Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Hate It When I Get Ideas In the Middle of Librarian Reference Help

Damn the man, I gotta write this down:

As George Wynmoor awoke one morning from uninteresting dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a Presidential candidate.

I'm gonna get sued for this one, but f-ck it I'm writing a new short story.

The Future

Link to Latina.com article
This is Emma Gonzalez.

She is one of the teens who survived the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland FL.

She is just eighteen years old (or close to it).

She probably hasn't even figured out what she's wearing to her prom, if she's going.

She's facing down the NRA, the Republican Party, the gun crazies, everyone who doesn't support gun safety laws.

She's terrifying them to the point where they're openly insulting her, creating fake photoshopped images of her, doing everything they can to dismiss her.

She won't go away.

Emma Gonzalez is the future. Her and hundreds of thousands like her: teenagers and college students who grew up in the shadow of Columbine and are sick to death over the inaction and cowardice of the Republicans refusing to do anything to reduce/end gun violence in our nation.

She's going to be old enough to vote this year, her and hundreds of thousands like her. All of them single-issue voters willing to vote every pro-NRA pol out of office. Which affects every Republican pol currently in office.

If she can't vote this year, she certainly will by 2020, when it's a Presidential cycle and there's more at stake for the GOP. Her and hundreds of thousands like her.

I should say "millions" instead of "hundreds of thousands", but you get the drift.

The Republican strategists saw decades ago a demographic shift away from white majority population, and then gambled hard on going all-in on stoking white voter fears to create a voting base that gave them victories but declining overall support. That white voter base - mostly older, mostly uneducated, mostly wingnut - is getting outnumbered by the Millennial generation that's more educated, more tech-savvy, more angry at injustice. We're getting to the tipping point where that Whites-Only strategy kills the GOP.

We're getting to the point where the Face of America isn't Ivanka Trump.

The Face of America is Emma Gonzalez.

The future is hers.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March For Our Lives in Lakeland (w/ Update)

Today the teens of our nation took to the streets to protest against school shootings, against weapons of death, against political inaction due to the NRA's overwhelming influence on government.

Via NBC News:

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of students gathered in the nation's capitol and at sister marches across the country and around the world to deliver a powerful, unified message: Enough is enough...
...Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School organized and hosted the main event on the mall in Washington with the U.S. Capitol in the background, a stark reminder of why they were demanding change.
"We hereby promise to fix the broken system we've been forced into and create a better world for the generations to come," Cameron Kasky, one of the student organizers told a cheering crowd filled with teenagers. "Don't worry, we've got this..."

The most powerful moment came when Emma Gonzalez, one of the more prominent Parkland students in the movement, gave her speech:

After listing the names of the 17 people killed when a gunman rampaged through her school on Valentine's Day, Gonzalez asked the crowd to fathom how so many could be murdered in only 6 minutes and 20 seconds.
And then she stopped speaking.
Silent minutes ticked by. Then an alarm beeped.
"Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds," she said finally. "The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest."
She added: "Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job."

I just wanna live long enough to vote for her as President, okay God?

That was all in Washington DC. Here at home, there were shared rallies same as across the nation. In Tampa, they figured they had around 15,000 showing up to call for action on gun safety.

Closer to home, I went to the rally happening in Lakeland, and I got some pics:

Munn Park in downtown Lakeland

The early minutes before the rally began

This was a rally organized by the teens but for all ages to attend!

Voter Registration by the League of Women Voters

The speakers deliver their calls to action, and in poetry

Sharing out the signs

I figured around 100 people showed up
The message is pretty simple:

The kids want stronger gun safety laws.

They're angry at politicians who are in the NRA's pocket who won't do anything about it.

They're registering to vote.

And they are going to vote on this single issue: Guns.

They will vote you out, pols, if you are taking even a penny from the gun-makers and their lobby of doom.

And if you don't think they can't do that, do a head count.

The Millennial generation just got to where they outnumber the Boomers.

Turnout matters, granted, but these kids are on a mission. They're sick of school lockdowns and dreading the day it'll be their turn they won't come home after another mass shooting.

These teens are going to keep working on this issue. They're gonna vote this November.

Gods. This feels good.

Update: As Larry mentions in the comments, there were organized buses of students going to the Orlando protest and not the Tampa one. Orlando had 20,000 show up (!)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

So We're Kinda Getting To the End of the World Now

Just a couple of news worthy items today:

One of trump's lead lawyers trying to defend him against Mueller's investigation into trump-Russia ties resigned today (via David A Graham at The Atlantic):

Dowd announced his exit late Thursday morning. The specifics of the decision remain obscure—The Washington Post described it, somewhat paradoxically, as “a largely mutual decision”—but the departure comes amid rising frustration from the president with his legal team and frustration from the legal team over Trump’s refusal to follow advice. Dowd had been a particularly strong voice arguing against Trump testifying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and over the weekend Dowd called for Mueller’s firing, initially telling The Daily Beast he spoke for the president, then later insisting he spoke only for himself...

In this way, trump is self-destructing. he won't listen to reason, doesn't trust his own experts, and is leading by impulse.

trump wants to do two things, probably at the same time: he wants to testify to Mueller as though a direct confrontation could somehow compel Mueller to end his probe, and then just after giving that testimony have one of his flunkies fire Mueller (trump CANNOT fire someone face to face) with the belief that having testified he could then claim his "innocence" and quash all inquiry.

Dowd was likely one of the ones telling him how reckless it would be getting a known liar like trump to testify to anything, and that firing Mueller may not even close the investigation and may make things worse for trump. But with him gone, and with more "aggressive" lawyers joining trump's team, it's likely we're going to see at least one more public attempt to fire Mueller. Most likely this Friday. Yeah. Prepare for the Internet to melt down tomorrow.

