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.

 

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It’s time for some wearin’ o’ the Green!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

This is going to be a short open thread.   For some reason, all the crazy sexism and misogyny floating around the Dem primary candidates got me thinking on this Joni lyric:

This signal here
I hope you can pick it up
Loud and clear
I know you don’t like weak women
You get bored so quick
And you don’t like strong women
‘Cause they’re hip to your tricks

This is a few years old but I enjoyed it all the same:  From The New Yorker: “Joni Mitchell’s Openhearted Heroism. She made the best music of her generation by falling in love, over and over, while defending her sense of self.”

Mitchell writes about emotional information: who controls it, and how it is squandered or hoarded, withheld or weaponized. This requires some reconnaissance, which for Mitchell involves falling in and out of love, over and over—not so much a research method as a form of self-surgery. Her songs report on those lessons, which are, in an instant, in performance, happily forgotten. She is always thinking about the ways in which calculation fails, as guile yields again and again to innocence. As she put it in “Song for Sharon”: “I can keep my cool at poker / But I’m a fool when love’s at stake.”

She was never a fool for longer than her art required, though, and she could be withering, in interviews, about the lovers who misread her patient scrutiny of them for acquiescence. David Crosby, who produced Mitchell’s first record, would “trot me out” in front of his friends, she said, “and watch me blow their minds.” Crosby is the smooth operator in the first verses of “Cactus Tree”:

There’s a man who’s been out sailing
In a decade full of dreams
And he takes her to a schooner
And he treats her like a queen
Bearing beads from California
With their amber stones and green

It sounds like a cross between a hippie valentine and an abduction scenario. As the tune progresses, one suitor after another makes his approach, but Mitchell’s refrain wards them off: “She’s so busy being free.”

That freedom was hard-won. Men often wanted Mitchell to be a wife, a muse, a siren, or a star. Instead, they got a genius, and one especially suited to deconstructing their fantasies of her. When David Geffen, her manager, implored her to write a hit, she came up with “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio,” which mocks the request while heedlessly fulfilling it:

I come when you whistle
When you’re loving and kind
If you’ve got too many doubts
If there’s no good reception for me
Then tune me out, ’cause honey
Who needs the static
It hurts the head
And you wind up cracking
And the day goes dismal
From “Breakfast Barney”
To the sign-off prayer

The song checks all the boxes: it’s hummable, it’s accessible, it’s a love song—but it’s also a sabred refusal of all of the above. Mitchell was frank but weirdly Parnassian about male sexual appetite, which she saw as not so different, finally, from her own. When she resisted the advances of Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, it was partly because she recognized her own techniques in their vulpine attentions. (She always said that she preferred “the company of men.”) In “Coyote,” a song about her fling with Sam Shepard, Mitchell describes his roving eye: “He’s staring a hole in his scrambled eggs / He picks up my scent on his fingers / While he’s watching the waitresses’ legs.” The detail is crude and adolescent, but it’s also very sexy, and Mitchell sings those lines to sound like a boast. Prowess is prowess.

What really got me thinking about the entire treatment of the incredibly talented Democratic women running for the Presidency in 2020 was this discussion we had earlier this week on Boomer’s thread about Beto and this Politico headline ‘Not one woman got that kind of coverage’: Beto backlash begins by Natasha Koreki.

Since announcing her 2020 run, Elizabeth Warren has dispensed three major policy proposals, held 30 campaign events and visited nearly a dozen states.

Since announcing his 2020 run, Beto O’Rourke has made one visit to Iowa, where he vaguely outlined his positions, including from atop a cafe counter.

Guess who’s getting the star treatment.

stbrigid2And it’s kinda like today.  February 1st was St. Brigid of Kildare’s Day. She is also a patron Saint of the Irish yet she get’s no play at all here.

Little is known of her life but from legendmyth, and folklore. According to these, she was born of a noble father and a slave mother and was sold along with her mother to a Druid, whom she later converted to Christianity. On being set free, she returned to her father, who tried to marry her to the king of Ulster. Impressed by her piety, the king removed her from parental control. According to the Liber hymnorum (11th century), the Curragh, a plain in Kildare, was granted by the king of Leinster to St. Brigid. At Kildare she founded the first nunnery in Ireland. The community became a double abbey for monks and nuns, with the abbess ranking above the abbot. Her friend St. Conleth became, at Brigid’s beckoning, bishop of her people. She is said to have been active in founding other communities of nuns.

