Breaking News

Failed Terrorist Attempt In Manhattan Port Authority

  • Police were called to a reported explosion at 7:20 a.m. ET in a below-ground walkway that connects two subway lines at 42nd Street.
  • Responding units found an injured 27-year-old male, identified him as Akayed Ullah. He had burns and wounds to his body.
  • Ullah was from Bangladesh & was doing it “in the name of ISIS”
  • Preliminary investigation at the scene indicates that this male was wearing an improvised low-tech explosive deviceattached to his body. He intentionally detonated that device.
  • There were three other people in the immediate area who also sustained minor injuries.
  • Video (unconfirmed):

No Pee Tape, BUT….

Breaking from NBC:

WASHINGTON — After a business meeting before the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013, a Russian participant offered to “send five women” to Donald Trump’s hotel room in Moscow, his longtime bodyguard told Congress this week, according to three sources who were present for the interview.

Two of the sources said the bodyguard, Keith Schiller, viewed the offer as a joke, and immediately responded, “We don’t do that type of stuff.”

The two sources said Schiller’s comments came in the context of him adamantly disputing the allegations made in the Trump dossier, written by a former British intelligence operative, which describes Trump having an encounter with prostitutes at the hotel during the pageant. Schiller he described his reaction to that story as being, “Oh my God, that’s bull—-,” two sources said.

The conversation with the Russian about the five women took place after a morning meeting about the pageant in Moscow broke up, two sources said.

That night, two sources said, Schiller said he discussed the conversation with Trump as Trump was walking back to his hotel room, and Schiller said the two men laughed about it as Trump went to bed alone. Schiller testified that he stood outside Trump’s hotel room for a time and then went to bed.

One source noted that Schiller testified he eventually left Trump’s hotel room door and could not say for sure what happened during the remainder of the night.

Two other sources said Schiller testified he was confident nothing happened.

Schiller said he and Trump were aware of the risk that hotel rooms in Moscow could be set up to capture hidden video, two sources said.

Schiller was grilled about the Moscow trip as part of four hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. The questioning around the Moscow trip took a significant amount of time, the sources said. Schiller was also asked about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians, two of the sources said. He testified that he did not recall much about that day.

This doesn’t mean the tape exists, but it DOES mean that the salacious allegations in the dossier were not ENTIRELY made up out of thin air.

Breaking: Terrorist Attack In Lower Manhattan?

Unclear. There is one report saying a box truck plowed into some pedestrians and bicyclists in Tribeca area.

Then there’s this…

That would place it near the World Trade Center memorial

UPDATE 3:43 pm —

NYPD Twitter says one person in custody.

UPDATE 3:56 pm —

Mainstream media starting to pick up the story. Still vague. Some reports suggest driver of truck may have been ramming AND shooting.

UPDATE 4:02 pm — New York Post:

At least two people were fatally shot in Lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon by a gunman firing from his truck, police sources said.

The gunman, who is in police custody, shot at least six people at West Street and Chambers Street, which is near Stuyvesant High School, at 3:15 p.m.

“What happened was there was a car crash… he came out of one of the cars. He had two guns. He was running around Chambers and somebody started to chase him,” said a 14-year-old Stuyvesant student. “I heard four to six gunshots – everybody starts running.”

Video of the scene shows at least two people lying limp in the street. Photos show a smashed up Home Depot rental truck.

That is the Home Depot rental. AP is reporting that it drove down the bike path, hitting riders and pedestrians, then crashed.

Other reports:

UPDATE — 4:20 pm —

Some reports say six dead. However, only two are confirmed dead.

Another report suggests this might have been a road rage incident, rather than terrorism.

UPDATE: 4:30 pm —

Being Fox News, I take that with a grain of salt.

UPDATE: 4:43 pm —

Official death toll at 6 now.

FBI is taking over the case, so that would suggest this is being treated as a terrorist incident for now.

UPDATE: 5:35pm —

Driver entered bike path at 3:10 PM.

Suspect is 29 years old. This is being treated as a terrorist attack. At least eight are confirmed dead. The suspect had a paintball gun and a pellet gun.

Incredibly, the New York Halloween Parade, which is only blocks away from the incident, and starting at 7:30pm, is going to go forward on what many will see as an act of defiance. There will, of course, be heavily police presence and sand trucks.

Suspect is Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, from Tampa Florida, who came to the US in 2010 from Uzbeckistan. It is thought he had the fake guns because he wanted the police to shoot him and kill him (this getting martyrdom).

LATE UPDATE —

Final toll is 8 dead, 11 injured. Five of the dead were tourists from Argentina celebrating a 30th high school reunion.

Another of the dead was a mother of two children from Belgium. She was on a city trip with her two sisters and her mother, who were unharmed.

Saipov appears to be an “ISIS-inspired” lone wolf.

Trump, ever the coward, politicizes it the following morning, by blaming prominent Democrat:

Trump, of course, didn’t know what he was talking about in asking for getting rid of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. Republican Jeff Flake responded:

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.

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:

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.

 

 

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”

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

currentwinds

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.

currentlandfall

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

track

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.

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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Breaking: 4th Circuit Overturns Lower Court; Finds That GOP “Intentionally” Passed “Discriminatory” Voting Rights Law

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated North Carolina’s stringent new voting restrictions, holding that the law violates both the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. The North Carolina measure, the Fourth Circuit held, has a discriminatory impact on black voters, impermissibly burdening their voting rights under the VRA. More boldly, the court also held that the law was enacted with discriminatory intent, designed by the Republican legislature to curb black voting rights in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This dual finding of discriminatory impact and intent makes the Fourth Circuit’s decision the boldest judicial rejection of voting restrictions in years.

As the court explains, North Carolina passed its omnibus voting bill, SL 2013-381, almost immediately after the Supreme Court freed the state’s voting laws from federal “preclearance”—meaning that after nearly 50 years under supervision, the state was finally free to change voting laws without federal oversight. The legislature promptly “requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices.” And “upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected black voters.” The new law created draconian requirements for valid voter ID, eliminating those IDs most commonly used by black voters; cut back early voting and killed same-day registration; eliminated preregistration for teenagers; and eliminated out-of-precinct voting for voters who accidentally showed up at the wrong precinct in the correct county.

Every single one of these restrictions disproportionately burdened black voters; indeed, as the Fourth Circuit writes, SL 2013-381 seemed to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” (Meanwhile, there is essentially no evidence that voter fraud ever occurs in North Carolina.) The evidence that the legislature enacted SL 2013-381 for precisely this purpose—to hamper black voting rights—is almost overwhelming. Indeed, the state even acknowledged that it had eliminated one early voting day, a Sunday, because it was a traditional “souls to the polls” day, when black voters were provided transportation from church to the polls. “Counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black” and “disproportionately Democratic,” the legislature said—so, in response, it did away with one of two days of Sunday voting. This, the Fourth Circuit writes, is “as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times”:

The State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race—specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise.

But really, the North Carolina legislature littered its voting law with almost comically obvious smoking guns. Black voters, the court explains, are also more likely to utilize same-day registration, preregistration, and out-of-precinct voting. The legislature knew this when it enacted SL 2013-381; it had “requested a racial breakdown” of different voting methods, and, as the Fourth Circuit notes, discovered:

The legislature’s racial data demonstrated that, as the district court found, “it is indisputable that African American voters disproportionately used [same-day registration] when it was available.” … [I]n-person assistance likely would disproportionately benefit African Americans. SL 2013-381 eliminated same-day registration.

And on and on it goes—each restriction, the court persuasively explains, was crafted to crack down on voting methods favored by black voters. These “seemingly irrational restrictions unrelated to the goal of combating fraud,” the Fourth Circuit writes, can only be explained by discriminatory intent. And the legislature’s highly suspect behavior in enacting SL 2013-381—rushing it through, on party lines, as soon as it was freed of federal oversight—raises serious constitutional red flags. “Indeed,” the court writes, “neither this legislature—nor, as far as we can tell, any other legislature in the Country—has ever done so much, so fast, to restrict access to the franchise.”

As a result of the law’s discriminatory intent and impact, the Fourth Circuit concludes, each of its central provisions must be invalidated under the Equal Protection Clause and the VRA.

It is a very hard rebuke to the lower court.  Now, I know Judge Schroeder, the lower court judge who found that there was no discrimination intended when North Carolina passed its new voter laws.  He is a thorough and competent judge, and certainly no racist.  But not being a Southerner, he just doesn’t see certain things which the older Southern gentlemen of the Fourth Circuit did see.  As the Fourth Circuit wrote, “the [lower] court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees.  This failure of perspective lef the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”

This is a HUGE win for North Carolina (the people, not the current government) with national repercussions.

It will no doubt go to the U.S. Supreme Court, where, with a 4-4 split, it will probably be upheld.

The 83 page opinion is below:

Nice Terror Attack: At Least 84 Killed, Including 10 Children, As Truck Slams Into Bastille Day Crowd

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He drove more than a mile through the crowd, swerving at times to make sure he hit people.

The videos of the carnage are devastating.

The driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was shot and killed.

The victims include two Americans: Texas residents Sean Copeland, 51, and his son Brodie, 11, who were on vacation with their family in Nice.

Here’s what we know about the terrorist, and it shows a familiar pattern:

Lahouaiej Bouhlel was a 31-year-old French-Tunisian delivery driver known to police who is reported to have driven a 19-tonne white Renault lorry into crowds gathered for Bastille Day celebrations in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing 84 people. His identity as the driver has not been confirmed by the French police.

The perpetrator of Nice’s worst ever terror attack was reportedly a married father of three who neighbours described as a “loner” with a George Clooney haircut.

According to several French reports, Bouhel was born in Tunisia in 1985 and had a French residency permit. Police raided his flat, where he reportedly lived alone, in the Abattoirs area of the city on Friday morning.

According to Tunisian security sources, Lahouaiej Bouhlel hailed from the Tunisian town of Msaken, which is close to the seaside city of Sousse, where 38 people, including 30 Britons, were gunned down by terrorists in June 2015.

French television station BFM TV reported that he was a divorced father of three who had become depressed following the breakdown of his marriage.

Neighbours told the channel he was not particularly interested in religion, adding that he preferred girls and salsa.

They said that he had been unhappy since he divorce, and that he suffered from financial problems.

Neighbors described him as “depressed and unstable, even aggressive” of late. They put this down to his “marital and financial problems”.

