Saturday, November 7, 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Fatal Ignorance

Of course he was told about the Russian bounties.

American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, two officials familiar with the matter said.

The investigation into the suspected Russian covert operation to incentivize such killings has focused in part on an April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines as one such potential attack, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.

The new information emerged as the White House tried on Monday to play down the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to encourage and reward killings — including reiterating a claim that Mr. Trump was never briefed about the matter and portraying the conclusion as disputed and dubious.

But that stance clashed with the disclosure by two officials that the intelligence was included months ago in Mr. Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.

Moreover, a description of the intelligence assessment that the Russian unit had carried out the bounties plot was also seen as serious and solid enough to disseminate more broadly across the intelligence community in a May 4 article in the C.I.A.’s World Intelligence Review, a classified compendium commonly referred to as The Wire, two officials said.

A National Security Council spokesman declined to comment on any connection between the Marines’ deaths and the suspected Russian plot. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, did not answer when pressed by reporters on Monday whether the intelligence was included in the written President’s Daily Brief, and the National Security Council spokesman pointed to her comments when asked later about the February written briefing.

Well, there’s the problem: they put it in writing. Unless it’s on Twitter from the Klan or Fox News, he doesn’t hear about it. Or want to hear about it.

And it’s not like it’s breaking news.

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

The White House did not respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump was not — and still has not been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they have not been fully verified. However, it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.

Bolton declined to comment Monday when asked by the AP if he had briefed Trump about the matter in 2019. On Sunday, he suggested to NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump was claiming ignorance of Russia’s provocations to justify his administration’s lack of a response.

“He can disown everything if nobody ever told him about it,” Bolton said.

The revelations cast new doubt on the White House’s efforts to distance Trump from the Russian intelligence assessments. The AP reported Sunday that concerns about Russian bounties were also included in a second written presidential daily briefing earlier this year and that current national security adviser Robert O’Brien had discussed the matter with Trump. O’Brien denies he did so.

It’s one thing to be clueless about the intricacies of how things work.  It’s another thing to ignore the news because it makes you look bad or threatens your chances for re-election.  And when people are dead because of your willful ignorance, that’s criminally negligent homicide.

To reaffirm what I said yesterday, compared to this, impeaching him over Ukraine was like arresting him for double-parking. This fits the the Constitution’s requirement for treason.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Common Sense Precautions

I didn’t watch Trump’s Oval Office speech, but according to those who did, it was the usual blame-someone-else and aren’t-I-smart? kind of crap that informs little and calms no one.  From the Washington Post:

In an Oval Office address Wednesday night, Trump said that his European travel restrictions will not include the United Kingdom and will include exceptions for Americans who have received “appropriate screenings.” He and administration officials later tweeted that the restrictions apply only to people, not goods and trade, and will not include a bar on U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Trump spoke sternly about what he called a “foreign virus” that “started in China and is now spreading throughout the world.”

“The virus will not have a chance against us,” Trump said. “No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.”

Yeah, somehow that does not instill confidence. For one thing, there’s no such thing as a “foreign virus.” It’s a virus, period, so even if it came from China or the planet Cardassia, it’s a disease that has to be dealt with.  A virus does not distinguish between U.S. citizens or legal residents; it won’t check your passport before infecting you, and carrying a U.S. passport will not somehow magically protect you unless you blow your nose into it.  Washing your hands and using a Kleenex will.

The NBA is suspending their season until further notice after one player tested positive, and the NCAA is going to hold March Madness in empty arenas.  Nursing homes and adult care facilities, including the place where my parents live, are instituting screening procedures for visitors.  I’ve gotten e-mails from hotel chains, airlines, and public transit reassuring me that they’re being extra careful in their cleaning procedures, and so far the public schools, including the ones where I work part-time, are following prudent but not over-reactive steps to keep the virus at bay.  The trending videos on YouTube are songs to sing for at least twenty seconds while you wash your hands.  I prefer the first two verses of Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Jabberwocky.”

Meanwhile, Florida is bracing for impact.

So far, there are 147 pending test results for coronavirus. There are 476 people currently monitored. Two Florida residents have died from the disease, which can be especially life-threatening for those with complicating health conditions and those of advanced age.

