The Breakfast Club (Make It Stop)

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

Oklahoma City bombing; Battle of Lexington and Concord; Pope Benedict XVI elected; Branch Davidian siege near Waco, TX ends.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.

P. J. O’Rourke

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Less and More than it seems.

Thank goodness I didn’t bother with the pre-Game hype.

Republicans seem to be stuck in the Barr moment this morning and it certainly colored the early coverage when there wasn’t anything to look at and later when there hadn’t been time to read it. It is, as predicted, heavily redacted.

The problem from my perspective is it’s not that the evidence is inconclusive, it’s that Mueller concluded the OLC opinion about non-prosecutablity meant he must decline it in every instance.

Hardly exoneration.

Some have suggested that it is in fact a road to impeachment. I’m not sure about that.

Democrats appear to be pouring through it and saying, “Well, this is a crime. And this is a crime. And that’s a crime.” There are a lot of crimes. I wonder if it will be effective? What they’re not doing (and it doesn’t seem Mueller has at the moment either) is provide a narrative to tie them all together.

Here are 11 of the most jaw-dropping bombshells from the Mueller report
by Travis Gettys, Raw Story
18 Apr 2019

Here are some of the biggest bombshells to fall out of the report in the first hour of its release:

  1. Trump panicked after deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel, following the president’s firing of FBI director James Comey.
  2. Mueller could not find enough evidence that Donald Trump Jr. was smart enough to realize he was breaking the law by accepting Russian assistance for his father’s campaign.
  3. Hope Hicks thought Trump Jr.’s emails regarding his efforts to set up a meeting with a Russian lawyer looked “really bad,” but Trump told her to cover them up.
  4. Hicks was in contact with a Russian the day after the election who wanted to put Trump in touch with Vladimir Putin, and she relayed that request to Jared Kushner.
  5. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort expected his associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who has suspected ties to Russian intelligence, to share internal campaign data with an oligarch to whom he owed millions and others in Ukraine.
  6. Trump signaled to former national security adviser Mike Flynn that he might pardon him, and asked for a warning before testifying against him.
  7. Trump instructed Rosenstein to add a line clearing him on Russia in the memo he was drafting to justify Comey’s firing.
  8. Mueller’s team found Comey’s account credible about Trump’s demand for loyalty, and dismissed the president’s denials as untrue.
  9. Trump tried to obstruct justice on multiple occasions, but his underlings refused to carry out his corrupt requests.
  10. Therefore, Mueller’s investigators lacked the confidence to clear the president on obstruction of justice.
  11. Mueller believed he had the authority to issue a grand jury subpoena for Trump — but knew it would delay the investigation.

Most of the other stuff I’ve read is Versailles Villager Beat Sweetener crap.

This is your Rifle. This is your Gun. One is for Fighting, the other’s for Fun.

What is Dana Loesch doing today?

Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A.
By Mike Spies, New Yorker
April 17, 2019

(T)he N.R.A. is troubled; in recent years, it has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars. It is not unusual for nonprofits to ask prospective donors to help forestall disaster. What is unusual is the extent to which such warnings have become the central activity of the N.R.A. Even as the association has reduced spending on its avowed core mission—gun education, safety, and training—to less than ten per cent of its total budget, it has substantially increased its spending on messaging. The N.R.A. is now mainly a media company, promoting a life style built around loving guns and hating anyone who might take them away.

On NRATV, the organization’s programming network, the popular host Grant Stinchfield might appear in a “Socialist Tears” T-shirt, taking a sledgehammer to a television set cycling through liberal news shows. The platform’s Twitter account circulates videos of the spokesperson Dana Loesch, a former Breitbart News editor who has said that mainstream journalists are “the rat bastards of the earth” and deserve to be “curb-stomped.” Over menacing images of masked rioters, she asserts that the only way to stop the left is to “fight its violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” A lawyer and activist called Colion Noir, whose real name is Collins Idehen, Jr., also has a large following. After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, Noir appeared in a video chiding “all the kids from Parkland getting ready to use your First Amendment to attack everyone else’s Second Amendment.”

Loesch and Noir have become the primary public faces of the N.R.A.; at events, enormous banners feature their images alongside those of LaPierre and Chris Cox, the organization’s top lobbyist. But Loesch and Noir are not technically employed by the N.R.A. Instead, they are paid by Ackerman McQueen, a public-relations firm based in Oklahoma. In at least one year, Loesch earned close to a million dollars, according to a source who has seen her contract.

For more than three decades, Ackerman has shaped the N.R.A.’s public identity, helping to build it from a niche activist organization into a ubiquitous presence in American popular culture. Ackerman produces the N.R.A. magazine America’s 1st Freedom and has devised its most successful ad campaigns, including one called “I’m the N.R.A.,” for which it recruited gun owners, including the actor Tom Selleck and the basketball star Karl Malone, to pose with their weapons. More recently, Ackerman produced a series called “Freedom’s Safest Place,” in which conservative icons inveigh against liberals and terrorists. In a segment from 2016, the country-music star Charlie Daniels warns the “ayatollahs of Iran” that they may be acquainted with “our fresh-faced flower-child President,” but they “haven’t met the heartland—or the people who will defend this nation with their bloody, calloused bare hands.”

The N.R.A. and Ackerman have become so intertwined that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Top officials and staff move freely between the two organizations; Oliver North, the former Iran-Contra operative, who now serves as the N.R.A.’s president, is paid roughly a million dollars a year through Ackerman, according to two N.R.A. sources. But this relationship, which in many ways has built the contemporary N.R.A., seems also to be largely responsible for the N.R.A.’s dire financial state. According to interviews and to documents that I obtained—federal tax forms, charity records, contracts, corporate filings, and internal communications—a small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements. Memos created by a senior N.R.A. employee describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, whose leaders have encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object. “Management has subordinated its judgment to the vendors,” the documents allege. “Trust in the top has eroded.”

Ackerman McQueen provides the N.R.A. with public-relations work, marketing, branding, corporate communications, event planning, Web design, social-media engagement, and digital-content production. It wields great influence over the N.R.A.’s initiatives and is involved with nearly all of the group’s divisions, with the exception of its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, where, according to former employees, Ackerman’s messaging sometimes undermines the group’s efforts. In 2012, after a gunman murdered twenty children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, LaPierre argued that the best way to prevent such atrocities was to install armed police officers in schools. When President Barack Obama criticized this reasoning, Ackerman responded with an ad noting that Obama’s children received Secret Service protection. An ominous voice-over asked, “Are the President’s kids more important than yours?” At the time, N.R.A. lobbyists were negotiating with federal lawmakers over potential regulations. The organization maintained friendly relations with several Democratic legislators, including Mary Landrieu, a senator from Louisiana. According to a former staffer, the ad caused Landrieu and others to “freak out,” nearly ending those relationships. “Ackerman never cleared that ad with us,” the former staffer recalled. “We had no oversight over Ackerman McQueen.” (Landrieu could not be reached for comment.)

Many N.R.A. employees have long suspected Ackerman of inflating the cost of the services it provides, but its relationships with executives remain strong. For instance, the company has worked closely with LaPierre’s wife, Susan, who maintains an Ackerman e-mail address and was briefly employed there, in the mid-nineties. She now volunteers as a co-chair of the N.R.A.’s Women’s Leadership Forum. Every year, she hosts a luxurious retreat for women who make sizable donations, at which they go on shooting expeditions and mingle with conservative celebrities such as Carly Fiorina and Dick and Liz Cheney. At the N.R.A.’s annual convention, she hosts a W.L.F. lunch and auction. In 2017, she interviewed Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway onstage, embracing her and calling her “my friend.” Ackerman arranges speakers for these events and provides marketing materials, including glossy brochures that feature photographs of Susan on nearly every page. A former N.R.A. staffer told me that Ackerman “made Susan the face of the W.L.F. project. It pulled Wayne even closer to the firm.”

