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Remember when we found out that Jared Kushner talked to the Russian ambassador about setting up a secret and secure communications channel using Russian facilities in December, 2016? The meeting was at Trump Tower in NY. We found out spring of 2017, because Sergey Kislyak reported back to Moscow, US intelligence intercepted the comms, and word eventually got out to the media.
"The White House disclosed the meeting only in March , playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest."
The May 26, 2017, Washington Post story back then said "Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion." (Sort of like Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's "You are kidding!" moment two weeks earlier that month, just before the Sergeys and Trump and TASS had their Oval Office talk with US media excluded.) Way back when, the word "intrigue" popped up, along with "staggering naiveté." Also, "extraordinary." And "absolutely crazy."
But Jared Kushner didn't go away. And pop-in-law demanded he be given a top secret security clearance even if he had a hundred errors on his application and had his temporary clearance downgraded for cause. (That presidential override came out just two months ago.)
So all that (and if you do take the jump to study that last-updated Feb. 2018 WaPo interactive, and follow its link to the updated-last week indictments page list, you may be gone awhile), and now this, thanks to the fact we now have Democratic leadership of the House Oversight and Reform Committee: Kushner has been relying on the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp and his personal email account to conduct official business.
Kushner's lawyer says be chill though, because Jared is totally "in compliance with recordkeeping law. Lowell told the lawmakers that Kushner takes screenshots of his messages and forwards them to his White House email in order to comply with records preservation laws."
All those late night mash notes flying back and forth with MBS have been screencapped into the safe and secure archives, because Jared is all about careful documentation of his global grifting.
Back in the day, I got the clever idea to prefix the current president's pre-presidential Twitter handle (which he still uses as his primary communication device) with "sur-" because, you know. For some reason I can't imagine, it hasn't gone viral, because these are definitely surreal times we're living in just now.
It's brought to mind regularly in the echoing chambers of the mainstream and sidestream media, a.k.a. Twitter. A sampling:
Fact-check: The reason we have the Special Counsel investigation is because the President fired the person running the original Russia investigation https://t.co/f7Ii6zHCun— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) March 21, 2019
Trump on McCain: "I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted." He adds: "I didn’t get a thank you."— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) March 20, 2019
Trump’s new assault on McCain front-page in Times and WashPost print today. Buried in an inside brief in Wall Street Journal. Don’t doubt Murdoch’s loyalty as long as Trump offers transactional value.— Frank Rich (@frankrichny) March 21, 2019
With every petty attack on John McCain, Trump diverts attention from the fact that his budget cuts:— Robert Reich (@RBReich) March 20, 2019
--$1.5 trillion from Medicaid
--$845 billion from Medicare
--$25 billion from Social Security
He'd rather keep the nation focused on his feud with the deceased than his agenda.
If you haven't been following along (bless your heart), you may be wondering, wait what? Isn't John McCain dead? Yes, he is. For more than half a year now.
That makes this a remarkable strategy for getting attention. Who argues with a dead man? Who loses arguments with a dead man? It beggars the word "incredible."
It's now ten days away from... we're not sure exactly what form of catastrophe will happen on March 29, but if someone has described a non-catastrophic scenario, I missed that. Here's an explainer of sorts, from John Oliver, 4 weeks ago.
"Britain is basically Pompeii if Pompeii had voted for the volcano."
There are some F bombs, if that matters to you. We all may be dropping some F bombs soon.
Bicycle wheels, spokes, ball bearings, chainwheels, around the block, planets, orbits, stars, LPs, cassette tape reels, CDs, disk drives, eyeballs, acorns, socket wrenches, screws and bolts, pens and pencils, regular polygons, pushbuttons (the round kind), window fans, pipes, wire, canning jars, washing machines, ball-and-socket joints, manhole covers, pulleys, tennis balls, bottle caps, beer cans, alternators, pumps, generators, turbines, the inconstant moon, acicular leaves, cactus spines, cherries, peaches, plums, and everything that rhymes with orange.
And round things assembled to enable us to make more round things.