House Speaker José Oliva, R-Miami Lakes said the Miami-Dade case was “to be expected.”

“Miami is the gateway to the Americas,” he said. “People fly in and out of Miami every day. It’s one of the busiest airports of the country.”

The news came after a rash of eight cases was announced Tuesday night and one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office rejected at comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert on the federal Coronavirus Task Force.

Gov. DeSantis is a vocal sycophant to Trump so this response is not unexpected, but it seems that the virus has a powerful sense of karma.

The lesson here is to not panic, be informed, listen to the people who know how to handle a pandemic, and don’t try to find someone to blame for biology, epidemiology, and viral evolution.

And wash your hands.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Gesundheit.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Parnas Interview

The talk on TV today will no doubt devote a lot of time to discussing Rachel Maddow’s interview last night with Trump/Giuliani operative Lev Parnas and his attorney.  There’s analysis (no paywall) at TPM, and Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice goes through it and provides a critique of Ms. Maddow’s interrogation style.

The information that Parnas presented was a mixture of accurate information, misinformation, and agitprop. For instance, we already know, from previous reporting that has been verified by subsequent reporting, that Giuliani had a strange fixation on the Ukrainian black ledger that implicated Manafort. So it isn’t surprising when Parnas presented that in one of his answers. Nor was it surprising when he made it very clear that it was never about corruption, it was just about Vice President Biden, his son Hunter, and getting dirt on them for political purposes in the 2020 election. This too has been reported on extensively and verified in subsequent reporting. As was the information about the quid pro quo given to Ukrainian President Zelensky And the information about trying to get a deal cut for Dmitro Firtash in exchange for his help. And I have no doubt, despite his attempt to get ahead of things on Fox News tonight, that Congressman Nunes is up to his eyeballs in this meshugas.

[…]

The releases of the information that Parnas has turned over to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are all interesting. And like tonight’s interview some of that information is accurate and true, some is disinformation, and some is agitprop. The proof will be in the vetting of that documentary information, just as it will be in the vetting of the information Parnas provided this evening. It is important to remember that Parnas is alleged to be a low level member or associate of post-Soviet and Russian organized crime. He is only as credible as his statements and documentary evidence can be verified.

And that’s where I get to the format/process problem. I’ve conducted semi-structured interviews as part of my work for the US Army and I’ve trained Soldiers on how to do them to collect information and intelligence. I’ve mentioned before that over a four to five month period I interviewed around 50 sheikhs, imams, and other local elites and notables using a semi-structured format across central Iraq (Baghdad Province and parts of Anbar, Wassit, and Diyala Provinces). I’m a huge fan of putting the subject of the interview at ease and letting them tell you their story – the true parts, the false parts, and the parts that fall in between. But there is a difference between doing that, and being prepared to ask sound follow up questions rooted within the context of the answers and information you’re being provided, and credulously just eating it up while looking focused and concerned. And this means asking questions like: “how do you know?” and “can you provide verification for that?” or “do you have documents about that?” or “who else should we talk to in order to verify that?”. I’m not qualified to judge whether Maddow’s interviewing process made for compelling television, but from an information gathering standpoint it was a failure. Maddow was far too credulous and failed to ask the necessary follow on questions. I will make an important caveat: she may have been prevented from doing so by agreement with Parnas’s attorney about the format of the interview. But, if that was the case, then it should have been disclosed. I’ve seen Maddow do far more adversarial and far better interviews with friendly guests. This was not one of her best outings.

The bottom line is that no matter what Mr. Parnas said and no matter how good or bad Ms. Maddow was in conducting the interview, nothing of substance will come out of it in terms of the impeachment trial.  The die is cast, the fix is in, Trump will be acquitted, and Lev Parnas will show up as an answer on the “Jeopardy!” GOAT tournament in 2035.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Spare Us The Gruesome Details

Trump seemed to relish in telling the world how he alone caught and killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

At a special Sunday morning press conference in Washington D.C., Trump described the way U.S. Special Operations Forces attacked Baghdadi’s compound and killed him in such graphic and explicit detail that some intelligence professionals worried he may have revealed, again, too much about sources and methods.

