Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

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good morning, it's 13 april 2017

I wasn't going to do a news post this evening, but this is too important:

"AP Exclusive: Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout." This is a smoking gun. "Here are 10 things about the explosive Washington Post story on Carter Page that only lawyers and #Russiagate analysts would catch." And Trump's response? "As FBI probe continues, Trump says it’s ‘not too late’ to fire Comey."

Comey is not a political appointee. Trump's threatening to fire him. Keep that in mind.

"CNN Exclusive: Classified docs contradict Nunes surveillance claims, GOP and Dem sources say." This particular vector is turning into "everyone vs. Trump," even the Republicans. Blood in the water?

"Trump Says He Offered China Better Trade Terms in Exchange for Help on North Korea" isn't so interesting for the headline or the offer but the _amazing_ degree of unpreparedness and ignorance he walked into that meeting carrying. Seriously, it's _blinding_.

"Sadly, Sean Spicer's Hitler comments serve as a useful distraction for Trump." I don't agree with that, I think it's very important in and of itself in highlighting the white supremacy and holocaust denialism, and that is _not_ a distraction. But still, here it is, along with "Team Bannon ‘Laying Low,’ After Being ‘Blindsided’ by Trump" - Bannon, meet bus? One can only hope.

It's Only Sharia If Brown People Do It: "Alabama senate votes to allow church to form own police force." No, really. 24-4 vote. In other culture war news, "Fake “Radical Feminist” group actually paid political front for anti-LGBT James Dobson organization." The fundamentalist right isn't just propping up TERF groups; it's making fake ones of their own. This is actually pretty traditional for them, but it's good seeing the money trail.

"Sessions orders Justice Dept. to end forensic science commission, suspend review policy," because invalid data, bad science, and fake forensics are good as long as it lets you throw more people - particularly people of colour - into jail. It's grotesque.

More attempts at ACA sabotage: "Trump Threatens to Withhold Payments to Insurers to Press Democrats on Health Bill." This would be a straight-up refusal to issue payments due under the law. Fun times.

"Report: Body of country's first female Muslim judge found in Hudson River" does NOT, I must stress NOT, show signs of foul play at press time. But keep an eye on this.

Also on the 11th, "United passenger threatened with handcuffs to make room for 'higher-priority' traveler." Like the doctor dragged off the plane, this guy, too, had a boarding pass and was seated.

Finally, in COMPLY OR GET THE BEATDOWN, "How the Government Is Turning Protesters Into Felons."

Now I'm going to go to Norwescon and try to act like things are normal for a few days. It won't work, but I can try.

Good luck out there.

----- 0 -----
AP Exclusive: Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout
12 April 2017

[THIS IS ITEM ZERO BECAUSE THIS IS A SMOKING GUN. Manafort is in deep, deep, deep shit.]

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump's campaign chairman.

Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country's former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger's authenticity.

Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort's name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort's firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.

The two payments came years before Manafort became involved in Trump's campaign, but for the first time bolster the credibility of the ledger. They also put the ledger in a new light, as federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been investigating Manafort's work in Eastern Europe as part of a larger anti-corruption probe.


Previously, Manafort and Maloni have maintained the ledger was fabricated and said no public evidence existed that Manafort or others received payments recorded in it. [See: ]

The AP, however, identified in the records two payments received by Manafort that aligned with the ledger: one for $750,000 that a Ukrainian lawmaker said last month was part of a money-laundering effort that should be investigated by U.S. authorities. The other was $455,249 and also matched a ledger entry.

----- 1 -----
(THREAD) Here are 10 things about the explosive Washington Post story on Carter Page that only lawyers and #Russiagate analysts would catch.
Seth Abramson‏ - @SethAbramson

[This is a highly relevant thread]

----- 2 -----
As FBI probe continues, Trump says it’s ‘not too late’ to fire Comey
04/12/17 04:20 PM—Updated 04/12/17 04:23 PM - The Hill
By Steve Benen

In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Donald Trump was asked about “Obama-era staffers” that continue to serve in the executive branch. As the Washington Post reported, one official in particular stood out as important.

