July 5, 2020 / by 

 

Still Dreaming of the American Dream

After the wholly repugnant speech Donald Trump gave in South Dakota — on lands stolen from Lakota and Dakota nations because there was gold alleged to be in the Black Hills — it’s important to remember this one point.

Donald J. Trump is not this country. He may be a product of it, but he is not this nation. He may believe L’etat, c’est moi, but this premise is not this country’s past and will not be its future.

We are the United States of America, including the many citizens he denigrated in his white-nationalist-written speech.

Trump may speak for and to a minority of people who voted for him in 2016, those whose rights were given preference by an electoral system designed to ensure white slave owners would not lose their grip on power to the Black people they once enslaved.

But Trump is not this country, nor are his base alone. We the people are collectively the United States of America.

This country’s origins, though flawed by slavery and oppression of indigenous people, began with the right intentions. The founders sought to overthrow autocratic monarchic government and its oppression for the right of individual self-determination, fairness, and collective effort toward a more perfect union. It is this spirit we should recall and re-embrace each Fourth of July, disregarding the crackpot fulminations of the fascist criminal who would rather see this nation divided. He seeks to defer history’s looming punishment meted out to those who have abused the trust of this nation for their own personal gain under Trump’s administration.

History doesn’t wait, however, not even for a bloviating white man with access to monied and powerful friends.

History doesn’t wait for us, either. Like this nation’s founders we have choices to make and action to take if we wish to ensure the future is kinder and our history more forgiving.

In an 1858 debate with his opponent, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the Declaration of Independence:

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal—equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.

History looks to us to enforce the rights in the Declaration of Independence, waits for us to continue to labor toward a free society. We are called to value the life of all its people, to further the pursuit of happiness across this nation.

I’ll repeat my closing from last year’s Fourth of July post:

We must recall our nation’s identity began with a shared belief that we are all created equal, that we are endowed with certain unalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Seeking to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, we instituted a government to secure our inalienable rights and these common interests.

We can and will check this government of and by the people when it fails us just as we checked a monarch in 1776, just as we’ve checked executives and other elected office holders who have failed their oaths. We have continually refreshed our representatives and justices to the same end.

As we have for 243 years we still have work to do. Ted Kennedy spoke of the ongoing nature of this nation’s mission when he said, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Recommitting to the American dream, I leave off with hope that we can and will continue to pursue a more perfect union.

Wishing you and yours a safe and responsible pandemic-enhanced holiday — wash your hands, wear a mask, maintain appropriate social distance but celebrate together nevertheless.

 

Consider this an open thread.


The Fourth Ahead and The Forgotten

Yeah, I know, you just want to get your holiday on. We’re all suffering from pandemic fatigue which makes everything we do more challenging.

We can’t just hop in the car and go to the store without planning ahead — not merely shopping lists but whether you have a mask, a backup mask, hand sanitizer, a container of sanitizing wipes, something in which to corral potentially contaminated items, so on. Our lives have become complicated if we’re taking the risk of COVID-19 seriously.

And we want a break from it. We want a slice of normalcy — a cold beverage in hand, burgers on the grill, fireworks overhead, fireflies after dark, family and friends all around us. And we want it now.

Some of us, though, won’t get these things. Some of us have been forgotten.

Some Americans will have to spend the coming Fourth of July holiday in a place we thought we’d have left by now, watching out for deadly attacks we thought were going to diminish.

Some Americans will have to “celebrate” knowing the commander-in-chief simply doesn’t give a rat’s butt about them. Certainly not enough to deal with pushing back at threats against them. They will have to spend the holiday doubling down on security because the president is going to do nothing except his usual nonsensical bullshit talking about himself.

Which is why some of the rest of us Americans can’t let them be forgotten. We need to continue to hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire no matter whether a holiday lies ahead. We need to insist the GOP senators who have majority control whether they are going to simply roll over and do nothing like Trump, or if they are going to uphold their oaths, do their damned jobs, and remember our service members in Afghanistan and elsewhere who have likewise sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and protect our nation.

~ ~ ~

Here’s your action item, same as posted a couple days ago:

— If you have a GOP senator(s), call their office and ask for a statement from the senator about the Russian bounties on our troops in Afghanistan. Where do they stand? What action will the senator take?

— Share the results of your call here in the comments.

Congressional switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Or you can look up their local office number at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact. You can also use Resistbot and ask them to respond but this will much slower than a phone call.

Here are all the GOP senators; note the ones especially who are Class II running for re-election this year. Contact only your own senator — they represent you, after all — and share what you hear from their office.

Special note to Floridians and Kentuckyians: Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and other leaders in the U.S. intelligence community are supposed to brief the “Gang of Eight” today about the Russian bounties. Feedback from Sens. Rubio and McConnell will be of particular interest for this reason.

Senator First Name Party State Class Position
Class I – 2024
Scott Rick R FL I
Braun Mike R IN I
Hawley Josh R MO I
Wicker Roger R MS I
Cramer Kevin R ND I
Fischer Deb R NE I
Blackburn Marsha R TN I
Cruz Ted R TX I
Romney Mitt R UT I
Barrasso John R WY I
Class II – 2020
Sullivan Dan R AK II
Cotton Tom R AR II
Gardner Cory R CO II
Perdue David R GA II Called, but no comment to date.
Ernst Joni R IA II
Risch Jim R ID II
Roberts Pat R KS II [1]
McConnell Mitch R KY II Gang of Eight member
Cassidy Bill R LA II
Collins Susan R ME II
Hyde-Smith Cindy R MS II
Daines Steve R MT II
Tillis Thom R NC II https://twitter.com/SenThomTillis/status/1277629794167984132
Sasse Ben R NE II
Inhofe James R OK II
Graham Lindsey R SC II
Rounds Mike R SD II
Alexander Lamar R TN II [2]
Cornyn John R TX II
Capito Shelley Moore R WV II
Enzi Mike R WY II [3]
McSally Martha R AZ III [4]
Class III – 2022
Murkowski Lisa R AK III
Shelby Richard R AL III
Boozman John R AR III
Rubio Marco R FL III Gang of Eight member
Loeffler Kelly R GA III Called, but no comment to date.
Grassley Chuck R IA III
Crapo Michael R ID III
Young Todd R IN III
Moran Jerry R KS III
Paul Rand R KY III
Kennedy John R LA III
Blunt Roy R MO III
Burr Richard R NC III
Hoeven John R ND III
Portman Rob R OH III
Lankford James R OK III
Toomey Pat R PA III
Scott Tim R SC III
Thune John R SD III
Lee Mike R UT III
Johnson Ron R WI III

[1] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[2] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[3] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[4] Appointed to fill John McCain’s seat, running in 2020.

