Monday Reads: Has Trump finally found his Roy Cohn?

Our next attorney general: February 9, 2019

It’s Monday and we’re headed towards April Fool’s Day.

Or did that happen yesterday afternoon when it became pretty obvious that a Quid Pro Quo was delivered to Congress by an Attorney General who did pretty much what he was hired to do.  Congress–Our Congress–and we the people have to see the full report of the Mueller investigation. We must determine exactly what is meant by the President wasn’t exonerated and hey, I’ve decided noot no to prosecute but just make it all go away as much as possible because I believe in an imperial presidency and I did this before and got away with it.  So come get it if you can.

I wasn’t exactly expecting a smoking gun from Mueller.  I was, however, expecting a guy that wrote a diatribe on how the entire exercise was a witch hunt and then submitted it to the President for a spot back on the A team was  going to do exactly what he was hired to do. He’s providing cover at whatever the cost for a law ignoring  monster of a man.

Now, we wait for Congress and the Courts to shake it all out of Barr.

Here’s how Neil Katayal sees. it.   You may recall that Katayal drafted the special counsel regulations under which Robert Mueller was appointed.

But the critical part of the letter is that it now creates a whole new mess. After laying out the scope of the investigation and noting that Mr. Mueller’s report does not offer any legal recommendations, Mr. Barr declares that it therefore “leaves it to the attorney general to decide whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.” He then concludes the president did not obstruct justice when he fired the F.B.I. director, James Comey.

Such a conclusion would be momentous in any event. But to do so within 48 hours of receiving the report (which pointedly did not reach that conclusion) should be deeply concerning to every American.

The special counsel regulations were written to provide the public with confidence that justice was done. It is impossible for the public to reach that determination without knowing two things. First, what did the Mueller report conclude, and what was the evidence on obstruction of justice? And second, how could Mr. Barr have reached his conclusion so quickly?

Mr. Barr’s letter raises far more questions than it answers, both on the facts and the law.

His letter says Mr. Mueller set “out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.” Yet we don’t know what those “difficult issues” were, because Mr. Barr doesn’t say, or why Mr. Mueller, after deciding not to charge on conspiracy, let Mr. Barr make the decision on obstruction.

On the facts, Mr. Barr says that the government would need to prove that Mr. Trump acted with “corrupt intent” and there were no such actions. But how would Mr. Barr know? Did he even attempt to interview Mr. Trump about his intentions?

What kind of prosecutor would make a decision about someone’s intent without even trying to talk to him? Particularly in light of Mr. Mueller’s pointed statement that his report does not “exonerate” Mr. Trump. Mr. Mueller didn’t have to say anything like that. He did so for a reason. And that reason may well be that there is troubling evidence in the substantial record that he compiled.

William Saletan–at Salon–has a take that’s worth considering. “Bill Barr’s Weasel Words. All the ways the attorney general is spinning the Mueller report to protect Trump.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia investigation, and Republicans are gloating. They claim a four-page letterfrom Attorney General William Barr, purporting to summarize the report, exonerates President Donald Trump. They’re wrong. The letter says the Justice Department won’t prosecute Trump, but it reaches that conclusion by tailoring legal standards to protect the president. Here’s a list of Barr’s weasel words and what they’re hiding.

“The Russian government.” The letter quotes a sentence from Mueller’s report. In that sentence, Mueller says his investigation didn’t prove that members of the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The sentence specifies Russia’s government. It says nothing about coordination with other Russians. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, gave campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian associate who has been linked to Russian intelligence. Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner met secretly in Trump Tower with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected lawyer. But neither Kilimnik nor Veselnitskaya is part of the Russian government. They seem to be excluded from Barr’s analysis.

223138Read the entire list of Weasel Words.  Then, remember the last time Barr basically did the same kind of thing George HW Bush and Iran Contra.  Why wouldn’t he do it again especially since he was out writing about it for Trump and all to see over the past two years?  Remember all those pardons?

Back then, the all-consuming, years-long scandal was called Iran-Contra. On Dec. 24, 1992, it ended when Bush pardoned six peoplewho had been caught up in it.

“The Constitution is quite clear on the powers of the president and sometimes the president has to make a very difficult call,” Bush said then. “That’s what I’ve done.”

Then-Attorney General Barr supported the president’s decision in the Iran-Contra case, which gave clemency to people who had been officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He had been set to go on trial to face charges about lying to Congress.

To the man who led the Iran-Contra investigation, however, the pardons represented a miscarriage of justice.

“It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.

Barr said later that he believed Bush had made the right decision and that he felt people in the case had been treated unfairly.

“The big ones — obviously, the Iran-Contra ones — I certainly did not oppose any of them,” Barr said as part of the Presidential Oral History Program of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

Well, he’s has certainly handed a reprieve-at the very least- to a very big one at the moment.

Marcy Wheelers’s conclusions at The New Republic are worth reading.  This headline even sums it up nicely.  “Yes, Trump Obstructed Justice. And William Barr Is Helping Him Cover It Up. The attorney general’s take on the Mueller report goes through contortions to avoid charging the president with a crime.”

It is widely believed that Barr had already categorically ruled out charging a president with obstruction. In a June 2018 memo, shared with Trump’s lawyer before his nomination, Barr argued that the theory of obstruction he believed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be adopting would not be proper. But in that very same memo—on the very first page!—Barr conceded, “Obviously, the President … can commit obstruction in [a] classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth-finding function.” Barr envisioned that if a president “suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony … then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction.”

That’s important, because we know that Trump has been involved in getting his aides to lie. His own lawyer, Jay Sekulow, reportedly edited the prepared statement Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen gave to Congress about an effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen goes to prison in May, in part, for telling lies that Sekulow reviewed.

And Trump has repeatedly dangled pardons to subordinates under investigation, reportedly including former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, former campaign chair Paul Manafort, and Cohen. Indeed, in a hearing in February, Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann argued that Manafort lied about the details of sharing Trump campaign polling data with the Russian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016—knowing that the data would be passed on to others including other Russians—specifically to “augment his chances for a pardon.”

Ah Manafort, does he get his pardon now that the President and his enablers are screaming it’s an exoneration even though it really wasnt?
Well, turn the TV news on if you dare.  I’m just going to grade for awhile and hope there’s a plan some where to end this nightmare.


Thursday Reads: A Mish-Mash of Stories

By Maugham Casorati, born 1897 in London, UK died 1982 in Turin, Italy

Good Morning!!

I wish we could go back to the days when we weren’t overwhelmed with breaking news every single morning. I’ve got a mish-mash of articles for your this morning.

The biggest news today will probably be what happens at Paul Manafort’s sentencing hearing at 3:30 this afternoon in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Courthouse News: Manafort Faces Decades in Prison at Virginia Sentencing.

Manafort, 69, faces up to 24 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. During his trial last August, spread over 12 rigorous days, prosecutors unfurled a complex web of fraud he coordinated in multiple countries with the help of his business associate, Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and testified against Manafort as the star witness.

Accused of failing to report roughly $16.5 million in income from his political lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine and its onetime President Viktor Yanukovych, the jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud after four days of deliberations….

By Bego Tojo

Though none of the charges Manafort faced in Virginia directly involved any of his work on President Donald Trump’s campaign, Mueller’s underlying task – to unearth American activity connected to Russian meddling in the election – placed the spotlight firmly on the president’s onetime campaign chairman….

Manafort will go before Judge Ellis on Thursday afternoon for his sentencing.

Federal sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case suggest Manafort should serve 19 to 24 years in prison but Judge Ellis can impose any sentence he sees fit – including one well below the guidelines. Mueller has recommended Manafort be sentenced in the upper range of the guidelines.

As you probably recall, Judge Ellis is kind of eccentric and usually makes very blunt remarks. Remember, he asked prosecutors whether they had considered charging Mike Flynn with treason and told him “You sold your country out.” Read Ellis quotes at CNN: Baked Alaska and birthday cake: Memorable lines from the Manafort trial judge, T.S. Ellis.

