News

Document Dump: Federal Court Blocks Trump’s Travel Ban… Yet Again

Tired of winning…?

UPDATE: A second federal court rules the same

A federal judge in Maryland early Wednesday issued a second halt on the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban, asserting that the president’s own comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter convinced him that the directive was akin to an unconstitutional Muslim ban.

Trump: Blaming The Victim

This is outright inhumane:

Trump is laying the groundwork for abandoning Puerto Rico, and blaming it for its infrastructure problems that existed pre-hurricane. Lost in his “analysis” is that the people suffering there (still no power or clean water on most of the Island) are AMERICANS.

If Bush was negligent with Katrina response, Trump is being outright punishing.

According to some sources, there are now 117 people listed missing in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria struck the island on Sept. 20. (I’m trying to verify)

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz — who hasn’t been shy about calling out the President for the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico, which she thinks has been inadequate — pushed back.

She called his comments “unbecoming” of a commander-in-chief and said they seem “more to come from a ‘Hater in Chief.’”

He really is a hater.  This is proof.  This has little to do with the fact that Puerto Rico is a territory, not a state, and everything to do with the fact that the people there are Latino.

UPDATE:  More words from the San Juan Mayor — scathing:

And for comparison:

And the White House contradicts Trump:

Asked for a response to Trump’s remarks, the White House later said it was “committed to helping Puerto Rico” and working with local leaders and Congress “to identify the best fiscally responsible path forward.”

“Successful recoveries do not last forever; they should be as swift as possible to help people resume their normal lives,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reiterated during a Thursday news briefing that the Trump administration would “stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done.”

Trump’s Bizarre Puerto Rico Visit On Tuesday

He accused Puerto Ricans of throwing the federal budget “out of whack.”

He suggested Puerto Rico had not experienced a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina, since a mere “16 people” had been confirmed dead.

He told a family of hurricane victims to “have a good time.”

He tossed paper towels to another group of victims, in a church, as if he was shooting basketball free throws.

He told a third group of victims that they don’t need flashlights any longer, though 90 per cent of the island was still without power.

He refused to speak to the mayor of San Juan.

And, as usual, Donald Trump congratulated himself.

Facing withering criticism for his delayed and then belligerent response to the Puerto Rican hurricane crisis, Trump’s Tuesday visit to San Juan was a chance to begin to repair the wounds he had caused over a week of tweeted insults.

Instead he casually tore them open, a smile on his face.

In a frequently abnormal afternoon on the island, Trump showed none of the scripted gravitas of his sombre Monday response to the massacre in Las Vegas. Speaking without notes, he behaved as if the ongoing crisis had long since been fixed by his own doing.

It was vintage Trump — informal, freewheeling, self-centred, detached from facts, wholly unlike the behaviour of any other modern president.

His supporters applauded again, pointing to his authenticity and moments of empathy. Puerto Ricans already upset with him before he landed were infuriated.

He was a national embarrassment.

Trump’s Disastrous Trip To Puerto Rico Not Much Better Than Maria

This man cannot do public service without sounding tone-deaf.  For Trump, it’s about optics, and how good HE looks.

“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here and what is your death count? Sixteen people, versus in the thousands,” Trump said. “You can be very proud. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.”

That statement is problematic in several ways. The idea that Maria was not a “real catastrophe” defies all evidence, and any discussion of the death toll is premature. While the official number remains at 16, where it has been for several days without update, officials have acknowledged it will end up much higher. The Center for Investigative Journalism reported Monday that “dozens” of people are dead, with bodies piling up in morgues, even as the official count has not kept pace. Trump’s decision to use Hurricane Katrina as a benchmark also makes little sense and belittles the suffering in Puerto Rico. Katrina is both the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history since 1928 and a prime example of a mismanaged disaster. Trump also overstated the toll of Katrina, which was less than 2,000.

Trump also misstated Maria’s strength at landfall. “Few people have ever even heard of a Category 5 hitting land, but it hit land, and boy did it hit land,” he said, but the storm was a Category 4 storm when it struck. Trump also said the Coast Guard had saved 16,000 lives in Texas. It’s unclear where he got that number; the Coast Guard has claimed 11,000 rescues.

Throughout the aftermath of the storm, Trump has often appeared more interested in the political ramifications of the storm than on the human effects, focusing on approval of himself and the federal government (though he doesn’t really draw a distinction between the two). This was also true at Muniz Air Force Base. In praising Governor Ricardo Rosselló, for example, Trump reached for the lens of partisan affiliation.

“He’s not even from my party and he started right at the beginning appreciating what we did,” Trump said. “Right from the beginning, this governor did not play politics. He was saying it like it was, and he gave us the highest rates.”

This was an implicit jab at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been critical of relief efforts, and whom Trump claimed over the weekend was doing so because Democrats had put her up to it. His broadside against Yulín serves as a warning to politicians like Rosselló not to follow her lead, lest Trump punish them too. (Speaking in Washington Tuesday, before taking off, Trump said of Yulín, “Well, I think she’s come back a long way. I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that.” It’s unclear what he is referring to. She attended Tuesday’s briefing.)

Trump also greeted Jenniffer González-Colón, a Republican who is Puerto Rico’s delegate to the U.S. House, and asked her to praise federal efforts.

“I watched the other day and she was saying such nice things about a lot of the people who are working so hard,” he said. “Jenniffer, do you think you could say a little bit what you said about us? It’s not about me, it’s about these incredible people from the military, from FEMA, the first responders.”

Yet as with his premature celebration of the death toll, Trump’s comments about Puerto Rico and Maria still fell far short of empathy, and were in some cases strangely tone-deaf. Before leaving for Puerto Rico, Trump complained that rather than the federal government not doing enough, it was Puerto Rican authorities who weren’t doing enough to hasten the recovery.

“On a local level, they have to give us more help,” he said in Washngton. “But I will tell you, the first responders, the military, FEMA, they have done an incredible job in Puerto Rico.”

During his briefing, he made an apparent attempt at joke about the cost of recovery. “I hate to tell you Puerto Rico but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said. “That’s fine. We saved a lot of lives.” Yet the remark comes in the context of Trump repeatedly mentioning Puerto Rico’s debts as both a reason for the slow recovery and a reason to think hard about reconstruction there. Nor did he make similar remarks after hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

Meanwhile, after thanking an Air Force general present at the briefing, Trump went on a strange digression about the F-35 fighter jet, a troubled boondoggle whose cost Trump negotiated down with the manufacturer. The discussion of the plane was roughly as lengthy as the president’s discussion of the victims of the storm, and it had nothing to do with the hurricane. If the Puerto Rico visit sought to reverse the impression that Trump has not taken Maria seriously and does not feel empathy for its victims, Tuesday’s briefing did not help the cause.

UPDATE:

Jesus….

RIP Tom Petty

The shit day continues.

Tom Petty died just now after being discovered unconscious, following apparent cardiac arrest.  There was no breathing or brain activity and the decision was made to take him off life support.  He was 66.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recently completed a summer tour last Monday with three nights at the Hollywood Bowl. The trek marked the band’s 40th anniversary and found him playing rarely played deep cuts like their first album’s opener, “Rockin’ Around (With You),” and a selection of Wildflowers cuts. It was intended to be his “last trip around the country.” He told Rolling Stone, though, that it wasn’t his intention to quit playing. “I need something to do, or I tend to be a nuisance around the house,” he said.

Good article about him here. I especially agree with this:

Here’s what I think I know: Tom Petty has been a rock star for almost 40 years. He has a dozen or so songs that will be played on classic rock radio for as long as there is classic rock radio. If you’re a music fan of a certain age, there was a time in your life when he seemed inescapable. Even now, Petty is still a guy that most people know, even if you don’t actively care about him one way or the other. Tom Petty’s music doesn’t necessarily demand a value judgment. It’s like having an opinion on tap water or concrete. Why bother? It’s just therereliable to the point of invisibilityIf it went missing, you would notice. But it’s never going missing, because Tom Petty has existed since the beginning of time, and will continue to exist until time is extinguished.

Yup.  I was not a huge fan, but there’s not questioning that he belonged in rock & roll.

UPDATE: Ummmmm……

FINAL UPDATE: CBS retracted its earlier confirmation from the afternoon. Petty had been taken off life support but in real life, unlike the movies, you don’t necessarily expire right away. Petty succumbed later in the evening, as reported in the Los Angeles Times:

“On behalf of the Tom Petty family,” said Tony Dimitriades, longtime manager of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty. He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Centerbut could not be revived. He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”

Petty had just completed an extensive tour to mark the Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary. It concluded Sept. 25 with a three-night homecoming stand that sold out at the Hollywood Bowl.

USA Breaks Record For Mass Deaths By Gun Shooting

And here we go again. Politicians will send thoughts and prayers and…

… right… condolences and sympathies, etc… and then nothing will be done.

So here’s what happened.

There are now at least 50 dead and some 200 400 injured. The 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, was previously the deadliest, with 49 killed.

A gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, fired upon a music festival crowd (the Route 91 Harvest Festival — a country music concert) from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.  He apparently broke the windows with a hammer or some other blunt device.

This happened just after 10 p.m. Sunday local time (1 a.m. ET Monday)  

Here’s a compilation video:

Police scanner as it happened:

“The gunshots lasted for 10-15 minutes. It didn’t stop. We just ran for our lives,” witness Rachel De Kerf told CNN. “The band was rushed off the stage, the floodlights came on the crowd, and you see on the right hand of the stage the person who was injured, so they’re calling for medics, calling for security, then there was gunfire again,” her sister told the network.

According to the NY TImes: “The shooting began around 10:08 p.m. local time, the police said. The authorities estimated that 406 people were transported to hospitals. There were more than 22,000 people at the concert.”

SWAT teams entered the hotel room where Paddock was. He had killed himself. At least 10 guns were found in Mr. Paddock’s hotel room, including several rifles.

This is the Paddock:

Motive unknown, although…

No prior criminal records except a traffic ticket.  His brother says he was not religious, not political, and must have “snapped”

Unidentified relatives told the newspaper that Paddock, who lived in a retirement community in the sleepy desert city of Mesquite, some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, lived a quiet, uneventful life. He enjoyed country music and visited Sin City frequently to gamble and attend concerts at the flashy hotels that line the Strip, the relatives said.

Mesquite police chief Quinn Averett said in a press conference that “some weapons” and “maybe some ammunition” were found in Paddock’s home, where officers executed a search warrant.

Don’t politicize this?

To be updated….

UPDATE — Right wing is working hard to control the spin with fake news….

UPDATE 11:20 am EST — President Trump read comments from a teleprompter.  Sounded great, looked awful.  Didn’t ad lib so everyone is rushing to compliment how “presidential” he was.  In truth, he is rather low energy when there’s no racial division or paranoia and fear to stoke.  There was nothing useful to Trump in what happened last night in Vegas, and it shows in his lack of reaction.

UPDATE 11:40 am EST —  Police say death toll is 58 (possibly 59) with over 515 injured.

UPDATE 11:50 am EST

The Washington Post reports:

Geary Danley was not the gunman in Las Vegas who killed at least 50 people late Sunday. But for hours on the far-right Internet, would-be sleuths scoured Danley’s Facebook likes, family photographs and marital history to try to “prove” that he was.

The right-wing news site Gateway Pundit also picked up these rumors as fact in a now-deleted article. That article’s URL was still the top result for Danley’s name on Google in the early hours of Monday morning.

The headline, still visible in search results, and remaining on the first page of results for Danley when I ran my 9 a.m. search, read, “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with anti-Trump Army.”

After Gateway Pundit accused an innocent Michigan man of being the Charlottesville Nazi terrorist, a lawyer for the man’s family vowed to sue. So far there are no reports that a suit has been filed.

Note: The Gateway Pundit has White House press credentials.

UPDATE — Horrifying

UPDATE: Scum…

UPDATE — Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock is son of Benjamin Paddock, bank robber once on FBI most-wanted list. Might be clue to his background.  Stephen Paddock is an accountant, no kids, divorced.

Why Is Trump Tweeting About The NFL?

Thursday night in Alabama, at a rally, Trump went off on a tangent about the NFL and its bad ratings and how players who refused to stand for the national anthem (i.e., Colin Kaepernick) should be fired by the owners.  This got cheers from the Alabamians, because they are Alabamians.  And it made headlines on Friday (since he never says anything of substance), so Trump doubled down this weekend.  And tripled down.  And 4X downed. Etc.  Here’s SOME of those tweets, which are continuing into this morning:

For its part, the NFL stood united. For the Sunday games, many owners released statements supporting their players’ right to protest.  And of course, there was kneeling.  Players kneeled.  An owner kneeled.  A singer of the National Anthem kneeled on the last line.  Many in the crowds kneeled or stayed seated.  Some booed.  Others cheered.  Some teams, rather than take part in a political spectacle, decided to stay in the locker room during the anthem.  Players who didn’t kneel locked arms with those who did, in a sign of solidarity (including Trump’s friend, Tom Brady).

All-in-all, there was significant pushback.  And what was once a smattering of kneels became an overwhelming number of them. Trump seemed please with those who booed.

Later, many players spoke out.  They spoke of being “disappointed” or “disheartened”. A Seattle Seahawks wide receiver minced no words:

Trump does not seem to understand (or care) why some players had been choosing to kneel in the first place.  It is not a stand against American ideals, the flag, or the Anthem.  It is that the American ideals symbolized by the flag and the Anthem are not being applied to all of America’s citizens — black people in particular.

And now Trump is creating  fight, challenging the patriotism of those who kneel. Trump is making clear his moral priorities. He is infinitely more offended by the sight of a black ballplayer quietly, peacefully protesting racism in the United States than he is by racism itself.

The question is why, e.g., why would Trump continue to poke at the players and, as he did Sunday night, call for the NFL to change its policies to ban any sort of protests surrounding the anthem?

The most basic (and right) answer is because he knows that, for his base, this fight is a winner for him. Specifically:

1. The players are rich. Remember that Trump, despite being a billionaire, sees himself (and is regarded) as the voice of the Average Joe. And he knows that lots of Average Joes resent how much money these players make for playing a game.

2. The players are playing a game. Spend 10 minutes talking about football (or any pro sport) with a group of people, and I guarantee that you will hear someone (if not several) say something like: “Man, they get to play a game for their job. I’d do that for free.” (Obviously points No. 1 and No. 2 are closely tied.)

3. The players are (mostly) black. Trump insisted on Sunday night that “this has nothing to do with race.” But that simply doesn’t fly. The vast majority of the players in the NFL are black. Ditto the players in the NBA, whom Trump also went after over the weekend. Trump knows that. And he also knows that when he uses phrases such as “our heritage” to describe what’s allegedly under assault in the anthem protests, many of his supporters see that in racial terms. You don’t simply get to repeatedly flick at racial animus — in the campaign and as President — and then plead total innocence when those code words trigger a reaction.

4. Trump can paint this as a battle for patriotism. The anthem protest was begun last year by then-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who cited concerns about the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police as the motivation for his stance. Trump has seized on the protests as some sort of slap in the face to the military, which it’s not. By painting the players as insufficiently loyal to the country, Trump can make an appeal to patriotism — a powerful emotion not just in his base but in the country.

It certainly does not appear to be working. Yes, maybe it pleases his base, but most people recognize it as being divisive, even if they disagree with the protests. It is stirring a hornet’s nest, plain and simple.

Others are wondering about his priorities. Days after Maria struck, Puerto Rico remains crippled by widespread destruction and catastrophic flooding. Villages were razed and communications ruined, leaving officials unable to tally an accurate toll of the death and devastation. Power is out, and restoration of the electrical grid may take months, not weeks. A dam was compromised, threatening major flooding and a loss of drinking water.

There is no food.

There is no agriculture.

Although Puerto Rico cannot vote for president and has no voting representatives in Congress, its citizens are entitled to the same federal emergency funds and resources that Washington has been funneling to the far more politically powerful and economically resilient states of Texas and Florida in their hurricane miseries.

The same holds true for the US Virgin Islands.

Yet Trump has said (or tweeted) nothing these past few days on the subject.  Instead, he throws oil on the fire of an already too-polarized country.  It’s difficult to see the benefit in rending this country apart in a culture war.  But apparently the White House sees this as good.

Clearly, this is why Russia wanted him to be president – to start wars in his own country.