~ ~ ~

These are the forgotten Americans. There are families including children who won’t see them or hear from them this coming holiday, let alone ever again. At least two young Americans will never, ever have seen them for any holiday.

22. Jan. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua “Zach” Beale, 32, killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/fort-bragg-green-beret-killed-in-action-was-on-third-tour-in-afghanistan-1.565656
22. Mar. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, Cortez, Colo., died after being wounded during combat in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/defense-department-identifies-two-soldiers-killed-in-afghanistan-1.574044
22. Mar. 2019 Army Sgt. Joseph P. Collette, 29, Lancaster, Ohio, died of wounds sustained in combat operations in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/defense-department-identifies-two-soldiers-killed-in-afghanistan-1.574044
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Sgt. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, was one of three Marines killed by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Staff Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa., died in a car bomb explosion outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, was killed by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
6. May. 2019 Army Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, 22, died in eastern Nangarhar province from wounds sustained in a noncombat incident. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-identifies-soldier-who-died-monday-in-afghanistan-1.580080
25. May. 2019 Army Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/fort-carson-green-beret-fort-hood-eod-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight-1.587825
25. Jun. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/fort-carson-green-beret-fort-hood-eod-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight-1.587825
30. Jun. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, 31, a Green Beret medical sergeant from Utah, died from noncombat injuries in southern Helmand province. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/07/01/10th-group-green-beret-dies-from-non-combat-incident-in-helmand/
23. Jul. 2019 Army Sgt. Maj. James “Ryan” Sartor, 40, died from injuries sustained by enemy fire in northern Faryab province. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-identifies-green-beret-killed-in-afghanistan-1.590174
29. Jul. 2019 Army Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago, died after being shot by an Afghan soldier at a military camp in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/the-worst-day-in-our-family-s-history-grieving-uncle-says-of-chicago-soldier-killed-in-combat-in-afghanistan-1.592728
29. Jul. 2019 Army Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, died after an Afghan solider opened fire at a base in southern Uruzgan province. [Never saw his son.] https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-names-two-paratroopers-killed-during-insider-attack-in-afghanistan-1.592589
21. Aug. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, was one of two Green Berets killed in northern Faryab province by small-arms fire. https://www.stripes.com/news/one-of-the-toughest-kids-i-ve-ever-met-families-mourn-green-berets-killed-in-afghanistan-1.595504
21. Aug. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, of La Puente, Calif., was killed during a raid alongside Afghan special forces in southern Faryab province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/green-beret-killed-in-afghanistan-last-week-was-veteran-of-seven-deployments-1.596136
29. Aug. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Ard, 31, died of wounds received in combat in southern Zabul province. [Never saw his second child.] https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/green-beret-killed-in-combat-in-afghanistan-leaves-behind-daughter-pregnant-wife-1.596656
5. Sep. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, died in a suicide blast in Kabul. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-was-compassionate-leader-say-those-who-knew-him-1.597820
16. Sep. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, was killed by small-arms fire in central Wardak province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/army-identifies-green-beret-killed-by-small-arms-fire-in-afghanistan-1.599290
20. Nov. 2019 Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, was killed in a helicopter crash. The incident happened in eastern Logar province. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/fallen-army-pilot-laid-to-rest-with-full-military-honors-1.610573
20. Nov. 2019 Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, was killed in a helicopter crash while providing security to ground troops in eastern Logar province. https://www.stripes.com/news/apache-pilot-killed-in-afghanistan-gladly-and-willingly-accepted-risks-of-deploying-family-and-friends-say-1.609718
23. Dec. 2019 Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/special-forces-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-remembered-as-the-definition-of-a-patriot-1.612394
11. Jan. 2020 Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, Newport News, Virginia, killed by an improvised explosive device. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2020/01/12/soldiers-killed-by-bomb-blast-in-kandahar-identified/
11. Jan. 2020 Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, Joliet, Illinois, killed by an improvised explosive device. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2020/01/12/soldiers-killed-by-bomb-blast-in-kandahar-identified/
27. Jan. 2020 Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46, Yigo, Guam, killed in crash of an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft in eastern Afghanistan. https://www.airforcemag.com/dod-identifies-airmen-killed-in-e-11-crash/
27. Jan. 2020 Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, 30, Hudson, N.H., killed in crash of an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft in eastern Afghanistan. https://www.airforcemag.com/dod-identifies-airmen-killed-in-e-11-crash/
8. Feb. 2020 Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28, killed in an insider attack in Nangarhar province. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/02/08/report-says-multiple-us-troops-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight/
8. Feb. 2020 Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28, killedin an insider attack in Nangarhar province. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/02/08/report-says-multiple-us-troops-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight/

Though not all of these service members may have been killed by Taliban for bounty money, they all deserve to be remembered. Their families, friends, and fellow service members deserve answers. All Americans deserve answers, accountability, and action.

When did Trump get a Presidential Daily Briefing on these bounties and what was his response that day? Why didn’t the Commander-in-Chief take action after the intelligence community learned Russia had offered bounties on U.S. service members? Why have we heard multiple different excuses — didn’t hear about, wasn’t credible, didn’t rise to level of action, it’s a hoax — rather than the truth about what happened in the executive office when this intelligence was brought to Trump’s attention?

What action will the Senate take, because the Senate under a GOP majority possesses the deciding votes for any action to be taken?

We need to do our part now to ensure a democracy. We shouldn’t need to take an oath the way every service member and member of Congress and the president do to achieve this aim. We only need to take a few minutes before the Fourth of July holiday to do it. Let’s roll.


Three Things: There Is Really Only One Thing

My schedule is a mess today, as messy as my sleep last night. I don’t think I’ve lost as much sleep about COVID-19 in the last handful of months as I have since Friday about these Russian bounties on troops.

Because I’m out of sorts from lack of sleep I don’t have a lot organized to share here in three discrete subjects. It’s ultimately all one thing: Donald J. Trump needs to be removed from office for abuse of power and dereliction of duty.

The Washington Post’s article published Sunday evening made it very clear numerous people knew about the bounties and that nothing had been done about them:

Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.

Several people familiar with the matter said it was unclear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed or targeted under the program. U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total of 10 deaths from hostile gunfire or improvised bombs in 2018, and 16 in 2019. Two have been killed this year. In each of those years, several service members were also killed by what are known as “green on blue” hostile incidents by Afghan security forces who are sometimes believed to have been infiltrated by the Taliban.

Multiple interrogations. Multiple people familiar.

Zero action taken.

And along with multiple U.S. service members dead, an unknown number of allies’ troops, contractors, and civilians killed.

If Trump genuinely believed in getting out of Afghanistan through an effective peace agreement, this is its opposite even with a partial American force draw down. It’s how a country becomes even more destabilized and how its violence will spill over and follow U.S. and coalition partners home.

