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Open Thread: Russia, Russia, Russia! and Everything Else

This is an open thread launched while current events still unfold. It may offer an overview for folks still acquainting themselves with the news about Rex Tillerson, Russia, and the UK.

By now you likely know Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. Like Sally Yates on the travel ban and James Comey about his firing, Tillerson was blindsided; he found out he was terminated from a Trump tweet. Take note of Marcy’s post on Tillerson’s replacement, Mike Pompeo, and his sketchy replacement, deputy CIA director Gina Haspel.

Trump may have fired Tillerson because of this response to the poisoning in the UK of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter this past week.

Notice the response attributes the poisoning to Russia but makes no mention of the U.S. role as a NATO member and any response required by that membership. The response doesn’t even name Skripal.

Tillerson’s statement followed UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s demand before Parliament yesterday that Russia explain the poisoning of Skripal, setting a two-day deadline.

The poison used is believed to be an extremely powerful nerve agent Novichok developed by the former USSR.

Russia’s point persons, Sergei Lavrov as Russia’s foreign minister, and Maria Zakharova, his spokesperson, as well as Russian parliament member Andrei Lugovoi have pushed back on May’s attribution and demands while demanding samples of the nerve agent found in Skripal’s poisoning.

NATO’s Article 5 obligates member nations to defend other NATO members in the attack on any NATO member:

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

On May 25 last year at a visit NATO’s new headquarters during Trump’s first trip to Europe, Trump avoided continuing U.S. commitment to Article 5. It wasn’t until five weeks later during a speech in Poland that Trump reaffirmed Article 5, saying,

… To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated — not merely with its words but with its actions — that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment …

Many articles speculate Tillerson’s firing is the culmination of more than a year of tensions between Tillerson and Trump, including at least one episode during which Tillerson is said to have called Trump a moron (a “fucking moron” according to some). However the immediacy of the termination suggests Trump wanted to remove Tillerson before he could support Theresa May once the two-day deadline has passed.

It’s worth noting that Trump has yet to enforce sanctions on Russia established by bipartisan legislation on a nearly unanimous basis.

It’s also worth noting the GOP majority of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence abruptly terminated its investigation of Trump-Russia only yesterday afternoon, without providing any notice to the Democratic minority members.

Do read Marcy’s post about Pompeo; bring anything non-Russia comments here to this thread.

Day 33: Happy Some Saint’s Day

I know, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, not just any saint but the patron saint of Ireland. It’s certainly not St. Trump’s Day, that’s for sure.

Trump’s budget proposal is the furthest thing from saintly — cutting federal funding to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is just one disgusting example. CDBG provides grants to the Meals on Wheels (MoW) program, which feeds the home-ridden elderly and disabled as well as kids in after-school programs. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says MoW is “not showing any results.” No more fishes and loaves for you, sickly/old/poor people, if Congress goes along with this nonsense. I guess your desiccated, malnourished corpses are the kind of results this administration wants to see.

According to St. Patrick’s ‘Confessio‘ — an autobiography-cum-confession — he overcame kidnapping from Scotland, enslavement by the Irish, and eventually converted Irish to Catholicism. In contrast, Trump was born with a silver spoon and treated his fellow man (and some family) like crap throughout his lifetime. Definitely not saintly. And definitely not up to converting those who aren’t already his hardcore faithful adherents.

Stuff of the Irish:

Irish PM Enda Kenny visits Trump and asks for leniency for illegal Irish aliens — Let’s be frank about this issue: Trump’s probably fine with them (meaning Bannon is fine with them, too) because these aliens are probably white and Christian. Got to give it to PM Kenny, though, for this nice bit of snark:

“They say the Irish have the capacity to change everything…I just saw the president of the United States read from his script, entirely.”

Wonder if Trump was ballsy enough to go for an other conflict of interest and complain about the sea wall he wants for his Doobeg golf course resort.

British Brexit secretary David Davis says border checks between North Ireland and Ireland possible post-Brexit — He did qualify them as “light” customs checks, saying,

“There are already customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because there are excise differences, but they are done in a very light way. … There would be customs checks, [but] that does not mean we demur from our position of wanting to have a very light border, no hard border.”

But wait…what do the Irish think of this?

Sinn Féin MEP tells Theresa May Brexit border checks in Ireland can go ‘where the sun don’t shine’ — And there it is. I didn’t even paraphrase that hed, that’s exactly what The Irish Post wrote. Here’s exactly what MEP Martina Anderson said:

“Theresa, your notion of a border, hard and soft, stick it where the sun doesn’t shine ‘cos you’re not putting it in Ireland.”

