Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Children Shall Lead Them. #MarchForOurLives. Update!

The Walk For Our Lives take over DC.
I have been around for some time now, and I have participated in more than a few protests, starting with anti-Vietnam war protests in the early seventies.

This..this...was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Now don't get me wrong, I was blown away by the Women's March right after Trump's inauguration.

But this protest, led by these children, was fucking amazing!

Before I left to join protesters here in town..
(Here is one of my tweets)

...I watched in awe as these young people around the country, and the world, put my intermittent activism to shame.
It seemed as if every one of these students was born to change our world, and I was blown away by their passion, their determination, and their grace in the face of ugly adversity.
And I am not just talking about the teenagers.
There was this eleven year old girl, who quite frankly took my breath away.

Yes the students had some very talented, and charismatic back up.
(Damn, I love that song now.)

But in the end this was the student's march, and it was they who stole the show.

And for my money this incredible moment from Emma Gonzalez was the most powerful of all. (Wait for it.)
Watching this damn near broke my heart.

I am not going to lie, I was choked up and leaky eyed for most of the day today.

But I was also incredibly reassured that the future of this country is in some of the most capable hands imaginable.

And even some of our leaders from the past recognize that.

However our current leader remained unimpressed.

Courtesy of The Hill:  

President Trump arrived at the Trump International Golf Club in Florida as hundreds of thousands of students gathered in Washington, D.C., to call on him and Congress to act on gun control.

Still hiding out from the truth, huh Mr. Trump?

Update: Oh yeah, there was also this.

Cambridge Analytica is under siege. And that's good news.

Courtesy of the New York Times:  

British investigators on Friday night searched the London offices of Cambridge Analytica, the data-analytics company that harvested data from 50 million Facebook users to develop psychological profiles on behalf of political campaigns, including that of President Trump. 

About 20 investigators from Britain’s data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, descended on the company’s offices on New Oxford Street after obtaining a search warrant from the High Court. 

“We are pleased with the decision of the judge, and the warrant is now being executed,” the office of the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said in a statement. “This is just one part of a larger investigation into the use of personal data and analytics for political purposes. As you will expect, we will now need to collect, assess and consider the evidence before coming to any conclusions.” 

Last Saturday, the same day The New York Times and The Observer of London published a detailed look at the company’s use of Facebook data, Ms. Denham’s office announced an investigation into “the circumstances in which Facebook data may have been illegally acquired and used.”

What is that passage in the Bible about reaping what you sow again?

If that were not enough bad news for Cambridge Analytica, they are also on Robert Mueller's radar.

Courtesy of the AP:

Special counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing the connections between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which has come under fierce criticism over reports that it swiped the data of more than 50 million Facebook users to sway elections. 

Mueller’s investigators have asked former campaign officials about the Trump campaign’s data operations, particularly about how it collected and utilized voter data in battleground states, according to a person with direct knowledge of the line of inquiry but not authorized to discuss it publicly. 

The investigators have also asked some of Trump’s data team, which included analysts at the Republican National Committee, about its relationship with Cambridge Analytica, according to two former campaign officials. The campaign paid the firm just under $6 million for its work in 2016, according to federal records.

And there is plenty to go after here, as this company had connections not just to the Trump campaign, but also past and current members of the Trump Administration.

Courtesy of Raw Story:  

In an interview with the New York Times, Wylie says that Bolton’s PAC was alarmed by polling trends showing that more and more Americans viewed war unfavorably — and it wanted to construct an advertising campaign aimed at reversing those views. 

“The Bolton PAC was obsessed with how America was becoming limp wristed and spineless and it wanted research and messaging for national security issues,” said Wylie, a data expert who was a key figure in the founding of Cambridge Analytica. “That really meant making people more militaristic in their worldview. That’s what they said they wanted, anyway.” 

Bolton’s PAC hired Cambridge Analytica months after it was founded in 2014, and the firm’s work with Bolton’s group became an example that it used to pitch potential clients about the value of its data harvesting model. 

Emails viewed by the Times suggest that former Trump political strategist Steve Bannon had some role in setting up contacts between Bolton and Cambridge Analytica, as an email from a Cambridge Analytica employee sent to Bolton specifically mentioned Bannon in its subject header.