One told BFM TV he was “more into women than religion”.

“He (didn’t) pray and like(d) girls and Salsa,” according to BFM’s crime correspondent.

Jasmine, 40 said: “He was rude and bit weird.

“We would hold the door open for him and he would just blank him. He kept himself to himself but would always rant about his wife. He had martial problems and would tell people in the local cafe. He scared my children though.”

She added: “He was very smart with the same haircut as George Clooney.”

Sébastien, a neighbour, said he “didn’t have the apparence of a religious person and was often in shorts, sometimes wearing ‘security’ shoes”. Another neighbour, Anan, said that she found him shifty and described him as “a good-looking man who eyed up my two girls too much”.

One resident told the Telegraph: “He was quiet and moody. I did not know whether he was a Muslim. I think he had a motorbike.”

A woman living in the same block said: “I hardly knew him, but from what I could see he seemed very weird. He lived alone. He said very little to anyone and wasn’t very polite. He wouldn’t hold the door open for you.”

He was known to the police for assault with a weapon, domestic violence, threats and robbery but had no previous convictions for terrorism.

Investigating sources said his last appearance in a criminal court was as recently as March and had previous convictions for armed theft, conjugal violence and threatening behaviour. Despite this, he had no known links with terrorism and was not under surveillance.

According to BFMTV he had also recently caused an accident after falling asleep at the wheel while working as a delivery driver, and was taken into custody following the incident.

The operative phrase: “more into women than religion”.  Like the Orlando shooter, this guy seems to have latched on to committing a terrorist act, not because of some ideology, but because his life was falling apart.  And some psychological problems.

And note — not a refugee.

Enter Donald Trump. Without knowing details about the attack, Trump wants to declare war. On whom, he doesn’t say. On what basis, he doesn’t know. A NATO country has been attacked, sure (by a lone individual as far as we know now). But Trump thinks NATO is obsolete and the U.S. pays too much for it. Others should pay. So with that for background, when Bill O’Reilly asked Trump if he would send in air and ground forces (somewhere) Trump said:

“I would, I would” when asked if he would seek a formal declaration of military action from the US Congress. “This is war,” Trump continued. “If you look at it, this is war. Coming from all different parts. And frankly it’s war, and we’re dealing with people without uniforms. In the old days, we would have uniforms. You would know who you’re fighting.”

But since Trump doesn’t know who that is and can’t force whoever it is to wear uniforms, what this situation absolutely requires is a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part. And Trump is just the guy to do it. Count on him to try to make somebody else pay for it. In the end, that someone would be us.

Trump is, of course, stoking fear.  Just like a terrorist would.

He probably needs to be reminded that ISIS has lost at least 50 percent of the territory occupied since its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of their “caliphate” in 2013.  They’ve been run from places like Haditha, Fallujah, and in due course Mosul.

Not that Trump would dare give Obama credit.

Gingrich added to the stupidity, saying:

Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia, glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door. But we need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are.

Aside from being unconstitutional, it is unclear if that tactic would have stopped this guy (had he been an American) or the Orlando shooter.  Neither was particularly religious.

Also — not for nothing, Newt — but since we’re going to deport people for their dangerous beliefs, I know plenty of Christians who hold incompatible values.

Breaking: Officers Shot In Dallas Protest

CNN affiliate KTVT in Dallas is reporting that two police officers have been shot after a peaceful protest deaths of two black men. Chaotic live footage from the scene shows police and SWAT teams in a tense combat

Police in tactical gear carrying riots shields descended after about 20 shots in boomed loudly in quick succession, audio that was captured by eyewitness video and posted to Twitter.

MSNBC reporting that the suspect is cornered, three officers have been shot.

http://youtu.be/GHCte_oenFs

UPDATE: 4 officers shot, 1 had died. Negotiators are talking to shooter who is holed up somewhere.  

All this happened about a block from another famous shooting in Dallas.

UPDATE #2: Holy shit. Two snipers, ten officers shot, three of them dead

UPDATE #3: Four dead now. One suspect is in custody after a shootout. The news outlets have been showing a photo of a “person of interest” – a black man with a long rifle before the shooting (totally legal in Dallas).  Social media was able to find that guy in a video AS the shooting was happened, so he’s been cleared by social media even though CNN.and MSNBC are behind on that. Anyway, that person of interest has turned himself in and hopefully he will be let go soon.

Big manhunt for the second suspect.

UPDATE – NEXT MORNING: 12 officers shot, 2 civilians shot, 5 of those officers are dead.

Sniper killed when SWAT team detonated explosive device near him.  He has been identified as Micah X. Johnson, an Army veteran. During standoff, Johnson told police he was “upset by.Black Lives Matter” and “wanted to kill as many white people as possible, especially white cops”.  He also claimed to be acting alone.

Others have been taken into custody, but police are not saying anything about their involvement. They are not acting like other gunmen are at large.

Ironically, Dallas PD had been reactive to BLM movement with increased training, racially diverse policing, etc.  This seems more directed at cops on in general, not Dallas PD in particular.

SCOTUS Strikes Down Oppressive Abortion Restrictions

This morning, the Supreme Court struck down parts of a restrictive Texas law that could have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10 from what was once a high of roughly 40.

The 5-to-3 decision was the court’s most sweeping statement on abortion rights since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. It applied a skeptical and exacting version of that decision’s “undue burden” standard to find that the restrictions in Texas went too far.

The decision on Monday means that similar restrictions in other states are most likely also unconstitutional, and it imperils many other kinds of restrictions on abortion.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

The decision concerned two parts of a Texas law that imposed strict requirements on abortion providers. It was passed by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature and signed into law in July 2013 by Rick Perry, the governor at the time.

One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

“We conclude,” Justice Breyer wrote, “that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution.”

I’m not surprised by the outcome, nor am I surprised by swing justice Kennedy joining the “liberals” on the court.  Frankly, the Texas restrictions were NOT intended to support women’s health.  If you saw who proposed those restrictions (longtime Texas anti-abortion legislators) and listened to their rhetoric, “health of women” was a sham rationale.  Their real objective was to make abortion clinics so regulated that they could not afford to make the required changes, and eventually close down.  In fact, to date, twenty abortion clinics have closed down under those regulations.

So, yes, a victory, and it would have been a victory even if Scalia was alive and on the court.  But it does underscore the importance of the election and who gets to pick the next justices.

Breaking: Literally “On The House Floor”

ClkMvE1WIAANxZm

Dozens of House Democrats are staging a “sit-in” on the House floor until they are allowed a vote on a so-called “no fly, no buy” gun control bill. It is the most dramatic action by House Democrats on gun control since the Orlando shooting on June 12 that left 49 dead and 53 wounded.

Two weeks ago, in the Senate, there was a talking filibuster by Senator Murphy of Connecticut.  That ended when Senate Republicans agreed to allow a vote on various gun control proposals.  None of those proposals passed.

UPDATE:  You won’t see this on TV…

UPDATE #2:  This is simply amazing

And Elizabeth Warren is joining them

Meanwhile, the rep from NC white-splains to John Lewis what is a “sit-in”:

Breaking: Senate Democrats Engaging In Filibuster Re: Gun Control

About an hour and a half ago (around 11:30 am), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) started embarking on a talking filibuster in order to push the Senate to address gun control in the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) alternated speaking about gun control on the Senate floor, according to Fox 61 in Connecticut.

Democrats are signing up to speak — some as late as 10:30 pm.

20 [Update: 50] Dead In Orlando Gay Club Shooting; Possible Terrorism

USA TODAY:

A heavily armed assailant opened fire in a packed Orlando nightclub early Sunday in a bloody massacre that left about 20 people dead and prompted a terrorism investigation, authorities said.

Police Chief John Mina said the tragedy began at 2:02 a.m., when three police officers engaged in a gun battle with a suspect outside Pulse Orlando, a gay club just south of downtown. A hostage situation then took place inside, and a SWAT team was called in, Mina said. Police received updates from patrons trapped in the club, and decided to storm the club at about 5 a.m.

Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP
Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

“Our biggest concern was further loss of life,” Mina said. “We exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at the scene.”

Mina said 42 people were transferred to local hospitals, and one officer was wounded. He estimated the death toll at 20, and said at least 30 people were rescued.

“Tonight our community witnessed a horrific crime… that will have a lasting effect on our community,” a solemn Mayor Buddy Dyer said.

FBI Special Agent Ronald Hopper said the case was being investigated as a possible act of terrorism, either domestic or international. It was not clear if the shooter acted alone, he said. He said authorities were trying to determine if there was a connection with radical Islam.
“We do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology,” Hopper said.

A federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY the suspect has been identified as Omar Mateen and said investigators were reviewing the attacker’s possible utterances that may provide more specific information about a terror ideology or affiliation. The official, who was not authorized to comment, characterized the attack as “certainly’’ terrorism. It was not immediately clear whether investigators were aware of the attacker prior to the assault.

Mina said the gunman was armed with an assault rifle, a handgun and some sort of unidentified device. Officers from multiple agencies and dozens of emergency vehicles responded to the scene. Orange County Fire and Rescue called for gurneys to move victims from the club.

Many of the casualties were rushed to Orlando Regional Medical Center, which was placed on lockdown.
“We can confirm this is a mass casualty situation. Support from local/state/federal agencies,” Orlando police tweeted about four hours after events began to unfold. Then, a short time later: “Pulse Shooting: The shooter inside the club is dead.”

The White House said President Obama  was briefed by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
Mina said there was no indication that there was more than one shooter. A bomb squad was at the scene, and police reported conducting a “controlled explosion.”
Hours after the shooting, police were still trying to piece together what happened.
“Anyone who was at Pulse nightclub and was a witness Please come to the Orlando Police HQ,” the department tweeted. “Any information you have could aid investigators in this case”

FBI Director James Comey has said in recent months that authorities had about 1,000 open investigations into home grown violent extremists. The overwhelming number of those cases, authorities said, were suspects with alleged ties to the Islamic State.

Orlando recently wrapped up its annual weeklong Gay Days festival on June 6 in which up to 150,000 in the LGBT community attend area theme parks, gay nightclubs and special events. It was the 25th anniversary of Gay Days. It remains one of the largest gay pride events in the world.

