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20.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Everybody was in the loop Permalink to this item

Every day is Impeachment Day now, people. Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the E.U. and, frankly, a Colossus astride Europe, just Blew Up the Hearings in the House Intelligence committee, and still made his evening flight to Brussels. He's funny, charming, and he has now fully exposed the bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors of Donald J. Trump and others in his administration. His memory's not great, and he's "not a note taker," but his memory is good enough, and there are a lot of other people who did take lots of notes.

ICYMI, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

"Was there a quid pro quo? With regard to the requested White House call and meeting, the answer is yes."

This was off the hook. In case it wasn't obvious enough already, Sondland also made it Very Clear that OMB director and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence (the "three Micks"?) were totally on board with the whole shebang. National Security Adviser John Bolton (before he got hinky and quit). Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman spell it out for the WaPo: this scandal a whole lot bigger.

"As a bonus, Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani is now far more deeply implicated as well. ... In his testimony, Sondland confirmed over and over that Giuliani ran this entire scheme — and that Giuliani unequivocally spoke for Trump all throughout."

Nunes did his Pee Wee Herman lawn sprinkler imitation in his opening statement and "magic minutes." (Talk about your brilliant strategy: the chairman giving the ranking member more time was it.) "No conspiracy theory is too outlandish for the Democrats," he began.

He then provided "a sampling" stew that included unproven/unlikely, unproven, and true claims, by MediaIte's estimate. The Trump campaign did base some of its activities on documents stolen from the DNC and Clinton campaign. Trump was working a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, while he was campaigning. Whether Trump did it or not, the RNC platform was changed to hurt Ukraine and benefit Russia. Russians probably did launder money through the NRA for the Trump campaign, but Republican members of the FEC have blocked that investigation. And son-in-law Jared Kushner did lie about his Russian contacts while attempting to get a security clearance. Had it not been for Trump's nepotism override, neither Jared nor Ivanka would've qualified.

After Sondland pointed out in his opening statement that the State Department had kept notes and records that he wanted to refer to away from him—further obstruction—Nunes then claimed it was Chairman Schiff who was obstructing justice by not making closed-door deposition transcripts available to Sondland.

If we go another round, here's your BINGO card:

Nunes BINGO

Minority counsel Steve Castor, working to suggest that these preconditions were all in Sondland's fevered imagination? He just made it up or something, srsly?

Sondland: The president said "talk to my personal attorney."

Castor: It wasn't an order, correct?

Sondland: We all knew nothing would go forward if we didn't talk to Rudy.

L'il Badger and Man Who Did Not See Crimes Jim "Gym" Jordan went after Sondland in the afternoon session, ending with the triumphant observation that the Ukrainians "got everything they wanted!" The call, the meeting, the aid... right after that whistleblower thing happened, yeah?

Jordan is the third member of the brilliantly conceived term coined by Steve Castor: The Trifecta of Unreliability. All praise to Susan Walsh for capturing the image of it:

AP Photo/Susan Walsh, seen on news965.com

18.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The man who could not remember Permalink to this item

While waiting for the impeachment hearings to resume (tomorrow), and in light of the cheery invitation from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that Donald Trump would be welcome to come testify, I took a closer look at Trump's only sworn response to the Special Counsel's investigation, which is to say his written responses. I counted 32 convenient lapses of recollection. Your mileage may vary:

"I have no recollection...

"Nor do I recall...

"I have no independent recollection...

"...I do not remember...I do not recall...

"I have no independent recollection...

"I do not recall being aware during the campaign...

"I have no recollection of being told...

"I have no recollection of being told...

"I do not remember the date...

"I do not recall being provided any information...

"...I have no recollection of any particular conversation, when it occurred, or who the participants were...

"I do not recall being aware during the campaign...

"I do not recall having any discussion about the substance...

"...I have no recollection of any particular conversation...

"I have no recollection of being told...

"...I have no recollection of being told...

"I do not recall being told...

"I have no recollection of the specifics of any conversation...

"I do not recall discussin WikiLeaks...

"I do not recall having had any discussion...

"I do not recall being aware during the campaign...

"I do not remember discussing it with anyone else...

"I do not recall being aware at the time...

"I vaguely remember press inquiries and media reporting...

"...I have no current recollection of any particular conversation, with whom I may have spoken, when, or the substance of any conversation."

"...I learned that [Paul Manafort, after he was hired as campaign chairman] was somehow involved with individuals concerning Ukraine, but I do not remember the specifics of what I knew at the time."

"I had no knowledge...

"I do not remember...

"I do not recall being told during the campaign...

"I have no recollection of the details of what, when, or from what source I first learned about the change to the platform amendment regarding arming Ukraine...

"I do not recall being involved...

"I do not remember having been asked...

H/t to Jim Acosta. For Trump's part, he's tweeting this morning, to say that he will strongly consider it!

17.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Stage IV Permalink to this item

John Dean's famous line was delivered privately, to then-President Nixon.

"We have a cancer within-close to the presidency, that's growing," he said. "It's growing daily."

