That Grassroot Maybe Astroturf

Atroturfing is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection. The term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble natural grass, as a play on the word “grassroots.” The implication behind the use of the term is that instead of a “true” or “natural” grassroots effort behind the activity in question, there is a “fake” or “artificial”

In his main segment Sunday night, John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” wants to make sure you aren’t fooled by groups that have deliberately misleading names. He explains how corporations and political groups are using astroturfing to disguise themselves as spontaneous, grassroots movements. We all remember the Tea Party movement which was backed by the wealthy Koch brothers, the GOP and right wing think tanks.

The Russian Connection: FBI Fires Agent Peter Strzok

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has fired Agent Peter Strzok who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.

Strzok’s lawyer said FBI deputy director David Bowdich ordered the firing on Friday – overruling the bureau’s office of professional responsibility and going against the recommendation of the career FBI official responsible for employee discipline, who had said Strzok should be suspended for 60 days and stripped of his supervisory responsibilities.

Naturally, Donald Trump was doing his usual Twitter happy dance over the dismissal of the 22 year veteran even though there was no evidence that his personal opinion effected his work.

Last month Strzok testified before the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees where Republicans failed to discredit him after 10 hours of questioning. Strzok’s opening statement was a hard to rebut defense of the FBI’s objectivity in the investigation of the Russian interference with the 2016 election.

In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.

That’s what FBI agents do every single day, and it’s why I am so proud of the Bureau. And I am particularly proud of the work that I, and many others, did on the Clinton email investigation. Our charge was to investigate it competently, honestly, and independently, and that is exactly what happened.

I’m also proud of our work on the Russian interference investigation. This is an investigation into a direct attack by a foreign adversary – and it is no less so simply because it was launched against our democratic process rather than against a military base. This is something that all Americans, of all political persuasions, should be alarmed by. In the summer of 2016, we had an urgent need to protect the integrity of an American Presidential election from a hostile foreign power determined to weaken and divide the United States of America. This investigation is not politically motivated, it is not a witch hunt, it is not a hoax.

So who is Peter Strzok and why is his firing a huge loss to the FBI. He was the former Chief of the Counterespionage Section and former Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, the second-highest position in that division. So it was not surprising that the investigation into the Russian hacking and possible conspiracy with the Trump campaign landed on his desk. His position was well earned as one of the lead agents is Operation Ghost Stories that culminated in the arrest of ten agents and a prisoner exchange between Russia and the United States on July 9, 2010.

Using forged documents, some of the spies assumed stolen identities of Americans, enrolled at American universities and joined professional organizations as a means of further infiltrating spies into government circles. Two of the individuals used the names of Richard and Cynthia Murphy and resided in Hoboken, New Jersey, in the mid-1990s, before purchasing a nearby home in suburban Montclair. Another couple named in court documents were journalist Vicky Peláez and a man using the name of Juan Lazaro in Yonkers, New York. The court filings allege that couples were arranged in Russia to “co-habit in the country to which they are assigned,” going as far as having children together to help maintain their deep covert status.

The criminal complaints later filed in various federal district courts allege that the Russian agents in the U.S. passed information back to the SVR by messages hidden inside digital photographs, written in disappearing ink, ad hoc wireless networks, and shortwave radio transmissions, as well as by agents swapping identical bags while passing each other in the stairwell of a train station. Messages and materials were passed in such places as Grand Central Terminal and Central Park.

The Russian agents were tasked by “Moscow centre” to report about U.S. policy in Central America, U.S. interpretation of Russian foreign policy, problems with US military policy, and “United States policy with regard to the use of the Internet by terrorists.” [..]

U.S. authorities arrested ten of the agents involved on June 27, 2010, in a series of raids in Boston, Montclair, Yonkers, and Northern Virginia. They charged the individuals with money laundering (which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years’ imprisonment) and failing to register as agents of a foreign government. No charges were offered that the individuals involved gained access to classified material, though contacts were made with a former intelligence official and with a scientist involved in developing bunker buster bombs.

One of the suspects using the name of Christopher R. Metsos was detained on June 29, 2010, while attempting to depart from Cyprus for Budapest, but was released on bail and then disappeared.

In her opening segment July 11, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow tells the story of the FBI spying on Russian spies in the U.S., “Donald Heathfield” and “Tracey Foley,” and notes the extensive biography of Agent Strzok, who led many of those operations.

 

 

There is no rational explanation for Strzok’s firing other than to try to discredit him for doing his job. Obviously, the FBI is now obstructing justice to protect Donald Trump for what is now obvious a conspiracy with Russia to get Trump elected.

