Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

The Village Fool by Victor Tkachenko

The Village Fool by Victor Tkachenko

As we learn more about Trump’s successful efforts to undermine U.S. democracy, it is becoming evident that Trump and Trumpism will be haunting us for a long time to come. I only hope it isn’t too late for this country to recover.

Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about the latest Trumpian outrages, and this morning there is much more being reported in the aftermath of yesterday’s revelations about Trump’s corruption of the Department of Justice–specifically about The New York Times’s blockbuster story about the Trump DOJ obtaining phone and email data belonging to members of the House Intelligence Committee.

It turns out Apple didn’t know that it was turning over information about Congresspeople. CNN: Justice Department requested data on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses from Apple.

The Department of Justice sent a broad request in February 2018 to Apple as part of its investigation that collected data on members of Congress, staffers and their families. The department demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses from Apple, the company said Friday evening.

Apple received the subpoena from the Justice Department on Feb. 6, 2018, but it contained no information about who the investigation was targeting or why, the company said. Apple also said determining who the targeted accounts belonged to would have required extensive research.

A person familiar with the request said the subpoena requested information on the targeted accounts beginning with the inception of the accounts through the day of the subpoena.

Apple said it limited the information it provided to metadata and account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures. While Apple says it would have normally informed customers, a nondisclosure order prevented it from doing so in this case, the company said.

The nondisclosure order was extended three times, each time for a year, Apple said. When it was not extended for a fourth time, Apple said it informed the affected customers on May 5, 2021.

Apple said they believe that other providers also got subpoenas, and the story reports that Microsoft was ordered to turn over data belonging to a Congressional staffer. This one was also accompanied by a gag order.

According to Reuters, Apple has now “tightened some of its rules for responding to legal requests.”

Jeff Sessions claims that he had no clue about what was going on, according to The Daily Beast.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is telling associates he had no idea his Justice Department seized phone records of two top Democratic congressional critics of then-President Donald Trump.

Lotte Laserstein

Painting by Lotte Laserstein

In the hours since The New York Times broke the news on Thursday that prosecutors subpoenaed Apple metadata from Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), former Attorney General Sessions has privately told people that he wasn’t aware of, nor was he briefed on, the reported data seizures while he led the Trump DOJ. This week’s revelations were a surprise to him, according to a source familiar with the matter, and another person close to Sessions.

“[What’s been reported] is explicitly the kind of thing that Donald Trump would often say he wanted out of his Justice Department,” said the individual familiar with the matter. “But right now, it’s unclear how many top officials [at the time] even knew about this.”

And what about Bill Barr? 

Politico: Barr distances himself from Trump-era subpoenas of Democratic lawmakers.

Former Attorney General William Barr on Friday distanced himself from reports that the Trump Justice Department seized communications records belonging to two prominent Democratic lawmakers who were spearheading investigations into then-President Donald Trump.

In a phone interview, Barr said he didn’t recall getting briefed on the moves.

Barr’s comments came after The New York Times reported that in 2017 and 2018, the Justice Department secretly seized the records of at least 12 people connected to the House Intelligence Committee, including its current chair. Barr became attorney general in 2019….

Barr said that while he was attorney general, he was “not aware of any congressman’s records being sought in a leak case.” He added that Trump never encouraged him to zero in on the Democratic lawmakers who reportedly became targets of the former president’s push to unmask leakers of classified information.

Trump “was not aware of who we were looking at in any of the cases,” Barr said. “I never discussed the leak cases with Trump. He didn’t really ask me any of the specifics.”

Yeah, right. I don’t believe a word of that bullshit.

From Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz at CNN: Barr pushed investigators to finish leak probes.

(CNN)The Justice Department’s leak investigation that targeted lawmakers was more than a year old when Attorney General William Barr took office in 2019. Barr had vowed early on to help answer lingering questions from conservatives about the fairness of the Justice Department’s handling of politically sensitive investigations.

Barr pushed for briefings from national security prosecutors and urged them to move quickly to complete investigations, according to people briefed on the matter. In some cases, he sought to bring in outside prosecutors to help reinvigorate investigations he thought weren’t moving quickly enough….