The second note of interest is that trump's second NSA handler HR McMaster is getting the boot and is getting replaced by John Bolton. You all might remember Bolton from such previous hits as "Let's have a war in Iraq," "Let's lie about our intel," "Bombing North Korea should be a winner," and "Hey, nuking Iran is a great idea."

In short, we're going from a war hawk with prudence in McMaster to a war hawk with too much bloodlust and not enough brain cells or integrity in Bolton.

Let's refer to Uri Friedman also at The Atlantic:

On Thursday, donald trump replaced a man who built the case for war with North Korea as a last resort with a man who just made the case for war with North Korea as more of a first resort...
Until today, it was McMaster who was considered Trump’s most militant adviser on North Korea. A three-star general and earnest intellectual, McMaster clashed with Trump personally and on matters of policy; he recommended—over the president’s objections—sticking with the Iran nuclear deal, the war in Afghanistan, and America’s commitments to NATO allies and pushback against Russian aggression. McMaster, like Rex Tillerson, notably used his final days in office to condemn Russian malfeasance in ways his boss never has...

While Friedman argues in his article that McMaster's hard-line stance was more towards posturing to let China - and Russia - know that the U.S. wasn't going to tolerate a rogue North Korea, he tempered his saber-rattling with arguing in favor of maintaining existing deals and treaties to show the nation was still honor-bound towards diplomacy.

We're not going to get that with Bolton. This is a man with a documented history of mocking allies and enemies alike, of spoiling for fights he can't finish. He mocked the very existence of the UN he was sent to serve as ambassador to, argued for ignoring international law, and drove out career diplomats and foreign policy experts who disagreed with him. He is, basically, the worst person to give foreign policy decision-making authority.

So we're likely going into war with North Korea before the end of the month based on Bolton's bad input, if not trying to break our nuclear management arrangements with Iran by the same time, essentially putting the U.S. in a two-front war without any of our more helpful allies willing to help out this time. Yeah, by the end of the month. Prepare for the entire world to melt down by Saturday night March 31st.

Just remember, some of Hillary's critics on the Left - looking at you BernieBros and Jill Stein voters - argued that Hillary was going to be a war-monger. Congratulations. You lot teamed up with an entire PARTY that wants war in the Republicans, and you just let Cadet Bone Spurs bring onto his team the biggest warmonger of that mob.

We are so royally fucked.

And this is all before the 2018 Summer Movie season kicks in... damn you, trump voters, damn every single one of you to HELL...

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mind Games With the PSYOP Crews

At Midnight all the Spambots
And the Facebook crew
Come out and analyze everyone
That knows more than they do
-- Bob Dylan, updated Desolation Row

Today - building off of a weekend's worth of news reports regarding a data-mining corporation Cambridge Analytica taking too much private info out of Facebook to use as campaign data for Russia and trump to abuse - there's been more revelations that CA was using more than just data to manipulate the political landscape. Via Adam Silverman at Balloon-Juice who starts off linking to the British Channel 4 reporting:

Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica – the data company that credits itself with Donald Trump’s presidential victory – have been secretly filmed saying they could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and Ukrainian sex workers.
In an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world. This includes operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors.
In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.
In another he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”
Offering bribes to public officials is an offence under both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Cambridge Analytica operates in the UK and is registered in the United States.
The admissions were filmed at a series of meetings at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018. An undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

Um, let's start off with HOLY SHIT and work from there.

Silverman gives much-needed clarification:

What Nix and Turnbull are caught describing as their standard operating practice is separate from whatever program Christopher Wylie built for Cambridge Analytica. Rather, they’re describing a hybrid of privatized human intelligence and what are sometimes referred to as black psychological operations (black PSYOP), which is a misuse of the term. Initially black PSYOP was used as short hand for the highly compartmented covert form of PSYOP necessary to support special operations. This is not surprising as Cambridge Analytica is subsidiary business development unit of SCL Group, which claims to provide these services to the British Ministry of Defense and the US DOD. Several boutique companies were created to do this type of work in support of coalition operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and people eventually left these companies and started their own boutique shops. All they’re really doing is creating propaganda and then trying to insert it into the news and social media space without it seeming to come from non-natives...

For my understanding, just on this report alone, I'm thinking Cambridge Analytica are a bunch of hyped-up pimps looking to fuck up other peoples' governments for their own gain and profit. Not to cast any aspersions or anything...

The bribery issue itself is a huge concern. As Channel 4 noted, that tends to be illegal. But the thing catching my eye is the part where they bring in Ukrainian sex workers to tempt/blackmail pols. This begs the question "How did they have access to THAT particular resource?"

'Cause the first thing I think of when I hear something crooked related to Ukraine, my first thought is "Manafort." Considering how that guy was playing on the political global stage, I wonder how tied to CA he could be.

All that thinking aside, this brings up a serious problem about our Social Media world, and how tied into our networks we've become. I've been a user on Facebook for ages, since 2006 or so. I've used it to make and keep track of friends from high school, college, work, and shared interests. To find out - no to have my fears confirmed - that all my social activity and postings can be used against me by foreign agencies looking to disrupt my nation's political arena is horrifying.

I am tempted to cut off Facebook right now. I can't because of work-related reasons - we use Facebook to let other users know about my library's programs and events - but I am seriously looking into other Social Media apps to replace our Facebook page.

Just not Snapchat. Those sons-of-bitches disrespected Rihanna. What the hell were they thinking?