Pulled out the NRSV, which, thanks to the Bible Gateway, I don't have to retype to pass along some longer-term user agreements about compliance with terms of the Services. Chapter 3 is about The Coming Messenger, and asks, apocryphally, "who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?"
"Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts."
Unless, of course, you are a sorcerer, adulter, perjurer, someone defrauds laborers of their wages, oppresses widows and orphans, or deprives foreigners justice, in which case, God damn, you should fear the Lord Almighty.
And tell the truth! The LinkedIn promo for jobs in my area (that I'm increasingly unlikely to apply for) featured one from a company I'd never heard of, Malakye, and when I said it out loud, Jeanette was thinking Malachi, or maybe Mal'achi, or maybe that wasn't actually "the personal name of the prophet" even though it's the name of a component book of the Bible. (As Wikipedia tells us, "the last protocanonical book before the Deuterocanonical books.")
But no, not that Malachi. When I took the curiosity jump, I found this one's motto is WE ARE HERE because I guess WTF was already taken.
There is no "About" link in the navigation. The "News" section makes it look like some sort of marketing enterprise, which is fine, and the "Jobs" section makes it look like some sort of job board, which is also fine. How about... the user agreement? Under section 1.2 Purpose they spell out what they're About more or less directly, if "lifestyle-driven industries" rings a bell for you:
"Malakye’s purpose is to connect professionals and companies in lifestyle-driven industries. To achieve our mission, we make the Services available to help people and companies connect, meet, find employment, offer employment, make deals, share information, exchange ideas, read content, and more. We do this through a wide variety of web-based services and resources."
Should one wish to sign up and log in, nota bene, "You must comply with all applicable laws and this Agreement, as may be amended from time to time with or without advance notice whenever accessing or using the Services." Also, you must agree to "use your real name and only provide accurate information."
Interestingly, after that and 7 other specific criteria you must meet "and represent and warrant," section 2.3. Service Eligibility tells us what "Minimum Age" means in various countries around the world:
"Minimum Age" means (a) 18 years old for the People’s Republic of China, (b) 16 years old for the Netherlands, (c) 14 years old Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia and South Korea, and (d) 13 years old for the United States andall [sic] other countries.
Unless they overlooked some applicable law for them to lawfully provide "the Services" to you, then that lawful older age, but in no case "designed [or] intended for use by children or anyone else under the age of 13."
"Or anyone else" is an interesting phrase in that sentence.
On a lighter note, suppose we were to spring forward, and never fall back? In this country, there's a law that says we can't, quite. The ironically titled Uniform Time Act of 1966 says states can opt out of (the ironically named) Daylight Saving Time, as most of Arizona and all of Hawaii have. "But for reasons that historians say remain murky, the law does not allow states to opt in all the way, and choose daylight time year-round."
A state (or county, and so on) can move itself to a different time zone. See here: Procedure for Moving an Area from One Time Zone to Another; the principal standard for deciding is "the convenience of commerce." The railroads started the four big time zones in 1883. The feds took over time in 1918, with the Standard Time Act giving the Interstate Commerce Commission the business of setting boundaries. As the story in the Times points out, DST is convenient for shoppers: "Retailers found that people shopped and spent more on their way home from work when there was more evening light."
New Hampshire is looking to go Atlantic (and take the rest of New England with it). In the case of southwestern Idaho, where some of us rather like having it stay light till 10:00 on a summer evening, if we were to decide to spring forward permanently, we'd need to petition ourselves into Central time, where we'll spring forward to in the dark of the night, when 01:59:59 ticks over to 03:00:00 tomorrow.
Boise is 116 and westerly change east of Greenwich; keep going west past the 118th meridian to the far edge of Malheur County, more than 13° (or 52 minutes as the sun flies) past the Mountain centerline, 105°, running through Denver, and you can still enjoy winter-Mountain and summer-Central time. (Malheur is one of the few US counties that enjoys straddling timezones, inexplicably drawing the line at the southwest corner of Township 35 South, Range 37 East and leaving its southern fifth to the Pacific/Mountain hegemony. That's out where the West Little Owyhee River comes into the main, and a long walk to anywhere, trust me. In our state, Idaho County is another straddler, the Mountain/Pacific TZ boundary following the Salmon River rather than the county line.)