Saturday night and into Sunday, the club was celebrating Latin Night. Club patron Christopher Hansen told CNN he heard what could have been 20 or 30 shots, setting off a panic as people scrambled for cover or raced for the exits. He said he helped a couple people who were wounded.

“It’s just shocking,” said Hansen, who crawled to safety. “I just saw bodies going down.”
As the tragedy was unfolding, Pulse Orlando posted to its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”
Rosie Feba, a witness, told the Orlando Sentinel she and her girlfriend were in the club near closing time when, “she told me someone was shooting. Everyone was getting on the floor. I told her I didn’t think it was real, I thought it was just part of the music, until I saw fire coming out of his gun.”

Feba told the Sentinel she her girlfriend ran out of the club and helped a man who had been shot get outside.

The Orlando Fire Department called for its bomb squad and hazardous material team to the scene after 3 a.m. ET. Police K-9 dogs searched the area around nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center with an armed deputy in head-to-toe military gear.

A loud bang was heard before 5 a.m., but Orlando Police tweeted that it was the  controlled explosion by law enforcement.

Ali Kurnaz, 25, told USA TODAY he was working in his living room about a block from the nightclub when he heard gunfire.

“I could hear multiple rounds of gunfire to the point where it scared my cats,” Kurnaz said. “They came running from a different room.”

Kurnaz said he heard sirens as multiple police cars headed to the crime scene and helicopters flying over his neighborhood.
In some tweets appearing to come from inside Pulse nightclub short after the assault, people said they were hiding. Twitter users also said they heard multiple gunshots.
The shooting spree came just
one day after The Voice star Christina Grimmie was shot and killed after a concert Friday night at the Plaza Live Theater in Orlando. That gunman, identified as Kevin James Loibl, 27, of St. Petersburg, Fla., fatally shot himself after the attack.

UPDATE ON SHOOTER:

Both of Mateen’s parents are originally from Afghanistan, according to CBS News.

Mateen was born in New York, NBC News reports.

He was married in 2009, public records show. It is not clear if he was still married at the time of the attack.

Mateen is a registered Democrat who has also lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, according to online records.

He was also a notary public in Florida, but his license, issued in 2008, expired in 2012, records show.

UPDATE: Orlando mayor now says 50 dead, 53 injured

UPDATE: Shooter’s father tells NBC that religion not a factor, but did hear his son speak out against gays as recently as two weeks ago.

Breaking: Shots Fired At Dallas Love Field Airport

Looks like the shooting was done by authorities.  One person wounded.

UPDATE:  Apparently not terrorist related.  Local criminal issue, early reports say.  Yes:

The Transportation Security Administration confirms to NBC 5 that they are “aware of the incident,” but that “this is a local law enforcement matter.”

Breaking: Trump Issues Statement On Trump U

Interestingly, he reiterates much of what he says before, although he blames the media for “misconstruing” his earlier comments.  It is hard to tell what exactly he is saying was “misconstrued.”  But more importantly, I believe, is the last paragraph, where he says he will no longer answer questions or talk about the Trump U case.

Hmmmmm.  We’ll see.  The statement itself is so vague that it demands follow-ups from the media.

Here is the statement in full:

It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent. The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard. I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.

Over the past few weeks, I have watched as the media has reported one inaccuracy after another concerning the ongoing litigation involving Trump University. There are several important facts the public should know and that the media has failed to report.

Throughout the litigation my attorneys have continually demonstrated that students who participated in Trump University were provided a substantive, valuable education based upon a curriculum developed by professors from Northwestern University, Columbia Business School, Stanford University and other respected institutions. And, the response from students was overwhelming. Over a five year period, more than 10,000 paying students filled out surveys giving the courses high marks and expressing their overwhelming satisfaction with Trump University’s programs. For example:

Former student Tarla Makaeff, the original plaintiff in the litigation, not only completed multiple surveys rating Trump University’s three-day seminar “excellent” in every category, but also praised Trump University’s mentorship program in a glowing 5 plus minute video testimonial. When asked “how could Trump University help to meet [her] goals”, she simply stated “[c]ontinue to offer great classes.” Once the plaintiffs’ lawyers realized how disastrous a witness she was, they asked to have her removed from the case. Over my lawyers’ objections, the judge granted the plaintiffs’ motion, but allowed the case to continue.Art Cohen, a lead plaintiffs in the litigation, completed a survey in which he not only rated Trump University’s three-day seminar “excellent” in virtually every category, but went so far as to indicate that he would “attend another Trump University seminar” and even “recommend Trump University seminars to a friend.” When asked how Trump University could improve the seminar, Mr. Cohen’s only suggestion was to “[h]ave lunch sandwiches brought in” and make the lunch break 45 minutes.

Former student Bob Giullo, who has been critical of Trump University in numerous interviews and negative advertisements from my political opponents, also expressed his satisfaction, rating Trump University’s programs “excellent” in every category. When asked how Trump University could improve its programs, Mr. Giullo simply asked that students be provided “more comfortable chairs.”

Indeed, these are just a few of literally thousands of positive surveys, all of which can be viewed online at www.98percentapproval.com.

For those students who decided that Trump University’s programs were not for them, the company had a generous refund policy, offering a full refund to any student who asked for their money back within 3 days of signing up for a program or by the end of the first day of any multi-day program, whichever came later.

Normally, legal issues in a civil case would be heard in a neutral environment. However, given my unique circumstances as nominee of the Republican Party and the core issues of my campaign that focus on illegal immigration, jobs and unfair trade, I have concerns as to my ability to receive a fair trial.

I am fighting hard to bring jobs back to the United States. Many companies – like Ford, General Motors, Nabisco, Carrier – are moving production to Mexico. Drugs and illegal immigrants are also pouring across our border. This is bad for all Americans, regardless of their heritage.

Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the Judge’s reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama appointed Judge’s impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case.

While this lawsuit should have been dismissed, it is now scheduled for trial in November. I do not intend to comment on this matter any further. With all of the thousands of people who have given the courses such high marks and accolades, we will win this case!

Donald J. Trump

Oh where to start?  He denies it is an attack on people of Mexican heritage, just an attack on THIS JUDGE… because of his Mexican heritage.

Ah.  That’s so much better.

By the way, go read that first paragraph again.  CLEARLY, Trump did not write this.

Anyway, then he talks about the thousands (it’s now 10,000 students) who filled out surveys and gave it high marks.  Yeah, we know about this scores:

Robert Guillo gave a glowing evaluation to his instructor at Trump University because, he said, the teacher pleaded for the best possible score, warning that without it, “Mr. Trump might not invite me back to teach again.”

Jeffrey Tufenkian offered excellent ratings because his Trump University-assigned mentor refused to leave the room until he did so, standing “right in front of me” as he filled out the evaluation form, he said.

John Brown tried to give his Trump University teacher a poor review — but said he was talked out of it by employees of the program, who called him three times, hounding him to raise his original scores.

“Tired of the continuing phone calls,” he later testified, “I finally gave in.” His dismal marks changed to top scores, Brown said.

***

Interviews and documents show that employees of Trump University at times applied pressure on students to offer favorable reviews, instructed them to fill out the forms in order to obtain their graduation certificates, and ignored standard practices used to ensure that the surveys were filled out objectively.

***

At the same time, students and their lawyers have raised doubts about Trump’s claim of 98 percent satisfaction. A website set up to defend Trump University, 98percentapproval.com, has published 10,000 student evaluations, but not all of them were from paying students. They include some from the more than 3,000 free guests that paying participants were encouraged to bring to the classes. More than 2,000 other students never made it to the end of their courses — they sought and received refunds before the end of their classes, as company policy allowed, according to court records.

Right.  It’s easier to get positive evaluations for free services.  Those aren’t the people suing Trump.  It’s the ones who coughed up $35,000 and didn’t get their money’s worth.

And by the way, 98% approval is ridiculous.  That’s lilke when a dictator wins 98% of the vote.  That’s a rigged number.

And finally, note how this guy Robert (Bob) Guillo appears in the Trump press release, and in the excerpted Globe article above.  It seems there are different accounts of why he rated what he rated.  That’s called a “factual dispute” in legal practice.  And it appears to be a relevant one.  Guess what?  Judges don’t grant summary judgment when there are relevant factual disputes.  And I am sure there are many many many more relevant factual disputes.  That’s why summary judgment is denied; that’s why it goes to trial.  It has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the judge.  And Trump knows that.  If he doesn’t, he’s too dump to be President.

Speculative Theories On EgyptAir MS804

As I write this, we don’t know much about what happened to MS804, which disappeared off radar last night (our time).  The wreckage has not even been found yet.

But if I may be allowed to speculate (and it’s my blog, so why not), I think we can conclude that the loss was due to an explosive device.

Why do I say this?  Process of elimination.

We know that MS804 was flying in clear weather.  So that possibility is out.

We know that it was flying at a steady altitude of 37,000 feet, and did not change direction or altitude in the minutes before it “disappeared” from the radar.  This would suggest that whatever happened, it happened quickly.  If, say, a cargo door had blown off and the cabin depressurized, the aircraft would have stayed aloft for many minutes, as the pilots struggled to keep control.  That didn’t happen.  Nor was any radio or distress signal sent.  From all this, we can rule out some sort of mechanical error with the craft or its maintenance.  It is highly unlikely that a mechanical error would result in a sudden disappearance (and plummet) of an aircraft.

That leaves explosion.

There are a couple ways an aircraft could explode.  It could have been hit by another aircraft.  But this would have been known by now (if another aircraft was downed or missing).  It could have been hit by a missile (ground-to-air), as in an act of terrorism.  This is unlikely because the airplane was so high (37,000 feet) and 100 nautical miles out to sea.  It could have been an explosion due to some dangerous explosive cargo, but we know it was carrying none.

What we are left with then…. is an explosive device.

If true…. that is disturbing, since it clearly indicates a breakdown in security, either at the Paris airport (deGaulle) or one of the previous airports.

Trump Releases List of 11 Potential SCOTUS Justices

Breaking:

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has released a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump’s picks include Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado and Raymond Gruender of Missouri.

Also on the list are: Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas.

Trump said in March he planned to release the list to ease concerns about his conservative credentials in the Republican primary.

Let the vetting begin.

HB2 Cease And Desist Deadline Is Today

Today is the deadline the U.S. Department of Justice has given the state of North Carolina to cease and desist its enforcement of the HB2 transgender discrimination law.

