The Wires

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have introduced their newborn son to the world and revealed he is to be called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The name was announced shortly after the Queen met her eighth great-grandchild for the first time at Windsor Castle, where earlier the couple showed him off to the cameras."

Guardian: “The Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby son, weighing 7lbs 3oz. Mother and child were both doing well, Buckingham Palace announced. The Duke of Sussex was present for the birth, which happened at 5.26am on Monday. The child is seventh in line to the throne, and an eighth great-grandchild for the 93-year-old Queen.”

Washington Post: "Cheap Chinese caviar is flooding the U.S. market, causing prices to plummet, and with it, the product’s cachet. Wholesale prices have fallen more than 50 percent since 2012, down 13 percent just in the past year. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the import price has gone from $850,000 per ton in January 2012 to $350,000 per ton in November 2018." Mrs. McC: This makes me very happy. I love caviar (I've only had the cheaper kind), but I seldom buy it because of the expense. I have some in the pantry now, but I'm going to check the price at the grocery store now in hopes it's something I can enjoy more often. Status symbol? I couldn't care less.

New York Times: "Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday [April 15] to news organizations that uncovered instances of malfeasance and outright fraud in President Trump’s financial past, a nod to journalists’ perseverance in the face of the president’s ever-sharper attacks on a free press. The New York Times received the explanatory reporting prize for an 18-month investigation that revealed how the future president and his relatives avoided paying roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of taxes. The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for disclosing clandestine payoffs by the president’s associates to two women who were said to have had affairs with Mr. Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election. The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for documenting the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The paper’s in-depth articles revealed a series of failures by local officials and law enforcement that, the paper wrote, cost children their lives."

Medlar's Sports Report. New York Times: "Tiger Woods’s comeback from personal and professional adversity is complete: He captured his fifth Masters title and his 15th major tournament on Sunday, snapping a championship drought of nearly 11 years. It was a monumental triumph for Woods, a magical, come-from-behind win for a player who had not won a major championship since his personal life began to unravel on Thanksgiving night in 2009, when a marital dispute led to a car accident and a succession of lurid tabloid headlines. On the golf course, he had a series of back and leg injuries that led to an addiction to painkillers and culminated in pain so searing that, before surgery in 2017, he had questioned whether he could play professionally again." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh yeah? Trump can beat Tiger any day.

Tom Jones of Poynter picks the top 25 movies ever about journalism.

New York Times: "For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself." His twin brother Mark Kelly, planted on Earth, did the same. "On Thursday..., NASA researchers reported that [Scott Kelly's] body experienced a vast number of changes while in orbit. DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria. Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after he returned to Earth. But others — including genetic mutations and, after his return, declines in cognitive test scores — did not correct themselves, provoking concern among scientists."

Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times: now does his first drafts of columns as well as other traditional writing tasks by speaking into his phone. "I open RecUp, a cloud-connected voice-recording app on my phone.... Every few days, I load the recordings into Descript, an app that bills itself as a “word processor for audio.” Some of my voice memos are more than an hour long, but Descript quickly (and cheaply) transcribes the text, truncates the silences and renders my speech editable and searchable.... New advances — like smarter and more ubiquitous voice assistants; better text-to-speech synthesis; easy-to-use audio and video production apps like Descript and Anchor; and gadgets that burrow the internet into your ears, like Apple’s AirPods and Amazon’s reported forthcoming AirPod clones — point to a profound shift in computing. Soon it might be possible to conduct a large slice of digital life, including work, without being glued to a screen."

New York Times: "In a cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered a new branch of the human family tree. At least 50,000 years ago, an extinct human species lived on what is now the island of Luzon, researchers reported on Wednesday. It’s possible that Homo luzonensis, as they’re calling the species, stood less than three feet tall. The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way.Our species, Homo sapiens, now inhabits a comparatively lonely world. 'The more fossils that people pull out of the ground, the more we realize that the variation that was present in the past far exceeds what we see in us today,' said Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at Lakehead University in Canada, who was not involved in the new discovery."