Giacomo Ceruti

Painting by Giacomo Ceruti

The probe looking into whether lawmakers briefed on classified information leaked information to reporters was among several that were launched early on during the era of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing matters related to Russia, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions was recused….

As part of his effort to crack down on leakers, Barr brought in a well-regarded New Jersey prosecutor, Osmar Benvenuto, in early 2020 to help oversee leak investigations, which raised some eyebrows among Washington-based prosecutors because the line prosecutor had not had extensive counterintelligence or leak investigation experience. Like Trump, Barr had suspicions about leaks and believed the department’s credibility was at stake if it couldn’t show it fully investigated them, people briefed on the matter said.

He also found a set of aggressive career prosecutors leading this and other leak cases who were willing to take extraordinary steps to try to complete the probes.

Good old Rod Rosenstein. He turned out to be a loyal Trumpist too.

An op-ed at by former federal prosecutor Elie Honig at CNN: Bill Barr’s despicable conduct is now on full display.

It was already a matter of record that William Barr abused his power as attorney general under former President Donald Trump. Turns out, it’s even worse than we knew.

There’s no question that Barr was fundamentally dishonest (to put it charitably). Federal judges nominated to the bench by presidents of both political parties have found that Barr “lack(ed) … candor“; that his public and in-court statements were “disingenuous,” “incomplete,” “inconsistent” with truth and “called into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility.” Others, including former special counsel Robert Mueller, thousands of former Justice Department officials (including me), and members of Congress have expressed doubt or worse about Barr’s truthfulness and integrity.

Photo by Brook Hummer

Photo by Brook Hummer

We already knew that Barr politicized the Justice Department. He used it defensively to shield Trump from potential criminal exposure by misleading the public about Mueller’s findings, and by declaring, contrary to the evidence and the law, that Trump had not obstructed justice. (In his report, Mueller detailed extensive evidence of obstruction, but declined to clearly state whether he concluded that Trump had committed a crime). And Barr intervened in unprecedented fashion to undermine his own Justice Department’s prosecutions of Trump’s political allies Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

But recent revelations — that prosecutors in Trump’s Department of Justice subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of Democratic members of Congress, their staffs and families — are different in kind. According to The New York Times, Barr even moved a New Jersey-based attorney to the main Justice Department to work on a case related to Rep. Adam Schiff of California, one of the House Democrats whose data was sought. (Barr, the Justice Department and Apple declined to comment on the story to the Times, though the Justice Department’s inspector general has said it will investigate.)

In taking such action, Barr used the staggering power of his position to selectively pursue Trump’s perceived political rivals. This is eerily similar to former President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” and his efforts at retributive action.

 Read the rest at CNN.

In other news, a number of media outlets recently reported that an IG report exonerated Trump of accusations that he ordered protesters cleared from Lafayette Square last year so he could do his despicable photo-op holding up a bible. Not so fast.

Vox: What the new IG report about the gassing of protesters around Lafayette Square actually says.

On June 1, 2020, as the Black Lives Matter protests were escalating, President Donald Trump, in an effort to project power and restore a sense of “law and order,” decided to walk across the street from the White House and hold aloft a Bible outside St. John’s Church, which had been damaged during a protest the night before.

He was able to do so because the crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square, which abuts the church, had been forcibly cleared by law enforcement in what some outlets referred to as an “attack” — officers from various law enforcement groups used horses, riot shields, batons, pepper spray, and tear gas to clear the area.

Girl in the red dress with cat and dog, by Ammi Phillips, 1788-1865

Girl in the red dress with cat and dog, by Ammi Phillips, 1788-1865

Reporters and onlookers understandably linked Trump’s desire to hold a photo op with the operation to forcibly clear protesters. But the new IG report has prompted a reevaluation of that linkage with its conclusion that “the evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP (United States Park Police) cleared the park to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church.”

“Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31,” it says.

Again, not so fast.

But the report does not clarify everything about what happened on June 1. For example, it does not offer perspective on whether the injury to officers actually necessitated clearing the park — a question raised immediately after protesters were removed. Nor does it definitively state that Trump had nothing to with how the clearing was carried out.