Most of us like being west of center, because sunrise in the wee hours of the morning tends to get wasted, and sunset later in the evening means more light that we can use when we're wide awake.
The NYT Magazine interactive was about music, supposedly, and started off with Springsteen, recently on Broadway, but then what followed was all foreign-sounding to this child of the '60s and '70s. The names could've been out of Lewis Carroll's mind, and the stories... at Meek Mill, I can't remember before or after "Read more," but a real story in an interview, someone born about 1988, another world.
So you were first arrested — for the original charge — at 19? My first arrest was actually going to school. In sixth or seventh grade. I was suspended, and I didn’t want to tell my mom, so I tried to hang out in the hallways. I got caught and went to jail for trespassing. My mom had to come get me.
He's currently on probation for... stuff, and "fracturing the cop's hand" by stopping it with his face.
"I remember one time, this judge said, “I don’t give people three to six months; I give people three to six years” — for something like a first-time weed charge. That always stuck with me. That’s not O.K. I mean, you can’t shoot nobody and expect to be getting chances. But if you were on probation and began smoking weed? People in the ’hood are going through real [expletive]. I barely sleep from so much trauma. Sometimes you just want to smoke and go to sleep."
In defense of the criminals currently running the country, the president's TV lawyer and others like to dismiss the "process crimes," the ones that supposedly don't really matter, like lying to the FBI.
That's for white people.
The kind of people with a team of lawyers who might get help tampering with witnesses and "47 months" or maybe only 22 left to go for eight felonies, seven and eight-figure tax fraud, bank fraud, hiding foreign bank accounts, estimated to be worth 7 to 9, and with "sentencing guidelines" more than double that. For the not-so-white, "violate" has a different kind of transitive. The system will violate you.
My mom was a probation officer. She would tell me how certain officers would wait outside the person’s house, trying to catch them. And it’s for noncriminal things, right? The average person, I think, believes that people are being violated because they’re doing criminal activity. But I’ve had family and friends incarcerated, and part of their probation would be that they couldn’t drive. In a place with no public transit, they would drive to work and get violated. You can’t associate with known felons, but that means you can’t be around your family members or go to the barbershop. You can’t associate with felons when you just came from prison, with a thousand felons in your face every day. That makes no sense. One time the judge was like, “This is lenient,” and in my head — I couldn’t say this — I was like, Who are you to even say this is lenient? If you gave me three months, that is not lenient. I’m going to lose my job, lose the lease on my house. She made it a condition that I couldn’t even rap.
Take the jump back to last November, and listen to this man speak for two minutes, read his opinion. Between being arrested for trespassing because he wanted to go to school so bad, and now, at 31, he got two to four years—you know, eight white felonies' worth— for no crime at all. It was the "interaction with police" while he was on probation, for "popping a wheelie on a motorcycle in Manhattan." (Philly.com covered the story in more detail a year ago, mostly everything before "violating his probation" and getting 2-to-4 for it.)
The Reform Alliance he's now part of has this goal:
Today the U.S. criminal justice system controls the lives of 6.6 million human beings – by either imprisoning them or keeping them stuck in the revolving door of probation and parole. That’s a ridiculous number – much, much larger than any country on Earth.
Our goal is to dramatically reduce the number of people who are needlessly trapped in the system. We will do this by changing the laws, policies, and practices that perpetuate injustice. Key to our strategy is changing hearts and minds to support real change.
We are building an alliance of influential leaders in business, government, entertainment, sports, and culture to use our shared resources, energy, and platforms for massive impact. Our initial focus will be disabling the revolving door of probation and parole.
Susan B. Glasser: The “Enemies of the People” Have a Few Questions for the President.
"[O]ne of the persistent and most notable paradoxes of this President that, for someone who declares himself at war with the press, Trump is happy to engage with it on his terms. He gives regular interviews to his favorite Fox News hosts; he invited anchors from all the networks to an off-the-record lunch before his State of the Union address. He often turns Oval Office photo ops with visiting dignitaries into impromptu press availabilities. The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has adopted her own version of this strategy, all but abandoning the daily press briefings that have been an American tradition, under both parties, for decades. ...