The Breakfast Club (To Be Free)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

First steps toward building the Berlin Wall during the Cold War; Cuba’s Fidel Castro born; Spain’s Cortez captures what’s now Mexico City; Director Alfred Hitchcock born; Baseball’s Mickey Mantle dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

To make the public sentiment, on the side of all that is just and true and noble, is the highest use of life.

Lucy Stone

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Rant of the Week: Bill Maher – I Am Q

The Breakfast Club (Come Together)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Last U.S. combat troops leave Vietnam; Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. killed in World War II; N.J. Gov. McGreevey to resign after declaring he’s gay; Russian sub Kursk explodes; Director Cecil B. DeMille born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The secret to happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible.

Bertrand Russell

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

What to Cook This Week

It’s the sweltering days and nights of August, a good time to keep cooking light, quick and easy. It helps if you have a grill but heavy frying pan on top of the stove works just as well. Here are some quick recipes that fir the bill and also makes use of fresh Summer produce.

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Salt-and-Pepper Butter

This low-fuss, spreadable salt-and-pepper butter makes seasoning your grilled corn a one-step affair at the dinner table.

Grilled Cheese With Peak Tomatoes

Progression of a tomato sandwich: On buttered bread with salt; on bread with mayo and cheddar; seasoned and grilled with cheddar and mayo.

Grilled Fish With Salsa Verde

This parsley sauce, made with capers and garlic, is a perfect complement to mild-tasting cod.

Middle Eastern-Inspired Herb and Garlic Chicken

This recipe was inspired by the Middle Eastern dried seasoning mix called za’atar, a combination of herbs (usually thyme, oregano and marjoram), sesame seeds and sumac, often spiked with salt. Here, fresh herbs are substituted for the dried, which, along with fresh parsley and mint and plenty of lemon and garlic, are used to marinated boneless chicken thighs.

Spanish-Style Shrimp With Garlic

Garlic and shrimp take center stage in this classic Spanish dish, which is served as a tapa in Spain but also makes a great main dish. Serve with rice, or if serving in earthenware dishes, with crusty bread for dipping.

Sautéed Corn, Greens, Bacon and Scallions

Here, a colorful medley of fresh corn, bell pepper, and kale are sautéed with bacon fat, butter and shallots, then tossed with bacon bits and scallions. It’s endlessly versatile – substitute carrots or summer squash for peppers, onions for shallots, spinach for kale.

Health and Fitness News

Court Rules EPA Must Ban Sales of Pesticide

Women With Asthma More Likely to Develop COPD

Early Onset Type 1 Diabetes Tied to Heart Disease

Prenatal Vitamin D Pills Won’t Boost Baby’s Growth

Brain Evolution May Play Role in Mental Illnesses

Exercise Can Chase Away the Blues, to a Point

U.S. Trauma Doctors Push for Stricter Gun Controls

Choosing to Induce Labor May Cut C-Section Risk

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Genes ID’d

Kids’ Suicide Risk Tied Parents’ Religious Beliefs

Catch-Up HPV Shots Work for Teen Girls

To Fight Childhood Obesity, Start At Birth

Women On Herceptin Need Regular Heart Checks

Study: Hepatitis-Infected Kidneys OK to Transplant

Women With Heart Attack Do Better If Doc is Female

Almond Milk Recalled Over Cow’s Milk Concerns

As Tick Bites Rise, So Do Meat Allergies

Inactivity Can Quickly Trigger Diabetes in Seniors

Better Blood Test May Spot Heart Attack Faster

The Breakfast Club (Truckin’)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

 

Start of the Watts riots in Los Angeles; President Ronald Reagan’s joke causes a Cold War flap; The Mall of America opens; ‘Roots’ author Alex Haley born; Painter Jackson Pollock killed in auto accident.

 

Breakfast Tunes

 

 

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

 

Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.

Alex Haley

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Dr. Who’s Message To Trump

After Donald Trump declared that the people of Scotland “love” him, former Dr. Who David Tennant had this massage from the Scottish people.

The Breakfast Club (Same Mistakes)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

‘Son of Sam’ killer David Berkowitz caught near New York City; Leno and Rosemary LaBianca murdered by Charles Manson’s cult; FDR stricken with polio; The Smithsonian Institution established.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.

Tallulah Bankhead

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No More Dog Whistles

The right wing talking heads are coming out of the closet and showing their true racist colors. Fox News host Laura Ingraham let loose with a racist rant on how immigration and demographic change are ruining America. Poor Laura whined, “the America we loved doesn’t exist anymore.”

What Ingraham was really saying is that both illegal and legal immigration have resulted in an American population that is less white and more diverse. To her, this is a tragedy because having people of color in the United States is a bad thing.