St. Brigid appears in a wealth of literature, notably the Book of Lismore, the Breviarium Aberdonense, and Bethada Náem n-Érenn. One of the loveliest and most gently profound legends of Brigid is the story of Dara, the blind nun, for the restoration of whose sight Brigid prayed. When the miracle was granted, Dara realized that the clarity of sight blurred God in the eye of the soul, whereupon she asked Brigid to return her to the beauty of darkness. Brigid is also said to have miraculously changed water into beer for a leper colony and provided enough beer for 18 churches from a single barrel; she is sometimes considered to be one of the patron saints of beer.

So, she’s really the patron saints of beer and known for turning water into beer.  But who get’s all the beer in celebration?  Hmmm?  So, here’s to Saint Brigid who was known for giving everything away and for having a brilliant little woven cross.

And here’s to the women who are trying to find all the oxygen taken by the Bad News B boys (Bernie, Beto, Biden) to give voices to the rest of us.

Anyway, have a happy day!!!

What’s on your mind today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Balinese god Barong-Ket, a combination of lion, tiger, cow, and dragon.

Good Morning!!

I said this a few days ago, and I’m still feeling it: I don’t want to live in this world. America’s toxic culture of white supremacy and mass shootings is spreading around the globe, enabled by Trump. I stayed offline for much of the day yesterday so I wouldn’t have to read about the horror in New Zealand.

I did hear last night that somehow the massacre on the other side of the world was the fault of Chelsea Clinton. At least according to some Bernie Sanders supporters. Here’s the video of a young women in a Bernie T-shirt poking her finger at Chelsea and screaming in her face.

From Business Insider:

Clinton, who attended and worked at the university in various capacities, including co-founding the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership, was said to be invited to the vigil, according to students at the vigil.

But Clinton’s presence at the vigil was not a welcome sight for at least two activists who were at the vigil.

A video went viral on Twitter Friday night showing a confrontation between Clinton and a student activist, filmed and tweeted out by a friend, who can be seen in the video telling Clinton, “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deeply — 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.” [….]

On Twitter, an account that appears to belong to the student activist wrote, “the CAUCASITY that chelsea clinton has showing up to a vigil for the 49 muslims massacred in an islamophobic hate crime after STOKING ISLAMOPHOBIA AND RACISM surrounding ilhan omar… f—ing ridiculous.” The account retweeted the video, posted by her “best friend,” writing, “apparently my brand is yelling at white politicians.”

Ancient Egypian goddes Sekhmet

Fact check: Chelsea Clinton is not a politician. Chelsea’s offense was that she sent a tweet about anti-semitism, after which she politely interacted with Rep Ilhan Omar, who had been criticized for tweets about politicians supporting Israel because they received donations from AIPAC. Here is what Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”

On the other hand, let’s take a look at Trump’s history. Brian Klaas at The Washington Post: A short history of President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry.

Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history. In 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed “we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” Trump continued nodding, saying “right,” and “we need this question!” as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump “when can we get rid of them [Muslims]?” In response, Trump said: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”

In November 2015, on “Morning Joe,” Trump said that America needs to “watch and study the mosques.” Four days later, he indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the United States. Two days after that, he falsely claimedthat “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Then came the most egregious statement — one that should haunt Trump’s legacy forever and taint everyone who supported him subsequently: On Dec. 7, 2015, he called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Three days later, Trump tweeted that the United Kingdom is “trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” On March 9, 2016, Trump falsely claimed that “Islam hates us.”

Upon taking office, Trump surrounded himself with anti-Muslim bigots. Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, was fired by the FBI for his Islamophobia. Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national-security-adviser-turned-felon, said that Islam “is like a cancer.” And top officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have also stoked hatred of Islam.

Egyptian goddess Bastet

In late November 2017, Trump retweeted three videos by Jayda Fransen. She was one of the leaders of Britain First, a neo-fascist hate group. She has been convicted of multiple hate-crime offensesand was involved in organizing “Christian patrols,” which included what Britain First called “mosque invasions” aimed at intimidating British Muslims. While Fransen was out on bail, she appeared on Radio Aryan, a neo-Nazi radio station. Her interview began right after the station concluded its reading from “Mein Kampf.” That is who the president of the United States chose to amplify to his millions and millions of Twitter followers.