"This is not how it should work in a democracy, and there is no explanation other than a bad one for why this is happening. The Administration’s elimination of regular on-the-record press briefings is part of a broader war on truth and transparency by a President who will go down as the most publicly mendacious American leader we’ve yet had. (Trump’s epic speech at CPAC over the weekend was both the longest and, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker, the most untruthful of his tenure, clocking in at more than two hours and approximately a hundred lies, misstatements, and falsehoods.)"
So many questions.
"Consider that the President declared the country to be in a state of emergency at the southern border, back on February 15th. ... How, exactly, does Trump intend to use emergency powers to transfer money from the defense budget to pay for his proposed border wall? Which accounts will be tapped, and when? At the expense of which other projects? Where is the memorandum from his lawyers arguing that this is constitutional? By what government process, rather than the President’s personal pique at Congress, was the “emergency” determination made?"
Here's another four, from the colleagues Glasser talked to:
"The President railed against budget and trade deficits, but after two years in office both are setting records. Are his economic policies failing in this regard? Does he still see deficits as a priority? If so, what policies—particularly on the budget deficit—is he pursuing to bring it down? Or are deficits no longer a priority for Republicans?"
He's the most unlikely poster man for mercy you could imagine, Paul Manafort, awarded 47 months in the crossbar hotel for his epic, long-term grifting boiled down to 8 felonies.
Just last year, Judge T.S. Ellis III sentenced a 37 year old to a mandatory minimum of 40 years for dealing meth, without making the point that "a day, a week in jail or in the federal penitentiary" was so tough that yeah, 480 months would be a really long time.
"He's lived an otherwise blameless life," Ellis said. No past criminal history, other than these 8 felonies here (and 10 more charges the jury couldn't agree on) and the witness tampering, and the lying to investigators. (Still some sentencing to come for all that.) Manafort "earned the admiration of a number of people" who wrote letters to the court, don't you know. (His good old friend, the president, did he scribble a note?)
Sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case had called for Manafort to serve between 19½ and 24 years.
Franklin Foer had a few things to say about that "otherwise blameless life", which has included lobbying for the tobacco industry, helping Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos buff up his image after he'd assassinated his primary opponent, keeping arms flowing to Jonas Savimbi in Angola, and that decade-long dalliance with "a clique of former (??) gangsters in Ukraine."
"In an otherwise blameless life, he acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him. When presented with a chance to show remorse to the court, he couldn’t find that sentiment within his being. And with Ellis’s featherweight punishment ... Manafort managed to bring his life’s project to a strange completion. He had devoted his career to normalizing corruption in Washington. By the time he was caught, his extraordinary avarice had become so commonplace that not even a federal judge could blame him for it."
Judge Ellis was already the talk of the town last August for his antagonism toward the prosecution, putting on a little show in his courtroom, having to walk back his cranky old man thing to the jury at one point, and apologize to prosecutors at another.
Evan Hurst applies approximately the right level of obscenity to comment on this for Wonkette: 596,852 Low-Level Offenders Who Got Off Worse Than Paul Manafort, Who Is Blameless And Pure Of Heart, but really, one is all you need:
"Crystal Mason was convicted of tax fraud in 2011. (So was Paul Manafort, in 2018!) And in 2016, she voted in the presidential election, because, according to her lawyer, she didn't know she wasn't allowed to. Trouble was, she was on probation at the time, from the earlier charge. So she got sentenced to five years in prison for illegally interfering with an election she was not supposed to illegally interfere with, which is one year and one month more than Paul Manafort got."
"But maybe if Crystal Mason had just been a white man who meddled in an election by working for the GOP presidential candidate for free while also working for the interests of oligarchs who serve Vladimir Putin, and in the course of that, gave internal polling data to a[n expletive deleted] Russian spy, for reasons still unclear, but that probably involved a handoff to Putin's favorite oligarch Oleg Deripaska in the middle of a historic campaign to undermine American democracy, the judge would have been a little bit more lenient with her."