FLASHBACK: From an owner of the USFL football team in Tampa Bay:

UPDATE:  Conservatives, republicans and old white people have Trump’s back, but all told, only 38% agree with Trump

UPDATE: Props to Greg Popovich, head coach for the Spurs (basketball) for saying this at NBA Media Day:

SimCity Set To “All Disasters Mode”

First Harvey, then Irma.  Now Maria is hitting Puerto Rico with a force “not seen in modern history” according to WaPo

It hit the island at 6:15 a.m. as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds — the first Category 4 storm to directly strike the island since 1932. By midmorning, Maria had fully engulfed the 100-mile-long island as winds snapped palm trees, peeled off rooftops, sent debris skidding across beaches and roads, and cut power to nearly the entire island.

On September 8, Mexico was rocked by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake, but another earthquake — 7.1 magnitude — which hit yesterday is proving more deadly, because its epicenter was very near to Mexico City. The death toll after Mexico’s massive earthquake has hit 225, according to a tweet early Wednesday from the official account of Luis Felipe Puente, National Coordinator of Civil Protection of the Ministry of the Interior.

  • 71 were killed in Morelos
  • 94 in Mexico City
  • 43 in Puebla
  • 12 in State of Mexico
  • 4 in Guerrero
  • 1 in Oaxaca

Many of the dead are schoolchildren where a school collapsed.

Horrific stuff.

It’s unsettling what the Earth is throwing around, and it’s made all the more unsettling by the impending non-natural disasters that we have made for ourselves.

9/11 Plus 16 — What If Trump Was President?

Each year as 9/11 comes and goes, there is less added to the perspective. An entire generation is now politically aware, who cannot remember that horrible day.  Bizarre, to me.

We forget that Bush, like Trump, was in the infancy of his presidency. I remember thinking that he was over his head — partly because it was unprecedented, and partly because it was, frankly, Bush.

But at least he was surrounded (mostly) by smart people (mostly) and the crisis was handled deftly in the immediate days… until it became a war against Iraq (who did not attack us).

One wonders if the Trump Administration is prepared for something on that level. I suspect not, and I say that knowing that he has the benefit of a 9/11/ type attack no longer being “unprecedented”.  But consider this:

  • The White House is in constant disarray as key personnel are hired and fired at an unprecedented rate. One cost is that most basic measure of experience: days on the job. Another is an inability to forge sustained working relationships as colleagues are summarily dispatched in the manner of a reality-TV show. And how can those who remain do their best work when the boss at the top exhibits a management style that is as volatile and erratic as it is petty? Many dignified people have simply refused to consider working for him.
  • Huge numbers of important State Department positions are still unfilled, including key undersecretary positions; and the ability of the United States to conduct diplomacy or to draw on country-specific expertise seems to have atrophied.
  • The United States is crazy divided. And according to a recent Fox News poll, it isn’t just that a majority of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing—56 percent say that he is “tearing the country apart.”
  • The Trump Organization’s murky asset portfolio, with heavy investments in numerous foreign countries, and the Trump family’s refusal to divest from it, makes it impossible for congressional overseers or the public to adequately discern when the Trump family’s business interests diverge from America’s interests.

And none of this gets to Trump’s incompetency.

One HOPES that there is enough institutional competency such that a terrorist attack would not flummox us. After all, at this very moment, Texas is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma just trampled Florida.  And FEMA seems to be doing fine (Trump’s role seems to be limited to tweeting).

So maybe we can get by without Trump’s leadership, even in a 9/11-type event.

I just would prefer not to test that theory.

Harvey Update

The images just don’t stop. It’s actually pretty incredible that only 15 have died so far.

As they were saying before the hurricane hit, the real problem would not be the hurricane impact, but the rains that would follow for days and days.  According to the Washington Post, 30% of Harris County’s 1,777 square miles are underwater.  Harris County is home to Houston. Harvey has passed the 50” measured single-storm rainfall record for the continental US.

Here is just one little bit of video — floods carrying away the concrete barrier at the San Jacinto Bridge.

Officials say more than 30,000 people may be forced from their homes by Harvey, and many whose homes have been severely damaged or destroyed by deadly winds and astonishing floodwater may need shelter for weeks or months to come.

Another under-reported problem: the floodwaters are becoming a cesspool of harmful chemicals and bacteria.

Hurricane Harvey

There’s a good reason why Mashable’s Andrew Freedman dubbed Hurricane Harvey—now barreling toward Texas and Louisiana—“the meteorological equivalent of a White Walker from Game of Thrones.”  This is no joke.  Harvey is likely to be the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 2005. Harvey will make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.  The storm is expected to hit middle Texas coast. After that, Harvey will likely stall over the state, which could lead to catastrophic flooding. In fact, the storm surge of 20+ inches is the highest ever predicted.

Harvey was upgraded to Category 3 (winds of 111 to 129 mph) less than an hour ago.

One HOPES that FEMA and other regulatory agencies are consistent despite changes of the President, but with Trump, you just don’t know. Trump has been active on the twitter front regarding the hurricane as well, re-tweeting a photo of his conversation with Texas Governor Greg Abbot, and a video of Trump meeting being briefed by various FEMA officials ahead of the impending storm.  But that’s PR.

Will FEMA handle Harvey as poorly as Katrina? Probably not. In the wake of Katrina, significant changes have been made to ensure more efficiency on the part of the agency, typified by their ability to work effectively with several state, local, and federal organizations in the wake of Superstorm Standy.  Regardless, FEMA faces its first major challenge in some time, and the first under the Trump Administration. All eyes are on the response, relief, and recovery of this forthcoming natural disaster.

So far, though, so good. Dallas News reports FEMA has also set up a command center at an Airfield near Seguin TX, stationed trailers containing supplies, food, and water in San Antonio, and placed FEMA staff at Texas’s State Operation center to make coordination efforts as seamless as possible – while letting Texas officials take the lead. Gov. Abbott activated 700 or so members of the national guard ,the Houston School District announced multiple closing ahead of the storm, a state of disaster has already been declared for multiple counties, and those in power are speaking directly to the citizens regarding what to expect, how to prepare, and how to get out.

Day’s Unfolding Events

(1) Protest in Durham NC:

Scheduled for noon and 4 pm.  I’m following live feeds and the anti-protesters seem to have taken over downtown Durham. Not much of a fascist presence. Looks peaceful at the moment — some minor vandalism of base of statue that once had confederate monument.  Basically everything postponed until 4 pm.

(2) By the way, this is Infrastructure Week at the White House, but it’s been overshadowed by racism in the Oval Office of the White House. Being Infrastructure Week, this news is particularly embarrassing:

(3)  BREAKING — Bannon Out:

Yup, it’s true. WaPo:

President Trump has decided to dismiss his embattled chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general election victory, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest, according to two people familiar with the move.

Trump had been under mounting pressure to dispatch with Bannon, who many officials view as a political Svengali but who has drawn scorn as a leading internal force encouraging and amplifying the president’s most controversial nationalist impulses.

Bannon told friends on Friday that he expected to soon be informed whether he is being cut loose from the White House, according to multiple people close to him. One of them said Bannon is resigned to that fate, and has said he is determined to continue to advocate for Trump’s agenda on the outside.

“No matter what happens, Steve is a honey badger,” said this person, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. “Steve’s in a good place. He doesn’t care. He’s going to support the president and push the agenda, whether he’s on the inside or the outside.”

And this has gotta hurt:

Not surprising, since Bannon wanted a trade war with China.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Bannon was not pulling the strings on Trump. Trump was weened on rightwing and fake news, email forwards, and general bullshit. Bannon simply was a kindred spirit in ideology.  His removal was good in the sense that he was one of the few who could actually put some of the shit into action.

Remember, Bannon was not a party loyalist or even a Trump loyalist. Trump served Bannon’s interest. But Bannon, the ideologue, is unchained, and he has a mouthpiece in Breitbart News. This could get ugly:

Interesting Poll Numbers From North Carolina — Trump Underwater

From PPP:

PPP’s new North Carolina poll finds strong, bipartisan opposition to cuts the General Assembly has made to the budget of the North Carolina Department of Justice. Only 18% of voters support the 10 million dollars in cuts that have been made, to 60% who say they are opposed to them. This opposition is shared by independents (9/68), Democrats (18/65), and Republicans (26/48) alike. Concern about the cuts is fueled by a sense that they will have the effect of making the state less safe- 59% of voters believe that will be the outcome of cuts to funding for the DOJ, while only 12% say they think the cuts will make the state safer.

A plurality of voters- 46%- think the Republicans in the General Assembly made the cuts just because the Attorney General is a Democrat. Only 21% think they did it because it’s good for the state, and 33% aren’t sure one way or another. This is one of several issues driving the popularity of the General Assembly- and the Republicans in it in particular- into the ground. Only 18% of voters approve of the job the General Assembly is doing, to 58% who disapprove. While the Democrats in the body aren’t popular- a 37/46 favorability rating- they come out far better than the Republicans who just 32% of voters see positively, with 55% viewing them in a negative light.

Democrats have an early 46-40 lead on the generic legislative ballot for next year. That includes a double digit lead among independent voters, at 39/29. One thing that’s particularly good news for the party is that enthusiasm is on their side- 57% of Democrats say they’re ‘very excited’ to vote in the election next year, compared to only 47% of Republicans who say that. Among just voters who say they’re ‘very excited’ about turning out in 2018, the generic ballot lead for Democrats more than doubles to 13 points at 52/39.

There continues to be a strong bipartisan consensus in support of nonpartisan redistricting in North Carolina. Overall 56% of voters support it, to just 14% who are opposed. Majorities of independents (63/10), Republicans (55/15), and Democrats (53/17) alike are in favor of shifting to that model for drawing district lines.

Roy Cooper:

Roy Cooper is off to a much better start as Governor than his two immediate predecessors. 48% of voters approve of the job he’s doing, to 33% who disapprove. He’s on solid ground with independents at 45/26, and his -32 approval with Republicans at 22/54 is actually well ahead of the curve for a politician across party lines in these heavily polarized times.

Cooper’s numbers look particularly good when compared to what PPP found for Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue in August of their first terms. Cooper’s the only one of the trio who hadn’t become unpopular within 7 months of taking office. His net approval is 27 points better than McCrory’s was at the same time, and 40 points better than Perdue’s was at the same time.

Governor Approval Rating, August of First Year in Office Net Approval
Roy Cooper 48/33 +15
Pat McCrory 39/51 -12
Bev Perdue 27/52 -25

Speaking of McCrory, voters say by a 44/37 spread that they think Cooper has been a better Governor than he was. Voters are closely divided in their feelings both about McCrory, and whether he should run again in 2020. 40% of voters see him favorably, to 41% with an unfavorable opinion of him. 41% of voters think he should run again for Governor in 2020, to 44% who think he should sit it out. Notably, among Republican voters McCrory has a 66/15 favorability rating while Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest’s is just 29/14.

National Issues:

-Donald Trump is unpopular in North Carolina, although his numbers are at least better than they are nationally. 44% of voters approve of the job he’s doing, to 50% who disapprove. Only 37% of voters think Trump has succeeded in his signature promise to ‘Make America Great Again,’ with 52% saying they believe he has failed on that front. 49% of North Carolinians say they wish they could have Barack Obama back as President, to just 45% who are happier with Trump.

One issue that’s not helping his image- or that of Republican Senators- in the state is health care. 47% of North Carolinians now support the Affordable Care Act, to only 38% who opposed to it. Repeal efforts have made it more and more popular. By contrast just 29% of voters say they support the health care repeal bill recently considered in Congress, to 51% who express opposition to that. 55% think the best path forward on health care is to keep the Affordable Care Act and make changes to it as necessary, to just 37% who think the best thing to do is repeal the ACA.

The health care vote could have long term implications for Thom Tillis. He already has weak approval numbers, with just 28% of voters approving of the job he’s doing to 45% who disapprove. By a 16 point margin voters say they’re less likely to vote in the future for someone who supported the health care repeal bill in Congress- 46% say being on the record in support of that makes them less likely to vote for someone, to only 30% who say it makes them more likely to vote for someone. That could be a problem for Tillis in 2020, and more short term for some Republican House members up for reelection next year, especially when the anger over health care is combined with the enthusiasm advantage Democrats are currently enjoying.

Full results here

The “Fake News” Is Coming From Inside The (White) House

I have avoided writing about the Seth Rich conspiracy theory being propped up by Fox. It was just too disgusting. But now it has political, rather than journalistic, implications.

Seth Rich was murdered in Washington, D.C. in July 2016 in what police describe as a botched robbery attempt.

But the conspiracy-lovin’ right-wing manipulation machine, sensing intrigue — he was MURDERED! — used his death to make the case that it was not Putin who leaked emails to Wikileaks — it was Seth Rich. Fox News and others (the type who spread the story that Hillary Clinton was running a child-sex-slave ring in a D.C. pizza joint) ate it up.

Naturally, this accusation upset the family of Seth Rich. Not only did they have to deal with his unsolved murder, but now he was basically being libeled as a turncoat, with not one shred of evidence.  Eventually, Fox News had to discredit and retract the story (except for Sean Hannity who said he’d just stop talking about it — for now — out of “respect” for the family).

Now there’s a lawsuit filed by a private detective, Rod Wheeler, who was hired to investigate the murder.  Wheeler alleges that Fox News worked with White House officials to push the case to undermine allegations of Russian collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign. Fox News used quotes from Rod Wheeler.  But Wheeler he claims he never said those things. He even has recordings with the Trump supporter, Ed Butkowski who paid him to investigate, where Butowsky acknowledges the quotes are fake. Butowsky is a frequent guest on Fox business programs.

According to the lawsuit, Wheeler and Butkowski met with Sean Spicer during the investigation, Spicer has confirmed this, contradicting what he said last May that he didn’t know anything about the story. Butowsky messaged Wheeler before their meeting with Spicer, “We have the full attention of the White House on this.” Butowsky also claimed in emails to Wheeler that he was keeping the president informed, and that Trump really wanted the story published.

Reflect on that. The President who rails against fake news wanted a fake news story published to deflect the Russian collusion story.

On Tuesday night, Butowsky went on CNN to yell at Chris Cuomo and defend his statements as “jokes.” Again, with the jokes. Like Trump’s speech approving of police brutality — that was a joke too. These people really need to work on their humor.

I’m sure the odds of Fox News colluding with the White House is total bunk and we could get a statement from Sean Hannity assuring us it’s just crazy talk, or “fake news.” Except, Sean is probably too busy having a secret dinner with Trump in the White House. Whatever do they talk about over the meatloaf?

Wheeler’s lawyers would like to depose Trump (fat chance it’ll happen), but Spicer and Butowsky clearly will have to be deposed under oath. Perhaps even Hannity.  Keep an eye on this.

Breaking: Sean Spicer Resigns

The same morning that Anthony Scaramucci is appointed as White House Communications Director, Sean Spicer resigns. Reports are that he vehemently opposed Scaramucci’s appointment.

Trump offered Scaramucci the job at 10 a.m. Trump requested that Spicer stay on, but Spicer told Trump that he believed the appointment was a major mistake, according to a person with direct knowledge of the exchange.

Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus and top adviser Steve Bannon had also resisted the appointment, according to NBC.

“This was a murdering of Reince and Bannon. They said Anthony would get this job over their dead bodies,” said one top White House official.

This….

But Scaramucci is said to be very close to the Trump family and that Trump likes him.

Anthony Scaramucci rose through the financial ranks of New York, ardently defending Wall Street and founding a global hedge fund.

A Goldman Sachs alum, and named Wall Streeter of the Year by Yahoo Finance in 2016, Scaramucci founded and co-managed SkyBridge Capital, a fund of hedge funds with a reported $11.8 billion in assets.  Skybridge may or may not have violated Russian sanctions.

Scaramucci made headlines in 2010 when he asked Obama during a televised town hall meeting when he was going to “stop whacking at the Wall Street piñata.”

The fact that Scaramucci was appointed over the objections of Priebus, Bannon AND Spicer just shows how difficult managing Trump has been. Spicer’s defection, coming on the heels of defections by the spokesman for Trump’s legal team (as well as Trump’s longtime lawyer from that team) shows that there are definitely HUGE rifts in the administration.

He wasn’t always a Trump fan:

He supporter Walker initially in 2016, but became a Trump supporter eventually.

Spicer is over.

UPDATE — Jesus Christ, read this:

UPDATE #2 — Interesting tweets from Scaramucci

5.8 Earthquake off North Korea Coast

Normally, I wouldn’t care, but I have to wonder if this is an earthquake.  Info coming in….

 

  • The quake was very deep – 348.2 miles (560km) below the seabed off the coast
  • Its epicenter was 125 miles (201 km) southeast of North Korean city of Chongjin
  • Early speculation indicated quake was man-made, as has been the case in past

Yeah… the problem is that it is 348.2 miles under the sea.  You can’t put a nuke there.

 

 

Did CNN Blackmail The Trump/CNN Wrestling GIF Creator?