As the relationship between the N.R.A. and Ackerman strengthened, some employees became disgruntled. “Most staffers think that Ackerman is too expensive,” Aaron Davis, who spent a decade working in the N.R.A.’s fund-raising department, told me. “They think they’re just using the N.R.A. to make a massive profit.” Davis, a former special-education teacher from rural South Carolina, started at the N.R.A. in 2005, drawn by the organization’s mission. The staff was underpaid but devoted, with what Davis described as a “rah-rah” attitude. Fund-raising was difficult. Often, Davis told me, potential donors were put off by the N.R.A.’s divisive politics and concerned about what their neighbors would think. He and his colleagues tended to do best with small donors; often, their most successful pitch was persuading people to include donations in their wills.

In 2010, Tyler Schropp, a former executive at the Mercury Group, was brought in to lead the N.R.A.’s advancement team, a fund-raising group that targets wealthy members. As Schropp reshaped the department, he steered more business toward Ackerman McQueen; Davis recalled that the relationship “skyrocketed.”

Schropp oversaw the production of a magazine, Ring of Freedom, which Ackerman had devised to feature wealthy donors. “It was a beautiful magazine,” Davis said. “Rather than do your typical N.R.A. language, which is more hard-hitting, this was meant to tell the stories, the life styles of the donor. So if someone had an airplane, or a collection of Ferraris, we would put that in the magazine.”

N.R.A. employees found the magazines startlingly expensive to produce. “Typically, you’d print around twenty-five hundred copies,” Davis said. “Most of those copies wouldn’t even get used.” At one point, a fund-raising guru came in to give a daylong seminar. “He holds up one of our marketing materials that Ackerman had produced,” Davis said. “He goes, ‘This actually will hurt you. Donors don’t want to see that you’re spending so much money when they give a large gift.’ ”

The N.R.A.’s tax filings suggest that the advancement team generates only a small portion of revenues, with the “vast majority” of contributions coming instead from “millions of small individual donors.” Still, Schropp’s department spends lavishly; his annual compensation has grown to more than six hundred and twenty thousand dollars. “I was doing fund-raising dinners where wine was pouring freely, and going to dinners with other N.R.A. executives where the bill would be a thousand dollars—just to go out to dinner!” Davis said. He estimated that “at least eighty per cent” of his colleagues brought in less money than they were paid. “I just thought, If the typical N.R.A. member knew that this is how the organization really works, then there’s no way they would give money.” But Davis felt that the culture of the organization discouraged complaints. “If you’re in a war and your commanders are doing something you disagree with, you don’t just go up and question them,” he said.

The advancement team—roughly thirty staff members—increasingly relied on Ackerman employees. Davis was impressed by their work. “They were topnotch,” he told me. “They did beautiful graphic design, great writing, and we started to lean on them. Over time, we ended up giving almost all of our P.R. projects to Ackerman McQueen.” As the firm’s employees visited the office more frequently, the staff began noticing Lexuses in the parking lot, alongside their own beat-up cars. “I mean, they had a lot going on for them, but they weren’t your folks who were interested in Second Amendment politics,” Davis said. They were “your typical New York or Austin types that are excited about doing really big projects and creative projects. N.R.A. being kind of propaganda gave them the opportunity to do marketing in a way they couldn’t do for any other organization.” He suggested that Ackerman’s approach was impossible to reconcile with the ideals that had drawn him to the N.R.A. “They’re a for-profit organization, trying to do things that would bring more money to them,” he said. “They have completely different intentions than a nonprofit should have, which is for the common good.”

Board members, particularly those who had served for a long time, grew uncomfortable. Once, Davis recalled, he took a board member to lunch to request a donation: “He just looks at me, and he goes, ‘You know, I like you, but I hate your department.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He says, ‘Because N.R.A. is not fancy Italian shoes with thousand-dollar suits. N.R.A. is the backbone of this country, wearing bluejeans and boots. And your division is taking us to a whole ’nother place.’ ”

Ackerman had been deeply involved in developing Carry Guard, and it marketed the insurance aggressively, through e-mail campaigns and an NRATV program called “Carry Guard Daily.” The promotional literature included a guide called “Surviving the Aftermath of a Self-Defense Shooting,” which advised prospective buyers that it was important to “establish for police that you were in fear for your life and did what you felt was necessary.”

According to sources familiar with the N.R.A.’s business decisions, Carry Guard was intended to secure the organization’s long-term prosperity. The N.R.A. had spent more than fifty million dollars on the 2016 elections, mostly in support of Donald Trump, and it badly needed revenue. Brian Mittendorf, the chair of the accounting department at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, has analyzed eleven years’ worth of the organization’s public financial statements, starting in 2007. In seven of those years, he told me, “the N.R.A. owed more money to others than it had at its discretion to spend.” A financial audit from 2017 revealed that it had nearly reached the limit of a twenty-five-million-dollar line of credit. Additionally, it had been forced to liquidate more than two million dollars from an investment fund, borrow almost four million from its officers’ life-insurance policies, and tap another five million from its affiliated charitable foundation.

Carry Guard inspired controversy from the start. Gun-control activists disparaged it as “murder insurance.” Staff members questioned the value of the program, but, according to the memos I obtained, there was “intimidation of ppl who disagreed.” After the Parkland shooting, in early 2018, the New York State Department of Financial Services advised financial institutions to carefully assess the risks “that may arise from their dealings with the N.R.A. or similar gun promotion organizations.” At the time, the D.F.S. was concluding a long investigation into Carry Guard, which found that the program violated regulations that prevent unlicensed entities from marketing insurance and prohibit insuring a criminal act. In May, 2018, the department said Carry Guard could no longer be sold in the state.

The 2017 tax filings, prepared at Cummins’s direction, gave the first full accounting of how much the N.R.A. was paying Ackerman McQueen and its affiliates: $40.9 million, or about twelve per cent of total expenses that year. Federal regulations require very limited disclosure of how much nonprofit organizations pay their venders, so in previous years the N.R.A.’s filings had not disclosed payments to Ackerman’s affiliates, or any payments that were meant to reimburse expenses. These omissions were probably substantial. The 2017 filing acknowledged a payment of $5.6 million to the Mercury Group, which, despite years of close association with the N.R.A., hadn’t been mentioned in any previous filings.

Cummins explained to the board that Ackerman and other venders were generating enormous expenses and getting paid through multiple entities, in a way that obscured payments. One such arrangement involved a company called Membership Marketing Partners, which provides direct-mail fund-raising. In 2017, the N.R.A. paid M.M.P. nearly twelve million dollars. At the same time, it directed almost eight hundred thousand dollars to a firm called Allegiance Creative Group, for “fundraising counsel.” Allegiance doesn’t have a Web site, but, according to state filings, at least ten of its fifteen employees also work at M.M.P. The president and C.E.O. of both companies is Gurney Sloan, who previously worked as a senior vice-president at Ackerman McQueen. This kind of arrangement is not illegal, but, as the former I.R.S. manager Marc Owens told me, “Multiple names for the same entity suggest an effort to disguise the extent of contact. Most organizations have centralized accounting so they can track how much is owed.”