Ouch. No mincing words there.

Women won largest number of seats ever in North Ireland’s assembly election — Sinn Féin leads in gender parity as women represent 41% of its Member of the Legislative Assembly. Between the surge of women in NI’s National Assembly and the increased weighting of representation by Sinn Féin in both NI and Ireland’s National Parliament, the reaction toward the UK and Brexit will be quite different from expectations nine months ago.

Banks may be moving to Dublin from London because of Brexit — This report says Ireland is surprised; I don’t know why, given the amount of business conducted in English language in Dublin as compared to any other location like Paris, Brussels, or Frankfurt. Ireland has been a tax haven and a center for both insurance and technology for a couple decades, too. Perhaps Ireland ought to be more lenient toward educated illegal aliens from the U.S. if it’s looking to staff up its financial sector quickly.

Op-ed: ‘Another day, another Brexit lie exposed’ — Theresa May has only increased Irish sympathies for Scotland with her rejection of a second independence referendum, as if all the other Brexit fail wasn’t enough. Could this animus be enough to unite Ireland, but against Britain and its “Tory public schoolboys”?

That’s a wrap on this work week and Day 33 in our countdown to Tax Day. Don’t drink green beer. Just don’t.

Day 34: Frankly, We Have a Lot Right Now

Still shaking my head over Trump’s interview with Tucker Carlson. While asked about evidence supporting Trump’s claim that President Obama wiretapped him, Trump said, “Frankly, we have a lot right now.”

Bring it, buddy. And with less bullshit because frankly, we have a lot right now.

While you’re at it, bring your tax returns as evidence you’re not violating the Emoluments Clause or in bed with Russia.

Reminder: you’ve got 34 days until we expect to see a 2016 income tax return.

Non-Tax Return Stuff:

UK’s PM Theresa May denies Indy Ref 2.0 before Brexit — When you need a break from American leadership stupidity, just take a look at May. Here’s an unforced error of hubris and hypocrisy; telling the Scots they can’t have a vote to leave the UK after the UK had a vote to leave the EU is just asking for the Scots to hold a referendum on their own. Nicola Sturgeon has already rebutted, calling May’s block “undemocratic.”

Fed Chair Yellen said, “The data have not notably strengthened” after rate hike — Between increases in energy and health costs not offset by decreases in food and apparel costs, the consumer price index rose 2.7% over the last 12 months. Private sector compensation only rose 2.2% over the same period. Consumer spending has been lackluster and businesses are not investing. The post-crash boom is petering out and nothing this administration or Congress is doing will help. A billionaire can only buy so many condos and yachts to keep the economy afloat, and workers can’t buy much on their chicken feed minimum wage at part-time jobs while they have to budget for increasing health care expenses. (I should point out here that the CPI detailed report won’t be produced after June 2017 thanks to Trump’s diktats. How convenient.)

Trump tells Michigan auto workers he’s fighting for their jobs — Sure he is. This guy is fricking clueless about manufacturing (ex: Carrier in Indiana) including the automotive industry. Detroit’s cheese is being eaten by entirely new entrants who don’t worry about emissions standards and whose mileage concerns are of an entirely different nature. After decades of Detroit’s inadequate R&D sunk into battery-powered vehicles combined with vacillating leadership on the future of fossil-fueled combustion engines, Michigan’s auto industry is now battling for market share with companies like Tesla, while Tesla is already seeing new competition emerge like Lucid Motors. Tesla and Lucid are both located in the U.S. Meanwhile, Trump’s budget plans revealed today are a shiv in Michigan’s back; why live and work here if the lakes aren’t clean, schools are underfunded, mass transit is suppressed?

Dispatcher punished in Tamir Rice case — What a bunch of crap. The officer who had the ultimate final and mortal power in Tamir Rice’s case — shooting Rice in seconds after arrival at the playground — should have been criminally prosecuted. Meanwhile, a dispatcher who never saw the victim or the scene of the shooting was suspended.

I feel awful now, after reading so much about Trump and writing about that last piece. Treat this like an open thread though I can’t look in again until I do something positive to get the Trumpish off me.

Wednesday: This One Day

In this roundup: British fascists rise, smart fridge serves porn, and a Zika overview.