This is a 21st century story.  Future historians won’t be able to make sense of this.

So after Trump tweeted a GIF of himself in his days as an occasional WWE character tackling and beating a wrestler with the CNN logo edited onto his face….

… CNN found the Reddit user who initially created the image.  The same Reddit user, named HanAssholeSolo by the way, previously posted pictures of CNN staff with Stars of David next to their heads and the text “Something strange about CNN…can’t quite put my finger on it.”

The user apologized after CNN published the story saying they knew his identity.

The apology ended with a call for peace: “This is one individual that you will not see posting hurtful or hateful things in jest online. This is my last post from this account and I wanted to do it on a positive note and hopefully it will heal the controversy that this all caused.”

It didn’t.  

Why not? Because CNN said they wouldn’t publish his name due to his remorse, but that “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

Trumpers said the apology was essentially forced by CNN’s “blackmail”. #CNNBlackmail was the top trending Twitter topic this morning, thanks to the efforts of a furious Trump Internet, who had concluded that HanAssholeSolo’s apology was forced by a “threat” from CNN.  The (untrue) news being circulated by Trumpers is that the meme creator is a 15 year old kid (CNN has confirmed that he is a grown man).

There is, I suppose, an ethical question of whether a news outlet should withhold the identity of a private citizen who posted extremely offensive things online on the apparent condition that they behave better in the future. CNN said there has been no agreement with the man at all, but Trumpers insist the “extortion” is inferred.  I personally don’t have a problem with it.

Sure, the optics of it look bad. It looks like a multi-billion dollar corporation is dangling a potentially damaging story over a private individual unless he cooperates is where the network runs into trouble. Were CNN to simply explained why it wasn’t publishing the identity of the user, without adding a caveat that the network “reserves the right” to change its mind later, this wouldn’t have been a story.

But as Think Progress says:

First things first: Posting things online that you don’t want associated with your name—whether because they are stupid, racist, or just plain embarrassing—is generally not a great idea. Only the most careful of internet users can avoid detection by online sleuths, and there is no right to privacy if you are posting things publicly.

Secondly, racists, sexists, anti-Semites and other bigots are not entitled to anonymity just because they are private citizens. Most trolls aren’t as lucky as HanAssholeSolo: Their names are typically plastered across the internet, and quickly find themselves out of a job and unemployable by anyone with enough wherewithal to run a Google search on applicants. Employers—to say nothing of friends and family—arguably have a right to know about an individual’s judgment in widely sharing their personal beliefs online.

There is some irony here, considering that President Donald Trump himself was recently accused of blackmailing MSNBC personalities Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski (an accusation that seems to have the left some trolls unmoved).

But the meme that Trump supporters have picked up and spread is a mix of fact and fiction, and it seems an odd thing for Trumpers to hang their hat on.  Not only are the hostile toward actual REAL news, but they are hostile when actual REAL news exposes those who are hostile.  These people do not like the light.

This should be the final word:

The New O’Keefe Video

So, the White House spokesman wants people to watch a video even though she doesn’t know if it is accurate.  How’s that for devotion to the truth?

The video is by James O’Keefe, and it is itself about the truth.  But O’Keefe and his outfit, Project Veritas, have been known to use slick editing procedures to distort the truth, rather than expose it.  Let’s see what O’Keefe has this time.

Interesting. What O’Keefe, who has been hit with a $1 million conspiracy lawsuit, doesn’t tell you is that Bonifield has held many positions at CNN, most recently serving as a supervising producer for CNN Health, a position he has held since 2015.

CNN Health.

Other than that, there’s not much there there.

Does CNN’s coverage drive its ratings? I’m sure it does.  Just like as Fox.

Is the Trump-Russia collusion things bullshit?  This CNN supervisor says it could be.  And you know what? IT COULD BE.

But isn’t that why we have an investigation?  Isn’t that the point?

The opinion of a CNN Health producer means nothing.  You know who doesn’t think the Russia investigation is “a hoax”? The CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the DNI, the House Intel Committee, the Senate Intel Committee, and Robert Mueller.

Breaking: Otto Warmbier Has Died

From ABC News yesterday:

Over and over, Otto Warmbier apologized and begged — at first calmly, then choking up and finally in tears — to be reunited with his family.

North Korean officials seated at long tables watched impassively, with cameras rolling and journalists taking notes, as the adventuresome, accomplished 21-year-old college student from suburban Cincinnati talked animatedly about the “severe crime” that had put him there: trying to take a propaganda banner for someone back home, supposedly in return for a used car and to impress a semi-secret society he wanted to join, and all under the supposed direction of the U.S. government.

“I have made the worst mistake of my life!” he exclaimed as his formally staged Feb. 29, 2016, “confession” to anti-state activities ended in Pyongang.

More than 15 months later, he has finally been reunited with his parents and two younger siblings.

Whether he is even aware of that is uncertain.

“His neurological condition can be best described as a state of unresponsive wakefulness,” said Dr. Daniel Kanter, director of neurocritical care for the University of Cincinnati Health system. Doctors say he has suffered “severe neurological injury,” with extensive loss of brain tissue and “profound weakness and contraction” of his muscles, arms and legs. His eyes will open and blink, but without signs of understanding verbal commands or his surroundings.

Warmbier, now 22, remains hospitalized at the UC Medical Center immediately after his arrival late Tuesday aboard a medevac flight following North Korea’s decision to release him for what it called humanitarian reasons — and under strong pressure after the Trump administration learned of his condition in a special U.S. envoy’s June 6 meeting in New York with North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations.

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, were told he had been in a coma since shortly after being sentenced March 16, 2016, to 15 years of prison with hard labor.

If life had gone to plan, he today would be in his first month as a new graduate of the University of Virginia.

So basically, the DPRK tortured and murdered a US Citizen for allegedly taking a propaganda poster off a wall.  Will this become an international incident?

Another Terrorist Attack In London

Last night, a van with three people drove into a crowd of worshipers in Finsbury Park, a district in North London. One person was killed, ten were injured.

It was a terrorist attack, but not a typical one that garnishes worldwide press attention. Because this time, the terrorists were white and the targets were Muslim.

Here’s what is known so far:

— The driver of the van, a 48-year-old white man, was wrestled to the ground by people at the scene and held until police arrived. He has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, according to police.
— Muslim Welfare House CEO Toufik Kacimi said the attacker shouted “I did my bit, you deserve it.”
— Imam Mohammed Mahmoud of the Muslim Welfare House stopped an angry crowd from turning on the van driver, telling the furious mob: “Do not touch him.”  This will, and should, get much notice. The imam followed Islam and protected the man from the furious mob.
— Police have not named the man arrested, but the van bears the logo and phone number for Pontyclun Van Hire in south Wales.
— UK Security Minister Ben Wallace, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s World At One, said, “This individual, so far as we know at the moment, was not known to us.”
— All of the victims were from the Muslim community, police said.
— One man was found dead at the scene, according to police, but it’s not clear if he was killed during the attack. Police said he was already receiving first aid when the attack unfolded.
— Two people were treated at the scene, May said, and eight others have been taken to three hospitals. Two of them are seriously injured.
— Islington’s Seven Sisters Road, where the attack took place, is home to at least four mosques, and would have likely been filled with worshipers leaving late-night taraweeh prayers.
— The Islington borough of north London, of which Finsbury Park is a part, is home to a large Muslim community. Around 10% of the borough’s population is Muslim.
— It’s been nearly 24 hours and Trump and the White House have not talked about it.

Then there is this:

The death of a Virginia teenager who police say was assaulted and then disappeared after leaving a mosque in the Sterling area isn’t being investigated as a hate crime, authorities said Monday.

On Sunday, police found the girl’s remains and a 22-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the case.

The mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, and relatives identified the girl as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.

Fairfax County police identified the man charged with murder in her death as Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling. On Monday, they did not release any explanation as to why they weren’t investigating the murder as a hate crime.

Relatives identified the slain teen as Nabra Hassanen, 17, right, of Reston, seen in a social media post with a filter. (All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center)

According to accounts from police and a mosque official, a group of four or five teens were walking back from breakfast at IHOP early Sunday when they were confronted by a motorist. All but one of the teens ran to the mosque, where the group reported that the girl had been left behind, according to Deputy Aleksandra Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

“Immediately thereafter, the ADAMS’ personnel notified both Loudoun County and Fairfax County authorities who immediately began an extensive search to locate the missing girl,” the mosque said in a statement.

Loudoun and Fairfax police jointly conducted an hours-long search around Dranesville Road and Woodson Drive in Herndon, which is in Fairfax. Remains thought to be the girl’s were found about 3 p.m. Sunday in a pond in the 21500 block of Ridgetop Circle in Sterling. During the search, an officer spotted a motorist driving suspiciously in the area and arrested Torres, police said.

Police said they collected several articles of evidence but declined to provide further details.

The girl’s mother said detectives told her that Nabra was struck with a metal bat.

The ISIS-type terrorists want to start a holy war. It looks like some stupid whiteys are willing to play into that.

UPDATE:   Aaaaand this is happening in France

This was a car loaded with explosives which rammed into a police van on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The driver of the car was killed. No explosion. No other injuries, but it appears to be a botched terrorist attack.

Verdict in on Philando Castile Killing

Remember this? I wrote about it last year.

A Minnesota jury has reached a verdict in the manslaughter trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year.  Yanez is on trial for one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety because Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were also in the car.

Announcement soon.

UPDATE: NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS

Of course.

Happy Comey Day

Well, we already know in essence what Comey will testify about, since we have his written statement (which has been dissected to death). I don’t expect a lot of “news” but maybe so more fleshing out.

It will be in sharp contrast to yesterday, where two intelligence chiefs repeatedly refused to say whether Trump asked them to intervene in the Russia probe during their public Senate intelligence committee testimony. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers declined to discuss the specifics of private conversations they had with Trump and whether they had been asked to push back against an FBI probe into collusion between the campaign and the Russian government. Both hinted that they would share more information with senators privately.

The RNC has put out some rather odd talking points…

… which are rather contradictory (Comey vindicates Trump…. but he is a liar!)

Anyway…. as the day progresses, I will TRY to update with news and opinion, but again, I think we’ve hit 90-95% of the pay dirt here.  One thing to be sure: Comey is smart and already has answers for the Republican critics who will try to trip him up.

Either way, we’ll definitely learn (we hope) the answers to these questions

  1. How will Mr. Comey explain his silence on his interactions with Mr. Trump? (My guess: He thought he could “teach” Trump the proper parameters)
  2. Will Comey be a ‘showboat’? (My guess: No.)
  3. Will Republicans offer the president a lifeline?  (My guess: Some will. Some will even bring up Hillary’s emails)
  4. Will Democrats overplay their hand? (My guess: No)
  5. Will Trump tweet? (My guess: No, but if he does, it is because he feels the heat)
  6. Did the president violate guidelines that prevent interference in F.B.I. investigations? (My guess: Comey will punt on this)

AND WE’RE OFF….

10:00 am

The line to Shaw’s Tavern, a popular DC bar which is showing the hearing and offering free drinks for everytime Trump tweets, goes a full city block

Comey talking about how Trump said FBI was in disarray under Comey:

I note Comey’s voice is wavering. He’s pissed. Says Trump defamed him and FBI

And we’re at questions. Burr asking…

The country is riveted…

…. good to know?

Warner up. Going through each Trump meeting.

Risch(R), a former prosecutor, now asking questions….

Feinstein (D) up. Asking about why Comey believes he was fired (Answer: Russia investigation)

And Donnie Jr. weighs in…

Not when it is the President.

Rubio(R) up. Asks why Comey didn’t tell President “That’s wrong.” Comey says he was stunned and didn’t have the presence of mind.

Wyden (D) is up….

Let me just jump in here and say that I was wrong about one thing (at least).  I thought Comey would leave his personal impressions (“I felt…” “I got the impression….”) out of it.  I was clearly wrong. He’s giving his impressions.

Collins (R) is up….

I have not seen much from this vaunted “rapid response team” of Trump. I THINK the Republican response, if Rubio is any indication, is that Comey didn’t do anything, and he should have. But I think Comey’s answer is perfectly reasonable.

Nice tweet here….

Henirich (D) up….

Blunt (R) up…


Blunt seems to be rehashing the written statement.

Angus King (I) is up….

Lankford (R) is up….
He asks Comey how a president would end an investigation. Comey says, by simply telling it to end, but says he’s not a legal scholar. That might be used by GOP, i.e., Trump did what he is empowered to do.

And now we’re back to Lynch-Clinton.

Manchin (D) is up…

Cotton (R) is up…


I don’t think that is the answer Cotton wanted.


That’s not an excuse, Paul.

Harris (D) is up….
She’s asking a lot about Sessions recusal

Meanwhile… at White House briefing

Cornyn(R) is up and bringing up the Clinton investigation, saying Lynch had a conflict of interest. Zzzzzzz

McCain (R) is up….
Carrying water for GOP, I think. This is bizarre.


I think McCain had a stroke. He appeared to be under the impression that the election was still ongoing, called Comey President, and then couldn’t understand why Clinton was not prosecuted for helping the Russians elect Trump.

Hearing adjourned.  No tweets from President.

Takeaways:

(1) Trump is a liar.  Some more examples:

A. Trump was asked on Fox News last month whether he ever asked Comey for his loyalty. Trump responded, “No, I didn’t.” We now have reason to believe this was a lie.

B. Trump was asked at a White House press conference last month, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?” Trump replied, “No. No. Next question.” We now have reason to believe this was a lie, too.

C. Trump was asked by NBC News’ Lester Holt about the private dinner he had with Comey, and the president said the FBI director “asked for the dinner.” We now have reason to believe this was also a lie.

(2)  No clear defense strategy from GOP (but don’t expect impeachment)

(3) Comey and all of us want those tapes (if they exist)

(4)  Senator McCain has gone ’round the bend.

Of course. And now it goes to closed door session, which will leak about an hour later.

Trump To Drop US From Paris Accords

It looked for a moment like he was reconsidering this campaign promise to leave the Paris Accord on climate change, but no.  In a few minutes, Trump will announce from the Rose Garden that the US is out.

Nero, fiddle, Rome burning, yada yada yada

It will be interesting to hear HOW the accord is “bad”.  Is it bad for polluting businesses?  Yyyyyyyeah.  That’s kind of the point.

Here’s the split in the White House about whether to stay or go.  Looks like Bannon won the day:

I don’t think Trump is aware of how popular this is on the left AND even the right.

Here are talking points given to Congress.  They make no sense.  The deal won’t help the climate but also it does too much but also we’re already doing that stuff

Yes it is.


The good news? Paris Accord entered into force on 11/4/16. So the earliest that Trump can complete exit from Paris Accord is 11/4/2020, i.e., the day after the 2020 election. Paris will be a campaign issue.

UPDATE:

Trump Fires Comey

It’s been an amazing 16 hours.

The comparisons to Watergate’s “Saturday Night Massacre” can’t be helped.

Let’s be clear about this: Trump has fired the head of the investigation into his campaign’s contacts with the Russians.

The reason? Because of the way Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.  Almost nobody is buying that rationale, or the timing.

Many Democrats, myself included, agree with the rationale.  And if this had happened during the Obama-Trump transition, then it would make sense.  But happening now?  Nope.

Especially when Trump PROFUSELY PRAISED Comey during the campaign for his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Comey was delivering a speech in Los Angeles when he learned he had been fired.  He thought it was a prank at first.

The D,C, backlash was immediate.

White House sources say off-the-record that the White House was taken aback by the surprise outrage.  I find that almost as bizarre as the underlying story itself.  How could they NOT KNOW this would be a bombshell?

But that’s only one of the mysteries surrounding this.  Also on the list…

  • What did Trump mean in his second paragraph above that Comey had told him three times that he was not the subject of an investigation?  (The inclusion of that statement in the letter is obviously self-serving, and one wonders what those conversations — if they took place at all — were actually about and what was actually said).Trump’s letter firing Comey claims Comey told him three times that he (Trump) isn’t under investigation. But, pressed by Politico, the White House can’t back this up:

    In his letter dismissing Comey, Trump said the FBI director had given him three private assurances that he wasn’t under investigation. The White House declined to say when those conversations happened — or why Comey would volunteer such information.

    Now that’s a real shocker, isn’t it?

  • Why was Jeff Sessions involved in this decision?  He recused himself from the Russia investigation altogether. And then he weighs in on Comey’s firing?
  • Who will replace Comey?  Will it be a pro-Trump person willing to slow down or end the Russia investigation?
  • The calls for a special independent prosecutor are deafening.  Will this happen?