After Cummins’s presentation ended, Brewer took over to discuss what the agenda from the meeting refers to as “related party transactions”— arrangements that could improperly enrich N.R.A. leaders or their associates. Before he spoke, most of the staff members were asked to leave the room. But the memos suggest some of the concerns. They assert that about a quarter of the organization’s staff is “now managed by former employees” of Ackerman who have been hired by the N.R.A., creating “financial conflicts of interest.” As an example, the documents note $2.6 million paid to a corporate entity called Under Wild Skies, whose annual reports list Tony Makris as president, the same position he holds with the Mercury Group. “Under Wild Skies” is also the name of a TV show, broadcast on the Outdoor Channel, that features Makris and his guests, including Revan McQueen, tracking big game in such far-flung locales as Botswana’s Okavango Delta. (“Under Wild Skies” used to appear on mainstream TV, but NBC Sports ended its run after Makris, on camera, shot an elephant in the face.) According to a recent article in the Times, the N.R.A. has paid Under Wild Skies some eighteen million dollars since 2010. Until recently, Tyler Schropp, who runs the N.R.A.’s advancement team, the large-donor program, also served as the treasurer of Under Wild Skies. Brewer, the lawyer, told the Times that Schropp had “a minuscule interest” in the company, and that he had relinquished his stake. But N.R.A. officials were evidently concerned; in documents filed soon after the audit committee met in July, Schropp’s name was listed among the officers of Under Wild Skies, but had been crossed out by hand.

One of the memos alleges that “protecting the N.R.A. now means protecting and enriching the officers and Tyler”—a reference to Schropp. His advancement team, despite having dozens of full-time staff members, has paid consultants millions of dollars for “identifying prospective high net worth individuals” and “providing advice and support.”

Last August, the N.R.A., in desperate need of funds, raised its dues for the second time in two years. To cut costs, it has eliminated free coffee and water coolers at its headquarters and has frozen its employees’ pension plan. Carry Guard, which was meant to save the organization, has proved disastrous. According to the memos, in 2017, the year that Carry Guard was introduced, Ackerman McQueen received some six million dollars for its work on the product, which included the creation of a Web site and media productions featuring celebrity firearms trainers. The lawsuit against New York State has created an additional burden. Sources familiar with the N.R.A.’s financial commitments say that it is paying Brewer’s firm an average of a million and a half dollars a month.

An official assessment performed by Cummins last summer dryly describes the N.R.A.’s decision-making during the previous year as “management’s shift in risk appetite.” The document analyzes the organization’s executive-liability exposures and discusses insurance policies that “protect NRA directors and officers from claims by third parties that they have breached their duties, such as by mismanagement of association assets.” From 2018 to 2019, it says, insurance costs increased by three hundred and forty-one per cent. “To say this is a major increase would be an understatement,” Peter Kochenburger, the deputy director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut, told me. “This seems to be pretty direct evidence that the N.R.A.’s problems are not due to New York but rather to how the organization conducts itself.”

The memos urged the audit committee to “step up + fulfill its duties!,” but it’s not clear what the board has done to root out malfeasance. James Fishman, a co-author of “New York Nonprofit Law and Practice: With Tax Analysis,” a leading text on nonprofit law, told me, “There is no such thing as a director who doesn’t direct. You’re responsible to make yourself aware of what’s going on. If the board doesn’t know, they’ve breached their duty of care, which is against the law in New York,” where the N.R.A. is chartered. According to Owens, the former I.R.S. official, New York State “could sanction board members, remove board members, disband the board, or close down the organization entirely.”

Since the emergency meeting in July, sources familiar with the board’s decisions say, the audit committee has retroactively signed off on at least some of the N.R.A.’s problematic transactions. “That does legitimize them,” Owens said, “but a regulator would want to know why the process was unfolding this way, especially if it’s part of a larger pattern.” Last fall, the N.R.A. made its 2017 tax filings public, revealing its payments to Ackerman McQueen and its affiliates. I asked the N.R.A., at the time, why it had made these disclosures, and a spokesperson told me that it was “in an effort to offer greater visibility into the dealings of the Association and foundation.” On April 12th, the N.R.A. embarked on another lawsuit—against Ackerman McQueen. The suit alleges that Ackerman has denied the N.R.A. access to basic business records, including the terms of Oliver North’s contract, and blames the firm for throwing it into an existential crisis. Ackerman’s general lack of transparency, the complaint says, “threatens to imminently and irreparably harm” the N.R.A.’s status as a nonprofit organization. (In response, the marketing firm issued a statement saying it “has served the NRA and its members with great pride and dedication for the last 38 years. The NRA’s action is frivolous, inaccurate and intended to cause harm to the reputation of our company and the future of that 38-year relationship.”)

But the N.R.A.’s leaders also remain focussed on threats from outside. On March 2nd, LaPierre delivered his annual speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He told the crowd, “In real time right before your very eyes, we, the National Rifle Association, on behalf of all Americans, are fighting perhaps the most important piece of First Amendment constitutional advocacy in the history of our country.” The suit against New York State, he said, “will decide whether or not government can be weaponized against you if your opinion differs from theirs.” The N.R.A. now has a Web page devoted to soliciting donations to support the suit. “Please give as generously as you can,” the text urges, “and help win this life-or-death legal battle for the survival of the N.R.A. and freedom.”

And that’s how you monetize religion, in this case Gun Worship, in ‘Murika.

Cartnoon

When I was fairly young a train derailed near where I and my sister were spending time with the Gilmore side of the family. Of course we had to go see it so we loaded up in the Station Wagon which was cool because the Tailgate Seats faced out to the rear.

There was quite a crowd. When you worked your way close enough you could see the embankment which was gouged and torn by the tumbled cars which lay scattered just like they do when you run an electric set too fast around a tight bend (no bend in sight however so who knows?). It was a freight train and part of the load was coal and part logs which stuck up everywhere like some kind of random Stonehenge along with ties and sections of track.

No, I’m not fascinated by train wrecks. Why would you think so?

Changing The Gauge

The Breakfast Club (Lost Causes)

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 San Francisco earthquake; What becomes known as ‘Paul Revere’s ride’; A suicide bomb hits the U.S. embassy in Lebanon; Physicist Albert Einstein dies; Wayne Gretzky plays his last NHL game.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.

Clarence Darrow

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Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Rick Wilson: The Mueller Report is the Tip of a Big, Slimy, Trump-Shaped Iceberg

Even after Bill Barr has performed his sycophantic redactions, we’ll have a report that will tell us a lot—but will still only scratch the surface.

For now, we wait.

It’s a song as old as time; wait for the last breath of media attention before a long holiday weekend then drop the stinking oppo, the bad news, the terrible financial report. The Holy Week Mueller News Dump is sure to be a classic of the form that borders on the blasphemous; when most Americans look forward to Easter, it’s a time of faith and family, not scrying the meaning of text under oceans of black redaction marks.

The idea of the news dump is that no one will be watching (and if they are they’ll hear Barr’s summary again first). It won’t work this time, but it will mean people who give a damn about the truth of this investigation will be parsing what little we expect to get from a Justice Department head dedicated not to the law or our security but to protecting Donald Trump’s ample ass.

There are a lot of very smart legal minds standing by to parse the document Attorney General William Barr (R-Trump’s Pocket) drops on Thursday.

When Trump toady Matt Schlapp tweeted on February 14, 2019, that the president now had a fully operational attorney general he said the quiet part loud.

David Rothkopf: Trump & Co. Are Crossing Big, Bright Red Lines—and They’re Getting Away With It

It’s been bad since Day 1, of course. But in recent weeks, the lawlessness has gotten far more egregious and dangerous. What force can stop it?

