April 29, 2017

Fact vs. Fiction

“The first one-hundred days of my administration have been just about the most successful in history.” - Donald Trump

Factcheck.org crowned Trump “King of the Whoppers” in 2015. He’s held to that practice through the first fraction of his presidency:

In 2015 when we dubbed Trump the “King of Whoppers,” we said: “He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.” So far, Trump is no different as president.

It’s rarely a bad bet to immediately doubt anything coming out of Mr. Trump’s mouth. He lies as easily as he breathes, usually more-so in relation to himself and his presidency.

#Trump #fraud #GOP

April 28, 2017

Trump: ‘We may terminate’ U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement

Philip Rucker - The Washington Post:

President Trump threatened to terminate the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea in an interview Thursday night, declaring that the five-year-old accord with a key ally was “a horrible deal” that has left America “destroyed.”

During an Oval Office interview about trade policy in North America, Trump served notice that he is looking to disrupt an important partnership in the tumultuous Asia-Pacific region as well — even with Seoul on edge because of North Korea’s escalating military provocations.

Donald Trump is an unwise man. Let’s count the ways …

He threatens to terminate an important trade agreement with a close ally at the same time he dares the loose cannon government along that ally’s northern border to start a nuclear war, giving the appearance that the United States is willing to abrogate treaties with that ally. The loose cannon government may feel free to move on into the ally’s territory as a result of this seeming weakness in our relationship.

He describes the United States, whose military he leads and whose people he must rally to support his efforts, as “destroyed.” Two birds go down with this stone: a “destroyed” America is a weaker adversary, and its people are likely demoralized and either unwilling to support the president’s actions, or willing to go along with anything. Either way, we appear weak and helpless.

Hang your head in shame if you voted for this blockhead.

#Trump #fraud #disgrace #sellout

∴ WiFi of the Seas, and How to Escape the Cruise Hoards

We spent a week sailing the western Caribbean last week. It was a great escape for both Kelly and me, kicked off with a two-day drive south to the Galveston cruise port. While I don’t recommend book-ending a cruise with a pair of twenty-four hour drives, I do recommend spending a week afloat.

There are a couple of practices we’ve come to enjoy while cruising. One is finding a largely unused pool and bar to lounge at. The trick is modifying how we think of the cruise as a vacation.

Four of the five cruises we’ve taken have been working vacations for Kelly, where she’s paired with our friend and quilt pattern and fabric designer Susan Emory of Swirly Girls Design, hosting quilt retreats at sea. Kelly’s three at-sea days are spent in the ship’s conference room assisting the quilters as they work through making Susan’s custom-designed quilt, providing give-aways, and running a small pop-up version of Kelly Ann’s Quilting.

It’s on these days that, aside from a handful of shipboard activities, the only thing to do is relax around the ship’s pools and populate the bars along with everyone else. In a word, they’re crowded. Our last three ships sailed with a passenger capacity in excess of 3000, and everyone is cooped up on fourteen decks of a thousand-foot-long ship. I’ve never seen longer stretches of occupied lounge chairs in my life.

The secret to enjoying the pools and outdoor bars is to wait until port-call days arrive. Spend the at-sea days on lounge chairs away from the pool, or in an upper deck lounge devoid of people. There’s a great view from up there. Cabins with a balcony provide a respite from crowds, too, with a front row view of the ocean.

Here’s the key: when the ship arrives in a port of call, roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of the passengers get off. They’re gone from roughly 8am until one or two pm, longer if the port requires the ship to drop anchor and use tender boats for ferrying people ashore. What a great opportunity to sleep late, grab a late breakfast at the buffet, and hit the pool while there’s still only a handful of people staking out lounge chairs. Hours of quiet relaxation, reading, taking a cooling dip in the pool and sipping a drink or two follow.

It’s about time to head in for a shower before dinner just as people hit the pools after returning from shore excursions.

The trick is making the ship the destination, rather than the ports of call. Think of it as a moving resort. There are three, sometimes four ports of call during a week-long cruise. Spend one of them ashore on an excursion, or take a walk around the port area and re-board. A largely empty ship is your oyster.

The handful of hours spent on an excursion rarely exposes much local color, anyway.

The other practice we’ve enjoyed is the advent of affordable high speed internet access throughout the cruise. Rough seas can render it patchy at times, but it works. Royal Caribbean offers two tiers - a non-streaming option for roughly $15 per day, and a higher-priced streaming-capable level. Discounts are available by signing up on their web site prior to departure.

One thing to consider when opting for the lower-priced tier: although it’s fine for email, texting with Apple’s Messages app, and casual web browsing, contemporary social media sites are often image-heavy and load slowly at this tier’s capped speed. Scroll quickly through a Facebook wall or a Pinterest board and there are noticeable delays.

One last thought about internet-at-sea. The goal of a vacation is to get away from the everyday. We’ve enjoyed the cut-off nature of cruising since our first trip, when we noticed that in the absence of the internet people actually look at and talk with one another. There’s not much more satisfying than setting my phone to airplane mode as the shoreline recedes.

Kelly signed up for the non-streaming internet plan before our most recent cruise with the idea of posting photos of our adventures each evening, but found she used it less than expected. I opted to borrow her login code on the last day for uploading my photographs, but found the upstream speed far less than the downstream. I’ll wait until we hit the first and second Starbucks on the way home for uploading my photos next time.

The more we cruise, the more little hide-aways and practices we find that enhance the experience. My next post will cover the mixology seminars and card room we found this time.

#vacation #cruising #royal #caribbean #excursions #pool #bars #passengers #escape

∴ Republicans’ Fiscal Discipline Wilts in Face of Trump’s Tax Plan

Binyamin Applebaum, Alan Rappeport, and Nicholas Fandoms - The New York Times:

when Republicans take charge, their fiscal rectitude sometimes starts to waver. The broad Republican support this week for President Trump’s plan to sharply reduce taxes suggests that those who hang on to austere concerns about debt will now be facing former allies who want to chase economic growth.

Funny how reducing the deficit is always priority one when there’s a GOP majority in Congress, but a Democrat in the White House. “Tax-and-spend liberals,” they say. "Deficits will kill growth,” they say.

A major brou-ha-ha erupted over whether the federal government should do more deficit spending to stimulate the economy during the Great Recession. Loud, angry, Republican Congressmen waived around and quoted a since-discredited economics paper purporting to show that economic growth is cut roughly in half in countries whose deficit exceeds 90% of GDP. They’ll endorse just about anything to discredit the other party’s policies, even a paper based on a math error that, when corrected, completely nullified the paper’s impact.

We’ve come full circle, now. A nominal Republican is sitting in the White House, talking up tax cuts and spending increases that will balloon the federal deficit through the end of the decade, increasing the federal debt. From the article:

Some Republicans are rallying around the idea that less taxation is more important than less debt, just as they did during the Republican presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. That shift is a break with the die-hard hawks of the anti-deficit industrial complex, who have long warned of calamitous consequences to the American economy.

Reduce taxes, increase spending. Then magic happens, revenues increase and we all live happily ever after. This, from the party that took the country to the brink of default by refusing to raise the federal debt ceiling more than once during the Obama administration.

There’s a word for this. Hypocrisy.

Today’s American Republican party is intellectually bankrupt. Its party leader, the president, has accomplished largely nothing beyond alienating citizens and allies alike during his first one hundred days in office. The opposition party is on fire, with grass roots candidates lining up to run for Congress next year.

It may be true that Donald Trump was the best thing to happen to the Democratic party. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy was evidence of the need for core change in the party’s candidates and platform. A stunning, perhaps temporary setback in 2016 may indeed turn to a rout of the GOP in the coming two election cycles if the incompetence and hypocrisy of the current administration and its Congressional enablers continues.

#GOP #fraud #Trump #grass #roots #politics #economics

April 12, 2017

Paul Manafort Registering With The US As A Foreign Agent

The AP, reprinted by TPM:

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is registering as a foreign agent. Paul Manafort’s spokesman says he was in talks with the government about registering before the 2016 election and is now “taking appropriate steps” in response to “formal guidance” from the government.

Oh, hey, how about that. Is that a retroactive registration? Was he a foreign agent during his time with Mr. Trump?

The news is slowly getting worse for so many in the Trump inner circle, and we’ve not yet heard from the FBI or either of the Congressional Intelligence committees. It’s going to get much, much worse.