Over at the conservative RedState website, Jay Caruso speaks for most everyone:

Here are five reasons why it was an awful decision:

1. The timing – Of course this is bad. The FBI is currently investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, and whether or not Trump campaign staff were colluding with Russian agents. The mere appearance of impropriety makes the decision come off as political.

2. The GOP can’t play ball – If Trump believes he is going to get the FBI Director of his choice, he’s got another thing coming. Republican Senators are not going to allow anybody to take over. Trump will have to appoint a person that could very well be more dogmatic when he/she takes over the investigations.

3. It gives Democrats secure use of the ‘C’ word – That word is corruption or corrupt. Many people think the GOP lost control of Congress in 2006 because of the Iraq War. The reality is Republicans lost because of the “culture of corruption” surrounding the GOP with scandals such as those involving Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay (who was later exonerated) and Mark Foley all contributing to a depressed GOP turnout. The same thing could happen again in 2018.

4. It’s a sign of weakness – Trumpers can blather about Trump “draining the swamp” all they want, but somebody in a position of strength doesn’t pull a move like this. Someone in a position of strength lets the chips fall where they may and deals with whatever consequences result. Trump’s termination of Comey makes him look afraid of what Comey was going to do.

5. The media onslaught is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time – Donald Trump will attempt to defend this action via Twitter. Bank on it. He’ll scream “Fake news!” at every opportunity because the media is not going to let up, nor should they. The fact this took place hours before the media reported the Justice Department issued subpoenas to private business associates of Michael Flynn stinks to high heaven.

From the left, Kevin Drum on what the Comey firing shows us about Donald Trump and his White House on Mother Jones.

The Comey firing had nothing to do with the Hillary Clinton email investigation. It was all because Trump was outraged over Comey’s public acknowledgement that the FBI was investigating his Russia ties. He wanted the investigation to disappear, and he began obsessing about firing Comey—presumably in hopes that this was all it would take to kill the case. And apparently Trump was shocked when Democrats didn’t line up behind him. They hate Comey too, don’t they?

Trump’s astronomical ignorance has finally caught up with him. He seems to have had no idea that firing Comey wouldn’t stop the investigation—nor that a new FBI director wouldn’t dare quash it. In fact, all the firing does is make the investigation untouchable. And Trump’s astronomical narcissism has caught up with him too. He has so little insight into other humans that he simply couldn’t conceive of anyone hating Comey but still defending his right to serve out his term. In Trump’s world, you reward your friends and punish your enemies and that’s that.

This is hardly unexpected from Trump, whose ignorance and narcissism are legendary. But does he really have nobody on his staff to warn him about this stuff? Reince Priebus surely knew how this would play out. Ditto for Mike Pence.

And one final thing: once again, we learn that many of Trump’s advisors are perfectly willing to portray him as an idiot.

The Politico story is based on conversations with insiders who were happy to confirm that the Comey firing was all about Russia. This directly contradicts the White House narrative that it was about the fact that everyone had lost confidence in Comey because of the way he mistreated poor Hillary Clinton. Who are these people who work for Trump (?) but are happy to undermine him to the press on a regular basis?

It’s true.  The Politico story is all about Trump’s frustration with the Russia probe:

President Donald Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. When he finally pulled the trigger Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t call James Comey. He sent his longtime private security guard to deliver the termination letter in a manila folder to FBI headquarters.

He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.

Somehow, I don’t think this makes the story go away.

And finally, the NYT editorial board concludes with this:

This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates. There is no guarantee that Mr. Comey’s replacement, who will be chosen by Mr. Trump, will continue that investigation; in fact, there are already hints to the contrary.

The obvious historical parallel to Mr. Trump’s action was the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973, when President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor investigating Watergate, prompting the principled resignations of the attorney general and his deputy. But now, there is no special prosecutor in place to determine whether the public trust has been violated, and whether the presidency was effectively stolen by a hostile foreign power. For that reason, the country has reached an even more perilous moment.

And this picture from this morning — Trump meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (on the left) and Russian Ambassador Kisylak.

…. and THEN, as if the Nixonian optics aren’t bad enough, he meets with Kissenger!

As one friend quipped, “interesting times we’re living in”

UPDATE: Well, this explains a lot….

This is more than bad optics or bad judgment.

UPDATE #2 —  Then again

UPDATE #3…. From McClatchy Newspapers:

And WH spokesman Sarah Sanders at press conference now: “The president over the last several months lost confidence in Dir. Comey. The DOJ lost confidence in Dir. Comey.”

Flashback —

I call BS on that.

Sarah saying that candidate Trump is not president Trump so he can do complete 180s.

She’s very tightlipped on the issue of Comey telling Trump that he was not a subject of investigation.

Sarah just said two different things in the span of 30 seconds: (1) She’s not surprised that Democrats opposed the firing because that’s what Democrats do; (2) She’s surprised that Democrats opposed the firing because they called for him to be fired.

FINAL UPDATE?

I have a funny feeling that many Republicans are merely giving lip service to the “outrage”

RIP Jonathan Demme

“Stop Making Sense” and “Swimming to Cambodia” are just two of the great documentaries he directed, but of course, he will always be known for “Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia”.  Dead at 73 of cancer complications

Is WikiTribune The Answer To “Fake News”?

Nieman Lab:

Good things can happen when a crowd goes to work on trying to figure out a problem in journalism. At the same time, completely crowdsourced news investigations can go bad without oversight — as when, for example, a group of Redditors falsely accused someone of being the Boston Marathon bomber. An entirely crowdsourced investigation with nobody to oversee it or pay for it will probably go nowhere. At the same time, trust in the media is low and fact-checking efforts have become entwined with partisan politics.

So what would happen if you combined professional journalism with fact checking by the people? On Monday evening, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune, an independent site (not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation) “that brings journalists and a community 
of volunteers together” in a combination that Wales hopes will combat fake news online — initially in English, then in other languages.

The site is launching with a crowdfunding campaign to fund the first Wikitribune journalists (the default amount is $10 a month, but users can donate any amount they wish) “with the first issue of Wikitribune following shortly.” The Wikitribune page said that the goal is to hire 10 journalists.

The idea is that the professional journalists will be paid to write “global news stories,” while volunteer contributors will “vet the facts, helps make sure the language is factual and neutral, and will to the maximum extent possible be transparent about the source of news posting full transcripts, video, and audio of interviews. In this way Wikitribune aims to combat the increasing proliferation of online fake news.”

The Wiki concept is always interesting, but the old adage of computers remains true: “garbage in, garbage out”.  Crowdsourcing, as the article suggests, is not necessarily the best way to get at truths, and we just had an election where huge percentages of people swallowed false news line and hook.  So just how will WikiTribune deal with this?  Described above, it just sounds like professional journalists being edited by, well, everybody.  A lot of sniping about semantics.

And even if the changes are substantive, at what point in the never-ending editing and rewriting process does an article cease to be by the person who originally wrote it? The answer to this question will have to be reflected in WikiTribune’s design. If the model is anything like Wikipedia’s page history, the level of transparency that is necessary can make it incredibly time-consuming for readers to synthesize the true source of what they’re reading.

And suppose journalist Jones quotes Congressman Smith, and Congressman Smith wants to retract? Or alter slightly the words he said? He can just go into Wikitribune and edit.  And who is to say who is right?

Still, Wikipedia, despite having accuracy problems here and there, does actually self-correct over time, and that’s a good starting model. The question is whether or not “news” has the time for that kind of self-correction before it stops being news.

 

The HB2 Repeal: Is It As Bad As Everyone Says?

Well, I find myself in the awkward position of disagreeing with friends, colleagues, and organizations that I respect (like the ACLU, of which I have been an active member for 24 years). That’s not fun. The issue? House Bill 142.

For those living under a rock, HB142 is the bill passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Cooper yesterday. It attempts to repeal HB2 — the heinous “transgender bathroom bill” —  and more importantly (from some people’s perspective) appease the NCAA which has threatened to ban North Carolina from holding any tournaments due to HB2.

To read some of the headlines, you would think HB142 lines up transgender people and shoots them. “The HB2 “Repeal” Bill Is an Unmitigated Disaster for LGBTQ Rights and North Carolina” screams Slate. Reverend Barber calls it “an insult to civil rights“.  The ACLU says: “there is no repeal of the anti-trans HB2, only more discrimination“.

Really? There’s actually been NO repeal AT ALL?  There’s MORE discrimination?  What am I missing?  Am I the one who is crazy?

Quite possibly. But right now, I honestly believe HB 142 is a fairly decent compromise.  And it’s quite possible that the resistance may be overplaying this victory by casting as a loss.

Those who do this are wrong in my view.  HB142 is not HB2.0.

Let’s get a few things out of the way:

First, this was always going to be a compromise bill. Republicans rule the North Carolina General Assembly.  So if you expected a civil rights bill ON TOP OF a repeal of HB2, then somebody sold you a lie.  And it wasn’t Governor Cooper. Now, it is perfectly reasonable to demand that the law protect transgender people (as well as gay, bisexual, queer, etc. people). *I* demand that. But those things do not come in a day.  They just don’t. We’re STILL working on racial inequality for crying out loud.  The exercise here — with this bill — was not to get the law to protect transgender people, but to get the law to stop discriminating against them.  So if you are in the “all or nothing, today” camp, stop reading, because I practice the art of the possible, and nothing I say going forward will please you (in fact, it will likely infuriate you).

Secondly, to those who say that HB 142 doesn’t do enough — well, of course not. Again — it is a compromise bill. I have no reason to think that Roy Cooper or Senator Jackson or the others did not hammer out the best deal possible.  Again, it wasn’t intended to resolve the issue of transgender rights for all time.

Finally, I personally could not give a damn about the NCAA and where tournaments are held. I think the loss of jobs to the state are, and should be, a concern.  Same with the loss of state “prestige”. But the bottom line for me is civil rights. For me, that overshadows everything.  That’s the yardstick I am using here to measure the success, or lack thereof, of HB142 in comparison to HB2. So please don’t question my motive. I want what the ACLU and the LGBTQ community and all lovers of civil rights want – full stop, period.

That said, HB2 is dead. Can I get an “amen”?

Bueller?

Bueller?

If you read some of these articles (or scan the headlines) you would think HB2 is not dead, or that it had been supplemented with worse stuff.  So let’s break this down and discuss what HB142 — now the law — actually does.  Because it’s short, I’ll insert the entire text:

Okay, so is HB2 repealed? Yes. It’s right there in English.  Section One. Statutory Laws 2016-3 — which is HB2 — is repealed.  Click the link. Read what HB2 was.  It was a lot!  It’s gone now.

So let’s move to the NCAA gripes, because it was in plain non-legalese English, and it will help explain what is no longer.  Here, specifically, is the reason the NCAA singled out North Carolina for the proposed ban (from the NCAA website):

The board stressed that the dynamic in North Carolina is different from that of other states because of at least four specific factors: 

  • North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals. 
  • North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different from the gender on one’s birth certificate, regardless of gender identity.  
  • North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community. 
  • Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut. 

The second and third factors are gone. HB142 wiped them out with the stroke of a pen.  The fourth factor relies on those other cities, but they will presumably permit travel to North Carolina now.

That’s not nothing.  That’s something.  That’s a victory.  Can we acknowledge that?

To be sure, it returns us to the status quo — i.e., the time Charlotte’s ordinance protecting those with non-conforming gender identity. Is the government working to protect the transgender community from discrimination?  Nope.  But now the government is not doing the actual discrimination itself, and, yes, that is big.

It’s like desegregating the public water fountains, even though the business-owned lunch counters remain segregated.  It’s NOT “nothing”; it’s NOT “worse”. It’s an improvement.

What about the NCAA’s first factor and the argument that HB142 does not allow Charlotte and other communities to pass laws protecting the transgender community (at least until 2020)?  I shake my head at that argument, and this is where I think most people have it wrong. We shouldn’t WANT local municipalities to have the power to “enact or amend an ordinance regulating private employment practices or regulating private public accommodation”.

Why not?

Because hundreds of communities in North Carolina will take the opportunity to stick it to the LGBTQ community.

What’s the point of repealing HB2 if Apex, North Carolina (for example) can turn around and pass its own version next week?  You see, not every community in North Carolina is as enlightened as Charlotte or Raleigh or Asheville.  In fact, most aren’t (drive through East Carolina one day).  And LGBTQ people are everywhere in North Carolina. Taking legislative power away from local municipalities was a feature, not a bug.

Also, it is better off if the battlefield is the state legislature — ONE state legislature — rather than hundreds of cities, town, incorporated settlements, etc.  The “resistance” lacks the resources to fight the transgender discrimination issue in every NC municipality and win. Leaving invidious prejudicial treatment to the whims of local legislatures would allow pockets of prejudice to exist for decades (see, for example, the school district in Mississippi which finally became racially desegregated this month!)

What happens in 2020, when the prohibition is lifted?  In truth, it matters little.  The provision to kick the can down the road wasn’t meant to postpone justice.  And it certainly wasn’t meant to postpone injustice.  It just acknowledges reality — that no matter what the state legislature does, it will end up in the courts, as everything does with civil rights.

Put another way — you’re not going to end discrimination against the transgender community completely until a court says so. End of story. You can’t legislate “equal protection under the law” because it is a constitutional/legal issue, not a political one.  And by 2020, these issues will have been worked out.

Yes, it is true that repealing HB2 probably killed North Carolina lawsuits against HB2 (rendered them moot).  But there are plenty of other lawsuits out there, most notably, Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, regarding the 17 year old transgender male student in a Virginia high school. Sent back down to the Fourth Circuit from the U.S. Supreme Court a few weeks ago, it is likely to go back up as soon as the Fourth Circuit decides (both sides are likely to appeal).  And the outcome there will govern what happens in North Carolina — mostly likely in 2019.

So what do we have to be upset about?  HB2 is no more. HB2-like discrimination cannot sneak in through the back door via local legislatures.  And everything is on hold until the courts resolve this, which they were going to do anyway.  It hasn’t slowed down the litigation track.

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a maxim used by Martin Luther King, Jr., but dates back to William Penn and even the Magna Carta. I wholly acknowledge that transgender people have every reason to be anxious and upset that the guarantee of their civil rights were not met on March 30, 2017.  I don’t know who or what led them to believe the a Democratic governor in a mostly-conservative state could deliver them their rightful legal protections in one fell swoop.

But if they are angry, then I say good.  They need to be; everyone needs to be.  But nobody should feel defeated by HB142, as many do.  The system works, albeit slowly, and if you don’t remind people every once in a while of their victories, then cynicism wins.  And when cynicism wins, corruption and prejudice is not far behind.

This goes in the win column, and we need to remain vigilant. THAT’S my point.  I ask permission to revise and extend my remarks as needed.

Breaking: Apparent Terrorist Attack At Parliament/Westminster Bridge

BBC report:

Matt Haikin, 44, from London, said he was in shock after seeing the aftermath of the crash on the bridge.

He said: “I just saw a car that had clearly driven off the road into the fence outside Parliament.

“As I went past I noticed there was a body next to it and quite a lot of blood and people standing around.

“Fairly shortly after I heard some shots, at which point it was clear it wasn’t just an accident, something else was going on.”

He then moved to look through the Palace of Westminster gates and saw “a lot of people, people in uniform, I think I saw a couple of bodies on the ground, I couldn’t tell you if they’d been asked to lie down or if they were injured”.

It is worth noting that this come at the one year anniversary of the Brussels attack.  ISIS loves anniversaries.

UPDATE: Officials saying several causalities but won’t give numbers.  Still on lockdown.  Asking for videos and picture from public.

UPDATE #2:  Three officers attacked upon entry to Parliament. Sky News is reporting that one of them has died from stabbing injuries.

Photo of an attacker, who was shot:

UPDATE #3: 4 dead including one policeman and the terrorist. At least 20 injured.

This too:

Trump’s Truly Bizarre Press Conference

Imma get a video up as soon as one is available, but I think you’re going to be hearing about “President Trump’s February 16 Press Conference” somewhere down the road, perhaps as a citation in a legal filing.

To his credit, he took the hard question. And the big news, when all is said and done, is that Trump would have authorized Flynn to discusses sanctions.  But then he gave a weak denial about election contacts with Russia.  Okay, so two big moments.  Okay, there were others.

One of favorites was how he asked a black female reporter if she knew that Congressional Black Caucus and then told her to set up a meeting, like she was in his secretarial pool.

He went to use lie about his “largest electoral college win since Reagan”.  When a reporter told him he was wrong, and how can he be so inaccurate and yet complain about “fake news”, he just dismissed it — “well, somebody told me that”

Some of it was oddly self-serving and bizarre.  Like saying that the White House was running like a “well-oiled machine” and that the roll out of his travel ban went smoothly (it was the 9th Circuit that was chaotic).  Several times, he went back to Hillary Clinton, who really hasn’t been on anybody’s mind much (and certainly wasn’t asked about)

At other times it was outright scary, like when he mused about how he’d like to take out that Russian ship in international waters.  That would be a clear cause for war, with us on the wrong side.  At another point, he went on a long tangent about nuclear holocaust, as if he had just learned about its horrors.