Whatever revelations the redacted version of the Mueller report may hold, they will not be as disturbing as the behavior of President Trump and his team in the days and weeks leading up to its release.

That is not a reference to the president’s panic-tweeting, nor does it refer to his other efforts to distract, obfuscate, or shift blame. Instead, it is acknowledgement of something more insidious that is afoot, something that may be hinted at by Robert Mueller’s findings but which we are now seeing fully realized—a full-scale and disturbingly successful assault on the rule of law in America.

Something broke in America in the past week or two. We have been spiraling downward since Trump’s election, but in these early days of spring 2019, we have crossed a line. The president and his men began asserting that they were above the law—and effectively no one in our system did anything to stop them. [..]

What once was black and white blurs into gray. Right and wrong, old principles, enduring values, fade from memory. Authoritarians arrive in our midst not in tanks but in bad suits and worse haircuts.

I have long thought our system was better than this—more resilient. But candidly, I’m no longer sure. I remain hopeful… hopeful that the next election cycle can redress these manifold wrongs, hopeful that the courts will do as many have done and block Trump’s worst impulses.

But it will not be easy. And the next election will be too close. Trump may be with us for six more years.

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Isn’t it nice to begin your day with a dose of cheery optimism?

Excuse me. I distinctly remember someone saying we’re not going to make it. I think we made it.
I’m sorry, I overreacted. At the time, it looked very much like we weren’t going to make it.
Yes, well, maybe next time you’ll just wait and see.
And blow the last chance I might ever have to be right?

Welcome to my life.

In the delusional Versailles Village of Swamp Castle on the Potomac-

Mueller report will be lightly redacted, revealing detailed look at obstruction of justice investigation
By Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Devlin Barrett, Washington Post
April 17 at 8:37 PM

Of course it will.

The Justice Department plans to release a lightly redacted version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s 400-page report Thursday, offering a granular look at the ways in which President Trump was suspected of having obstructed justice, people familiar with the matter said.

The report — the general outlines of which the Justice Department has briefed the White House on — will reveal that Mueller decided he could not come to a conclusion on the question of obstruction because it was difficult to determine Trump’s intent and because some of his actions could be interpreted innocently, these people said. But it will offer a detailed blow-by-blow of the president’s alleged conduct — analyzing tweets, private threats and other episodes at the center of Mueller’s inquiry, they added.

Attorney General William P. Barr plans to hold a 9:30 a.m. news conference to address “process questions” and provide an “overview of the report,” a senior Justice Department official said. The report will be delivered on discs to Capitol Hill between 11 a.m. and noon and posted on the special counsel’s website thereafter, the official said.

Thursday’s rollout plan — and news of the White House’s advance briefing, which was first reported by ABC News and the New York Times — sparked a political firestorm Wednesday, with Democrats suggesting the attorney general was trying to improperly color Mueller’s findings before the public could read them.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at a news conference that Barr “appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump” and had “taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.” He said after his committee had time to review the redacted report, he would ask Mueller and other members of his team to testify before Congress.

While the report’s light redactions might allay some of their concerns, Democrats are likely to bristle at any material that is withheld. What the Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers might view as modest, lawmakers might see as overly aggressive. The redacted version of the report is expected to reveal extensive details about Trump’s actions in office that came under scrutiny, but it is unclear how much the public will learn about how the special counsel’s team investigated the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and Russian contacts with Trump associates.

Barr also is likely to face scrutiny over the Justice Department’s talks with the White House — which could help Trump and his attorneys hone in advance their attacks on the report.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, has said he is preparing a counter-report to Mueller’s findings and in a recent interview said his document would explain from the president’s viewpoint every episode that could be considered obstructive. Giuliani and others have long feared Mueller’s findings on obstruction, viewing them as potentially more damaging than anything found on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians.

Already, Democratic lawmakers and pundits have alleged that Barr seems to be taking steps to mitigate the political damage Mueller’s report might do to Trump, and some members of Mueller’s team have told associates they are frustrated by the limited information Barr has released about their work.

A senior White House official said Trump has praised Barr privately for his handling of the report and compared him favorably to former attorney general Jeff Sessions, whom Trump grew to loathe over his recusal from what would become Mueller’s investigation.

Since the special counsel’s office closed its investigation late last month, Barr and his team at the Justice Department have been reviewing the final report to determine how much of it can be made public. The Justice Department has said it plans to release the document with four categories of information shielded from public view: material from the grand jury, material that reveals intelligence sources and methods, material that is relevant to ongoing investigations, and material that could affect the privacy of “peripheral” third parties. Each redaction will be color-coded so readers know the reason the material is being shielded, Barr has said.

Any redactions could be controversial, and Democrats have said they won’t be satisfied unless they are given the entire unfiltered document.

And damn right they shouldn’t be satisfied, nobody should be.

The meat of how mealy mouthed and gutless the coverage will be is manifest in the elided parts I spare you, but I’m not censoring- get your propaganda direct from the WaPo if you like.

Did you know a Unicorn farts Rainbows (Brooklyn Bridge is so Cliché)?

Frankly I think any notion of a “lightly” redacted Mueller Report is fantasy designed to misdirect the attention of Rubes with the spin.

The Gray Lady-

White House and Justice Dept. Officials Discussed Mueller Report Before Release
By Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos, and Katie Benner, The New York Times
April 17, 2019

Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.

A sense of paranoia was taking hold among some of Mr. Trump’s aides, some of whom fear his backlash more than the findings themselves, the people said. The report might make clear which of Mr. Trump’s current and former advisers spoke to the special counsel, how much they said and how much damage they did to the president — providing a kind of road map for retaliation.

The discussions between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers have also added to questions about the propriety of the decisions by Attorney General William P. Barr since he received Mr. Mueller’s findings late last month.

Mr. Barr and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, determined that Mr. Trump did not illegally obstruct justice and said the special counsel found no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia’s 2016 election interference. Mr. Barr told lawmakers that officials were “spying” on the Trump campaign, raised ominous historical parallels with the illegal surveillance of Vietnam War protesters and pointedly declined to rebut charges that Mr. Mueller’s investigators were engaged in a “witch hunt.”

Spokespeople for the White House and the Justice Department declined to comment. Mr. Barr, who plans to hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to discuss the special counsel’s report, refused to answer questions from lawmakers last week about whether the department had given the White House a preview of Mr. Mueller’s findings.

Much is at stake for Mr. Barr in Thursday’s expected release, especially if the report presents a far more damning portrayal of the president’s behavior — and of his campaign’s dealings with Russians — than the attorney general indicated in the four-page letter he wrote in March. That letter generated anger among some members of Mr. Mueller’s team, who believed it failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and have told associates that the report was more troubling for Mr. Trump than Mr. Barr indicated.

His plans to black out sensitive information in the report have drawn complaints, particularly from Democrats who have demanded the document’s full text.

Even a redacted report is likely to answer some of the outstanding questions about Russia’s attempts to sabotage the election; contacts between Kremlin intermediaries and the Trump campaign; and the president’s efforts to derail the investigation.

Mr. Mueller’s report examines each episode that was part of the president’s attempts to undermine the investigation, Mr. Barr wrote in his letter.

Investigators focused on whether the president used his position atop the executive branch to impede their inquiry. Mr. Mueller’s team scrutinized Mr. Trump’s efforts to end an investigation into his first national security adviser and to oust law enforcement officials — like the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey — who Mr. Trump believed were disloyal. Mr. Mueller also closely examined Mr. Trump’s attempt in June 2017 to have the special counsel himself fired.