You’ll know the wheels are coming off the clown car that is the Trump administration when Steve Bannon gets the boot. Keep watching. It’s not often a US administration falls apart so publicly.

And to re-affirm: no, I do not want this president to succeed. I want him to fail spectacularly. I want his entire arc, from his ride down the escalator to his meagerly-attended inauguration to the present day to serve as a warning to the not-too-bright; a signpost along the road of life saying dimwits fail at difficult tasks, no matter how much money and influence they throw around. Mr. Trump is checking the boxes, one by one. May the “filth,” as AG Jeff Sessions phrased it on another subject Tuesday, be washed out with him when Trump’s deeds are exposed. 

#Trump #fraud #Manafort #foreign #agent #GOP

Inmates Built Computers Hidden in Ceiling, Connected Them to Prison Network

David Kravets - Ars Technica:

Inmates at a medium-security Ohio prison secretly assembled two functioning computers, hid them in the ceiling, and connected them to the Marion Correctional Institution’s network. The hard drives were loaded with pornography, a Windows proxy server, VPN, VOIP and anti-virus software, the Tor browser, password hacking and e-mail spamming tools, and the open source packet analyzer Wireshark.

...

The inspector general's report found that inmates "took two computers that should have been disassembled, placed hard drives into the computers, installed a network card, transported the computers across the institution for approximately 1,100 feet, through the security check point without being searched or challenged by staff, accessed an elevator to the third floor and placed the two computers in the ceiling of the P3 training room."

What a long way prisoners have come from shanks and bedsheet ropes over the wall.

#Ohio #Correctional #Marion #computers #prisoners #Hogans #Heroes

Congressman Who Shouted ‘You Lie’ at Obama Hears the Same From Constituents

Jonah Engel Bromwich - The New York Times:

Representative Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who gained a measure of infamy after shouting “you lie” at President Barack Obama during a joint session of Congress in 2009, had that memorable catchphrase hurled back at him by a group of his constituents at a town hall event on Monday.

...

After he said the law was delaying and denying health services to its intended recipients, the rest of his comments were drowned out, as the crowd began to chant “you lie” in unison.

Joe Wilson disgraced himself and his party by shouting at the newly-elected president during Barack Obama’s first Congressional address. He apologized that evening and was later officially admonished by the House.

A measure of justice came due eight years later, in a town hall meeting in the middle of nowhere. Better late than never.

#GOP #fraud #Barack #Obama #Joe #Wilson

Trump Changes Course Again - I'm Getting Dizzy

Damian Palettea - The Washington Post:

President Trump and a top adviser on Wednesday pushed back plans to overhaul the tax code, saying they wanted to prioritize first a renewed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The comments from Trump and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney mark a sharp reversal from the administration’s approach just a few weeks ago. After they were dealt a stinging defeat when conservative Republicans refused to vote for a GOP health-care plan, Trump angrily said he was pivoting to tax reform and has been peppering his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, for details of their tax timeline ever since.

Say it with me … “they don’t know what they’re doing."

Kidding aside, Mr. Trump has been lashed by opposition to “repeal and replacement” of the Affordable Care Act, some by his own base who voted for him not realizing that they 1. have an ACA health insurance policy, and 2. that the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, and Obamacare are all the same thing and they stood to L-O-S-E; lashed by tax scolds who wanted taxes cut despite ours being the lowest income tax rate among western nations; and lashed again by his true base, the very wealthy whose taxes were raised significantly to pay for - you know it - the Affordable Care Act.

At least we know who Trump’s masters are. Now, about those Russians ...

#Trump #fraud #ACA #health #insurance #taxes #GOP #more #fraud #youre #a #fool #is #you #voted #for #this

April 11, 2017

Trump Tops Obama, Bush and Clinton in Golfing

Karen Yourish and K. K. Rebecca Lai - The New York Times:

After years of criticizing former President Barack Obama for playing golf and going on private getaways, President Trump has already done more of both in his first 81 days than Mr. Obama, as well as former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Mr. Trump played golf again this past weekend, on Saturday and Sunday.

At least Mr. Trump excels at something.

#Trump #fraud #golf #not #governance

April 9, 2017

Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland to Leave National Security Council Post

Abby Phillip - The Washington Post:

Deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland is expected to leave her National Security Council post and is expected to be named U.S. ambassador to Singapore, an administration official said.

McFarland, who was named to her post by the previous national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was initially told that she could remain at the White House when Flynn was replaced by H.R. McMaster.

Her departure, which was first reported by Bloomberg News, comes amid a broader shake-up at the security council under McMaster’s leadership.

McMaster is cleaning house, re-making the NSC to his liking as he should. The original top stooges, Flynn and McFarland, are gone. Good thing, too. One was covertly dallying with the Russians, the other claimed she was followed by Hillary Clinton’s helicopters.

I wonder how she’ll get past Senate confirmation with that claim on the record.

#Trump #fraud #NSC #Flynn #McMaster #McFarland

April 8, 2017

∴ Is It Last Call for Craft Beer? (No.)

Jim Koch - The New York Times:

The growth and the excitement in the beer business is in craft, and its potential is threatened by a beer landscape that is heavily tilted toward gigantic foreign-owned conglomerates and against the independent, innovative entrants.

It matters because independent American breweries create beers for their local regions. They invest in their communities. They employ local workers. And they pay taxes — local, state and federal. American craft brewing is American manufacturing that doesn’t outsource these well-paying American jobs.

Get some craft brewers really talking, and they’ll tell you we are headed for a time when independent breweries can’t afford to compete, can’t afford the best ingredients, can’t get wholesalers to support them, and can’t get shelf space and draft lines. The result: Beer lovers won’t have the broad range of choices they have today.

We’ve enjoyed a golden age of craft brewing for a decade or more. Explosive growth in local craft breweries means there are often a dozen places for drinkers to enjoy new beers within range of an easy drive. I’ve wondered, though, when this expansion will end, whether we’ll face a contraction, and how far that’ll go.

No business grows forever. Mature businesses find a steady-state size if they’re well run. Over-expanded industries contract until the market can support them at a reduced size.

That’s what Jim Koch sees coming, but he claims the cause won’t be over-extension. It’ll be pressure from monopolist macro-brewers reducing space in the distribution chain and shelf space.

Keep in mind Jim started his business, Boston Brewing, with one beer, Sam Adams Boston Lager, but left behind the “micro” designation long ago. Boston Brewing makes dozens of beers, both all-year and seasonal, and distributes around the world. Comparing craft brewers to a company his size is an apples-to-oranges exercise.

He’s well-regarded in the craft industry, though, for giving back to the little guys. He personally intervened during a recent hops shortage by using his company’s purchasing power to buy more hops than they needed at a lower price, then re-distribute among smaller producers at that same reasonable price.

I’m not certain, then, that his issues apply to many local micro-brewers. Most don’t run a bottling line, don’t distribute beyond nearby towns (and only in kegs, at that), and don’t appear on store shelves. Crowding out in the distribution chain will limit how many small brewers can grow larger, but the more pressing danger for small breweries - the producers you find in a local industrial park, for example - is one of over-saturation of the local market for good beer. We haven’t reached that tipping point, yet.

The breweries I visit are consistently crowded every weekend, even in the dead of winter. The crowds grow as the temperature rises. New micro-brewers are opening all the time.

Now, I may be in a fortunate minority living in northern central Virginia. Our state has seen explosive growth in brewing and distilling, and there are a LOT of beer and spirits drinkers here. What I’m seeing may not be representative of the larger craft brew industry.

At some point the craft market will peak. It may shrink. I doubt it’ll disappear. I have yet to see or hear of a craft brewery disappearing for reasons other than being bought by another micro-brewer - because their beer was so popular it made sense to sell and made sense to acquire.

Give people a taste of something better and they’ll pay you for the pleasure. Witness Apple and their computing products. The same will hold true for the craft brewing industry. It may do so with a lower number of producers, though. Time will tell.

#craft #beer #Jim #Koch #Boston #Brewing #conglomerates #supply #chain

April 7, 2017

Washington State’s New 8 Megawatt-hour Flow Battery is the Largest of Its Kind

Megan Geuss - Ars Technica:

A company called UniEnergy Technologies (UET) has installed a new large flow battery on the grid in Snohomish County in Washington state. The 2MW, 8MWh battery system may seem like a small installation compared to recent projects in Southern California and Hawaii, but it's quite a step for the nascent flow battery industry. In fact, this installation is currently the largest capacity containerized flow battery system in the world. It's housed in 20 connected shipping containers and will be used by the Snohomish Public Utility District (otherwise known as SnoPUD), which has also invested in lithium-ion battery installations.