There’s much more at the link if you can stand to read it.

More from Vox: The New Zealand shooter called immigrants “invaders.” Hours later, so did Trump.

President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.

On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US.

“People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report.

That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims. In the rambling 74-page manifesto the 28-year-old suspected shooter posted online shortly before the attack, he writes that he was committing the killings “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.”

It’s also the same language the man who killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last October used: In that case, the perpetrator blamed Jews for helping what he called “invaders”in the Central American migrant caravans who were trying to enter the US.

Informative articles on the New Zealand terrorist attack, links only:

Cat in mosaic at Pompeii

David C. Atkinson at The New Republic: The Longer History of the Christchurch Attacks. For over a century, the United States has played a role in inspiring and enabling white supremacy in Australia and New Zealand.

Wajahat Ali at The New York Times: The Roots of the Christchurch Massacre. All those who have helped to spread the worldwide myth that Muslims are a threat have blood on their hands.

NBC News: New Zealand shooting leaves online extremism researchers ‘hopeless and furious.’

The Daily Beast: New Zealand Mosque Shooting Suspect Used Swedish Girl’s Death as License to Kill.

 

More interesting reads to check out

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a fascinating story on that former Putin pal who supposedly died accidentally in a DC hotel room: Exclusive: Washington Autopsy Files Reveal Lesin Sustained Broken Bone In Neck.

WASHINGTON — Mikhail Lesin, the former Russian press minister who turned up dead in a Washington hotel room in 2015, sustained a fracture to a neck bone just below the jaw line “at or near the time” of his death, according to documents released by the city’s medical examiner that provide new details about his final days….

That detail, however, and others contained in the 149-page file released exclusively to RFE/RL offer the most precise scientific description to date about Lesin’s death, which officials ruled accidental and said was caused by blunt-force injuries amid excessive alcohol consumption.

Once a powerful media adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Lesin fell out of favor with the Kremlin elite sometime around 2012 and had lowered his public profile before he was discovered dead in the Dupont Circle Hotel, located a few blocks from the White House, on November 5, 2015….

Hindu sacret tigress Dawon

Among the new details revealed by the documents:

• Lesin’s hyoid — a bone located about midway between the larynx and the jaw bone — was completely fractured;

• The FBI considered possibly taking over the case in early 2016. It wasn’t clear whether the agency formally did so, though earlier files released by the agency show its agents were involved in questioning witnesses and examining video recordings from hotel cameras;

• Lesin’s son, Anton, who lives in Beverly Hills, California, told investigators he did not know why his father was in the U.S. capital, and also reported that Lesin regularly had serious bouts of drinking while on business trips;

• The day after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released an initial report, one of its officials was summoned to appear before a criminal grand jury looking into Lesin’s death;

• In a report filed the day of Lesin’s death, a forensic investigator with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner wrote that a detective had called and said a “friend” of the former Russian official had contacted him and “inquired about the decedent’s location.”

Read many more details at the link.

The media has begun vetting Beto O’Rourke. Two interesting reads:

Reuters: Beto O’Rourke’s secret membership in America’s oldest hacking group.

While a teenager, O’Rourke acknowledged in an exclusive interview, he belonged to the oldest group of computer hackers in U.S. history.

The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows. It’s also known for inventing the word “hacktivism” to describe human-rights-driven security work.

Members of the group have protected O’Rourke’s secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability. Now, in a series of interviews, CDC members have acknowledged O’Rourke as one of their own. In all, more than a dozen members of the group agreed to be named for the first time in a book about the hacking group by this reporter that is scheduled to be published in June by Public Affairs. O’Rourke was interviewed early in his run for the Senate.

Mayan Jaguar god

There is no indication that O’Rourke ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so. But his membership in the group could explain his approach to politics better than anything on his resume. His background in hacking circles has repeatedly informed his strategy as he explored and subverted established procedures in technology, the media and government.

“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”

That doesn’t seem to problematic to me. As younger candidates come forward, they are likely to have on-line histories. This story from Politico is a bit more embarrassing: O’Rourke ‘not … proud’ of teenage murder fantasy writing.

Beto O’Rourke said Friday he is “not … proud” of fiction he wrote as teenager about murdering children, while acknowledging its surfacing could hurt his campaign.

“Stuff I was part of as a teenager … not anything that I’m proud of today,” O’Rourke told reporters outside a meet-and-greet here. “And I mean, that’s the long and short of it.”