I really dislike the conservative site Axios, but they have a good piece today: The biggest political scandal in American history.

Historians tell Axios that the only two scandals that come close to Trump-Russia are Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and the Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s, in which oil barons bribed a corrupt aide to President Warren Harding for petroleum leases.

Mueller has already delivered one of the biggest counterintelligence cases in U.S. history, author Garrett Graff points out — up there with Aldrich Ames (a former CIA officer convicted in 1994 of being a KGB double agent), or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (executed in 1953 for spying for the Soviets).

By Guillermo Marti Ceballos (Barcelona 1958)

Watergate yielded more charges than Mueller has so far: A total of 69 people were charged in Watergate; 48 people and 20 corporations pleaded guilty. Mueller so far has indicted 27 people; seven have been convicted or pleaded guilty.

But historians say that both Watergate and Teapot Dome were more limited because a foreign power wasn’t a central player, and a much narrower band of potential offenses was under investigation.
A fourth notable scandal, the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s — in which arms were traded for hostages held by Iran, with the money usRed to fund rebels in Nicaragua — also involved a more limited range of issues.

Read the rest at Axios. It’s actually quite a bit more comprehensive than most of their stories.

J.T. Smith, who was executive assistant to Attorney General Elliot Richardson under Nixon, has an op-ed at The New York Times today: What if the Mueller Report Demands Bold Action?

Most people take for granted that both Mr. Mueller and the new attorney general, William Barr, accept the current Justice Department legal position — reached in a 2000 opinion — that a sitting president cannot be indicted. In a June 2018 memo, Mr. Barr said that under “the Framers’ plan,” the “proper mechanism for policing the president’s” actions “is the political process — that is, the People, acting either directly, or through their elected representatives in Congress.”

Yet since 1973, the Justice Department has revisited its position five times on the question of indicting a sitting president and reached different conclusions. In fact, as executive assistant to President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, Elliot Richardson, I can speak to the circumstances that delivered that first opinion: The principal purpose of the 1973 Watergate-era legal opinion — which concluded that a sitting president cannot be indicted — was to aid in removal from office of a criminally tainted vice president, who, the memo concluded, could be indicted.

But it was not intended to set an ironclad precedent that would forever shape how a president might be treated.

By Jerry Weiss

My experience makes me believe that Attorney General Barr should reconsider Justice Department policy. If the evidence gathered by the Mueller investigation on the actions of the president and his advisers indicates a crime, an indictment might be the proper course to hold the president accountable. Further, the indictment policy does not stand in isolation: It has repercussions for a Mueller report and access to it for Congress and the American public.

As Rachel Maddow reported recently, the 1973 policy was written when Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew was being investigated for “bribery, extortion and tax evasion.” (he was subsequently indicted and forced to resign). You can read more details about the history at the link. Smith’s conclusion:

Mr. Mueller’s investigation has brought us to face similar questions of institutional integrity and transparency for the American public. If Mr. Barr determines that Mr. Mueller’s findings compel legal action, he should reconsider the policy against indictment of a sitting president.

But if Mr. Barr holds to the view that a president’s actions should be policed by the political and not criminal process, it will be imperative that he share a Mueller report with Congress and, to the extent practicable, with the public, redacting only information that is classified or otherwise prohibited by statute.

In light of the gravity of our circumstances, it would be timely and appropriate for the Justice Department to reconsider the shaky policy regarding indictability of a sitting president and provide Congress and the public with the Mr. Mueller’s full findings and conclusions. Only through sunlight and transparency can we preserve confidence in our national institutions and leadership.

Yesterday the DNC announced that they will not hold a primary debate in conjunction with Fox News, citing Jane Mayer’s New Yorker Article. This is nothing unusual; the Democrats have refused to work with Fox News since 2007, but mainstream journalists are criticizing the decision.

Now media critic Margaret Sullivan has weighed in at The Washington Post: It’s time — high time — to take Fox News’s destructive role in America seriously.

Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer, and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors.

By Dibujo de Eduardo Estrada

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the overall problem of Fox News, which started out with bad intentions in 1996 and has swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies.

The network, which attracts more viewers than its two major competitors, specializes in fearmongering and unrelenting alarmism. Remember “the caravan”?

At crucial times, it does not observe basic standards of journalistic practice: as with its eventually retracted, false reporting in 2017 on Seth Rich, which fueled conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton had the former Democratic National Committee staffer killed because he was a source of campaign leaks.

Fox, you might recall, was a welcoming haven for “birtherism” — the racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. For years, it has constantly, unfairly and inaccurately bashed Hillary Clinton.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Jared Kushner recently traveled to the Middle East and met privately with Saudi prince MBS. Now he won’t tell anyone what went on in his meetings. The Daily Beast: Embassy Staffers Say Jared Kushner Shut Them Out of Saudi Meetings.

Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of Jared Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court last week, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip. And that’s causing concern not only in the embassy but also among members of Congress.

By Henry McGrane

On his trip to the Middle East, Kushner stopped in Riyadh. While there, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and economic investment in the region, according to the White House.

But no one from the embassy in Riyadh was in the meetings, according to those same sources. The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh.

“The Royal Court was handling the entire schedule,” one congressional source told The Daily Beast, adding that officials in the U.S. embassy in had insight into where Kushner was when in Saudi Arabia. “But that is normal for his past trips.”

Click the link to read the rest. A related article from the WaPo editorial board: Trump is covering up for MBS. The Senate must push for accountability.

New York Times gossip columnist Maggie Haberman relays former WH Chief of Staff John Kelly’s attempted cleanup of his mangled reputation following the revelations about Jared and Ivanka’s security clearances: John Kelly, Out of White House, Breaks With Trump Policies.

The former White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, on Wednesday declined to answer questions about the existence of a memo he wrote saying that President Trump had ordered officials to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a security clearance in May 2018.

By Mario Tozzi 1920

Mr. Kelly also broke with Mr. Trump on key aspects of his approach to immigration and the NATO alliance, and said that his top concern about decisions made by the president was whether they were objectively right for the country when divorced from political concerns.

Mr. Kelly, who kept his voice level during a 90-minute question-and-answer session at Duke University, would not specifically address Mr. Kushner’s clearance being ordered by Mr. Trump, which The New York Times reported last week.

“I couldn’t — and I’m not dodging — I couldn’t comment on that for a couple of reasons,” Mr. Kelly said, citing clearances being among the things that he could not discuss, and that conversations with the president “at that level would certainly” be kept confidential under executive privilege.

Some of what Kelly did talk about:

Mr. Kelly, who left at the end of December, also made clear he did not consider himself working for Mr. Trump, but doing his civic duty to serve. If Hillary Clinton had won, he said, he probably would have worked for her as well.

Mr. Kelly defended the utility of the NATO alliance, which Mr. Trump has often criticized as an unfair financial drain on the United States.

On a wall at the border with Mexico, Mr. Kelly said that there were specific areas where it could be effective but constructing one “from sea to shining sea” was a “waste of money.”

The issuance of the zero-tolerance policy for border crossings that resulted in family separations “came as a surprise” to him and to other officials, Mr. Kelly said, defending his replacement as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, from criticism. He appeared to place most of the blame on the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who announced the policy.

I have a few more links to share, but this post is getting long. I’ll put them in the comment thread. What stories have you been following?


Monday Reads: Clearly Unfit to Serve

Not a float. Not satire. Actually the @realDonaldTrump. #BeAshamed

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Every day releases a new barrage of evidence and reasons to throw every thing we’ve got into the arsenal of removing this unfit and clearly illegitimate president. The latest Dumped Trump appointment went on Sixty Minutes to discuss the many ways he experienced an unsuitable personality for any serious job actively chip away at American law, constitutional values, and norms. I’m not sure if I’ll actually read former FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s book since it just verifies what we know.  However, it is certainly yet another Tell-All that shows us how deeply in trouble the we are because the Republican Party refuses to act on its sins. We clearly are reaching the point where ridding the country of this parasite is our only way to a decent future.