A modest installation would provide overnight and calm wind backup for solar- and wind turbine-generated electricity. Smart.

#flow #battery #solar #wind #alternative #fuels

President Trump’s Real-World Syria Lesson

Thomas Friedman - The New York Times:

So, last week, someone named “Rex Tillerson” (who, I am told, is the U.S. secretary of state) declared that the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people” — as if the Syrian people will be having an Iowa-like primary on that subject soon. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley made the same point even more cravenly, telling reporters that the United States’ “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”

Is there any wonder that Assad felt no compunction about perpetrating what this paper described as “one of the deadliest chemical weapons attacks in years in Syria,” killing dozens of people in Idlib Province, the last major holdout for Syrian rebels.

Mind you, Donald Trump did not cause this Syria problem, and he is right to complain that it was left in his lap by the Obama team, which had its own futile strategy for dealing with Syria — trying to negotiate with Russia and Iran, the key players there, without creating any leverage on the ground.

But if you’re looking for a culprit for why America has refused to intervene in Syria, you have to look both to your left and to your right.

It won’t be pretty or easy. But in the Cold War we put 400,000 troops in Europe to keep the sectarian peace there and to keep Europe on a democracy track. Having NATO and the Arab League establish a safe zone in Syria for the same purpose is worth a try. And then if Putin and Iran want to keep the butcher Assad in Damascus, they can have him.

(Emphasis mine.)

An astute observation among a succinct explainer on how ISIS evolved, who’s allied with whom, and what the future holds in Syria. Gets you right up to speed.

Action-reaction: it’s basic physics. Let the despot know his position is safe and he’ll lash out at his weakest opposition. Photos of dead children were the result.

The US needs to do better. A cruise missile attack probably isn’t going to do it - that only shows we have no skin in the game.

#Thomas #Friedman #Syria #Iran #Russia #foreign #policy #war #chemical #weapons #attack

Turns Out ... Trump's Tomahawk Raid Was Pointless

Tweet by AFP reporting Syrian airfield back in operation next day

The message sent doesn’t have anyone thinking twice. Not Assad. Not Putin. Not Xi Jinping. Not Kim Jong-un. Not the bum taking a leak on the Trump Tower loading dock.

Nice try, Donald. You’re still under investigation by the FBI, the House Intelligence Committee, and the Senate Intelligence committee.

Shaking up the White House staff won’t help. It will make for good political theater, though, so go right ahead. Bannon first, please.

#Trump #FRAUD #Syria #Russia #China #North #Korea #bumOnLoadingDock 

Rising Waters Threaten China’s Rising Cities

Michael Kimmelman - The New York Times:

The rising South China Sea and the overstressed Pearl River network lie just a meter or so below much of this new multitrillion-dollar development — and they are poised to drown decades of progress, scrambling global supply chains and raising prices on a world of goods like smartphones, T-shirts, biopharmaceuticals and even the tiny springs inside your ballpoint pens.

Fascinating read about China’s burgeoning, colliding urban centers. Click through and scroll down for a time-lapse graphic of the region’s disparate population centers merging into a sprawl as climate change inundates these riverine communities.

These places possess some of the most beautifully articulated architecture, which becomes another world painted in light after dark.

Residents and manufacturers are being flooded out with increasing frequency each year.

#climate #change #China #Guangzhou #Pearl #River #flooding

April 6, 2017

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes Recuses Himself From Russia Probe

Karoun Demirjian - The Washington Post:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) temporarily recused himself Thursday from all matters related to the committee’s ongoing probe into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, as House investigators look into ethics allegations against him.

So - keeping track - Flynn, fired; AG Sessions, forced to recuse himself from all Russia/Trump campaign investigations; Bannon, removed from the National Security Council by the adults in the room; Representative Nunes, forced to step aside and recuse himself from Russia/Trump campaign investigation after charges were leveled that his intelligence disclosures were unauthorized.

Fell on his sword for a jackass, he did.

1-2-3-4. The dominos, they keep a’fallin’. Gonna be some bigger ones, soon. I can feel it.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Russia #campaign #intelligence

April 5, 2017

Civil Rights Act Protects Gay Workers, Court Rules

Matthew Haag and Niraj Chokshi - The New York Times:

In a significant victory for gay rights, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled Tuesday that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay workers from job discrimination, expanding workplace protections in the landmark law to include sexual orientation.

The decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the highest federal court yet to grant such employment protections, raises the chances that the politically charged issue may ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court. While an appeal is not expected in this case, another appellate court, in Georgia, last month reached the opposite conclusion, saying that the law does not prohibit discrimination at work for gay employees.

That’s rather a huge and consequential decision. Given the degree of public interest and a contradictory ruling by another appellate court, this one is all but certainly headed for the Supreme Court.

Sure wish we had an odd number of justices, there.

#civiil #rights #gay #workers

Advertisers Flee Fox's Bill O'Reilly Show

Ben Popken - NBC News:

Fox News is in a jam this week as major automakers and smaller outfits pull their ads from the network’s popular “O’Reilly Factor” show, following a series of sexual harassment claims against host Bill O’Reilly.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi all yanked their ads after a New York Times investigation that surfaced five sexual harassment cases against the political pundit.

They were joined Tuesday by pharmaceutical makers GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer, Sanofi Consumer Care, insurer Allstate, asset management firm T. Rowe Price, and personal finance company Credit Karma.

Orkin, a pest control company; Untuckit, a men’s clothing line; Ancestry.com, a family history service; Constant Contact, an email marketer; and Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, the parent company of the Rachel Ray-endorsed dog food brand Nutrish, also announced they were pulling ads.

In total, at least 16 advertisers have so far withdrawn support.

(Emphasis mine.)

That escalated quickly. The number was eight yesterday afternoon.

Update (ABC affiliate WMAR):

At least 20 companies are pulling advertising from "The O'Reilly Factor" after allegations that Bill O'Reilly sexually harassed women.

(Emphasis mine, again.)

#Bill #OReilly #sexual #harassment #scandal #advertisers

April 4, 2017

Fox Losing More Advertisers After Sexual Harassment Claims Against O’Reilly

Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt - The New York Times:

Fox News was facing a major advertising revolt on Tuesday as companies wary of the sexual harassment accusations against Bill O’Reilly continued to pull their ads from his prime-time cable news show.

Six more marketers said they were withdrawing ads from “The O’Reilly Factor,’’ making a total of eight that have suspended sponsorship in the last 24 hours.

I wonder if we’ve reached a tipping point in O’Reilly’s career. He’s been largely bullet-proof despite years of sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits. Now that Roger Ailes isn’t around to run interference for him, the tempo of complaints and advertiser defection has increased.

Maybe this did it:

The decisions come after The New York Times published an investigation last weekend that found that five women who had accused Mr. O’Reilly of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior received settlements totaling about $13 million.

$13 million in settlements to make nothing go away? The burden of proof in these claims was on the women who brought them. Fox’s attorneys likely wouldn’t advocate shelling out that much money unless there was jury-convincing evidence.

How many more lost advertisers will Fox tolerate? They’re running a business, and apparently employing Bill isn’t good for it.

#Bill #OReilly #Fox #News #sexual #harassment #claims #settlements #advertisers

Gas Attack Is Said to Kill Dozens in Syria

Anne Barnard - The New York Times:

The deadliest chemical weapons attack in years in Syria killed dozens of people in northern Idlib province on Tuesday morning, including women and children, and sickened scores more, according to medics, rescuers and witnesses in the rebel-held province, who said the gas had been delivered by a government airstrike.

Here’s a moment that rarely arrives in politics: an opportunity to clearly and decisively do what the opposition was accused of failing to do. Your move, Mr. Trump. Are you going to draw a bright red line at chemical attack and so “no farther?”

Guess not (CNN.com):

Sen. John McCain said Tuesday the Trump administration's decision to no longer prioritize ending the Syrian civil war is "another disgraceful chapter in American history."

...

"I'm sure they took note of what our Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) said just the other day that the Syrian people would be determining their own future themselves -- one of the more incredible statements I've ever heard."