 I am guessing that Cambridge is out of the data analysis business for the time being at least.

And this is a warning shot to any others who may want to adopt their business model. 

Recently fired deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, writes op-ed for the Washington Post.

Courtesy of WaPo: 

I have been accused of “lack of candor.” That is not true. I did not knowingly mislead or lie to investigators. When asked about contacts with a reporter that were fully within my power to authorize as deputy director, and amid the chaos that surrounded me, I answered questions as completely and accurately as I could. And when I realized that some of my answers were not fully accurate or may have been misunderstood, I took the initiative to correct them. At worst, I was not clear in my responses, and because of what was going on around me may well have been confused and distracted — and for that I take full responsibility. But that is not a lack of candor. And under no circumstances could it ever serve as the basis for the very public and extended humiliation of my family and me that the administration, and the president personally, have engaged in over the past year. 

Not in my worst nightmares did I ever dream my FBI career would end this way. 

The next day I woke to find the president of the United States celebrating my punishment: “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI — A great day for Democracy.” I was sad, but not surprised, to see that such unhinged public attacks on me would continue into my life after my service to the FBI. President Trump’s cruelty reminded me of the days immediately following the firing of James B. Comey, as the White House desperately tried to push the falsehood that people in the FBI were celebrating the loss of our director. The president’s comments about me were equally hurtful and false, which shows that he has no idea how FBI people feel about their leaders.

Towards the end of the 2016 election cycle The Guardian reported that the FBI was essentially "Trumpland," and that Hillary was seen as "the antichrist personified" to a large swath of FBI agents.

That was seen as part of the reason why the FBI's investigation into Trump's ties with Russia were kept on the down low while Clinton's email kerfuffle was featured on the front pages virtually every single day.

One has to wonder now if the FBI is happy with their performance, and in some cases lack of performance, during the 2016 elections?

I am not at all sure what they thought they would gain having Donald Trump as president, but if it was to be attacked on an almost weekly basis, have their top people humiliated and fired, and to have their entire agency undermined, well I guess they certainly got that, didn't they? 

Donald Trump issues memorandum to ban most transgender soldiers.

Courtesy of Politico:  

President Donald Trump on Friday issued orders to ban transgender troops who require surgery or significant medical treatment from serving in the military except in select cases — following through on a controversial pledge last year that has been under review by the Pentagon and is being fought out in the courts. 

The memorandum, which drew swift condemnation from gender rights groups, states that while the secretary of defense and other executive branch officials will have some latitude in implementing the policy, “persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — including individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances.” 

The memo also said that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, “in the exercise of his independent judgment, has concluded [the policies] should be adopted by the Department of Defense.” It added that “the Secretary of Homeland Security concurs with these policies with respect to the U.S. Coast Guard,” which would also be affected by the policy. 

The decision comes after a number of top military officials over the past year-- including most members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- have gone out of their way to defend the thousands of transgender troops who are believed to be serving in the military.

Remember there is a tweet for everything. 

I somehow doubt that too many LGBTQ folks were fooled by this, but if there were some, don't you feel silly now?

Personally I think that Trump is simply using this as another diversion to keep us from talking about that huge omnibus bill he signed yesterday and that Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes interview tomorrow.

Trump is the kind of guy who would poison the family dog to keep his parents from finding out that he stayed out past curfew.

I seriously doubt that this memo will have any real impact, and fully intend to pay attention to all of the things that it was designed to distract me from.

So what are your plans for today? #MarchForOurLives

Courtesy of March for Our Lives:  

March For Our Lives Anchorage students advocate for a number of solutions, which include: 

  • Reclassification of the AR-15 and other military pattern semi-automatic rifles as Class III, Title II under the NFA. Semi-automatic rifles are only fractionally different than fully-automatic rifles, and are just as lethal. Military grade weaponry deserves to be regulated as such. 
  • Reclassification of magazines over 10 rounds of ammunition as Class III, Title II under the NFA. According to a 2013 study on active shooters done by the FBI, active shooting incidents take place over a matter of minutes. Being limited to 10 rounds per magazine, as opposed to 20, 30, or 40 can save potentially dozens of lives within a mass-shooting timeframe. 
  • Repeal of the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 measure which effectively bans the CDC from researching preventative measures for gun violence. 
  • Purchase age increase to 21 years. 
  • Mandate for gun show and private sale background checks. 
  • Mandatory gun safety training accompanying first legal purchase. 