Today’s featured short film by Crystal Moselle is about finding one’s tribe, finding one’s place, crossing the threshold to adulthood in the safety of community. Men may not feel this one as keenly as women will. Many of us are skating alone, running into obstacles set before us simply because we are. With a little support we could skate the world.

Love how Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl plays us out at the end. That.

Brexit and broken

  • Ian Dunt: Tories have become Ukip (Politics.co.uk) — Op-ed looks at UK’s Conservative Party and its aggressive shift toward white nationalism.
  • No joke: UK’s Home Secretary sounds like a Nazi (LBC) — Seriously, read the link. Can’t tell Amber Rudd’s speech from Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
  • The Daily Mail as Tories’ key influencer (OpenDemocracy) — Anthony Barnett looks at the Mail’s succession to Murdoch’s right-wing propaganda mill. The Mail was one of the two largest traditional media influences on right-wing politicians and Brexit voters (the other being NewsCorp’s The Sun); an American parallel would be the shift in media influence on public opinion as Fox News gave way to a more rightest, Trump-friendly CNN. We don’t trust CNN any more than we do Fox, and the UK shouldn’t trust the Mail any more than it should trust The Sun.
  • Theresa May’s Tory Conference speech: fascism wearing a progressive mask (VICE) — May isn’t well known by either UK or US public; her speech this week to her own party gave us a better look at the politician, and she’s not at all pretty. May uses progressive language to make her case, but what she’s really pushing is outright fascism.
  • Unwinding a country rich in diversity (OpenDemocracy) — University of Birmingham lecturer and Oxford University research associate Nando Sigona looks at the United Kingdom as an EU citizen. How does a small but densely populated country — land mass the size of Michigan with a population equal to California and Texas combined — move away from the diversity which has made it rich for millennia? Imagine one of those U.S. states (MI/CA/TX) suddenly telling anyone not ‘native’ to that state to leave; what would it do to that state, let alone the people who must leave? It’s not tenable.
  • 80th anniversary of East London’s Battle of Cable Street (Guardian) — The British have apparently forgotten their history and are now condemned to repeat it. Who is this generation’s Oswald Mosely: Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Theresa May? With attacks on immigrants increasing, the new blackshirts already make their presence known; they only lack a Mosely.

Still skeptical about Tories’ aggression? Just look at this tweet from Tim Colburne, former deputy chief of staff for LibDem Party’s Nick Clegg. This is not the work of a party working for business interests. We are watching a new Nazism rapidly engulfing the United Kingdom. I doubt it will remain united much longer at this pace.

Keep in mind some of the foreign workers and children the Tories (and Ukip) want identified are U.S. citizens.

Elsewhat, elsewhere

Cybernia, ho!

  • Ireland not happy about the Yahoo email scandal (ITNews-AU) — Ireland wants to know if Yahoo’s scanning emails on behalf of U.S. government compromises Irish citizens’ privacy. Germany’s Fabio de Masi, a member of the European Parliament, has also asked for more details. Yahoo’s scanning could put the brakes on a US-EU data sharing agreement.
  • Alleged terror plotter charged, had operating system in cufflink (Guardian) — Located in Cardiff, Wales, the accused also possessed a book on missile guidance and control; he was responsible for a blog with information about Isis and cyber-security guidance.
  • Smart refrigerator – now with Pornhub (The Register) — Didn’t manufacturers clue in about so-called smart refrigerators a couple years ago after they were hacked? Clearly not if it’s still possible to hijack displays on Internet of Things devices for porn.

Longread: Overview on Zika
This is a decent meta piece in Omni magazine. Article also points out simple preventive interventions to reduce Zika infections: air conditioning and window screens. Also suggests implementing these in Africa where other arbovirus diseases are endemic, like yellow fever, dengue, chikunguya as well as Zika — except AC will create a greater demand for electricity as well as manufacturing pressure for screens. Also doesn’t really deal with the fact more people are outside during daylight hours in warmer climates, and those who work outdoors (like farmers) have no choice. More comprehensive research on arboviruses is needed and work toward vaccines is probably cheaper, faster, and less taxing to the environment than scaling up electricity and manufacturing. Worth a read if flawed.

Phew. That’s enough for today. Thankfully it’s downhill from here. Catch you later!

Tuesday: Open to Debate

This is an open thread for use during and after this evening’s vice presidential debate. Duke it out here, though comment policy is still in effect.

thetimesuk_foreignworkers_04oct2016The one thing which really got under my collar today: UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, and a demand to shame companies employing foreign workers by insisting these workers must be listed.