I'd seen Mark Leibovich's NYT Magazine feature piece about Lindsey Graham online, and just reread it in print. That could have been an Arts and Leisure feature, given how much of it reads like a theater review: How Lindsey Graham Went From Trump Skeptic to Trump Sidekick.
As he insists in the subhead pullquote, and as endorsed by a standing ovation in Greenville, South Carolina's, Graham's emphatic, made-for-TV answer to the "what happened?" question is "Not a damn thing."
So everyone noticing that he went from calling Trump a "jackass," "kook," "crazy," "unfit for office," and "a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious [sic] bigot," to "sycophantic raves about the president’s stellar golf game," and now bragging about how he is in the innermost Trumpian "orbit" with Melania, Ivanka, Jared is just, well, not in on the joke?
"Trump is an entertainer and an agitator, which Graham says he can relate to, in a way. “The point with Trump is, he’s in on the joke,” Graham said. I asked Graham if he is in on the joke, too. “Oh, 100 percent, 100 percent.” He laughed. “Oh, people have no idea.” I asked him to explain the joke to me. “If you could go to dinner with us. … ” he said, shaking his head."
But the fact that a US Senator and the current President are having a joke at the country's expense is not the most despicable thing in the profile. That's earlier on, in the discussion of Graham thinking ahead to the 2020 election.
"If you don't want to get re-elected, you’re in the wrong business," he said.
He's by no means the first or last politician to remodel his ideology to suit an increasingly polarized party base. Nor does his cynicism stand out terribly. I take him at his word: this is what he sees as most important, getting re-elected.
No crowd in Greenville is going to give him a standing ovation if he comes to his senses, and decency, and rewrites that mantra: If you don't want to serve your country, you’re in the wrong business.
(The online version has a nearly half-hour audio feature, "The Daily," with the author talking about his time researching the story. Recommended.)
The hurdles for voter initiatives in Idaho are raised each time one is successful. Rather than listening to the voters, the legislature shouts LA LA LA LA WE CAN'T HEAR YOU louder than the last time. (That's after they try to do what they can to thwart the expressed will of the voters, and the court system swats them back down.)
After voters soundly rejected the so-called "Luna Laws" in 2012, Sen. Curt McKenzie (R-Nampa) and the Idaho Farm Bureau led the charge to pass legislation requiring that in addition to 6% of the statewide total of registered voters in the previous general election, petitions would require at least 6% of the registered voters in each of at least 18 of the state's 35 districts. The Governor at the time, Clement Leroy "Butch" Otter, celebrated the good things. It would "enhance people's political awareness," and "increase their involvement."
After Marv Hagedorn failed upward last year, taking over the Idaho Division of Veterans Services after he came up short in the primary for Lt. Governor (to OMG, you can't imagine), Scott Grow of Eagle joined the good old boys club with an appointment from the governor.
Today, the Senate State Affairs Committee agreed to give a bill from Grow a hearing, to make it a lot more difficult to get another one of those initiatives through. Make that 10% of registered voters, from 32 of the 35 districts. Because... "urban counties have too much sway."
(The state's districts each have roughly the same fraction of the state's population, so "rural" ones are spread across more geography, some over four or more counties. District 7 is larger than the state of Maryland.)
Because our Republican overlords believe so much in listening to the will of the people, everywhere those people may be found.
Here's Tracy Olson, one of the leaders who helped get Medicaid expansion on the ballot last year, and passed by a wide margin, confronting Grow in the hallway of the Capitol. "This is an attack on democracy," she says, accurately. His reponse is "you can't record me."