Trump had no problem with Putin stabbing him in the back because it was Putin, and he never has anything negative to say about Putin.

A little after midnight The New York Times published another article, this time expanding the period of time Trump should have known about Russia’s bounties to February 2019, along with the period of time in which Trump took zero action.

Three U.S. service members were killed in a blast last April, attributed to Taliban motivated by the Russian bounties.

Trump was notified at least once in a Presidential Daily Briefing in ample time to do something.

The excuses offered by the White House have been little more than variants of “The dog ate my homework.”

All bullshit.

The response has been just as stupid and ugly — offering Congressional Republicans a briefing first, allowing them to coordinate a response to cover the White House’s wretchedness.

But here’s the rub: nothing Trump, his evil minions in the White House, his useless family, his political party can do will explain away the lack of interest in protecting national security.

Because while the intelligence about the Russian bounties lay around collecting dust, at the very same goddamned time, Trump and his minions were busy working on developing a quid pro quo aimed at Ukraine.

Trump spent more time focused on using the power of the executive office to shake down Ukraine, harassing faithful federal employees like former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, in order to get himself re-elected to the job he refuses to do.

He put more effort into a couple of phone calls to Ukraine’s president.

More effort into halting shipments of arms to Ukraine.

More effort bitching about a whistleblower.

And zero effort into addressing his buddy Putin’s bounties on U.S. troops.

Donald J. Trump is a threat to this nation because he cannot and will not do anything to protect this country unless it’s about him.

More than 130,000 Americans have now died because of this immutable truth: 3000 Puerto Rican Americans, an untold number of American troops, and at least 128,000 COVID-19 victims are dead because Trump is absolutely useless for anything but golf and grifting from taxpayers.

He is unfit for the office of the presidency.

He must be removed from office.

~ ~ ~

But Trump is not the only failure. Every GOP senator who voted not to convict him this January is responsible for this debacle. American blood is on their hands having enabled Trump’s continuing incompetence and malignance because they were worried about him tweeting mean things at them.

They should be worried about their asses meeting the wrath of the American public.

We can start by demanding better of the GOP senators who we will be forced to live with for another two to four years. Find out where they stand on Trump’s failure to protect the troops.

And if one of the following senators up for re-election is your senator, vote them out of office. Vote for a Democrat to replace the two open seats because no matter who wins the White House, we need a veto-proof majority in the Senate to fix this mess.

Senator First Name Party State
Ernst Joni R IA
Perdue David R GA
Sasse Ben R NE
Cotton Tom R AR
Daines Steve R MT
Rounds Mike R SD
Cornyn John R TX
Enzi Mike R WY
Inhofe James R OK
Cassidy Bill R LA
McConnell Mitch R KY
Risch Jim R ID
Sullivan Dan R AK
Tillis Thom R NC
Gardner Cory R CO
Graham Lindsey R SC
Capito Shelley Moore R WV
Collins Susan R ME
Hyde-Smith (1) Cindy R MS
McSally (2) Martha R AZ
Loeffler (3) Kelly Lynn R GA
Roberts (4) Pat R KS
Alexander (5) Lamar R TN

(1) Appointed to fill Thad Cochran’s seat, expected to run in 2020
(2) Appointed to fill John McCain’s seat, running in 2020
(3) Appointed to fill Johnny Isakson’s seat, running in 2020
(4) Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
(5) Retiring in 2020. Seat open.


Three Things: Bounties, Bounties, Bounce [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Update at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

There won’t be a quiz but there’s an action item at the end.

It’ll be more effort than Trump put into protecting our troops in Afghanistan.

You’ll want to brush up on the NYT report from Friday, Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.

Washington Post confirmed the story: Russian operation targeted coalition troops in Afghanistan, intelligence finds

As did the Wall Street Journal: Russian Spy Unit Paid Taliban to Attack Americans, U.S. Intelligence Says

~ 3 ~

Remember last year when Rep. Adam Schiff said he believed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire was withholding from Congress an urgent whistleblower complaint in order to protect Trump?

We build a crowdsourced timeline to guess what the whistleblower’s subject matter might be. We didn’t see the Ukraine quid pro quo but we still compiled a bodacious chronology of foreign policy events.

I’m betting the bit about John Bolton’s exit in that timeline may be revisited in the near future.

But there was one topic we didn’t give a lot of attention which might be worth looking at again, like right now — the peace agreement negotiations in Afghanistan.

(Commenters added more material in comments not added to the original timeline — I think we were learning it was Ukraine and not Afghanistan or Iran which was the subject of the whistleblower’s complaint.)

Now that NYT’s report that Russia offered secret bounties on U.S. service members has been validated by the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, we need to look at the Afghanistan timeline — this time with more content from 2019 and up-to-date 2020 material.

28-AUG-2019 — Russia offered to oversee an agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan; negotiations were in their ninth round when the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested it could be “a guarantor in the agreement” if the two sides wished.

01/02-SEP-2019 — US Special Rep. for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in Kabul where the Taliban, Afghan government and the U.S. had “reached an agreement in principle” toward an eventual “total and permanent cease-fire.”

03-SEP-2019 — Russian media outlet Tass reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said the U.S. and Taliban “insist that Russia must be present in one capacity or another at the possible signing of the agreements that the parties are working on now.”

05-SEP-2019 — Suicide blast in Kabul killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico.

06-SEP-2019 — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani postponed a trip to the U.S.

07-SEP-2019 — Over several tweets Saturday evening, Trump canceled the meeting with Ghani at Camp David.

Unclear whether Trump realized he might have been meeting over the anniversary of 9/11 on a peace agreement with both Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban.

07-SEP-2019 — Via Julia Davis (commenter Eureka):

Prof. Michael McFaul tweeted, “What? TASS has these details but USG has not released them? This is very strange. And why does Russia need to be present at signing? We’re they fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and I just missed that?”

09-SEP-2019 — CNN broke story of a CIA asset extracted from Russia in 2017; followed by NYT on the 9th (and then NBC’s Ken Dilanian appears at the asset’s house…)

09-SEP-2019 — Trump asked for Bolton’s resignation and tweeted about it the next morning.

10-SEP-2019 — “They’re dead. They’re dead. As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead,” Trump told the media about the peace talks with Afghanistan.

13-SEP-2019 — Taliban showed up in Moscow almost immediately after the Camp David meeting fell apart (commenter OldTulsaDude).

15-SEP-2019 — Small arms fire in central Warduk province killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40.

20-NOV-2019 — Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, and Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, died in a helicopter crash in eastern Logar province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the crash; Trump visited Dover AFB on Nov. 21 when the soldiers’ bodies were returned.

11-DEC-2019 — Unknown number of U.S. personnel were injured during a large bombing of Bagram Airfield.

23-DEC-2019 — Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province.