I spent Saturday night at the Krewe de Vieux parade in my first chance to do Carnival Season where I could avoid the news but not politics. I’m going to share some photos of the floats and krewes which are clearly political.  This is not exactly a G rated krewe so be care viewing some of the videos if you’re sensitive to crass stuff.

 

And this was clearly my favorite. My friend Grace snapped a pic of her in the den.

Back to the Paley interview and this link that will let you watch it if you missed it.

McCabe is a lifelong Republican who had a sterling 21-year career at the FBI; serving as head of counter-terrorism and number two under Comey. But he was fired last year for allegedly lying to his own agents about a story he leaked to a newspaper. Not since Watergate has the FBI been drawn so deeply into presidential politics. Andrew McCabe was pulled into the center of the tempest on May 9, 2017 when he was summoned by the president hours after Comey was fired.

This is probably the best look we’ve had to date of what started the Mueller probe. It seems to have come directly from the number of Trump Campaign-Russian interactions that we’ve heard about for the past 3 years.  This is from Carrie Johnson at NPR.

“I don’t know that we have ever seen in all of history an example of the number, the volume and the significance of the contacts between people in and around the president, his campaign, with our most serious, our existential international enemy: the government of Russia,” McCabe told NPR’s Morning Edition. “That’s just remarkable to me.”

McCabe left the FBI after 21 years last March, when he was dismissedfor an alleged “lack of candor” in a media leak probe unrelated to the special counsel investigation.

While he declined to conclude that Trump or his advisers colluded with Russia, McCabe said the evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has made public to date — including new disclosures about an August 2016 meeting between former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the FBI has linked to Russian intelligence — “is incredibly persuasive.”

 

Trump worried McCabe from the outset with what CBS characterizes as a “bizarre” interview.

Before he was fired from the FBI, Andrew McCabe was summoned to the Oval Office to interview for the position of FBI director. “It was a bit of a bizarre experience,” says McCabe, recalling his meeting with President Trump.

“He began by talking to me about his Electoral College results in the state of North Carolina, which I didn’t really know about or understand how that related to the position of FBI director,” says McCabe.

Mr. Trump also talked about “the support that he enjoyed within the FBI,” says McCabe. “He estimated that 80% of FBI employees must have voted for him, and he asked me if I thought that was true. I said, ‘I have no idea who people in the FBI voted for. It’s not something that we discuss at work.'”

There are more really strange anectdotes including Trump indicating that he wanted McCabe to say that every one in the FBI supported the Comey firing which was clearly not true.  But meanwhile, we have bigger fish to fry at the DOJ in its current state. From Morgan Chalfani at The Hill: “Five things to watch as Barr takes the reins of Justice, Mueller probe.”

Barr is expected to make major changes at the Justice Department, beginning with his choice for deputy.

Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Mueller’s investigation, is expected to depart in the coming weeks after two years on the job. Barr told lawmakers last month that Rosenstein had informed him of those plans and that he had agreed to stay on for the transition.

Various names have been floated as potential candidates for the role, which is subject to Senate confirmation. The New York Times reported that Barr intends to name Jeffrey Rosen, the current deputy secretary of Transportation, to serve as his No. 2.

It is unclear whether Barr will keep on Matthew Whitaker, the controversial figure whom Trump appointed acting attorney general following Sessions’s ouster. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa who worked as Sessions’s chief of staff, quickly emerged as a top target of Democrats as a result of statements he made criticizing Mueller’s investigation before joining the Justice Department.

Whitaker tangled with House Democrats in a testy hearing earlier this month, during which he defended his decision not to recuse himself from Mueller’s investigation and insisted he had done nothing to interfere with the probe. Whitaker also frustrated lawmakers by refusing to answer various questions about the investigation and his conversations with Trump.

Even if Barr does not decide to keep Whitaker, some say it’s possible he could find a new home in the White House.

“He had to navigate some pretty treacherous waters and he did that very skillfully and if the president is looking for someone else to serve the administration that brings some excellent experience under fire, then I think Matt would be somebody that would fit that description,” said Ian Prior, who worked with Whitaker as a department spokesman under Sessions.

Even though real evil is resident in the White House, Republicans clearly want to put and keep Democratic politicians on the defensive.  From Cheryl Gay Stolberg at the NYT:  “Republicans Hope to Sway Voters With Labels That Demonize Democrats”.

In the 116th Congress, if you’re a Democrat, you’re either a socialist, a baby killer or an anti-Semite.

That, at least, is what Republicans want voters to think, as they seek to demonize Democrats well in advance of the 2020 elections by painting them as left-wing crazies who will destroy the American economy, murder newborn babies and turn a blind eye to bigotry against Jews.

The unusually aggressive assault, which Republican officials and strategists outlined in interviews last week, is meant to strangle the new Democratic majority in its infancy. It was set in motion this month by President Trump, who used his State of the Union address to rail against “new calls to adopt socialism in our country” and mischaracterize legislation backed by Democrats in New York and Virginia as allowing “a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”

Then last week, Republicans amped it up, seizing on a Twitter post by a freshman representative, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, which even some Democrats condemned as anti-Semitic, and ridiculing the “Green New Deal,” an ambitious economic stimulus plan unveiled by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist. Suddenly even Jewish Democrats were abetting anti-Semitism and moderate Democrats in Republican districts were Trotskyites and Stalinists.

“Socialism is the greatest vulnerability by far that the House Democrats have,” Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview, adding that he had also instructed his team to spotlight “all the extreme wild ideas” that Democrats espouse, “on a daily basis, on an hourly basis if it’s available.”

House Republicans have identified 55 Democrats they regard as vulnerable, including many freshmen. Some flipped Republican seats last year, some represent districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, and some are in districts held by Republicans until recently. Bruised by their losses last year, Republicans are determined to start earlier and be more aggressive on the offense in 2020, and are hoping to exploit the Democratic presidential candidates’ courtship of the left.

An advertising offensive is already underway. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee affiliated with House Republican leaders, began running digital ads last week that link two freshmen who flipped Republican districts, Representatives Colin Allred of Texas and Antonio Delgado of New York, to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her “radical Green New Deal assault on the American economy.”

 

But, they have the crazy to deal with all the same and the latest bit sinking Republican Policy is the obvious failure of the tax cuts to deliver to any one but the very rich among us.

Jonathan Swan–writing for Axios–characterizes it like this: “Governing on the edge.”  My stomach frankly can’t take any more of this. I’m an old lady that wants a peaceful retirement and a stable social security income.

A senior government official who was involved in the spending negotiations over the past few weeks told me the experience taught them something disturbing.

“We’re going to go to the edge on everything,” the official said on Friday, shortly after Trump signed the bill to fund the 25% of the government that had shut down for 35 days on his watch.

Why it matters: The White House has just gotten through a spending fight that pushed Congress — and the federal workforce affected by the shutdown — to the brink. But even uglier skirmishes are imminent, including whether to raise the federal government’s debt limit and break Congress’ self-imposed budget caps.

What’s next? In a phone conversation this morning, I asked a senior White House official if he thought the shutdown had any benefit for the Trump administration.

  • “I think it’s absolutely been effective, because the president is winning the message on border security,” the senior official said.
  • Trump “was able to use that 35-day period to highlight that issue and all the polling data that we’ve got seems to indicate that while we did get blamed for a shutdown, the numbers moved dramatically in our favor on the issue of border security,” the official said. “And that never would’ve happened if we’d signed the bill back in December.”
  • (FYI: I’m not aware of public polling that shows a dramatic improvement for the president on border security; though the White House has mentioned private polling that shows numbers moving in their direction in key swing districts.)

I also asked the senior official if he would dispute that characterization that this administration will “go to the edge on everything” — especially on impending battles over 2020 spending levels and raising the debt limit.