To everyone else I know on Facebook. We need to find a safer way to stay in touch.

And we need to shut those Cambridge Analytica crooks down.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spinning Downward

Emperor Turhan: How will this end?
Vorlon Kosh: In fire...

Update: Thank you again Batocchio for linking me on Mike's Blog Round Up at Crooksandliars.com! While you're here PLEASE check out the rest of my blog.

So as trump fires more people from his own Cabinet and from the FBI, it's getting clearer that this is an administration not finding its order but spreading its own chaos.

To be fair to this latest article from The Atlantic "What Is a Constitutional Crisis?" isn't the first warning flag raised about the subject. But let's see what Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes have to say about it:

Here is something that, even on its own, is astonishing: The president of the United States demanded the firing of the former FBI deputy director, a career civil servant, after tormenting him both publicly and privately—and it worked.
The American public still doesn’t know in any detail what Andrew McCabe, who was dismissed late Friday night, is supposed to have done. But citizens can see exactly what Donald Trump did to McCabe. And the president’s actions are corroding the independence that a healthy constitutional democracy needs in its law enforcement and intelligence apparatus.
McCabe’s firing is part of a pattern. It follows the summary removal of the previous FBI director and comes amid Trump’s repeated threats to fire the attorney general, the deputy attorney, and the special counsel who is investigating him and his associates. McCabe’s ouster unfolded against a chaotic political backdrop which includes Trump’s repeated calls for investigations of his political opponents, demands of loyalty from senior law enforcement officials, and declarations that the job of those officials is to protect him from investigation.
All of which has led many observers to wonder: Are we in the midst of a constitutional crisis? And if so, would we even know?

Apparently Jurecic and Wittes haven't gotten that memo: We've been in crisis mode ever since before November 9 2016, probably about DEFCON 2 levels when McConnell refused to let Obama go public with the early findings by SEPTEMBER 2016 that trump was in bed (literally) with Putin and the Russian mob.

What trump is attempting to do now is squash all those revelations and end all investigations into his Russian ties so he can keep lying about how he's the greatest winner of all time (dare not ruin his bullshit with the facts that he cheated with help from a corrupt foreign power).

I can argue when our nation is in a Constitution Crisis when certain things are happening - The lead-up to Civil War in the 1850s for example, or the turmoil of the 1960s (Civil Rights protests, Vietnam, shifts in demographic power) leading into Nixon/Watergate - based on these clues:

1. There is a branch of federal government under the control of a corrupt regime (trump, following in the footsteps of previous corrupt regimes like Nixon's, Harding's, Grant's, etc.).
2. There is a branch of federal government that refuses to respond to their Constitutional duties to oversee other branches for ethical failings (Republican-controlled Congress refusing to hold trump accountable for ANYTHING not just his Russian ties but his flagrant violations of the Emoluments Clause).
3. There is a section of the population that becomes intently partisan to the point that they cannot accept facts or moderation of their stances (damn you, Breitbart/Fox Not-News).
4. Things are batshit crazy (we are reduced to living hour by hour upon trump's constant insane Tweeting).

Jurecic and Wittes prefer getting expert input on this, so lets see what they found:

Whittington instead proposed thinking about constitutional crises as “circumstances in which the constitutional order itself is failing.” In his view, such a crisis could take two forms. There are “operational crises,” in which constitutional rules don’t tell us how to resolve a political dispute; and there are “crises of fidelity,” in which the rules do tell us what to do but aren’t being followed. The latter is probably closest to the common understanding of constitutional crisis—something along the lines of President Andrew Jackson’s famous (if apocryphal) rejoinder to the Supreme Court, “[Justice] John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” Or, to point to an example proposed recently by Whittington himself, such a crisis would result if congressional Republicans failed to hold Trump accountable for firing Mueller.
The constitutional scholars Sanford Levinson and Jack Balkin more or less agree with Whittington’s typology, but add a third category of crisis: situations in which the Constitution fails to constrain political disputes within the realm of normalcy. In these cases, each party involved argues that they are acting constitutionally, while their opponent is not. If examples of the crises described by Whittington are relatively far and few between—if they exist at all—Levinson and Balkin view crises of interpretation as comparatively common. One notable example: the battle over secession that began the Civil War...
...Whittington, Levinson and Balkin all agree that the notion of a constitutional crisis implies some acute episode—a clear tipping point that tests the legal and constitutional order. But how do we know this presidency isn’t just an example of the voters picking a terrible leader who then leads terribly? At what point does a bad president doing bad things become a problem of constitutional magnitude, let alone a crisis of constitutional magnitude?

This will be the tipping point: When trump fires or shuts down Mueller's ongoing criminal investigation into Russia's involvement with our elections, Russia's ties to trump, and trump's acts of Obstruction.

With that move, trump will prove he doesn't care about the Rule of Law, the procedural system we have in our Judiciary to uphold laws that apply to everyone (including Presidents). We've had special counsel investigations into Presidential and electoral activities before, and none of them - save Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre - were so openly blocked. It's interesting to note that Nixon's "massacre" only made things worse for him in public opinion: but what mattered was a Democratic-controlled Congress that became livid when Nixon interfered in a legal prosecutorial investigation like that.

The crisis this time will turn on whether Congress - run by Republicans terrified both of their rabid pro-trump voting base AND of their rabid billionaire SuperPAC funders - will step up to hold trump to account. The current odds say no... meaning it would all be up to general voters in the November 2018 midterms to step up and vote EVERY CORRUPT AND COWARDLY REPUBLICAN OUT OF OFFICE.