Saturday
Apr202019

The Commentariat -- April 21, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Giuliani for the Defense. Tim O'Donnell of the Week: "President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani made the talk show rounds on Sunday to defend his client.... Giuliani told [Jake] Tapper on CNN's State of the Union that 'there's nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians,' saying that campaigns get information on their opponents from so many different sources. On NBC's Meet the Press, Giuliani told [Chuck] Todd that using material stolen by foreign adversaries in a campaign isn't fundamentally a problem -- it just depends on the material itself.... Giuliani -- who said that much of the Mueller report is questionable -- argued that it's 'hard to believe' Russian interference did much to sway the 2016 election.... Giuliani told [Chris] Wallace [of Fox 'News"] that even if Trump had fired the special counsel, it would not have been obstruction. Giuliani's point was that Trump had good reason to replace Mueller because he hired 'very, very questionable' people to investigate Trump."

All the Best People, Ctd. Annie Snider of Politico: "Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks of joining the Trump administration, according to a Politico analysis of agency documents -- a revelation that adds to the ethics questions dogging his leadership of the agency. Bernhardt's efforts, beginning in at least October 2017, included shaping the department's response to a key portion of a water infrastructure law he had helped pass as a lobbyist for California farmers, recently released calendars show. The department offered scant details at the time about meetings that Bernhardt, then the deputy secretary, held with Interior officials overseeing water deliveries to the farmers, leading many observers to believe he was steering clear of the issues he had previously lobbied on.... Bernhardt's ethics agreement barred him from participating in any 'particular matters' involving Westlands [-- a water district for which he had lobbied --] until August 2018, one year after he arrived at the agency.... But the newly released information shows that Bernhardt had weighed in on discussions around Westlands' policy priorities for nearly a year by that point."