"President Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday morning that he has “confidence” in FBI Director James B. Comey, but it was “not too late” to fire him.

"Trump has long sent mixed signals on Comey and the bureau director’s future in government, though his comments to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo are especially important because Comey has now confirmed that the bureau is investigating possible coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to influence the presidential election."

This was all rather odd. For example, Bartiromo characterized Comey as an Obama-era “staffer,” but that’s not quite right. FBI directors are appointed to serve fixed 10-year terms – in large part to help shield directors from overt political influence and pressures – and in this case, the Democratic president chose a Republican to fill the post. That didn’t mean Comey was part of Obama’s “staff.”

But even putting that aside, Trump went on to say, after noting that “it’s not too late” to oust Comey from his post, “We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting.”

The president didn’t specify what, exactly, is “going to be interesting.” I hope he didn’t mean the results of the ongoing counter-espionage investigation into Russia’s efforts to put Trump in the White House.

Because if that is what Trump meant, the on-air comments might start to resemble a veiled threat – along the lines of, “It’s a nice career at the FBI you have there; it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

----- 3 -----
CNN Exclusive: Classified docs contradict Nunes surveillance claims, GOP and Dem sources say
By Jim Sciutto, Manu Raju and Eric Bradner, CNN
Updated 7:25 AM ET, Wed April 12, 2017

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN.

Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump's allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the "unmasking" of US individuals' identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a "massive story."

However, over the last week, several members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees have reviewed intelligence reports related to those requests at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as "normal and appropriate" for officials who serve in that role to the president.

And another source said there's "absolutely" no smoking gun in the reports, urging the White House to declassify them to make clear there was nothing alarming in the documents.

----- 4 -----
Trump Says He Offered China Better Trade Terms in Exchange for Help on North Korea
President doesn’t demand departure of Syria’s Assad but says it is likely
By Gerard Baker, Carol E. Lee and Michael C. Bender
Updated April 12, 2017 7:44 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has offered President Xi Jinping more favorable trade terms for Beijing in exchange for help on confronting the threat of North Korea, raising the prospect of a new pact that does less than Mr. Trump would otherwise like to address the U.S. trade deficit with China.


He said they hit it off during their first discussion. Mr. Trump said he told his Chinese counterpart he believed Beijing could easily take care of the North Korea threat. Mr. Xi then explained the history of China and Korea, Mr. Trump said.

"After listening for 10 minutes, I realised it's not so easy," Mr. Trump recounted. "I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power" over North Korea, he said. "But it's not what you would think."

----- 5 -----
Sadly, Sean Spicer's Hitler comments serve as a useful distraction for Trump
Francine Prose | The Guardian | 12 April 2017

On Monday, at a White House press briefing, Sean Spicer surprised an audience of reporters who must by now have grown accustomed, even hardened, to the press secretary’s gaffes, mistakes and dogged defenses of alternative facts. Extemporizing on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against a civilian population, Spicer explained why the Syrian dictator is more evil than Hitler.

“Someone as despicable as Hitler … didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer told the crowd. Asked to clarify his remark by journalists presumably aware of the Nazis’ use of Zyklon B, first in the euthanasia program and later in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Sobibor, the press secretary compounded his mistake.

“He was not using gas on his own people the way that Assad is doing” he added, thus betraying his ignorance of the fact that hundreds of thousands of Jews, gay people, political opponents and people with disabilities exterminated by Hitler were German and Austrian citizens.

It’s difficult to believe that anyone could go on to make the situation worse, but Spicer rose to the challenge. Unlike Assad, who “dropped (poison gas) … into the middle of towns” Hitler, said Spicer, had the weapons sent “into the Holocaust center”. One can hardly imagine what he was envisioning when he described the concentration and extermination camps as “the Holocaust center”.

This is not the first time that the White House has displayed a curious unwillingness to deal with the Nazis’ final solution to the Jewish question. Soon after his inauguration, on the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Donald Trump issued a statement of sympathy that neglected to mention the Jews.

----- 6 -----
Sessions orders Justice Dept. to end forensic science commission, suspend review policy
The Washington Post
By Spencer S. Hsu April 10

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers.