That is, if Putin lets us have free and honest elections this time. Considering how Putin runs his own elections (ah, he's corrupting one now) I doubt it.

We are so very royally fucked.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Off-Topic: PI DAY

March 14th translates to 3.14 which are the first three numbers in pi, an irrational number that in theory goes on forever because it defines the curvature of a circle, which has no corner, meaning it keeps getting smoother and smoother and smoother but never stopping as you zoom into the infinite of nanospace and...

ahem. I'll start over.

It's Pi Day.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Acts of War

This morning has been all abuzz over the firing of Rex Tillerson, Worst Secretary of State (via the Atlantic).

Tillerson was, as is now recognized even by those who put him there, a disaster. As with most spectacular Washington flame-outs, his failures stem not from stupidity or general incompetence, but from a specific set of disabilities... He was a debacle, pure and simple, the worst secretary of state in living memory (and there has been serious competition) not because of ineptitude, but because of the semi-intentional demolition job he was doing on his own department even as he fell out of presidential favor...

But WHY did Tillerson fall out of Presidential favor? Was it just the "trump's a moron" moment of candid talk? Was it that Tillerson wasn't working fast enough to dismantle the entire State Department?

No, Tillerson finally fell out of favor because he did the one thing trump will never allow: Tillerson accused the Russians of being naughty. Back to the Atlantic and to David Frum:

The White House’s account of the Tillerson firing collapsed within minutes... Senior administration officials told outlets including The Washington Post and CNN that Tillerson had been told he would be dismissed on Friday, March 9... Within the hour, the State Department issued a statement insisting that Tillerson “had every intention of remaining” and “did not speak to the President this morning and is unaware of the reason.” (as a side note Frum hadn't mentioned, but trump went and first the State Department aide who contradicted the White House's timeline on the firing)
...A lot turns on that timing. On March 12, Tillerson had backed the British government’s accusation that Russia was culpable for a nerve-agent attack on United Kingdom soil. If Tillerson had been fired March 9, then his words of support for Britain could not explain his firing three days before. But if the White House was lying about the timing, it could be lying about the motive.
And since it now seems all but certain that the White House was lying about the timing, it looks more probable that it was lying about the motive too...

What Frum is getting at: trump fired Tillerson because trump didn't want Russia accused of anything.

The backstory: There was a recent attack on an ex-Russian spy who just happened to be someone who was a likely source for the Steele Dossier, which just happened to catalog a lot of unsavory connections between trump, the Russian mob, and Putin. That attack, using a Russian-type nerve agent, has placed that agent Sergi Skripal and his daughter Yulia at death's door AND caused serious health concerns to the police and local civilians who were in contact with the victims and the possible attack site(s).

As a result, Prime Minister May has directly challenged Russia to answer for the attack within the next two-three days, and openly called on allies - ahem, the U.S. - to join in her condemnation of Russia's violation of British sovereignty.

trump's answer: Nothing. At least this morning, when he gave this tepid response that Frum found insulting:

That suspicion was accelerated by the president’s words to the White House press corps before stepping aboard Marine One:
“As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.”
That is not support for Britain. It is the direct opposite.
Britain and the United States share intelligence information fully, freely, and seamlessly. It’s inconceivable that the U.S. government has not already seen all the information that Theresa May saw before she rose in the House of Commons to accuse Russia.
If the U.S. government had a serious concern about the reliability of that information, it would have expressed that concern directly and privately to the U.K. government before May spoke. But the U.S. had no such concern—that’s why the now-fired secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom both endorsed May’s words. When Trump raises doubts about the facts, about American agreement with its British ally, about the accuracy of the British accusation against Russia, Trump is not expressing good-faith uncertainty about imperfect information. Trump is rejecting the consensus view of the U.K. and U.S. intelligence communities about an act of Russian aggression—and, if his past behavior is any indication, preparing the way for his own determination to do nothing...

trump doesn't want to act - much in the same reason he doesn't want to enforce the Congressional sanctions just passed last year, much in the same reason he will never speak ill of Putin - because it is clear now trump owes Russia his entire current status and (presumed) wealth.

All of the financial history being uncovered of trump's business ties, and possible money laundering, and personal subservience to people who may have blackmailed/extorted trump into their puppet. It all explains trump's refusal to pick a side in the growing war between Putin and Western democracies.

Look at what Putin is doing: there is case after case of Russian hacking and social media interference in election after election, and he is not stopping. Putin wants to weaken every NATO nation he can to make way for him to reclaim Russian dominance in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. He wants all sanctions against him and his criminal cronies lifted. He wants to silence all critics using the Stalin Method of "No Man No Problem": the body count has been noticed for years, and the smug SOB just pulled ANOTHER possible assassination on another Russian on British soil this afternoon.

Putin wants to fuck the rest of the world.

And trump is willing to help him do it.

What Putin is doing, and wants to keep doing, violates multiple nations' sovereign rights, and threaten their very existences. He may not be sending in tanks and troops, but he IS attacking these nations through one of the very things that should be held sacrosanct: their right and power to vote for their own leaders.

Putin is at war with the rest of the world. When the hell is the rest of the world going to do something about it?

Because trump's made it clear he's not doing a damn thing to stop Putin.

the damn traitor.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Intelligence Versus Interference

Earlier today, the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up in as loosely a form as possible their "investigation" into the likelihood that Russia tampered with our 2016 elections, that Russia worked with trump's campaign, and that Russia pretty much owns trump and the Republican Party at this point.

Essentially, they found "no collusion" and then tied blindfolds around their own eyes, stuck their fingers into their ears, and started singing loudly and off-key LALALALALAA in order to pretend they didn't see or hear anything.