David Stern of Politico: "Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian with no political experience, scored a crushing victory over incumbent Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine's runoff presidential vote Sunday, according to exit polls. The national exit poll, which consisted of results from a number of polling agencies, showed Zelenskiy winning 73.2 percent of the vote compared to Poroshenko's 25.3 percent -- a margin of nearly 48 percentag points." Mrs. McC: So I'm thinking Stephen Colbert.

~~~~~~~~~~~

"From 'Total Exoneration' to 'Total Bullshit.'" Kevin Liptak & Kaitlan Collins of CNN: "Instead of the 'total exoneration' Trump had proclaimed earlier, the [Mueller] report portrayed the President as deceitful and paranoid, encouraging his aides to withhold the truth and cross ethical lines in an attempt to thwart a probe into Russia's interference in US elections.... Perhaps more angering to a leader who detests weakness -- but doesn't necessarily mind an amoral reputation -- were the number of underlings shown ignoring his commands, privately scoffing at the 'crazy sh[it]' he was requesting and working around him to avoid self-implication. Now, those close to him say Trump is newly furious at the people -- most of whom no longer work for him -- whose extensive interviews with the special counsel's office created the epic depiction of an unscrupulous and chaotic White House. And he's seeking assurances from those who remain that his orders are being treated like those of a president, and not like suggestions from an intemperate but misguided supervisor.... The President was aware ahead of its public release what was contained in the Mueller report.... Trump grew angry as he watched cable news coverage." ...

      ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The most troublesome parts of this & similar stories are that (1) Trump can't read even something on a topic that has obsessed him, and (2) none of his staff will level with him when the news is bad. There were copies of Mueller's redacted report floating around the White House in the days leading up to the public release. Apparently Trump didn't grab a copy & take it upstairs for bedtime reading, & neither his personal lawyers nor the White House counsel briefed him about the report's contents. It doesn't much matter what Trump knows about the Mueller report, but it matters a great deal that he never finds out anything that he might not like unless he hears it on "fake news." One reason -- and it's a good one -- that Trump thinks all the legitimate media are fake is that they aren't saying & writing the same things he hears at the office. ...

... "Worst Exoneration Ever." Maureen Dowd: "Donald Trump's dirtbag machinations are driven by insane vanity. The First Narcissist's all-consuming blend of braggadocio and insecurity has turned Washington and its rickety institutions into a dystopian outpost of his id.... He did not want people to think that the Russians were responsible for his election and that he was an illegitimate president ... because he thinks he is an illegitimate president.... He never expected to win. The report counts as the Worst Exoneration Ever."

Josh Marshall: "The image [the Mueller report projects] is one of weakness, someone who blusters but is actually surprisingly, paradoxically conflict averse."

David Smith in the Guardian: "If the tone of [the] secret conversations, revealed in Mueller's long-awaited report this week, remind you of Tony Soprano -- the amoral, brooding, charismatic, philandering, thuggish crime boss in the eponymous TV drama -- ... you are not alone. Over 448 pages, Mueller ... portray[s Trump] as a serial liar willing to abuse power, shred norms and bend the rule of law in a White House rotten to the core.... 'The demands for loyalty and fealty are like an organised crime network. Instead of the John Gotti family, it's the Trump family and his solders are the Republican members of Congress who protect him.' [said Kurt Bardella, former spokesperson and senior adviser for the House oversight and government reform committee].... As faithfully chronicled in The Sopranos, the most skilled crime bosses manage to remain untouchable even as their captains and footsoldiers are picked off. " --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Many have made the observation about Trump's Mafia-like behavior. Of the many things Trump complains about, that characterization is not among them. What he's so angry about now is not that he's being compared to a mob boss but that he's being compared to a feeble, ineffectual mob boss.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump has boasted at various points that he has 'one of the great memories of all time' or even 'the world's greatest memory.' But the world's greatest memory failed him repeatedly when prosecutors asked him those classic questions from decades of presidential scandals -- what did he know and when did he know it?... Even ... with the help of his lawyers..., more than 30 times, he told the prosecutors that he had no memory of what they were asking about, employing several formulations to make the same point.... Prosecutors said such selective memory tended to make them suspicious."

Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "... according to the special counsel's report..., the Kremlin [made a broad effort] to establish ties to Mr. Trump that began early in the campaign and shifted into high gear after Mr. Trump's victory. Those efforts were channeled largely through people in the business world in both countries. Especially after the election, they led to a conflation of diplomatic and financial interests that was a stark departure from the carefully calibrated contacts typically managed by an incoming administration in the United States. Mr. Trump's on-the-fly campaign, lack of preparation for victory and disorganized transition created a vacuum that, as Russia sought out avenues of access and influence, was quickly filled by a number of people from outside established foreign policy circles, many of whom appeared eager to portray themselves as access brokers or to generate business opportunities.... [Mueller's] report made clear how vigorously Mr. Putin sought to find points of contact and influence with Mr. Trump's team -- and how many people on the American side were willing to participate to one degree or another in discussions that touched on topics as varied as Mr. Trump's desire to build a Moscow hotel to United States policy toward Ukraine."