Jake Tapper gets the win for the best immediate response:

Anyway, here’s the transcript via NY Times:

Here’s some info on how it came about:

Redstate’s Patterico’s Analysis of the 9th Circuit Decision Against Trump

Don’t normally quote from the conservative Redstate blog, and I rarely agree with Patterico (the author) on anything.  But this analysis is so good — so spot on — that I am reprinting it in full:

As you have no doubt heard, the Ninth Circuit today issued an opinion upholding the District Court’s TRO halting much of Trump’s order on immigration. This post analyzes the decision, which can be read here. Throughout, I’ll grade my own previous predictionsabout the ruling.

My overall impression is that this is a sound legal ruling — and that Donald Trump is personally to blame for it. By allowing Steve Bannon & Co. to write the order in a sloppy and overbroad manner, and further allowing them to decide that it applied to green card holders, Trump issued an the order that was bound to fail.

Perusing Twitter tonight, I see that many people who support the policy behind the order (as I do), but who have not followed the legal arguments closely, are saying this is just another leftist Ninth Circuit decision. But the order is a unanimous “per curiam” (through the court) ruling. It was joined by a judge appointed by George W. Bush who, at oral argument, expressed skepticism towards the idea that the order was motivated by religious bias, and seemed receptive to the argument that these countries might pose a threat.

The Twitter lawyers point out that this was not a ruling on the merits — and that’s right . . . but the merits still factored into the decision. A subtle point — brought up in the oral argument but missed by many observers — is that once the District Court entered the injunction, the burden shifted to the Government to show on appeal that it was likely to win in the trial court. The Court held that the Government had failed to make that showing. This portion of the ruling, then, does relate to the merits. The Court also held that the Government failed to show irreparable injury, since the TRO put the U.S. back in the same state of affairs that had existed for years.

According to the opinion, the executive order’s principal potential flaw was that it may have deprived a substantial number of people of due process, in three ways (the following paragraph describes the states’ arguments, which the Government failed to rebut for purposes of this appeal):

First, section 3(c) denies re-entry to certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders without constitutionally sufficient notice and an opportunity to respond. Second, section 3(c) prohibits certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders from exercising their separate and independent constitutionally protected liberty interests in travelling abroad and thereafter re-entering the United States. Third, section 5 contravenes the procedures provided by federal statute for refugees seeking asylum and related relief in the United States.

The decision to interpret the order as applying to lawful permanent residents was reportedly made by Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. This was clearly the most troubling aspect of the order to the judges — as well as the aspect of the order that stood out to most objective observers as the dumbest part of the order. As I said in my analysis of the oral argument: “I think even Judge Clifton would be on board with staying the executive order to the extent it applies to LPRs [lawful permanent residents].” What I didn’t predict outright was that Judge Clifton would find this enough to join an opinion upholding the entire TRO; I had expected that he would file a concurring opinion agreeing that the TRO was appropriate as applied to LPRs, but only as to LPRs.

The Government argued that the issue of the application of the executive order to LPRs was moot, because the White House counsel had interpreted the order as not covering LPRs. But the court was not convinced, noting that the White House counsel is not the President — and, since the Administration had given so many contradictory statements on this point, nobody can be certain that they won’t apply it to green card holders again:

[I]n light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings

Basically, the court said the order is clearly illegal in denying re-entry to LPRs and non-immigrant visa holders, and they aren’t going to rewrite the order (or let the White House counsel rewrite it) to conform to the law. That’s the President’s job. The court said that the Government’s different proposals for limiting the scope of the TRO still resulted in potential due process violations.

The lack of due process for LPRs was the central aspect of the opinion, and it was completely avoidable. The fault lies with Donald Trump.

As to the argument that Trump was targeting Muslims, the Court’s language seemed carefully crafted to maintain the unanimous nature of the opinion. I predicted there were two votes for a finding of possible religious discrimination, based on Trump’s repeated statements during the campaign that he wanted a Muslim ban — but Judge Clifton was clearly skeptical of this claim. The Court dealt with this by saying: “The States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions” (language clearly inserted by Judges Canby and Friedland) but refused to use this as a ground to uphold the TRO, instead reserving the issue for later, after further litigation in the District Court (an evident concession to Judge Clifton to get him on board with this opinion).

This means that Donald Trump’s mouthing off about a Muslim ban wasn’t the reason for today’s decision — but it could still have legal consequences down the line.

In other aspects more of interest to lawyers than others, the court (as predicted) found standing based on the states’ proprietary interests, and treated the injunction as an appealable preliminary injunction rather than a TRO proper, because of the length of the briefing schedule. (These are also aspects I predicted correctly based on the oral arguments.)

In summary, this is a solid legal opinion and I don’t see it being reversed by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the U.S. Supreme Court. The judges did their jobs and they did them well. They won’t get a lot of credit for this from political partisans, but they’ll get it from me.

Yup.

Redstate by the way is now a conservative blog in exile. In a world of Brietbarts and Infowars, it remains a bastion of logical reasoned conservatism.  It is a credible opposition to the progressivism that I espouse — with emphasis on the word “credible”.

Here, for posterity’s sake, is the full opinion:

Former NC Governor Pat McCrory Needs Protection From Words

News & Observer:

Does former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory need protection? Do all current and former public officials? At least one state senator thinks so.

After a video was posted on Facebook Friday showing a group of people following McCrory during a trip to Washington, D.C., for inaugural weekend, chanting “Shame!” and calling him a bigot, Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte says he’ll introduce legislation to protect public officials.

The proposed legislation would “make it a crime to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against a present or former North Carolina official in the course of, or on account of, the performance of his or her duties,” Bishop said.

“Because lines are being crossed,” Bishop, a Republican who represents the 39th District in the North Carolina Senate, wrote in an email from his Senate campaign account.

Bishop was one of the sponsors of House Bill 2, or “the bathroom bill” which McCrory signed into law. The bill was criticized for nullifying local non-discrimination ordinances statewide, directing transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms matching the gender on their birth certificate in government-owned buildings and initially revoking the right to sue in state court for discrimination.

Bishop calls the group of people of indeterminate number “a chanting mob” and “ubiquitous leftist rioters” and wonders whether the “mob fell upon the former governor by coincidence or if they stalked him.”

Bishop said such behavior should come with a five-year prison sentence and said he’ll introduce the legislation to make it so in North Carolina, similar to an ordinance in the District of Columbia.

“So should it be in North Carolina,” he wrote. “This is dangerous. Jim Hunt, Bev Purdue and other governors never faced riotous mobs in their post-service, private lives, without personal security.”

Bishop said he also will urge his fellow legislators “to take other appropriate steps to guarantee the personal safety of Gov. McCrory by all means necessary.”

This is the video:

Now, whatever you think of the McCrory or the protesters, there is this little thing called the First Amendment.  But I won’t lecture here.  This State Senator ought to know better.

RIP Everybody — How 2016 Became A Year Of Dying Dangerously

Pat Harrington died on January 6, 2016.  He played Dwayne Schneider, the nosy superintendent in the 1970s sitcom “One Day At A Time”.  I remember reading about his death.  I may have even blogged about it.  But it wasn’t altogether startling.  I had barely given the actor any thought since that series was cancelled.  And he was 86.  So, it was another celebrity death.  You read about it, you say “awwwww” and reflect for a moment how another small icon of your life has moved on.  It doesn’t really affect you, but it serves as another marker that time is marching on and as the props of your youth disappear to dust, so someday shall you.

Then came David Bowie’s death on January 10.  This was different.  This was a huge celebrity death because Bowie, unlike Harrington, influenced culture (Sorry, Pat).  Everybody had a Bowie song they liked.  Or maybe they liked how he was an androgyny pioneer, way before anybody knew what androgyny even was.  Everybody was hit by Bowie’s death.

But even then, these things happen.  Superstars die every year.  And Bowie’s wasn’t even a surprise.  Not like, say, Michael Jackson’s sudden death.  Bowie had been fighting cancer for years.  He had been recording music and videos that anticipated his death.  We hoped his death wouldn’t happen, as I’m sure he did too.  But even when the Star Man’s light went out at the relatively young age of 69, we thought — well, all things must pass.

Only four days later, Alan Rickman died.  Now that was disconcerting.  Not that Rickman had the same iconic cultural impact as Bowie, but it was so sudden.  Another 69 year old, and only a short battle with cancer.

By then, the jokes were already starting about how 2016 was taking so many people from us unexpectedly.  For some that was confirmed when Glenn Frey of the Eagles died.  Only 67 years old, from complications of arthritis, ulcer and pneumonia.  What the hell?

But maybe that was it, right?  Celebrity deaths come in threes, the old adage goes.  And Bowie, Rickman and Frey — those were the three.  All under 70.  All in the same January.  Just a bad month.

If we were paying attention, we should have known that celebrity deaths were on 2016’s agenda, when Death ignored the old joke about Abe Vagoda never dying, and He came to collect Mr. Vigoda’s lifeless body in January 26.  We should have paid attention and buckled ourselves in.

February saw a slew of surprising-but-not-really deaths:  Justice Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, Bud Collins (the tennis announcer), the veteran actor George Gaynes (from “Tootsie” and the Police Academy movies), the veteran actor George Kennedy….

And then Nancy Reagan on March 4.  Well, okay.  She was due.  94, for crying out loud.  This is normal.  This is expected.  Same with Sir George Martin (Beatles producer), Ken Martin (“The White Shadow”), Frank Sinatra Jr., Garry Shandling….

Wait… what?  Garry Shandling?  His death on March 24 caught me VERY off guard.  He was only 66.  A heart attack.  He was, like Bowie, an innovator — but for comedy television.  And kind of close to MY generation.  What the hell is HE doing dying like that?  Something uncool is happening.

March 29 — Patty Duke, age 69 — there’s that 69 again.  From a ruptured intestine? DEFINITELY something uncool is happening.

Doris Roberts.

On April 21, Michelle McNamara died.  In front of me practically.  I didn’t know who she was.  But I was reading Patton Oswald’s tweets.  He was prolific and funny that day.  Then his tweets stopped.  Then came the news: Patton’s wife, Michelle (a writer for TrueCrimeStory.com) was dead.  Just died in her sleep at the age of 46.  The cause of death is still unknown.

Okay, not a celebrity death.  But for Patton.  Oh my God.  I hate it when comedians die, and when their loved ones die, you just want to break things.  People who make you laugh are supposed to have good lives.  That’s my rule, and I hate to see it broken.

Same day as Michelle McNamara?  Prince.  Age 57.  REALLY close to my age.  Accidental overdose.  Okay, now — this wasn’t a huge shock.  There’s something about people who live fast and die young.  It happens, it just does.  I mean, it would not have been a shock if he lived to be 95 either.  But with superstars — well, we’re used to them not growing old, aren’t we?  But somehow, coming after Bowie and Rickman and Frey and Shandling…. now now just a few, but almost everybody was saying the same thing: 2016 is is coming after our cultural icons.

Or maybe not.  Madeleine Lebeau (of “Casablanca” fame), age 92; Morley Safer, age 84…

Muhammad Ali, age 74, on June 3.  Sad, but not unexpected.  What a full rich life.

Then we got a slew of deaths from — well, not superstars.  But tragic because they were at the beginning of their careers.  Cristine Grimme, age 22 — shot while signing autographs at her concert on June 11.  Anton Yelchin, age 27 — Star Trek’s new Chekov run over by his own car in a freak car accident outside his home on June 19.

But then things kind of got into a normal groove — as deaths go, that is — and it looked like 2016 might return to normalcy.  You had a lot of “oooooh, THAT guy” deaths.

Elie Wiesel, age 92, on July 2.

Garry Marshall, age 81, on July 19.

Character actor David Huddleston, age 85, on August 2.

R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker, age 81, on August 13.

But Death’s summer vacation came to an end.  And he hit the ground running on his return.  Gene Wilder on August 29.  That one hurt.  It hurt everyone. maybe not a surprise, but it was just plain MEAN.

Then, for some reason, Death took a swipe at the trans community.  The Lady Chablis, age 59 on September 8.  Actor and trans-activist Alexis Arquette, age 47, died on September 11, singing David Bowie’s “Starman” as she passed.  Very meta.

Charmian Carr (Liesl in “Sound of Music”), age 71 on September 17.

Arnold Palmer, 87, on September 25.

Kevin Meaney, on October 21.

Maybe things are going to be okay.  Maybe.  Maybe no more tragic young and/or iconic celebrity deaths.

Janet Reno, 78, on November 7.

Leonard Cohen, 82, on November 10.

Robert Vaughn, 87 on November 11.

Maaaaaybeeee.

Gwen Ifill, 61, on November 14.

Pow!!  Florence Henderson, 82 on November 24.

And to join “Barney Miller” castmate Abe Vigoda, Death grabs Ron Glass on November 25.

And speaking of sets, having taken Keith Emerson on March 11 this year, Death grabbed Greg Lake on December 7.  (Carl Palmer, the surviving member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer is still alive, but the year is not over).

And December 2016 becomes an echo of January 2016.  Iconic deaths.

Godspeed John Glenn, 95, dying on December 8.

Alan Thicke, another 69 year old, on December 13

Zsa Zsa Gabor, on everybody’s death list for ages, finally succumbs at age 99 on December 18.

Which brings us to this week.

George Michael, age 53.  That’s MY AGE!  On Christmas Day.  Of natural causes!  What the hell?!?

Carrie Fisher, age 60, on December 27 of a heart attack, and then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, age 84, the next day, of (no doubt) a broken heart.

Insanity.  And honestly, everybody is on edge.  As I am typing this, there is THIS:

… but it is a hoax (that’s not a real BBC news site).

The Queen is fine.  But we’re primed for this.

So here comes the question:  ARE there more celebrity deaths this year?

The answer is yes.  In fact, the BBC reached that conclusion back in April! They did this by counting the number of pre-prepared BBC obituaries that had run in the first three months of each year from 2012 to 2016.  They found that there had indeed been a spike in celebrity deaths: twice as many “famous” people (defined as having a BBC advance obituary) died in January, February and March of this year as had done during the corresponding period of 2015 – and five times as many as in the first three months of 2012. However, the BBC’s obituaries editor Nick Serpell reported that things began to level out somewhat after that, and that the second half of the year was not especially unusual. But still, in the whole of 2016, the BBC has used 30 per cent more pre-prepared obituaries compared to the previous year.

What is going on?  Why is this happening?  Well, this is the new normal, says the Independent:

What we now call celebrity culture probably kicked off with the rise of Hollywood and of professional sport in the first decades of the 20th century, and things began to resemble the modern day with Frank Sinatra’s “bobby soxers”, and, a few years later, Elvis. But it was in the first few years of the 1960s, when four mop-topped chaps from Liverpool took the world by storm, that the cult of the celebrity really got into gear.

It was the decade that promised a classless, meritocratic future, when young working class people could rise to stardom fuelled by talent and ambition alone rather than by privilege and breeding. The Beatles were rapidly followed by the Stones, the Who and the Kinks, and by a stampede of rising stars from other metiers: Muhammad Ali, Michael Caine, Terence Stamp, Julie Christie, George Best, Davids Bailey, Frost and Hockney… modern popular culture as we know it took flight.

Those people who came to fame in the ’60s are now in the autumn and winter of their years, so there’s bound to be an increase in celebrity mortality. And in the case of musicians, death comes sooner: a 2014 academic study in Australia which looked at 13,000 rock and pop stars found that they die on average 25 years younger than the rest of the population (Keith Richards, still hale and hearty a few days after his 73rd birthday despite a lifestyle to fell an elephant, is clearly the rule-proving exception).

Then there’s social media: the rise of Facebook – which grew by 250 million subscribers during 2016 – and of Twitter means that each notable death becomes known about and commented upon around the world within seconds of an announcement. Outpourings of grief go rapidly viral, and celebrity deaths seem to mean and matter far more than they ever did.

For these reasons, I don’t see any change on the horizon: there are more famous people than ever before, and they’re all on the Grim Reaper’s to-do list. I suspect that this time next year we’ll be telling ourselves that in celebrity-death terms, 2016 wasn’t so unusual after all.

In other words, get used to it.

RELATED:  Oh fuck you 2016!

 

 

 

Possible Terrorist Attack In Berlin

In a day that has already seen a diplomatic assassination, it looks like we might have a terrorist attack on our hands.