As Adam L. Silverman notes over at Balloon-Juice, this is all kinda BS:

...The one page summary is as well written as the infamous Nunes memo and the Republican members of the committee can’t keep their talking points, let alone their stories, straight in their news media appearances trying to explain what they’ve done, why they did it, and what it means. There is a simple reason for this, which is that several pieces of information regarding what Special Counselor Mueller is doing have broken since the end of last week and over the weekend. And it clearly spooked them...

Silverman proceeds to highlight each development of Mueller's investigation - go to that link and read his stuff, please and thank you, and concludes:

...They are clearly scared and felt the need to change the narrative. This won’t stop Special Counsel Mueller and his investigation. It will, however, provide the Fox News talking heads, the talk radio folks, the Republicans and conservatives on contributor contracts for the broadcast and cable news networks, conservative media outlets ranging from the mainstream (whatever that means anymore) all the way out to the extreme, authoritarian right with a new narrative to pitch. That Congress found no collusion, so it is well passed time for Bob Mueller to wrap it up...

Nunes and his Congressional buddies are trying to give trump the excuse to force the FBI and the DOJ to shut down their own investigation. Not because Mueller and his team are wasting money, or pursuing any political agenda. It's because Mueller is getting close to uncovering enough proof that can stand up in court that trump is guilty at the very least on Obstruction, which would place Republicans in Congress on the hook for pursuing that as required by their Oaths of office to uphold and defend the Constitution. Which is something Republicans do not want to do.

What is happening here are two elements of our current political dilemma.

We have a civil service running our National Security / Intelligence Community who have come across a long-running effort (since 2014 as publicly confirmed) by a foreign power (Russia) to meddle in our nation's electoral process, and to help a useful ally in trump into the White House to serve Russia's interests (above all ending Obama-issued sanctions). These are the ones who kept insisting on a full investigation leading up to Mueller's appointment as Special Counsel, and are the ones bringing before grand juries more proof of Russian ties to select trump campaign members.

But we also have a political party (Republicans) in control of all three major branches of Federal Government, who have garnered their majority controls despite the fact they're a minority (that is, fewer people voted for) party keeping control through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and questionable tactics. The Republicans do not want any investigating because the facts will disrupt their grand Narrative that they won on the merits. They also don't want to get forced to decide on the facts to go directly against trump, because their angry voter base is clearly on trump's side and will shred them in these upcoming Midterms.

In short, where Mueller is working with intelligence in his investigations, the Republican Congress preferred to run interference and cover their own party's collective (and trump-owned) ass.

How is this going to play out?

Right now, trump has a weapon he can use to justify going after Deputy AG Rosenstein and shut down Mueller before his grand juries can indict more of trump's people (including his own family and himself).

But trump does so at the risk of alienating the entire Federal government tasked with our nation's protection. Every Intel agency from the FBI to the CIA and the NSA (about 17 in all) are going to know trump is only doing this to cover his own ass, because they're already finding that Russia did mess with our elections and that trump profits from dealing with Russia in ways that would point to money laundering, fraud, and mayhaps treason. Our nation's Intel people have already found evidence for grand juries to indict the likes of Manafort and Gates (enough to get Gates to flip and plead out).

What do you think the FBI and CIA and NSA and the other Intel people are going to do if the main suspect in their ongoing investigations tries to shut down said investigations?

Any argument trump and his enablers dream up - and some they've already floated, that there's a conspiracy among the Intelligence Community to get revenge in Hillary or Obama's name - would run into the simple proof that most agents and investigators are sworn to their jobs, not to any party affiliation (granted, there are exceptions but they are few). If an FBI agent is investigating the activities of a Russian hacker, then that agent is going to dig as far as he can to find enough evidence to make arrests or otherwise stop the hacker's criminal acts. If the CIA is getting intel from friendly nations like the Dutch that Russia is hacking into our shit, they are going to treat that intel seriously.

If there is any bias in this story, it's entirely on the side of the Republicans who do not want evidence that their "great victories and moral leadership" are all propped up by Russian-backed crimes.

If the Republicans think they can silence our entire Intelligence branch of Federal government, they are going to end up crushing a vital part of our government: the part that's working 24/7 to stop the next terror strike, the part that's trying to prevent foreign powers from corrupting or destroying our nation.

Today's move proves that the Republican Party will rather protect trump and his Russian puppetmaster instead of standing for the United States.

Not an intelligent move at all.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

This Was Just Tuesday

So everyone was catching their breath after Monday's Meltdown of trump acolyte Sam "Hold My Beer" Nunberg. I mean, the craziness was all burned out by just that one whacko evening, right?

This was the Tuesday we had today:

  • trump himself starts off the day by tweeting "There is no Chaos, only great Energy!" in response to the growing media concern that his administration is about to see a tidal wave of fleeing staffers.
  • The Office of Special Counsel found that Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act - at least twice - when she spoke about last year's special election in Alabama. Thing is, any punishment for her action is addressed by trump himself, who may not be in a mood to suspend one of the few loyal staffers he's got left.
  • Recent subpoena activity from Mueller's investigation revealed that his team detained a prominent United Arab Emirate advisor George Nader, who had a role in a key meeting between trump partners and Russian agents on the Seychelles Islands in January 2017. Whatever happened in that meeting could go towards proving trump and Russia had "arrangements" involving his presidency.
  • Economic advisor Gary Cohn - one of the few administration figures still respected in the Beltway - is resigning over trump's impulsive push for steel and aluminum tariffs that will likely trigger a trade war.
  • and the night is ending with reports that Stormy Daniels - the porn star who reportedly had an extramarital affair with trump just as Melania was giving birth to trump's son - is suing trump and trump's go-between (soon-to-be-disbarred lawyer Michael Cohen) to break the Nondisclosure Agreement simply because trump never signed it himself, and Stormy wants to sell a book covering their affair. The cherry on top is finding out trump's fake names he used to hide his involvement (David Dennison? DENNISON?! What the hell was wrong with "Ace Hardsteele"???)

