Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

  • Mood:

good morning, it's 12 march 2017

So we have a big stack of connected stories from yesterday (and a few from a couple of days before) about the fired Michael Flynn, about Russian contacts with the Trump campaign, and a series of connections between urges-to-investigate Trump's use of the White House to further his business interests and the sudden firing of US Attorneys without replacements.

* Trump adviser admits to contact with DNC hacker
* Michael Flynn Apparently Paid Retired-FBI Agent Embroiled in Clinton Email Scandal

* Ethics Watchdogs Want U.S. Attorney To Investigate Trump's Business Interests
* Trump Abruptly Orders 46 Obama-Era Prosecutors to Resign
* The Showman: How U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara struck fear into Wall Street and Albany.
* Preet Bharara Is Fired After Refusing to Step Down as U.S. Attorney

Neat stuff.

In Texas, we have a neat story about how "Trump is about to pull off one of the biggest transfers of wealth in history and Texas will lose." Well, shoulda maybe not voted for him given that this was one of the central planks of his platform. Given that we're going to be hurt by this too, is a big ol' HA-ha out of line?

Less funny are "How President Trump has already hurt American democracy — in just 50 days" and "The Words We Use About Donald Trump," about the normalisation of neofascism.

Introduced in the House is "H.R.610: To distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools." Definitely keep track of that.

Border issues continue to be fun; two on refugees fleeing the US for Canada, and one pocket guide to getting across the US border without handing over a copy of all your data. "A run for the border," "A perilous, frozen trek into Canada was the only option for three terrified migrants. The alternative was to face death in their home country," and "EFF’S POCKET GUIDE TO PROTECTING YOUR DATA AT THE U.S. BORDER" (PDF booklet).

We have our first anti-gay law passed at the state level since the election - South Dakota takes that shitty crown. "South Dakota Governor Signs Anti-LGBTQ “License to Discriminate” Bill into Law."

This isn't the election's fault, but cuts to the CDC won't help anybody deal with "Deadly fungal infection that doctors have been fearing now reported in U.S."

And today's alt-reality headline, "White Evangelicals Believe They Face More Discrimination Than Muslims" is actually pretty explainable - it's a combination of just outright lying about anything anyone else faces, pity party, and most of all, a zero-sum view of rights; they quite sincerely believe that if they can't oppress others in law (queers particularly, but by no means just) then they are being oppressed and their religious liberty (to oppress others) is being taken away. They've been taught this for decades and this was well and firmly in place even before the 1990s, and it hasn't really changed. Their media have been calling themselves the most oppressed people in America for ages. So really, there's literally nothing new about this story, but it's a good reminder.

----- 1 -----
Trump adviser admits to contact with DNC hacker
The Hill
By Brooke Seipel - 03/10/17

Roger Stone, President Trump's former campaign adviser, on Friday admitted to having private conversations with a hacker who helped leak information from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during last year's campaign.

Stone insisted to The Washington Times that the conversations were "completely innocuous."

“It was so perfunctory, brief and banal I had forgotten it,” Stone told The Times of a private Twitter conversation he had with a hacker known as Guccifer 2.0.

Guccifer 2.0 is believed by the U.S. intelligence community to be a cover identity for Russian intelligence operatives. The intelligence community concluded that Moscow sought to interfere in last year's election to help Trump win.

Stone told the Times he exchanged a handful of messages with Guccifer 2.0 in the weeks following a hack of the DNC, which was revealed in late July.

In one message from Aug. 14, Stone said he was "delighted" that Guccifer 2.0's Twitter account had been reinstated after being suspended.

“wow. thank u for writing back, and thank u for an article about me!!! do u find anything interesting in the docs i posted?” Guccifer 2.0 wrote to Stone, referring to an article Stone wrote for Breitbart News on Aug. 5 which attributed the DNC breach to Guccifer 2.0.