Mr. Barr also wrote that Mr. Mueller explains why he did not make a determination on an obstruction offense, laying out evidence “on both sides of the question.” Though investigators did not exonerate him, “the evidence does not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” the report said, according to Mr. Barr’s letter.

Democrats on Capitol Hill, armed with subpoena power and deeply mistrustful of Mr. Barr’s motivations since he was first nominated, have pressed for more and believe they could soon have the upper hand.

They have demanded the full text of the report and access to the underlying evidence they say is necessary for continuing congressional inquiries into foreign influence and obstruction of justice.

The House Judiciary Committee has already authorized a subpoena for its chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, to try to force Mr. Barr to hand that material over to Congress.

“On the assumption that it’s heavily redacted, we will most certainly issue the subpoenas in very short order,” Mr. Nadler said Wednesday evening at a hastily called news conference in New York.

Promising more transparency, the government said it would let a select group of lawmakers see some of the material related to the case against Roger J. Stone Jr. that had been redacted from the initial public version of the report, according to a filing on Wednesday in the Stone case. Mr. Nadler cautioned, though, that his committee had not been made aware of any such accommodation.

Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and a member of the Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday accused Mr. Barr of trying to “insulate” Mr. Trump, comparing him to Roy Cohn, one of Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyers known for his fierce efforts to protect his boss.

Mr. Nadler took particular umbrage that Mr. Barr would hold a news conference before Congress or the public sees the report.

“The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump,” Mr. Nadler said. He added, “Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.”

He pressed Mr. Barr to cancel his own news briefing scheduled for Thursday.

Democrats in recent weeks have accelerated investigations of the president, his campaign, businesses and administration, issuing a flurry of subpoenas and voluntary requests that could aid their work. They intend to incorporate whatever they glean from Thursday’s report into those investigations, which they argue Congress has its own constitutional duty to conduct regardless of Mr. Barr’s conclusion.

Doing so could also allow party leaders to cool any potential heat within the party to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president — a possibility Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has repeatedly said would be politically unwise, absent startling new evidence of wrongdoing.

Democrats concede that the real challenge will be to persuade Republicans and the broader public to keep focused on a case that the attorney general weeks ago essentially declared was closed.

A key witness in the obstruction investigation was the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, who spent more than 30 hours with Mr. Mueller’s team. Mr. McGahn explained in detail how Mr. Trump tried to gain control over the investigation.

Mr. Trump’s legal team never thoroughly debriefed Mr. McGahn’s lawyer about what his client told investigators, leaving the president’s lawyers in the dark about what Mr. McGahn said. In recent weeks, White House officials have grown increasingly concerned about what Mr. McGahn told the Mueller team and believe his statements could be used in the report to paint a damning portrait of the president, two people close to the White House said.

What did I say yesterday about Journalism? Oh, yeah.

We’ll cross the streams.
Excuse me, Egon, you said crossing the streams was bad.
Ray Stantz: Cross the streams…
You’re gonna endanger us, you’re gonna endanger our client. The nice lady who paid us in advance before she became a dog.
Not necessarily. There’s definitely a very slim chance we’ll survive.

I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! Let’s do it!

We are doomed.

When the skies are bright canary yellow
I forget every cloud I’ve ever seen,
So they called me a cockeyed optimist
Immature and incurably green.

I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we’re done and we might as well be dead,
But I’m only a cockeyed optimist
And I can’t get it into my head.

I hear the human race
Is fallin’ on it’s face
And hasn’t very far to go,
But every whippoorwill
Is sellin’ me a bill,
And tellin’ me it just ain’t so.

I could say life is just a bowl of Jello
And appear more intelligent and smart,
But I’m stuck like a dope
With a thing called hope,
And I can’t get it out of my heart!
Not this heart

You know she was a stone cold racist, correct? On the plus side it ruined her life.

Julian Assange

tl;dr, I know.

I feel I should state my position up front. I think that Wikileaks performs a valuable service which is fully covered by all the protection the First Amendment offers. I think that Julian Assange is a hero for helping to initiate it and the allegations against him by the Swedes unfounded and probably motivated by anger of the U.S. National Security apparatus over the Chelsea Manning Release.

Didn’t know we shot screaming, fleeing Brown Babies from Helicopters? We do that.

That is merely a discussion on Al Jazeera (which YouTube intrusively reminds me is owned by the Qatari Government which is another one of those Sunni oppressive Shia majority Gulf of Persia countries, one where the U.S. has a huge Naval Base and was blockaded last year by The House of Saud at the behest of Jared Kushner who wanted to extort the Qataris into bailing him out of his Billion Dollar Boondoggle at 666 Fifth Av) of the actual 38 minute video passed by Chelsea Manning to Wikileaks. That video too is hosted on YouTube by Al Jazeera but it’s age restricted because of its brutality and I’m not willing to sign into Google just to watch it, which you can here.

Anyway that’s why Assange ended up in the Ecuadorian Embassy and… he wasn’t exactly a good neighbor. He let his cat crap in the hall, stole the freaking wireless AND the Netflix password, didn’t trim his beard, probably left the toilet seat up too.

What he is charged with now is that he actually actively helped Chelsea Manning steal the files, which, if true, is exactly the same as the Versailles Villagers suggest- a case of actually breaking and entering as opposed to merely distributing the stolen goods which is something The New York Times and Washington Post do all day, every day, 24/7/365.

It is a totally legitimate business practice they share with the National Enquirer which is by the way available if you have some Millions lying around. C’mon, don’t you want to see what’s in the vault?

Some reports (see below) suggest the overt act was simply the suggestion that Manning set up anonymous accounts, recorded in e-mails.

Folks: If you are active on the Internet and are not famous (or Certified and “well respected” in your field) and looking to trade on that to make an argumentum ad verecundiam, set up an anonymous avatar so you don’t get doxxed and trolled. Don’t invest too much time in it and don’t dwell on identifying personal details. I find this a fundamentally harmless piece of advice that everybody knows, or should.

Me? Been the same since April 1, 2005. Obnoxious.

Benedict Arnold

Benedict was born in Norwich and moved to New Haven where he established himself as a rather minor but still relatively well off merchant shipper, pharmacist, and bookseller. Immediately after Lexington and Concord he raised a Company (mostly paid and equipped out of his own pocket) to take part in the Siege of Boston. The problem with that is they didn’t have any cannon capable of taking on the British ships so Arnold took his Company and some other forces, headed north, hooked up with Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, captured Fort Ticonderoga and sent its cannons back (courtesy also a bookseller- Henry Knox from Derby, the smallest town in Connecticut) so that when they were placed on Breed’s Hill Boston Harbor was under fire and after a battle where the British could not take the emplacements they withdrew from Boston to Halifax (you shoot the ships which will fall apart and burn and they shoot at a big pile of rocks and dirt).

The next thing he did was gather up Dan Morgan and his Virginia Sharpshooters and head from Arundel (Kennebunkport, Maine) and slog up to Quebec (it was horrible, read Arundel by Kenneth Roberts), meet up with Richard Montgomery (who had already taken Montreal and forced the Canadian Government to retreat to Quebec) and try and cut off Canada.

It was a huge failure that might have worked. Montgomery was killed, Arnold badly wounded, and Morgan captured.

With about 600 men left Arnold laid seige and was later relieved by David Wooster (also from Connecticut). He was terrible and his anti-Catholic bigotry soon made the mostly French population turn against him. By the time he was replaced with John Thomas (Massachusetts) their position was hopeless (an army must swim in the people as a fish swims in the sea) and they had to retreat.

There was also smallpox which claimed Thomas.