  • “If you get the impression that it’s going to be intentional, I think that’s unfair,” the official said. “If you think that’s the practical outcome, that’s probably accurate.
  • “If we know one thing about Congress, it waits to the very last minute to do everything anyway.”

I certainly hope Marcie can make sense of all of this for me.  Here’s her take on the McCabe interview.  Check out her latest dissection of  the four big Trump turncoats or three if you want to dump Manafort.

Four times so far in this investigation, Trump’s aides have started the sentencing process for their crimes designed to obstruction Robert Mueller’s investigation. All four times, before four different judges, their misplaced loyalty to Trump above country has come up. And with both Flynn and Manafort — where the judges have seen significant amounts of non-public information about the crimes they lied to cover-up — two very reasonable judges have raised explicit questions about whether Trump’s aides had betrayed their country.

Trump wants this to be a case of contested claims of betrayal. But the judges who have reviewed the record have used striking language about who betrayed their country.

I doubt we’re going to get any resolution of anything soon but I will say that I hope the Democratic committee chairs in Congress get the lead out!  For some more video and fun on Krewe du View you can check this out!

If you haven’t read this from The Atlantic  with the lede “When James Comey Was Fired” please do so.

 I wrote memos about my interactions with President Trump for the same reason that Comey did: to have a contemporaneous record of conversations with a person who cannot be trusted.

People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them. Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants. If he were “on the box” at Quantico, he would break the machine.

This quote came via my friend Adrastosno at his blog First Draft who basically headlined his thoughts the same way. “Unfit President”.  You can also read more at BB’s  Valentine’s Day thread here.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 

 


Sunday Reads: Bacon on Wheels, Alpaca Buzz Cuts and Penguins on Parade

151-001Good Morning

Guess you can tell from the title of this post, animals will play a feature role in today’s reads.  Right now here in Banjoville the skies are opening up and raining down cats and dogs. Loud thunder is shaking the house, and that means lightning…real bad lightning…so I best make this post short and sweet. So here are your morning reads in link dump fashion.

Well, down in Miami the police roughed up a kid who was holding a puppy because he looked at them funny. I should say not funny as in funny amusing, but as they put it….”dehumanizing.”

Police Allegedly Assault Black Kid Carrying A Puppy For Looking At Them Wrong

Miami-Dade Police allegedly handcuffed and choked a 14 year old boy while he was carrying a newborn puppy for giving them a “dehumanizing” stare. A court case over the incident will begin on July 16th.

Tremaine McMillian was, by his account, playing on a beach with a friend and his puppy on the Miami boardwalk when police came over to tell them to stop “roughousing.” Though the police later admitted the boys’ activity was neither criminal nor violent, they asked the boys where their parents were. McMillian directed the officers to his nearby mother, and that’s where the family and the police’s story diverge.

McMillian and his mother, Maurissa Holmes, say the police chased down McMillian on ATVs and attacked him essentially without provocation. “The police officers were on their ATVs, and my son was walking,” Holmes said. “They jumped off their ATVs, grabbed him and slammed him to the ground.”

You can read the police’s version at the link, you can also see video of the arrest as well…there are some discrepancies however…pointed out by Tommy Christopher…check this out.

…there’s another painfully adorable detail that was left out of that report. Here’s what Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaletatold CBS 4:

Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta told D’Oench it was just after 11:00 am on Memorial Day on Haulover Beach when officers saw McMillian slamming another teenager on to the sand.

“They told him that behavior was unacceptable,” said Zabaleta. “He walked away and officers followed him. They asked where his parents were. He said he was not going to take them to them. When he started to leave the beach area, officers had to get off their ATVs to detain him. He had closed arms, clenched fists and pulled his arm away.”

“Once he was approaching the road, the officers restrained him. Again his body language was that he was stiffening up and pulling away,” said Zabaleta. “Now you’re resisting officers at that point and when the hands are swinging and you are resisting officers, at that point you have to be taken into custody.”

“Of course we have to neutralize the threat,” said Zabaleta. “When you have somebody resistant to them and pulling away and somebody clenching their fists and flailing their arms, that’s a threat.”

He said the police report did not indicate that a puppy was involved.

“At that point we are not concerned with a puppy,” said Zabaleta. “We are concerned with the threat to the officer.”

So, the police don’t seem to be disputing that the puppy was there, just that he didn’t merit inclusion in the report. But if the puppy was there, then how do police explain this?

“How could I be clenching my fists when I was taking care of my puppy and giving him some milk with a bottle?” asked McMillian.

I mean the kid was giving the newborn puppy a bottle of milk…WTF?

Shit…with the way law enforcement authorities are reporting things lately, that bottle of milk could have been a rocket launcher and the puppy? Well that was no puppy, that was a dwarf Muslim terrorist, hey….don’t mistake that fur for the towel on his head. /snark

I want to bring this story to your attention, it is about pigs but not the real animals. U.S. Naval Academy football players investigated for sexual assault | Reuters

Three members of the U.S. Naval Academy football team are being investigated for the alleged sexual assault of a female student, the Pentagon said on Friday, the latest in a string of scandals that have thrown a spotlight on sex crimes in the military.

The alleged incident took place in April 2012, when the student attended a party at the off-campus “football house” in Annapolis, Maryland and became intoxicated, her attorney, Susan Burke, said in a statement.

“She woke up at the football house the next morning with little recall of what had occurred. She learned from friends and social media that three football players were claiming to have had sexual intercourse with her while she was incapacitated,” Burke said, without identifying her client by name.

No charges have been brought forth yet, this is still being investigated.

Burke said that one of the football players pressured the woman not to cooperate with an initial investigation into the case. She initially followed that advice, but was still “ostracized and retaliated against by the football players and the Naval Academy community.” She was also disciplined for drinking, Burke said in a statement.

In early 2013, the female student decided to seek legal help and the Navy re-opened the investigation, Burke said.

“Over time, the midshipman began to recover from the trauma, and became angered at the lack of justice and retaliation in her case,” she said.

I am sure that this investigation will eventually end up like these cases usually do. But with the congressional hearings coming up…maybe there will be a fire under the ass of these military brass and justice will finally take a front seat and not get molested like so many of these women service members.

Here is yet another article about shitty pay and what it does to the economy. One Walmart’s Low Wages Could Cost Taxpayers $900,000 Per Year, House Dems Find

Then you have the other side of the coin, y’all heard that Tumblr was sold to Yahoo for 1.1 billion dollars…check this out: Tumblr’s Creative Director Quits

On to something more interesting, these next two links are about different things…but deal with the same subject.

First, this article from the New York Times: Justice Dept. Reports Rise in Prosecutions on Indian Lands

The Justice Department said this week that it had increased its rate of criminal prosecutions in Indian country by more than 50 percent in the past four years, a period in which violent crime on the nation’s Indian reservations has soared and tribes have complained of lawlessness.

The data, part of a Justice Department report released Thursday, found that United States attorneys had prosecuted about 69 percent of the 3,145 criminal cases referred to their offices from Indian country last year — an improvement over 2011, when the federal government tried 63 percent of 2,840 criminal cases in Indian country.

The report comes amid a wave of violent crime on Indian lands and criticism of the Justice Department by tribal officials who say United States attorneys pursue far too few violent criminal cases on reservations.

Prosecutors say they must decline many Indian country cases — about 60 percent of the total — because of a lack of evidence.

The feds usually prosecute murder, rape and white-collar crimes, but these numbers are a bit confusing because there is a new law that went into effect which includes various other violent crimes.

Previous government data have cited violent crimes, which presented a more pessimistic picture: that the Justice Department files charges in only about half of Indian country murder investigations and one-third of sexual assault cases. The data also showed the number of prosecutions by United States attorneys of violent crimes fell by 3 percent from 2000 to 2010, even as crime on some reservations increased by 50 percent or more.

But the report released this week does not separate the number of federal prosecutions for violent crimes. Instead, the report groups them with drug cases and white-collar crime.