All of these measures comply with the modern understanding of the 2nd Amendment, and in no way infringe on the right of Americans to bear arms. Furthermore, each one individually, and certainly all of them together, show real promise in reducing the risk posed by mass shooters.

Here in Anchorage this march will take place on the Delaney Park Strip starting at 12:00 PM.

I am hoping to get there, but unfortunately I am actually working today so I am trying to move some things around.

But if I can swing it I will see you there.

Number of Maryland school shooting deaths rise to two after teenage girl taken off life support.

Courtesy of NBC News: 

The teenage girl who was shot by an ex-boyfriend inside their Maryland high school died late Thursday after she was removed from life support, the sheriff's office said Friday. 

Jaelyn Willey died at 11:34 p.m. ET just hours after her mother said the 16-year-old was brain dead and that there was "no life left in her." 

"My daughter was hurt by a boy who shot her in the head ... and took everything from our lives, " Melissa Willey said at a news conference. "She will not make it."

The teen was shot Tuesday by 17-year-old Austin Rollins at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County.

This young lady was apparently the main target for this gunman, as she had recently ended a relationship with him.

The teenage gunman shot her and anther student, before being gunned down by a school resource officer.

So what should have been a momentary teenage heartbreak, ended with the completely unnecessary deaths of two young people who would still be alive in a country where guns were not so readily available.

Guns do not protect life, guns take life.


This is something that the pro-choice folks should be talking about constantly.

Studies have proven that good sex education and access to birth control prevents far more abortions than any draconian anti-abortion laws passed by Republicans ever could.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Attorney for Stormy Daniels demands that Trump Organization preserve all documents pertaining to hush money paid to his client.

Courtesy of Politico:

The attorney for adult film actress Stormy Daniels has asked the Trump Organization to preserve records related to a $130,000 payment that President Donald Trump’s lawyer made to Daniels just weeks before the 2016 election. 

In letters sent Thursday to the Trump Organization, First Republic Bank and City National Bank, Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels, asked that all documents connected to the payment be preserved, including emails and communications with Trump family members. The demand is part of a civil lawsuit Daniels filed this month seeking to void an October 2016 nondisclosure agreement in which she was paid in return for her silence about an alleged affair she had with Trump nearly a decade earlier. 

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is one of three women suing Trump over his alleged sexual behavior. While the lawsuits are in their earliest stages, they threaten to embroil the president in years of litigation that could expose embarrassing details of his alleged sexual relationships, uncover evidence of possible hush-money payments and draw the scrutiny of federal campaign finance regulators. Ultimately, the president himself could be forced to testify or give depositions under oath. 

Avenatti said Thursday’s letters are just the beginning.

By the way, Avenatti also posted this late last night on Twitter.
I have a feeling that is going to send a cold chill up someone's spine.

There were a lot of choices for this last post of the day, but I thought I would end with one about Stormy Daniels, because, just like Karen McDougal, I think that her story is going to prove very damaging to Donald Trump.

As well as to the Republican party. 

There are some who will argue that Trump is inoculated from all of this, and that the proof of that is in the fact that he got elected even with all of those sexual assault allegations swirling around.

However my answer to that argument is that the Women's March was inspired by the fact that Trump was elected despite those allegations, and that the #MeToo movement actually grew out of this newly energized female activism.

In short, Trump's election was such a shock to our collective systems that it jolted people awake in a way they simply had not been awake before.

The result has been a changed atmosphere in which allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and even gender inequality are taken FAR MORE seriously than they ever have been in decades past.

So in this new atmosphere these stories about Donald Trump's extramarital affairs, bullying by his attorneys, and attempts to buy women's silence is being viewed through newly attentive eyes.

That has created a powerful desire to somehow remove Trump from the White House, and to punish all of those who supported him during the campaign, and to especially punish all of those Republican politicians who stand with him today.

Yes Mueller's investigation may provide the evidence needed to start impeachment proceedings against Trump, but it will very likely be the politically active women in this country who will be the driving force to replace the obstructionist Republicans with Democrats who will actually it through.