“i’m pleased to say that u r great man. please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me,” Guccifer 2.0 wrote in an Aug. 17 message to Stone.

Stone tweeted on Aug. 21, “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Weeks later, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails were leaked to WikiLeaks, leading many to believe Stone was aware in advance of the hack.

Stone denied any connection to the hacks at the time.

----- 2 -----
Trump is about to pull off one of the biggest transfers of wealth in history and Texas will lose
Richard Parker | The Dallas News
9 March 2017

For 30 years, Texas has been on the winning side of history, getting downright rich off the global trading system that arose after the Cold War. Now, that wealth is about to be taken away in one of the greatest smash-and-grabs in U.S. history.

The Trump administration has drawn plenty of attention for plenty of reasons. But the lynchpin of the Trump era is a tax increase at the border. Called lots of things, it is simply a tax on corporations that import from abroad. The House Republican version is a 20 percent tax that would be the basis of the corporate tax code and pay for, well, everything on the Trump agenda, like the border wall.

It sounds innocuous at first, really, but taxes are a transfer of wealth by a fiat of government. And the wealth has to go from someplace to someplace else. The border tax would transfer an estimated $1 trillion from corporations that import goods and services, namely in the big trading and border states, and Texas is at the top of that list. This wealth would then be divided between government in Washington and legacy manufacturers, largely clustered in the less competitive American Midwest.

The results? The Texas boom would be dealt a serious body blow, felt not just in Laredo and El Paso, but Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and everywhere in between. Consumers everywhere would face higher prices for everything: gasoline, jeans, food -- unless, frankly, a pair of never-before-witnessed miracles occurs. It is the riskiest gambit with the American economy since the tariffs that triggered the Great Depression.


For Texans, in general, the best odds that the border tax will work out for them are 50-50, making the border tax feel a lot less like policy and a lot more like rolling the dice. House Republicans claim that consumers won't feel a thing because the dollar will rise in value, making exports pricier and imports more affordable again. It's a nice theory with just one flaw.

It defies history.

The United States has never bet its entire corporate tax code on such a theory. The border tax is not a value-added tax, as its defenders like to claim, charged at the point of sale. And the last time the federal government imposed average tariffs this high was in the 1920s, which led the Republican Congress to double down with the Smoot-Haley Act in 1930, helping to plunge the globe into the Great Depression.

There is a coincidence of history here, however. Protectionism then, like now, went hand-in-hand with cracking down on Mexicans and the relationship with Mexico. As many as 1 million Mexicans, including Americans of Mexican descent, were sent packing south to make room for an anticipated surge of American-born farm workers who never materialized, as prices fell and fields went fallow. Morality aside, today's crackdown comes with a hefty price tag.

----- 3 -----
How President Trump has already hurt American democracy — in just 50 days
By Brian Klaas March 10 2017
The Washington Post

Today, March 10, is President Trump’s 50th day in office. Since his inauguration on Jan. 20, Trump has governed in a way that poses a unique threat to the integrity of American democracy.

Democracy is bigger than partisanship. Therefore, this is not a critique of Trump’s policy proposals. Rather, it’s a sober assessment of American democracy at a pivotal moment — and a call for Americans of all political stripes to press all politicians to agree, at minimum, on preserving the bedrock principles that make the United States a democracy.

The call is urgent. In just 50 days, Trump’s presidency has already threatened American democracy in six fundamental ways:

1. Trump has attacked the integrity of voting, the foundation of all democratic systems. Without any evidence, Trump has repeatedly claimed that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. This claim is not true. Every serious study that has assessed voter fraud, including studies conducted by Republican presidents, has concluded that the scale of the problem is negligible.


2. After attacking the integrity of his own election, Trump has also undermined the credibility of his own office.


3. Trump’s administration has repeatedly flouted ethics guidelines without consequence.


4. Trump has attacked the independent judiciary. When U.S. District Judge James Robart defied Trump’s travel ban, Trump called him a “so-called judge” and insinuated that he would lay blame for a terrorist attack squarely at the feet of the judiciary.