On Friday, Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, said the analysis did not specify figures for violent crime because the department was not required to do so by the Tribal Law and Order Act, a 2010 law that mandates that the department release prosecution rates in Indian country. (This week’s report is the agency’s first since the law went into effect.)

I guess these reports are just like any other reports out there, what the hell do they really tell us? And do they exist so people can twist these department figures to their advantage, and by doing that manipulate the dialogue to justify their own agenda. (I know the answer to that…)

The other link is this: Do Mascots Need Modernizing? « The Dish

Earlier this week, ten members of Congress sent a letter to the front office of the Washington Redskins, pushing them to select a new mascot:

In this day and age, it is imperative that you uphold your moral responsibility to disavow the usage of racial slurs.  The usage of the “R-word” is especially harmful to Native American youth, tending to lower their sense of dignity and self-esteem.  It also diminishes feelings of community worth among the Native American tribes and dampens the aspirations of their people. We look forward to working with you to find a solution to this important matter.

This is something that I am hesitant to get involved in. I am no fan of the Atlanta Braves, but they also have an Indian mascot. There is talk of getting the government involved, like previous strategy used by the JFK admin when the Redskins owners would not integrate the team.  See  the JFKs guys would not allow the Redskins on the stadium property because it was federal land…however,

Doug Mataconis disagrees with the liberal lawmakers’ strategy:

I have to wonder why this is something that Members of Congress need to be getting involved in, or why legislation is necessary to address something that is, in the end, a private business matter.

The people who don’t like the name are free to protest it. Dan Snyder and the rest of Redskins ownership are free to reject their pleas. If there ever comes a time when the public sympathizes with the protesters, then perhaps the team will feel the kind of economic pressure most likely to cause them to change positions, then we’ll likely see a name change of some kind.

Personally, I think the odds of that happening are pretty remote. The Redskins name has been in existence now since 1933 when the football version of the Boston Braves changed its name to Boston Redskins before moving to Washington, D.C. several years later. We’re not that far away from the 100th anniversary of that name. It’s going to be around for a long time to come, and I’m just fine with that.

Well, the Redskins play on the FedEx field in Maryland now…and it isn’t on Federal land. Like I said, I don’t know how I feel about this…guess we will talk about it in the comments below.

Ralph posted a link to an article about the DOJ Press Leaks by Walter Pincus last week in the comments and I thought everyone would appreciate this response from the ACLU. (I remembered the name Pincus because of Seinfeld…and Kramer, “Poor little Pincus.”) Anyway: Responding to The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus on Leaks and Shield Laws | American Civil Liberties Union

There is a rumor going round that Hillary Clinton is getting her own Twitter Hillary Clinton To Start Using Twitter: Report:This is supposed to be her handle…  https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton

For some far out images,  Global flight-path maps: Five interpretations  Large pictures here:  In pictures: Global flight paths

A bit of Manhattan History for those of you who are the nostalgic types: 1930s New York subway train makes rare trip from Queens to Manhattan

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May 30, 2013: In this photo provided by the New York Mass Transit Administration, an unidentified MTA employee checks the platform from between the cars of a 1930’s era subway train in the Queens borough of New York. (AP/Mass Transit Administration)

[…]

Lucky straphangers who happened to be in the right place at the right time on Thursday got to ride in eight subway cars purchased between 1930 and 1939.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority says some of the cars were taken out of the New York Transit Museum to commemorate the opening of a stretch of subway tracks badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

After the ceremony, the cars were put into regular passenger service for one quick trip from Queens to upper Manhattan.

Riders on board the train took pictures and gawked at its old-school style. Ads for Clark bars, fireworks shows on Coney Island and Levy’s Rye Bread adorned the walls.

More history for you, this is Breaking Bad meets Inglorious Basturds: Crystal Meth Origins Link Back to Nazi Germany and World War II – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Crystal meth is notorious for being highly addictive and ravaging countless communities. But few know that the drug can be traced back to Nazi Germany, where it first became popular as a way to keep pilots and soldiers alert in battle during World War II.

Photo Gallery: Crystal Meth's German Roots

“Alertness aid” read the packaging, to be taken “to maintain wakefulness.” But “only from time to time,” it warned, followed by a large exclamation point.

The young soldier, though, needed more of the drug, much more. He was exhausted by the war, becoming “cold and apathetic, completely without interests,” as he himself observed. In letters sent home by the army postal service, he asked his family to send more. On May 20, 1940, for example, he wrote: “Perhaps you could obtain some more Pervitin for my supplies?” He found just one pill was as effective for staying alert as liters of strong coffee. And — even better — when he took the drug, all his worries seemed to disappear. For a couple of hours, he felt happy.

This 22-year-old, who wrote numerous letters home begging for more Pervitin, was not just any soldier — he was Heinrich Böll, who would go on to become one of Germany’s leading postwar writers and win a Nobel Prize for literature in 1972. And the drug he asked for is now illegal, notoriously so. We now know it as crystal meth.

Man, that is some fucked up shit.

Alright, since we touched on chemistry…here is a link that ties in perfectly. Molecule Chemical Bond Images From UC Berkeley | Geekosystem

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Have you ever looked at a textbook diagram of the chemical bonds that make up molecules and thought to yourself, “This is just a dumb drawing — how do they know what it even looks like in real life?” Well stop it. Stop it right now. Felix Fischer of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is going to show you what it looks like with these gorgeous high-resolution images of individual carbon atoms linking together. And guess what? They look just like they do in the textbooks. Happy now?

I swear I had no idea these things really looked like this! Did you? Go to the link to read the rest. Amazing.

Back now to my own comfort zone: ‘Amazingly rare’ letter written by Robert the Bruce to Edward II found (But I gotta say, I hated the movie Braveheart!)

An unknown and “amazingly rare” letter written by Robert the Bruce at a pivotal point of the Wars of Scottish Independence has been uncovered by a Scottish academic.

In the letter, the fearsome Scottish warrior appeals to the English King Edward II for an end to “persecution and disturbance”. It was sent in 1310, less than four years before Bannockburn, the  victory that paved the way for Scottish independence.

Dauvit Broun, professor of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, found the letter in The British Library while studying a manuscript written by the monks of Kirkstall Abbey about 500 years ago. The correspondence  happened to be copied by the monks into their manuscript, the original has not survived.

Professor Broun said: “It’s  amazingly rare, a freak survival. There’s nothing like this that  survives from around that time.”

Listen to the tone of Robert the Bruce…

Bruce wrote to “beseech” the king that “you would take pains to cease from our persecution and the disturbance of the people of our kingdom in order that devastation and the spilling of a neighbour’s blood may henceforth stop.”

Take a look at the rest of the article at the link. I wish they had printed the full letter. I would have loved to read the whole thing myself.

Real quick archeology links:

Japan’s Oldest-Known Wooden Mask – Archaeology Magazine

San “Rain Control” in South Africa – Archaeology Magazine

Earlier this week I linked to the female mammoth with flowing blood that was found in Siberia…well, this was another cool “ice age” related article that I was planning on sharing with you:  Centuries-old frozen plants revived

Plants that were frozen during the “Little Ice Age” centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say.

Samples of 400-year-old plants known as bryophytes have flourished under laboratory conditions.

Researchers say this back-from-the-dead trick has implications for how ecosystems recover from the planet’s cyclic long periods of ice coverage. The findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The receding glaciers are exposing land that has not seen daylight since the mini ice age.

Bryophytes are different from the land plants that we know best, in that they do not have vascular tissue that helps pump fluids around different parts of the organism.

They can survive being completely desiccated in long Arctic winters, returning to growth in warmer times, but Dr La Farge was surprised by an emergence of bryophytes that had been buried under ice for so long.

“When we looked at them in detail and brought them to the lab, I could see some of the stems actually had new growth of green lateral branches, and that said to me that these guys are regenerating in the field, and that blew my mind,” she told BBC News.