#Trump #GOP #fraud #politics #chemical #attack #Syria

Why Do Walmart and Target Have Their Own Digital Forensics Labs?

Kaveh Waddell - The Atlantic:

Walmart is one of six companies in the United States that run digital-forensics laboratories accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. American Express has an accredited lab; Target has two of them.

Those companies—and many others that operate labs without formal accreditation—have built up digital-forensics capabilities once limited to law enforcement. They have the tools and the know-how to investigate corporate theft and online fraud, or track a data breach to its source. That might involve extracting information from a locked, encrypted smartphone, or a damaged computer hard drive. Or it could entail analyzing network activity to figure out which employee, for example, is siphoning off sensitive data to sell on the black market.

Fascinating article about private enterprise developing its own digital forensic capabilities to thwart crime in their businesses.

Perhaps the most surprising detail comes in the final paragraph: Target revealed that a quarter of the digital forensic work they do was unrelated to the company itself in 2008.

Seems a golden business opportunity. Train up and gain accreditation, then contract digital forensics services to smaller companies that have a need, but cannot afford the infrastructure.

#digital #forensics #crime

April 3, 2017

Blackwater Founder Held Secret Seychelles Meeting to Establish Trump-Putin Back Channel

Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff, and Karen DeYoung - The Washington Post:

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said.

...

Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.

This article is a who’s who of holy shit. Erik Prince, founder and owner of Blackwater, whose sister is the controversial secretary of education, brokered a meeting to establish foreign policy ties between the not-yet-president and Vlad Putin.

This is going to make one hell of a non-fiction read when the book comes out.

#Trump #GOP #criminal #fraud #Erik #Prince #Betsy #DeVos #Stephen #Bannon #Rebekah #Mercer #Logan #Act #smoke #getting #thick #must #be #fire #here #somewhere

April 2, 2017

US Energy Production Dropped in 2016 For the First Time in 6 years

Megan Geuss - Ars Technica:

On Friday, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that US energy production in 2016 fell by 4 percent, with fossil fuel production contributing to most of that decline.

Peak carbon?

#energy #production #carbon #emissions

At Last, a New Movie That’s as Beautiful and Insane as The Fifth Element

Annalee Newitz - Ars Technica:

Thanks to the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, blockbuster sci-fi adventures can be trippy again. Bulbous monsters, sparkly outfits, zero-G hairstyles, starscapes that look like 1970s prog rock album covers—it’s all cool now. And that means, strangely, that the world is finally ready for a movie based on the 1960s comic book that started the psychedelic sci-fi craze in the first place.

That’s what you’ll see in this first full-length trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the tale of Valerian and Laureline, two spacio-temporal agents hired to guard the universe’s only intergalactic library in the insanely colorful cosmopolis Alpha. The film is directed by The Fifth Element mastermind Luc Besson, whose most recent movie was the transhumanist hit Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. As for Valerian’s plot, there’s some kind of vague menace threatening not just the future of knowledge, but all of space-time.

The Fifth Element is one of our favorite sci-fi films, and Guardians of the Galaxy has become a go-to comfort film in our home, as well. Although it hews to the simplistic end of the scale, Besson’s Lucy bears ideas that make it a worthy sci-fi story, too.

All of which has me looking forward to this summer’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. In the mean time, there’s apparently a forty-year comic saga in Valerian and Lauraline that I had no idea existed. I’ll bet I can find the TPBs on Amazon/Comixcology ...

#fifth #element #guardians #of #the #galaxy #lucy #valerian #and #lauraline #comics

A Judge Rules Trump May Have Incited Violence

Aaron Blake - The Washington Post:

A federal judge in Kentucky is the latest to take Trump at his word when he says something controversial. Judge David J. Hale ruled against efforts by Trump’s attorneys to throw out a lawsuit accusing him of inciting violence against protesters at a March 2016 campaign rally in Louisville.

At the rally, Trump repeatedly said “get ‘em out of here” before, according to the protesters, they were shoved and punched by his supporters. Trump’s attorneys sought to have the case dismissed on free speech grounds, arguing that he didn’t intend for his supporters to use force. But Hale noted that speech inciting violence is not protected by the First Amendment and ruled that there is plenty of evidence that the protesters’ injuries were a “direct and proximate result” of Trump’s words.

“It is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ‘em out of here’ advocated the use of force,” Hale wrote. “It was an order, an instruction, a command.”

I recall this event, the reporting on it, and wondering if there would be repercussions from it. Mr. Trump’s words made him appear a would-be strongman, a thug unworthy of the office he sought.

If I were speaking among a group of friends and said the same about an interloper, I’d be liable for any injury done at my advocacy. I don’t know what liability Trump will suffer in the near term, as he’s president of the United States and (I think) covered by sovereign immunity. After he leaves office, though, this could come back to haunt him.

#Trump #fraud #thug #violence #criminal #liability

The Parking Lot Lobby Will Be Heard From Shortly ...

@debaggin:

A Fotomat hut in a parking lot

#Trump #fraud

Legalized Marijuana Could Help Curb the Opioid Epidemic, Study Finds

Reuters, re-published on NBC News:

Hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse dropped on average 23 percent in states after marijuana was permitted for medicinal purposes, the analysis found. Hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average.

At the same time, fears that legalization of medical marijuana would lead to an uptick in cannabis-related hospitalizations proved unfounded, according to the report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Ten years from now marijuana dispensaries will be as common as state-owned ABC stores and privately-owned liquor stores are today.

Consider the facts:

  • marijuana is no more addictive than alcohol.
  • marijuana is no more debilitating than alcohol.
  • there is no legal, moral, or logical argument against legalizing marijuana that doesn’t also apply to alcohol.
  • alcohol is legally sold in all fifty states, and in most counties there-in.

#marijuana #legalization #alcohol #addiction #impairment

April 1, 2017

∴ My Apple Care Experience

I own an iPhone SE. It’s one of the last iPhone models incorporating a mechanical home button. iPhone 7 and newer designs include a fixed button-like circle, with haptic feedback simulating a button click, and without the mechanical bits and non-watertight gaps inherent in a movable part.

I also do a fair amount of double-clicking on the home button, moving between, say, Waze for GPS navigation and traffic alerts, Overcast for podcast playback, the occasional text message in Messages, and, when I’m out for a walk, Pedometer++ for step counting. That’s my daily use. Add to that weather apps, a calculator app, Tweetbot, and occasional use apps and my home button gets a lot of presses, much of it double-clicking among recently launched apps rather than hunting down an icon.

I used an almost identical iPhone 5 for three years without any trouble from the home button. Maybe I’m using the double-click feature more now. Perhaps I got a lemon with a home button that would have survived longer with a less avid user. Whatever the reason, my SE’s home button went almost “flat” about two months ago. Its normally sharp *click* became a faint *tick*, like passing a detent turning a knob. I’d accidentally triple-click, putting the display into high-contrast mode (try it! Triple-click again to revert to normal.), or single-click out to the home screen.

It occurred to me after a few weeks of this that my AppleCare warranty was effective for a full year after purchase. I’d bought this phone last May, after drowning my iPhone 6S. If I got on it I had another month-plus of free repair available.

Trouble is, the closest Apple Store is almost an hour away in moderate traffic. There is rarely anything less that moderate traffic on I-66, so I put it off for a few more weeks.

The clock ticked down on my warranty while I dithered. I checked on the Apple Support web site - some devices can be shipped to Apple for repair or replacement and shipped back to the customer - but apparently not iPhones, or perhaps not for people who live within “reasonable” distance of an Apple retail outlet. I’d have to make the drive.

The Apple Support app, available free on the iTunes App Store, lets you find the closest Stores, troubleshoot your device, and make an appointment for service. I went through the motions with it and within a minute secured an appointment time on my next day off. Kelly and I would make an afternoon of it.

We arrived at the Apple Store a half-hour early, and so spent a while perusing the products. It was my first visit to an Apple Store.

I’m up for a replacement for my six-year old MacBook Pro when Apple introduces its next iteration of laptops, so I spent time handling and debating between the current 15-inch Pro and the 13-inch, the model I currently use. Kelly admired the (PRODUCT) Red iPhone, as she’s due for a phone replacement this fall. They’ve got a crop of interesting accessories lining the walls, too.