In fact, the report also suggests that other law enforcement agencies that were on the scene that day, such as the Secret Service, may have had reasons for taking aggressive action to clear protesters that went beyond the desire to install new fencing.

But because the IG report is limited to the actions of the USPP and did not include interviews with the Secret Service or the attorney general at the time of the incident, Bill Barr — who spoke with law enforcement before the operation began — important questions about the chain of events that led to protesters being forcibly cleared from the area on that day remain unanswered.

There’s much more at the link. See also this piece by attorney Luppe B. Luppin: Reading the Park Police IG Report More Closely. It doesn’t support the headlines, and this article at The Week by Ryan Cooper: Trump’s false Lafayette Square exoneration.

I wish we could be permanently rid of Trump and his family and cronies, but it doesn’t look like that will happen for a very long time.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!!


Monday? Evening Reads: Steve King, Duck Livers, Women’s Ovaries and The World’s Biggest…

Good Evening!

It is hot as hell out there! All day today I’ve thought it was Tuesday…not sure why, because of all the days out there,  Monday definitely has a feel.

*Jerry, Kramer and Newman in the Saab*

Kramer: What’s today?

Newman: It’s Thursday.

Kramer: Really? Feels like Tuesday.

Newman: Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel, Friday has a feel, Sunday has a feel….

Kramer: I feel Tuesday and Wednesday…

Jerry: All right, shut up the both of you! You’re making me nervous.

Anyway, here are tonight’s links…in link dump fashion.

The heat was getting to Boston Boomer today, hopefully it has cooled off for her. I know it has been hot down here in Banjoville, but it looks as if the drought we are experiencing has hit a milestone. Check this out:

2012 Drought Rivals Dust Bowl

10 Largest Droughts Since 1895

10 Largest Droughts Since 1895

The 2012 drought disaster is now the largest in over 50 years, and among the ten largest of the past century, according to a new report released by the National Climatic Data Center today.

As The Weather Channel reported in an exclusive preview of the report Sunday, data computed from the Palmer Drought Severity Index shows that 54.6 percent of the contiguous 48 states was in drought at the end of June, the highest percentage since December 1956, and the sixth-highest peak percentage on record.

The June State of the Climate drought report from NCDC, released today, shows that in records dating to 1895, only the extraordinary droughts of the 1930s and 1950s have covered more land area than the current drought.

And by a slight margin, the current drought actually covers more area than the famous 1936 drought, though other droughts in the Dust Bowl years – particularly the extreme drought of 1934 – still rank higher.

That is something, isn’t it?

For another hot topic, remember that douche, Tosh?  Tennessee Guerilla Women: Misogynist Daniel Tosh Makes One Rape Joke Too Many

Someone, it may have been Ralph,  had posted a link to this petition below, I signed it, but I thought it would be good to front page the link.

At long last, there appears to be a serious outcry about Comedy Central’s famed Rape-Joker Daniel Tosh, a low-life who has long earned his living by encouraging similarly mindless young men to rape and think lightly of it.  Tosh earns his living by spewing forth loathsome misogyny in the form of rape ‘jokes.’

After Tosh ‘joked’ at a comedy show that it would be so very ha-ha funny if five guys would only rape a woman in his audience (the woman had dared to object to his rape jokes), the loathsome misogynist is suddenly the talk of bloggers everywhere. Tosh, the Rape Joker, is said to be furiously scrambling to remove the rape jokes from his new, about to debut, rape joke show. But without his rape jokes, does Tosh have an audience?

[SIGN THE PETITION: CEO, Comedy Central: Take Daniel Tosh off the air]

I don’t know how I feel about this next link, so perhaps you all could give me your thoughts on it: Science Cheerleaders: Give Us an S, T, E, M! (Video)

Science Cheerleaders: Give Us an S, T, E, M! (Video)

Go science!

Or rather, go scientists. The Science Cheerleaders are 175 former NFL and NBA dancers who are scientists and engineers, mathematicians, IT professionals, molecular science Ph.Ds. That is, these ex-professional cheerleaders all have now had to “lower their standards” and  work in the STEM fields, in science, technology, engineering and math, as  tongue-in-cheekly puts it on CNET.