O’Rourke’s remarks followed a report in Reuters that O’Rourke, as a young member of the computer hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow, wrote an online article about how society could work without money and, in a more disturbing missive, about killing children.

“One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles. … This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams,” he wrote, according to Reuters. “As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”

There’s more of this stuff, definitely creepy; but it was a long time ago. Bernie Sanders survived his early fantasy writings about rape and his theories about breast cancer being caused by sexual frustration.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


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?


Thursday Reads: Today’s Word Is Hubris

Good Morning!!

Are you ready to vote for a young white man with minimal experience who couldn’t carrry his home state and declares, “I’m just born to do this” about running for president? I guess I’m just too old and cynical to see the appeal of this guy. Joe Hagen has a profile of Beto O’Rourke at Vanity Fair. Here’s an excerpt:

Settling into an armchair in his living room, he tries to make sense of his rise. “I honestly don’t know how much of it was me,” he says. “But there is something abnormal, super-normal, or I don’t know what the hell to call it, that we both experience when we’re out on the campaign trail.”

O’Rourke and his wife, Amy, an educator nine years his junior, both describe the moment they first witnessed the power of O’Rourke’s gift. It was in Houston, the third stop on O’Rourke’s two-year Senate campaign against Ted Cruz. “Every seat was taken, every wall, every space in the room was filled with probably a thousand people,” recalls Amy O’Rourke. “You could feel the floor moving almost. It was not totally clear that Beto was what everybody was looking for, but just like that people were so ready for something. So that was totally shocking. I mean, like, took-my-breath-away shocking.”

For O’Rourke, what followed was a near-mystical experience. “I don’t ever prepare a speech,” he says. “I don’t write out what I’m going to say. I remember driving to that, I was, like, ‘What do I say? Maybe I’ll just introduce myself. I’ll take questions.’ I got in there, and I don’t know if it’s a speech or not, but it felt amazing. Because every word was pulled out of me. Like, by some greater force, which was just the people there. Everything that I said, I was, like, watching myself, being like, How am I saying this stuff? Where is this coming from?

“There’s something that happens to me,” he says, “or that I get to be a part of in those rooms, that is not like normal life. I don’t know if that has ever happened to me before. I don’t know if that would happen again.”

So he’s supposedly a rock star, a natural. But why is he running for president and what are his qualifications?

“My sense is, following some success that I had in Congress, and working with Republicans to actually get things signed into law, including both President Obama and President Trump’s administrations, that I may have an ability to work with people who think differently than I do, come to a different conclusion that I’ve come to on a given issue, and yet find enough common ground to do something better than what we have right now.”

A few days before Trump arrives, while meeting with students at the University of Texas at El Paso, O’Rourke compares the battle against Trump to “every epic movie that you’ve ever seen, from Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings. This is the moment where we’re going to win or lose everything.” O’Rourke likes to think in such mythic terms. As he quipped on the campaign trail, he named his son Ulysses because “I didn’t have the balls to call him Odysseus.” But in a private meeting with Barack Obama last November, the former president had asked Beto O’Rourke to consider if he had a clear path to the White House. Could he deliver Texas?

Michigan? Pennsylvania? Wisconsin?

“I don’t have a team counting delegates,” O’Rourke says, again invoking a politics not readily accessible by reason. “Almost no one thought there was a path in Texas, and I just knew it. I just felt it. I knew it was there, and I knew that with enough work and enough creativity and enough amazing people, if I’m able to meet them and bring them in, then we can do it.

“That’s how I feel about this,” he says. “It’s probably not the most professional thing you’ve ever heard about this, but I just feel it.”

But he lost in Texas. I guess there’s something wrong with me, but I just don’t get it. The stuff this guy says about himself makes me want to throw up.

Josh Voorhees at Slate: Beto 2020 Has No Reason to Exist: Of all the major candidates, he brings the least to the Democratic primary.

Beto O’Rourke is finally ready to end the suspense. The former Texas congressman is expected to formally kick off his presidential campaign Thursday, one day after tipping his hand to a local TV station in Texas. “I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,” O’Rourke told KTSM El Paso via text. “It’s a big part of why I’m running.” His apparent confirmation came on the heels of a new Vanity Fair cover story—complete with glossy photo shoot—in which he told the magazine that he wanted to run. “I want to be in it,” he said, after describing our current political moment as an existential fight. “Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.” [….]