Gov. Pat McCrory had asked federal officials for an extension of today’s deadline to declare that North Carolina will not comply with its newly enacted law restricting anti-discrimination protections.  McCrory said the U.S. Department of Justice declined his request unless he was willing to admit that House Bill 2 was discriminatory.

Which he wouldn’t do.

State Rep. Paul Stam, one of the bill’s sponsors, told NPR yesterday he hoped that the governor would stand firm against the federal government enforcing an “Obama-type” bathroom policy.

After a Twitter debate with N.C. House Majority Leader Mike Hager about North Carolina’s HB2 transgender discrimination bill and whether the NBA All-Star Game would take place in Charlotte, former TV talk show host Montel Williams last week sent Hager a cake festooned with “#lovewins” and “#repealHB2” written in icing. Williams, a conservative who campaigned for Republican candidate John Kasich, opposes the law.

So….. as I write this, news is breaking that North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department.

UPDATE — Here it is:

Here, to me, is the problem that the state has.

Bodpriv

I’m not sure how one’s “bodily privacy” is affected by the presence of transexuals in the same restroom.  That is, unless you hold the belief that transsexuals are “checking you out”.  Which would be an interesting allegation to prove.

UPDATE #2:  

Here’s what happened at McCrory’s press conference earlier today:

In a press conference, McCrory said he did not seek out the issue but was responding to policies being made at the local level in the city of Charlotte.

Which matters…. how?

The governor also said that after DOJ sent a letter last week informing him the legislation violates civil rights law, the state was given just five days to reply.

So…. five times as longer than it took the NCGS to write, “debate”, vote on, and then have the governor sign the law.

He added that DOJ refused his request for an extension unless he publicly said he agreed with the agency’s interpretation of federal law.

“That is why this morning, I have asked a federal court to clarify what the law actually is,” McCrory said. “I anticipate our own legislature, other private sector entities from throughout the United States and possibly other states to join us in seeking this clarification because this is not just a North Carolina issue, this is a national issue.”

Yeah.  I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for other states to chime in.  Mississippi, maybe.

UPDATE #4 – 4 pm — 

US Atty General Loretta Lynch (from North Carolina, coincidentally) says the DOJ retains the right to withhold federal funds from NC.  The lawsuit is against the state as well as the university system for violations of Titles VII and IX.

Her speech was actually very human and touching.  She reassured transgender people that the federal government has their back.  Nice.

Breaking: US Govt to NC — Fix HB 2 Or Else

This may end sooner than even I thought:

U.S. Justice Department officials Wednesday notified Gov. Pat McCrory that House Bill 2 violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act. 

The department gave state officials until Monday to address the situation “by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.”

The letter says HB2, which pre-empted Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, violates Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in education based on sex.

If that determination is upheld, North Carolina could lose millions in federal school funding. During the current school year, state public schools received $861 million in federal funding.

Breaking: RIP Prince

Shock.

Prince was 57.  Police are investigating the death at his estate in Carver County, Minnesota.

Earlier this month, he said he wasn’t feeling well, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and canceled at least one concert in the city. Some days later, he took the stage in Atlanta to perform. After that concert, the singer’s plane made an emergency landing, the singer’s spokesperson Yvette Noel-Schure told CNN. At the time she said, “He is fine and at home.”

Prince Rogers Nelson owned the year 1984 — in fact most of the mid-80s — in many ways more so than Michael Jackson.  During the week of July 27, 1984, Prince’s film Purple Rain hit number one at the box office. That same week, the film’s soundtrack was the best-selling album and “When Doves Cry” was holding the top spot for singles.

He also wrote songs for other people: “Manic Monday” for the Bangles, “I Feel For You” for Chaka Khan, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” for Sinéad O’Connor.

Here are Prince’s 40 biggest Billboard Hot 100 hits:

Rank, Title, Hot 100 Peak Year, Position (Weeks Spent at No. 1)
1, “When Doves Cry,” 1984, No. 1 (5)*
2, “Kiss,” 1986, No. 1 (2)*
3, “Let’s Go Crazy,” 1984, No. 1 (2)
4, “Cream,” 1991, No. 1 (2)**
5, “Batdance,” 1989, No. 1 (1)
6, “Raspberry Beret,” 1985, No. 2*
7, “U Got the Look,” 1987, No. 2
8, “Purple Rain,” 1984, No. 2*
9, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” 1994, No. 3
10, “Sign ‘O’ the Times,” 1987, No. 3
11, “Little Red Corvette,” 1983, No. 6
12, “Diamonds and Pearls,” 1992, No. 3**
13, “Thieves in the Temple,” 1990, No. 6
14, “Pop Life,” 1985, No. 7*
15, “Delirious,” 1983, No. 8
16, “I Would Die 4 U,” 1985, No. 8*
17, “7,” 1993, No. 7**
18, “Alphabet St.,” 1988, No. 8
19, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” 1988, No. 10
20, “1999,” 1983, No. 12
21, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” 1980, No. 11
22, “Partyman,” 1989, No. 18
23, “Gett Off,” 1991, No. 21**
24, “Mountains,” 1986, No. 23*
25, “Take Me With You,” 1985, No. 25***
26, “The Arms of Orion,” 1989, No. 36****
27, “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night,” 1992, No. 23**
28, “I Hate U,” 1995, No. 12
29, “LetItGo,” 1994, No. 31
30, “America,” 1985, No. 46*
31. “The Morning Papers,” 1993, No. 44
32. “Anotherloverholenyohead,” 1986, No. 63*
33. “Let’s Pretend We’re Married/Irresistible Bitch,” 1984, No. 52*
34. “My Name Is Prince,” 1992, No. 36**
35. “Hot Thing,” 1988, No. 63
36. “Pink Cashmere,” 1993, No. 50
37. “Controversy,” 1981, No. 70
38. “Call My Name,” 2004, No. 75
39. “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold,” 2000, No. 63
40. “New Power Generation,” 1990, No. 64

Forget the eccentricity and vanity. Fantastic guitarist and writer and showman.  Like the late David Bowie, he was another gender-bender and barrier breaker.

Prince sold 100+ million records, won 7 Grammys and destroyed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in 2004 at a tribute to George Harrison.  Some call this the greatest live guitar solo performance of all time (it starts around 3:25)

For my money, his best song was Raspberry Beret, and the video was awesome.  The long version.  Which hard to find.  But here is the link.  The part where he coughs up a furrball within this shiny production number gives me pure joy.

Prince’s unreleased catalog is nearly as expansive as his official discography.  Because of his protectiveness, plus ongoing copyright and distributor disputes, there’s not a lot of Prince stuff out there.  But here’s a rarity — a Prince cover of Honky Tonk Woman:

UPDATE:  Poor Wolf Blitzer on CNN.  I guess he’s thinking Hendrix died (again).  Keeps referring to “Purple Haze” instead of “Purple Rain”.

NEXT DAY UPDATE:  All the tributes…

Court Opinion: 4th Circuit Sides with Transgender High School Student Suing School Board for Access to Boy’s Bathroom

The Fourth Circuit just reversed a lower Virginia court, which had tossed a lawsuit by a transgender boy against the school district which barred his access to the boy’s room.

Not a final decision on the merits — the case was handed back down to the Virginia federal court.  But a good harbinger, since on other federal appeals court has weighed in on the issue.

I should also mention that my city did a good thing last night, if only symbolic:

The Winston-Salem City Council approved Monday night a resolution highly critical of much of the new House Bill 2 legislation that has set off controversy in the state and beyond over transgender restroom use and LGBT rights.

On a 6-1 vote, the council approved a resolution drawn up by Council Member Dan Besse calling on the city’s representatives in Raleigh to work toward undoing “inadequately considered and damaging legislative changes” that opponents see in the law.

The Besse resolution doesn’t mention the Charlotte restroom ordinance that provoked the General Assembly into action, one that would have given transgender people the right to use the restroom corresponding to their chosen gender identification. In fact, Besse said all along he wouldn’t ask council members to take a stand on that issue.

But Besse’s resolution does fault HB2 for taking away the ability of local governments to enact local ordinances concerning discrimination. As well, the resolution criticizes the law for preventing local governments from influencing private employer worker benefits by making the benefits a condition for getting a city contract.

The resolution carries no legal weight, but adds Winston-Salem to the growing list of N.C. cities voicing opposition to the new law.

The one Republican who voted against even has some problems with HB2:

Council Member Robert Clark, the board’s only Republican, was also the sole member to vote against the resolution. But Clark voiced concerns about some aspects of HB2 that he believes should be reconsidered, although he said he shares the concerns voiced by lawmakers about “male genitalia in female locker rooms” that were voiced when the bill was passed.

“At the same time, I recognize the difficulty a transgender person would have navigating a very private dilemma,” Clark said, adding that a third restroom might be a solution but isn’t one that has been proposed.

“We must, as a state, develop policies that protect civil rights of all persons while equally protecting the privacy rights of all as well,” Clark said.

And our AG made this point:

Besse’s resolution and Clark both took issue with the provision of HB2 that prevents someone from suing in state court for any kind of discrimination.

And one of Clark’s objections isn’t mentioned in Besse’s resolution but was pointed out as a problem with the legislation by Angela Carmon, the city attorney.

Carmon recently said the state law’s anti-discrimination measures — which do not mention sexual orientation or gender identity — could, if applied to the city’s own employment practices, put the city at odds with federal civil rights regulations that are increasingly being interpreted as covering sexual orientation and gender identity.

So. Yeah.  Good thing.

Breaking: Governor McSmarmy Doubles Down But Also Retreats

Feeling the heat:

RALEIGH, N.C. – Governor McCrory signed an executive order Tuesday that clarifies existing state law and provides new protection for North Carolina residents.

According to the Governor’s Office, Executive Order 93 does the following:

  • Maintains the common sense gender-specific restroom and locker room facilities in government buildings and schools.
  • Affirms the private sector’s right to establish its own restroom and locker room policies.
  • Affirms the private sector and local governments’ right to establish its own non-discrimination employment policies for its own employees
  • Expands the state’s employment policy for state employees to cover sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Seeks legislation to reinstate the right to sue in state court for discrimination

According to a statement released by McCrory’s office, North Carolina is now one of 24 states that have protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for its employees.

“After listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy, especially against the great state of North Carolina,” said Governor McCrory. “Based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state’s commitment to privacy and equality.”

