a project started by the Center for Strategic and International Security (CSIS), said North Korea “has continued preparations on the launch pad” at the Sohae launch facility, a sign the country is readying for “the delivery of a rocket.”

The long-range rocket launch site was previously shut down as part of a promise made between Kim and Trump at their first summit in June in Singapore.

Experts view the rebuilding as “deliberate efforts by North Korea in response to the inconclusive results of the Hanoi summit — to send a message, really, to President Trump and the world,” according to Cha.

Cha, now with CSIS, warned Thursday that tensions could continue to rise between Washington and Pyongyang before things cool down.

Okay, so the tow truck is approaching and I’m going to turn this over to you rather than come back to it.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Tightie Whitie Snow Blindness: “He has otherwise lived a blameless life.”

It’s Mueller Friday!

We live in a Thugocracy these days. I have a series of headlines that should not be normal headlines for any news items applying to the United States of America.  This includes a federal judge giving a rich white guy a pass on a career of selling out his country to the Russians for incredible sums of money.  People that smoke and sell small bags of weed have done more time for that crime than Paul Manafort will  for the absolute malice with which he treated the elections and the people of our country.  Of course, he’s white, he’s rich, and he just bilked us out of money and freedom. It wasn’t like he lifted a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter from a convenience  store to feed himself.  If he were caught doing that while black he likely would’ve been shot dead.

Franklin Foer–writing for The Atlantic--provides this lede:  “The ‘Otherwise Blameless Life’ of Paul Manafort. Trump’s former campaign chair has always acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him.”    The judge in the Virginia Court proved Manafort’s assumption correct.

In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was kicked out of the lobbying firm he co-founded, accused of inflating his expenses and cutting his partners out of deal

In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort came to adopt the lifestyle and corrupt practices of his Ukrainian clients as his own.

In an otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power.

In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan.

In an otherwise blameless life, he found himself nearly $20 million in debt to a Russian oligarch. Instead of honestly accounting for the money, he simply stopped responding to the oligarch’s messages.

In an otherwise blameless life, he tried to use his perch atop the Trump campaign to help salvage his sorry financial situation. He installed one of his protégés as the head of the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America. His friend allegedly funneled $125,000 from the super PAC to pay off one of Manafort’s nagging debts.

There’s more on this list at the link.  And there are more “this isn’t normal” headlines in every paper.  Let’s sample a few.

More on this story that BB covered yesterday: Congress, DHS investigating if U.S. border agents targeted journalists NBC News and KNSD revealed Wednesday that U.S. border agents in California had a list of reporters, lawyers and activists to be questioned at the border.

The list includes 10 journalists, seven of them U.S. citizens, a U.S.-based attorney and others labeled as organizers and “instigators,” 31 of whom are American.

The Homeland Security Committee, led by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D.-Miss., asked CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to provide a copy of the list with the 59 names, a copy of any dossiers on the individuals, an explanation of why each person was included on the list, an account of who had been stopped for screening and an account of any cell phone seizures.

“The appearance that CBP is targeting journalists, lawyers, and advocates, and particularly those who work on immigration matters or report on border and immigration issues, raises questions about possible misuse of CBP’s border search authority and requires oversight to ensure the protection of Americans’ legal and constitutional rights,” the letter said.

CBP said Thursday the DHS Inspector General is investigating the list. CBP is part of DHS.

From the Daily Beast: “CLEAN-CUT KIDS, ‘Whiter Every Election Cycle’: How Identity Evropa, a Far-Right Hate Group, Joined the GOP. According to leaked chat logs, the white-supremacist group has actively reinvented itself as a ‘respectable’ group in order to entice Republicans.”

The white nationalist group Identity Evropa is so cozy with the Republican Party that members led their College Republican clubs and campaigned in support of GOP congressional candidates.

At least one Identity Evropa fan, who is not a member of the group, attended CPAC last weekend where he demanded an autograph from a leftist podcaster who, tripping on acid, signed the book “eat shit.”

Identity Evropa is a fascist organization. Its members have been involved in violent street brawls, including 2017’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. While other white supremacist organizations imploded after the rally, Identity Evropa attempted to cast aside the alt-right’s tarnished image and rebrand as a “clean-cut” organization. The makeover was an attempt to appeal to the mainstream Republican Party, according to chat logs released Wednesday by the media collective Unicorn Riot.

But despite its new face, the group stayed true to its fascist heart, the leaked conversations reveal.

From  Axios:  “Scoop: White House leak to House Dems on Jared and Ivanka’s clearances.”   I still can’t believe we let this pair of grifters represent us abroad and we let them near the White House Silver.