Here are the Science Cheerleaders performing at the US Science and Engineering Festival in what Jezebel describes as the “perfect antidote for that crappy EU Science: It’s a Girl Thing! video we all rolled our eyes at a month ago

You can click the link to see the video.

According to their website, the Science Cheerleaders aim to “playfully challenge stereotypes, turn everyone onto science by encouraging participation in citizen science activities, and inspire young women (including 3-4 million U.S. cheerleaders) to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math,” while making the point that, yes, “science is accessible to ALL!”

It’s no secret that women are under-represented in the STEM fields. Just recently, a student (an English major) sat in my office and said she regretted that she hadn’t had a stronger foundation in science in high school and earlier, as she could see that jobs in the STEM field (vs. in journalism) were numerous and well-paying and, even more, seemed interesting. She was well aware of the numerous courses in math, biology, chemistry and physics she had never taken and, two years into her college studies, cannot suddenly change her major and stay beyond her scholarship.

But I do have to agree with Jezebel that

It’s a shame that it takes a team of dancing Disney Princesses to give girls permission to want to enter the fields of science and technology (you can do it because conventionally beautiful women do it!), but it’s also a shame that smart women can’t be pretty, and pretty women can’t be smart.

Why does it even need to be said that “yes, smart women can be pretty!” or “women can both be professional dancers wearing skin-tight spandex-y cleavage revealing outfits AND chemical engineers!”? It shouldn’t be news that women can look good and be smart.

On to some other news of the day, MSNBC is a thing of the past, I like what John Cole has to say about it…Dear Microsoft: Please give us Non-Profit News

We don’t need another source of corporate news online. We certainly don’t need more portals that exploit real news operations like Britain’s The Guardian, which is struggling to stay afloat.

As for MSNBC’s original arena, television news, only 6 major corporations own most broadcast television news outlets in the United States. There has also been alarming concentration of ownership in radio, e.g. Clearchannel, which has boycotted artists for their political views. The situation in television news won’t be better if there are 7 corporations. Corporate-owned news has served us very badly as ownership has become concentrated. This, despite the valiant efforts of many honest journalists and editors, who, however, operate in an extremely unfavorable business environment and are often shunted aside in favor of infotainment and fluff or political misdirection. Much of the pressure comes, not just from the corporate higher-ups, but from the advertisers who pay for the news to be carried on the airwaves. In essence, cornflakes and tampons rent the news for us, but only as they please.

Read the rest at the link. I wonder if we will have to change all our MSNBC blog RSS feeds…hmmm.

This next article is tongue in cheek…I wonder if it is goose tongue?  I love this bit from Jezebel, it is about Steve King, Congressman Thinks Birth Control Is Worse than Animal Cruelty

Iowa Republican Steve King currently fighting to oppose California’s right to regulate eggs from out of state, but he argues against Affordable Care Act on the grounds that the government shouldn’t have the right to tell states what to do. He’s also against letting states outlaw fois gras, and in favor of letting states outlaw birth control. Regulate the shit out of human ovaries but, my god, do not intrude onto the sacred ova of poultry. How did we get here? What in tarnation is going on?

The tea party at it’s hypocritical best:

Rep. Steve King is an unfortunate victim of what’s known as Obama psychosis, a tragic condition affecting thousands of Americans, with no cure in sight. You see, since declaring that the first priority of the 112th Congress was to make sure that Barack Obama was a one term President, conservatives have launched a campaign of NO that might rival that of the most dogged toddlers. They’ve blocked judicial nominations, further inflamed a global economic scare when they threatened to block raising the debt ceiling to make a point about how much they hate spending money, almost shut the government down over Planned Parenthood funding, and fought the Affordable Care Act tooth and nail. It should come as no surprise that in their campaign to stymie the President at every turn, congressional Republicans occasionally opposed issues that turned them into goofy looking hypocrites.