“If you think of ice sheets covering the landscape, we’ve always thought that plants have to come in from refugia around the margins of an ice system, never considering land plants as coming out from underneath a glacier.”

But the retreating ice at Sverdrup Pass, where the Teardrop Glacier is located, is uncovering an array of life, including cyanobacteria and green terrestrial algae. Many of the species spotted there are entirely new to science.

And from that story of new life from ancient plants to a post in The Atlantic, I will just put it here because…well, you all will see why: Why the Boomers Are the Most Hated Generation – Edward Tenner – The Atlantic (Look at the comments, some of them are funny and vicious indeed.)

While you “feast” on that, take a look at this op/ed from the LA Times…Jefferson Davis’ ‘presidential’ library –  It offers a rallying point for the myth of a gentle and just South dragged into the War of Northern Aggression.

And then…think about that little island in the Mediterranean for all us Sky Dancers to escape to:  The island of long life – On the Greek island of Ikaria, life is sweet… and very, very long. So what is the locals’ secret?

The island of long life – in pictures | Life and style | The Guardian

Ikaria - in pictures: Ikaria island - secrets of the blue zone

BTW, did you see my man Samuel L Jackson and his latest video? Samuel L. Jackson Quitting Acting To Pursue A ‘Life Of Vigilantism’? | Mediaite

Samuel L. Jacksonsubmitted a challenge to the Reddit community this week. “It’s simple,” he wrote, “write 300 words and the most upvoted post I’ll read out loud in monologue form.” Today, Jackson posted the winning monologue video and it was just as “bad-ass” as promised.

“Hi, I’m Samuel L. Jackson,” he began, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Reddit, but I’ve decided to break the rules of my own competition.” From there, the actor said he wanted to “speak to you all from my own heart, in my own words” before announcing that he was “quitting acting and pursuing a life of vigilantism.” Fortunately for fans of one of America’s most prolific actors, this was all part of the winning submission from Reddit user adiddy.

I love this mutha…

Jackson set up the unconventional contest to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, and revealed on Reddit that the campaign had raised over $130,000. Everyone who donated was entered to win lunch with Jackson and a trip to his UK celebrity golf tournament.

The whole thing almost got “derailed by the internet forum 4Chan”but here it is…

Whoa….ooooeeee, that dude is awesome.

Now for the animals.

Sheared Alpaca – Business Insider

Alpaca Getting Sheared

Farmers shear an alpaca at a zoo in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, May 30, 2013…

Scrawny under all that fleece aren’t they. I just got one thing to say, that alpaca is not getting sheared by someone looking to spin the fiber into yarn. What a waste! Butcher of a job…

See:

What a difference….those of you inclined to fiber fun, check out the video and watch these guys get sheared.

Shearing Movies | Cliff House Alpacas

And see how the fiber is prepared:

After we Shear we Skirt | Cliff House Alpacas

Alright then, moving on to the penguins.

So This Happened | TPM Editors Blog

To greet African leaders arriving for conference in Japan, event organizers force group of Penguins to dress up in ‘African’ costumes …

And finally, meet Chris P. Bacon: The wheelchair pig

Chris P. Bacon The wheelchair pig

A Florida veterinarian who fashioned a wheelchair for his pet pig has just signed a three-book publishing deal on the life and adventures of his little friend he named Chris P. Bacon.

That’ll do pig. Oh he is so damn cute.

Geez, 3360 words later, short and sweet my ass!

That should keep everyone busy, now some of you will have storms to look out for today, so stay alert:  Severe Weather Warnings Page

And if you are around, stop and leave a comment or two….have a wonderful day!


Sunday Reads: Long Weekend Links

a3a3e6f30133aeca10870f6e8c25cad0Good Morning

Plenty of links for you this morning, so let us just get down to it…

In the New York Times this weekend, more information was reported about the DOJ investigation into Fox News reporter James Rosen, as well as other DOJ press investigations during the Obama administration: Leaks Inquiries Show How Wide a Net Is Cast

Even before the F.B.I. conducted 550 interviews of officials and seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters in a leak investigation connected to a 2012 article about a Yemen bomb plot, agents had sought the same reporters’ sources for two other articles about terrorism.

[…]

The emerging details of these and other cases show just how wide a net the Obama administration has cast in its investigations into disclosures of government secrets, querying hundreds of officials across the federal government and even some of their foreign counterparts.

The result has been an unprecedented six prosecutions and many more inquiries using aggressive legal and technical tactics. A vast majority of those questioned were cleared of any leaking.

You can read the rest of the article at that link, it is rather a long read.

There is one thing about all this Rosen stuff I do find interesting, this little tidbit reported by Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: DOJ Document Reveals Fox News Reporter James Rosen Wanted To Impact U.S. Foreign Policy

The emails revealed in the government’s affidavit appear to show, however, that James Rosen’s solicitation of government secrets wasn’t nearly so narrow. The affadavit describes how Rosen assigned himself the codename “Alex,” and Mr. Kim the moniker “Leo,” and in their early contacts, explained the noble aims of their prospective relationship:

Thanks Leo. What I am interested in, as you might expect, is breaking new ahead of my competitors.

Sure, that sounds bad, as if James Rosen would jeopardize America’s contacts in a hostile foreign government just to get some eyeballs away from his competition, but surely, every reporter has this competitive urge. Although it was the first thing Rosen mentioned, there was another consideration. After outlining the kinds of secret information he hoped to get from “Leo,” Rosen summed up his intention to… report the news objectively? To serve the public?

Let’s break some new, and expose muddle-headed policy when we see it – or force the administration’s hand to go in the right direction, if possible.

Wait, what? Is that what a News reporter is supposed to do, force the administration’s hand to guide American foreign policy to the reporter’s whim? Separate and apart from the DOJ investigation, this email seems to indicate that James Rosen is not just a News reporter, but an activist intent on pushing his own agenda, with the stated goal of manipulating U.S. foreign policy.

Enough on that, check out the latest legislation getting passed in Dakinikat’s state: The Volokh Conspiracy » Louisiana Set to Criminalize Publishing That Someone Has a Concealed Carry Permit

The bill is HB8, though there’s a Senate amendment; apparently, the Legislature plans to enact the bill as amended. The bill bars the government from releasing information about who has applied for or gotten a concealed carry permit, and the Legislature certainly can impose such restrictions on the government itself. But then it also criminalizes speech by everyone else (I merge the House Bill and the adopted Senate amendment):

Absent a valid court order requiring the release of information or unless a recipient of a concealed handgun permit is charged with a felony offense involving the use of a handgun, it shall be [a misdemeanor] … to release, disseminate, or make public in any manner any information contained in an application for a concealed handgun permit or any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit issued pursuant to this Section.

So blogging that you happen to know that a gun control advocate actually has a concealed carry permit himself would be a crime. Or say that you know someone has a concealed carry permit, and that person is sued for supposedly making death threats, or is criminally prosecuted for a felony offense involving a shotgun, or otherwise seems dangerous and unstable — mentioning the permit in publicly discussing the situation would be a crime. Mentioning applicants’ names in giving examples of cases where you think a concealed handgun permit was wrongly issued, or wrongly denied, would be a crime, too. So would talking about a person’s concealed carry permit in a biography of the person, or in a newspaper or magazine story that is trying to give a sense of the kind of person he is.

There is more analysis at the link.

That bridge collapse in Washington could have been a lot worse, at least there were no fatalities. Click here on this link for a infographic on bridges in the US: Bridge Collapses And Structurally Deficient Bridges Across The Country (INFOGRAPHIC)

In his State of the Union address this year, President Obama urged repairs of “the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.” He proposed a plan called “Fix it First,” which would have invested $50 billion in repairing transportation infrastructure, starting with the most urgent repairs.

Instead, Congress failed to avoid the sequester and transportation repair spending faces a $1.9 billion cut.