But Trump knows great television when he sees it, and he was enthusiastic about the images he was watching from the White House situation room Saturday night. “It was absolutely perfect, as though you were watching a movie,” he said.

That may have the makings of a trailer for the inevitable movie that will be made of this operation, but there are some things that are off and off-putting.

First, the graphic descriptions trivializes the background work that the professionals put into it, making it more like Halo night than a military mission.

Second, as noted, his overkill, so to speak, and his inclination to put out pictures and details may reveal too much to those watching and who may reverse-engineer the operation.

Lastly, it’s just wrong to glorify this kind of operation.  America should not dance on the graves of its adversaries.  The Special Operations Forces certainly don’t want that kind of exposure, and this kind of spectacle is more in line with something a narcissistic dictator would pull off, puffing out his paunch to prove to the world he’s a badass when in reality it’s telling us he’s an insecure bully, clinging to power by sheer fear of being called out.  He made it clear that while Obama may have been in charge when they got Osama bin Laden, he was going to out-do him, not because Baghdadi represented a threat to the world but because he just had to score a point in his feverish quest to put down Barack Obama.

Oh, and telling the Russians that the operation was underway before notifying Congress tells the world who he really reports to.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

For All To See

Everybody loses their shit every now and then.  If you’re in a very high-profile job with urgent matters coming at you in every direction and everyone expects you to make very tough decisions, you’re going to let off steam.  But you don’t do it in front of people who will walk outside and tell a gaggle of reporters that they just saw someone turn into a six-year-old brat in front of them.  You keep it together until the doors are closed and there’s no one who can hear you.

Not this guy.

Trump faced off against both parties in Congress on Wednesday in an extraordinary confrontation over his decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies as the vast majority of House Republicans joined Democrats to condemn his policy in an overwhelming vote.

Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated after withdrawing troops from Syria and clearing the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurds who had fought alongside the United States. The president all but washed his hands of the conflict, saying that it “has nothing to do with us,” generating withering criticism from Republicans and leading to a stormy clash with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bereft of supporters and under pressure from an impeachment inquiry, Mr. Trump spent much of the day defending his decision and lashing out against rivals. He dismissed the Kurds, who until last week shared outposts with American soldiers, saying they were “no angels” and fought for money. And he berated Ms. Pelosi as a “third-grade politician” or “third-rate politician,” depending on the version, prompting Democrats to walk out of a White House meeting.

“I think now we have to pray for his health,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters afterward. “This was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.” She said Mr. Trump seemed “very shaken up” by the cascade of criticism.

Mr. Trump said it was the other way around. “Nancy Pelosi needs help fast!” he wrote on Twitter. “She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!”

Yeah, that last little bit of projection shows that he’s got all the tantrum moves down pat.

This will either be another bit of evidence at his impeachment trial or the invocation of the 25th Amendment.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Universal Sickness

A gunman opened fire on two mosques in New Zealand on Friday (NZ time), killing at least 40 people.  The motive was racial; the assault was streamed live and documents in support of his attack were posted on line.

At more than 74 pages, the document outlines a white supremacist motivation for the attack. The writer, who identifies himself as a 28-year-old white man born in Australia, quotes the so-called 14 Words, the slogan shared by white supremacists worldwide. He said that while he supported white nationalist groups, he alone had decided to carry out the attack. He described the victims as “invaders” and accused them of seeking to replace white people. He wrote about attacking two mosques, one in Linwood and one in Christchurch. He focused on the latter because it was the largest, he wrote.

The Twitter account only started posting content on March 12, repeatedly sharing white nationalist content about “illegal immigrants.” Twice, the user shared a Facebook profile for the Otago Muslim Association, which the manifesto said was the first choice for the attack.

White supremacy isn’t just an American disease.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Catching Up

I’ve been away all weekend and so there’s a lot of things that went on that I am now catching up on.  Such as:

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots got busted for solicitation at a strip mall (so to speak) “massage” parlor in Jupiter (nowhere near Miami) Florida.  He’s not the victim.  The women being trapped and trafficked in the joint are.