Governor McCrory released the following statement in a video with the announcement of the executive order:

North Carolina proudly welcomes all people to live, work and visit our great state.

We didn’t become the ninth most populous state in the nation by accident. We have long held traditions of both ensuring equality for all of our citizens and our visitors, while also respecting the privacy of everyone.

We are also a state that strives to allow our people and businesses to be as independent as possible without overreaching government regulations.

These North Carolina values of privacy and equality came into conflict recently when the Charlotte City Council passed a new mandate that forced on businesses a city-wide ordinance of bathroom and locker room regulations, something frankly we had never seen or had before in that great city or in North Carolina.

Simply put, this government overreach was a solution in search of a problem.

In fact, the Charlotte City Council rejected this proposal less than a year ago.

In a letter prior to the most recent vote, I notified the Charlotte City Council that this unnecessary and intrusive mandate conflicts with basic expectations of privacy in the most private of settings.

Therefore, as I expected, the state took action on what was seen as government overreach.

You know, after listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy, especially against the great state of North Carolina.

But based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state’s commitment to privacy and equality.

To that end, today I have signed an executive order with the goal of achieving that fine balance.

This executive order accomplishes the following:

First, it maintains common sense gender-specific restroom and locker room facilities in government buildings and in our schools, and when possible, encourages reasonable accommodations for families and those who have unique or special circumstances.

Second, the private sector can make its own policy with regard to restrooms, locker rooms and/or shower facilities. This is not a government decision. This is your decision in the private sector.

Third, I have affirmed the private sector and local government’s right to establish its own non-discrimination employment policies.

And fourth, as governor, I have expanded our state equal employment opportunity policy to clarify that sexual orientation and gender identity are included.

And fifth, I will immediately seek legislation in the upcoming short session to reinstate the right to sue for discrimination in North Carolina state courts.

Simply put, I have listened to the people of North Carolina, and the people of North Carolina are entitled to both privacy and equality. We can and we must achieve both of these goals.

Now I know these actions will not totally satisfy everyone, but the vast majority of our citizens want common sense solutions to complex issues.

This is the North Carolina way.

Thank you very much, and may God continue to bless the great state of North Carolina.

The Charlotte Chamber President and CEO, Bob Morgan, released the following statement:

“Today’s action by Governor Pat McCrory sends a positive message to businesses across North Carolina and to our economic development clients throughout the country and world that North Carolina and Charlotte understand the need to attract and retain diverse talent in our workforce.” 

I guess the takeaway from this is that he is feeling the pressure to do something, but he’s not willing to admit he fucked up.

Part of this is the continued bad publicity coming from HB2.  Springsteen, for example, cancelled his concert in Greensboro.  And here’s the latest from the leading convention and visitors bureau in Wake County, the second most populous county in the state:

A report released by Wake County’s leading tourism agency on Mondaysays that the county has lost more than $700,000 in response to the controversial House Bill 2 – and could lose millions more.

The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that four groups have canceled plans to hold events in Wake because of HB2…

 

But based on sourcing from one local Charlotte reporter, the damage appears to go far beyond those four groups, potentially including 29 groups overall. … UPDATE:

UPDATE: Here’s what the loss of just 16 more groups could mean according to the CVB:

The visitors bureau reported that 16 other groups, the names of which it didn’t disclose, also are reconsidering plans to hold events in Wake County. The groups would bring a combined 73,500 people to the area and infuse an estimated $24 million into the local economy, the report says.

RIP Garry Shandling

This one hurts.  And it is very sudden.  TMZ:

Comedian Garry Shandling died at an L.A. area hospital on Thursday … TMZ has learned.

The 66-year-old star was not suffering from any illness … as far as we know … so, it appears this was sudden. A source connected to Shandling says he was healthy and speaking to people on Thursday morning.

Yeah, I saw this tweet recently too

UPDATE: This was a nice tribute

Brussels Attacks: Silver Lining Edition

The death toll stands at 31 from yesterday’s coordinated ISIS-terrorist attacks in Brussels.

We’re getting some details from the Belgian prosecutor.

There were three explosions. Two explosions hit the Zaventem airport in Brussels around 8 am local time (3 am Eastern) in the departure area. One was in the entryway and the other near the American Airlines ticket counter. Both were suicide bombings. 10 people were killed and 100 wounded. A third bomb was left at the airport and safely deactivated, according to the Associated Press. The bomb, in a suitcase, contained the biggest explosive charge; it exploded right after the bomb squad arrived.

Another explosion followed at 9:11 am local time (4:11 am Eastern) in the Maelbeek metro station near central Brussels.  The explosions at Maelbeek were on a metro car, part of a three-car train that had just pulled out on its way to the next station. The metro explosion alone killed 21 people and injured 106, 17 of them seriously

Belgium’s federal prosecutor identified two suspects as two brothers with criminal records, Khalid el-Bakraoui, 27, and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 30, as well as a third man, who they did not identify, who is still at large. Ibrahim el-Bakaraoui was killed in the suicide bombing at the airport, and Khalid el-Bakraoui was killed in the suicide bombing in the metro.

Belgian police released video from the airport that showed three men, allegedly the attackers, pushing luggage carts. The man in the center is Ibrahim el-Bakraoui. The man to his left has not been identified but is thought to be another suicide bomber.  They are searching for the man who is wearing a dark hat and light jacket in the photo.

160322130113-01-belgian-police-photo-exlarge-169TERRORISME   Suspect à identifier  1

The cab driver who took the bombers to the airport was able to help Belgian police find the apartment where the men stayed. Investigators found a nail bomb, chemical products and an ISIS flag during a house search in the northeast Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek, Belgium’s federal prosecutor said in a statement.

They also found a laptop computer which contained a will/suicide note from Ibrihim El Bakraoui in which he wrote: “Being in a hurry, I don’t know what to do, being searched for everywhere, not being safe, if it drags on it could end up with me in a prison cell next to him”, which French media have reported is a reference to suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam.”

This suggests a couple of things to me.  The rapid unraveling of the ISIS network on Brussels, culminating in the arrest of one of the Paris terrorist late last week, forced the hand of ISIS.  Obviously, it would have been preferable to bring down the net on the entire operation before these attacks, but we can take some solace in the fact that they were panicky and running.

Also, it looks like the Brussels attack and the Paris attack may have come from the same network, maybe even the same cell or extended cell.  There are some reports that the bombmaker in both attacks may be the same person.  If so, then it is gratifying to know that the problem — while serious — may not be as widespread as the fearmongers suggest.

 

Garland

Is it hard to do cartwheels over President Obama’s choice of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland today.  Professor Epstein seems to think he’s a good liberal…

Epstein

… but you always have to question the methodology of these things.

Merrick Garland is 63 years old and currently serves as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A former Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, Garland was nominated to the D.C. Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 76-23. Sen. Orrin Hatch remarked at the time that Garland was “not only a fine nominee, but as good as Republicans can expect from [the Clinton] administration.”  He’s actually pretty conservative on police issues and war on terror.  But he’s no threat to Roe v Wade.

Sure, Garland is smart.  And qualified.  But if the tables were turned, and it was a Republican president and a Democrat-controlled Senate, I don’t think the judicial candidate would have been so…. moderate.

I mean, I get it.  Everyone gets it.  Obama is picking a guy who has already been approved by the Senate for his current judicial gig, who is not an ideologue, etc.  This forces Senate Republicans to consider AND approve the nominee, or look like the reason why Washington sucks so bad.  Also, with a Clinton presidency looming, Republicans might just want to get Garland and not get someone far more liberal.  (In fact, a President Trump could pick a liberal judge for all anybody knows).

In other words. holding out for another Scalia just might get Republicans a lefty version of Scalia.

Over at 538, they did some quick calculations and determined what the future might look like:

chances

Facing those possibilities, confirming Garland, might just be the best thing the GOP could do.  You gotta play the cards you’re dealt.

And the other hand, I get annoyed at this (if it is true):

Why would Obama capitulate to the Republicans when he has them over a barrel?

In the end, it seems that Obama has made a pragmatic choice.  And let’s face it.  It saves the Court.  And if it doesn’t, it makes the GOP look horrible.

Early indications are that the right wing is bent on looking obstructionist, even in the face of a reasonable moderate candidate.  Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice issued a statement repeating his call for “no confirmation proceedings until after the election.” Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver similarly repeated that there should be “no Senate hearing on any Obama nominee.” Alliance Defending Freedom’s Casey Mattox offered no criticism of Garland himself but claimed that the Obama administration is untrustworthy and so Garland’s nomination should be blocked: “The Obama administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits of its own authority. So it should be no surprise that the American people would be highly skeptical that any nominee this president puts forth would be acceptable. Heritage Action, which was calling for an end to most judicial and executive branch confirmations even before Scalia’s death, declared that “nothing has changed”  with the nomination of Garland and that we areone liberal Justice away from seeing gun rights restricted and partial birth abortion being considered a constitutional right.”  Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council similarly tried to paint Garland as a liberal, saying he is “far from being a consensus nominee,” although he offered no specifics on the
“serious questions” he said their were about Garland’s “ability to serve as a constitutionalist.”  And anti-abortion groups also doubled down on their opposition to any confirmation proceedings, although they struggled to find specific reasons to oppose Garland.

Aaaaand as I write this, it looks like the Senate Republicans are taking the bait and biting down hard:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has called President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, and explained that no action would be taken in the Senate on the nomination, Mr. McConnell’s spokesman said.

Mr. McConnell also informed Judge Garland that they would not be meeting in person at the Capitol.

“Rather than put Judge Garland through more unnecessary political routines orchestrated by the White House, the leader decided it would be more considerate of the nominee’s time to speak with him today by phone,” Mr. McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, said in a statement.

“The leader reiterated his position that the American people will have a voice in this vacancy and that the Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the person the next president nominates. And since the Senate will not be acting on this nomination, he would not be holding a perfunctory meeting, but he wished Judge Garland well.”

“Political routines orchestrated by the White House”?  That’s a funny way to say “obligations placed upon the President by the U.S. Constitution”.

Breaking: Chris Christie Endorses Trump

Guess this explains why Christie (the other bully) never attacked Trump.

This is a significant crack in the establishment vs Trump meme.  I can’t look into Christie’s heart and mind, but I can’t help but see this as simply an attempt to grab the vice presidency.  Or attorney-general.

Trump/Christie 2016?