A truck ran into a Christmas market an hour or so ago in a major public square in Berlin. There are reports of several dead, 50 injured. The incident happened in Breitscheidplatz in western Berlin.

Because of the similarity between this and the Nice terrorist attack in July, many are making the assumption that this was intentional.  Berlin media said police at the scene had said initial indications pointed to an attack, which is just a soft allegation at best.

According to one witness, the truck veered off Budapester Strasse across the pavement and stopped just before the Christmas tree on the square. The street has been cordoned off and a meeting point for relatives has been set up. The Christmas market has been cleared and a police spokesman said there are concerns the crash may have caused a gas leak.

UPDATE:   Berlin police say nine dead.

And now word of a lockdown in Brussels as terror police swoop in.

UPDATE #2:  Driver of the truck was arrested.  No shootout as in Nice.  So apparently, we will know motive soon.  CNN is reporting that Berlin police are investigating the incident as an act of terrorism.

NC Legislature Still At It

Despite protests, widespread criticism and a threat by the governor-elect to challenge in court any moves that he believes would unconstitutionally limit his power, the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature is pushing through reforms that would severely limit the incoming Democratic governor’s power.

It’s insane.  One such measure, which passed the House, was that the GOP and the Democratic Party would alternate the years in which they serve as the head of the Board of Electors in each county.  The catch? The GOP will chair all 100 county boards of elections in high-turnout even-numbered years (2018, 2020, 2022, etc.).

And get this…

How indeed?  Do they think we don’t see the inherent disadvantage that one party chairs the board of elections during even-numbered years?

Fortunately, there is pushback from the Dems about the LACK of bi-partisanship.

As I write this, there are citizen protest in the gallery.  They are trying to close the gallery now.

Other measures include the partisan election of NC Supreme Court judges.  The trend in America is to move AWAY from partisan elected judges (i.e., where judges indicate their political party).  But North Carolina is to become the first state since Pennsylvania in 1921 to move back to partisan Supreme Court judge elections.

LATE UPDATE:  SB4 passes and is signed by Gov. McCrory

SB4 would create a bipartisan commission merging the current State Board of Elections, State Ethics Commission and the lobbying functions of the Secretary of State’s office, although Democrats correctly say that there is nothing “bi-partisan” about it.

Democrats said it couldn’t be called bipartisan because they weren’t involved in creating the proposal. Republicans call it bipartisan because it would create a state board and county election boards comprised of members equally split between the parties. It would also deprive the incoming Democratic administration of control of those boards; currently, the administration can appoint three of the five state members and two of the three members on each county board.

Democrats also argued that the bill is far-reaching and should be discussed in more detail in the long session next year. Republican sponsors said the ideas in the bill have been discussed in the legislature for years, and that this is a good time to make the changes because there is no impending election.

The bill would also give Gov. Pat McCrory the authority to make a one-time appointment to fill a vacancy on the state Industrial Commission for a six-year term plus the unexpired portion of the commissioner’s term. Normally, a vacancy replacement only fills out the remainder of a term.

It would also identify state Supreme Court candidates by party in primary elections.

AND MORE:

Good way to phrase it.

Another bill nearing final legislative approval would force Cooper’s Cabinet choices to be subject to Senate confirmation.

The Brazen NCGOP Power Grab

The lame-duck North Carolina legislature’s is engaging in a last-minute effort to weaken the office of the governor before Democrat Roy Cooper.

Here’s one thing they are doing.

Back in 2013, this same legislature dramatically increased the number of what are technically called “exempt positions” under the governor, giving newly elected Republican Gov. Pat McCrory significant new patronage power. The number of political appointees authorized for McCrory exploded from about 500 to 1,500.

Now a new bill introduced in the surprise special session, called yesterday with about two hours notice, cuts the number of political appointees for Cooper from 1,500 down to 300, even fewer than McCrory originally started with.

Let that sink in. And it’s not just political appointees being taken away from Cooper. The lame-duck GOP legislature scheming with the defeated lame-duck GOP governor to handcuff the new Democratic governor on everything from the courts to the elections boards to higher education.

It’s a power grab of epic proportions.

House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis (Republican) was frank that some of the appointment and election board changes were prompted by Cooper’s election.

“Some of the stuff we’re doing, obviously if the election results were different, we might not be moving quite as fast on, but a lot of this stuff would have been done anyway and has been talked about for quite some time,” he said.

House Democratic Leader Larry Hall of Durham said Republicans were trying to “nullify the vote of the people” in electing Cooper, who defeated McCrory last month.

The Charlotte Observer editorial board:

It’s both breathtaking and hardly surprising.

With a scope never before seen in North Carolina politics – and with an all-too-familiar disrespect for democracy – Republicans in Raleigh are engaging in a stunning reach for power this week.

They want to change the ideological makeup of election boards. They want to make it more difficult for court challenges to get to a Democrat-friendly Supreme Court. They want to limit the number of appointees Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will be able to make. They want approval authority over some of those appointees.

It is an arrogant display of muscle-flexing, and Republicans weren’t shy about the goal. Legislators, said House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, wanted “to establish that we are going to continue to be a relevant party in governing this state.”

In other words: We’re in control. We want more control. We’ll do what we want to get it.

You might recognize that sentiment. It was what Democrats expressed in 1977 after the Democrat-led General Assembly passed legislation that allowed new Gov. Jim Hunt to fire all employees hired in the previous five years by his Republican predecessor. Said Joe Pell, then special assistant to Hunt: “The game of politics, as far as I know, is still played on the basis of ‘to the victor belongs the spoils.’”

That 1977 power grab was much smaller than what Republicans have attempted this week. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now, not only because it weakens the other branches of state government, but because it subverts the will of voters who elected Cooper and a Democrat Supreme Court justice to be a check on the Republican legislature.

The 1977 statute also was unconstitutional, and judges struck it down. You can expect this week’s measures to also head straight to the courts, a place where N.C. Republicans have regularly been reminded of the limits of their power.

There’s someone else, however, who can do that first. Gov. Pat McCrory is a lame duck now, which means he has one more opportunity to stand up to the extremists in his party. He also has little to lose, which means he can be the governor many had hoped for all along – one who was willing to do what’s right for North Carolina, not just what’s good for Republicans.

We’ve seen more glimpses of that McCrory lately. His response to Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath was both strong and compassionate. He was the leader the state needed, including this week in following through on relief so many North Carolinians desperately need.

Now North Carolina needs McCrory to lead again. He knows that limiting the next governor’s power, as Republicans are attempting this week, is wrong. As governor, he fought the legislature’s attempt to steal his appointing authority to key N.C. commissions, eventually winning in the N.C. Supreme Court earlier this year. He should veto all new attempts to weaken the office he’s about to leave.

Will doing so change McCrory’s legacy? Probably not. And any veto he makes might fall in an override vote – a fear that’s caused McCrory to bow to Republicans in the past.

But North Carolina has learned plenty these last four years the damage that can be done when one party – any party – accumulates too much power. That’s been on display once again this week, perhaps more brazenly, and dangerously, than ever.

People have noticed, fortunately.

Incoming governor Roy Cooper warns that the substance of these bills are horrible:

“Most people might think this is a partisan power grab, but it’s really more ominous,” Cooper said at a news conference.

House Bill 17, which was introduced Wednesday night and was moving through committees on Thursday, does the following:

  • It reduces the number of exempt positions under Cooper’s supervision from 1,500 to 300. Exempt positions are those that a governor can hire or fire at will, either because they are managers or because their job is somewhat political in nature. Although former Gov. Bev Perdue had roughly 500 such positions under her control, GOP lawmakers gave Gov. Pat McCrory 1,500 to work with.
  • It removes gubernatorial appointments to the various boards of trustees that run each campus in the University of North Carolina system. Those appointments would be would be transferred to the General Assembly.
  • It requires Senate confirmation for gubernatorial cabinet appointments. Although the state constitution allows this, the legislature hasn’t exercised this power in recent memory.

Cooper said the proposal “is really about hurting public education, working families, state employees, health care and clean air and water.”

Putting the legislative thumb on his appointments for the Revenue and Commerce departments would encourages more corporate tax cuts and loopholes, he said. Likewise, renewable energy efforts and rules for clean air and water would be hurt by requiring Senate approval of the environmental secretary, he said.

“We don’t look great to the people of North Carolina or to the rest of the country when laws are passed hastily with little discussion in the middle of the night,” he said.

He cited House Bill 2, the law limiting LGBT rights that lawmakers passed in a one-day emergency session in March, as an example of the damage created by last-minute legislating. Business expansions, concerts, athletic events and conventions have been moved out of North Carolina as a result of the law.

“I will use all of our tools … to lead this state in the right direction,” Cooper said, including possible litigation to overturn legislation.

“If I believe that laws passed by the legislature hurt working families and are unconstitutional, they will see me in court – and they don’t have a very good track record there,” he said.

This last-minute legislation is a Republican tactic, one of many seen around the country, where the GOP tries to gain political control through means other than popular vote (gerrymandering being another).  Forget about winning over people by the strength of your ideas with these guys.

More Fake News Believers Getting Violent

This is getting out of hand:

A Tampa woman is accused of making death threats to the parent of a first grader who died in the Sandy Hook massacre.

Investigators say 57-year-old Lucy Richards is among those who believe the 2012 shooting, that killed 20 children and 6 adults, was all a hoax. Her disbelief is so strong, investigators say she targeted a father who lost his child in the shooting. That man now lives on the east coast of Florida.

According to the indictment ,Richards contacted the father four times on January 10, saying things like, “You gonna die, death is coming to you real soon,” “there’s nothing you can do about it,” and “look behind you, death is coming to you real soon.”

Richards was arrested Monday. She is charged with four counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce. With each count carrying a maximum of five years in prison, she could spend 20 years behind bars, if convicted.

Richards is not alone in her beliefs. There’s a whole online community of people certain the Sandy Hook shooting was staged.

She is the second person this week facing criminal charges due to conspiracy theories. Sunday, Edgar Welch was arrested for bringing a gun  inside a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. He told police he was there to self-investigate a child trafficking ring he read about on a website, which has since been discredited and labeled “fake news.”

Psychologist Dr. Mark Prange says it’s often a long-term emotional habit of not using reasoning makes people cling so tightly to conspiracy theories.

“The story is going to always be more powerful than the logic,” Prange said. “Not using a process that says, what are the checks and balances of the beliefs I am holding to and not being open that allows the belief system to get locked into almost a delusional way of looking at the world.”

He says trying to help someone locked into an extreme belief system can be challenging, “because that belief may be more important or may be so threatening for them to face why they’re holding it.”

Prange said, “It can snowball if one has not had educational experiences or family experiences or even social experiences where their beliefs are challenged.”

Lucy Richards’ next hearing is December 19.

And speaking of Edgar Welch, here is the federal complaint released today.  Edgar Welch is the man who fired an assault rifle in a D.C. pizzeria earlier this month.  From the complaint, we learn that he allegedly recruited two other individuals to join in his investigation of patently false claims that the restaurant was the center of a child sex slave ring connected to the Clintons.  Welch texted several friends attempting to convince them to drive up to Washington, D.C., with him to check out Comet Ping Pong. He texted one friend, identified in the document as “B,” a link to a YouTube video about “Pizzagate” and included the note “Watch PIZZAGATE: The Bigger Picture on YouTube.” Another friend, identified as “C,” initially thought his pal intended to drive to North Dakota to “save the Indians from the pipeline,” but Welch clarified with the texts: “Way more important, much higher stakes” and “Pizzagate.” C wrote back: “Sounds like we r freeing some oppressed pizza from the hands of an evil pizza joint.” Welch replied by encouraging his friend to watch a YouTube video about “Pizzagate.” Ultimately, the two friends did not join Welch on his quest. The document also shows that Welch was prepared to kill, telling C that the mission would involve “sacraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many.”

UPDATE: Alex Jones seems to be cleaning up after himself by scrubbing his website of Pizzagate references:

“Pizzagate: The Bigger Picture” is the headline Infowars used for a December 1 article promoting a video from Infowars producer Jon Bowne that pushes the pizzagate conspiracy theory. Jones tweeted the headline on December 1. The headline was also used on YouTube by a non-Infowars accounts to promote the Infowars video.

Welch also told The New York Times that he listens to Jones, and he reportedly liked Infowars on Facebook.

Jones and Infowars appear to be scrubbing commentary about pizzagate. Jones’ YouTube channel posted a November 23 video headlined “Pizzagate Is Real: Something Is Going On, But What?” The video has since“been removed by the user,” though it’s not clear when.

The Power Of Fake News

This morning, Trump got on Twitter (you know this doesn’t end good, right?) and tweeted this:

P.S. (although it really is another story unto itself) Trump sent out this tweet 20 minutes after this story – a Chicago Tribune story where the Boeing CEO criticized Trump — first appeared.

And what happened?

A 137-character tweet from President-elect Donald Trump could be costing Boeing Co. shareholders more than $550 million, as Wall Street got a firsthand look at how easily an incoming commander in chief can move markets.

Boeing’s stock was down 86 cents, or 0.6%, in midday trade, paring an earlier loss of as much as 1.4%. Based on 647.9 million shares outstanding as of Sept. 30, according to the aerospace giant’s third-quarter report, that implies about $557.2 million was lopped off Boeing’s market capitalization.

Trump tweeted that an order for Boeing to build a new Air Force One should be canceled because costs had risen to over $4 billion, which would be well more than double earlier budget estimates.

Trump didn’t just tweet about the order. He told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower, where he works and lives, that the building of the plane was “totally out of control,” as costs were spiraling, according to ABC News.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number,” Trump said. “We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.”

Such is the power of inaccurate information.  The $4 billion figure, by the way, is totally fictional.  Nobody knows where Trump got that number from.

“We are currently under contract for $170 million to determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States,” Boeing said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer.”

Boeing had secured the contract in January to start work on the 747-8 jumbo jets that would replace the planes used as Air Force One beginning early next decade. Although the Pentagon didn’t disclose the expected cost of the two new planes, earlier budget estimates put the cost at more than $1.6 billion.

But that didn’t stop the plunge.

And this is what happened — in an instant — when false information was spread.

But it is not just markets, it’s lives.  Literal lives.

Let’s talk about fake news.  For several months, there has been a “scandal” brewing that barely deserves mentioning, except for the fact that it is a prime example of what can happen when fake news is circulated and believed. (Actually, the election of Trump is also a great example of the consequences of fake news, but there were other factors involved there).

The scandal is called “Pizzagate” and boils down to this: Bill and Hillary Clinton were – and still are — operating a child prostitution ring out of the basement of a pizzeria in Washington DC.

Yeah, I know.  I know.  Common sense alone would make you reject this one out of hand, but we live in post-truth times now.  And lots of people still believe it.  Like this guy:

Harmless?  Nope.  The tweet above is from Michael Flynn, Jr., son of General Michael Flynn Sr., who Trump recently appointed as his national security adviser.  The senior Flynn is no novice when it comes to tweeting fake news himself, like this one relating to spirit cooking (a sort of forerunner of the pizzagate scandal):

General Flynn is also the author of other troubling tweets:

So we have a national security adviser and his son (a son who, until recently was on the Trump transition team) who are re-tweeting fake news about a fake scandal.  Given the clout these guys have, plus the fact that some morons will believe anything they hear on the Internet, THIS is what happens:

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28 of Salisbury, N.C., surrenders to police Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Washington. Welch, who said he was investigating a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a pizza place, fired an assault rifle inside the restaurant on Sunday injuring no one, police and news reports said. (Sathi Soma via AP)

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28 of Salisbury, N.C., surrenders to police Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Washington. Welch, who said he was investigating a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a pizza place, fired an assault rifle inside the restaurant on Sunday injuring no one, police and news reports said. (Sathi Soma via AP)

Edgar Maddison Welch allegedly believed he was liberating “child sex slaves” kept in the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant when he entered the building with two guns on Sunday afternoon.

According to the criminal complaint released Monday, the North Carolina man told police that he “had read online” that Comet Ping Pong was the center of a child trafficking ring and “that he wanted to see for himself if they were there.” Welch had brought along an AR-15 assault rifle and a .38 caliber handgun to “help rescue them,” he allegedly told police.

He now faces several gun-related charges, including assault with a deadly weapon and openly carrying a weapon without a license. The Washington Post reported that D.C. Magistrate Judge Joseph E. Beshouri on Monday ordered Welch to remain in jail until his next hearing on Thursday after U.S. Attorney Sonali Patel cautioned he was a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Friends of Welch, a periodically employed father of two young girls, told the Post that they were surprised that he became so personally invested in investigating an online conspiracy theory that holds that Democratic Party operatives are running a pedophilia and human trafficking ring from the Comet restaurant. The fabricated story, known as “Pizzagate” and targeted at Hillary Clinton and her allies, was ignited by fringe social media users. It was then heavily circulated by fake news publications and conspiracy sites.