This is beyond the pale, just short of asking for badges denoting religion. I hope the financial industry takes a stick to these fascists.

“But, but the foreigners! Taking (white’s) jobs!” one may say. Right — all those financial industry jobs in London for which the UK does not seem to be educating and training enough people.  Healthcare jobs likewise, while the NHS is under pressure to cut services and reduce spending.

The answer to the lack of job opportunities for the under-educated and under-trained isn’t limiting immigrants. It’s more investment in education and training to increase the pipeline to higher paying jobs, combined with a higher minimum wage to encourage movement to jobs requiring lower skills.

Okay, have at it.

Monday: American Mouth

In this roundup: Volkswagen vacillations, disappointments a la Colombia, UK, Hungary (and don’t forget Poland!), anthropocene extinction, and maybe a straggling bit at the end to get this Monday on the road. Read more

Friday: Teh Stoopid, Still Burns [UPDATE-2]

Teh stoopid. So much, a bumper crop today. Put on your hip waders while we listen to a little ska-jazz from The Specials. [Go to bottom of post for update.]

LAST DAY OF THE MONTH
Don’t stand in front of the exit doors today at the House of Representatives. You’ve been warned.

Toobz filled with stoopid

Hélas, Nice
I’ve not forgotten Nice. I can’t go there. Picking my way through French language news to read in detail about the deaths of children and teenagers is a hard limit for me. With children’s blood on its hands from wars to drone killings, the U.S. has no moral authority here. It has doubled down on its authoritarian, racist, kill-its-way-out-of-trouble approach to foreign policy. What can I write here which isn’t utter hypocrisy?

The only observations I can make are that the attackers may be ramping up, as the numbers and methodology testify. 84 dead including 10 children and teens, 52 injured and 25 on life support, all hurt or killed by a driver who was not a known terror suspect. A civilian stopped the attacker by grabbing his hands as he aimed a gun at human targets. Que Dieu soit miséricordieux sur Nice.

Smarter, kinder finish
And now to purge the taste of stupid before I start my weekend…

That’s a wrap, have a safe and restful weekend, including all you peeps at #NN16. Back at it on Monday.

UPDATE — 2:50 p.m. EDT —

The previously-classified pages of the 9/11 report have been released, conveniently during the afternoon on a Friday smack in the middle of the summer during a general election year. Can you say ‘news dump’? Here’s a link to the document at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s site (pdf). Knock yourselves out with this beach read. Note the bit about the alleged Saudi intelligence officers, too.

UPDATE — 5:15 p.m. EDT —

An apparent coup is underway in Turkey; it began with reports of militarized road blocks about two hours ago. Social media platforms have had spotty service though landlines appear to be working. The Erdogan government initially denied a coup was in progress; media outlets in Turkey may not be accurately reporting events. Many European news outlets are still focused on Nice, France. Airports have been closed and a curfew declared. U.S. Embassy has asked U.S. citizens to shelter in place and stay indoors.

For more information about events in Turkey, here’s a selection of active Twitter feeds:
https://twitter.com/YourAnonNews
https://twitter.com/efekerem
https://twitter.com/zeynep
https://twitter.com/WashingtonPoint
https://twitter.com/Boutaina

Recent report at Aid works about Turkey’s treatment of refugees at this link.

If you have friends and family in Turkey, recommend they use Tor browser to follow news — this link in case Tor is blocked. See also this tweet from Tor about accessing social media.

Thursday: Bad Girls

One thing before I go any further…look just above these words, below this post’s title and to the right of the date of publication. See the name ‘Rayne’? That’s me, that’s my byline. Please note there are multiple contributors here at emptywheel. The entire site is eponymously named for its owner, Marcy Wheeler, whose online name and byline is the same as this blog. Check the byline on our posts if you haven’t done so in the past. You’ll note we have different voices and opinions, different writing styles. I tend to be the most open about my dislike for what the Republican Party has become since 1978, when I last toyed with being Republican. Marcy and the rest of the crew tend to be more generous or less open in their vituperation. Take note of the byline when when you read and comment, thanks.

Still indulging in female artist K-pop, choosing this video for a very specific reason…

TWO DAYS
That’s it, what’s left of today and all day tomorrow — that’s all the U.S. House will be in session for July. Outstanding job this week trashing the EPA with bullshit riders, GOP members. Way to fucking go with extending your run serving corporations ahead of the people.

Tick-tock.

BAD GIRL (UK edition)
After today’s wash list of badness, I can hardly wait to hear what comes of May’s visit on Friday to Scotland.