The place was teeming with blue-shirted Apple employees, each sporting an iPad mini loaded with Apple’s proprietary service software. I approached one when my appointment time drew near and explained why I was there. The employee scrolled through the appointment list, selected my name, and checked me in. A few minutes later a blue-shirted young woman emerged from the back of the Store to ask what she could do to help.

I handed her my phone and said, “try the home button.” One or two clicks and she replied, “oh, the home button. Or lack of it.” After ensuring I had a backup of the device’s data, she disappeared into the back of the Store with my phone.

A few minutes later she emerged with the button almost fully working. A technician had opened the display and passed a pry tool under the button, freeing it. He’d explained it would likely work correctly, but since the phone was still under warranty it’d be wise to replace the display unit, which includes a new home button. This way there’d be no return visit if and when the original button went flat again, after the warranty expired.

I was given a time for pickup forty five-minutes in the future and asked to disable the passcode securing the phone.

Apple is one of the very few companies I trust with my data. Had I known they’d ask for the passcode removal, I might have wiped the phone before traveling to the Store, then re-wipe and restore my backup after repair. Without hesitation, though, I disabled the passcode feature and handed her the phone.

We walked out for a stroll around the mall and a coffee.

Forty five-minutes later I walked back into the Store and explained to the first employee I encountered what I was there for. He checked on his iPad, communicated with the other employees over a wireless headset that I was there for a pickup, and asked me to wait a few minutes for someone to bring out my phone. Five minutes later I was showing a picture ID and taking back my phone, new display and home button intact.

The technician did an exemplary job, leaving not a trace of anything having been replaced. The button was fully clicky. I re-enabled the passcode feature and headed out the door.

My experience was seamless from beginning to end. Apple’s customer service, tops in the business, was prompt, friendly, and professional. Though I’d have preferred to simply drop my phone in a box and send it off for repair, I did receive additional benefit from visiting a Store in person. I heartily recommend the company not only for its software and devices, but for its customer service when something goes wrong, as well.

All-in-all, that’s what I’ve come to expect from Apple. I wasn’t disappointed.

#Apple #Care #customer #service #iPhone #Store

Tom Price Intervened on Rule That Would Hurt Drug Profits, the Same Day He Acquired Drug Stock

Robert Faturechi - ProPublica:

On the same day the stockbroker for then-Georgia Congressman Tom Price bought him up to $90,000 of stock in six pharmaceutical companies last year, Price arranged to call a top U.S. health official, seeking to scuttle a controversial rule that could have hurt the firms’ profits and driven down their share prices, records obtained by ProPublica show.

Stock trades made by Price while he served in Congress came under scrutiny at his confirmation hearings to become President Trump’s secretary of health and human services. The lawmaker, a physician, traded hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares in health-related companies while he voted on and sponsored legislation affecting the industry, but Price has said his broker acted on his behalf without his involvement or knowledge.

Congressman Price is now Secretary of Health and Human Services Price. Move along, nothing to see here.

Tom Price’s broker could have traded these shares in without direction if Price’s account is an actively managed “wealth management” type. Those accounts are handled and charged fees for professional investment advice and management.

The trouble is, Price knew he already had pharma shares in his account, so his personal intervention in the rule making process was conflicted to begin with. The $90,000 in trades is only icing on his tasty wealth-laden cake.

I’m not opposed to wealth; we all invest for retirement, or should. I’m opposed to using the levers of government tilting the playing field in favor of legislators. Good thing then:

ProPublica previously reported that his trading is said to have been under investigation by federal prosecutors.

#GOP #fraud #pharmaceuticals #stock #investment

March 31, 2017

Trump Calls Congressional Inquiry a ‘Witch Hunt’

Julie Hirschfeld Davis - The New York Times:

President Trump said on Friday that Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser who resigned last month over his contacts with Russian officials, should ask for immunity from prosecution in the congressional investigation into the presidential campaign’s ties to Moscow. Mr. Trump called the inquiry a politically driven “witch hunt” by the news media and Democrats.

Mr. Flynn wouldn’t need immunity if he hadn’t run afoul of the law.

Some might call it unfair to link Flynn to misdeeds simply because he’s solicited immunity, and that the president who stands to lose if Flynn is found guilty of misdeeds has voiced his support for immunity. Let’s take a look at what Flynn had to say about immunity last year (CNBC):

When you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime.

Oops.

He’s not going to get that immunity he seeks, anyway. Not in the Senate (NBC News):

The Senate Intelligence Committee turned down the request by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's lawyer for a grant of immunity in exchange for his testimony, two congressional sources told NBC News.

and not in the House (Bloomberg):

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser would have to go through several steps before lawmakers would consider offering immunity in exchange for his testimony.

At least, not yet. Maybe when there’s plenty of blood in the water and the big fish is almost on the hook, well, maybe then, after Flynn has twisted in the wind long enough to hold back nothing.

#Trump #Flynn #GOP #fraud #gonnaBurn

∴ VP Pence, Mrs. Pence, and the Easily Offended

Vice President Pence made a little news this past week when a profile of his wife ran in The Washington Post, quoting his so-called rule for marriage: unless his wife is with him, he won’t attend a function where alcohol is served or dine alone with another woman. The left-leaning world, for the most part, lost its collective shit. He was labeled sexist, a misogynist, and worse. (Note that not one of those three linked quotes shows an understanding that Pence was speaking about himself, not about his wife, or other women, or other men.)

After reading more of the criticism and thinking about their arguments, I can understand why so many of the critics are single.

They missed the point of his rule, too.

First let me quote Pence from a 2002 interview in The Hill (re-quoted in The Atlantic):

If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me.

He was referring to his wife. He wants her in the vicinity. The take-away was that the possibility or appearance of impropriety is off limits for him. Repeat: for him.

Why would Pence mention his wife, though, if the rule was about avoidance of impropriety? What does she have to do with his potential impropriety? Here’s a similar, illustrative story from my life to help make the point.

Kelly, my wife, is very engaged in our local business, in our community, and with the local merchant and government folks. She’s widely respected for her efforts.

Kelly had the privilege of being nominated for and elected president of the local Chamber of Commerce some years ago. It was a one-year gig. During her tenure she attended many functions and, despite my introversion and general discomfort with large gatherings, I went along. I’m not sure I was all that convincing as a local business owner engaging with other business owners, but I wanted to be involved to support Kelly and our business.

Alcohol, in the form of wine and beer, was served at all of those functions. At many, a bar serving liquor was also available. My rule, which I didn’t tell anyone about at the time, was: at none of these events would I imbibe anything stronger than a single glass of wine, or a single bottle of beer, as long as she held an office.

Asked on one occasion why I wasn’t enjoying my (then) usual Martini, I explained the rule. It got a hearty laugh and puzzlement. What could Kelly’s office with the Chamber have to do with what I drank at a Chamber event?

You already know where I’m going with this.

The article in The Atlantic says that conservatives and religious folks would think Pence’s so-called rule “normal.” I’m not either of those persuasions, but Pence’s rule sounds normal to me, too. It sounds a lot like my rule.

Here’s what my questioner, and those offended by Mike Pence’s rule, and others fail to understand. The rule was not about me. Pence’s is not about Pence. They’re about our wives. They’re about not giving anyone, anywhere any credible reason to whisper one word that would shame, discredit, or otherwise tarnish the one person in our lives who means more than all the others combined. Yes, what I do does reflect upon my wife. It reflects upon the rest of my family, too, and my friends.

One could argue that a public figure like Mike Pence is always concerned with his public appearance. Of course that’s true. I don’t believe for a second that that’s what drives his so-called rule. It predates his rise in politics.

One could also argue Pence’s rule depends on his being the boss, where he can pick and choose who he’s seen with, or not seen with. That’s true, too. We create the world in which we live. Pence gets to live in the mini-world he and his wife create.

Self-imposed rules like these are not misogyny. They’re not sexism. They’re self-discipline. They’re about being a good husband and putting our wives above our own comfort and enjoyment. It’s an old-fashioned idea, but it’s worked for me for twenty-one years, and somewhat longer for Pence.

The last paragraph of the article gets it right:

protecting a marriage should take precedence over all else, even if the way of doing it seems strange to some, and imposes costs on others.

If you get it, great. If not, remind yourself the next time you’re with someone you love or deeply care about, “it’s not about me.” Do you believe yourself? And does that tell you something useful about yourself?