Trump is taking over the Washington, D.C. 4th of July celebration as his own orgy, taking his cue from his BFF KJU of North Korea;

Trump Jr. put out a self-aggrandizing tweet about possibly running for president in 2024;

Roger Stone, who is G. Gordon Liddy to Trump if Liddy were played by any one of the Three Stooges, got slapped down by the judge overseeing his case but still can’t keep his clods in line;

“Green Book” won the Oscar as best picture of 2018.  Haven’t seen it yet.

What else did I miss?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Covering The Coverup

The New York Times is out with an analysis of how Trump and his minions have routinely tried to quash, silence, and intimidate anyone or any news organization trying to uncover the truth about whatever the hell is going in in his administration.

WASHINGTON — As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president.

An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.

White House lawyers wrote a confidential memo expressing concern about the president’s staff peddling misleading information in public about the firing of Michael T. Flynn, the Trump administration’s first national security adviser. Mr. Trump had private conversations with Republican lawmakers about a campaign to attack the Mueller investigation. And there was the episode when he asked his attorney general about putting Mr. Berman in charge of the Manhattan investigation.

Mr. Whitaker, who this month told a congressional committee that Mr. Trump had never pressured him over the various investigations, is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury.

On Tuesday, after The Times article published, Mr. Trump denied that he had asked Mr. Whitaker if Mr. Berman could be put in charge of the investigation. “No, I don’t know who gave you that, that’s more fake news,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn’t.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that the White House had not asked Mr. Whitaker to interfere in the investigations. “Under oath to the House Judiciary Committee, then-Acting Attorney General Whitaker stated that ‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation,’” said the spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec. “Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony.”

The story of Mr. Trump’s attempts to defang the investigations has been voluminously covered in the news media, to such a degree that many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is. But fusing the strands reveals an extraordinary story of a president who has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history, and who has turned the effort into an obsession. Mr. Trump has done it with the same tactics he once used in his business empire: demanding fierce loyalty from employees, applying pressure tactics to keep people in line and protecting the brand — himself — at all costs.

It should be noted that the Justice Department’s denial of Mr. Whitaker’s actions is irrelevant.  It’s that Trump tried to get an attorney that was on his side to run the investigation.  Whether or not Mr. Whitaker complied isn’t the issue; that Trump tried is.

What emerges from this story is that Trump is obsessed with putting an end to any news coverage of him that isn’t fawning.  Given his past and his personality, that’s not surprising, but where it has gotten him in trouble is that in order to win over the base and win the election, he and his minions engaged in illegal acts, and now they’re trying to cover them up and intimidate and demonize anyone who is trying to get to the truth.  Innocent people don’t act like that.  If they’ve done nothing wrong, they don’t need to.

The other element in this story is the acknowledgment that the public is basically immune to being outraged or surprised by Trump.  That’s to be expected in a time when a viral meme can come and go with the lifespan of a fruit fly — this week’s media obsession is next week’s question in bar trivia contests — but whether or not the public cares or is aware of high crimes and misdemeanors really has no bearing on whether or not he should be held accountable.  Nor should the attempts by his leather-lunged supporters to distract our attention with yet another attempt to bring up Hillary’s e-mails or Barack’s birth certificate.  Those of us who are old enough to remember Watergate know that the public was far more interested in what happened to Patty Hearst than what Richard Nixon was doing in the West Wing.  It wasn’t until the Senate hearings interrupted “The Price Is Right” and soap operas that the average voter was even aware that crimes had taken place, and their response was typical: “When will I get my stories back?”

Fortunately that doesn’t matter.   Justice and the application thereof is not based on how it trends on Twitter, and no amount of threats and cries of “Fake News!” will put an end to it.

Friday, February 15, 2019

It Can Happen Here

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis called it.

It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis,[1] and a 1936 play adapted from the novel by Lewis and John C. Moffitt.[2]

Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a demagogue who is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values. After his election, Windrip takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force, in the manner of Adolf Hitler and the SS. The novel’s plot centers on journalist Doremus Jessup’s opposition to the new regime and his subsequent struggle against it as part of a liberal rebellion.

Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post today:

We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump, and it is a force of mindless, pointless disruption.