This was just Tuesday.

To every Republican and trump Voter out there:

You were told. You were warned. There were signs everywhere that trump was a chaotic, uncontrollable sleazebucket. trump himself flew up huge red flags about his behavior and intentions.

And you suckers still voted for this. You're still defending this. All because you honestly thought Hillary was going to be WORSE?!

You honestly thought Hillary was going to be more corrupt. Can you honestly point to one thing that Hillary was actually found guilty of that would have suggested she was going to violate every ethical rule in the US Code?

You honestly thought Hillary was going to be a terrible boss. Was there ANY sign that Hillary was going to hire incompetent, unqualified people to key Cabinet and West Wing positions the way trump has? Did you expect Hillary was going to run a White House THIS CHAOTIC and understaffed and stressed out?

You honestly thought having Hillary in the White House was going to make us an international laughing stock? When you consider how trump is now viewed by even our own allies as untrustworthy and ill-informed on global and economic matters?

You all bought into trump because he promised you Heaven. Now you're finding out what every business partner trump had the last 40 years found out: The sonofabitch is a con artist who will bankrupt your ass in order to keep himself wealthy enough to pull his next scam.

You bought this bullshit. But we're all paying the goddamn bill for this.

And this was just Tuesday.

Gods help us.

More Schadenfreude This Week: Pharma Bro And the Wu Tang

A news blurb I missed while there was a very public meltdown of a tangential figure in the trump-Russia scandal: One of the most evil men in the world - "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli, who intentionally raised prices on rare meds - was facing his sentencing on earlier (unrelated) Securities fraud convictions during which... well, read the Verge article:

A federal court is forcing Martin Shkreli to hand over the Wu-Tang album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin to the government. Shkreli, a pharmaceuticals CEO who earned the nickname “Pharma Bro” for cavalierly hiking the price of an HIV treatment, was convicted of securities fraud in August 2017.
Though he has yet to be sentenced, a judge ruled today that Shkreli must forfeit $7.36 million, part of which will come from boring assets that no one cares about, like an E-trade brokerage account, a Picasso painting, and an unreleased Lil Wayne album. More importantly, he will be giving up the Wu-Tang album, which he bought at auction in 2014 for $2 million, which was, according to a 2015 statement by Wu-Tang’s RZA, “well before Martin Shrkeli’s [sic] business practices came to light.”

Priorities, people. Wu Tang ain't nuthin to fuck with.

When word got out in 2014 that Shkreli bought the unique album, it caused massive emotional turmoil across the cultural spectrum. It got so bad that a rumor got started that the album could only be rescued by a "morals clause" that would allow the Wu Tang members AND Bill Murray to pull off a heist to steal it back legally. While the story proved false, people wanted to see that happen, so much that an awesome movie could have been made about it:

When Pharma Bro got arrested on the fraud charges, the first thing every reporter asked was "did the feds rescue, uh seize the Wu Tang album?"

Well, now the judge is letting them.

The fate of Once Upon... is still up in the air, however:

By the terms of the sale, whoever owns the sole copy can legally do whatever they want with it, aside from releasing it commercially; there’s an 88-year ban on that. So the owner could hold exclusive listening parties or even release the album for free. It’s not clear whether the terms of the original purchase agreement can bind the government or any future buyer. Shkreli claimed to have already sold the album in September, but the buyer hasn’t stepped forward and it’s pretty unclear whether there was a hand-off. The government doesn’t care. It will take either the album or any proceeds.
Don’t expect anyone to be able to get the album through an FOIA or another kind of information request because that’s not how it works. It will likely be auctioned to the highest bidder, right next to all the yachts and Porsches and Rolexes seized from less-hated crime-doers...

One argument I would make is making the album a cataloged item in the Library of Congress, and then release it as downloadable MP3 free - remember, can't sell it - tracks off the LC website. Guarantee it will be the busiest our nation's catalog will ever get.

Pity is, we won't get that heist movie after all.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Schadenfreude Panama Style (SUCK IT trump)

I don't have the complete story on what's happening in Panama, but a hotel down there that had gotten trump's name on it has been in one hell of a fight trying to get trump evicted altogether from the place. THAT'S how toxic that Shitgibbon has become.

Here we go: Found some details...

More than a dozen police wearing bulletproof vests entered the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Panama on Monday morning and evicted the Trump Organization’s staff, a move that comes after weeks of simmering tensions over control of the property.
The Trump Organization manages the hotel in the 70-story tower overlooking the Punta Pacifica Peninsula and the new majority owner had gone to court in the U.S. and Panama to evict the company run by President Donald Trump’s sons. There were scuffles as police arrived to carry out the eviction, and Panamanian court officials were present...
The Trump Organization in court filings called the effort a “design to wrongfully seize control over the hotel property.”
 “Rather than abide by the clear terms of the agreement he had signed, Mr. Fintiklis had been conspiring with others to remove Trump Hotels as manager and fire most, if not all, of its loyal and dedicated employees,” the Trump Organization said in a statement to the press. “Looking back, it is now apparent that Mr. Fintiklis, in flagrant violation of the commitments he had made, never had any intention of keeping his word and had been plotting a takeover and termination of Trump Hotels all along.”
Fintiklis has argued in documents filed in a U.S. court in Florida that the Trump Organization had mismanaged the property, causing occupancy levels “to collapse” and expenses to “bloat.”
“Operators gross incompetence and deficient sales organization stands in the way of [the] owner making any profit on its investment, all the while lining the [Trump Organization’s] pockets,” he alleged in a court filing.