5. Crucially, Trump has accelerated a long-term trend, prodding tens of millions of Americans to further lose faith in basic institutions of American government. Any experts in federal agencies are now the “deep state.” Trump’s team has begun suggesting that the nonpartisan, independent Congressional Budget Office — a trusted authority for Democrats and Republicans since 1974 — is simply a group of hacks. There is virtually no authority trusted by both Democrats and Republicans anymore. Instead, the opposing sides are all too inclined to view government as captured by evil partisans rather than disagreeing patriots. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made this view explicit, recently calling for a “purge” of leftists from government in an astonishingly totalitarian tweet. Public trust is part of the lifeblood of democracy, and it is draining faster than ever.


6. Finally, Trump has attacked a cornerstone of every democracy: the free press. He has called legitimate media organizations “fake news” no fewer than 22 times on Twitter in the first 50 days — and many more times in speeches. Worse, Trump called the press the “enemy of the American People,” language that echoes Mao and Stalin rather than Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy.

Trump only views the press as a legitimate player in American democracy insofar as it is willing to affirm his narrative.

----- 4 -----
Trump Abruptly Orders 46 Obama-Era Prosecutors to Resign
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration moved on Friday to sweep away most of the remaining vestiges of Obama administration prosecutors at the Justice Department, ordering 46 holdover United States attorneys to tender their resignations immediately — including Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

The firings were a surprise — especially for Mr. Bharara, who has a reputation for prosecuting public corruption cases and for investigating insider trading. In November, Mr. Bharara met with then President-elect Donald J. Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan and told reporters afterward that both Mr. Trump and Jeff Sessions, who is now the attorney general, had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do.

But on Friday, Mr. Bharara was among federal prosecutors who received a call from Dana Boente, the acting deputy attorney general, instructing him to resign, according to a person familiar with the matter. As of Friday evening, though some of the prosecutors had publicly announced their resignations, Mr. Bharara had not. A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an email that all remaining holdover United States attorneys had been asked to resign, leaving their deputy United States attorneys, who are career officials, in place in an acting capacity.


But the calls from the acting deputy attorney general arose a day after Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator who is a strong supporter of President Trump, said on his evening show that Mr. Trump needed to “purge” Obama holdovers from the federal government. Mr. Hannity portrayed them as “saboteurs” from the “deep state” who were leaking secrets to hurt Mr. Trump. It also came the same week that government watchdogs wrote to Mr. Bharara and urged him to investigate whether Mr. Trump had violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from taking payments from foreign governments.


It is not unusual for a new president to replace United States attorneys appointed by a predecessor, especially when there has been a change in which party controls the White House.

Still, other presidents have done it gradually in order to minimize disruption, giving those asked to resign more time to make the transition while keeping some inherited prosecutors in place, as it had appeared Mr. Trump would do with Mr. Bharara. Mr. Obama, for example, kept Mr. Rosenstein, who had been appointed by George W. Bush.

The abrupt mass firing appeared to be a change in plans for the administration, according to a statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

----- 5 -----
The Showman
How U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara struck fear into Wall Street and Albany.
By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker
Profiles May 9, 2016 Issue

As the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara runs one of the largest and most respected offices of federal prosecutors in the country. Under his leadership, the office has charged dozens of Wall Street figures with insider trading, and has upended the politics of New York State, by convicting the leaders of both houses of the state legislature. Last week, Bharara announced charges against a hundred and twenty alleged street-gang members in the Bronx, in what was said to be the largest gang takedown in New York history. The turning point in Bharara’s own career, though, took place not when he triumphed in a courtroom but when he masterminded a dramatic congressional hearing.