And every time we read about Trump assaulting a woman, treating a woman like a prostitute, or having a woman bullied into submission, only serves to further inspire this women's movement to work harder to ensure that there will never again be a Misogynist-in-Chief in the People's House.

It also goes without saying that being the party which supported the Misogynist-in-Chief is not exactly an enviable position.

So like I said, these interviews and news stories, about women who were in some way wronged by Donald Trump, are simply NOT good news for the Republicans.

Here is that CNN interview with former Playmate Karen McDougal concerning her affair with Donald Trump. Yes, it's icky.

Courtesy of the New York Times:  

The former Playboy model Karen McDougal gave her first television interview about the affair she alleges she had with Donald J. Trump more than a decade ago, saying that he offered her money after their first sexual encounter. 

“After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me, and I actually did not take that,” she told Anderson Cooper of CNN in an interview broadcast on Thursday night. “I looked at him and said, ‘That’s not me, I’m not that kind of girl.’” 

As a security aide of Mr. Trump’s drove her home, she said, “I started crying, I was really sad — it really hurt me.” 

But, she said, in spite of that encounter in 2006, “I went back,” conducting what she described as a 10-month, serious relationship that she finally ended when she could no longer bear the guilt of betraying Mr. Trump’s wife then-new wife, Melania.

You would probably think that if you were not a prostitute and somebody offered you money as if you were one, that you would be too humiliated to see that person again.

However not in McDougal's case.

According to the ex-Playmate she continued to see Trump for about ten months, and had unprotected sex with him dozens and dozens of times. 

According to McDougal this was not just a sexual affair but an affair of the heart, where both parties told the other that they loved them.

McDougal even seemed to think that the relationship would grow into something more.

She seemed to believe that she was destined to be Mrs. Donald Trump number four.

So of course Trump compared her to his number one love:

Ms. McDougal said Mr. Trump had compared her, favorably, to his daughter. “He said I was beautiful like her and, ‘You’re a smart girl,’” she said.

You may remember that Trump also compared Stormy Daniels to Ivanka. Which apparently is his idea of the ultimate compliment to his mistresses.

Make of that what you will.

Hey remember Guccifer 2.0, the guy who distributed those stolen DNC emails to Wikileaks? Turns out that dude was an agent for Russian intelligence.

Courtesy of the Daily Beast:  

Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft. 

That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team. 

While it’s unclear what Mueller plans to do with Guccifer, his last round of indictments charged 13 Russians tied to the Internet Research Agency troll farm with a conspiracy “for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” It was Mueller’s first move establishing Russian interference in the election within a criminal context, but it stopped short of directly implicating the Putin regime. 

Mueller’s office declined to comment for this story. But the attribution of Guccifer 2.0 as an officer of Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency would cross the Kremlin threshold—and move the investigation closer to Trump himself.

If you did not already suspect that this was the case you need to give yourself at least five demerits.

I think a lot of us were fairly certain about this way back before the election, but there was not any proof back then.

Now there is.

And now that we know this we also know that Roger Stone was promoting the stolen information that was being provided by the Kremlin to interfere in our election, and that Donald Trump was helping to disseminate that information.

We also know this:
Mueller could actually make the case that the entire GOP was simply working as a propaganda arm of the Russian government in an attempt to destroy Hillary Clinton's campaign and help elect Putin's Manchurian candidate.

That's at least one way to look at it.

Actually, in my mind that is the ONLY way to look at it. 

Yesterday Donald Trump said yet again that he is willing to testify to Robert Mueller.

Courtesy of CNN: 

President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that he would still "like to" testify before special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia's 2016 election meddling as well as potential obstruction of justice charges. 

"Yes, I would like to," Trump told CNN's Jeff Zeleny during an event on new tariffs against China.

This is the second time that Trump has said this.

He said the same thing back in January.
After that Trump's lawyers walked the statement back.

But one of those lawyers was John Dowd, and he just quit in disgust, so maybe it's time to "Let Trump be Trump" as his campaign staff were fond of saying back in 2016.

And we certainly know that Mueller is prepared for this Q and A.

