Thursday, May 30, 2019

May links

Religious right takeover. After about 40 years of trying, the religious right is taking over and abolishing the right to a safe, legal abortion. Conservatives used to pay lip service to pro-life groups, and those groups got fed up and marshalled their strength, electing someone malleable like Trump and his openly pious VP, Mike Pence. Snippet: More rights for workers to opt out of tasks due to conscience and religious belief. Will patients not receive care because of it?

Abortion actions in states. Many states are changing their abortion laws. Some are pushing to overturn Roe v Wade, and others are updating to allow late term abortion for therapeutic reasons. Related: an argument that men cause all pregnancies. Fun to read, but does it hold together? And an article and interesting comment thread about stealthing, which is secretly removing a condom during sex.

Mueller as witness. A profile of what to expect, as though we couldn't predict it from what we know already. Sober, honest, rule-based, tough, consistent. <---- Well, that item is now defunct. Mueller has said that his report is his testimony, and he has nothing to add. And finally a cogent conservative view on why Mueller was wrong to hint so broadly that Trump obstructed justice. I've read so much junk from conservatives, it's a relief to find something intelligent.

The spies don't like it. Trump has appointed Bill Barr, the Attorney General, to decide what documents to declassify related to unfair investigations into the Trump campaign. I don't trust Barr to be impartial or the intellligence servicess to be candid, but the truth almost always comes out.

Shutting down free press in Europe. Scary. Not by killing journalists, but by buying up the media outlets.

Maneuvering over impeachment. Impeachment will help Trump, so he's now trying to goad the Dems into it. I'll have to check what GOP mouthpieces are saying. Maybe their 'coup' rhetoric will be replaced with claims that the Dems are impeaching Trump, even when they aren't. It's obviously theater and moot because the Senate won't convict. In related news, Trump had a temper tantrum, blew up a negotiations session that was supposed to work toward an infrastructure bill, and then ranted in the Rose Garden. But it was all planned, with the podium and signs already set up.

My obsession with fake claims of voting fraud. Another entry in this category. Texas tries to remove non-citizens and screws up. Let me guess--are minorities the main target again?

Conservative fake news industry. For outright lies, conservative media wins hands down. Someone faked a video of Pelosi slurring her words, and the rubes ate it up. In related news, the Washington Examiner had a headline about Buzzfeed having to correct a tweet. It was a small correction, hardly worth a newstory or headline. I wonder when the Examiner will correct its own false stories, like the one I write about here.

Developing nations. An overview of nations with different levels of development and different obstacles. A good encapsulation, with helpful examples.

Is India headed to another civil war? Trouble is simmering, and might explode.

Important link on server forensics. Damn those stupid talking points. The DNC didn't need to turn over servers to the FBI according to an actual computer expert.

Still available by mail, no matter what state
Image: thecut.com

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A third case of conservative distortion: The Attorney General

Benjamin Wittes, who writes for Lawfare and lately also for The Atlantic, rakes Bill Barr (the new Attorney General) over the coals. Barr is the successor to Trump's previous punching bag, Jeff Sessions. Incidentally, maybe no cabinet officer received such shabby treatment as did Sessions.

Wittes' complaint is that Barr misrepresents what Mueller's meticulous investigation found. A more concise version is also available from the New York Times. Both are worth reading. The NYT version has direct comparison of Barr's statements versus what Mueller reported. It's quite scathing, even though the author doesn't call Barr a liar. The author does highlight phrases from Mueller, and shows how Barr distorted them. Barr did it so shamelessly that he comes out looking horrible.

Wittes' takedown is more complete, pointing out precisely the twists and turns in Barr's distortions. For example, Wittes shows how Barr claims there was no collusion, when in fact Mueller found evidence of interactions between Russia and Trump's campaign. How is that nothing? Because there wasn't enough evidence to make charges with confidence of a conviction.

The conservative site Washington Examiner methodically rips Barr apart. Or moreso, it rips apart the idea that Trump should be the judge of whether he is being investigated unfairly:
"No man, not even the president, should be allowed to adjudge his own case... The very notion of such power runs counter to the entire basis of America’s constitutionally limited government... "
That is a simple, elegant explanation. Even the president has to allow an investigation to go forth. It's not for him to declare his innocence and shut down the process.

McGahn, the White House counsel during much of the investigation, is quite a contrast to Barr. He would push back against Trump, refused to fire Mueller, gave 30 hours of testimony to Mueller if I remember correctly. He also consulted with his chief of staff, who made written notes of McGahn's meetings with Trump. It sounds as though Trump didn't want notes taken, which hampers clear instructions and the ability to review what's been decided. McGahn has been subpoenaed to testify before Congress. I certainly hope he does. I'd like to hear some of what Mueller's investigators heard, directly from the source. But McGahn may not be willing to discuss private and privileged conversations. 

Image: foxnews.com


Extras. Reviewing how the Congressional response when Mueller was appointed from three sources (one, two, three). More wrangling over the Mueller report, this time by the lawyers for Roger Stone. They are trying to say "No collusion, so there was no cover-up, and obviously no lying to Congress." But maybe there was lying to Congress, and maybe some cover-up, and perhaps a wisp of collusion.