Bharara, who is now forty-seven, graduated from Columbia Law School in 1993, spent several years at private firms, and then, from 2000 to 2005, served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, in Manhattan. On leaving his A.U.S.A. post, he made an unusual choice for a promising young lawyer. Instead of becoming a partner at a law firm, he went to Washington to work for Senator Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat. Schumer chaired the Judiciary Committee’s oversight subcommittee, and Bharara was the top aide on his staff. He organized hearings and prepared Schumer for conducting them. Schumer is famous for cultivating media attention, and his aides are responsible for making sure that he gets it.

...In early 2007, Bharara, under Schumer’s supervision, was investigating the firing of several U.S. Attorneys by Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General in President George W. Bush’s second term. For a hearing on May 15th, the issue was whether the firings had been politically motivated. Bharara prepared James Comey, who had been Deputy Attorney General in the Bush Administration, to testify.

“That was my hearing, chaired by Senator Schumer,” Bharara told me. He knew the witness well, because Comey had been the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District when Bharara was an A.U.S.A. there. “I talked to Jim the week before and said, ‘We’re going to have you come testify.’ ” In debriefing Comey before his testimony, Bharara heard a more extraordinary tale than he had expected. On the night of March 10, 2004, Comey had learned that Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, were heading to a Washington hospital, where John Ashcroft, the Attorney General, suffering from gallstone pancreatitis, was in intensive care. Gonzales and Card wanted Ashcroft to reauthorize a government surveillance program that Comey and his staff had concluded was unlawful. Comey and Robert Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, raced, sirens blaring, to beat Gonzales and Card to Ashcroft’s bedside. In a tense confrontation at the hospital, Ashcroft told Gonzales and Card that, since Comey was Acting Attorney General, the decision was his to make.

----- 6 -----
H.R.610: To distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.
Introduced Jan. 23, 2017

[This bill would mostly abolish the Department of Education, and require direct payments to parents who put children in private schools, and who home school.]

Choices in Education Act of 2017 This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states. The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA's geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses. To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child. No Hungry Kids Act The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children's nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)

----- 7 -----
A run for the border
A perilous, frozen trek into Canada was the only option for three terrified migrants. The alternative was to face death in their home country
By: Randy Turner and Melissa Martin, photos by Phil Hossack
Winnipeg Free Press

EMERSON — All is quiet on the northern front.

It’s the middle of the night, just a stone’s throw from the Canada-U.S. border, and the temperature has fallen to -23 C.

There’s only a breath of wind, but it’s the kind of night where the cold is not weather anymore, it’s the enemy.

So maybe this isn’t a good idea, after all, to sit in a parked car from 11:30 p.m. until dawn hoping to document the first moments for asylum seekers as they set foot on snow-coated Canadian soil.

Surely, no one will arrive on this night, when even sitting in a parked car with the engine off — any border jumpers will likely be heard before they’re seen — is a bone-chilling exercise in patience.

A Free Press reporter is in one car and a photographer is in another. We’re parked on the northeast edge of town, along the railway tracks which, in recent days, have been a common path for refugee claimants — most originally from east Africa — who sneak over the border in the dead of night.

The previous night, one unmarked vehicle, likely occupied by members of the RCMP’s Integrated Border Enforcement Team, sits on the top of a crest overlooking the rail border-crossing.


The next few minutes is a blur.

Upon arrival, a man is being escorted by an RCMP/IBET officer into an unmarked car in the Emerson Inn parking lot. Two other men are seated in the back of the vehicle.

Hossack saw the man now being placed in the police car a few minutes earlier, aimlessly crossing the main street into town pulling a suitcase on wheels. He was wearing only jeans, sneakers, a hoodie under a light jacket and a tuque.

"You need help?" Hossack asked. He nodded, yes.

He said his name was Maurice and was showing signs of hypothermia.

"Am I in Canada?" he asked more than once, clearly exhausted. "What’s going to happen?"

----- 8 -----
March 8, 2017


Crossing the U.S. border? Border agents may demand your digital data. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Consider your individual risk assessment factors. Your immigration status, travel history, the sensitivity of your data, and other factors may influence your choices.