Aaaaand once again, Trump does something to take the news cycle away from the others (in this case, Rubio).

UPDATE:  Great picture from the endorsement earlier today.  I think Christie is endorsing Trump as the main course.

CcKczHtUYAA4FsR

Breaking: Scalia Dead at 79

Just coming over the news. Found dead at a West Texas “luxury ranch”, whatever that is.

UPDATE: Very quick initial thoughts (I will “eulogies” him later.)

The political implications of this are huge. For one thing, this Supreme Court term had many important 5-4 issues in front of the Court, or… what would have been 5-4. Immigration, climate change, even abortion… big issues. These become 4-4… which means the lower court stands (for better or for worse).

More importantly, this is the first time since Clarence Thomas 25 years ago that a President will attempt to nominate an Associate Justice with the Senate (who needs to approve) in the majority of the other party. And even with Thomas, Bush still had two years left. Obama is in his last year. Will the Republican Senate try to “run out the clock”? You bet. Will that itself be controversial? Yes, and expect that itself to be a campaign issue about weekday is wrong with Washington.

And speaking of the campaigns, this becomes a huge issue, guaranteed to motivate voters on both sides.

The political landscape, and in many ways, the future direction of the country have changed, although nobody knows which way.

For the first time in maybe ever, this election will control ALL THREE branches of government. Think about that.

The Sad Story Of Christine Mumma

mummaThe North Carolina Bar just ruled that Christine Mumma violated professional conduct rules in her quest to free an innocent man from prison.

Mumma is an attorney for the North Carolina Innocence Project (actually, The NC Center on Actual Innocence)  She was trying to free Joseph Sledge, 71, who had spent more than three decades in prison for a double homicide he did not commit.  Mumma and Sledge are pictured at the right.

The prosecutor was reluctant to release Sledge unless Mumma could find DNA matching the suspect in the double murder.  So Mumma visited the home of Marie Andrus, the woman from whom she was trying to get DNA.  Ms. Andrus’ sons (one or both of them) were suspects in the crime.

Ms. Andrus refused to give any DNA, but Mumma left the house with a water bottle, thereby obtaining the DNA.  (The full complaint is below the fold).

Yeah, it was the wrong thing to do (and Ms. Andrus has forgiven Mumma and understands), and so the disciplinary panel ruled against Ms. Mumma.

As an aside,  I should mention that Sledge was later found innocent and released early last year.

I write this with sadness.  People like Mumma deserve medals.  I can’t help but wonder if a little of this was payback from the state of NC.  I hope the consequences of this ruling today are not too harsh.  There needs to be more like Mumma.

Armed Terrorists Seize Federal Property

You would think this would be 24/7 headline news, but it isn’t.  The terrorist takeover began Sunday morning, but the regular news outlets barely covered it.  Only on Twitter was it discussed at any length, thanks to the hashtag #OregonUnderAttack.

Now that it is a regular non-holiday workday, the media is starting to report it.  Before then, the only real outlet covering the story was The Oregonian.

What’s at the center of this issue is the federal land management, and two people: Dwight Hammond, age 73, and his son Steve Hammond, age 46.  These men are ranchers in Oregon.  Strap yourselves in.

Hammond Ranches owns about 12,000 acres in the Diamond-Frenchglen area. They use this ground to run cattle during the winter. Until two years ago the Hammonds used 26,420 acres of land belonging to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for summer grazing (the U.S. government gives out grazing permits).

Now, when it comes to ranching, fire is an important tool. It is used to burn invasive species that crowd out native grass and other plants.  Fire can kill those pests, leaving plenty of grazing (on the non-burned grass/plants) for the cattle.

The problem is, fire is also a threat. Recent wildfires have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in this territory, putting the ground off limits for grazing. Cattle have been killed in the runaway blazes, and lives endangered.

In 1999, Dwight Hammond got a stern letter from the local manager for the federal land bureau saying that Steve Hammond had set a fire that spread to federal ground. The letter said Steve told officials in a subsequent meeting that he “did not believe there was any way to control fire behavior or where it would burn, and that he did not take any action to prevent the fire from burning.”  Nevertheless, the Hammonds got off with a warning.

The problem started with two more fires set by the Hammonds — one in 2001 and one in 2006.

The fire in 2001 was a simple prescribed burn.  According to Steve and Dwight Hammond, it was intended to take out invasive juniper.  But federal prosecutors said the men’s real motive for starting the blaze, which consumed 139 acres and forestalled grazing for two seasons, was to cover up evidence of an illegal slaughter of deer. The government presented evidence that Steven Hammond called an emergency dispatcher to ask if it was OK to burn — roughly two hours after they already lit the fire. His attorney said in court that Hammond called the land bureau beforehand.

The government acknowledged that the next fire, in 2006, was intended as a defensive move. Steve Hammond set backfires to keep a lightning-caused fire from burning onto the Hammonds’ ranch and hitting their winter feed.  But the government said Steve Hammond lit up on the flanks of a butte, despite a countywide burn ban and the knowledge that young part-time firefighters were camped up higher. Their crew boss spotted the fires, which were set at night, and moved the crew, but campers and others were in danger.

The two men were indicted and convicted in 2010 on federal arson charges. On top of sentencing for arson, they also faced sentencing under the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which reads in pertinent part:

SEC. 708. ENHANCED PENALTIES FOR USE OF EXPLOSIVES OR ARSON CRIMES.

    (a) In General.--Section 844 of title 18, United States Code, is 
amended--
            (1) in subsection (e), by striking ``five'' and inserting 
        ``10'';
            (2) by amending subsection (f) to read as follows:

    ``(f)(1) Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to 
damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, 
vehicle, or other personal or real property in whole or in part owned or 
possessed by, or leased to, the United States, or any department or 
agency thereof, shall be imprisoned for not less than 5 years and not 
more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both.

Hammonds’ lawyers argued that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 did not apply to the Hammonds — after all, they weren’t terrorists.

But the government argued that it didn’t matter.  The portion that dealt with enhanced penalties for explosion and arson crimes did not say the defendant HAD to be a “terrorist”.

You can understand why this was part of the law.  Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, including children.  The assumption behind Section 708 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (quoted above) was… well, if you are blowing up or setting fire to federal property, you must be a terrorist.

To his credit (in my opinion), U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan opined that although Section 708 applied to the crime committed by the Hammonds, Congress did not intend it to apply to people like the Hammonds.  A five year prison term would be unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment, the judge said.  “It would be a sentence which would shock the conscience,” Hogan added before sentencing Dwight to three months and Steve to one year.

The two men served their time, but the District Attorney appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit.  The Ninth Circuit reasonably ruled (in my opinion) that Section 708 set out a mandatory sentence of “not less than five years”.  The words “shall be” (which I emboldened above) are not “may be”.

So, the Hammonds were ordered back to prison to serve a five year sentence each.  They are supposed to start serving today.

But believe it or not, this has little to do with the Hammonds’ sentence.

Federal agencies own and regulate huge chunks of land in western states like Oregon and Nevada.  The United States of America holds deed to three-fourths of Harney County. Ranching done for a century and more is under pressure from environmentalists, recreationalists, and hunters.

fed_landuse

As such, those with anti-government views, particularly in western states, often focus on the federal government ‘s land-use policies.  The plight of the Hammonds has become a rallying call for one militia and patriot group after another. Men who see tyranny in federal acts are standing for the two men.  The Hammonds’ case — and the change to their sentencing, just further fed into views of a tyrannical federal government out of control.

For example, the federal government sued the Hammonds for $1 million the costs of fighting the fires that they set.  In late 2014, the Hammonds settled the lawsuit, agreeing the federal government $400,000. That has been paid.

But the settlement also required the Hammonds to give the land bureau first chance at buying a particular ranch parcel adjacent to public land if they intended to sell. For some, this is evidence that the government was going after the Hammonds in order to increase its property holdings — a “land grab” the “militia” members would say.  There is little evidence to support that.

So how did the yahoos get involved?  Well, on Saturday, members of the militia attended a demonstration in Burns, Oregon.  The purpose was to protest the Hammonds’ case. After the protest, the militiamen drove to the wildlife refuge and took it over.

It seems that the militiamen may have initially planned to seize the wildlife refuge headquarters in order to establish a “sanctuary” where the Hammonds could go to evade prison.

One of the most outspoken of the militia-terrorists is Ammon Bundy, whose father Cliven Bundy became a Fox News star in 2014 for his armed standoff in Nevada with the federal government over cattle-grazing rights. (see earlier postings about that controversy).  His brother Ryan is another occupier.

What do they want?  Ammon talked to some press people:

The group is demanding that the Hammonds be released and that the federal government give up control of the Malheur National Forest.

As Ammon Bundy sees it, the locals are “not strong enough” to stand up for themselves, so the militia must act as the “tip of the spear” and lead the fight on behalf of the locals.

Thus, Bundy and his fellow militiamen have seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — located in a remote area some 50 miles southeast of the city of Burns — in hopes of creating a “base” where “patriots” like themselves can come, with their guns, to live and make their stand against the “tyrannical” federal government.  Several pickup trucks blocked the entrance to the refuge Sunday, with armed men wearing camouflage and winter gear stationed outside.  The exact number of armed men is unknown. It’s worth nothing that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge visitors’ center is probably one of the least critical spots to occupy in all of the United States.

So far, it’s not going well for these “patriots”.  It turns out that the Hammonds don’t actually want the militia’s help — or at least, not anymore.

At first, according to the Oregonian, the Hammonds “accepted the militia’s offer of help to avoid prison.” But they “changed their minds after being warned by federal prosecutors to stop communicating with the militia” and have now “professed through their attorneys that they had no interest in ignoring the order to report for prison.”

Ammon also tried to recruit residents from the surrounding area, reportedly meeting with 10 or so locals, but they all turned him down.

The Oregonian interviewed some locals who expressed sympathy for the Hammonds and for the militia’s “constitutional arguments” but ultimately rejected the militia for its extremism.

The militia, the local fire chief told the newspaper, “seems like a bunch of people ready to shoot. I don’t want that in my county.”

Chatter on right wing blogs about the story is muted.  Breitbart News hasn’t touched it, except for one transitional paragraph at the start of a story recapping the Cliven BBundy matter in Nevada.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he hoped that the protesters would step aside, adding that “our prayers right now are with everyone involved in what’s happening with Oregon, and especially those in law enforcement that are risking their lives.”

“Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds. But we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others,” he said. “And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio decried the occupation as “lawless” and urged those involved in the standoff to pursue what they wanted through more lawful, constructive means.

But that’s not what they intend to do.  According to an Oregonian reporter…

Is the situation dangerous?  Not last night.  There was virtually no law enforcement presence of any sort.

But now, as the sun comes up, the FBI has arrived and set up a briefing center.  The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and local schools in the area are closed today.  I feel bad for The City of Burns Police Department which has three officers – the Chief and two officers – and an administrative assistant.

All told, this appears to be an act of terrorism.  When it comes to the Hammond arsons — yes, I can easily see why that was NOT terrorism.  But armed men taking over a federal building and demanding land — that’s insurrection, if not domestic terrorism.

And needless to say, the disparity in news coverage as well as law enforcement response, which compared to — say — Ferguson (where protesters had no guns and took no federal property) is astounding.  Also, they are being called “protesters”, rather than terrorists.

It is unclear how this will play out.  But soime people are serious.  Here’s one guy saying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a tyrannical agency so he has made a suicide video and has promised to die for “the constitution.”

P.S.  Most of Oregon used to be Indian land.  Now we see a bunch of white guys complaining about a tyrannical oppressive government.  Irony.

To be continued….

UPDATE:  The terrorists want you to join them “to prevent bloodshed”…

UPDATE:  This is a slow-moving story.  I guess the government tactic is to wait them out until they get bored.  Which means no developments for days, weeks, or maybe even months.  But….

I guess “Patriots For God and Freedom’s Constitution of Citizens Together United for American’s Constitutional Second Amendment Crusaders and OathKeepers” was taken.

Anyway, the posted some signs and it looks like they are running low on the letter n.

ZZ2C6EEF92

ANOTHER UPDATE: HuffPo says the “militia” wants a standoff with the FBI, but the FBI isn’t taking the bait:

The FBI is working closely with state police, and FBI officials are busy establishing a public information office in Burns. But due to a number of factors — the crisis is unfolding in a remote part of Oregon; it doesn’t appear to be a life-or-death situation; and there are no hostages involved — law enforcement officials want to avoid unnecessarily escalating the standoff, the source said. The FBI instead hopes to get a better handle on the situation over the next few days.

The FBI will not be releasing specific information about law enforcement movements, but it is working with local law enforcement agencies to “bring a peaceful resolution to the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” officials from the bureau said in a statement.

***

For now, there are no sirens, no police cars zooming to the seized building and no SWAT teams arriving in armored vehicles. In the parking lot of the refuge’s headquarters building, journalists mingle freely with activists. The 30-mile stretch of road between Burns and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where the militants are holed up, is snowy and barren.

Below the fold…. The Onion summarizes everything

Today’s Mass Shooting: San Bernadino, California

Breaking news 2:46 pm EST:  12 reported dead, many injured.

Some reports include a second and even third shooter.

Related:

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2:55 pm: The building where the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., was reported provides services for developmentally disabled people, according to its website

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LA Times is reporting active shooters (plural) may be heavily armed and wearing body armor.

3:05 pm EST:  Networks now covering this. FBI and ATF on their way From Inland Regional Center website: – 600 staff members – provide services to 30,000 – Serves San Bernardino and Riverside counties

This is the 352nd mass shooting in the United States this year (“Mass shooting” defined as a shooting where 4 or more are killed or injured).

3:40 pm:  It’s hard to see a political motive here, at least a right wing one.  It’s possible they thought it was an abortion clinic (Planned Parenthood is nearby).  I guess time will tell.

San Benadino PD confirm to MSNBC that “shooting suspect had tactical gear”.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that police are searching for an SUV that fled the scene of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting, according to sources. The organization also reports that police detonated a suspicious device found on the premises. This information has not been confirmed by authorities. It is still unclear exactly how many shooters were involved

4:30 pm: Witness tells ABC affiliate reporter that an event honoring County personnel was going on in the conference center at IRC. Shooters entered there.

Apparently, no shooters caught, but fatalities have been confirmed.

6:15pm 14 dead, 17 injured.

One suspect down and apparently dead. A second suspect and possibly a third in a black SUV next to the dead suspect and surrounded by police who are negotiating a non-violent surrender.

Motives and background of suspects unknown, but this thing is close to over.

Breaking: Armed Gunman AT UNC – Chapel Hill [UPDATE: All Clear]

Multiple reports but still unconfirmed:

ALERT CAROLINA TIMELY WARNING: Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

12/02/2015, 8:57 a.m.

Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

ALERT CAROLINA TIMELY WARNING: Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

UNC Chapel Hill Police are investigating the report of an armed individual near the campus NROTC Building and Venable Hall.  The report is unconfirmed at this time, but the campus is asked to shelter in place.

Continue to monitor Alert Carolina website (alertcarolina.unc.edu) for any updates into this incident.  UNC Police are asking anyone with information to call the UNC Police Department at 9-1-1 or contact the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crime Stoppers at (919) 942-7515.

For a list of safety tips, see the following link through the Alert Carolina page:

http://www.alertcarolina.unc.edu/go/doc/1395/1762999/


12/02/2015, 8:53 a.m.

Emergency: The University has activated the sirens. Police report an ARMED AND DANGEROUS PERSON ON OR NEAR CAMPUS.

  • Go inside immediately.
  • Close windows and doors.
  • Stay until further notice.
  • Follow directions from emergency responders or University officials.

The sirens are activated when there is a significant emergency or immediate health or safety threat to the campus community. When the sirens sound, stop classroom and campus activities; all UNC operations are temporarily suspended. Remain inside your classroom or a safe place in your building unless police or University personnel instruct you to take a specific action, such as to evacuate a building, stay out of a certain part of campus, or go to your residence hall and stay there.

The Alert Carolina website, alertcarolina.unc.edu, will be updated as soon as more information is available. It can take hours to resolve an emergency situation; updates may not be immediate.

You can let your family know you are okay in the event of an emergency affecting the Carolina campus while keeping cell phone lines open for emergency calls by using the American Red Cross Safe and Well list. The Safe and Well list is especially helpful in communicating with family members who are outside the emergency area. Go to www.redcross.org/safeandwell and follow the registration instructions.

If you see suspicious activity, call 911. But do not call 911 or the Department of Public Safety just to ask for information about the current incident. Police phone lines need to remain open for emergency communications.

When the threat is over, the sirens will sound again with a different tone to announce along with the voice message: “All clear. Resume normal activities.” Click here for an audio sample of the siren emergency tone. Click here to hear “all clear.”

When the sirens are activated – and when there is an “all clear” — the University also sends a text message to the cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff in the online campus directory. The University also communicates about an emergency using sources including:  campus-wide email and voice mail (for campus land lines), the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line, 843-1234, for recorded information, and the University Access Channel (Chapel Hill Time Warner Cable Channel 4) along with other campus television channels.

Pic from WRAL:

15149526-1449065650-646x485

UPDATE:  Never mind?

Bad News Coming Out Of Paris

Looks like a series of pre-planned coordinated terrorist attacks happening in different places throughout Paris.

Also a reported hostage situation at the Paris Bataclan concert hall.

18 killed in central Paris according to another report.

A possible response to the killing of Jihadi John by a U.S. drone strike?

Two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium north of Paris during a France-Germany friendly football match.

French president Hollande evacuated from soccer stadium.

Continuing…..

MORE UPDATES:

Guardian reports

Eyewitness Ben Grant said he was in a bar with his wife when the gunshots were fired and he had seen six or seven bodies on the ground. He told the BBC: “I was told people in cars had opened fire on the bar. “There are lots of dead people. It’s pretty horrific to be honest. I was at the back of the bar. I couldn’t see anything. I heard gunshots. People dropped to the ground. We put a table over our heads to protect us. “We were held up in the bar because there was a pile of bodies in front of us.”

CNN reporting that the shootings were at three places.

This Vine reportedly captures the explosion noise during the soccer game:

ABC News adds that 60 hostages are believed to be held in what is being described as “an ongoing situation.” AP and Sky News saying it is 100 at Bataclan concert being held hostage.

Shots heard a couple minutes ago outside Bataclan concert hall

LATE UPDATE:

158 dead. Probably still going to go up. Over 100 killed in the theater before the police finally entered and killed the gunmen. A total of 6 separate terrorist incidents in Paris tonight.

Quel tragedie.

Biden Announces He’s Not Running

Like I said. You should all listen to me.  Now will you believe me when I say Rubio will be the GOP nominee?

UPDATE:  Yup to this….

But seriously, for the last month I’ve been hearing stories about how Joe will get in the race.  A politician says he heard from an inside source that Joe will run.  And that gets tweeted.  And the reported on.  Look at this screen capture of CNN I just took: bidenrunning Not to mention….

The wish became father of the fact, except the fact wasn’t true. It was never going to happen.  He would be entering too late.  He had zero dollars in the campaign war chest and a short time to raise it.  He would need staffers in all 50 states, and guess what?  They have jobs now. And what’s more, he is ideologically trapped.  He would have to run on Obama’s record, which would be fine, except that is mostly where Hillary is at (except on things that Dems hate, like TPP). Biden wasn’t going to out democratic socialism Bernie Sanders. Let’s face it — Clinton and Sanders are the two poles that define the Democratic party – and there are two people currently in the race with strong holds on them. Personally, I like Joe Biden.  And I like Clinton.  I wouldn’t want to have to choose between them. Now I won’t have to. By the way, Bill Kristol is having a bad week…

 

In that last one, Kristol is talking about Star Wars, saying that there is no evidence that the Empire is evil.  Right.  Not evil. Except that part where the Death Star destroyed an entire planet that was neutral in the war.

Then again, Bill Kristol is always wrong. By way of review, whatever Kristol says, the opposite must be true. Some of his greatest hits include:

  • “Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.”
  • 1993 was the “high water mark” of the LGBT rights movement.
  • After encouraging John McCain to invoke Bill Ayers during his campaign for president, Kristol chastised the campaign for doing exactly that, calling it “stupid” politics.
  • “[The Iraq War] will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. […] It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam’s regime.”