Comet Ping Pong’s owners have received a steady stream of death threats and harassing phone calls since the bizarre tale began circulating online in late October. Other establishments on Connecticut Avenue, a popular shopping street in Northwest D.C., have also been targeted by protesters and threatening phone calls.

Welch did not elaborate further on his motive in the courtroom on Monday, according to the Post, saying only his name when asked to identify himself.

He surrendered to law enforcement gathered outside the restaurant after he “found no evidence that underage children were being harbored” inside.

Fortunately, no guns were fired and nobody was killed.  But it does make you wonder how long it will be before people die because of fake news.

Why McCrory Lost

Public Policy Polling looks at why Governor McCrory lost here in North Carolina in what was obviously a banner year for Republicans:

What happened in the summer of 2013 to make McCrory so permanently unpopular? He allowed himself to be associated with a bunch of unpopular legislation, and progressives hit back HARD, in a way that really caught voters’ attention and resonated with them.

Medicaid Expansion? 56% of voters wanted it to move forward, only 26% wanted it blocked.

Sneaking in abortion legislation by putting it in a bill about motorcycle safety? 8% of voters supported that, 80% opposed it.

Guns in bars? 17% in support, 73% opposed. Guns in parks? 29% in support, 65% opposed. Guns on college campuses? 25% in support, 69% opposed.

Eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit?  Only 30% of voters wanted to do that, 42% thought it should be kept.

Cut unemployment benefits? Only 29% of voters agreed with changes in the law, 55% were opposed.

Reduce the early voting period in North Carolina by a week? Just 33% of voters wanted to do that, 59% were against it.

Straight party ticket voting? 68% of voters wanted it continued, only 21% wanted it eliminated.

McCrory spearheaded or went along with all of this. And he might have gotten away with it without much impact on his image. Most voters don’t pay close attention to state government.

But the Moral Monday movement pushed back hard. Its constant visibility forced all of these issues to stay in the headlines. Its efforts ensured that voters in the state were educated about what was going on in Raleigh, and as voters became aware of what was going on, they got mad. All those people who had seen McCrory as a moderate, as a different kind of Republican, had those views quickly changed. By July McCrory had a negative approval rating- 40% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapproved. By September it was all the way down to 35/53, and he never did fully recover from the damage the rest of his term.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion.

Pushing back hard on McCrory worked. The seeds of his final defeat today were very much planted in the summer of 2013. And it’s a lesson for progressives in dealing with Trump. Push back hard from day one. Be visible. Capture the public’s attention, no matter what you have to do to do it. Don’t count on the media to do it itself because the media will let you down. The protesters in North Carolina, by making news in their own right week after week after week, forced sustained coverage of what was going on in Raleigh. And even though it was certainly a long game, with plenty more frustration in between, those efforts led to change at the polls 42 months after they really started.

Keep Pounding.

While I agree with the “keep pounding” advice, and the positive impact of progressive movements like Moral Mondays, the analysis overlooks one HUGE aspect of McCrory’s loss: HB1, the so-called bathroom bill.  It became a national issue, and put North Carolina on the map as Bigotry Central.  Even if you didn’t care about whether or not transgenders could use this or that bathroom (and I think “not caring” probably describes the majority of NC voters), you did care when sports teams and leagues like the NCAA started boycotting your city.  I think most North Carolinians didn’t like McCrory for that.

North Carolina May Finally Have An Election Result

Sitting governor Pat McCrory (R-NC) refused to concede the election for NC governor, which ended three weeks ago.  By the end of election day, current NC attorney general and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper was ahead by a little over 6,000.  But the results still had to be counted and certified, down to the last one.

If Cooper’s margin remained below 10,000 votes, McCrory could have called for a statewide recount, and with the possibility of other legal challenges and conceivably even legislative intervention to decide a contested result.

But today, as I am writing this, Roy Cooper’s margin of victory has now grown to over 10,000 reaching 10,329 in the latest count.

Governor McCrory’s election protests and allegations of voter fraud have been rejected by Republican-controlled board of elections, and Roy Cooper’s lead is now over 10,000 votes.

Will McCrory concede?

He may not have a choice anymore.

McCrory v. Cooper

While the nation mourns the win of Donald Trump, here in North Carolina, we have our own little Bush v. Gore drama going on.  Except…. not really, because it isn’t as close as Bush v. Gore was.  We actually have a governor who is willing to cheat the results in order to win.  On election day, the results has Cooper ahead by 5,000.  McCrory has refused to concede, even as absentee and provisional vote tallies show the margin against him widening.

Civitas, the Art Pope-funded think tank, as filed suit in federal court to delay final certification of results while the state verifies the addresses of over 90,000 same-day registrants.

McCrory’s team, meanwhile, is alleging widespread voting irregularities:

Rather than throwing in the towel, McCrory is instead throwing around wild and unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud across the state. The governor is claiming that results in half of North Carolina’s 100 counties were tainted by irregularities, but some of those claims have already been dismissed by county election boards. The result is close enough to trigger a recount, which McCrory officially requested today, but past recounts in close North Carolina elections have not produced any significant changes in vote tallies.

Nonetheless, McCrory’s team is accusing Cooper of winning by illicit means and trying to cover up evidence of a supposedly fraudulent victory. “Why is Roy Cooper so insistent on circumventing the electoral process and counting the votes of dead people and felons?” one McCrory flack said in a statement. “It may be because he needs those fraudulent votes to count in order to win.”

Salon’s Simon Malloy notes that in the same election, Donald Trump won North Carolina by 4 points and Republican Sen. Richard Burr won reelection by 6 points. Being “champion of the country’s most notorious anti-LGBTQ law” had nothing to do with McCrory’s loss, of course. But if Roy Cooper’s team somehow managed to manipulate results to take out McCrory alone, now that’s some targeting. I’d want to hire them.

McCroy’s end game, rumor has it, may be to sow enough doubt long enough to create a legitimacy crisis that would trigger the involvement of the GOP-controlled legislature in settling the election. The News and Observer says it’s not that simple:

Yes, N.C. lawmakers can declare a winner, a power given to them both by the N.C. Constitution, which says the General Assembly can settle “contested” state races, but also a 2005 law cited by the New York Times and Slate that says losers in Council of State races can appeal the results to the legislature.

[…]

As for whether such a decision now could be reviewed by courts, here’s what that 2005 N.C. statute actually says: “The decision of the General Assembly in determining the contest of the election pursuant to this section may not be reviewed by the General Court of Justice.” According to the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts, the “General Court of Justice” is the entire N.C. court system, which includes Appellate, Superior and District courts.

That wouldn’t stop the federal courts from jumping in, says Rick Hasen (Election Law Blog):

If there is clear evidence both that Roy Cooper got more votes in North Carolina, with no plausible basis to claim that fraud infected the result (and by all indications so far, both of these facts are true), it could well be both a Due Process and Equal Protection Clause violation for the North Carolina legislature on a partisan basis to consider a “contest” and overturn the results and hand them to Pat McCrory. There are cases where federal courts have gotten involved in these kinds of ugly election disputes (think Roe v. Alabama, Bush v. Gore). But a brazen power grab without a plausible basis for overturning the results of a democratically conducted election? I expect the federal courts would take a very close look at such a thing.

This looks like it might take a while.

Scenes From New Zealand

New Zealand got hit by a devastating 7.8M earthquake earlier this week and has had about 300+ aftershocks, some of them quite strong.  Here are some scenes:

Stranded cows:

Matthew Update

As of this writing (10/7/2016) at 11:45 a.m., Hurricane Matthew, now a Category 3, has shown a little mercy by veering slightly northernly and westernly than expected.  Right now, the western eyewall is brushing the Florida coast — the hurricane is located 75 miles southeast of Jacksonville.currentsat

The winds along the Florida coast are rough, but it doesn’t seem to be getting the high forces that normally come at the backend of the hurricane wall.

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It apparently is not going to hit land in Florida.  It may just lightly touch land near Hilton Head, South Carolina or even Cape Hatteras further north.

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And then what?  It is thought it will loop around.

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And hopefully die.  Others have speculated it could revive as it gets back into warmer waters, but the projection now is “not so”.

Nobody is kidding themselves.  Even if hurricane force winds stay offshore FL, tropical storm conditions can be impactful and dangerous.  By this morning, it had knocked out electric power to more than 590,000 customers across Florida.  Even a Category 2 with 120 mph gusts in Charleston could be devestating.

Matthew Bears Down

Florida is going to get hit HARD. Thousands told to evacuate.  Winds up to 140.

From the National Weather Station in Melbourne FL – no mincing of words:

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A picture right now from ISS:

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Gonna be bad.

What Happened In Charlotte Last Night

The Guardian’s Ijeoma Oluo wrote about the events of the night (you need to click through to see the photo described below):

A line of police officers stand in the dark on a Charlotte, North Carolina, highway. They look like an occupying force with their helmets and face shields and various weaponry strapped all over their armored clothing. A large bus illuminates them with its headlights. The front of the bus declares in bright lights: “NOT IN SERVICE”.

It’s as if these police responding to protests of Tuesday’s shooting death of Keith Scott are carrying with them a lighted banner that declares what black Americans already know: they are not in service. Not for us.

It’s the message that police have always been sending black Americans. Blacks make up about 13% of the US population, and yet accounted for 27% of the approximately 1,146 people killed by police in 2015. “Not in service” is the message we got when Tamir Rice was killed, when Freddie Gray was killed, when Eric Garner was killed. This was the message we got when Terence Crutcher was killed this week while asking for service. We understand that if our police force really does exist to protect and serve, it does not exist to protect and serve us.

From what I saw (on national TV) last night, and from reports of friends who were there, the Charlotte police got rambo’ed up too quickly last evening, getting in riot gear long before there were signs of violence and destruction.  While this had the effect of dispersing the more gentle elements of the remaining protesters, it predictably agitated others, turning them into… well… agitators.

I don’t condone or excuse those who destroyed property or threw tear gas back at police.  I am also sympathetic to those police injured last night.  But the key word in the previous paragraph is “predictably”.  The police knew, or should have known, that their show of force and resoluteness would bring about what eventually happened.

The job of police, both as an individual and as a force, is to DE-escalate dangerous or potentially dangerous situations.  Something about their training (at least for some of them) has failed to stress that, and instead, it is about escalation.  With predictable results.

I think they are continuing this mistake with the curfew and declaration of a state emergency (bringing in the National Guard).  A return to normalcy is what is needed.  The mayor and the police are not signaling a return to normalcy with these actions.  I don’t know what will happen tonight, but I don’t expect it to have calmed down in the face of this overdone “response”.

Trump and Clinton Neck and Neck in NC

Yeah, it is exciting to be in a semi-big swing state.  The candidates keep coming through.  It’s like the New Hampshire primaries in the old days.

A new PPP poll on North Carolina came out this morning.

Bottom line: Donald Trump 45, Hillary Clinton 43, Gary Johnson 6.

Clinton/Trump head to head is tied at 47:

That’s okay news since Trump had pulled ahead in some NC polls these past few weeks.

The PPP poll took some deep dives and discovered a few things:

(1)  Undecideds.   Among undecideds for President in NC, 62% would take 4 more years of Obama to only 5% who prefer Trump. If undecideds in NC voted Clinton/Trump the same as their Obama/Trump preference, Clinton would lead state 50/48.  The problem for Clinton with undecideds in NC, even though they like current direction of country, is her favoritism rating is 10/75.  Trump’s favorability among undecideds in North Carolina is literally 0, with 79% seeing him unfavorably.

(2) More Obama Please.  The key to the race in NC is voters who want to continue Barack Obama’s direction, but dislike Hillary Clinton. Overall in NC 51% of voters would prefer continuing Obama’s leadership to 46% who prefer Trump’s direction.

(3) Equally (dis)lilked.  Clinton and Trump have identical favorability numbers in NC: 40/55.

(4) Bigots Be Here.   30% of Trump supporters have a higher opinion of David Duke than Hillary Clinton. 47% of Trump voters were “not sure” who they prefer.  Meanwhile, 44% of Trump supporters are “not sure” about their opinion on LGBT people. 29% unfavorable. Only 27% favorable.

(5) Idiots Be Here Too. 71% of Trump voters in NC think if Clinton wins it will only be because the election was rigged, 17% say it will be because she got more votes

(6) Release The Tax Returns. 63% of voters in North Carolina think Trump needs to release his tax returns, only 24% don’t think he needs to.

(7) Governor’s Race Is Solid Democrat.  For first time ever, there is a clear leader for Governor- Roy Cooper 46, Pat McCrory 41, Lon Cecil 2. Independents are the story here: McCrory won them 2:1 in 2012. This time Cooper leads 44-33 with them.  11%

(8) HB2 Wildly Unpopular.  52% of voters in North Carolina want HB2 repealed, only 32% support keeping it on the books.  This has less to do with the economic harm than with acceptance of th4e LGBT community. Only 19% of NC voters view LGBT people negatively. 47% positive, 34% don’t care.

(9)  Senate Race Has Gotten Tight.  The NC Senate race tied – Richard Burr and Deborah Ross both at 41%, Libertarian Sean Haugh at 4%:

(10) In fact, everything tight.
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(11)  This.

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RIP Charmian Carr

Charmian Carr passed away at 73 after complications from a rare form of dementia, her representative said.

Remarkably, she is known for a single movie role: that of Liesl, in The Sound of Music. 

Carr wrote two books on her experience – Forever Liesl and Letters to Liesl – and frequently appeared at events commemorating the movie.

Her only other major role was in the Stephen Sondheim television musical Evening Primrose.

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Winston-Salem Clown Mystery Solved

Hoaxer:

Claims of “Killer Clown” sightings in Winston-Salem have made national headlines and made Winston-Salem one of the locations for a rash of recent claims from Greenville, South Carolina to one outrageous claim of a man who claims to have pursued one of the these clowns with a machete. These sightings are similar to other incidents that seem to run in streaks resembling the “Killer Clown” sightings in Boston in 1981. Those sightings were never verified and, at least in Winston-Salem, the current sightings appear to be fabrications.

Since the two incidents that were reported on September 4th and September 5th the WSPD has continued to work diligently to locate the alleged suspect(s) in these cases or to even find proof that they existed in the first place. These investigative steps included intensive neighborhood canvasses as well as high visibility patrols in the areas where the sightings were reported as well as nearby areas where children are likely to be present. All of which cost tax-payer money and divert resources from real crimes. In addition, an emphasis was placed on conducting in-depth interviews with all witnesses and attempting to develop any other potential witnesses and/or leads to follow.

In the course of this investigation, WSPD investigators obtained video surveillance footage of the specific area of the September 4th sighting. Officers reviewed the portion of the footage covering the time frame of the reported sighting and also a period of time immediately before and after. The video surveillance did not reveal any individual dressed as a clown or anyone trying to lure children into the woods at this location.
To date, each report of the clown sightings provided to the Winston-Salem Police Department has been thoroughly investigated and according to the WSPD they have not been able to substantiate any sightings.

On Friday at 2:48am the WSPD received another call related to suspicious activity by an individual dressed in a clown costume in the area of the 1800 block of Salem Crest Lane. The caller, 24 year-old David Armstrong, reported that an individual dressed as a clown knocked on his window. Armstrong told police that he chased the clown until the subject ran into some nearby woods.

Officers conducted a thorough investigation into this incident. At the conclusion of this investigation, Armstrong admitted to fabricating the story. Armstrong was arrested and charged with Filing a False Police Report. Armstrong was placed into the Forsyth County Detention Center under $500.00 secured bond. His court date is set for September 12th. He is the first person arrested for filing a false report in any of the current “Killer Clown” sightings- none of which have produced even the most basic photo evidence that any of the events ever occurred. In an environment where almost everyone, including many children, have cell phones capable of shooting video and stills the lack of evidence thus far is damning.

I suppose I should have foreseen this outcome.  Still, the notion of clowns in the woods was too cool/scary to think otherwise.

North Carolina On Center Stage Of Voter Suppression Issues

BACKSTORY:  About a month ago, on July 29, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina’s anti-voter law.  The appeals court noted that the 2013 law suppressed African-American voter turnout “with almost surgical precision” and invalidated most of it.  The court’s scathing opinion said that “because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.” The law, passed by a Republican-dominated legislature, imposed strict voter-ID requirements, cut back early-voting hours and eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and preregistration for those under 18.