31-DEC-2019 — A total of 22 service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2019. It’s not clear how many U.S. contractors may have been killed because the military doesn’t track them.

11-JAN-2020 — Two U.S. service members were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. Taliban claimed responsibility.

17-JAN-2020 — The Taliban offered a proposal to reduce violence and restart peace negotiations.

27-JAN-2020 — Two U.S. Air Force crew members were killed when an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed. Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting the plane down.

08-FEB-2020 — Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28; and Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28 were killed and six other service members were injured in an insider attack in Nangarhar province.

09-FEB-2020 — WaPo reported:

On Sunday, Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Qatar, where talks have been held, said Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives and Qatar’s foreign minister to discuss “some important issues on the results of the negotiations and the next moves,” according to a statement posted to Twitter.

20-FEB-2020 — Trump replaced Joseph Maguire as Acting Director of National Intelligence; Richard Grenell was named Maguire’s replacment.

21-FEB-2020 — U.S.-led coalition, Afghan forces, and the Taliban militia began a seven-day “reduction in violence” ahead of anticipated agreement.

28-FEB-2020 — Trump nominated John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence.

29-FEB-2020 — U.S. and Taliban sign agreement addressing counterterrorism and the withdrawal of U.S. and international troops from Afghanistan.

03-MAR-2020 — Trump spoke by phone with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader and co-founder stationed in the Taliban’s Qatar offices.

23-MAR-2020 — After meeting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would cut $1 billion in aid in 2020 and threatened to cut another $1 billion in 2021 because Ghani and Abdullah had not formed a unity government. Pompeo then met with the Taliban’s chief negotiator at Al Udeid Air Base, Doha, Qatar where he asked the Taliban to continue to adhere with the February agreement.

??-MAR-2020 — Administration learned that Russia offered secret bounties on U.S. troops.

The officials said administration leaders learned of reported bounties in recent months from U.S. intelligence agencies, prompting a series of internal discussions, including a large interagency meeting in late March. According to one person familiar with the matter, the responses discussed at that meeting included sending a diplomatic communication to relay disapproval and authorizing new sanctions.

30-MAR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

03-APR-2020 — Trump fired Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson, claiming he “no longer” had confidence in Atkinson. Atkinson was then on leave until the effective date of his termination 03-MAY-2020. As IG he notified Congress of the whistleblower’s report regarding the Ukraine quid pro quo, going around Joseph Maguire to do so.

07-APR-2020 — The Taliban pulled out of talks with the Afghan government after discussions over the unrealized prisoner exchange cratered. Under the February agreement, prisoners were to be exchanged at the end of March; the exchange was called off on March 30.

07-APR-2020 — Trump fired Acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense Glenn Fine; Fine had also been named Chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee on 30-MAR. Fine’s termination made him ineligible to continue as chair of that committee.

09-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

10-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin (unclear if call was before/after Gen. Miller’s meeting).

10-APR-2020 — Gen. Austin Miller met with Taliban leaders in Qatar:

… The meeting between Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller and Taliban leaders came as both sides accuse each other of ramping up violence since signing a peace deal on Feb. 29, which could see all international troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months.

The meeting, which focused on curbing violence, was part of a military channel established in the U.S.-Taliban deal, the U.S. military’s press office in Kabul told Stars and Stripes.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said night raids and other operations in noncombat areas were discussed at the meeting, and Taliban officials “called for a halt to such attacks.” …

12-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

25-APR-2020 — Trump made a joint statement with Putin observing the 75th anniversary of Elbe Day.

07-MAY-2020 — US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met members of the Taliban in Qatar along with the Special Envoy of Qatari Foreign Ministry for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution, Mutlaq Al-Qahtani. They discussed the prisoner exchange and intra-Afghan talks.

07-MAY-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin; topics were COVID-19, arms control including Russia and China,  and the oil market.

26-MAY-2020 — John Ratcliffe approved by the Senate and sworn in as DNI.

30-MAY-2020 — Trump delays G7 meeting and invites Russia:

01-JUN-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin; delayed G7 meeting and oil market stabilization discussed.

08-JUN-2020 — Trump orders permanent draw down of 25% of U.S. troops stationed in Germany; he did not consult with NATO before this order.

Is there a pattern here (or more)? Was the violence juiced up to pressure the U.S. — specifically public opinion? What the heck did Russia’s Foreign Minister mean by a “guarantor” based on what we know today? How did Qatar become a player in the negotiations?

Did Trump really do nothing at all to protect our troops except talk with Putin and do some butt-kissing with a joint statement and an invitation to the G7 while undercutting Germany and NATO?

The Congressional Research Service policy brief on Afghanistan is worth a read to fill in some gaps. This paragraph is particularly important:

Afghan government representatives were not participants in U.S.-Taliban talks, leading some observers to conclude that the United States would prioritize a military withdrawal over a complex political settlement that preserves some of the social, political, and humanitarian gains made since 2001. The U.S.-Taliban agreement envisioned intra-Afghan talks beginning on March 10, 2020, but talks were held up for months by a number of complications. The most significant obstacles were an extended political crisis among Afghan political leaders over the contested 2019 Afghan presidential election and a disputed prisoner exchange between the Taliban and Afghan government. President Ghani and his 2019 election opponent Abdullah Abdullah signed an agreement ending their dispute in May 2020, and as of June 2020, the number of prisoners released by both sides appears to be reaching the level at which talks might begin, though the Afghan government may resist releasing high-profile prisoners that the Taliban demand as a condition of beginning negotiations.

~ 2 ~

It wasn’t just U.S. intelligence that learned U.S. troops who were the target of Russia’s secret bounties.

EU intelligence confirmed it had learned that Russia targeted both U.S. and UK troops, offering cash on British targets, too.

UK security officials also validate the report, attributing the work in Afghanistan to Russia’s GRU.

Why hasn’t Britain’s PM Boris Johnson or the Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said anything publicly about this?

Has the Johnson government done anything at all to communicate its displeasure with Russia? Has it taken any punitive action like sanctions?

Because there’s nothing obvious in UK or other international media to this effect as of 3:00 a.m. ET.

~ 1 ~

You’re going to read and hear a lot of folks talking about treason. We don’t encourage that word’s use because it has a specific legal meaning related to traditional warfare; a formal declaration of war establishing a defined enemy is necessary to accuse someone of providing aid and comfort to that enemy.

18 U.S. Code § 2381.Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)

We’re not in a formally declared state of war with Russia; they are not a defined enemy.

But this Russian secret bounties business may fall under another umbrella. U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan under Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001:

Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces

(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

The brushstroke with regard to future acts of international terrorism against the United States is and has been interpreted broadly.

Bounce this around a bit: does the definition of terrorism include repeated attacks on U.S. service members and contractors deployed under the AUMF 2001?