New York Times Editors: "... the real danger that the Mueller report reveals is not of a president who knowingly or unknowingly let a hostile power do dirty tricks on his behalf, but of a president who refuses to see that he has been used to damage American democracy and national security. Since the publication of the report, Vladimir Putin and his government have been crowing that they, too, are now somehow vindicated, joining the White House in creating the illusion that the investigation was all about 'collusion' rather than a condemnation of criminal Russian actions."

Jennifer Taub in Slate: No, White House staff did not prevent Trump from committing crimes. "An attempt to obstruct that fails is still a crime.... Llet's explore one of the obstruction provisions that Mueller referenced, 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). This passage provides that 'Whoever corruptly .. obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both' (emphasis added [by Taub]).... The Mueller report provides proof of all three elements needed to establish obstruction on several potential counts of obstruction.... The report sets out 10 potentially obstructive episodes. In nearly all of them, it establishes a nexus to an official proceeding." One major problem facing Mueller was proving "corrupt intent." "It's partially why he was so meticulous in documenting Trump lie after Trump lie, which in several cases pointed to evidence of a guilty conscience."

Susan Hennessey & Quinta Jurecic of Lawfare: "The Mueller Report describes, in excruciating detail..., a candidate and a campaign aware of the existence of a plot by a hostile foreign government to criminally interfere in the U.S. election for the purpose of supporting that candidate's side. It describes a candidate and a campaign who welcomed the efforts and delighted in the assistance. It describes a candidate and a campaign who brazenly and serially lied to the American people about the existence of the foreign conspiracy and their contacts with it.... The Mueller Report describes a president who, on numerous occasions, engaged in conduct calculated to hinder a federal investigation. It finds ample evidence that at least a portion of that conduct met all of the statutory elements of criminal obstruction of justice.... If [the House] wants to actually confront the substance of the report, it will introduce a resolution to begin an impeachment inquiry."

Michael Scherer of the Washington Post: "House Democrats ... plan to take on the ... task of trying to distill and publicize the most alarming parts of the Mueller report in hopes of making the president's behavior in office feel consequential for more voters. They are preparing a rival reality show of their own through hearings with Attorney General William P. Barr and others. Democrats privately say their models are the Watergate hearings into President Richard M. Nixon's misdeeds and the Republican hearings about the 2012 Benghazi attack, which were designed to damage Clinton's reputation. 'We will have major hearings. Barr and Mueller are just the first,' said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), in a radio interview Friday. 'We will call many other people.'... Ultimately, to fight back, Democrats in Congress will have to find a way to engage Trump on his own terms, with clear messaging and repeated talking points, something they struggled to do in the first days after the Mueller report."

Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday ridiculed Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) for his loss to former President Barack Obama in the 2012 election -- one day after Romney said he was 'sickened' by Trump's actions as detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller's report. 'If @MittRomney spent the same energy fighting Barack Obama as he does fighting Donald Trump, he could have won the race (maybe)!' Trump tweeted. Attached to the president's post was a 40-second video contrasting election night footage and CNN news coverage from Romney's White House loss six-and-a-half years ago to Obama with Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016." ...

I guess I'd be prepared to concede that Romney was prescient about Russia had he said in 2012 that the big Russian threat was that the GOP would decide to embrace complicity with Russian computer crimes in order to secure partisan advantage, but that's not how I remember it. -- Matt Yglesias of Vox, in a tweet


Colby Itkowitz
of the Washington Post: "Immigrants who use marijuana or who work in the cannabis industry can be denied citizenship, even if they are doing so in states where it is legal, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday. The guidance, issued ... just before pot advocates' national celebration of their 4/20 holiday, confirms what immigration and marijuana advocates have cautioned is a legal gray area that penalizes would-be citizens because they've broken a federal law. Although recreational marijuana use is legal in 10 states and decriminalized in 14 more, it is still classified as an illegal substance federally."

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "A member of an armed rightwing militia group accused of illegally detaining migrants at the US-Mexico border has been arrested, officials said on Saturday. The FBI arrested Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, for alleged unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, days after his group posted videos that appeared to show armed men stopping migrants at the border in New Mexico, ordering them to sit on the ground and coordinating with US border patrol agents to have them taken into custody. Today's arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes,' the New Mexico attorney general, Hector Balderas, said in a statement."