Given trump's poor business history, I think Fintiklis is the more believable side of this fight.

There's been earlier reports that a lot of trump properties - save for the one in Washington DC where foreign agents book in order to curry favor with trump's administration - are going under because everyone else refuses to do business in those properties, use them for hotel stays, or any other activity.

I'm not surprised this is happening. I just hoped it was going to happen sooner.

A lot of places with trump's brand name all over it are going to be toxic, because nobody wants to get slimed by his toxic identity. We're going to see a lot of this kind of video clip via ABC News on Twitter:


In case of a trade war, I hope all the other nations do this to trump-owned properties.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

trump Thinks He Can Rule For Life. He Is Wrong AGAIN In So Many Different Ways

So this popped up last night on my Twitter feed (via Brian Stelter):

Insert hour-long screaming here.

This shouldn't be surprising. trump has talked about wanting to be a dictator well before 2015, and his admiration for the likes of Putin and Philippines President Duterte are on the record.

It's just never a good thing to read about trump. The threat of Cadet Bone Spurs staying in the White House well past his welcome would drive a teetotaler like me back to another attempt at drinking hard cider.

So, as the morning rises and I've had a chance to step back and assess the situation, how dire and real a threat is this?

Right off the bat, we need to point at the 22nd Amendment and go "Thank God Republicans HATED FDR That Much."

That part of the Constitution is turning out to be a life-saver. By capping Presidential terms to two, it forces a would-be dictator hoping to rule forever to vacate in 8 years no matter what. Granted, the amendment doesn't remove the guy from ALL power - trump could arguably go from a two-term stint to running for the US Senate and retaining control on a puppet front-man - but the system of checks and balances in place would severely crimp any attempt to rule from behind the curtains.

If trump wants to rule forever, he either has to get the 22nd Amendment abolished with a new amendment or ignore it altogether.

I've mentioned elsewhere, passing any amendment is tougher than expected. You need either a Constitutional Convention - unlikely, as both parties in Congress are terrified of how uncontrollable such a thing is - or you need two-thirds of BOTH Houses of Congress PLUS two-thirds (I think 38) of the states to approve it.

If trump thinks both Congress and the states will do this deed for him, he's beyond delusional and pretty much insane. By example, there was talk of repealing the 22nd for Ronald Reagan, who was popular enough among the voting base and across enough states to make it a feasible effort. There is no goddamn way trump is as popular as Reagan ever was. If trump tries to make this push, he is not going to find enough votes even among Republican Congresscritters (despite their fears of their own party base). And even state legislatures controlled by Republicans would recoil by the obvious move towards dictatorship this will be.

That means trump would have to ignore the amendment outright (or suspend all elections for as long as he can). This would be so unconstitutional a move - so much in violation of the Oath of Office to "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of (his) ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" - that the entire federal government should fall apart in opposition to him.

For trump to pull this off, he'd have to have the entire military on his side. While a President does serve as Commander-in-Chief, the military is not directly loyal to the President but instead to the Constitution. They have rules allowing them to refuse to follow any order they view as "illegal or in violation of" the Constitution. I do not think any of the Joint Chiefs - the heads of each military branch - owe trump any favors, especially something on this scale.

trump certainly won't have the Will of the People backing him either. he remains one of the most deeply unpopular (HATED) Presidents in modern polling. trump may have the support of the Far Right voting base - and definitely among the Neo-Nazis and racists he caters to - but those number in the thousands not millions. 62 million people may have voted for him, but a lot of them held their noses to do it (hating Hillary more at that moment). I would argue enough of them did not vote for him to become a dictator to rule outside of the law: If he tries this we would see a mass exodus of Republican voters from the party that would wreck its electoral chances far beyond any gerrymandering or vote-rigging the party could try.

trump's attempt would cause a schism among the states themselves. Solid Blue states like New York and California would declare his presidency illegal. Solid Red states would support him, but a number of them might not because even their local political ranks would fear the implications (trump would ignore the system of dividing powers between the states and the federal governments).

If trump tries to become Dictator-For-Life, he would have to do with a dwindling support staff. Not only is he losing people to Mueller's criminal probes into his 2016 campaign, Mueller is also digging into all of trump's business dealings now (pursuing just how deep Russia's ties to trump already were during that campaign) meaning trump's own family and his own financial base are threatened. Anybody who helped trump during 2016 is not going to be there to help him run in 2020 if he even tries for a second term: They certainly are not there to help him plan a coup.

On top of that, his administrative attrition is happening at a pace faster than any previous administration: he's not keeping anybody on long enough for them to learn the ropes, and he's failing at attracting the best and the brightest among even Republican supporters to fill major vacancies (nobody who's serious about a political career wants to work for him). A move of this scale requires a team of a large enough scale and political pull to clamp down on all threats, solve all contingencies, steamroll over any opposition. trump's West Wing can't even figure out the goddamn light switches, and he's down to maybe, what, thirty-one staffers in a White House that needs about three-hundred?