BAD GIRL (domestic edition)

PokéGone
The list of accidents resulting from distraction by Pokémon GO grows by leaps and bounds. These are among the worst so far. Just a matter of time before a fatality occurs.

Wheels

Keep an eye on this topic

Catch you tomorrow for the last in-session day in U.S. House.

Wednesday: Dumb Dumb [UPDATE]

Let’s change the pace today with some K-pop — a little hyper-upbeat Korean pop music influenced by hip hop. You may already be familiar with K-pop if you are familiar with insanely popular tune Gagnam Style by the artist Psy, released in 2012. But K-pop isn’t just male artists like GOT7, Shinhwa, and BIGBANG. There are quite a few all-female groups like Red Velvet featured here, Girls’ Generation, Orange Caramel, and Girls’ Day. Americans may find a retro feel to female K-pop artists’ work, not only in content and performance, but production and presentation. They make hard work look like joy. For all the visual and audio effects, there are simple, unifying messages — love is everything, and girls just want to have fun.

So much that. We could really use some love and some fun.

THREE DAYS
*head-desk* Including today, that’s all the House will spend in session this month. Flint’s 8000 lead-poisoned kids still wait.

Carla Hayden, nominee for Librarian of Congress also waits. Some chickenshit anonymous Republican senator(s) have placed a hold on her confirmation. Why? Because she’s black. Swear to gods the GOP wants to become an irrelevant footnote in history; they certainly won’t win over minority voters this way, and they’re pissing off the publishing industry at the same time. UPDATE 5:00 P.M. EST — HAYDEN CONFIRMED Huh. Wonder what clued in the chickenshit anonymous Republican senator(s) who’d placed her on hold? Whatever, now the GOP can go back to focusing their normal obstructive intransigence on SCOTUS’ nominee Merrick Garland.

Don’t forget about China

Civil rights wronged

  • Cruel and unusual punishment continues on Rikers Island after four extensions granted for reforms (Village Voice) — Youths 18-21-years-old including some who are mentally ill remain locked up in solitary confinement. The glacial pace of reforms is repugnant, maintaining worse than third-world treatment. Fix this horror and quit dragging your feet, New York. You’re making this entire country look bad and worse.
  • Black ex-cop offers detailed analysis of race and policing (Vox) — One key problem is the propensity for 70% of police to cave into pressure from the 15% of cops who are outrageous racists — like the Milgram experiment run amok. Racists should be identified and removed from leadership positions; police departments must have open dialog about social pressure and expectations of ethical behavior in policing.

Breakit

Cyber-oddments

Okay, that’s quite enough self-abuse for one day. It’s downhill from here, see you tomorrow!

Tuesday: Trauma

A little neo soul, something to ease the day. If you like this bit by 20-year-old Doja Cat, check out more of her work at her YouTube channel.

FOUR DAYS
That’s all that’s left of in-session days in U.S. House this month, and nothing done yesterday to help Flint. Yet another report on Flint water crisis, this one featuring VA-Tech’s Dr. Marc Edwards on the lack of trust in water quality, governance and water science since the city’s transition back to Detroit’s water supply. But the necessity of filters means tap water is suspect; Flint residents never needed filters before the switch to Flint river water, and now much regularly take additional steps to check their filters and water quality. Just replace the damned lead pipes so they can take the filters off and they’ll trust the water system. They need assistance with speeding up pipe replacement, stat.

Oh, and deal with the collapse of property values in Flint. Who wants to buy a house there, let alone offer financing as long as the water system remains under suspicion?

Oh no, Pokémon GO
My kid has been playing this augmented reality game with his friends, driving around after dark to different ‘gyms’. We’ve had a few discussions about the application’s privacy problems as well as the game’s requirements for collecting points. This is NOT a game for kids to play by themselves without parent or guardian engagement if they aren’t old enough to drive. My son told me about running into creepy guys parked for hours late into the evening at key locations where Pokémon are found. Recipe for trouble, that.

Brexit means broken

TL;BRTLA (too long, but read this later anyhow)
Especially today — now that Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton — read how women were included in the Civil Rights Act as a joke. Hah. Funny. But very sad that 51% of the population is still not accorded their creator-endowed equal rights in spite of shrewd, dogged work by Michigan’s Rep. Martha Griffiths, and folks like Ida Phillips and attorney Reese Marshall.

Didn’t have enough time to cover China. Guess you now what I’ll tackle tomorrow, see you then.