Benedict Arnold, somewhat recovered, fought a surprisingly successful retreat down Lake Champlain in little more than rafts of green timber. Ticonderoga was abandoned after a token defense because, well, it didn’t have any cannons left and the British laboriously dragged a Battery or two up an over topping peak so the fortress was under fire.

In 1777 (that didn’t take long, did it?) the grand British Plan was to divide the Colonies along the Hudson and so Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne went dutifully down to capture the headwaters while William Howe, Commander In Chief, sent his forces in New York City…

To Philadelphia.

Now to be fair it was the Colonial Capital and when you capture the Capital you win, right? Not so much. The Continental Congress moved to Lancaster (forgive me, nowhere) and York (also nowhere). Howe had no forces left to send North up the Hudson and so we come to Saratoga.

I’ll not delve too much into details. The Continental forces were under the command of Horatio “Run Away” Gates. Why the “Run Away”? Halfway through the rout at Camden South Carolina in 1780, despite having a superior force numerically, he abandoned his troops and fled the field to Hillsborough, 180 miles away in North Carolina.

Also, before being totally discredited by that debacle, he incessantly schemed against Washington who he thought poorly qualified and wished to replace.

Anyway, at Saratoga 3 years earlier, he was his usual incompetent self and the position was only saved by the independent actions of Arnold, Morgan, and Benjamin Lincoln who was forced to surrender Charleston but later accepted the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

After Burgoyne was defeated Benjamin Franklin was able to leverage that momentum to form active alliances with France and Spain and ultimately the Dutch that made the United States Revolution the Anglo-French War of 1778 and shifted the focus to more lucrative colonial battles in the West and East Indies and the Indian Subcontinent while sucking away resources like ships and troops from America del Norte.

You could call it World War 0 but unless you have broad minded teachers you don’t get that in school.

At this point I think it’s fair to say that Benedict Arnold is as responsible for United States independence as George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, and Dan Morgan.

Arnold was horribly injured again, in the same leg, and was basically a disfigured cripple. His wife died, he was broke, and Washington out of gratitude wangled him a position as Quartermaster. It was a thankless task as Congress would rarely allocate sufficient funds and constantly complained about the disposition of those they did. Arnold was no more inclined to graft than average (Nathaniel Greene was a Saint) but endured constant criticism, which he resented.

He was also flattered by the attentions of his future wife, Peggy Shippen, who was a flat out British spy and cheated on him with Major John André who was the head of the English espionage network in the United States, kind of like Bill Hayden and Anna if you Le Carré.

Benedict engineered an appointment as Commander of the fortress of West Point, not really a flashpoint of conflict but of great strategic significance.

You look at it today and you think it’s not much, a fort on top of a hill, and not a big hill at that, but the business end was the lines and lines of artillery batteries sloping down to the Hudson River protecting the great log boom that prevented British ships from sailing farther without dismantling it under fire or landing assault parties to defeat the defenders. If in British hands it would be 1777 all over again, but done right.

So that’s what Benedict turned over to André for 40 pieces of silver (hah, £20,000 Sterling) and he would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for that meddling Washington who decided to pay a sympathy visit and blew the plot. André hung and Arnold got his money and Peggy and a commission in the British Army where he served indifferently in India.

He is my favorite traitor. I use Quisling as an insult because Vidkun was a weakling bully who was always a coward and never a patriot. If Arnold had died of his wounds at Saratoga he would have been proclaimed a great hero.

Why do I know all this? Connecticut, duh. We do State History here. Oh, and he was able to work and act as a Mason, not that any of this is secret.

So it is with Assange (well, I don’t know about the Masonic part). During his time in Landsberg he developed a severe case of Hillary hate and either under Russian influence or on his own decided to do what he could to prevent her from winning the 2016 election. For me the dispositive proof is that he suppressed equally embarrassing revelations about the Russians and Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio, but Thumb On The Scale doesn’t make you less of a Journalist, National Enquirer.

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits— a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage. It is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as Journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.

The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of Political Journalism in America (is that it) has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between Politicians and Journalists. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms. Objective Journalism is one of the main reasons that American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long.

I am a Journalist. I write a Journal about Politics and stuff and while you may think I’m scum and disagree it’s hard to argue with my assertion since I’ve taken classes and worked for print publications which is better qualification than most. I have transferred to ephemeral photons which is equally protected.

Assange may have a lot to answer for, especially the things they’re not charging him with which is direct conspiracy with the GRU to damage the Clinton Campaign. Unless they amend their indictment to include that they may lose their opportunity to do so and thus any leverage to compel his testimony.

I think overall that this whole sordid affair is indeed a blow both to Press Freedom and Government Credibility. I’m more concerned about the Press Freedom part.

The U.S. Government’s Indictment of Julian Assange Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedom
by Glenn Greenwald, Micah Lee, The Intercept
April 11 2019

The indictment of Julian Assange unsealed today by the Trump Justice Department poses grave threats to press freedoms, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The charging document and accompanying extradition request from the U.S. government, used by the U.K. police to arrest Assange once Ecuador officially withdrew its asylum protection, seeks to criminalize numerous activities at the core of investigative journalism.

So much of what has been reported today about this indictment has been false. Two facts in particular have been utterly distorted by the DOJ and then misreported by numerous media organizations.

The first crucial fact about the indictment is that its key allegation — that Assange did not merely receive classified documents from Chelsea Manning but tried to help her crack a password in order to cover her tracks — is not new. It was long known by the Obama DOJ and was explicitly part of Manning’s trial, yet the Obama DOJ — not exactly renowned for being stalwart guardians of press freedoms — concluded that it could not and should not prosecute Assange because indicting him would pose serious threats to press freedom. In sum, today’s indictment contains no new evidence or facts about Assange’s actions; all of it has been known for years.

The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity while downloading documents in the public interest and then furnish them to WikiLeaks to publish.

In other words, the indictment seeks to criminalize what journalists are not only permitted but ethically required to do: take steps to help their sources maintain their anonymity. As longtime Assange lawyer Barry Pollack put it: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

That’s why the indictment poses such a grave threat to press freedom. It characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted but required to take in order to conduct sensitive reporting in the digital age.

The U.S. government has been determined to indict Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since at least 2010, when the group published hundreds of thousands of war logs and diplomatic cables revealing numerous war crimes and other acts of corruption by the U.S., the U.K., and other governments around the world. To achieve that goal, the Obama DOJ empaneled a grand jury in 2011 and conducted a sweeping investigation into WikiLeaks, Assange, and Manning.

But in 2013, the Obama DOJ concluded that it could not prosecute Assange in connection with the publication of those documents because there was no way to distinguish what WikiLeaks did from what the New York Times, The Guardian, and numerous media outlets around the world routinely do: namely, work with sources to publish classified documents.

The Obama DOJ tried for years to find evidence to justify a claim that Assange did more than act as a journalist — that he, for instance, illegally worked with Manning to steal the documents — but found nothing to justify that accusation and thus, never indicted Assange (as noted, the Obama DOJ since at least 2011 was well-aware of the core allegation of today’s indictment — that Assange tried to help Manning circumvent a password wall so she could use a different username — because that was all part of Manning’s charges).

As the New York Times reported late last year, “Soon after he took over as C.I.A. director, [current Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo privately told lawmakers about a new target for American spies: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.” The Times added that “Mr. Pompeo and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions unleashed an aggressive campaign against Mr. Assange, reversing an Obama-era view of WikiLeaks as a journalistic entity.”

In April, 2017, Pompeo, while still CIA chief, delivered a deranged speech proclaiming that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” He punctuated his speech with this threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.”