Before your trip:
• Reduce the data you carry. Consider using temporary devices, deleting data from your regular devices, or shifting data to the cloud.
• Encrypt. Use strong full-disk encryption, not just weak screen-lock passwords.
• Passwords. Use software to make them long, unpredictable, and memorable.
• Backup. In case agents seize your devices, backup your data.
• Power down. Do it before arriving at the border, to block high-tech attacks.
• Fingerprint locks. They are weaker than passwords, so don’t rely on them.
• Apps and browsers. Agents use them to get from devices to cloud content. Consider logging out, removing saved login credentials, and uninstalling.
• But be aware: Unusual precautions may make border agents suspicious.


----- 9 -----
Deadly fungal infection that doctors have been fearing now reported in U.S.
By Lena H. Sun | The Washington Post
10 March 2017


Nearly three dozen people in the United States have been diagnosed with a deadly and highly drug-resistant fungal infection since federal health officials first warned U.S. clinicians last June to be on the lookout for the emerging pathogen that has been spreading around the world.

The fungus, a strain of a kind of yeast known as Candida auris, has been reported in a dozen countries on five continents starting in 2009, when it was found in an ear infection in a patient in Japan. Since then, the fungus has been reported in Colombia, India, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Pakistan, South Korea, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.

Unlike garden variety yeast infections, this one causes serious bloodstream infections, spreads easily from person to person in health-care settings, and survives for months on skin and for weeks on bed rails, chairs and other hospital equipment. Some strains are resistant to all three major classes of antifungal drugs. Based on information from a limited number of patients, up to 60 percent of people with these infection have died. Many of them also had other serious underlying illnesses.

Those at greatest risk are individuals who have been in intensive care for a long time or who are on ventilators or have central line catheters inserted into a large vein.

In the United States, the largest number of infections has been reported in New York, with at least 28 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infections have also been reported in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Last June, the CDC sent an urgent alert to clinicians to start looking for the infections, which are difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods.

“As soon as we put out that alert, we started to get information about cases and now we know more about how it spreads and how it’s acting,” Tom Chiller, the CDC’s top fungal expert, said in an interview Thursday. The CDC now tracks the number of infections, updating the case count every few weeks.

In addition to the 35 infected patients, an additional 18 were carrying the organism but weren't sickened by it.

The microbe is among a group of newly emerging drug-resistant threats, health officials said.


The infection is still relatively rare. “It's really hitting the sickest of the sick,” Chiller said.

----- 10 -----
White Evangelicals Believe They Face More Discrimination Than Muslims
A new study suggests different groups of Americans see their country in radically divergent ways.
by Emma Green | Mar 10, 2017 | The Atlantic

In February, pollsters at the Public Religion Research Institute asked Americans about their impressions of discrimination in the United States. Two religious groups were included on the list of those who might face bias: Christians and Muslims. Depending on who was answering, the responses were wildly different.

Overall, people were twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination as they were to say the same thing about Christians. Democrats were four times more likely to see Muslim vs. Christian discrimination, and non-religious people more than three. White Catholics and white mainline Protestants were both in line with the American average: Each group was roughly twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination compared to how they see the Christian experience.

The people who stuck out, whose perceptions were radically different from others in the survey, were white evangelical Protestants. Among this group, 57 percent said there’s a lot of discrimination against Christians in the U.S. today. Only 44 percent said the same thing about Muslims. They were the only religious group more likely to believe Christians face discrimination compared to Muslims.

Historical data suggests white evangelicals perceive even less discrimination against Muslims now than they did a few years ago—or before the election. When this question was asked in a December 2013 PRRI survey, 59 percent of white evangelicals said they think Muslims face a lot of discrimination. As late as last October, 56 percent said this was the case. As of February, that number had dropped by 12 percentage points. It’s possible that this finding is an anomaly—the sample size of white evangelicals in the February poll was smaller than in previous surveys—but it suggests a dramatic shift.