Does failing to take reasonable affirmative effort to protect these targets constitute aiding those who attack U.S. service members and contractors deployed under the AUMF 2001?

Is there, if not 18 USC 2381 – Treason, another section of 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115 — Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities which may more accurately describe the dereliction of duty by members of this administration by failing to protect U.S. troops?

~ 0 ~

And now for the action item…

Guess who else hasn’t uttered a peep about the Russian secret bounties on our troops?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

House Ranking Member Kevin McCarthy.

None of the +20 GOP senators up for re-election  have uttered a peep, nor have the couple who are retiring.

Here’s your action item:

— If you have a GOP senator(s), call their office and ask for a statement from the senator about the Russian bounties. Where do they stand? What action will the senator take?

— Share the results of your call here in the comments.

Congressional switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Or you can look up their local office number at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact.

For everybody else, calling your representative and senators to demand hearings with testimony from the former acting Director of National Intelligence Rick Grenell and the current Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe about the presidential briefing that did/did not happen with regard to these Russian bounties.

 

Let’s stay on topic in this thread — this is plenty to chew on.

UPDATE — 29-JUN-2020 10:00 A.M. ET —

Several new line items have been added to this timeline. If you pulled a copy since publication you’ll want to get a new one.

The Washington Post published an article last evening, Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments.

It’s clear from reading it that many people knew about this intelligence, that there was a concerted effort to address it though the action ultimately taken was none.

Rather like the pandemic response, about which Trump had been warned in adequate time and then did nothing for six or more weeks, followed by a lot of bullshit and bluster.

Congress had better get to the bottom of this because this is a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the executive branch.


Jim Jordan, Killer Clown

You’ll want to read Marcy’s post about Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization of the Department of Justice.

One thing that continues to bother the hell out of me: Republican Rep. Jim Jordan’s clown-y assholishness. It’s now his brand. He’s the GOP caucus’s id — the Goofus-looking, tantrum-throwing, jacket-avoiding persona happily adopted by the right-wing as a model for their party.

He’s a creepy bad clown whose running gags and interstitial bits aren’t funny or amusing; they’re meant to harass, ridicule, and obstruct Congress’s little-d democratic processes.

While he was repeatedly offered other GOP members’ time during the hearing to question the witnesses called before the committee, he made a point of not wearing his mask and yelling at the same time.

(Aside: there’s a paper waiting to be written about clowns who refuse to wear masks.)

He attended the rally in Tulsa this past weekend and like nearly everyone else in that venue in attendance, didn’t wear a mask and is now potentially an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19.

With this routine Jordan didn’t respect the well being of his fellow members of Congress. He showed he’s willing to hurt other members of Congress for his personal and partisan political aims.

Just scroll through the hearing video beginning with his opening remarks at 9:26 —

Perhaps Jordan was chosen as HJC ranking member to do all the heavy lifting for the GOP side of the committee exactly because he yells during his tantrums, attracting media’s attention thereby starving Democrats of oxygen for their side.

While his outbursts have been annoying in the past, this time Jordan forcefully pushed aerosolized exhalation through the hearing room Wednesday after being in proximity with others exposed to COVID-19 with Team Trump in Tulsa. He may have deliberately blown biological material around the hearing room, like so:

And perhaps he was chosen because his district OH-4 isn’t likely to give him a lot of crap since a good-sized chunk is rural.

OH-4 is also not as heavily impacted by COVID-19 as other more urban congressional districts in Ohio.

The counties in his district are Allen, Auglaize, Champaign, Crawford, Logan, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby and Union counties and parts of Erie, Huron, Lorain, Marion, and Mercer counties. Check them against the most recent COVID-19 data for the state of Ohio:

County Confirmed Deaths Cases per 1M people Recovered
Ohio – total 47651 2772 4127 No data
Adams County 20 1 703 No data
Allen County 261 38 2460 No data
Ashland County 46 0 865 No data
Ashtabula County 413 42 4075 No data
Athens County 29 1 448 No data
Auglaize County 93 3 2029 No data
Belmont County 516 21 7356 No data
Brown County 50 1 1119 No data
Butler County 1301 41 3516 No data
Carroll County 46 3 1598 No data
Champaign County 37 1 930 No data
Clark County 703 8 5106 No data
Clermont County 300 6 1506 No data
Clinton County 55 0 1312 No data
Columbiana County 1033 59 9603 No data
Coshocton County 64 0 1732 No data
Crawford County 126 5 2904 No data
Cuyahoga County 6111 346 4811 No data
Darke County 230 25 4355 No data
Defiance County 43 3 1106 No data
Delaware County 449 15 2518 No data
Erie County* 221 22 2879 No data
Fairfield County 438 15 2978 No data
Fayette County 45 0 1553 No data
Franklin County 8310 378 6311 No data
Fulton County 54 0 1270 No data
Gallia County 9 1 291 No data
Geauga County 372 41 3990 No data
Greene County 187 9 1148 No data
Guernsey County 49 3 1227 No data
Hamilton County 4337 191 5419 No data
Hancock County 68 1 906 No data
Hardin County 108 11 3373 No data
Harrison County 12 1 757 No data
Henry County 23 0 820 No data
Highland County 39 1 898 No data
Hocking County 75 7 2552 No data
Holmes County 169 3 3954 No data
Huron County 144 1 2420 No data
Jackson County 17 0 512 No data
Jefferson County 75 2 1090 No data
Knox County 36 1 588 No data
Lake County 390 17 1697 No data
Lawrence County 55 0 880 No data
Licking County 351 11 2099 No data
Logan County 51 0 1116 No data
Lorain County 889 67 2947 No data
Lucas County 2534 299 5759 No data
Madison County 179 8 4124 No data
Mahoning County 1682 227 7089 No data
Marion County 2717 36 41035 No data
Medina County 441 31 2545 No data
Meigs County 10 0 422 No data
Mercer County 259 8 6342 No data
Miami County 413 30 4015 No data
Monroe County 83 16 5691 No data
Montgomery County 1465 22 2725 No data
Morgan County 6 0 399 No data
Morrow County 111 1 3185 No data
Muskingum County 71 1 823 No data
Noble County 6 0 408 No data
Ottawa County 124 23 2995 No data
Paulding County 22 0 1133 No data
Perry County 26 1 716 No data
Pickaway County 2150 41 38400 No data
Pike County 19 0 664 No data
Portage County 382 58 2364 No data
Preble County 55 1 1307 No data
Putnam County 107 15 3120 No data
Richland County 296 4 2397 No data
Ross County 89 2 1137 No data
Sandusky County* 112 13 1844 No data
Scioto County 28 0 353 No data
Seneca County 31 2 549 No data
Shelby County 55 4 1115 No data
Stark County 977 107 2605 No data
Summit County 1839 202 3407 No data
Trumbull County 771 57 3684 No data
Tuscarawas County 454 10 4908 No data
Union County 73 1 1384 No data
Van Wert County 20 0 699 No data
Vinton County 22 2 1646 No data
Warren County 649 20 3020 No data
Washington County 120 20 1943 No data
Wayne County 343 52 2993 No data
Williams County 60 1 1596 No data
Wood County 345 51 2730 No data
Wyandot County 55 4 2424 No data
Key:
= District OH-11
= County split with OH-11
* = Pivot county

Based on the data above provided by The New York Times updated yesterday, there have been only 134 deaths in the counties which make up the Ohio 4th Congressional District, even with the hot spot at the prison in Marion, Ohio.