From the start, the Trump DOJ has made no secret of its desire to criminalize journalism generally. Early in the Trump administration, Sessions explicitly discussed the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information. Trump and his key aides were open about how eager they were to build on, and escalate, the Obama administration’s progress in enabling journalism in the U.S. to be criminalized.

Today’s arrest of Assange is clearly the culmination of a two-year effort by the U.S. government to coerce Ecuador — under its new and submissive president, Lenín Moreno — to withdraw the asylum protection it extended to Assange in 2012. Rescinding Assange’s asylum would enable the U.K. to arrest Assange on minor bail-jumping charges pending in London and, far more significantly, to rely on an extradition request from the U.S. government to send him to a country to which he has no connection (the U.S.) to stand trial relating to leaked documents.

Indeed, the Trump administration’s motive here is clear. With Ecuador withdrawing its asylum protection and subserviently allowing the U.K. to enter its own embassy to arrest Assange, Assange faced no charges other than a minor bail-jumping charge in the U.K. (Sweden closed its sexual assault investigation not because they concluded Assange was innocent, but because they spent years unsuccessfully trying to extradite him). By indicting Assange and demanding his extradition, it ensures that Assange — once he serves his time in a London jail for bail-jumping — will be kept in a British prison for the full year or longer that it takes for the U.S. extradition request, which Assange will certainly contest, to wind its way through the British courts.

The indictment tries to cast itself as charging Assange not with journalistic activities but with criminal hacking. But it is a thinly disguised pretext for prosecuting Assange for publishing the U.S. government’s secret documents while pretending to make it about something else.

Whatever else is true about the indictment, substantial parts of the document explicitly characterize as criminal exactly the actions that journalists routinely engage in with their sources and thus, constitutes a dangerous attempt to criminalize investigative journalism.

The indictment, for instance, places great emphasis on Assange’s alleged encouragement that Manning — after she already turned over hundreds of thousands of classified documents — try to get more documents for WikiLeaks to publish. The indictment claims that “discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that ‘after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.’ To which Assange replied, ‘curious eyes never run dry in my experience.’”

But encouraging sources to obtain more information is something journalists do routinely. Indeed, it would be a breach of one’s journalistic duties not to ask vital sources with access to classified information if they could provide even more information so as to allow more complete reporting. If a source comes to a journalist with information, it is entirely common and expected that the journalist would reply: Can you also get me X, Y, and Z to complete the story or to make it better? As Edward Snowden said this morning, “Bob Woodward stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.”

Investigative journalism in many, if not most, cases, entails a constant back and forth between journalist and source in which the journalist tries to induce the source to provide more classified information, even if doing so is illegal. To include such “encouragement” as part of a criminal indictment — as the Trump DOJ did today — is to criminalize the crux of investigative journalism itself, even if the indictment includes other activities you believe fall outside the scope of journalism.

Most of the reports about the Assange indictment today have falsely suggested that the Trump DOJ discovered some sort of new evidence that proved Assange tried to help Manning hack through a password in order to use a different username to download documents. Aside from the fact that those attempts failed, none of this is new: As the last five paragraphs of this 2011 Politico story demonstrate, that Assange talked to Manning about ways to use a different username so as to avoid detection was part of Manning’s trial and was long known to the Obama DOJ when they decided not to prosecute.

There are only two new events that explain today’s indictment of Assange: 1) The Trump administration from the start included authoritarian extremists such as Sessions and Pompeo who do not care in the slightest about press freedom and were determined to criminalize journalism against the U.S., and 2) With Ecuador about to withdraw its asylum protection, the U.S. government needed an excuse to prevent Assange from walking free.

A technical analysis of the indictment’s claims similarly proves the charge against Assange to be a serious threat to First Amendment press liberties, primarily because it seeks to criminalize what is actually a journalist’s core duty: helping one’s source avoid detection. The indictment deceitfully seeks to cast Assange’s efforts to help Manning maintain her anonymity as some sort of sinister hacking attack.

The Defense Department computer that Manning used to download the documents which she then furnished to WikiLeaks was likely running the Windows operating system. It had multiple user accounts on it, including an account to which Manning had legitimate access. Each account is protected by a password, and Windows computers store a file that contains a list of usernames and password “hashes,” or scrambled versions of the passwords. Only accounts designated as “administrator,” a designation Manning’s account lacked, have permission to access this file.

The indictment suggests that Manning, in order to access this password file, powered off her computer and then powered it back on, this time booting to a CD running the Linux operating system. From within Linux, she allegedly accessed this file full of password hashes. The indictment alleges that Assange agreed to try to crack one of these password hashes, which, if successful, would recover the original password. With the original password, Manning would be able to log directly into that other user’s account, which — as the indictment puts it — “would have made it more difficult for investigators to identify Manning as the source of disclosures of classified information.”

Assange appears to have been unsuccessful in cracking the password. The indictment alleges that “Assange indicated that he had been trying to crack the password by stating that he had ‘no luck so far.’”

Thus, even if one accepts all of the indictment’s claims as true, Assange was not trying to hack into new document files to which Manning had no access, but rather trying to help Manning avoid detection as a source. For that reason, the precedent that this case would set would be a devastating blow to investigative journalists and press freedom everywhere.

Journalists have an ethical obligation to take steps to protect their sources from retaliation, which sometimes includes granting them anonymity and employing technical measures to help ensure that their identity is not discovered. When journalists take source protection seriously, they strip metadata and redact information from documents before publishing them if that information could have been used to identify their source; they host cloud-based systems such as SecureDrop, now employed by dozens of major newsrooms around the world, that make it easier and safer for whistleblowers, who may be under surveillance, to send messages and classified documents to journalists without their employers knowing; and they use secure communication tools like Signal and set them to automatically delete messages.

But today’s indictment of Assange seeks to criminalize exactly these types of source-protection efforts, as it states that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used a special folder on a cloud drop box of WikiLeaks to transmit classified records containing information related to the national defense of the United States.”

The indictment, in numerous other passages, plainly conflates standard newsroom best practices with a criminal conspiracy. It states, for instance, that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used the ‘Jabber’ online chat service to collaborate on the acquisition and dissemination of the classified records, and to enter into the agreement to crack the password […].” There is no question that using Jabber, or any other encrypted messaging system, to communicate with sources and acquire documents with the intent to publish them, is a completely lawful and standard part of modern investigative journalism. Newsrooms across the world now use similar technologies to communicate securely with their sources and to help their sources avoid detection by the government.

The indictment similarly alleges that “it was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks, including by removing usernames from the disclosed information and deleting chat logs between Assange and Manning.”

Assange is a deeply polarizing figure. That’s almost certainly why the Trump DOJ believes that it could get away with indicting him based on a theory that would clearly endanger core journalistic functions: because it hopes that the intense animosity for Assange personally will blind people to the dangers this indictment poses.

But far more important than one’s personal feelings about Assange is the huge step this indictment represents in the Trump administration’s explicitly stated goal to criminalize journalism that involves reporting on classified information. Opposition to that menacing goal does not require admiration or affection for Assange. It simply requires a belief in the critical importance of a free press in a democracy.

Yeah, inserting a boot device that loads another OS almost always works provided it supports the target file system. Is this a flaw? Without the ability it is rarely possible to recover data from a damaged drive and that happens all the time, it’s my second most frequent task as a technician.

Having a day gig doesn’t make me less of a Journalist either. Artists need food on the table like everyone else, otherwise we starve and play music on street corners and paint horrible pictures of Elvis on black velvet.