The president’s decision to officially declare an emergency — to pretend to build an unbuildable border wall — is not only an act of constitutional vandalism. It is also an act of cowardice, a way to avoid the wrath of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the far-right commentariat.

It is an end run around Congress and, as such, constitutes a violation of his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” — which gives Congress, not the president, the authority to decide how public money is spent. It does not give Trump the right to fund projects that Congress will not approve. Authoritarian leaders do that sort of thing. The puffed-up wannabe strongman now living in the White House is giving it a try.

If you think I’m being alarmist — what’s next, the Reichstag? — then remember that if Trump gets away with declaring a national emergency for a mythical wall, what’s to stop him from doing the same for banning Muslims?  Yeah, he tried that, and the courts basically let him get away with it.

The only thing that seems to be holding the Republicans from getting totally on board with this is the realization that the next Democratic president could declare an emergency on guns or climate change, which seems to be a particularly weak argument on their part: the other guys will come up with shit that’s crazier than our own guy.

The fact that former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, who filled in for the fired James Comey, considered the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment should awake you and us.  He’s not some left-wing socialist, but a career man who clearly believes in the rule of law.  And if he’s worried about who’s running the country, we all should be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

All In It Together

This blockbuster report in the New York Times pretty much confirms everything that Trump and his minions have been denying about Russian interference in the elections in the U.S.

The Russian influence campaign on social media in the 2016 election made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans, used an array of tactics to try to suppress turnout among Democratic voters and unleashed a blizzard of activity on Instagram that rivaled or exceeded its posts on Facebook, according to a report produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The report adds new details to the portrait that has emerged over the last two years of the energy and imagination of the Russian effort to sway American opinion and divide the country, which the authors said continues to this day.

“Active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms,” says the report, produced by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Tex., along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research LLC. One continuing Russian campaign, for instance, seeks to influence opinion on Syria by promoting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president and a Russian ally in the brutal conflict there.

The New Knowledge report is one of two commissioned by the Senate committee on a bipartisan basis. They are based largely on data about the Russian operations provided to the Senate by Facebook, Twitter and the other companies whose platforms were used.

Add to that the fact that the Republicans have been working quite openly to suppress minority voting for about fifty years, and … well, to quote that immortal sage Curly Joe, what a coinky-dink.

So either the Russians saw a massive opportunity to influence the election in 2016 because American voters are gullible and easy taken in by such simple tricks as well-engineered planted stories on social media — not a surprise given that millions of people will believe that Elvis is still alive and working at a Burger King in Grand Rapids if the National Enquirer says so — or a crafty election campaign just happened to bump into a bunch of Russian operatives who could pull an election win out of the trunk of their Buick.

Whether or not they actively sought each other out or just happened to be working for the same goal and found themselves along the same path, and whether or not that becomes a de facto conspiracy is a matter for the courts and a jury to decide.  But the result was what both of them wanted: the installation of Trump in the White House and corrosion of the American electoral system to the point that it could be manipulated by an outside force.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Desperation

From the Washington Post:

A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.

The child’s death is likely to intensify scrutiny of detention conditions at Border Patrol stations and CBP facilities that are increasingly overwhelmed by large numbers of families seeking asylum in the United States.

According to CBP records, the girl and her father were taken into custody about 10 p.m. Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in.

More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., CBP records show. Emergency responders, who arrived soon after, measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from CBP, she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

It took them eight hours to find out that she hadn’t eaten or had water.  All they had to do was ask.

Note that these 163 people were not trying to enter the country illegally.  They presented themselves at the border crossing as refugees, turning themselves into Border Patrol, the way you’re supposed to.

This is a result of a border policy that is more concerned about politics than it is about people; about a mindset that says that people who try to violate the sanctity of our borders deserve what they get — trust me, that will be the GOP base response via Fox News — and a president and an administration that doesn’t give a damn about anyone that can’t do something for them.

This is devastating.  It was also utterly predictable.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Welcome To America

And get gassed.

U.S. authorities closed off the busiest port of entry along the U.S. border with Mexico on Sunday and fired tear gas at members of a Central American migrant caravan who had rushed the fencing that separates the countries.