The only ones on the entire planet who would want trump to make himself Dictator are the nations who know his move would shatter us: Putin in particular would revel in the collapse of the world's most visible democratic republic. China and half the Middle East would kick back and pop the champagne bottles as well. However, I doubt any of them would actively involve themselves in such an attempt. Even Putin would rather sit on the sidelines and let us decimate ourselves, without the risk of committing resources that could compromise or trouble him. If trump thinks his buddy Vlad will help out, he better expect the only thing for the Russians to do is pat trump on the back and tell him "you go girl."

In short: trump has no political clout or muscle to pull this off. he could try, but it would be his final move.

It would be a messy one. trump could get some supporters in Congress to back him, but it would likely drive any remaining Centrist/Moderate Republicans out of the Party into a third party to oppose him. trump could get some of the military troops - the covert racists among the ranks - and a handful of officers buying into the wingnut mythos, but not enough of the high-ranking officers to make a coup attempt stick. trump could get local law enforcement to back him, but most of them are only in a position to uphold laws at their level (and city/county governments may not want to get involved either way).

The worst part would be the Far Right militia crowd who would rally to trump's effort to become dictator, who would lash out not at the federal government but at their local communities much like the SA Brownshirts would smash their way across 1930s Germany. Those militia may number about 50,000 or so hard-core members, but that would be just enough - and spread across enough states - to cause serious damage to millions of innocent American lives.

If trump tries to make himself Dictator, we will be deep into our Second Civil War, bloody and messy and leaving the United States tattered perhaps beyond repair.

Hurry up, Mueller. Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

One Two trump Four Let's Have Ourselves a Trade War

I wrote what felt like ages ago a What If scenario of what trump's first year of a presidency would look like. Actually it was in February 2016. What happened was two months later the Boston Globe went and did their own predictions, and I kinda felt like bragging that I had gotten there first.

But the Globe beat me at considering one disaster that I had overlooked: the likelihood that trump would start some kind of trade war - especially with China - as part of trump's nationalist-populist agenda to take America back to an age of protectionism and high tariffs.

Well, it didn't happen in trump's first year - although there were moments he threatened to roll something out - but hey, now that trump is at a stage where his entire administration is falling apart, why not go the extra mile and wreck the economy by boosting tariffs on steel and aluminum?


President Donald Trump's plan to slap tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel could help U.S. producers, but it could also fuel inflation, slow the economy and trigger other retaliatory actions against U.S. industries, analysts said.
These fears weighed on stocks, and the market sold off sharply after initially flip-flopping amid confusion over whether there would be an announcement or not. But stocks sold off sharply when Trump surprised the markets and announced a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.
"One of the largest fears we have is we've got tariffs. We could have trade wars, and it could blow up NAFTA negotiations, and nobody wins a trade war," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR.
The Dow closed down 420 points to 24,608, and the S&P 500 slid 1.3 percent to 2,677. The move was viewed as one of the most protectionist actions from the Trump administration, and it is one of his policies that has most worried markets, even as stocks have rallied on tax reform and his other pro-growth policies.
"Tariffs would probably have the unfortunate effect of both slowing growth and accelerating inflation, and that's not a good thing," said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies. "For this economy, this is the worst possible time to be doing that."

The effects of what trump proposes won't just have a negative effect on the stock market.

I could link you to other economic pundits - say Anne Lowry at the Atlantic or David Lynch at the Washington Post - but let me have a go at it. Me, a barely-competent person at finances who got a C in Economics 1101 back at Gainesville (GO GATORS) in 1990 or so.

How trump's tariffs proposal are gonna suck:

  • The tariffs are like a tax on the items in question, meaning the costs on these items will go up. While the steel mills may see more profits out of it, all of the other industries that build using steel will have to pay more and will pass those costs onto the consumers, namely us. I'm seeing reports of how this will affect the automakers, especially the ones here in the U.S. I just spotted a report from Coors about how this will affect their beer canning. These tariffs do not happen in a vacuum: Every other industry that relies on cheap materials for cheap products will have to make those products more expensive to us consumers. And those industries will see their profits decline, leading to lost jobs and a downward cycle.
  • The tariffs will spark a trade war, and not just against countries who compete against us but also our allies. Other countries will not like having access to a solid market like ours curtailed with a tax on steel as steep as a 25 percent increase. The early observations was that trump wants this trade war as a way of attacking China, but on steel I'm finding out the nation getting hit hardest is going to be CANADA: Canada ships us about 11 percent of imported steel while China ships less than Germany (3 percent). Canada just happens to be one of our biggest trading partners, and also our sole neighboring nation to the North. PISSING THEM OFF IS NOT A GOOD IDEA, EH?
  • Tariffs make economies worse, not better. And this one I learned from watching Ben Stein in that Ferris Bueller movie:

While Smoot-Hawley wasn't the prime cause of the Great Depression, it did make things worse.

Just on those three points alone that I can think up off the top of my head - coming from a C-grade economics student - I've made salient arguments why tariffs need to be treated with more subtlety and finesse (say, very minimal increases on a tariff while pursuing connected policies that would alleviate any negative responses). Instead, here comes the ole Shitgibbon with a sledgehammer looking to start a fight with some of the largest economic powerhouses on the planet.

This is a fight that by all accounts a lot of trump's own people were counseling against. I can't link to anything yet, but I thought I saw something online from experts noting that these particular tariffs will wreck whatever economic gains were to be coming out of Congress' massive tax-cut boondoggle.

Here it comes, America, the train wreck Boston Globe and a lot of other experts warned you was coming if trump got into the White House on his protectionist, isolationist platform.

62 million of you voted for this. And now you're going to find out that economics is a lot harder than simple "buy low sell high." And that the guy you backed isn't a financial genius, just the grandest biggest con artist of all time.

Gods help us.