An Embarrassment Of Lies

PragerU, Candace Owens, and Cody testifies before Congress in the body of a young Black woman from Connecticut by warging ala Bran Stark and the Night King.

C’mon people, I only have 5 more weeks to work off my Game of Thrones trivia.

Cartnoon

Along with the Portuguese, Connecticut is infested with Poles (don’t get me started about the Italians and Irish).

I hope you realize that I’m merely being sardonic about Racism and Bigotry in general. It’s not that I have no opinion, I think it’s bad and you should publicly shame Racists and Bigots at the very least and, depending on how bad and entrenched the attitude is, sometimes more energetic action is required.

Anyway it doesn’t seem you can drive 5 minutes without finding a Pulaski Club or a Pulaski Monument or a Pulaski Bridge or Highway or Street.

Who was Casimir Pulaski?

Umm… yeah. Also this

A Revolutionary War hero who served alongside Washington may have been intersex
By Kayla Epstein, Washington Post
April 8, 2019

Gen. Casimir Pulaski didn’t make it into”Hamilton,” but the world still knows his name. The Revolutionary War hero is considered the “father of the American cavalry,” and even if you aren’t aware of his story, you may have driven over a bridge, joined a society or gazed up at a monument named in his memory. In the mid-19th century, Polish and Catholic immigrants looked to him as a celebrated figure, a sign that they, too, had been part of the American origin story.

Intersex individuals have biological variations that do not fit typical categories of male or female. The variations can be chromosomal or differences in a person’s genitalia, hormones or sex organs. Intersex traits can manifest in a variety of ways, some less detectable than others, and members of the intersex community have several ways of identifying their gender.

Virginia Estabrook, an anthropologist at Georgia Southern University who helped identify Pulaski’s remains, noted that “there’s a lot of erasure of intersex people over a long period of time.” While historical records show Pulaski was identified and raised as male from birth, and lived as a man, Estabrook said that this new discovery gave his legacy a new significance.

Pulaski is “somebody who was a historical figure, we know a lot about his life,” Estabrook said. “He’s got a story, he’s got a presence. He’s got highways and roads and national holidays named after him. This could be a figure that is a touchstone for a totally different group of people than Pulaski had been a touchstone for in the past.”

As much as 1.7 percent of the world’s population are born with intersex traits, the Intersex Campaign for Equality estimates, and the United Nations points out that these individuals are often stigmatized and abused.

Pulaski was born into nobility in Warsaw, in what was then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. There, he began his military career before Benjamin Franklin ultimately recommended that he join the American Revolution on the other side of the sea. Pulaski reached Massachusetts in July 1777, and made a name for himself only a few months later at the Battle of Brandywine, where he was credited with leading a charge that helped save George Washington’s life and the Continental Army from a disastrous defeat.

He stood 5-foot-1 to 5-foot-4, and appears in portraits with dark hair, a strong brow and a slender mustache.

“He was small but also incredibly strong, and incredibly skilled,” Maj. Douglas Shores, author of “Kasimierz Pulaski: General of Two Nations,” says in the Smithsonian Channel documentary. “And was willing to lead people by example, lead out in front.”

Washington made Pulaski a general, and the young commander set to work remaking the Colonial cavalry. He died after being wounded at the Siege of Savannah, Ga., in 1779, where revolutionary forces suffered a resounding defeat. However, Pulaski’s death at 34 solidified his reputation as an American military hero.

When examining the remains, forensic anthropologist Karen Burns realized that the pelvic bone appeared to be that of a woman. It seemed to rule out the possibility that the bones belonged to the father of the American cavalry.

But there were other indicators that pointed to Pulaski: similar height and age, scarring in the pelvis that indicated extensive horseback riding and an injury on the hand that matched one he had sustained in battle.

Burns died in 2012, with the identity of the bones still unanswered. But a new generation of researchers, including Estabrook, carried on the investigation. A new round of mitochondrial DNA tests in 2018 showed a match between the skeleton and Pulaski’s deceased Polish relative.

The skeleton belonged to Pulaski. But what to make of the pelvis that appeared to be that of a woman? The scientists concluded that he may have been intersex, which would have accounted for the discrepancy.

“What we do know is that we have a disconnect between what we see in the skeleton and what we know about Pulaski’s life,” Estabrook said. She noted that there was little research on how intersex conditions impacted skeletal development, and that the Pulaski case was a sign of the work that needs to be done in this field.

The findings help bring new significance to the life of a soldier who already occupied a distinguished place in history. That he was able to rise up the ranks of the Continental Army is a remarkable achievement, said Hida Viloria, an intersex and non-binary activist and author, in the documentary.

“I think that Pulaski being intersex doesn’t impact or change his legacy at all,” Viloria said. “If anything, I think it enhances it.”

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Republicans Are the Real Extremists

Conspiracy theorists and enemies of democracy, oh my.

All of Donald Trump’s major policies have failed substantively, politically, or both. His one big legislative achievement, the 2017 tax cut, remains unpopular. His attacks on Obamacare have only enhanced public approval of the program. His fearmongering has cemented majority opposition to his proposed border wall.

But while today’s G.O.P. can’t do policy, it commands a powerful propaganda machine. And this machine is now dedicated to a strategy of portraying Democrats as extremists. It might work — but it shouldn’t, because Democrats aren’t extremists, but Republicans are.

The attack on Democrats has largely involved demonizing two new members of Congress, Representative Ilhan Omar and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Omar is Muslim, and the usual suspects have gone all-out in using an out-of-context quotation to portray her, completely falsely, as sympathetic to terrorists. AOC, who calls herself a democratic socialist — although she’s really just a social democrat — has been the subject of obsessive coverage on the right. Over a six-week period, Fox News and Fox Business mentioned her more than 3,000 times, invariably portraying her as ignorant, radical, or both.

It’s surely not an accident that these two principal targets are both women of color; there’s a sense in which supposed concerns about extremism are just a cover for sexism and white nationalism. But it’s still worth pointing out that while both Omar and AOC are on the left of the Democratic Party, neither is staking out policy positions that are extreme compared with either expert views or public opinion.

Harry Litman: If Congress wants the unredacted Mueller report, here’s how to get it

The Justice Department has announced that it will deliver special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report to Congress and the public on Thursday morning, but with redactions of grand jury information (and other categories of information) that will leave innumerable gaps in our understanding of what Mueller uncovered. Many commentators have suggested that Congress’s only mechanism for securing an unredacted report is to launch a formal impeachment inquiry — a blind step forward with great political risks for congressional Democrats and the party overall. [..]

But that’s not correct. In fact, Congress has immediate recourse to seek the unredacted report pursuant to the ”judicial proceeding” exception, without having to initiate an impeachment inquiry.

How do we know? Well, for starters, we need look no further than the Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton and the succeeding impeachment proceedings in Congress. In September 1998, before the House had initiated an impeachment inquiry, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr sought and received from federal district court an order to provide to Congress his report, including voluminous grand jury materials. The court’s order granting the request provided expressly that it constituted an order for purposes of the “judicial proceeding” exception in the federal rules.

It was only after digesting Starr’s report, and based upon the report, that the House decided to initiate an impeachment proceeding.

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The Breakfast Club (Abstinence)

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

Cuban exiles invade Bay of Pigs; Three astronauts of Apollo 13 land safely in pacific ocean; Benjamin Franklin dies at age 84; JP Morgan born in Connecticut; Ford rolls out the Mustang convertible.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

War will disappear only when men shall take no part whatever in violence and shall be ready to suffer every persecution that their abstention will bring them. It is the only way to abolish war.

Anatole France

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