Beto is missing one important thing, though: an actual reason to run.

O’Rourke would enter the race as a man without a clear political ideology, a signature legislative achievement, a major policy issue, or a concrete agenda for the country. Those in the know tell the Atlantic that Beto is planning to run as a candidate “offering hope that America can be better than its current partisan and hate-filled politics, and that the country can come together,” but that—brace yourself—he hasn’t yet “landed on how he’ll propose to actually make that happen.” That’s more of the same empty words Beto’s been offering in public since his loss to Cruz. “I don’t know where I am on a [political] spectrum, and I almost could care less,” he said at a recent stop in Wisconsin. “I just want to get to better things for this country.”

“Beto 2020: Better Things” would not be the worst campaign slogan I’ve ever heard, but it’s nowhere near a fully formed vision of why O’Rourke thinks he should be president, or why Democrats of any stripe should want him to be. It’s possible that he’d be able to ride to the nomination on the force of his personality alone—it’s gotten him this far—but that would be a particular shame considering he’ll face one of the deepest and most diverse primary fields. If Democrats are in the market for soaring rhetoric about bridging the partisan divide, they can get that from Joe Biden, Cory Booker, or Amy Klobuchar—all of whom can offer their own specific cases for what that bipartisanship can produce, unlike O’Rourke.

A couple more Beto reads to check out:

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Beto O’Rourke Has a Good Reason He’s Running. He Just Can’t Say It.

The Guardian: Beto O’Rourke frequently voted for Republican legislation, analysis reveals.

Meanwhile, yesterday Paul Manafort got his second sentence in federal court and shortly thereafter, he was hit with state charges in New York. I love this headline from Vanity Fair: New York Prosecutors Knee Manafort in the Balls while He’s Doubled Over Coughing up Blood, by Beth Levin.

On Wednesday morning in a D.C. courtroom, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort engaged in what we assume was, for him, a deeply humiliating act: he expressed remorse, presumably for the first time in his 69 years on earth. Or, at least, he tried to. “I am sorry for what I’ve done and all the activities that have gotten us here today,” he told Judge Amy Berman Jackson, claiming that he shouldn’t get more jail time for the copious federal crimes he committed because he is his adult wife’s “primary caretaker,” and the two of them need each other. “I know that it was my conduct that brought me here today,” Manafort added. “For that, I am remorseful. While I cannot undo the past, I can ensure that the future will be very different. . . . I can say to you with conviction that my behavior in the future will be very different.”

Judge Amy Berman Jackson

While that reasoning might have worked on Judge T.S. Ellis, who strangely argued last week that Manafort had led a “blameless life” outside of all the crime, Jackson wasn’t having it, sentencing him to an additional 43 months on federal conspiracy charges, and letting him know she saw right through his act: “Saying I’m sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency.” And, somehow, it’s unlikely that that was the worst part of Manafort’s day! Because literal minutes later, this happened:

New York prosecutors Wednesday announced criminal charges against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, only minutes after his sentencing in a federal case. The indictment, unveiled by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, charges Manafort with 16 counts related to mortgage fraud, conspiracy, and falsifying business records. . . . Crucially, Trump does not have pardon power for state charges.

The indictment from New York prosecutors alleges a yearlong scheme in which Manafort doctored business records to obtain millions in loans, and reportedly grew out of an investigation that started in 2017 when prosecutors started looking into loans Manafort had received from two banks. Last week, a grand jury moved to charge the guy who ran the president’s campaign with residential mortgage fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records, and a handful of other crimes. If he’s convicted of the most serious charges, he could spend up to a quarter of a century in prison. (The Times could not immediately reach Manafort’s legal team for comment.)

I love that headline. Read the rest at Vanity Fair.

This morning, Roger Stone will face Judge Amy Berman Jackson. He should be shaking in his boots after the tongue-lashing Jackson gave to Manafort and his attorneys yesterday.

That should be interesting. I’ll post update as I get them.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following 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!!


Tuesday Reads: Some Democrats Are Getting On My Nerves

Good Morning!!

Is there some way I can just resign from the human race? I don’t want to live in the hell that the Trump gang has turned this country into. I’m also getting sick and tired of a lot of the people who supposedly want to get rid of Trump, but are working in opposition to that goal–not only people like Bernie Sanders and his followers obviously, but also a lot of other Democrats.

Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi made what I considered to be a strategic statement about impeachment, and suddenly a lot of people who claimed to like the way she has been handling Trump are now attacking her.

The Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi on Impeaching Trump: ‘He’s Just Not Worth It.’

Pelosi began the interview by sharing a quote from Abraham Lincoln that is etched into a plaque in her office: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”

It was public sentiment, Pelosi says, that convinced her President Trump would back down in the standoff over funding a border wall that partially shut down the government for 35 days earlier this year. And it is public sentiment, she says, that will guide her as she leads the House Democrats and seeks to use their powers as a check on a president she believes disregards the Constitution.

When she was asked about impeachment, Pelosi said:

I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.

This is being reported by many so-called journalists as “taking impeachment off the table.” But that isn’t what Pelosi said. Back in 2005, she did say exactly that about George W. Bush. This time, she’s clearly saying that she needs “compelling and overwhelming” evidence and “bipartisan” support before she’ll call for impeachment. She’s not telling committee chairs to stop investigating Trump, because it is exactly those investigations that will lead to the “public sentiment” necessary to impeach and convict him.

That’s my take too. We need public committee hearings in which the American people will be educated as to the level of corruption and criminality that is going on in the Trump administration. And when public opinion shifts, Pelosi will say that she has been convinced by the evidence and she will call for impeachment.

Pelosi also managed to work in a dig that will get under Trump’s skin–“he’s not worth it.” In addition she said this in the interview:

You said earlier you don’t feel it’s worth it to pursue impeachment. Do you believe he’s fit to be president?

Are we talking ethically? Intellectually? Politically? What are we talking here? [….]

All of the above. No. No. I don’t think he is. I mean, ethically unfit. Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit. No, I don’t think he’s fit to be president of the United States. And that’s up to us to make the contrast to show that this president — while he may be appealing to you on your insecurity and therefore your xenophobia, whether it’s globalization or immigrants — is fighting clean air for your children to breathe, clean water for them to drink, food safety, every good thing that we should be doing that people can’t do for themselves. You know, I have five kids, and I think I can do everything for them, but I can’t control the air they breathe, the water that they drink. You depend on the public sector to do certain things for the health and well-being of your family, and he is counter to that.

I’m confident that when the time comes, Pelosi will call for impeachment.

Another thing Democrats are doing that has me ready to scream and pull my hair out is the calls for Joe Biden to run for president and the claims that only he can win back the rust belt. I’m sorry, but I don’t think he can do that and, in any case, I don’t think the rust belt is going to be as important this time.

The person who wins the nomination in 2020 is going to have to carry the black vote–especially the votes of black women–and I don’t think Biden can do that once all his baggage comes out. In 2020, California will vote on Super Tuesday, so whoever wins there is going to be in a powerful position. I don’t think Biden can beat Kamala Harris there, since she has already tied up endorsements from so many public officials there.

Some of Biden’s baggage: 1) he is 76 year old; 2) he has already run for president twice and lost decisively; 3) he helped put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court by minimizing Anita Hill’s testimony about Thomas’ sexual harassment of her and refusing to allow testimony by other women abused by Thomas. 4) his horrible criminal justice record; his support of and vote for the bankruptcy bill; his opposition to integration through busing, which was basically just opposition to integration period; his plagarism scandals;  his groping of women; and his constant, embarrassing gaffes.

I’m sure there is more baggage, but those are the things I can think of off the top of my head.

Here’s Jamelle Bouie on Biden and busing: The Trouble With Biden.

As they begin their search for a nominee, most Democrats — more than half, according to a February poll from Monmouth University — prize electability above all else. They want a sure thing, someone who will beat President Trump.

But beating Trump isn’t the same as beating Trumpism. Unseating the president won’t automatically undermine the white resentment and racial chauvinism that drive his movement. That will depend on the nature of the campaign against him and whether it challenges the assumptions of his ideology or affirms them in the name of electoral pragmatism.

Joe Biden in the 1970s

The possibility of defeating Trump without defeating Trumpism looms over Joe Biden’s possible run for the 2020 Democratic nomination. The former vice president’s not-yet-candidacy centers on his appeal to the white, blue-collar workers who rejected Hillary Clinton in favor of Donald Trump. He believes he could have won them in 2016, and he thinks he can win them now. This isn’t just about Biden’s working-class affect. As a senator from Delaware, Biden understood himself as a staunch defender of Middle American interests.