Note, too, that Jordan’s district OH-4 is more than 90% white, unlike nearby OH-9 (Rep. Marcy Kaptur) or OH-11 (Rep. Marcia Fudge), with a higher per capita income.

Compare to Cuyahoga County which makes up part of OH-9 — it’s had at least 346 COVID-19 deaths.

All of which means that Jordan’s career is relatively unaffected by COVID-19. He can be casually racist by ignoring the number of Black and other non-white deaths in Marion’s prison facility because the rest of his district won’t feel the pain of their loss — the mostly-minority incarcerated are disposable to white rural conservatives.

He can be deliberately threatening to Democrats in Congress because it’s encouraged by the White House.

Jordan won’t worry about anybody else getting COVID-19 because he can continue to be nothing more complicated than a loud, irritating clown and still earn his party’s support.

He’ll even get backup from other clowns in his party like Louis Gohmert banging on the desk during the course of the hearing to obstruct witness testimony — neither being sly Harlequins but an evil clown with a village idiot sidekick.

Not merely an evil clown, either, if Jordan intended to threaten and hurt other members of Congress.

Jim Jordan, killer clown — an existential threat to members of Congress who have to put up with him while they represent the rest of us.

 

This is an open thread.


Three Things: Numbers, Hearings and Racist Code

There’s always more than three things to address but here’s three we should look at more closely.

~ 3 ~
This is what we’re up against.

823 Americans have died of COVID-19 since yesterday. In contrast, South Korea, which learned of its first case of COVID-19 the same day the U.S. learned of its own, has only lost 281 of its citizens.

We lost not one American to an attempted shoe bombing in 2001 and yet an immediate program was developed and implemented to detect future shoe bombing attempts, requiring air travelers to take off their damned shoes and go through multiple screenings.

But Trump can’t be arsed to shut up and let the professionals handle stopping an ongoing daily stream of deaths from COVID-19.

This administration is killing Americans. Trump’s not even hiding the fact he’s willing to ignore deaths to manipulate numbers by insisting testing for the virus should be suppressed. He has the temerity to brag about his performance which has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of more than 120,000 Americans.

Yesterday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on oversight of the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called to testify before the committee:

Robert R. Redfield, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (statement at 27:39)

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes o Health (at 33:40)

Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (at 38:25)

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (at 43:54)

 

Some of the GOP’s efforts are useless, wasteful filibustering — like Rep. Bob Latta’s (OH-5) question about how the human body makes antibodies. This is something he should have been briefed on let alone read on his own long before this hearing. He should have read this basic biology question MONTHS AGO when the pandemic began. So was his question about how the vaccine would be distributed WHEN WE’RE 6-18 MONTHS OUT AT BEST from having a viable, effective, safe vaccine through Phase III trials.

Rep. Diana DeGette asked Fauci about vaccine development (at about 1:28:00); I think he was extremely optimistic saying he thought there would be one by early 2021. But the question wasn’t as specific as it should have been; there are clinical trials in progress for a couple of candidates, but it’s not clear what phase they are in.

Reported last week by StatNews:

There are more than 100 projects around the world centered on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. As of May 11, eight candidate vaccines were being tested in clinical trials in people.

An official at the National Institutes of Health said in mid-May that large-scale testing could begin in July with a vaccine potentially available by January.

Other experts say the more likely timeline is summer or fall of 2021.

The other factor beyond the capabilities of the vaccines and developers which will predict the time to public distribution is Congress and the White House.

If we still have that malicious narcissist in the Oval Office without a veto-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, nationwide roll-out of a vaccine by the U.S. government may not happen even if an efficacious vaccine is found.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 don’t care…

Just like Trump.

~ 2 ~
The Mary Sue presented a nice overview of what happened in Tulsa this past weekend.

In short, Team Trump fucked themselves hard.

What happened this weekend was supposed to be a point where Trump turned the narrative back in his favor and moved the attention away from the activists and change that have controlled the news cycle for months. But what really happened was instead of taking the attention away from the K-Pop teens for his failures, those things all combined to add one more line to an endless line of failures that we can only hope will keep going until November.

It wasn’t just a loss of narrative and momentum but the complete trashing of campaign data harvesting.

We don’t know exactly what the data accumulated by Trump’s re-election campaign looks like after receiving ~800,000 registrations for the Tulsa rally. Some were valid, some were valid but no-shows, some were legitimate addresses of people who had zero intention of attending — likely sent by TikTok accounts.

And a mess of them must have been K-pop fans who are still feeling their oats after they DDoS’d police video monitoring during anti-racism protests as well as spamming right-wing hashtags.

Parscale’s operation better have had a good backup before the Tulsa registrations began, though I have suspicions somebody’s ass wasn’t well covered.

I mean, who is foolish enough to brag about more than 1,000,000 registrations like that, without a hint of skepticism about the data’s integrity?

Somebody prone to hubris, that’s who.

And somebody else isn’t going to pay Team Trump for data gleaned through Tulsa.

~ 1 ~
The ACLU filed suit this morning against the Detroit Police Department for its wrongful arrest of Robert Williams based on racist facial recognition technology.

The Washington Post published an op-ed by Williams explaining what happened to him and why facial recognition software should be banned.

The next morning, two officers asked if I’d ever been to a Shinola watch store in Detroit. I said once, many years ago. They showed me a blurry surveillance camera photo of a black man and asked if it was me. I chuckled a bit. “No, that is not me.” He showed me another photo and said, “So I guess this isn’t you either?” I picked up the piece of paper, put it next to my face and said, “I hope you guys don’t think that all black men look alike.”

The cops looked at each other. I heard one say that “the computer must have gotten it wrong.” I asked if I was free to go now, and they said no. I was released from detention later that evening, after nearly 30 hours in holding. …

It’s not just the software at fault, though. DPD made absolutely no attempt to confirm Williams’ identity against images they had before they took him into custody, processed him, and detained him overnight in holding.

They literally can’t be bothered or they are racist as hell in a minority majority city.

The ACLU is calling for a ban on facial recognition in Detroit, Williams being a perfect example of how flawed and racist the technology is as well as an assault on innocent citizens’ privacy.