E. A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump's controversial onslaught of environmental rollbacks faced two major setbacks this week, as legal action continues to prove a winning strategy for opponents of the administration's deregulation agenda. In a boon to environmental advocates, court decisions on Friday rebuked the Trump administration's coal ambitions, in addition to setting a deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban a common and hazardous pesticide [chlorpyrifos]. Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled late Friday that the Interior Department under former Secretary Ryan Zinke acted illegally when it sought to overturn a 2016 ban on coal mining on public lands. More than 40% of U.S. coal is currently mined from federal lands and the Obama administration imposed the ban on most federal coal sales three years ago. While Morris' ruling does not go so far as to reinstate the Obama-era ban, legal experts said it would likely force officials to revise their justification for the decision." --s

Reuters: "Several airstrikes and explosions shook Tripoli overnight in an escalation of an assault on the Libyan capital by the warlord Khalifa Haftar.... Haftar's Libyan National Army started an offensive two weeks ago but has been unable to breach the government's southern defences.... The violence spiked after the White House said on Friday that ... Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Haftar earlier in the week. The disclosure of the call and a US statement that it 'recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources' has boosted the commander's supporters and enraged his opponents. Western powers and the Gulf have been divided over a push by Haftar's forces to seize Tripoli, undermining calls by the United Nations for a ceasefire." --s ...

... David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times (April 19): "President Trump on Friday abruptly reversed American policy toward Libya, issuing a statement publicly endorsing an aspiring strongman in his battle to depose the United Nations-backed government. The would-be strongman, Khalifa Hifter, launched a surprise attack on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, more than two weeks ago. Relief agencies said Thursday that more than 200 people had been killed in the battle, and in recent days Mr. Hifter's forces have started shelling civilian neighborhoods." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Thanks, Donald! Libya should do very well under the "leadership" of a warlord. Remember how people loved that other strongman Gaddafi?

Presidential Race 2020

Frank Dale of ThinkProgress: "Although she was one of the most outspoken critics of Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch during their nomination processes, [Sen. Amy] Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has voted 'yes' on over 63% of Trump's judicial nominees who were eventually confirmed -- a higher rate than 35 of the other 46 senators who are members of or caucus with the Democratic Party.... Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have each voted 'yes' on fewer than half of Trump's judicial nominees, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is slightly over that mark at 50.6%." --s

Armando Garcia & Matt Gutman of ABC News: "In 2000, then a senior in high school, [Pete] Buttigieg was voted 'most likely to become president' at St. Joseph High School.... Looking through the rest of his high school yearbooks, he moved from appearing in a single photo his freshman year -- sporting shaggy hair and large glasses -- to showing off a dizzying array of activities in the following years, including the National Honor Society, Junior Leaders and Philosophy Club. He was often pictured wearing a white shirt, tie and no jacket, which has also become his current political uniform. His senior year, he was also voted most likely to succeed and eventually became his class valedictorian."


During Holy Week, Franklin Graham Proves He Is Not a Real Christian. Hemant Mehta
, the Friendly Atheist: "... evangelist Franklin Graham..., in a Facebook post purported denouncing people heckling Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, Graham managed to work in the verse that condemns gay people to death.... '... The Bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is a sin. "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination..." (Leviticus 20:13). That's what God says and that settles it for me.'" Mrs. McC: Also too if you eat lobster, Franklin (Leviticus 11:9-12). That's what God says and that settles it for me. Pass the clarified butter.

Natalie Kitroeff & David Gelles of the New York Times: "When Boeing broke ground on its new factory near Charleston in 2009, the plant was trumpeted as a state-of-the-art manufacturing hub, building one of the most advanced aircraft in the world. But in the decade since, the factory, which makes the 787 Dreamliner, has been plagued by shoddy production and weak oversight that have threatened to compromise safety. A New York Times review of hundreds of pages of internal emails, corporate documents and federal records, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, reveals a culture that often valued production speed over quality. Facing long manufacturing delays, Boeing pushed its work force to quickly turn out Dreamliners, at times ignoring issues raised by employees. Complaints about the frenzied pace echo broader concerns about the company in the wake of two deadly crashes involving another jet, the 737 Max. Boeing is now facing questions about whether the race to get the Max done, and catch up to its rival Airbus, led it to miss safety risks in the design, like an anti-stall system that played a role in both crashes."

** German Lopez of Vox: "Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, in which two students killed 13 people and themselves on April 20, 1999. But the US has not solved its mass shooting problem in those 20 years -- the country now averages nearly one mass shooting a day, based on one group's definition of mass shooting.... Since the Sandy Hook shooting, there have been more than 2,000 mass shootings in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, were shot but not necessarily killed. Nearly 2,300 people have been killed and almost 8,400 have been wounded. Since 2013, there has been only one full calendar week -- the week of January 5, 2014 -- without a mass shooting." --s

Beyond the Beltway

The Anti-Vaxxer Party. Amanda Gomez of ThinkProgress: "Amid a nationwide measles outbreak, Republicans in Washington and other states across the country are opposing efforts to do something about the public health crisis, citing civil liberties and espousing anti-vaccine views." --s