Although the number of people at the border was relatively small, the unrest — with migrants attempting to climb fences and run through car lanes to reach the United States, and scenes of mothers and children choking on tear gas — represented a serious escalation of the crisis.

What had begun Sunday morning as a migrant protest of the slow pace of the U.S. asylum claims process devolved into a chaotic scramble in which hundreds made their way to the border hoping to cross onto U.S. soil. To block that from happening, and as some threw rocks and bottles, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers took the rare step of firing tear gas into Mexico as well as closing all legal vehicle and foot traffic to the San Ysidro border crossing, which U.S. officials say normally has about 100,000 visitors per day.

These migrants wanted to get to the border, turn themselves in, and claim asylum.  But the U.S. is greeting them — and their children — with tear gas.

It’s way too early to know how this escalated to using riot gear — but you can expect Fox News and the Trump folks to elevate it to level of a massive onslaught of terrorists and Muslims — but at some point someone’s going to end up dead.  Maybe more than one.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Murder On Fifth Avenue

The New York Times has a very chilling account of how the hit squad from Saudi Arabia tortured, killed, and them disposed of the body of Jamal Khashoggi.  Warning: the following content is graphic.

His killers were waiting when Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. They severed his fingers and later beheaded and dismembered him, according to details from audio recordings described by a senior Turkish official on Wednesday.

Mr. Khashoggi was dead within minutes, and within two hours the killers were gone, the recordings suggested…

…A team of 15 Saudi agents, some with ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was waiting for Mr. Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate the moment he arrived, at about 1:15 p.m. on Oct. 2.

After he was shown into the office of the Saudi consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, the agents seized Mr. Khashoggi almost immediately and began to beat and torture him, eventually cutting off his fingers, the senior Turkish official said.

“Do this outside. You will put me in trouble,” Mr. al-Otaibi, the consul, told them, according to the Turkish official and a report in the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, both citing audio recordings said to have been obtained by Turkish intelligence.

“If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up,” one of the agents replied, according to both the official and the newspaper.

As they cut off Mr. Khashoggi’s head and dismembered his body, a doctor of forensics who had been brought along for the dissection and disposal had some advice for the others, according to the senior Turkish official.

Listen to music, he told them, as he put on headphones himself. That was what he did to ease the tension when doing such work, the official said, describing the contents of the audio recording.

And yet, the White House and Trump are giving the Saudis all the cover they need, and it’s a murder.

So far the reaction from both the base and the Republican leadership has been a shrug: yeah, we know they did it, but they’re Arabs and that’s what they do, and besides, it’s not like he was an American, and even if he was a permanent resident of the U.S., he was a journalist and aren’t they the enemy of the people, anyway?

Trump was pretty much right when he said he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and get away with it; swap in a hit squad in Istanbul and it barely registers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Monday, September 24, 2018

Another Woman Comes Forward

From The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer report on another woman coming forward to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, this time in college.

As Senate Republicans press for a swift vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Senate Democrats are investigating a new allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. The claim dates to the 1983-84 academic school year, when Kavanaugh was a freshman at Yale University. The offices of at least four Democratic senators have received information about the allegation, and at least two have begun investigating it. Senior Republican staffers also learned of the allegation last week and, in conversations with The New Yorker, expressed concern about its potential impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Soon after, Senate Republicans issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote. The Democratic Senate offices reviewing the allegations believe that they merit further investigation. “This is another serious, credible, and disturbing allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. It should be fully investigated,” Senator Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, said. An aide in one of the other Senate offices added, “These allegations seem credible, and we’re taking them very seriously. If established, they’re clearly disqualifying.”

The woman at the center of the story, Deborah Ramirez, who is fifty-three, attended Yale with Kavanaugh, where she studied sociology and psychology. Later, she spent years working for an organization that supports victims of domestic violence. The New Yorker contacted Ramirez after learning of her possible involvement in an incident involving Kavanaugh. The allegation was conveyed to Democratic senators by a civil-rights lawyer. For Ramirez, the sudden attention has been unwelcome, and prompted difficult choices. She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident. “I would think an F.B.I. investigation would be warranted,” she said.