#Mike #Pence #rule #for #marriage

March 30, 2017

Flynn Offers to Cooperate With Congressional Probe in Exchange for Immunity

Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima - The Washington Post:

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has offered to cooperate with congressional investigators in exchange for immunity from prosecution, a suggestion that has been met with initial skepticism, according to people familiar with the matter.

“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,’’ Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, said in a statement Thursday evening.

The domino wishes to speak without repercussion. Do you think what it has to say is worth letting it skip out on punishment for crimes committed (and there were most likely crimes committed, because otherwise immunity is purposeless)?

Do you think the DoJ will offer Mr. Flynn immunity for cooperation with the FBI’s investigation?

There’ll be a good book or three about all this, someday.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #scandal #Russians #intelligence #Michael #Flynn

Two White House Officials Helped Give Nunes Intelligence Reports

Matthew Rosenberg, Maggie Haberman, and Adam Goldman - The New York Times:

A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Mr. Nunes then discussed with Mr. Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration.

Whatever this “thing” is we’re learning, it’s beginning to take on the stink of true scandal. Not political payback, not undoing the last election, not small politics. A cover-up is forming over whatever Mr. Trump and his lackeys did with the Russians, and as the man in the parking garage said a couple of generations ago, “these are not very bright guys.” The truth will eventually shake free.

Witness Representative Devin Nunes. Devin spends a wee too much time playing Trump apologist, working hard laying cover. He was oh-so-earnest speaking to the press about intelligence reports he wouldn’t share with the committee he chairs, the one charged with investigating the stink, a week or so back. He did, however, run right to the White House to give the appearance of briefing the president. Except the president’s people are the ones providing the intelligence reports in the first place.

Note to Devin, you don’t work for Trump. You work for your constituents, and they expect better.

It’s ok, though. These Trump apologists aren’t hardened soldiers or trained intelligence officers. They’re political cronies, toadies, and opportunists. They’re people who humor themselves believing they’re smart and successful, because they’re in the White House, in Congress, and you’re not. It’s going to be a long way down when they fall.

You might think, we should want our president to succeed.

I haven’t trusted Trump since he was a playboy in New York City decades ago, haven’t believed a word he’s said since he declared his candidacy.

I do not want him to succeed. I want the truth to be known, Trump to fall and be swept from the White House, and America to be free of his stink.

Michael Flynn’s dismissal was the first domino. Devin Nunes’ acts coming to light were the first revelation of a cover-up.

There is so much more to come. It’s important to pay attention now.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #scandal #impeachment #intelligence

March 29, 2017

Policy Shift Helps Coal, but Other Forces May Limit Effect

Clifford Krauss and Diane Cardwell - The New York Times:

Many fossil fuel executives are celebrating President Trump’s move to dismantle the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. But their cheers are muted, because market forces and state initiatives continue to elevate coal’s rivals, especially natural gas and renewable energy.

In coal’s favor, there is the new promise that federal lands will be open for leasing, ending an Obama-era moratorium. Easing pollution restrictions could delay the closing of some old coal-fired power plants, slowing the switch by some utilities to other sources.

Here-in is a truth left unspoken about efforts to reinvigorate the flagging coal industry by Mr. Trump’s campaign for president, and by his current efforts. There are fewer coal jobs because of automation in the mines, mines closed for unresolvable safety violations, and declining demand for coal due to the competitive costs of other fuel sources. These offset overall demand for coal product, and they’re not going away. They cannot be regulated or legislated out of existence. You’d expect a free-market conservative to understand this basic economic fact.

Trump’s act will fail to re-employ significant numbers in the coal industry. Industry employment numbers will continue their long-trend downward slope. If what coal supporters want are window dressing and platitudes about re-employing workers in a dying industry at the expense of mine safety, clean air, and greater expansion of renewable energy sources, though, Trump is their man.

Who wouldn’t enjoy the unspoiled beauty of federal lands pockmarked by mine heads, strip mining pits, and abandoned mines slowly filling with toxic mining byproducts floating in rainwater, not to mention elevated asthma cases among children downwind of propped-up coal-fired power plants?

#Trump #GOP #fraud #coal #jobs

Trump Is a Chinese Agent (<-- warning for the irony impaired)

Thomas L. Friedman - The New York Times:

Trump took office promising to fix our trade imbalance with China, and what’s the first thing he did? He threw away a U.S.-designed free-trade deal with 11 other Pacific nations — a pact whose members make up 40 percent of global G.D.P.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was based largely on U.S. economic interests, benefiting our fastest-growing technologies and agribusinesses, and had more labor, environmental and human rights standards than any trade agreement ever. And it excluded China. It was our baby, shaping the future of trade in Asia.

This column makes a compelling, ironic argument. No, Mr. Trump is not an agent of the Chinese government, but given his acts he ought to be. They better serve China than the US, and it’d pay better than his White House gig.

The nut is, Trump actually made all of these foolish moves.

If you’ve given me the honor of your reads, take a look at this column. Ten minutes, tops, and only if you, like me, had to re-read a few paragraphs to make sure you understood what Trump did. Any question of where China and the US are headed in the coming century will come down to the trend of acts detailed in this piece.

Thanks for reading, too!

#Trump #GOP #fraud #China #competitiveness #trade #energy #fool

The House Just Voted to Wipe Away the FCC’s Landmark Internet Privacy Protections

Brian Fund - The Washington Post:

Congress sent proposed legislation to President Trump on Tuesday that wipes away landmark online privacy protections, the first salvo in what is likely to become a significant reworking of the rules governing Internet access in an era of Republican dominance.

In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast of protections approved just last year that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers. The rules also had required providers to strengthen safeguards for customer data against hackers and thieves.

If you voted fro Mr. Trump, you asked for this. The other 80% of America did not. By the law of averages you will get what you deserve. The shame of it is, so will the rest of us.

There-in lies a rich subject for contemplation: how much thought did Trump voters give to whom they were voting? Was it more a knee-jerk response to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy? Or was it a simple party line vote? I imagine those two reasons make up a significant chunk of the votes cast for Trump.

What about the unthinking masses, though? Those voters who still claim “he’s a good businessman, he'll make a good president,” and “he gets things done” have got to be slowly waking to the reality of what they’ve done.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #consumer #protection #privacy #FCC

March 28, 2017

Nunes: I’ll ‘Never’ Reveal Sources, Even To Other Members Of House Intel Committee

Allegra Kirkland - TPM:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) is staying mum.

On Tuesday, he said he would “never” comply with requests to disclose the source of his allegations that communications involving the Trump transition team were “incidentally” collected by U.S. intelligence agencies.

“Will you share your sources?” an ABC reporter who confronted Nunes in a Capitol Hill hallway asked.

“We will never reveal sources,” he replied.

“Even to the other members of the committee?”

“Nope,” he said. “Never.”

This will not end well for Representative Nunes, his committee, the GOP, or Mr. Trump. The more they obstruct, the more pending charges accrue when the truth becomes evident.

Have these people never read All the President’s Men?

#GOP #Trump #Nunes #fraud

Trump Tweets: 'Russia story is a hoax'

Rebecca Morin - POLITICO:

President Donald Trump criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s policies on Russia in a series of tweets Monday night, adding, the “Trump Russia story is a hoax.”

“Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech….”

Well, there’s desperation, right there. He’s peddling a debunked conspiracy theory as a distraction for the coming shitstorm he knows will center on him. Mr. Trump is, in a word, pathetic.

I don’t know that this guy has anyone left who believes him. The Congressional GOP just got raked over the coals trying to replace the ACA. Speaker Paul Ryan’s star isn’t looking so bright anymore. No love lost.

The “left behind” Americans who voted for Trump got a rude awakening when they realized the health insurance they had through the ACA exchanges was on the chopping block. Breathing a sigh of relief now, there’s no love lost from them, either. They’ve got to be feeling suckered, too.

Wealthy Americans who just lost out on a big tax cut - they probably never loved this guy, ever - he’s an imbecile’s idea of a wealthy man, and now they have no use for him at all.

Vlad Putin must surely realize he won’t get any relief from Trump, what with all the eyes on the Russian connection to Trump’s election. Those sanctions are staying put.

As I see it, Trump has three options. Resign and look bad, or wait until the axe falls, get impeached and look bad, or hang on by a thread and continue to look bad.