In a statement Monday, Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013.

A path to meet needs of overburdened crime labs will be set by a yet-to-be-named senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force, Sessions’s statement said.

The announcement came as the commission began its last, two-day meeting before its term ends April 23, and as some of its most far-reaching final recommendations remained hanging before the department.

----- 7 -----
Trump Threatens to Withhold Payments to Insurers to Press Democrats on Health Bill
‘Democrats will start calling me’ if turmoil hits insurance markets, President Donald Trump tells The Wall Street Journal
By Michael C. Bender, Louise Radnofsky and Peter Nicholas
Updated April 12, 2017 5:06 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Nearly three weeks after Republican infighting sank an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump dug back into the battle on Wednesday, threatening to withhold payments to insurers to force Democrats to the negotiating table.

In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said the executive branch may lack legal authority to market he payments established under his predecessor to reduce copayments and deductibles for some of the poorest customers who buy insurance under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Cutting off the payment could trigger turmoil in insurance markets.

"I don't want people to get hurt," Mr. Trump said, "What I think should happen - and will happen - is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating."

----- 8 -----
Team Bannon ‘Laying Low,’ After Being ‘Blindsided’ by Trump
Steve Bannon and his team are treading lightly after President Trump publicly put his chief strategist on notice in an interview Tuesday night.
by Asawin Suebsaeng | The Daily Beast | 04.12.17 3:00 PM ET

As President Donald Trump publicly throws shade at his White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Bannon and his “nationalist” White House allies are “laying low” and hoping that a purge isn’t imminent, according to administration officials speaking to The Daily Beast.

On Tuesday night, the New York Post published its interview with Trump from earlier that day in which the president appeared to distance himself from Bannon, one of his top aides.

“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”

The president went on to point out that “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”

According to Trump administration officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, Team Bannon was “blindsided by” Trump’s words in the Post, one official close to Bannon said. “Of course we didn’t know [that] interview was coming,” the official continued.

----- 9 -----
United passenger threatened with handcuffs to make room for 'higher-priority' traveler
The Los Angeles Times
David Lazarus | 11 April 2017

It’s hard to find examples of worse decision-making and customer treatment than United Airlines having a passenger dragged from an overbooked plane. But United’s shabby treatment of Geoff Fearns, including a threat to place him in handcuffs, comes close.

Fearns, 59, is president of TriPacific Capital Advisors, an Irvine investment firm that handles more than half a billion dollars in real estate holdings on behalf of public pension funds. He had to fly to Hawaii last week for a business conference.

Fearns needed to return early so he paid about $1,000 for a full-fare, first-class ticket to Los Angeles. He boarded the aircraft at Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai, took his seat and enjoyed a complimentary glass of orange juice while awaiting takeoff.

Then, as Fearns tells it, a United employee rushed onto the aircraft and informed him that he had to get off the plane.


“I understand you might bump people because a flight is full,” Fearns said. “But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to.”

----- 10 -----
Report: Body of country's first female Muslim judge found in Hudson River
By Olivia Beavers - 04/12/17 07:08 PM EDT - The Hill

The body of the United States’ first ever female Muslim judge was found Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River near Manhattan, according to a Wednesday New York Post report.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam served as an associate judge of the Court of Appeals. She was the first African-American woman to serve on New York's top court. She was 65.

She had been reported missing earlier in the day, the newspaper reports.

Her husband later confirmed her identity.

Sources tell the Post that there were no visible signs of trauma or physical injuries suggesting foul play.

Police are still investigating.

----- 11 -----
Alabama senate votes to allow church to form own police force
Lawmakers vote 24-4 to let Birmingham church establish a law enforcement department despite critics’ concerns it could be used to cover up crimes
Associated Press | 11 April 2017

The Alabama Senate has voted to allow a church to form its own police force.

Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian church in Birmingham to establish a law enforcement department.

The church says it needs its own police officers to keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe.

Alabama's governor resigns to avoid impeachment amid allegations of affair

Read more
Critics of the bill argue that a police department that reports to church officials could be used to cover up crimes.