The court restored the week of early voting that the law had slashed, but it left it to local election boards to set the number of polling places and voting hours.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE: Those local election boards, all of which are led by Republicans, have tried to cut voting hours below what they were for the 2012 election.  In fact, Dallas Woodhouse, the head of the North Carolina’s Republican Party, saw an opportunity and ran with it, writing in an August email to election officials that “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

The New York TImes opinion page fills in more:

Election boards in 23 of the state’s 100 counties have now reduced early voting hours, in some cases to a small fraction of what they were in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis by The Raleigh News & Observer. Boards in nine counties voted to eliminate Sunday voting. Both early voting and Sunday voting are used disproportionately by black voters.

While boards in 70 counties voted to expand the number of early-voting hours, the counties that moved to cut hours back account for half of the state’s registered voters. In heavily Democratic Mecklenburg County — the state’s largest, with about one million residents — Republicanboard members voted to eliminate 238 early-voting hours despite near-unanimous appeals from the public to add more. In 2012, African-Americans in Mecklenburg used early voting at a far higher rate than whites.

The board’s chairwoman, Mary Potter Summa, said she was “not a fan of early voting,” which she claimed presented more opportunities for “violations,” even though there is no evidence that early voting, which is used by more than half of all North Carolinians, carries an increased risk of fraud.

The specter of fraud has been used to justify voter-suppression efforts across the country, even though there is virtually no evidence of fraud. In its ruling, the Fourth Circuit said that lawmakers “failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.”

What is far more dangerous to the integrity of American elections is the persistent efforts of lawmakers to disenfranchise large numbers of minority voters, rather than to work to win their votes with a party platform that treats them with respect.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TODAY: The North Carolina State Board of Elections is working through conflicts among local election officials unable to agree on early voting schedules.  There are contested plans covering 33 of the state’s 100 counties.  They are debating these issues before standing-room only crowd.

The NS State Board of Elections is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats.

Whether to allow Sunday voting has been a contentious question, which the court left to the state’s discretion. African-American churches have traditionally driven members to vote in “souls to the polls” efforts on Sundays, benefiting Democratic candidates more than Republicans.

In two key counties — Rockingham, north of Greensboro; and Gaston, west of Charlotte — the GOP-led board approved Republican plans that keep early-voting sites closed on Sundays.

In Craven County, near the coast, however, the board’s three Republicans made a concession, agreeing to open a single early voting site for four hours on a Sunday. Democrats had wanted two Sundays of voting before Election Day.

Civil rights activists have accused some Republicans of seeking to undermine the appellate court ruling by proposing still more barriers to ballot access.

In apparent ignorance of the court ruling, GOP leaders have countered that it’s fair for Republicans to use rules to their advantage, and that Democrats need to stop whining and play the game.

News is slow to come out, but it appears that the GOP is willing to allow for more early voting hours, but no Sundays (they really hate the “souls to the polls” thing).

UPDATE:  There is a live blog of the proceedings here.  A televised livestream is here.

Creepy Clowns Come To Winston-Salem

Last week, there were reports in South Carolina of clowns — yes, clowns — trying to lure children into the woods:

This tale sounds like a mishmash of newspaper clippings and pages ripped from Stephen King novels, but these are actually details taken from a report filed by the sheriff’s office in Greenville County, S.C., last week, after several residents at an apartment complex there said that people in clown makeup had been terrorizing both children and adults.

Several children said that clowns were offering them money to follow them into the woods, close to the house by the pond. (The police say they have found no evidence of clown paraphernalia at the house.)

A woman walking home late one night said she had seen a “large-figured” clown waving at her from under a streetlight, the police said. (She waved back.) And another woman said her son had heard clanging chains and a banging noise at his front door. In these cases, people who reported clown sightings refused to give their names to the police.

The police don’t know whether the stories are coming from the imaginations of children or something sinister is afoot, but panicked residents seemed to be taking the law into their own hands: The Greenville sheriff’s office investigated reports that residents of the apartment complex may have fired shots in the direction of the wooded area.

Well, they hit closer to home.  Yes, here in Winston-Salem:

Winston-Salem police received a second report of a someone dressed as a clown in the 1600 block of Hope Lane early Monday.

The caller, who refused to give his or her identity, made the call at 12:20 a.m. — about four hours after a previous reporting that a man dressed as a clown was trying to lure children into the woods in the 1200 block of East 29th Street.

In the first call, two children told police that a man dressed as a clown tried to lure them into the woods by offering them treats, according to police.

The man fled the area upon officers’ arrival shortly before 8:30 p.m., and the officers learned that the suspect was seen by two children and heard, but not seen, by an an adult, police said.

In the second report, a caller told police that someone in a clown costume was spotted in the 1600 Block of Hope Lane about 12:20 a.m. Officers could not find the person.

The children were not injured.

The clown costume was described as white overalls, white gloves and red shoes. The suspect had red bushy hair, a white face and a red nose.

The investigation remains active and the department said it is taking the matter seriously.

Halloween is coming, as are some scary movies (one of which features a clown), but this seems like an odd place for a movie promotion.  The W-S clown could be a copycat though.

All the same, very creepy.

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UPDATE:  News now of a THIRD clown in the area:

Greensboro Police on Tuesday morning received a call about another clown sighting in the Piedmont Triad.

The sighting occurred at The Park at Oakridge apartments off Old Oak Ridge Road not far from Interstate 73. A man said he saw a clown near the wooded area behind the complex at about 10 a.m.

Chris Bass told FOX8 he lives at the complex with his wife and two children. He said he was on his balcony when he spotted a man in a white mask, red curly hair and blue pants in the wooded area. Bass tried to chase the clown but could not catch him. He called his actions his “fatherly instinct.”

Breaking: Big Victory For Voter Rights — No Voter ID In Upcoming NC Elections

NC voter ID law will NOT be enforced in fall election after the U.S. Supreme Court denies stay request (in a 4-4 split — obviously, had Scalia lived, it would have been a loss for voting rights advocates, but he didn’t so……)

The stay was a request by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and state officials to delay a permanent injunction blocking provisions in a 2013 voting law. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down several parts of the law last month, saying they were approved by legislators with intentional bias against black voters more likely to support Democrats.

The Supreme Court decision means voters won’t have to show one of several qualifying photo IDs when casting ballots in the presidential battleground state. Early voting also reverts to 17 days.

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RIP Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder, who regularly stole the show in such comedic gems as “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Stir Crazy,” died today at his home in Stamford, Conn. His nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.

He had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

He had been looking frail recently

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Here’s a long biography doc:

6.2 Magnitude Hits Central Italy

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A 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit central Italy early Wednesday and rescuers are searching for survivors.

  • 73 people have died, according to Italian officials [UPDATE 1:45 pm EST: Now 120 dead and still rising]
  • Rescuers struggle to reach some remote towns
  • Amatrice, town at epicenter, “is no more” says mayor
  • Witness: We woke up shaking side to side in bed

Louisiana Flood – How Did It Happen?

You had rain like it was from a slow-moving tropical depression.  It dropped 24+ inches of rain in some places.  That is more rain than what Bakersfield, California, has seen in 5+ years, or Omaha, Nebraska in one year.

As a result, a half dozen river gauges set new record highs in southeast Louisiana.  And not just by a little bit.  Some exceeded their previous record by several feet.

This is what we get:

16 dead.

North Carolina GOP Hoping To Set Voting Rules To Favor Republicans

On the heels of appeals court ruling that restored a week’s worth of early voting in North Carolina, the executive director of the state’s Republican Party emailed a memo to members of local elections boards urging them to push for “party line changes” that cut back on early voting hours, The News and Observer reported.

The memo, sent by NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse on Sunday, said that Republican board members “should fight with all they have to promote safe and secure voting and for rules that are fair to our side.”

“Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Last month, a panel of judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a2013 law passed by the state‘s Republican legislature that cut back early voting in the state from 17 days to 10 days, ruling that it intended to discriminate against African Americans. Other voting restrictions in the law were struck down as well. The state hasasked the Supreme Court to halt parts of the ruling and allow North Carolina to keep its cutbacks to early voting, among other provisions.

The memo came as local election boards are working on schedules for early voting that take into account the appeals court decision. Per the News and Observer:

County elections boards are developing new early voting schedules in response to a federal court ruling that threw out the state’s voter ID law. In addition to revoking North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, the ruling requires counties to offer 17 days of early voting.

The voter ID law limited early voting to a 10-day period, but counties were required to offer at least the same number of voting hours as they did during the 2012 election. The court ruling eliminates that floor on hours – meaning that counties can legally provide fewer hours and fewer early voting sites than they did in the last presidential election.

Woodhouse’s memo warmed that “Democrats are mobilizing for a fight over early voting locations and times.”

“They are filling up election board meetings and demanding changes that are friendly to democrats and possibly voter fraud,” he wrote.

Among the recipients of his memo were Republican officials who sit on the three-member county boards that approve election schedules in each county. In North Carolina, the governor appoints members to the State Board of Elections which in turn appoints members to the county boards, where two members are allowed to be members of the same party and are typically recommended by the state party chair. Because North Carolina has a Republican governor, two out of the three on each board are currently Republican, according the News and Observer.

Woodhouse went on to write in the memo that cutbacks to early voting hours were necessary because the extra week allowed for same-day registration, which the appeals court decision also brought back after it was eliminated by the 2013 law.

“We believe same-day registration is ripe with voter fraud, or the opportunity to commit it,” he said. “Same-day registration is only available during early voting. We are under no obligation to offer more opportunities for voter fraud.”

UC-Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen pointed out on his Election Law Blog that early voting is not known to increase the chances of voter fraud. Same-day registration is, however, used disproportionately by black voters.

Woodhouse railed against early voting hours on Sundays, a day that is also popular for voting among African-Americans due to the tradition of black churches’ “souls to the polls” drives.

“Many of our folks are angry and are opposed to Sunday voting for a host of reasons including respect for voter’s religious preferences, protection of our families and allowing the fine election staff a day off, rather than forcing them to work days on end without time off,” Woodhouse wrote. “Six days of voting in one week is enough. Period.”

Woodhouse also pushed elections board officials away from putting early voting sites on college campuses.

“No group of people are entitled to their own early voting site, including college students, who already have more voting options than most other citizens,” Woodhouse wrote.

Since the appeals court decision, there already has been some debate at the local level over early voting in North Carolina. Woodhouse’s own cousin, Eddie Woodhouse, the newest member of the Wake County elections board, tried unsuccessfully last week to push the board to eliminate early voting on Sunday and to remove an early voting site from North Carolina State University.

Dallas Woodhouse, the GOP executive director, defended his memo in an interview with the News and Observer.

“I’m an unabashed partisan, and we have dozens and dozens of Democracy N.C. and NAACP and other people flooding these meetings asking for partisan considerations,” he said. “Our members have a duty, I believe, to act within the law to at least consider the Republican point of view. That’s all we ask them to do.”

RIP John McLaughlin

His show, the McLaughlin Group, was a stable in political programming for three decades.

He worked right up until the end. McLaughlin was 89 years old, and the cause of death was prostate cancer that was diagnosed some time ago and that had spread. The last show he presided over was taped the Friday after the Republican Convention, and it was clear to viewers that his health was declining

It would be his last appearance.

The following week, his show was a re-run.

And this past week, the August 12 show, he did the voiceovers but was too weak to actually appear (as the opening title says).  It was the first time he missed a broadcast in 34 years.

He was a Jesuit priest, and the first Roman Catholic priest to run for political office in the U.S.  He lost.  But he later became a part of Nixon’s speechwriting team.

From its debut in 1982 “The McLaughlin Group” took on the flavor of a barroom debate, pitting a largely white, male cadre of columnists and political insiders against one another as they gave vent to views from the hard right (Mr. Novak and Mr. Buchanan) to the center-left (Morton Kondracke of The New Republic and Jack Germond of The Baltimore Sun). Ms. Clift, a Newsweek correspondent at the time, and the Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, who is black, later joined the group as more liberal regulars.

His program, broadcast on select CBS and PBS stations, inspired a generation of pundits, although few quite adopted his self-exaggerated, blustery persona.

Regardless of the panelists’ political persuasions, Mr. McLaughlin, whose own politics leaned decidedly right, would often fire off questions and cut them off, shouting “Wronnnng!”.  He was satirized by SNL

McLaughlin died Tuesday morning (the 15th) from pancreatic cancer.

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                                                      “Bye-bye”

PPP Puts Clinton Up In NC…. Barely

While Hillary Clinton is enjoying a 8-10 lead in Georgia, her lead locally has always been in question.  A new PPP poll just released shows it still very close in North Carolina:

PPP’s newest North Carolina poll finds Hillary Clinton leading in the state, albeit by a narrow margin, for the first time since March. She’s at 43% to 41% for Donald Trump, 7% for Gary Johnson, and 2% for Jill Stein. In a head to head contest just between Clinton and Trump, she leads 47/46.

Voters haven’t changed their feelings much about Clinton since our June poll in the state- her favorability rating was 39/55 then and it’s 40/55 now. But Trump- already unpopular- has become even more so. He’s seen a 7 point decline in his net popularity from -14 at 38/52 down to -21 at 37/58. His missteps from the last few weeks may be further damaging his reputation.

One finding from the poll that bodes particularly well for Clinton is that voters would prefer a continuation of the Obama administration to Trump’s vision for the country, 50/45. When you look at who the undecideds are in the Clinton/Trump head to head it fits what we’ve found in our other recent polls. By a 33 point margin they prefer Obama over Trump and they have a positive view of Bernie Sanders, giving him a 45/28 favorability. They hate Trump- giving him a 1/94 favorability- but they’re not much more favorable toward Clinton who comes in at 2/75. Because of the direction these folks prefer for the country it seems much more likely that they’ll end up voting Clinton than Trump- or perhaps more likely than anything else staying home. At any rate it’s more likely that they’ll build Clinton’s lead than eat into it when they come off the fence, and that’s good news for Clinton given the advantage she already has.

Donald Trump said a lot of different things last week so we polled to what share of his supporters bought into each of them:

-69% of Trump voters think that if Hillary Clinton wins the election it will be because it was rigged, to only 16% who think it would be because she got more vote than Trump. More specifically 40% of Trump voters think that ACORN (which hasn’t existed in years) will steal the election for Clinton. That shows the long staying power of GOP conspiracy theories.

-48% of Trump voters think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton deserve the blame for Humayun Khan’s death to 16% who absolve them and 36% who aren’t sure one way or the other (Obama was in the Illinois Legislature when it happened.) Showing the extent to which Trump supporters buy into everything he says, 40% say his comments about the Khans last week were appropriate to only 22% who will grant that they were inappropriate. And 39% of Trump voters say they view the Khan family negatively, to just 11% who have a positive opinion of them.

-Even though Trump ended up admitting it didn’t exist 47% of his voters say they saw the video of Iran collecting 400 million dollars from the United States to only 46% who say they didn’t see the video. Showing the extent to which the ideas Trump floats and the coverage they get can overshadow the facts, even 25% of Clinton voters claim to have seen the nonexistent video.

-Trump said last week that Hillary Clinton is the devil, and 41% of Trump voters say they think she is indeed the devil to 42% who disagree with that sentiment and 17% who aren’t sure one way or the other.

We’ve been writing for almost a year that there’s a cult like aspect to Trump’s supporters, where they’ll go along with anything he says. Trump made some of his most outlandish claims and statements yet last week, but we continue to find that few in his support base disavow them.

The public as a whole is a different story though. A number of the things Trump has been in the news for lately have the potential to be very damaging to his campaign overall:

-Vladimir Putin has a 9/63 favorability rating with North Carolinians, and Russia as a whole comes in at 14/51. By a 49 point margin they’re less likely to vote for a candidate Russia is perceived to prefer for President, and by a 33 point margin they’re less likely to vote for a candidate seen as friendly toward Russia. This issue is not doing Trump any favors.

-58% of voters think Trump needs to release his tax returns, compared to only 31% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. In every state we’ve polled recently we’ve found an overwhelming sentiment that he needs to release them- independents say he needs to 54/33.

-Even though Trump’s own voters might support the approach he took to the Khan family, only 19% overall think it was appropriate to 54% who think it was inappropriate.

-And after his reported comments last week only 38% of voters think Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons, to 54% who think he can’t be trusted.

Trump is already in a hole – and none of those issues are doing him any favors in trying to get out of it.

Full results here

Let’s reflect on how stupid this state is by focusing on one paragraph above:

69% of Trump voters think that if Hillary Clinton wins the election it will be because it was rigged, to only 16% who think it would be because she got more vote than Trump. More specifically 40% of Trump voters think that ACORN (which hasn’t existed in years) will steal the election for Clinton. That shows the long staying power of GOP conspiracy theories.