Michigan. E. A. Crunden: "Judge Linda Parker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled April 18 that people in Flint [Michigan] are free to sue the federal government over its mishandling of the city's water problems. '[The court] can today state with certainty that the acts leading to the creation of the Flint Water Crisis, alleged to be rooted in lies, recklessness and profound disrespect have and will continue to produce a heinous impact for the people of Flint,' Parker wrote in her order." --s

Washington. Jason Wilson of the Guardian: "A Washington state Republican politician took part in private discussions with rightwing figures about carrying out surveillance, 'psyops' and even violent attacks on perceived political enemies, according to chat records obtained by the Guardian. State representative Matt Shea, who represents Spokane Valley in the Washington state house, participated in the chats with three other men. All of the men used screen aliases.... The chats on the messaging app Signal took place in the days leading up to a supposed 'Antifa revolt' on 4 November 2017.... The men proposed to confront leftists ... with a suite of tactics, including violence.... The men extensively discussed tactics of surveillance and intimidation.... Shea, the elected Republican legislator, did not demur from any of these suggestions. He also appeared willing to participate directly in surveillance of activists. In response to a request in the chat for background checks on Spokane residents, Shea volunteered to help.... Shea, a six-term legislator and military veteran, came to international attention in 2018 after a document he authored surfaced laying out a 'biblical basis for war', which appeared to be a plan for an apocalyptic battle with people who practiced 'same sex marriage' and 'abortion', and instructed: 'If they do not yield, kill all males.'"

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "A group calling itself Genesis II Church of Health and Healing plans to convene at a hotel resort in Washington state on Saturday to promote a 'miracle cure' that claims to cure 95% of all diseases in the world by making adults and children, including infants, drink industrial bleach.... The 'church' is asking attendants of the meeting to 'donate' $450 each, or $800 per couple, in exchange for receiving membership to the organization as well as packages of the bleach, which they call 'sacraments'. The chemical is referred to as MMS, or 'miracle mineral solution or supplement'.... The FDA issued ... blunt advice: 'Consumers who have MMS should stop using it immediately and throw it away.'" --s

Way Beyond

Sri Lanka. The Guardian has a live blog on at least 8 bombings targeting hotels and churches, causing at least 157 deaths so far. No group has yet claim responsibility. --s ...

... Dharisha Bastians, et al., of the New York Times: "A series of coordinated bombings ripped across Sri Lanka on Sunday morning, striking hotels and churches, killing almost 200 people and shattering the relative calm that the war-torn nation had enjoyed in recent years. The targets of the attacks were Catholic worshipers attending Easter Mass and guests at high-end hotels that are popular with foreign tourists.... Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, suffered decades of civil war that ended in 2009. Since then, there has been some political instability and sporadic attacks, but nothing on this scale.... A senior presidential aide said early investigations suggested that the attacks had been carried out by suicide bombers."

Reader Comments (8)

@Elizabeth wrote, at the end of yesterday's thread, "regardless of some people's other failings (racism, preference for an authoritarian government, and the like), I do think most people have a bred-in-the-bone American ideal that we are supposed to obey the law. Yes, rich white people skate away from prosecution too often, and too often we all shrug and say, 'Well, of course.' But if there is one thing to be grateful for with this band of dishonorable crooks and grifters who are running the country, none of us can say they haven't shown us quite clearly that there are some people who are sure they really, truly are above the law. That, I believe--yep, hoping again--will start sitting ill with some less-dedicated Trump supporters."

I have thought for decades that laws are written for the great middle class, but they don't work well for the very poor & the very rich. As Elizabeth writes, "most people" abide by the law. The law, along with cultural & social norms, provide a framework in which most of us place ourselves. Some of us purposely step outside those laws & norms, but oftentimes that's because we belong to or identify with a group where "stepping out" is its own norm. Teenagers do it all the time, of course. I'm sure some of you having been smoking weed (illegally) for decades. Some of you probably have participated in some kind of civil disobedience. In fact, a lot of comedy is based on breaking norms & laws. "The Sting," "Nuns on the Run," etc., were popular movies. I loved "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

When most of us get caught in some kind of lawbreaking endeavor, we "atone" in whatever way the law prescribes.

This doesn't work too well for poor people, because they can't afford to get out of the same predicaments middle-class people routinely handle. Also, the poor tend to get picked up more often for the same crimes middle-class people skate on, so the law, as practiced, is skewed against them.

It doesn't work for rich people, either, because they skate all the time. Besides being able to afford get-out-of-jail cards, the law, as practiced, is skewed in their favor. The rich get a scolding from a judge & 6-month probation for major white-collar crimes. "Yes, Your Honor; thank you, Your Honor."

I hope Elizabeth is right; that lots of Trump voters will be horrified by him & his band of crooks & grifters. But it's also possible that my idea -- that the law doesn't seem to apply to the rich & privileged -- is so baked into the culture that Trumpbots throw up their hands & say, "All politicians are crooks," and fill in the ballot bubble next to Trump's name. What Democrats (and others) must figure out how to do is unbake that cake, impress upon the electorate that Trump is not a funny dirty, rotten scoundrel but a dangerous one. We're about to find out if that works out.