Update 6/7/19. Another good article showing precisely what the lies are.

Two cases of conservative distortions

Double header!! First up is an article from WaPo detailing how Fox News distorted one news story from January 2018. The New York Times reported that Trump had told the White House counsel (McGahn) to have Mueller fired. The rumor that Trump wanted to fire him was going around like crazy, largely because Trump regularly fed the impression. Also Trump was known for firing people, including the head of the FBI, his chief of staff, communications director, and assorted others. Oh yes, he fired people on his reality show too.

But the NYT doesn't report the odd rumor, and it had details. Fox, however, exists in a separate universe and doesn't believe the stinking NYT, even though they have a much better track record for accuracy.

Trump claimed it was fake news. Hannity repeated that. Then Hannity had to back down as actual news operations at Fox confirmed the report. Then spin took over. Trump has the right... This was six months ago... Who cares anyway. Immigration is more important...

The Mueller report confirmed this, by the way. Eye roll for Fox News.

Fox News Spins DOJ Letters

Fox News, as the defender of the Almighty, Protector of the Faith, etc. had an article on an official letter from the White House counsel complaining about the Mueller report. This was perhaps counterprogramming against a letter from Mueller leaked on 4/30/19 where Mueller complains that summaries of his report are inaccurate so the summaries he wrote himself should be released. (They were leaked.)

The letter from the White House counsel complains that Mueller didn't draw conclusions, and he should have. However, the arguments there completely ignore what the rationale that Mueller plainly gave in his report, which was that DOJ policy didn't allow him to make an indictment against the president, so he was doing what he could legally and ethically do considering those restriction. Mueller cites OLC in the first page of Volume II, concerning obstruction of justice inquiries. The White House counsel just ignores that. Plus it veers into an addition Trump probably requested complaining about leaks and claiming Trump is the highest official in the country so blah blah blah he gets to decide everything within the executive branch -- as though conflict-of-interest doesn't happen.

This isn't exactly a legal clown car because there is some coherence. However, it doesn't touch on the most important points, so the goal of the letter seems to be to blow smoke. Sad.

... but it was true.
Image: thedailybeast.com

Friday, May 3, 2019

Last outpost of crazy: Take a dump

A school district superintendent went to a rival school repeatedly to defecate on its track. He was finally caught using surveillance cameras. The behavior which might be expected from a drug-addled psycho arose from a high-ranking professional.

He seems to have a sharp lawyer because he received $100K to leave his job. Now he's suing a police department for releasing his picture and 'smearing his reputation.' Also, he's now seriously underemployed. Hey, I don't think he's ever going back to being a superintendent. But not because of the actions of a police department, but because of his own actions. I hope this guy doesn't get a penny.

Image: lychburgparksandrec.com

April links

Always more on Russia investigation. Now conservative media is pretending the Papadopoulus contact was a CIA asset trying to entrap him. Long WaPo article about adminstration action against Russian hacking before and immediately after the election. Also covering that period, and answering the snarky question 'What did Obama do to stop it?' Even more, though it sounds like maybe Steele gave his dossier to British intelligence and their heads exploded.

FBI scandal. I skimmed the Inspector General report on the Hillary investigation. Strzok looks bad in his handling of the Weiner laptop. Lawfare review of it.

Peace deal failure. Someday I need to write a long piece about why the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks failed. What next for Israelis in their outlook.

Gitmo holding camp. Military tribunals have failed. Slow, questionable decisions, not a firm legal basis.

2020 Election. This is BIG, and worth watching if the trend continues. A poll in Texas has Trump even with two Democratic candidates. These are named candidates, not a generic one. The rich will support Trump in 2020. Not because they like him or respect him, but because the Dems want to raise their taxes.

Midwest flooding. A long article about the Missouri River, and how our relationship to it and adjacent land use should change. Move further away, don't try to manage for navigation because it doesn't carry a lot of navigation.

Japan's economy. Japan is doing pretty well. Not a lost decade.

Trump non-news. Trump's tweeting is becoming unhinged. Is this new and repeat?

Stuff I want to remember

(Clues to my interests.)

Understanding quantitative easing. A good article, very readable, that gives an easy-to-understand analysis of QE. It asked good questions, but I ask even better questions. It tells how QE inflates the value of certain bonds. In rolling back QE, demand is lower and the bonds are worth less. True, except that QE is done with demand is especially soft and needs the boost. QE is rolled back when demand is stronger. Still, I think I have more work to do to understand the workings. QE also shelters borrowers from surges in interest rates, right? Prevents lenders from demanding higher returns.

Extreme crazy conspiracy site. The crazy flat-earth lady gets her news here. Oh, the imagination involved in spinning these tales. Microwaves are needing to cook food grown with fertilizer, but it destroys the nutrients. Ummm, wow.

Gun info database. Save the link to check. Country by coountry information.

Image: bloomberg.com