Common denominator: you look bad, sleazy and bad, Don. It’s a good look for you, though. No change.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #sleaze #lonelyAtTheTop

Affordable Care Act Repeal Is Back on the Agenda, Republicans Say

Robert Pear and Jeremy W. Peters - The New York Times:

It is not clear what political dynamics might have changed since Friday, when a coalition of hard-line conservatives and more moderate Republicans torpedoed legislation to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The replacement bill would still leave 24 million more Americans without insurance after a decade, a major worry for moderate Republicans.

They’ve been trying for over seven years, and can’t wait to pull the rug out from under millions of poor and under-employed Americans. Today's GOP is really despicable, isn’t it?

The thing is, repealing the ACA won’t do as so many claim: erase Barack Obama's signature legislation, and his legacy. He already accomplished these things. That can never be erased. It gives a good example, though, of how far the Party of Wealthy White Guys will go to screw with a black man.

They’ll even turn over their party’s future to Donald Trump.

#GOP #ACA #fraud #disgrace

Paul Manafort's Puzzling New York Real Estate Purchases

Ilya Marritz and Andrew Bernstein - WNYC:

Paul J. Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager facing multiple investigations for his political and financial ties to Russia, has engaged in a series of puzzling real estate deals in New York City over the past 11 years.

Real estate and law enforcement experts say some of these transactions fit a pattern used in money laundering; together, they raise questions about Manafort’s activities in the New York City property market while he also was consulting for business and political leaders in the former Soviet Union.

(Emphasis mine.)

That’s Paul Manafort, campaign chairman and advisor to the man who became president of the United States.

It’s good that these bits and pieces of questionable filth are trickling out so soon after Mr. Trump took office, and before he and the Congressional GOP manage to get anything of substance done. The opportunity to remove and replace remains.

Drip, drip, drip.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #fraud #fraud

March 25, 2017

∴ The Art of the Dealer

Waking to recaps of yesterday’s political news, I’m hearing surprise and wonder at how Mr. Trump, the self-described ultimate negotiator, deal-maker, and businessman failed to close the deal with members of his own party. The Affordable Care Act lives on.

This is not surprising, if you realize one thing.

Donald Trump is not, and has not ever been the ultimate anything. His businessman facade hides a string of bankruptcies, he owns outright only a small number of going concerns, and his deal-making prowess is almost entirely a fiction of his own mind. Those who repeat his claims have been suckered - first during the GOP primaries, then in the general election - and have become codependent in his falsehoods rather than face the truth. There is but one truth about Mr. Trump that’s held up all of his adult life.

Donald Trump is a shyster, a fraud. His art is not “the deal,” it’s dealing in deception. He’s walked away from more debt and responsibility in his life than some small countries. His manner is bluster, not professional. That’s why he behaves more the clown than presidential.

Trump will always sidestep a defeat by laying blame on others. Yesterday Mr. Trump laid the blame for his loss at the feet of Democrats, who were never, ever going to support Speaker Ryan’s bill.

Rather then seeing this first, failed foray into legislation as a one-off, think of it more as a template for how Mr. Trump will attempt to execute his office. A tiger, as they say, does not change his stripes. Trump has not.

Consider: a far-reaching investigation into him and his campaign’s dalliance with Vladimir Putin’s government before and after our 2016 election hasn’t yet begun. How much more we’re going to learn about the man a fraction of our electorate put into office.

We can do better than this. We did, for eight years ending in January. We shall again. We have only to wait for Mr. Trump to take his ball and going home.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #ACA #AHCA #Paul #Ryan

March 24, 2017

The Republican Waterloo

David Frum - The Atlantic:

What I would urge is that those conservatives and Republicans who were wrong about the evolution of this debate please consider why they were wrong: Consider the destructive effect of ideological conformity, of ignorance of the experience of comparable countries, and of a conservative political culture that incentivizes intransigence, radicalism, and anger over prudence, moderation, and compassion.

This piece was seven years in the making, and its flavor must be very sweet.

Another reason to read, and THINK.

#david #frum #health #care #ACA #GOP

ACA Remains ‘law of the land,’ but Trump Vows to Explode It

Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin - The Washington Post:

In an interview on Friday with The Washington Post, Trump made his inclinations clear: “The best thing politically is to let Obamacare explode.”

The president said that the law remains “totally the property of the Democrats” and that “when people get a 200 percent increase next year or a 100 percent or 70 percent, that’s their fault.”

I can’t think of a better metaphor than Caesar fiddling while Rome burned. I also can’t imagine stone buildings burning, but whatever.

My point: presidents are elected to represent the American electorate at large, not to stand idly by as they suffer. And yet Mr. Trump intends just that.

Petulant boy. How I’ll relish your demise. Not long, now.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #unAmerican #traitorous #conductUnbecoming #unfitToServe

‘Hello, Bob’: President Trump Called my Cellphone

Bob Costa - The Washington Post:

If you, like me, have ever wonder what’s going on in our president’s mind, this article by the Washington Post reporter Mr. Trump called announcing the demise of Speaker Ryan’s AHCA bill is somewhat illuminating: not unlike a near-burnt out candle in a pitch black cave, but still, illuminating, and a genuinely interesting read.

Park your partisanship for a few minutes and take a look, and ponder its close.

THINK.

#Trump #GOP #ownsIt

GOP health-care bill: House Republican Leaders Abruptly Pull Their Rewrite of the Nation’s Health-care Law

Robert Costa, Mike DeBonis, and Ed O’Keefe - The Washington Post:

House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a rewrite of the nation’s health-care system from consideration on Friday, a dramatic defeat for President Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that leaves a major campaign promise unfulfilled and casts doubt on the Republican Party’s ability to govern.

There’s reason to celebrate in this, but not much to gloat over. That bill had so little constituency it’s a wonder Speaker Ryan kept moving it forward. It’s a fair to ask what would have been worse, making the bill law and abruptly ending health insurance for 24 million Americans, or failing to pass the bill and failing on a major campaign promise and the centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in office.

Congressmen got an earful from back home all week - there was just no way that odious tripe would pass in the House, let alone in the Senate.

Good riddance. Let’s move on. The ACA can still use some well-placed tweaking: the penalty for not taking a policy under the individual mandate shouldn’t be cheaper than the policy itself. If Republicans want to avoid “implosion” of state exchanges, that’s what they should be looking at. A slap on the wrist is no penalty at all.

#ACA #AHCA #GOP #Ryan #Trump

Nunes: I Had 'Duty' To Brief Trump

Caitlin MacNeal - TPM:

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) said on Thursday night that he felt an obligation to tell President Donald Trump about “incidentally collected” information on Trump and his associates from the intelligence community because the President has been criticized in the media.

“It’s clear that I would be concerned if I was the president, and that’s why I wanted him to know, and I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him because, as you know, he’s taking a lot of heat in the news media,” Nunes told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

As I wrote here, Nunes was on a mission that day. Not the mission requiring him to swear an oath to the Constitution, but rather a political mission to put party and president above country. He should be stripped of his chairmanship and removed from the House intelligence committee, and then considered for censure.

Funny how it turned out to be a non-event, though. He conveyed what was already known: Trump associates and perhaps the president himself were incidentally caught up in NSA eavesdropping. It’s almost as if Nunes’ act was a staged distraction for public and Congressional consumption.

The FBI won’t be distracted.

#Nunes #GOP #fraud #scandal #Trump #Russia

March 23, 2017

Nunes Apologizes for Going Directly to White House With Monitoring Claims

Austin Wright and Nolan D. McCaskill - POLITICO:

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes apologized to members of his panel Thursday for not informing Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, before going public with allegations that Trump transition messages were inadvertently intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Once word: TOOL.

You’ve been played, Mr. Nunes. I won’t disgrace the House by referring to you by your office. I will, however, remark that Mr. Trump sent you on a mission, you accomplished that mission, and it made you look like a fool while simultaneously likely bringing down the hammer of god on your committee and party leader. Well done. So very well done.

#GOP #fraud

President Tremendous Negotiator

Found on Twitter, worthy of a quote, because that fucker Trump deserves every bit of pain he suffers. Karma, she is a bear. (Dan Drezner):

My wife, not usually snarky, after hearing of AHCA vote delay: "I guess President Tremendous Negotiator can't cut a deal with his own party"

And I thought Mr. Trump was the disgrace. The GOP put him up for election. It’s your country - make your own judgement.

#Trump #fraud #impeachment #GOP

Trump: 'I'm president, and you're not'

Michael Scherer, in an interview with Mr. Trump - Time.com:

“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right. Hey, look, in the meantime, I guess I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.”