From a White House source, the House Oversight Committee has obtained documents related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances that the Trump administration refused to provide, according to a senior Democratic aide involved in handling the documents.

Why it matters: The Trump administration’s problems with leaks will now benefit Congress, making it harder for the White House to withhold information from Democratic investigators.

The news: The White House this week rejected the committee’s request for documents on the process for granting security clearances to staffers.

  • The twist: But the House Oversight Committee in early February had already obtained the leaked documents that detail the entire process, from the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018, on how both Kushner and Trump were ultimately granted their security clearances.

  • The senior Democratic aide who was involved in handling the documents told Axios that two staffers on the Oversight Committee said the documents are “part of the puzzle that we would be asking for” from the White House, “so we appreciate having this upfront.”

     

And we got more folks …

From the Miami Herald this morning: “Trump cheered Patriots to Super Bowl victory with founder of spa where Kraft was busted.

Seated at a round table littered with party favors and the paper-cutout footballs that have become tradition at his annual Super Bowl Watch Party, President Donald Trump cheered the New England Patriots and his longtime friend, team owner Robert Kraft, to victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3.

Sometime during the party at Trump’s West Palm Beach country club, the president turned in his chair to look over his right shoulder, smiling for a photo with two women at a table behind him.

The woman who snapped the blurry Super Bowl selfie with the president was Li Yang, 45, a self-made entrepreneur from China who started a chain of Asian day spas in South Florida. Over the years, these establishments — many of which operate under the name Tokyo Day Spas — have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.

Nineteen days after Trump and Yang posed together while rooting for the Patriots, authorities would charge Kraft with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Jupiter that Yang had founded more than a decade earlier.

From The New Yorker today and Susan B. Glasser:  “The “Enemies of the People” Have a Few Questions for the President. The White House press briefing is dead. It was awful, but we should still mourn it.”

The Administration, of course, never formally announced that it was killing off the White House press briefing—that would have caused too great an outcry. But that is nonetheless what it has done, as Trump himself admitted in a January tweet, saying that “the reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the ‘podium’ much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately.” The last official briefing by Sanders was on January 28th; it was the first such briefing in forty-one days. All told, there was one press briefing in November, one in December, two in January, and none at all in February, or, so far, in March. This is not just a White House policy. The State Department, which used to give a near-daily press briefing that was considered significant by journalists from around the world, had six “department press briefings” briefings in November, two in December, none in January, two in February, and one so far in March.

This is not how it should work in a democracy, and there is no explanation other than a bad one for why this is happening. The Administration’s elimination of regular on-the-record press briefings is part of a broader war on truth and transparency by a President who will go down as the most publicly mendacious American leader we’ve yet had. (Trump’s epic speech at cpac over the weekend was both the longest and, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker, the most untruthful of his tenure, clocking in at more than two hours and approximately a hundred lies, misstatements, and falsehoods.)

That highlighted sentence part is one I keep repeating daily right after I say “What Fresh Hell is this?” “This is not how it should work in a democracy …”

In news related to the disappearance of the White House Briefing we now have the disappearance of Bill Shine who is the ex Fox Executive acting as the de facto White House Communications Director.  We got a really nice bunch of background on Shine in Jane Mayer’s article at the beginning of the week.  This is from CNN.

White House deputy chief of staff and de facto communications director Bill Shine has stepped down to join the Trump campaign, press secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement Friday.

Shine, a former Fox News executive, joined the White House in July 2018, the sixth person to fill or be tapped for the top communications role. Jason Miller, Sean Spicer, Mike Dubke, Anthony Scaramucci and Hope Hicks all came before him.

He offered his resignation to President Donald Trump on Thursday but was spotted on the White House South Lawn on Friday ahead of the President’s trip to Alabama. He will be joining the 2020 re-election campaign as a senior adviser.

“Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life. To be a small part of all this President has done for the American people has truly been an honor. I’m looking forward to working on President Trump’s re-election campaign and spending more time with my family,” Shine said in a statement.

Shine has been shuttled over to the Trump  version of CREEP to probably wine and dine Fox news so it can continue to act as a State propaganda outlet for Trump.  The Why is not known but Fox lost any right to a Democratic Campaign debate over the news. 

I seriously can’t take much more of this.  We’ve just devolved into a Banana Republic so quickly that I feel we should all be wearing Panama hats and smoking cigars while we wait in our bread lines.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?  I’m hoping for some better results from Manafort in the DC court  which is U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman to whom I dedicate all these beautiful tarot card illustrations of justice.  Come on Mueller!  Come on Amy!!  Come on Democratic Congressional Hearings!  Who will rid us of these meddlesome kleptocrats?