But those interests were racialized, which is how a younger Biden could at once be a committed liberal and an ardent opponent of busing to desegregate his state’s public schools. As an article in The Washington Post last week demonstrated, Biden was at the forefront of opposition to busing in Delaware. The rhetoric he deployed in defense of his position channeled the visceral hostility of suburban (and urban) whites whose children were bused or whose schools took in bused children.

“I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race,’” Biden told a Delaware-based weekly newspaper in 1975. “I don’t buy that.”

Biden made his argument using language that is still common to opponents of efforts to rectify racial inequality: “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”

Read the rest at the New York Times.

Politico has an interesting article about the “yearslong feud” between Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

On a February morning in 2005 in a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Joe Biden confronted Elizabeth Warren over a subject they’d been feuding over for years: the country’s bankruptcy laws. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was one of the strongest backers of a bill meant to address the skyrocketing rate at which Americans were filing for bankruptcy. Warren, at the time a Harvard law professor, had been fighting to kill the same legislation for seven years. She had castigated Biden, accusing him of trying “to sell out women” by pushing for earlier versions of the bill. Now, with the legislation nearing a vote, Biden publicly grappled with Warren face to face.

Warren, Biden allowed, had made “a very compelling and mildly demagogic argument” about why the bill would hurt people who needed to file for bankruptcy because of medical debt or credit card bills they couldn’t pay. But Biden had what he called a “philosophic question,” according to the Congressional Record’s transcript of the hearing that day: Who was responsible? Were the rising number of people who filed for bankruptcy each year taking advantage of their creditors by trying to escape their debts? Or were credit card companies and other lenders taking advantage of an increasingly squeezed middle class?

Warren blamed the lenders. Many credit card companies charged so much in fees and interest that they weren’t losing money when some of their customers went bankrupt, she said. “That is, they have squeezed enough out of these families in interest and fees and payments that never paid down principal,” Warren said.

Biden parried. “Maybe we should talk about usury rates, then,” he replied. “Maybe that is what we should be talking about, not bankruptcy.”

“Senator, I will be the first. Invite me.”

“I know you will, but let’s call a spade a spade,” Biden said. “Your problem with credit card companies is usury rates from your position. It is not about the bankruptcy bill.”

Read the rest at Politico.

One more from Josh Voorhees at Slate, who worries that Biden could win the nomination: The Old, White Giant.

The one major constant throughout [the 2020 Democratic race so far]: the looming presence of Joe Biden, who has been teasing a presidential run more or less since the day after the 2016 election. Biden would face many hurdles if he gets into the race—his age and his record chief among them—but it’s far from certain any are the deal breakers that some pundits and prognosticators have suggested.

To be clear, I do not think Biden should win the Democratic nomination; I simply fear that he will. Despite a record that looks conservative in hindsight, a worldview that is troubling in the present, and an identity that does little for the future, Biden appears to be too well-known, well-liked, and well-connected to be denied the nomination.

Let’s begin with the polls. Biden has led nearly every hypothetical field in almost every single major survey taken since Election Day 2016, notwithstanding the usual caveats about polls. Polls can’t predict the future, but they can tell us plenty about the present—and the present looks mighty good for Uncle Joe. He sits just shy of 30 percent in RealClearPolitics’ rolling average, roughly 10 points clear of a crowded field in which all but Sanders and Harris remain mired in single digits. More telling than the size of Biden’s lead is the consistency of his support, which has not wavered even as a bevy of credible and compelling contenders has taken turns introducing themselves to the nation.

The common refrain this far out from the early nominating contests is that polling performances are driven largely by name recognition, which is true. But last I checked, name recognition is a requirement for electoral success, especially in a crowded field. Any candidate would love to be in Biden’s position, which allows him to take press coverage as a given and would help him overcome his lack of a small-donor network. And more crucial than being well-known is being well-liked, and no one in the field is more beloved than Uncle Joe, even when you account for his national profile. According to the latest data from Morning Consult, which has been in the field daily since early January, a whopping 79 percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion of the former veep, compared with just 11 percent of Democrats who do not. That’s largely why Biden was also the most common answer when fans of Sanders, Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Beto O’Rourke were asked for their second choice.

Read the rest at Slate. I disagree; I think Biden will screw up again if he runs, but I would much rather he just didn’t run.

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.