Ingraham’s comments were widely lambasted on social media. Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California tweeted that as someone who served in the U.S. military, he defended people like her who make racist comments. He also pointed out that even though he is of Asian descent he is just as much an American as she is:

“Dear Laura Ingraham: I served on active duty to defend your right to make racist statements. America is not a race or demographic. It’s a beautiful & bold idea, based on life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. You@IngrahamAngle are no more American than I am or others are.”

Ingraham’s revealing comments about race and immigration came during a segment when she was talking about the newly-famous House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The young Latina politician from New York City recently said in a podcast interview that the United States had changed drastically over the past few decades, and there has been a decline of the American upper-middle class.

“She’s kind of right in a general sense,” Ingraham said after mocking Ocasio-Cortez for her comments. Then she added:

“In some parts of the country it does seem like the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people. And they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like.”

“Now much of this is related to both illegal, and in some cases, legal immigration that of course progressives love,” the controversial Fox News host added.

Ingraham then went on to claim irrationally that Democrats oppose enforcing immigration laws, saying that this is harming the country. Parroting the president, she then said the U.S. needs better border security, an end to sanctuary cities and the closure of loopholes in immigration laws that are on the books.

The great result from the ascendancy of Donald Trump is that has given all the closet racists to use a bull horn to express their real beliefs. Now we know who they truly are

I deeply hope that the racist country that Laura knew and loved will be put to its final rest. Candidates like Alexandria Ocasio Cortes, Stacy Adams, Georgia’s Democratic candidate for governor, lawyer Wesley Bell, the new prosecutor of Ferguson, Missouri, a Muslim woman Rashida Tlaib, the new representative from Detroit, Michigan to the House and more, are new new faces of America’s future. They are the new “Super Patriots.” We should be very proud of them and how far this country has come since the “good old days” that racists Like Ingraham, Trump and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III loved so much.

The Breakfast Club (The Source)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

The U.S. drops an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan; President Richard Nixon resigns; Charles Manson cult murders actress Sharon Tate and four others; Singer Whitney Houston born; Musician Jerry Garcia dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.

Leonardo da Vinci

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2018 Elections: Aftermath of Tuesday Primaries and Special Election

Update 23:45: The Ohio 12 special election results have changes and the gap between the two candidates has narrowed to 1564 votes. From the Cincinnati Enquirer, this is what to expect:

  • 1,564: Balderson’s margin of victory in the unofficial, final results Tuesday
  • 3,435: The number of provisional ballots to be counted. These include people who cast ballots but whose identity or eligibility to vote could not be immediately confirmed.
  • 5,048: The number of absentee ballots to be counted. These include ballots sent by mail last-minute.
  • Aug. 18: The date Ohio election officials will start counting these ballots
  • Aug. 24: The deadline to complete counting those ballots
  • 0.5 percent: That’s how close the vote would need to be to trigger an automatic recount.
  • 1 percent: That’s how close the vote would need to be for a candidate to challenge the results.
  • 0.86 percent: Balderson’s current margin of victory in the unofficial, final results.
  • Roughly 60 percent: The percentage of uncounted votes O’Connor must win to win the election. But even then, there would be a recount.

There really weren’t too many surprises coming out of Tuesday’s primaries in four states and the special election in Ohio. In the special election in Ohio’s 12th congressional district the race is too close to call. This election should have been a slam dunk for republicans who have held the solid red district since 1980. The vacancy was created when the GOP representative resigned to become a lobbyist. As the results stand now the Republican candidate, Troy Balderson has a 0.09% lead (1754 votes) over Democratic candidate Dan O’Connor. According to the Ohio secretary of state there are over 8,000 provisional and absentee ballots yet to be counted, far more than Balderson’s 1754 vote lead. Should the margin of victory for either candidate be less than a 0.5% margin, a recount is automatically triggered. The state has a 10 day window to count those votes. However, regardless, of the outcome of this race, the candidates will face off again in November.

We move to the state of Missouri were there were not only primaries but a ballot referendum. Votes overwhelmingly overturnd the state’s Right to Work law passed in 2017 handing unions a huge victory in a deep red state.

The Missouri vote marked a major victory for unions in an era replete with bad signs for organized labor. Union membership levels have declined for decades, and the ascendance of anti-union politicians across the country has handed unions legislative defeat after legislative defeat.
President Donald Trump’s election solidified the trend on the national level, with Trump making his mark on the National Labor Relations Board and appointing a slew of pro-business judges to federal courts. And the Supreme Court, in one of the most watched cases from its recent term, overturned a ruling from the 1970s that required public employees who received the benefits of unions to pay dues for nonpolitical work of the unions — a potentially major blow to public sector unions.