The state has given a few private universities the authority to have a police force, but never a church or non-school entity.

Police experts have said such a police department would be unprecedented in the US.

A similar bill is also scheduled to be debated in the House on Tuesday.

----- 12 -----
Fake “Radical Feminist” group actually paid political front for anti-LGBT James Dobson organization
Women's Liberation Front (WoLF) Funded By Pro-Life Anti-LGBT Lobbies
by Rani Baker | TransAdvocate

The Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) is a supposedly radical feminist activist group which, as noted by Pink News, shows “little evidence of campaigning on any women’s issues unrelated to transgender people”. They claim to “lobby for pro choice legislation” and for “women’s autonomy”, but somehow evidence of (or calls to) action for such purposes are completely absent from their website (archived here so you don’t have to give them pageviews) outside that vague mission statement blurb. What you do see, however, is a lot of collusion with not-exactly-feminist-friendly right wing media which is interesting when you realize where their funding comes from.

The anti-LGBT Religious Right has been actively synchronizing their message with and adopting the terminology of anti-transgender feminist academics for a few years now. The goal is to divorce their position from the stodgy backwards-seeming prudish views that they believe lost them the culture war on gay marriage and adopt a language and message that will more easily infiltrate and divide progressive circles. This sparkly modern makeover is one activists like WoLF are more than happy to provide. The Religious Right has been consciously shifting their position away from gay marriage towards transgender rights since the 2014 Southern Baptist Conference. Despite their deep belief that family values are threatened by “feminism, gay rights and trans activism”, Religious Right Groups like the Family Research Council have gladly latched onto anti-trans statements by gay congressman Barney Frank and the academic work of anti-trans feminist academic Janice Raymond to bolster their position. It’s classic wedge-issue strategy.

Let’s get back specifically to WoLF, however, who received a $15,000 grant from Religious Right group Alliance Defending Freedom and collaborated in a joint countersuit with Family Policy Alliance in opposition to Gavin Grimm’s now delayed Title IX suit. This isn’t a secret. An November 5, 2016 email to supporters described the former as follows:

----- 13 -----
How the Government Is Turning Protesters Into Felons
Lost between the tumult of Inauguration Day and the spectacle of the Women's March was the arrest of 214 protesters—now facing felony charges and 10 years in prison.
By Natasha Lennard | Apr 12, 2017 | Esquire

"It's crazy, a few windows got smashed," 23-year-old Olivia Alsip said, two months after her arrest on felony riot charges. "Why are 214 people looking at ten years in prison?"

Alsip only knew one other person at the protest march that day. The political science graduate student from the University of Chicago had met her partner in November, when the two had joined the camps at Standing Rock opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. When they heard about calls to protest Donald J. Trump's inauguration in D.C. on January 20th under the banner "Disrupt J20," they felt they had to be there. "I identify as an anarchist, and I've been an activist for women's and queer rights since the 8th grade," Alsip told me over the phone from Chicago.

Alsip is among 214 defendants facing felony riot charges, up to a decade in prison and a $25,000 fine for their participation in the anti-capitalist, anti-fascist march, which ended with a mass arrest on the morning of Inauguration Day. As far as the student understands, the evidence against her amounts to little more than proof of her presence at the unruly protest, as indicated by her arrest. Like the vast majority of her co-defendants, Alsip didn't break or throw anything. Now she lives in shock over the steep price she and her fellow protesters might pay as the new administration and police forces set the tone for how they will deal with the spike in organized dissent.

Anarchists and anti-fascist activists across the country have responded to Trump's ascendancy, and particularly the attendant emboldening of white supremacists, with confrontational protest. Rivers of digital ink were spilled approving and denouncing the meme-friendly punch delivered to neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, as well as the militant demonstrations that prevented far right troll Milo Yiannopoulos from waxing hateful at UC Berkeley. But while scattered vandalism and punching (a neo-Nazi) were deemed headline-grabbing militancy, the media relegated the most extreme incidents involving anarchists and antifascists—namely, recent treatment of them—to footnotes.

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Tags: fascism watch, politics
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