In a statement, Kavanaugh wrote, “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name—and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building—against these last-minute allegations.”

The White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said the Administration stood by Kavanaugh. “This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”

What I find interesting about both this and the first story about the high school party that started all of this is Judge Kavanaugh’s insistence that neither that nor this incident took place at all.  He’s not equivocating with lines like, “I don’t recall,” or even, “Yeah, I was there but it wasn’t me.”  He’s going full-tilt denial, which makes it a binary choice: either he’s telling the truth and a bunch of other people are lying, or he’s lying and he’s counting on a bunch of other people to back him up.  There’s no half-way on this for him or for the accusers.

If this was a court of law (and if I was a lawyer), I’d say he has the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt was on the accusers.  But it isn’t (and I’m not) so what it comes down to is who do you believe?  Women who have nothing to gain and clearly are putting their careers (and in the case of Prof. Ford, her safety) on the line are coming forward.  Judge Kavanaugh has his reputation — and that’s a valuable commodity — but his current job is not at risk unless the Senate chooses to open impeachment hearings.  Clearly the stakes are not equal.  So both Prof. Ford and Ms. Ramirez must be both sure of themselves and their recollections, while Judge Kavanaugh is not allowing for any room for error.

Which brings me back to my original point: why is he so dead-set certain that both women are lying and the incidents never happened?  After all, if his supporters can say that it happened so long ago and the women were clearly intoxicated to the point that they can’t remember it clearly, how is it that Judge Kavanaugh recalls so clearly that nothing happened at all?  Why isn’t his memory of events so long ago just as hazy?  We already have circumstantial evidence that he knew how to party in high school; how is it that he’s so sure that he wasn’t at the party in question in Maryland or at Yale?

Either he’s relying on the fact that it’s very hard to prove a negative, or he’s taking his cues from the man who nominated him to the Supreme Court.  Trump has never admitted to anything even when there’s undisputed proof.  So far it’s worked for him.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Primary Results

Florida is setting up for an election between two very different candidates and ideologies in the governor’s race: Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee for the Democrats and Rep. Ron DeSantis for the Republicans.  They couldn’t be more different if you were asked by Central Casting to choose two polar opposites, and that seems to be the theme for the election as a whole, from governor down to local contests.

Andrew Gillum is African-American, setting up the possibility of being the first black governor of the state, and got backing from Bernie Sanders.  He came from behind to win in a field that included Gwen Graham, a one-term Congress-person and the daughter of former governor and senator, Bob Graham.  Ron DeSantis came out of the woodwork to beat Adam Putnam, who has been running for the office since he was in high school, thanks to a tweet by Trump.  He’s a Trumper all the way and this race is going to get really nasty really quickly; there are still parts of the state where whistling Dixie isn’t just an expression, and setting up an unapologetic liberal with a right-wing Trump-sucker will bring national focus, and that means lots of money for PAC ads and all sorts of shit.

Speaking of all sorts of shit, the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott has been set for months, and that too is going to be a study in contrasts.  Mr. Nelson is old school; moderate, unassuming, and competent, while Gov. Scott has been a disaster for the environment, education, and still stinking of corruption.

Locally — as in Miami-Dade County — the race a lot of people have been focused on is the one for U.S. House District 27, which happens to be my district.  Ileana Roz-Lehtinen, a somewhat moderate Republican, is retiring, and the primary race generated a lot of contenders, including David Richardson, who is openly gay.  Donna Shalala, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration and then was president of the University of Miami from 2001-2015, came back to the area, dumped a ton of money into the race, and won.  She will go up against Maria Salazar, guaranteeing that the district will send a woman to Congress.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about how Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, the Republican running for Congress who claimed that she was abducted by Christ-like aliens and still keeps in touch with them via telepathy did, she got 1,684 votes.  The endorsement by the Miami Herald was a big help.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

They’re Out

The rescue of the kids and their soccer coach from the cave in Thailand has been completed successfully.  Let it be remembered that former Thai Navy diver Saman Gunan died in the attempt to bring them out.

Now that they’re safe, let’s turn our attention to the more than 2,000 children that are still being held hostage by the Trump administration.