The AFL-CIO and other major labor groups had set their hopes and considerable resources on the effort to overturn Missouri’s law by winning a “no” vote for Proposition A.

They also outed the Ferguson prosecutor who refused to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown

With the vote counted from all precincts, the county reported Wesley Bell with a 57 percent to 43 percent victory over 67-year-old Bob McCulloch in the Democratic primary. No Republicans were on the ballot, making Bell all but certain to win in November.

Bell, 43, is an attorney and former municipal judge and prosecutor. He was elected councilman in 2015 as protests continued to rage over Brown’s death.

Over in Kansas, the race for the Republican governor nomination is undecided.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican endorsed by President Donald Trump, narrowly leads incumbent GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer by just 191 votes in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary.

As of Wednesday morning, and with 100 percent of precincts counted, Kobach had 126,257 votes, or 41 percent, and Colyer had 126,066 votes, or 41 percent.

The tight results, however, do not include provisional ballots or mail-in ballots that were postmarked Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, there were between 8,000 and 10,000 provisional ballots left to be counted, said Bryan Caskey, Kansas’ state director of elections. Caskey said those ballots wouldn’t be counted until Monday, at the earliest, when county officials begin meeting to certify election results.

The very bizarre part of this is Kobach has refused to recuse himself from overseeing the counting of the provisional ballots and a possible recount. Kansas doesn’t have an automatic recount law

It’s up to Colyer and Kobach. Kansas doesn’t have an automatic recount, but a candidate, registered voter, or election officials can initiate a recount by asking for one. If the margin in a statewide race is less than 0.5 percent, as it is in this case, the state will pay for it.

So far, neither candidate has announced that he’ll ask for a recount.

According to Kansas law, the county board of canvassers can initiate a recount if it “shall determine that there are manifest errors appearing on the face of the poll books of any election board.” Candidates can request a recount in one or all districts that are relevant to their office, and registered voters can do the same, according to Kansas State Law.

If a losing candidate triggers the recount and the margin between them and the opponent is less than 0.5 percent, the county or state pays for the recount. The candidate also doesn’t have to pay if the recount alters the outcome of the election.

In the Wolverine State of Michigan, the governor, Rick Snyder, is retiring over his unpopularity due to the Flint water crisis. The current Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was handily defeated by the state’s Attorney General Bill Schuette 50% to 25%. There were two other contenders on the ballot. Schuette will face a Democratic woman, Gretchen Whitmer, who beat two male candidates Cook Political Report thinks the governor’s race is a toss-up.

Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, who had no challenger, will face black business executive and veteran John James in November. James, one of the few black Republicans in big races this year, won by 10 points over his opponent business executive/Yale and Harvard economist Sandy Pensler. Stabenow has little to worry about, Cook puts this in the Likely Democratic camp.

In the race to replace disgraced Rep. John Conyers, the Democrats voted for a Muslim woman, that had some really weird twists

Thanks to a strange state election law quirk, both a black women and a Muslim woman were elected to replace him in an oddball election split.

In the regular Democratic primary election, Rashida Tlaib narrowly edged out Brenda Jones, the Detroit City Council president, in the Michigan 13th’s special and regular Democratic primary elections to replace him on Tuesday. But in the special election, to complete the rest of Conyers’s current term, Jones won. Tlaib will therefore not take office until January, while Jones will serve for a few months after an expected win in the general later this year.

They both beat Ian Conyers, a state senator and the outgoing Conyers’s great-nephew. So by proxy, the Conyers family loses.

I’m still scratching my head over this one. Michigan is high on the DNC list of House seats that they have listed as Red to Blue. We’ll be watching these races closely.

Jumping over to Washington’s 3rd congressional district, two women, one Democrat and one Republican, incumbent Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Washington State University professor Carolyn Long, will be on the November ballot in this normally solid red district that Democrats hope to flip. While the district went for Donald Trump by 8 points in 2016, Cook Political Report downgraded the district from Solid Republican to Likely Republican. While the district went for Donald Trump by 8 points in 2016, Cook Political Report downgraded the district from Solid Republican to Likely Republican this past spring.

In WA-5, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-highest ranked Republican in the House, is facing one of the toughest reelection fights of her career. She was challenged by Democratic former state Senate majority leader Lisa Brown. The race was close with Rogers barely edging out Brown by 175 votes. This would be quite an upset if Brown wins in November. The Cook Political Report has moved the eastern Washington district from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.

I’ll be traveling again next week but we will most likely be posting the results for the Connecticut , Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin primaries next Wednesday night.

 

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