According to ThinkProgress: GOP Congressman: States Can Ban Birth Control, But Not Foie Gras

Californians have recently voted to enact laws banning the sale and production of both eggs from cruelly housed hens and foie gras, a delicacy created by force-feeding ducks. While this may seem within the legal bounds of a state’s ability to regulate local commerce, one Congressman is up in arms about it: Steve King (R, IA). King, despite being one of the most outspoken proponents of states’ rights in Congress, is so convinced that California’s laws violate the Commerce Clause that he pushed through legislation overturning the animal rights acts and similar statutes in other states:

Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who represents the country’s leading egg-producing state, said he introduced the amendment because the California law and others like it “scrambles and creates a patchwork quilt of state regulations.”

“If California wants to regulate eggs that come into the state, fine,” King said. “But don’t be telling the states that are producing a product that’s already approved by the USDA or the FDA how to produce that product.”

He said that the California requirement violates the commerce clause of the Constitution, which gives the federal government jurisdiction over interstate commerce issues.

King believes the entire Affordable Care Act – not simply the mandate, but the whole law – is an unconstitutional use of federal power under the Commerce Clause. This means that, according to King, any federal regulation of the insurance industry is unconstitutional. King also thinks states can ban contraception. These radical beliefs aren’t a surprise: King adheres to an extreme interpretation of the Tenth Amendment which aims to gut federal power.

So King appears to to think federal regulation of farming is constitutional, but regulation of the health care industry is not. A state ban on birth control is fine, but banning foie gras isn’t.

Of course, King has a perfectly good reason for going against his principles: saving his own skin. King is in the midst of a bruising reelection battle as a consequence of redistricting. The largest industry spending on his behalf is big agribusiness, which isn’t thrilled about California’s laws. King’s home state of Iowa has no standards for ethical caging of egg-producing hens, a fact which was linked to a significant salmonella outbreak in 2010.

Only looking out for his best interest..or should I say his supporters best interest. Back to the Jezebel link, in which King:

wasn’t so keen on federal authority back in February, when he argued that Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court case that determined that it was illegal for states to outlaw contraception and set the privacy groundwork for Roe v. Wade, was a bunch of crap because states have the right to act in ways they see fit. He said,

Why should I care about the conclusions that have been brought forward by the Supreme Court if we can race from 1965, Connecticut having a Tenth Amendment right to establish a policy, a Supreme Court that creates a right to privacy that’s the foundation for mandated abortion, and here were are discussing whether we’re going to mandate everybody in America fund and provide that contraceptives. … Why should I care?

I get it now! States’ Rights means “states” have the “right” to agree with Steve King.

So there you have it — everyone should have the right to interfere with the sale of birth control to women who don’t want to be pregnant, but no one should have the right to violate a woman’s right to force feed a duck until its liver becomes engorged with fat, and then killing the duck and eating the liver.

Would that be served with “Fava Beans, and a nice Chianti?” What An Ass…uh, Rep. Steve King that is…

Hey, speaking of dicks…Jonah Falcon, Man With World’s Largest Penis, Frisked By TSA At California Airport

Turns out it’s legal to have a weapon of mass conception at the airport.

Jonah Falcon was stopped and frisked by the TSA at the San Francisco International Airport on July 9 because of a bulging package hidden in his pants. But the 41-year-old New Yorker wasn’t packing a dirty bomb, drugs or a Costco-sized tube of toothpaste. The New Yorker has the world’s largest recorded penis.

In an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post, Falcon described his hard times with security guards after his extra carry-on became suspect.

“I had my ‘stuff’ strapped to the left. I wasn’t erect at the time,” said Falcon, whose penis is 9 inches flaccid, 13.5 inches erect. “One of the guards asked if my pockets were empty and I said, ‘Yes.'”

Falcon said he knew that his interview was about to get a lot more personal when he was led through one of the X-ray body scanners and passed a metal detector.

“Another guard stopped me and asked me if I had some sort of growth,” Falcon said, laughing.

Indeed he did have a growth.

There are some…er…pictures at the link.

And lastly, this video is fabulous, h/t FDL. Makes the world seem small, a place where we all can enjoy a dance or two…well, except for the folks in Syria who have to have their faces blurred out. Enjoy it:

That’s all folks….stay cool!