I prefer “I'm Chevy Chase, and you’re not.” At least Chase knew what he was doing.

#Trump #fraud #GOP

Long Term Irony

On the order of forty-plus years …

President Ford explaining how Watergate-like scandal can never happen again

#GOP #scandal #fraud #Watergate #Trump #impeachment #Ford #Nixon

March 22, 2017

House Republicans, Deeply Divided, Face Painful Choice on Health Vote

Jennifer Steinhauer - The New York Times:

A group of the most conservative House members met with the president at the White House on Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump met with moderate House Republicans for over an hour in the Oval Office to entertain their concerns, but did not appear to have a clear grasp of the policy specifics in question, some of them said.

Mr. Trump, a man who rushes to hang his name in gold anywhere he can, has rejected the moniker that some have given the House bill, Trumpcare.

(Emphasis, mine.)

Republicans who wanted to do tax reform, or regulation reform, or any number of other legislative business priorities in the golden “first 100 days” of the new presidency were waylaid by Mr. Trump’s agreement to put Paul Ryan’s Obamacare repeal at the top of his priority list. They didn’t have a ready replacement, and what they did cobble together serves no-one but the very wealthy, who stand to gain a tax break.

Well played. With an administration facing investigation on multiple fronts and all-but-certain defeat in tomorrow’s vote, Republican and voter good will is about to go out the window.

Let’s call this opportunity squandered. Republicans, do yourselves and America a favor: step back, take a breath and serve your country’s best interest in the coming political shitstorm.

#GOP #fraud #squandered #opportunity #Congress #115th #Trump #investigation

House Intelligence Chair Stars in White House Shitshow

Karoun Demirjian - The Washington Post:

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes went to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to personally brief President Trump about intelligence he says he has seen regarding surveillance of foreign nationals during the presidential transition.

The hell with separation of power and Congressional oversight responsibilities - Representative Devin Nunes was on a mission today. Not, however, the one to which he swore an oath.

An independent commission is needed. We need to learn what improprieties or crimes, if any, were committed by members of the Trump campaign, transition, and administration. The Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee has shown himself untrustworthy and unwilling to conduct himself and his office properly. Take it out of his hands.

#GOP #fraud #house #intelligence #committee #Devin #Nunes

On That New iPad

Stephen Hackett, on the “new” iPad introduced March 21 - 512 Pixels:

This is the iPad for the large group of consumers not interested in turning their iPads into their work machines. These people don’t care about Workflow or advanced multitasking or Swift Playgrounds. For the masses who are still streaming Netflix and checking Facebook on iPad 2s and 3s, this new price may finally be enough to lure them back into the Apple Store.

I’d add checking email, reading books and comics, navigating with Waze or Apple/Google Maps, and anything else I do with my current iPad. There’s a short list of iPad Pro features unavailable on this refreshed model - no Pencil support for drawing, no Smart Keyboard connector, no four-speaker sound. Features many won’t miss.

At $559 for 128GB storage (all your music, all your photos, all your video) and cellular capability (GPS chip, connectivity anywhere) this is the least expensive iPad ever available with these features. With its upgraded processor and lower price, it’s the iPad I’d buy.

#Apple #iPad #refresh

March 21, 2017

On a Lighter Note, I've Found my Next iPhone

Chris Welch - The Verge:

Apple today introduced an iPhone SE with larger storage capacities of 32GB and 128GB of storage, doubling the capacity of the 16GB and 64GB models that have been available since the SE was released one year ago today. The prices remain the same as last year’s launch prices: $399 and $499.

Otherwise unchanged, the SE retains the perfect wireless phone form factor.

#Apple #iPhone #SE

All the President’s Lies

David Leonhardt, in an op-ed for The New York Times:

Comey, as much as liberals may loathe him for his 2016 bungling, seems to be one of the few public officials with the ability and willingness to pursue the truth. I dearly hope that Republican members of the Senate are patriotic enough to do so as well.

Our president is a liar, and we need to find out how serious his latest lies are.

We can’t trust any information coming out of this White House. Nor should we be surprised to learn of that at this late date in our familiarity with Mr. Trump; the only surprises forthcoming will be the truths his lies cover up.

Those paying attention last year knew that Donald Trump was a profligate liar who would say or do anything to advance his agenda, that he cared less about the United States than he did about himself. It was a simple, demonstrable fact.

So here we are. Sixty days in and this administration, as Rome, burns while the Congressional majority fiddles, fretting over leaks in an attempt to divert attention. Keep that in mind a year from this November.

For now, try to imagine what other deceptions the Trump administration has been practicing. What are his cabinet appointees and their political “minders” doing to the agencies and departments of our government? How long will it take to un-do the damage they’re causing to our relationships abroad?

This quote of FBI Director Comey helps focus the mind (The Washington Post):

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #lies #impeachable #offense #FBI #counterintelligence #investigation #Comey

March 20, 2017

F.B.I. is Investigating Trump’s Russia Ties, Comey Confirms

Matt Apuzzo, Matthew Rosenberg, and Emmarie Huetteman - The New York Times:

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, took the extraordinary step on Monday of announcing that the F.B.I. is investigating whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Mr. Comey’s remarks before the House Intelligence Committee created a treacherous political moment for Mr. Trump, who has insisted that “Russia is fake news” that was cooked up by his political opponents to undermine his presidency. Mr. Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said agents would pursue it “no matter how long that takes.”

Huh. I guess the FISA warrant reported last November was put to use, after all.

It’s usually not the crime that comes back to bite the guilty, it’s covering it up. In this case, though, the crime might be enough.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #crimes #misdemeanors #Russia #intelligence

Jimmy Breslin's Columns

Jimmy Breslin, June 7, 1990 - Newsday:

Corum was asked to become the head of the Kentucky Derby by Louisville businessmen who said they had a grave problem. Newspapers all over the world claimed Louisville was a place where Derby visitors were robbed. Prices were tripled, touts were everywhere and women who were supposed to be available and uncommonly glamorous turned out to be nothing more than common thieves.

Corum glanced at the clips and threw them in the air. “This is great. There is nothing better for a championship event than a treacherous woman. If a guy from North Dakota goes home from here after the race and has to be met because he doesn’t even have cab fare left, that guy is going to say to himself, ‘Wow. I must have had a hell of a time. I can’t wait for next year.’ But if that same guy goes home and he still has half his money, he is going to say ‘I guess I didn’t have such a great time at the Kentucky Derby after all.’

“Because, gentlemen, this is the rule. A sucker has to get screwed.” Corum ran the Kentucky Derby on this premise for years, and the game was good for all of Louisville. No sucker ever wept.

Explains why I spent so little time in the casino when we traveled to Las Vegas years ago. Few suckers lounging by the pool, and enjoying fine dining. You get what you pay for, there.

#suckers #get #screwed #jimmy #breslin

White House Installs Political Aides at Cabinet Agencies to be Trump’s Eyes and Ears

Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin - The Washington Post:

The political appointee charged with keeping watch over Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and his aides has offered unsolicited advice so often that after just four weeks on the job, Pruitt has shut him out of many staff meetings, according to two senior administration officials.

At the Pentagon, they’re privately calling the former Marine officer and fighter pilot who’s supposed to keep his eye on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “the commissar,” according to a high-ranking defense official with knowledge of the situation. It’s a reference to Soviet-era Communist Party officials who were assigned to military units to ensure their commanders remained loyal.

...

Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’ loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.

Of course it would be the party of those fondest of bitching about political correctness that would install political purity minders among cabinet offices. Given more to hypocrisy lately - health care coverage that isn’t; travel bans targeting religion rather than security; stepped-up deportation and the Great Wall of Trump costing money cut from needed social programs, yet protecting no-one - than legislation and governance, the GOP, and the Trump administration in particular are a modern American version of good ol’ Soviet era communism: the state owns you, and ownership begins at the top. Allowed to continue, it will spread downward through the various executive agencies until a shadow government monitoring our existing government pulls the strings, rather than the people’s elected representatives.

This is a disgusting disgrace to our constitutional process of self-governance.

Why do these people so hate America that they are systematically turning it into the menace we resisted for much of the twentieth century?

And why did so many decent Americans vote for them?

#political #correct #soviet #era #purity #unamerican #minders #GOP #hypocrisy