April 21, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

In continuation of the "to impeach, or not to impeach, this presidunce*", my two cents are fixed on the future.

If the Democratic party doesn't proceed with official impeachment proceedings, given the downright ghastly evidence of obstruction of justice accruing before them, what sort of contortionist borderline-illegality will this administration gleefully engage in if, heaven forbid, Individual-1 gets reelected? And what standing will the Democratic party have going forward to hold the administration responsible after having brushed away 10 blatant instances of obstruction of justice?

If reelected, I'm convinced that every legal loophole that exists, attainable only to the well-resourced and the well-connected, à la @Marie's description of the elites' "adherence to laws", is going to be under constant assault by those ingratiating themselves with the Trump clan. Oversight will be nearly impossible, as it is now, due to complete stone-walling by his administration and all the complicit stooges he'll have in place by then.

I personally think Dems need to start ASAP with mass public hearings from all of the sordid characters in the Mueller report AND the undesirables current serving. But, the word itself impeachment should be guarded in a safe during these hearings until the public record is sufficiently filled with corruption, incompetence, and weakness. Then, pull the trigger and the let the chips fall where they may. If Dems don't attempt impeachment during this term, and Agent Orange is reelected (a very real possibility), they'll have lost all oversight credibility, Drumpf will brand them as a band of weaklings, and he'll be right.

April 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

First time posting, I think. I want to thank Marie and all of the regular contributors who make the start of my day most interesting. Your comment today is so spot on and hopeful that I must copy and share it, unless you object. Again, thanks to all.

April 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAllen Rosskopf

The turtle slithers on.

Missing from most reports about Russian interference in the election and the US response is the necessary statement that McConnell blocked the Obama administration from revealing what they knew was happening. I yelled at the radio Friday when they read, without comment, one of trump’s tweets about Obama not doing anything about the interference.

When we were working in Asia, we endured what my colleague referred to as “the fire-hose of hospitality” which included endless meals of delicious food, but so much of it you could neither savor it at the time, nor remember pleasure later on.

The news today is somewhat similar. There is good information coming out but the bullshit crowds out the necessary additional details and diminishes the existing truth. We’re all tired of being picky news eaters, and it’s disheartening to see all the gluttons blithely gobbling up everything that comes their way.

April 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

Carole Cadwalladr of The Guardian & Observer newspapers has gone into the heroin dealer’s villa and told them just what a horrid and wicked lot they are. In 15 short minutes at last week’s TED Talk in Vancouver, Cadwalladr lays out the case that Facebook, Google & Twitter have quite possibly mortally wounded democracy.

She called out Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey, who were all sitting in the audience.

She told these tech giants, their employees and their investors that this amazing technology they created is a crime scene and they have the evidence. Facebook has refused to turn over evidence requested by the British Parliament and Zuckerberg has refused to appear in person.

She said, “It’s not enough to say you’ll do better in the future...Liberal democracy is broken. And you broke it.”

I found it quite compelling watching her as she seemed to struggle to keep her composure, while speaking directly to the people she found to be on the wrong side of history.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/21/carole-cadwalladr-ted-tech-google-facebook-zuckerberg-silicon-valley

April 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCaptRuss

@Allen Rosskopf: If you mean something I wrote, then yes, by all means use it. Thank you for contributing.

April 21, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Before any Democratic member of Congress is asked about opening up an impeachment resolution I would like them to be asked if they swore an oath to uphold the constitution and protect the United States of America. Maybe if they were reminded of their duties they might be more willing to fulfill those duties.

I don't care if they call them impeachment hearings or oversight or whatever, just start already. Mueller laid out ten obstruction of justice cases. He showed that the Trump Team knew Russia wanted to help them, encouraged it, and took advantage of the help. Mueller and journalists have documented Trump's many unlawful orders. Cohen has pleaded guilty to felony campaign finance violation at the direction of Trump. This was done during the election to keep information from the public right before the vote. Trump lied about the Moscow Tower to keep voters in the dark. There is the emoluments clause and the millions of dollars Trump has gotten from foreign countries during his presidency. There are Trump's and his business' taxes that may show bank fraud, insurance fraud, tax fraud and who holds his debts. Also there are currently investigations into nearly every organization that Trump has touched in the last couple years. There is just too much bad behavior to overlook. The people need to see all the evidence for themselves. They need to hear the testimony with their own ears. Lay the truth out for the people and let them either see it for what it is or put their heads in the sand. But put the Truth out.

April 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRAS

"Mrs. McC: So I'm thinking Stephen Colbert."

Exactly my reaction to the Ukrainian election today to my wife. :)

April 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
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