The collapse of the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State on Thursday once again sounded alarms over our nation’s aging infrastructure. While this incident had no fatalities, there are hundreds of other bridges in Washington with worse sufficiency scores and more than 150,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges across the nation.

And when this bridge collapsed, there was another article that caught my attention as reported by a local Seattle news station: 911 Dispatcher Tells Woman About To Be Sexually Assaulted There Are No Cops To Help Her Due To Budget Cuts « CBS Seattle

An Oregon woman was told by a 911 dispatcher that authorities wouldn’t be able be able to help her as her ex-boyfriend broke into her place because of budget cuts.

Oregon Public Radio reports that an unidentified woman called 911 during a weekend in August 2012 while Michael Bellah was breaking into her place. Her call was forwarded to Oregon State Police because of lay-offs at the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office only allows the department to be open Monday through Friday.

“Uh, I don’t have anybody to send out there,” the 911 dispatcher told the woman. “You know, obviously, if he comes inside the residence and assaults you, can you ask him to go away? Do you know if he’s intoxicated or anything?”

The woman told the dispatcher that Bellah previously attacked her and left her hospitalized a few weeks prior to the latest incident. The dispatcher stayed on the phone with the woman for more than 10 minutes before the sexual assault took place.

“Once again it’s unfortunate you guys don’t have any law enforcement out there,” the dispatcher said, according to Oregon Public Radio.

The woman responded: “Yeah, it doesn’t matter, if he gets in the house I’m done.”

Police say Bellah choked the woman and sexually assaulted her. He was arrested by Oregon State Police following the incident.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t have another victim,” Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilberson told Oregon Public Radio. “If you don’t pay the bill, you don’t get the service.”

The sheriff’s department had to cut 23 deputies and the entire major crimes unit after it lost a multi-million dollar federal subsidy, according to Oregon Public Radio. There are now only six deputies left.

The sheriff’s department even put out a press release warning domestic violence victims to “consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services.”

Sickening. Disgusting.

You can read more about this and hear the 911 calls at the OPB report quoted by the CBS article:  Josephine County Tax Levy Would Add Deputies, Fund The Jail » News » OPB

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma…look what got defunded on the quiet:  Oklahoma Senate Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood Two Days After Tornado

In the wake of one of the most destructive tornadoes in history, Oklahoma state senators passed a bill on Wednesday that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood.

Senate Bill 900, which re-allocates family planning funds to public providers and hospitals instead of private providers like Planned Parenthood, passed by a vote of 33 to 8. The state Senate was able to pass the bill somewhat under the radar because it was not posted on Wednesday’s legislative agenda.

Planned Parenthood operates five clinics in Oklahoma and serves about 8,400 men and women there a year. The family planning provider has faced scrutiny from Republicans in recent years because it provides abortions, even though it cannot use public family planning funding to pay for abortion services.

State Rep. Doug Cox (R), a family physician, said he will vote against the legislation when the House takes it up on Thursday. “To defund a program like Planned Parenthood would be a mistake,” he told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “They perform a valuable service as far as breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, parenting classes, many things that benefit our state that we’re sorely in need of.”

Cox said he believes that some of his Republican colleagues in the House also support Planned Parenthood, but they still feel pressured to vote for bills that would defund it. “I have people who tell me they feel the way I do, but are afraid to vote the way I do,” he said.

That is a real shame, too bad those GOP Reps don’t have the cahones to stand up to the PLUBs who got them into office.

On with the rest of the morning’s post after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads

tea on books

Good Morning!!

President Obama isn’t looking so “progressive” this morning (what else is new?). Yesterday, his “Justice” department announced they will ignore science as well as the health needs of women and girls by fighting a judge’s order to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age limits. NYT:

The appeal reaffirms an election-year decision by Mr. Obama’s administration to block the drug’s maker from selling it without a prescription or consideration of age, and puts the White House back into the politically charged issue of access to emergency contraception.

The Justice Department’s decision to appeal is in line with the views of dozens of conservative, anti-abortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls. But the decision was criticized by advocates for women’s reproductive health and abortion rights who cite years of scientific research saying the drug is safe and effective for all ages.

“Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.

In December 2011 the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, blocked the sale of the drug to young girls without a prescription, saying there was not enough data to prove it would be safe. In doing so, Ms. Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had moved, based on scientific research, to lift all age restrictions.

I could use some profane language here, but I’ll spare you for the moment. You may be mumbling to yourself too, after you read about Obama’s latest picks for the FCC and Commerce Department.

First the FCC. The New York Times reports: Telecom Investor Named to Be F.C.C. Chairman.

Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, knows all about the most advanced telecommunications systems — of the 19th century.

In his 2008 book “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War,” Mr. Wheeler, an investor in start-up technology and communications companies, documents how Lincoln was an “early adopter” of what has been called “the Victorian Internet.”

Lincoln’s championing and advancement of popular uses of the telegraph are not unlike the challenges Mr. Wheeler is likely to face as chairman of the F.C.C., which is waging an intense battle to keep Internet service free of commercial roadblocks and widely available in its most affordable, up-to-date capabilities.

Mr. Wheeler’s qualifications for “one of the toughest jobs in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, include a long history “at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.”

“He was one of the leaders of a company that helped create thousands of good, high-tech jobs,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Core Capital Partners, the Washington investment firm where Mr. Wheeler is a managing director. “He’s in charge of the group that advises the F.C.C. on the latest technology issues,” adding that “he’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products.”

They look happy, don't they?

They look happy, don’t they?

But does all that qualify Wheeler to protect consumers at the FCC? From Ars Technica:

Uh-oh: AT&T and Comcast are ecstatic about the FCC’s new chairman: AT&T calls new chairman an “inspired pick,” seeks end to “outdated” regulations.

President Barack Obama today announced his choice to run the Federal Communications Commission. As reported yesterday, the nominee is Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist who was formerly a lobbyist at the top of the cable and wireless industries, leading the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).

The nomination continues the parade of lobbyists becoming government officials and vice versa, a trend that has favored moneyed interests over the average American citizen and consumer time and again. One can take solace in the fact that Wheeler will be tasked with implementing the communications policies of President Obama, who says he is eager to fight on behalf of consumers and to maintain thriving and open Internet and wireless marketplaces.

But the same President who said “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over” when he was running for office has given the FCC’s top job to a former lobbyist. Wheeler donated $38,500 to Obama’s election efforts and helped raise additional money for Obama by becoming a “bundler,” arranging for large contributions from other donors after hitting legal limits on personal contributions.

Not surprisingly, the cable and telecom companies that Wheeler springs from are ecstatic about the nomination.

Gotta get rid of those nasty regulations that protect Americans from price gauging, internet censorship, and all that bad stuff.

Penny Pritzker

Penny Pritzker

Next up, behold Obama’s nomination for Commerce Secretary, old pal Penny Pritzker.

Making official what many Democrats have expected for weeks, President Obama plans to nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser, as his new Commerce secretary on Thursday morning.

Pritzker’s nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.

With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. She is the founder, chair and CEO of PSP Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and its affiliated real estate investment firm, Pritzker Realty Group. She played an influential role in Obama’s rise from Illinois state senator to the nation’s 44th president, serving as Obama’s national finance chair in his first campaign for the White House and co-chair of his reelection campaign.

The president is expected to make the announcement at 10 a.m. at the White House.

If confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker would take charge of the administration’s efforts to build relations with business leaders who were often on the sharp end of the president’s first-term rhetoric.

Sigh . . .

This next story is guaranteed to make your blood boil. Bloomberg reports:

It’s been almost three years since Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to require public companies to disclose the ratio of their chief executive officers’ compensation to the median of the rest of their employees’. The agency has yet to produce a rule.

So Bloomberg decided not to wait around any longer and figured out the ratios for us. See the chart at the above link. More:

Ron Johnson

CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law

Former fashion jewelry saleswoman Rebecca Gonzales and former Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson have one thing in common: J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) no longer employs either.