It’s difficult to quantify something as amorphous as “discrimination.” Perceptions like this might be shaped by everything from daily interactions to widely reported instances of assault, vandalism, or other intimidation motivated by bias. In terms of these kinds of hate crimes, Muslims fare far worse than Christians: 22 percent of religiously motivated crimes are against Muslims, compared to the 13.6 percent against Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and other Christian denominations combined. Considering that Muslims are estimated to make up less than 1 percent of the American population, compared to Christians’ 70 percent, these numbers are even more stark. Jews, the group of people who are most likely to be the target of hate crimes, were not included in the PRRI survey as a category.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration used rhetoric and introduced policies that have made members of the Muslim community fearful. Progressives have labeled the recent executive order on immigration a “Muslim ban” because it targets predominantly Muslim countries. In his speeches, the president has emphasized the threat of “radical Islamic terrorism.” And Muslims have relatively little political power compared to other religious groups: Only two of the 535 members of Congress are part of the faith.

Other factors besides hate crimes and Trump’s policies have likely shaped white evangelicals’ perceptions. The questions about discrimination were included in a survey about LGBT issues, and for good reason: More than any other issue, changing cultural and legal norms around same-sex marriage and gender identity have raised objections from Christians. A number of court decisions from the last half decade or so may feed into white evangelicals’ perception that Christians face discrimination, including Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

----- 11 -----
Preet Bharara Is Fired After Refusing to Step Down as U.S. Attorney
The New York Times

Preet Bharara, the Manhattan federal prosecutor who was asked by President Trump to remain in his post shortly after the election, was fired on Saturday after he refused an order to submit his resignation.

Mr. Bharara’s dismissal capped an extraordinary showdown in which a political appointee who was named by Mr. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, declined an order to submit a resignation.

“I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life,” Mr. Bharara wrote on his personal Twitter feed, which he set up in the last two weeks.

Mr. Bharara was among 46 holdover Obama appointees who were called by the acting deputy attorney general on Friday and told to immediately submit resignations and plan to clear out of their offices. But Mr. Bharara, who was called to Trump Tower for a meeting with the incoming president in late November 2016, declined to do so.

Mr. Bharara said he was asked by Mr. Trump to remain in his current post at the meeting. Mr. Bharara met with Mr. Trump at Trump Tower, and then addressed reporters afterward.

----- 12 -----
The Words We Use About Donald Trump
By Adam Gopnik | The New Yorker
March 10, 2017

That’s crazy! That is the instant, intuitive, and, one might think, only possible response of a sane person to a week’s worth of tweets from President Donald Trump. Only crazy people make reckless charges, without any plausible foundation, and then simply shrug and sit on them. Take one recent example: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” This charge is mindboggling, not least for being self-exploding. For Obama to have wiretapped Trump (put aside that that’s not, technically speaking, what is done any longer; the President may have been moved by vague memories of how the feds brought down John Gotti), Obama would have needed his own private team of plumbers to break into, or hack the systems of, Trump Tower. And no one in his right mind suggests that Obama ever had such a team. The most obvious alternative would be that it was done by the F.B.I., in response to a court order spurred by genuine suspicion of grave wrongdoing. In that scenario, Trump would be asserting that someone in the Department of Justice had grounds for such suspicion, sufficient to convince a judge. But he couldn’t possibly have intended to say that. All this suggests that he may not be capable of the normal logic of normal people, of any kind of political bent. And that, folks, would be crazy.

Of course, we are quickly counselled never to say this, in part because calling Trump crazy would be, in plain English, an insult to crazy people. Diagnosis should be left to those with expertise in it; mental illness is not a category to be used casually to describe those whose behavior we find squalid or even abhorrent. And calling people crazy, to take it to the next dimension, is what totalitarian societies do when they want to lock dissidents away.