Hell he even has a list of questions he'd like to ask 

The legal team of the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election has reportedly identified four main topic areas they hope to discuss with President Trump in a proposed sit-down interview. 

Investigators working for Robert Mueller want to ask Trump about a highly scrutinized 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and several Trump campaign officials, his involvement in a misleading statement about his son's role in the meeting, and his firing of both his national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey, sources familiar with the situation told CNN. 

Mueller's investigators also hope to learn the extent of Trump's knowledge of the phone calls Flynn made with Russians before joining the White House. Flynn was fired for lying to the FBI about that communication.

Oh yeah, I would like to hear the answers to those questions as well.

Trump's attorneys will likely each take a leg so that Trump would have to drag them down the hallway to keep him from talking directly to Mueller's team, but I think that if somebody were to call him out on Twitter and suggest that he did not have the guts to face them, that Trump would have to take that bait.

Who do we think would be best to issue that challenge?

Joe Biden?

Hillary Clinton?

Or perhaps Rosie O'Donnell?

Wisconsin Federal judge tells Governor Walker that she doesn't care if his party is going to lose, he still has to hold special elections.

Courtesy of Think Progress:  

A judge ruled Thursday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) must “promptly” hold special elections for two vacant seats in the state legislature — elections that he refused to call because he was afraid his party would lose. 

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds ruled that state law requires Walker, a two-term governor and former presidential candidate, to hold the elections in order to give residents of the two districts representation in the state legislature. The seats have been vacant since December, when Walker appointed the two representatives to serve in his administration. 

“To state the obvious, if the plaintiffs have a right to vote for their representatives, they must have an election to do so,” said Reynolds, who Walker appointed to the court in 2014. 

Walker claimed he didn’t need to fill the seats because the legislative session will be ending soon, and planned to keep the seats open for more than a year. Wisconsin voters named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit called that decision unlawful. 

“We have nobody representing the interests of our Senate district right now and that upsets me,” Jennifer Meyer, one of the named plaintiffs, testified in court. “We’re entitled to representation.”

Damn! I have seen some desperate Republicans lately but absolutely refusing to hold elections because your party will be defeated is pretty fucked up.

Scott Walker reminds me of the kid that suddenly "accidentally" upends the Monopoly board when he realizes he is about to lose.

And really all he has done here is to ensure an insane Democratic turnout and definite defeat for the GOP candidates.

Doesn't anybody in this party understand the concept of "fair play" anymore?

The Washington Post learns that more than 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence while at school.

Courtesy of WaPo: 

Over the past two decades, a handful of massacres that have come to define school shootings in this country are almost always remembered for the students and educators slain. Death tolls are repeated so often that the numbers and places become permanently linked. 

What those figures fail to capture, though, is the collateral damage of this uniquely American crisis. Beginning with Columbine in 1999, more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours, according to a year-long Washington Post analysis. This means that the number of children who have been shaken by gunfire in the places they go to learn exceeds the population of Eugene, Ore., or Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

Many are never the same. 

School shootings remain extremely rare, representing a tiny fraction of the gun violence epidemic that, on average, leaves a child bleeding or dead every hour in the United States. While few of those incidents happen on campuses, the ones that do have spread fear across the country, changing the culture of education and how kids grow up. 

Every day, threats send classrooms into lockdowns that can frighten students, even when they turn out to be false alarms. Thousands of schools conduct active-shooter drills in which kids as young as 4 hide in darkened closets and bathrooms from imaginary murderers. 

“It’s no longer the default that going to school is going to make you feel safe,” said Bruce D. Perry, a psychiatrist and one of the country’s leading experts on childhood trauma. “Even kids who come from middle-class and upper-middle-class communities literally don’t feel safe in schools.”

These statistics are terrifying.

No child should have to fear going to school, or sitting down in a movie theater, or shopping at the local mall.

And yet many of them live with that fear every single day.

That is why this march on Saturday is so important.

It might not change anything on its own, but it is the first positive steps in that direction. 

The March for Our Lives event on Saturday is going to be huge.

I do not know how they keep doing it, but these kids continue to impress me just about every day.

Usually this is where the media moves on from another senseless shooting to focus on other issues, but these students refuse to let that happen this time, and almost by sheer force of will they are keeping the debate alive.