 

Boston’s city council banned facial recognition technology this morning, setting an example for Detroit.

What’s your municipality doing about facial recognition technology?

Are you blowing off this issue because you’re white and you couldn’t possibly be misidentified?

Sure.

~ 0 ~
The House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization at the Justice Department is still under way as hit Publish. If you haven’t been following along and want to catch up, here are four Twitter threads covering the hearing.

Marcy https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1275821690170335237

Jennifer Taub https://twitter.com/jentaub/status/1275825424405323776

Courthouse News https://twitter.com/ByTimRyan/status/1275821746923417603

CNN https://twitter.com/jeremyherb/status/1275820657289428994

This is an open thread.


The Tussle in Tulsa: A Retrospective

I had been worried about the risk of violence in Tulsa this weekend given Trump’s tweet bordering on incitement ahead of his rally.

Fortunately my concern was for naught. Didn’t see a single Hawaiian shirt cross my Twitter feed while watching the lead up to and after the event, not a one in the approximately 6,600 attendees.

But the event itself didn’t live up to other expectations.

I have to believe Brad Parscale will be looking for new contracts. Or perhaps he’ll be retained just to keep him from mucking things up further somewhere else in the election cycle food chain.

He’d claimed 800,000 had reserved for the event, a number which seemed wholly unrealistic considering the population within a four-hour drive of Tulsa and the advertisements placed for non-white attendees. We know now a confluence of activist engagement via social media platform TikTok, K-pop fans, and mounting concerns about COVID-19 contagion as well as risk of violence may have artificially boosted reservations and kept attendance down.

Parscale’s claimed this morning that protesters blocked access to the venue, pointing to an AFP photo of a gate with a couple handfuls of protesters and what looks like an equal amount of media.

Unfortunately for Parscale, AFP took a photo of another gate with red-hatted, pale-skinned, maskless attendees streaming through the gate.

And other media outlets took photos outside the venue showing an awful lot of pavement.

The speech intended for outdoor overflow audience was cancelled. Wouldn’t even need a sound system to speak to this few people.

The big feat of the day: one-handed drinking.

Attendees were subjected to a 20-minute ramble about the “fake news” from his Westpoint speech last weekend after which he had difficulty walking down a ramp.

What a perfect example of the cobra effect — trying to defuse a problem but only making it worse. But Trump is too much of a narcissist to allow criticism of his person to go unanswered.

The lowest point in Trump’s speech yesterday was his remarks about COVID-19 testing.

He’s made comments before about the number of tests correlating to the number of cases. Comic Sarah Cooper has famously riffed on this.

But this time he’s expressed an intent to withhold health care from the public for personal aims — to keep the reported number of cases artificially low, without regard to the effect this would have on actual reduction of COVID-19 cases.

Aside from revealing again he’s so utterly toxic, this statement needs investigation. It’s impeachable if he both demanded a reduction or slow-down in tests, especially if he did so for the purposes of improving his polling numbers.

None of his efforts skewing reality have paid off as he’d like. We can see the tangerine emperor’s ass.

And nothing he’s done will make this grim number go away.


This is an open thread.


Friday Night Half-Assed Massacre: The Attempted Firing of SDNY’s Berman

I’m not Marcy — I won’t do justice to this developing story the way she would especially after midnight. But I need to put something up to capture Attorney General Bill Barr’s bizarre Friday evening attempt to fire Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York.

Some background leading up to this evening’s half-assed Friday Night Massacre:

1990-1994 – Berman served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York while Rudy Giuliani was U.S. Attorney.

TBD – Berman became a partner at Greenberg Traurig; he ran their New Jersey office.

January 2016 – Giuliani joined Greenberg Traurig as global chair of cybersecurity and crisis management practices.

November 2016 – Trump asks SDNY’s then-USA Preet Bharara to stay on.

March 2017 – Attorney General Jeff Sessions asks all 46 holdover USAs from Obama administration to resign. Bharara declined; he also refused a phone call from Trump. He was fired the next day.

May 2017 – Giuliani supported Berman for U.S. Attorney though he was originally considered for New Jersey.

Who will be New Jersey’s next U.S. attorney?

President Donald Trump is deciding between one of Gov. Chris Christie’s criminal defense attorneys and another high-powered Jersey-based lawyer at a New York firm connected to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, according to a source with direct knowledge of the process.

Vying for the coveted job are Craig Carpenito, who defended the governor during the Bridgegate scandal and its fallout, and Geoffrey Berman, who runs the New Jersey office of the New York law firm Greenberg Traurig, where Giuliani is global chair of its cybersecurity and crisis management practices.

The candidates’ dueling mentors reveal an across-the-Hudson struggle for Trump’s ear.

Trump interviewed Berman and others for the USA-SDNY role.

January 2018 – Sessions announced Berman’s appointment to USA-SDNY.

April 2018 – Berman remained un-nominated by Trump, continuing to work as an interim acting USA; because the 120-day appointment period expired, the Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York ordered Berman appointed as USA-SDNY under 28 U.S.C Section 546(d), until Trump nominated a USA-SDNY and they were approved by the Senate.

Which bring us to Friday evening’s drama…

At 9:15 p.m. ET, the Justice Department issued an announcement of appointment via press release over Twitter.

Associated Press and other media outlets immediately began reporting that Berman had been fired.

At 11:14 p.m. ET, Berman issued a statement via Twitter:

Berman’s status rests on the interpretation of 28 USC 546(d), the law says Berman remains until fired AND replaced by a Senate-approved nominee for USA>

How convenient that the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee had already called a hearing for next Wednesday June 24 about political influence on law enforcement, with Department of Justice employees John Elias and Aaron Zelinsky scheduled to appear as whistleblowers before the committee.

HJC’s committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler has already tweeted that Berman would be invited to appear before the same committee hearing.

It wouldn’t take much to move from this hearing to a vote for an impeachment inquiry inquiry into Bill Barr’s work as Attorney General — there was plenty of reason to pursue impeachment before Friday night’s half-assed massacre.

~ ~ ~

There’s a lot to unpack here. Have at it.

I’m publishing this now and will add some additional follow-up material here in the morning, including Berman’s recusal from the Cohen case, the investigation into Giuliani, and Berman’s effort to distance SDNY from the White House.

 

This is an open thread.


Three Things: SCOTUS on LGBTQ+ Discrimination, Qualified Immunity, Gun Rights

Very big SCOTUS day today. Huge — and that’s in spite of the court declining to hear cases on multiple issues.

~ 3 ~

In BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, GEORGIA and two other cases, the Supreme Court ruled in 6-3 decision that firing an employee for being gay or transgender violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII (42 USC § 2000e-2 [Section 703]) reads,

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;

Dissenters were Justices Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Alito; Alito filed a dissenting opinion which Thomas joined. Kavanaugh also filed a dissenting opinion.