Understood. But it is still important, for the sake of sanity, to assert that there is a meaningful sense of the word “crazy” that doesn’t demand medical diagnosis. It arises, instead, from an intelligent description of the normal workings of human minds and human relationships. And it’s important to preserve that sense for common usage, because we often need to distinguish between normal people we disagree with or even think may be actively doing wrong—say, taking health insurance away from millions of people in blind pursuit of an ideological passion—and people who are dangerous because they have passed beyond the ability to actively reason with evidence about the world.

----- 13 -----
Ethics Watchdogs Want U.S. Attorney To Investigate Trump's Business Interests
March 8, 2017 4:52 PM ET | NPR

[Called upon to investigate on 8 March; fired by Trump et al on 11 March. You do the math.]

With Congress showing no signs of taking action, a group of ethics watchdogs is turning to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to look into whether President Trump's many business interests violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"Published reports indicate that the Trump Organization and related Trump business entities have been receiving payments from foreign government sources which benefit President Trump through his ownership of the Trump Organization and related business entities," according to a letter sent to Bharara. It went on:

"A failure by your office to investigate these reports and to take appropriate action will leave the nation exposed to foreign governments directly and indirectly providing payments and financial benefits to President Trump when those foreign governments may be seeking to influence Executive Branch policies and positions. This is precisely the kind of problem that the Founding Fathers acted to prevent by including the Foreign Emoluments Clause in the Constitution."

The letter was signed by Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, which sued Trump in January, alleging ethics violations, and has worked hard to keep the issue on the table. Also signing were Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, and Paul Smith, vice president of the Campaign Legal Center, as well as former Obama ethics adviser Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, adviser to George W. Bush.

----- 14 -----
SHAMEFUL - South Dakota Governor Signs Anti-LGBTQ “License to Discriminate” Bill into Law
By Allison Turner | Human Rights Campaign | March 10, 2017

Today HRC joined the ACLU of South Dakota in calling out South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard for signing into law Senate Bill (SB) 149 -- discriminatory legislation targeting LGBTQ people and other minorities. SB 149 enshrines taxpayer-funded discrimination into state law by allowing state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ youth in their care and to reject qualified prospective LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents based on the agency’s purported religious beliefs.

“This is the first anti-LGBTQ bill that any state has signed into law this session. Governor Daugaard’s action not only puts the best interests of the more than a thousand vulnerable children served by South Dakota's foster care system at risk, it signals the potential of a dark new reality for the fight for LGBTQ rights,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “These children could now wait longer to be placed in a safe, loving home at the whim of an state-funded adoption or foster care agency with a vendetta against LGBTQ couples, mixed-faith couples or interracial couples -- all while being taxpayer-funded. LGBTQ children in South Dakota’s foster care system face the risk of staying in a facility that does not affirm their identity and actively works against the child’s well being by refusing to give them appropriate medical and mental health care.”

“Governor Daugaard’s decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law is deeply disappointing,” said ACLU of South Dakota Policy Director Elizabeth A. Skarin. “Loving, qualified families should not be turned away from adopting a needy child simply because they are LGBT, of a different faith than the agency, or divorced. Even worse, this law directly affects the hundreds of children in South Dakota awaiting their forever families -- and those children deserve better from our state leaders.”

----- 15 -----
Michael Flynn Apparently Paid Retired-FBI Agent Embroiled in Clinton Email Scandal
by Alberto Luperon | 1:22 pm, March 11th, 2017
Dan Abrams |

Michael Flynn appears to have paid consultancy fees to the same FBI agent who claimed the State Department tried to bury an email connected to Hillary Clinton and Benghazi. That became apparent in a March 7 filing with the Department of Justice: Flynn registered his firm, the Flynn Intel Group, as a foreign agent of Turkey—work he did during the presidential campaign. An Al-Monitor reporter highlighted that detail after a Daily Caller report from Thursday.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth.

Tags: fascism watch, political
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