UPDATE #2:  In his non-announcement speech, Biden chided the political tone, and said that the opposing party should not be treated like the enemy.  He is right, of course, but many see that as a swipe at Hillary who, in the last debate, said she was proud to have made some Republicans an “enemy”.  I don’t know if that was a swipe at Hillary, but I think Joe is wrong about Democrats not treating the opposing party like the enemy.  Maybe in a different era, but not in the current one.  Because God knows they treat Democrats like the enemy.

Republican voters think about politics differently. They see politics as an enduring contest, not a series of discrete events. They are more apt to see the big picture, and therefore are easier to motivate.  Republican voters, being older and somewhat wealthier and more likely to own property, are more apt to see politics as a continuing conflict of interests that roll over from one election to the next — they can always be convinced that some undeserving person is coming to take away what they’ve earned.

Democrats, by contrast, “are less likely to view politics in such stark terms.” Younger voters, minority voters, single women, the non-propertied, might have more to gain from an active government, but it is much easier in general to motivate people if they fear they’re going to lose rights and privileges and stuff. Especially stuff. Especially stuff that they earned.

The result is that Republicans are more motivated politically, which is why they come out in droves during mid-terms and off-presidential election years.  That’s how they come to dominate on the local level.

The only way to counter that is for Democrats to understand that they need to view the Republicans like the Republicans view the Democrats: as an enemy.

Which is why good-government, consensus, let’s-get-along, politics-can-be-pure strategies — like the one Biden was advocating — are bad for Democrats.  The original premise of Obama’s first presidential campaign was that he could reason with Republicans—or else, by staking out obviously reasonable stances, force them to moderate or be exposed as extreme and unyielding. It took years for the White House to conclude that this was false.

I think Hillary Clinton, who knows a little bit about Republicans witch hunts from the 1990s and right now, understands that Republicans are out for blood.  She is a fighter.  And a winner.

Breaking: Who Is The House Speaker?

As my Twitter feed suggests, something is happening with the GOP House.

Kevin McCarthy was expected to voted in as House Speaker.  But the rumor is he is out.  He dropped out.

Chaffetz is it.

Yup, not a rumor.  McCarthy, who admitted that the Benghazi investigation was politically motivated to get Hillary, dropped out.  Election postponed.

Remember, this person comes after the Veep in the line of succession.

It’s not clear why McC dropped out (or was allowed to “drop out” when he was actually forced out) or what forces are at work here.  Something in his past?  Are the uber-far righties rallying against him?  Have the moderates made a comeback?  To be continued….

UPDATE:  NBC News reports that US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recognized he had no path to get to 218 votes to claim the speaker’s chair. The House Freedom Caucus, which is believed to have about 40 members, announced it would back Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., to become the next speaker.  The conservative House Freedom Caucus is the group that thinks funds for Planned Parenthood should be blocked as part of a bill to keep the government open.

The HFC has received criticism among Republicans like Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who publicly broke with the caucus last month. McClintock, a social and fiscal conservative, wrote in a letter to the HFC: “I know that every member of the HFC sincerely supports these (conservative) principles, but as I have expressed on many occasions during our meetings, I believe the tactics the HFC has employed have repeatedly undermined the House’s ability to advance them.”

Basically, this means that even Kevin McCarthy is not wingnutty enough for the far right.

Hurricane Joaquin Probably Not Going To Be A Big Deal

In spite of some very premature comparisons to Sandy, new projections show Hurricane Joaquin appears to be heading east and may not make landfall in the United States. Different models gaming out the path of the Category-4 storm were initially split on their forecasts, but as the storm has stalled over the Bahamas, the likelihood of it reaching the U.S. is growing more remote.

“If this forecast holds, Hurricane Joaquin will yield one clear winner: the model from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts — or simply, the European model — which consistently forecast that Joaquin would head off to sea,” writes Nate Cohn at The New York Times. The model successfully predicted Hurricane Sandy’s unusual path three years ago.

Lots of rain for the Mid-Atlantic, including the Ashford Zone home office in North Carolina.  Here’s the latest from NOAA:

145424W5_NL_sm

We are already getting winds and downed trees, and that’ll continue.  But that’s probably all.

Breaking: Boehner To Resign From Congress End of October

I wonder if this has anything to do with his rift with others on the right — in particular, the pressure from the far right to shut down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood.

Boehner is also facing two difficult, and interrelated, challenges right now: many House Republicans want to shut the government down over defunding Planned Parenthood, and some House conservatives want to use an unusual parliamentary maneuver to launch a coup against Boehner. The problem for Boehner is that a shutdown would likely be a disaster for the Republican Party, but stopping a shutdown would make a coup against him more likely to succeed.

In a statement to reporters, a Boehner spokesman said:

Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all.

The Speaker’s plan was to serve only through the end of last year. Leader Cantor’s loss in his primary changed that calculation.

The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.

He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.

That seems a little hasty and thrown together.

I never cared for Boehner, but I respect the fact that he warded off dangerous factions within his party. We are much worse off without him.  Whoever replaces him is going to face the same pressures, and is more likely to cave I think.  Which means more government shutdowns in Washington (or threats of it) and gridlock.

Rep. Pete King (R-NY) has reacted to the news of Speaker John Boehner’s resignation on Friday by telling Politico reporter John Bresnahan it was a “victory for the crazies.”  Yup.

UPDATE:  Some blogs are reporting that Boehner wanted out a while ago, but he wanted to bring the Pope to Congress, which he did.  He reportedly said last night that after bringing the Pope to Congress, he has “nothing more left to do”.  So as to the question of “Did Boehner jump, or was he pushed?”, the best answer seems to be “a little of both.”

UPDATE #2:  The conservatives rejoice.  Here is video of Rubio announcing the resignation at the Value Voters Summit this morning:

Breaking: Kim Davis Released

Details coming.

UPDATE – 1:00 pm:  The contempt order was lifted by a US district court judge.  Unclear if it was the same judge who gave the contempt order or if it was lifted on appeal.

UPDATE – 1:15 pm:  It was the same judge:

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples may leave prison — as long as she doesn’t interfere with the licenses that her deputies have been granting since her incarceration last week.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis released, and said that if she did not follow his guidance, “appropriate sanctions will be considered.”

Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, told NBC News that accommodation was unlikely to suffice.

“We’re back to Square One,” Staver said. “She’s been released, but there’s been no resolution.”

Bunning’s order also requires the five deputy clerks in Rowan County to file status reports every 14 days detailing their compliance with his earlier orders that the office issue licenses to same-sex couples in accordance with a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Davis, 49, has repeatedly defied the courts, saying that authorizing the licenses would violate her Christian beliefs. Arguing that her religious freedom is being compromised, she has asked state officials to develop alternative ways for the licenses to be issued without requiring her to authorize them.

Bunning ordered her jailed last Thursday, and she has become a national symbol of resistance to gay Christian supporters have rallied outside the lockup daily.

Mat Staver is a terrible lawyer.  Even Fox News calls him out for his stupidity:

[Fox News host Keith] Jarrett also called out Davis’s attorney [Mat Staver], who said it was “questionable” if the Supreme Court had the “constitutional authority” to rule on same-sex marriage.

“Whether the Supreme Court has constitutional authority?” the Fox News host said. “Article III Section 2 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court constitutional authority to decide constitutional issues!”

Jarrett added that Staver’s statement appeared to be “stunningly obtuse.”

You may recall that prior to becoming a Fox News person, Keith Jarrett was THE main guy at Court TV for many many years.

Anyway, Staver is simply wrong when he says we are at square one.  Her clerks have been issuing the licenses, and will continue to do so.  In fact:

During proceedings on Thursday, Davis was offered to avoid jail if she allowed her deputies to issue the marriage licenses. She refused, and on Friday they began issuing them. The release order requires that Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” If she refuses — as she seemed to promise to do last week — she would again be held in contempt.

So basically, Davis caved.  She accepted an offer that she rejected last week.  Here’s the order:

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis ordered released from jail

UPDATE – 3:00 pm:  I suspect the lawyer is talking out of turn:

A CNN journalist at the jail reported that according to her attorneys, Davis “has not changed her mind” and intends to bring the licensing process to a halt all over again when she’s back on the job.

“The problem here is that the attorney says she has not changed her mind, that Kim Davis is adamant that as long as her name appears on those marriage licenses, she objects and she will attempt to stop those licenses from being distributed,” CNN correspondent Martin Savidge said during a live broadcast.

Well, if she “intends to bring the licensing process to a halt” then she is violating the terms of her release.  That would be VERY serious trouble for her.  Her lawyer can SAY this, but it’s easy for him to say since she will end up paying the cost.

So she’s out, and here she is with Ted Cruz and her husband, who is NOT playing Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” (that’s just the way he dresses):

UPDATE – 3:45 pm: Heaven help me….

Huckabee is on stage with her. Ted Cruz? Well, he had her picture with her (see above), but otherwise, his trip seems to be a bust.  Huckabee had staffers there a few days ago, and he has inserted himself there front and center.

Digby:

Kim Davis’ inane lawyer upon her release from jail:

“She can never recover the past six days of her life spent in an isolated jail cell.”Too bad she wasn’t free to just quit her job — the solution all the free-market wingnuts prescribe for every other complaint a worker might have against her employer. Oh wait, she was.

Today’s Movie Theater Shooting

And the winner is…. Anitoch, Tennessee’s Carmike Hickory 8 Theaters

The movie was:  Mad Max
The shooter is: Dead (shot by police)
Shooter characteristics:  White male, age 51
Shooter weapons: pepper spray, gun, hatchet, surgical mask and 2 backpacks (possible bombs?)
# of victims:  0 dead, 3 treated for pepper spray, 1 with bruises from hatchet
Motive: TBD
Is he crazy?:  TBD
Expected right-wing reaction: “If only more people in the theater had guns….”

Set the clock back to zero.  Start another count to the next shooting….

Jesus. ANOTHER Mass Shooting

Happened within the past few hours. A shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette Louisiana. 2 are confirmed dead. The shooter is dead. 8 appear to be wounded. It happened 20 minutes into the movie “Trainwreck”.

Ironically, President Obama had taped an interview for the BBC which was going to air in a few hours. In the interview, President Obama stated that his biggest frustration during his presidency was being unable to get any effective gun laws passed. Yep.

UPDATE: Eyewitness says the shooter was a middle age white man, and he was chasing a barefoot woman. Others say shooter stood up as movie was starting and began shooting indiscriminately.

UPDATE:3 confirmed dead, which includes the shooter, a 58 year old man.