Bill attacking ballot initiatives passes print hearing on party line. GOP Senator Grow’s bill requires 10% signatures from 32 (out of 35) legislative districts. #idpol #idleg #WeThePeople pic.twitter.com/hEo27yumvd— Sam Sandmire (@SamSandmire) March 4, 2019
Ed Yong, writing in the The Atlantic this week, says it's estimated that humans are producing 10 tons of plastics each second. The PlasticsEurope Market Research Group (PEMRG) / Conversio Market & Strategy GmbH's number for world production of plastic materials in 2016 was "280 million tonnes," according to this beautiful, glossy explainer, Plastics - the Facts 2017. That would be a bit under 9 tons a second, but in the same ballpark. In 2015, researchers took a stab at estimating how much of that material was ending up in the oceans, and came up with 5 to 13 million metric tons in an article published in Science magazine.
The good news is that 95+ percent of our plastics are still in use, or getting recycled, or turned into energy, or at least put in a landfill rather than an ocean.
The bad news is 5 or 10 or more million tons of plastics are going into the ocean every year.
Where does it go? Beaches, remote desert (and tropical) islands, guts of birds, turtles, plankton, fish, whales. And down into the deep, and into amphipods living there. "In the 6.8-mile-deep Mariana Trench, the lowest point in any ocean, all of the specimens had plastic in their gut."
Trump declared victory after his Singapore summit, as Susan Glasser points out in the New Yorker, "without having, in fact, achieved the deal he touted." After this week's Son of Summit, he had to admit he's empty-handed, which is less than can be said for the chubby cherub of the North. Kim Jong Un is at the height of his powers, having been shown important enough to have had not one, but two one-on-one summits with the leader of the most powerful country in the world. Did Chairman Kim overplay his hand, thinking that Michael Cohen's three days (!) on Capitol Hill would make Don the Dotard desperate for a deal?
Perhaps. So the sanctions go on a while, not that big a deal for Kim, who will still be getting his four to six square meals a day, and fawning adoration from his populace that loves him, Or Else. He'll be ordering more buckets of ink to print his hero posters twice as large after his train ride home from Vietnam.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi drily noted, "I guess it took two meetings for him to realize that Kim Jong Un is not on the level." Just to show her, Trump insisted that he had done no such thing.
“We like each other,” Trump insisted. “I trust him, and I take him at his word,” citing their relationship as if it were a major diplomatic accomplishment in its own right.
Just as he likes and trusts Vladimir Putin, and takes him at his word—over and over again—even when every intelligence agency contradicts it.
For the GOP to recognize that their bully-in-chief is not on the level? They are not quite there yet. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform debacle, a performance upstaging John Dean's unforgettable exposure of Nixon's crookedness by a factor of 500 or so, was still being parsed to count how many felonies Individual-1 has committed when the New York Times reported that the president ordered officials to give Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling intelligence officials and the White House's top lawyer.
The Chief of Staff back then, retired General John F. Kelly, and Don McGahn both made sure they documented their unsatisfied—and overridden—concerns at the time.
And of course the president flat-out lied about it when confronted with a direct question. "I was never involved in his security," he lied to the Times a month ago. Ivanka Trump lied, too. Sarah Huckabee Sanders covered with "we don't comment," the royal plural of perfidy.
"The question of Mr. Kushner’s access to intelligence was a flash point almost from the beginning of the administration. The initial background check into Mr. Kushner dragged on for more than a year..."
Because Kushner initially provided false information on his SF86 application, and needed a ton of do-over. In October 2017—back when the world was new, and we were giving benefit of the doubt all over the place— the director of the Office of Personnel Management's National Background Investigations Bureau, Charles Phalen testified to a House subcommittee on the subject.
Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois asked Phalen, "can you recall if there has ever been an applicant having to submit four addenda detailing over 100 errors and omissions being able to maintain their security clearance once those errors and omission have been identified?"
Phalen said he has not seen "the breadth" of all applications "but I have never seen that level of mistakes."
Kushner "inadvertently" forgot to mention his foreign contacts. Did he say "none"? Sorry, what he meant to say was he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, which had just slipped out of his mind. Whoosh.
While we were all watching DC and Vietnam this week, Kushner was visiting a few other murderous dictators, MBS in Saudi Arabia, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.
Anybody in the GOP got a problem with that? Or anything, anything at all? The House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy sets an example of blind loyalty. Cohen's testimony "doesn't give me any pause whatsoever about this President," he said on Thursday.
Tom von Alten