Overview of the three cases from Human Rights Watch:

In R.G. & G.R. HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES v. EEOC and AIMEE STEPHENS, Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, the business owner fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender and departing from sex stereotypes, it violated Title VII, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment.

In ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job because of his sexual orientation. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that the Civil Rights Act does not protect him from losing his job because of his sexual orientation. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that’s discrimination based on sex.

In BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider a 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination and denied his appeal.

The dissent weighed in at more than 140 pages out of the entire 177 page syllabus and decision handed down by SCOTUS today.

The first sentence of the dissent:

There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation. The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.

Right-wing ideologues are in a furor over Justice Gorsuch’s delivery of the opinion. They must have had absolute faith in Gorsuch to be so incredibly outraged that his interpretation didn’t sustain bigotry. He wrote,

An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids. Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.

Today’s decision doesn’t end all discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons, only employers defined by Title VII. There is still a need for more legislation to ensure all persons in this country may rely on the same rights in housing, credit, property ownership and more. The House passed the Equality Act in May 2019 to address these shortcomings; the bill is now languishing on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk in spite of support for the bill from 70 percent of Americans.

Steve Silberman noted a trait shared by two of the three dissenting jurists:

One of the most passionately angry voices today:

“Bungled textualism.” ~chuckling~

~ 2 ~

The SCOTUS declined to hear cases seeking reexamination of the doctrine of “qualified immunity.” Thomas was the lone jurist who wanted to hear cases; in a six-page dissent he wrote, “qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text.”

There will be greater pressure on lawmakers to address qualified immunity in legislation.

Opinion piece about qualified immunity:

Rep. Ayana Pressley on qualified immunity:

~ 1 ~

The SCOTUS declined to hear multiple Second Amendment cases after it avoided addressing New York City’s regulation of guns back in April because the city repeal of the restriction render the case moot.

Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh dissented, wanting to hear a case related to New Jersey’s regulation of concealed carry guns.

~ 0 ~

There’s actually four things today — SCOTUS also declined to hear the Trump administration’s petition regarding California’s SB 54 which prevents the state’s law enforcement resources from being deployed to aid federal immigration enforcement. Alito and Thomas dissented, wanting to take up the matter; surprisingly, Kavanaugh voted with Roberts and Gorsuch to decline.

We are still waiting for a decision on Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA), which could cost the U.S. as many as 27,000 health care workers at the worst time possible if SCOTUS finds DACA unconstitutional.

This is an open thread.


The Why of “Defund the Police” [UPDATE]

[Update at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Apart from the purely economic rationale that a function which has so repeatedly failed should not continue to be funded, there are ample reasons why policing as we know it in this country needs to be deconstructed and replaced — in shorthand, defund the police.

Last night on HBO, John Oliver did an amazing job of discussing the problems with policing in America. It’s so good I can’t add anything. It’s a primer from which we should start.

Yet Oliver’s work was tremendous not just because it examined the history of this country’s failure to reform policing, but because the end of his program gave a black voice a platform long overdue (31:56).

I want to reverse what he did by insisting you listen to author Kimberley Jones first, her entire comment and not just the excerpt Oliver shared. This is a powerful statement you should not miss:

And then watch John Oliver’s program last night. In this order you can see that everything about policing in America has been constructed on lies.

You’ll hear and read puzzlement about calls to defund the police.

What does it mean? asked because their privilege has never forced them to look carefully at how fucked up policing is in the U.S. (note carefully the person and context surrounding them when they ask).

What do they want instead? as if “they” are a separate group, disclosing the bias at the root of the problem.

Why can’t we just fix it? again, privilege blinds those who ask to how fatally flawed policing has been from the start. Some who have internalized this country’s systemic oppression will also ask this same question.

The wealth of this country was built on economic theft, and American policing has been constructed to preserve this massive looting of hundreds of years of black lives.

What Kimberley Jones doesn’t point out is that the looting didn’t stop with black lives. The ground Americans stand on was stolen from yet more brown people who were eradicated, and then farmed and developed by stolen people under whips and chains and at gun point. The theft continues apace under a legal system which ensures the gap of wealth remains uncrossable, that power likewise remains solely in the hands of those with wealth.

There is no fixing a police system designed to protect capital created from ongoing crime.

 

Defund the police, by which it means see with clear eyes the original sin of placing preservation of property rights over human rights, the original sin of treating some humans as less worthy than others.

Defund the police, by which it means to re-prioritize our spending with those same clear, open eyes with an aim to realize reasonable distributive justice, developing and preserving human lives.

 

UPDATE — 09-JUN-2020 11:15 AM ET —

Because there’s a lot of complaining about the unofficial slogan, “Defund the Police,” I think these couple of tweets are worth consideration.

Quit complaining. Focus: we need to change how we ensure public safety. What are you doing about it?

Start attending your local county/city/town/village council meetings. Research your local law enforcement entity’s performance. Are municipalities measuring complaints against law enforcement along with use of force? What has your locality done to ensure there is adequate access to mental health care, addiction, housing, and domestic crisis intervention, all of which affect the number of calls to police?

You can also do other research right now before you attend a local meeting.

Citizens Police Data Project – https://www.CPDP.co

CPDP takes records of police interactions with the public – records that would otherwise be buried in internal databases – and opens them up to make the data useful to the public, creating a permanent record for every CPD police officer. Examine this as a model for tracking your local law enforcement’s performance.

Mapping Police Violence – https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/nationaltrends

A research collaborative collecting comprehensive data on police killings nationwide to quantify the impact of police violence in communities. Check your state against others for trends in death by cops.

Police Use of Force Project – http://useofforceproject.org/

This Campaign ZERO project investigates the ways in which police use of force policies help to enable police violence in our communities. Read their report examining 100 communities.

Police Union Contract Project – https://www.checkthepolice.org/

This Campaign ZERO project reviewed police union contracts and police bill of rights legislation to examine how they make it more difficult to hold police accountable. Read their summary report of 81 cities in 15 states.

The Open Policing Project – https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/

This project at Stanford University aims to help researchers, journalists, and policymakers investigate and improve interactions between police and the public by collecting and analysing data from police traffic stops across the country. Read their findings.

Policing Project – https://www.policingproject.org/

This NYU School of Law project works to ensure accountability and democratic participation on the front end, before police violence requires ineffective back-end accountability. Read their work to date.

National Police Accountability Project – https://www.nlg-npap.org/

A National Lawyers Guild project dedicated to holding law enforcement accountable for misconduct. If you’re a lawyer, check for one of their online webinars.

 

This is NOT an open thread. Please stick to this topic in this thread.

Copyright © 2018 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/author/rayne/