The similarity ends there. Johnson, 54, got a compensation package worth 1,795 times the average wage and benefits of a U.S. department store worker when he was hired in November 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gonzales’s hourly wage was $8.30 that year.

Across the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of companies, theaverage multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204, up 20 percent since 2009, the data show. The numbers are based on industry-specific estimates for worker compensation.

Almost three years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers remain unknown. As theOccupy Wall Street movement and 2012 election made income inequality a social flashpoint, mandatory disclosure of the ratios remained bottled up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement.

“It’s a simple piece of information shareholders ought to have,” said Phil Angelides, who led the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the economic collapse of 2008. “The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes.” The lobbying is part of “a street-by-street, block-by-block fight waged by large corporations and their Wall Street colleagues” to obstruct the Dodd-Frank law, he said.

Are you angry yet? These greedheads are going to keep pushing the envelope until Americans wake up and take to the streets with pitchforks and dust off the guillotines.

My birthplace, North Dakota is changing rapidly–and maybe not in a good way. It turns out the state’s oil is even more plentiful than anyone has realized up till now.

The sea of oil and natural gas underneath North Dakota is far larger than first thought.

There are 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the western part of the state and extending into Montana, according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey.

That’s more than twice the oil the USGS estimated could be recovered five years ago. What’s more, the USGS has nearly tripled its estimate of the natural gas available in the area.

The revised totals could make the North Dakota field the greatest oil and gas find ever in the continental United States, topping the fabled East Texas field that made Texas synonymous with oil wealth. And it would put North Dakota second to Prudhoe Bay as the largest oil producer in U.S. history.

And even this estimate may have to be “revised upward”:

“We think it’s even a little bit conservative,’’ said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

The new estimate will give fresh momentum to an economic boom within the state that has made it the fastest growing in the nation in both population and incomes. Per capita income has risen to $52,000 a year, sixth-highest in the nation, and once quiet farm towns have been overwhelmed by oil field workers, creating shortages of housing and services.

The USGS said the drilling of 4,000 wells since 2008 in what is known as the Bakken formation has given geologists a better idea of the riches underground. The new analysis also highlights the rapid ascent of North American oil and gas production driven by the advent of the technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

I guess I’m happy about the new jobs and population growth, but it will be sad if North Dakota no longer has clean air and vast open spaces.

Four shallow chop marks on the top of the girl’s skull, evidence of cannibalism during the “starving time” over the winter of 1609-1610. (Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert)

Four shallow chop marks on the top of the girl’s skull, evidence of cannibalism during the “starving time” over the winter of 1609-1610. (Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert)

You may have heard about this fascinating story–it was up toward the top of Google News much of yesterday. Archaeologists have found strong evidence that Starving Settlers in [the] Jamestown Colony Resorted to Cannibalism. From Smithsonian Magazine:

The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.

“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.”

Much is still unknown about the circumstances of this grisly meal: Who exactly the girl researchers are calling “Jane” was, whether she was murdered or died of natural causes, whether multiple people participated in the butchering or it was a solo act. But as Owsley revealed along with lead archaeologist William Kelso today at a press conference at the National Museum of Natural History, we now have the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. “Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened there,” Owsley says. “Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it’s clear that this body was dismembered for consumption.”

There’s much more at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great day!


Are Victims of Mortgage Lender Fraud about to get their Justice?

The DOJ has filed a lawsuit against BOA on so-called “hustle mortgages” that accuses the lender of selling bad mortgages to Fannie and Freddie.  I’m going to follow this, believe me, because it represents a ‘big deal’ for any one that does research in banking, lending, or moral hazard.  I’m not a lawyer–nor do I play one on TV–so the finer parts of the law are not in my knowledge ballpark. I do have some knowledge of home value through the apprenticeship I did with a home appraisal service.  However, I expect this to influence both lending behavior and the willingness of larger banks to merge with banks in bad shape.  The latter is a trick used by regulators to deal with a problem bank.  Bank of America is basically being sued over mortgages originated through a Countrywide program called the “hustle mortgage”.  It supposedly continued the program after its merger to Countrywide.

This is the first civil fraud suit brought by the Department of Justice concerning mortgage loans sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “For the sixth time in less than 18 months, this Office has been compelled to sue a major U.S. bank for reckless mortgage practices in the lead-up to the financial crisis. The fraudulent conduct alleged in today’s complaint was spectacularly brazen in scope. As alleged, through a program aptly named ‘the Hustle,’ Countrywide and Bank of America made disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill. As described, Countrywide and Bank of America systematically removed every check in favor of its own balance – they cast aside underwriters, eliminated quality controls, incentivized unqualified personnel to cut corners, and concealed the resulting defects. These toxic products were then sold to the government sponsored enterprises as good loans. This lawsuit should send another clear message that reckless lending practices will not be tolerated.”

FHFA Inspector General Steve A. Linick said: “To prevent fraud, conducting quality reviews and complying with underwriting standards are critical. Countrywide and Bank of America allegedly engaged in fraudulent behavior that contributed to the financial crisis, which ultimately falls on the shoulders of taxpayers. This type of conduct is reprehensible and we are proud to work with our law enforcement partners to hold all parties accountable.”

SIGTARP Special Inspector General Christy Romero said: “The complaint filed today alleges serious and significant misrepresentations that Bank of America made before and during the time taxpayers invested $45 billion in TARP funds in the bank. SIGTARP and its law enforcement partners will investigate allegations of wrongdoing by TARP recipients, particularly conduct that results in substantial losses to the government and taxpayers.”

Are we beginning to see the DOJ move on the banksters?  Has this got anything to do with the stampeded to Romney by all things Wall Street?

The Bank of America lawsuit is the sixth brought against a major U.S. bank by the Justice Department in less than 18 months over what Bharara called “reckless mortgage practices in the lead-up to the financial crisis.”

This month, the government sued Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), one of the biggest mortgage lenders and service, over claims the San Francisco-based bank made reckless loans that caused losses for a federal insurance program when they defaulted. The complaint alleges misconduct over more than a decade related to the bank’s participation in a Federal Housing Administration program and follows similar cases against other lenders including Citigroup Inc. (C) and Deutsche Bank AG. (DB)

A state and federal task force is investigating misconduct in the bundling of mortgage loans into securities before the housing bust. The group’s first legal action was this month, when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. lender, over defective mortgage loans underlying securities, a suit he said would act as a template for other such cases. The bank has denied wrongdoing.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac losses totaled more than $1 billion, Bharara said. The Justice Department’s complaint was brought under the federal False Claims Act, which allows for triple damages.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have operated under U.S. conservatorship since 2008, when they were seized amid subprime mortgage losses that pushed them toward insolvency.

“Bank of America has stepped up and acted responsibly to resolve legacy mortgage matters,” Larry DiRita, a spokesman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company, said in an e-mailed statement. “The claim that we have failed to repurchase loans from Fannie Mae is simply false. At some point, Bank of America can’t be expected to compensate every entity that claims losses that actually were caused by the economic downturn.”

The government said in the complaint that Bank of America “systematically removed every check” in the issuance of mortgages and then sold the “flawed” mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Both relied on Bank of America’s assurances that the mortgages they purchased complied with their standards, the U.S. said.

According to the complaint, Countrywide initiated “the Hustle” in 2007 just as mortgage loan defaults were increasing nationally and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were tightening their loan purchasing standards to reduce risk. The Countrywide program did just the opposite, the U.S. said.

This suit is based on information from a whistle blower and has been in the works since February.

According to court records, Wednesday’s case was originally filed under seal in February by Edward O’Donnell, a Pennsylvania resident and former executive vice president at Countrywide Home Loans who had worked there between 2003 and 2009.

In that complaint, O’Donnell said Countrywide and later Bank of America dismissed his “numerous” objections to the Hustle, and that he became “one of the lone voices” in his division pointing to escalating loan quality issues and defaults.

O’Donnell could not immediately be reached for comment, and his lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Grab your bowl of popcorn.  This should be interesting.