Yes, it was very close to the presidency. Here we go again.

Nov. 2019 photo, ice in canal

It has already slid down the home page, but in print at upper left this morning in the NYT: Bolton and Trump Met Privately Over Withheld Aid, White House Official Testified. The official is Timothy Morrison, aide to John Bolton. The transcript of his testimony, along with that of Vice President Pence's special adviser on Europe and Russia, Jennifer Williams, has been made public.

Pence knew, and his pretending to have not known and be just all high-minded about "corruption" and all is as phony as a $3 bill. He's not as dumb as he acts. His sycophancy is as corrupt as it seems.

John Bolton's aid has informed us that in August, in spite of Bolton pressing Trump to release the aid to Ukraine, the president refused. He wasn't "ready" yet. In September—after the whistle was blown—then he was ready.

The NYT story is about Bolton being one of the primary players/witnesses who is resisting coming forward and testifying under oath. Among many others is "Mick" Mulvaney, the acting Chief of Staff and still titular head of OMB.

Trump's reliance of "acting" heads of agencies gives him a little extra leverage over the careers of people working for him, and saves the trouble of actual advice and consent from the Senate (God knows why; Mitch McConnell is hardly above railroading through the very worst of nominees for judgeships, right on up to Brett Kavanaugh).

Mulvaney's dual role in particular makes me think of metastasis. The Office of Management and Budget was the leverage point to put the hold on the aid to Ukraine, while Trump's lieutenant hotelier-at-large and the other two "amigos" worked the bribery/extortion angle on Ukraine. In the office just outside the Oval, "Mick" could maintain a chokehold on communications and access, even as his OMB badge allowed him to control the flow of money.

There is a metastatic cancer on the presidency, and in the republic.

Update, Monday morning: One of the first items in the feed is Charles P. Pierce: Two Loony Bill Barr Speeches Show It Didn't Start With Trump, with the connection in the subhead: "The crazy has been metastasizing in the Republican Party and the conservative movement for decades."

I wrote about Barr's speech at Notre Dame last month. His second act, for the Federalist Society, amplified projection to breathtaking heights. It's the left that is "engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law," Who. Knew? Using "any means necessary, regardless of the collateral consequences and the systemic implications." Pierce:

"Again, two specific points: one, this is being done in defense of the most lawless president* in American history and, two, and much more important, these are theories of government that Barr developed while working for Republican presidents since 1989. They are the theories by which he helped cover up the Iran-Contra scandal. They are the theories that underpinned what Dick Cheney did in making this country a country that tortured, and what he did to lie this country into a catastrophic war. (Barr even cited the Cheney and the “unitary executive” theory in his speech, ridiculing the notion that the unitary executive posed any threat to the balance of power.) In both speeches we see not Trumpism, but modern conservative Republicanism in its clearest and most extreme form.

"It didn’t start with this president*. And my money’s on the proposition that, sadly, it won’t end with him, either."

16.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In closing yesterday Permalink to this item

Devin "Don't have a cow" Nunes' closing statement derided "today's show trial" [sic] and also that they were all going to be next "hiding behind closed doors" to interview "more witnesses."

"I hate to break it to my colleagues if there's anyone else out there watching television ratings, but they must be plummeting right now and I would suggest that we get back to the work of the intelligence committee, that we pass trade agreement with United States, Mexico and Canada that would actually help the American people out. This is an embarrassment."

I don't imagine Nunes' TV ratings have ever been that great, but yes, an embarrassment, sir.

Here's what the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee said to conclude:

"Ambassador, I want to thank you for your decades of service. I want to thank you as Mr. Maloney said for being the first one through the gap. What you did [in] coming forward, and answering a lawful subpoena was to give courage to others that also witnessed wrongdoing and that they too, could show the same courage that you have, that they could stand up, speak out, answer questions. They could endure whatever threats, insults may come their way. And so, in your long and distinguished career you have done another great public service in answering the call of our subpoena and testifying before us today.

"It think you gathered from our comments that we not only grieve for what you went through but what damage is being done to the State Department, to career federal foreign service officers all over the country. I am profoundly grateful to you and Mr. Kent and Ambassador Taylor, who have done so much in the last two days or three days, to show the american people the face of our diplomatic corps, the extraordinary public servants who work all around the world in very dangerous places as you have. And so I'm glad they've gotten to see you because you are often vilified as 'bureaucrats', or diplomacy is diminished as unimportant, anything other than military doesn't really matter, when it's your efforts that often prevent us from going to war. Sometimes you're disparaged as 'the deep state,' but what you are is what holds this country together and what holds her foreign policy together, what makes it seamless, what makes it work, and I'm glad America gets to see that.

"I will just emphasize once again the importance of your testimony. Mr. Kent and Ambassador Taylor gave us the broad outlines of the story. This is a story about an effort to coerce, condition, or bribe one country into doing the dirty work of the president, investigations of his political rival. By conditioning U.S. taxpayer money, by conditioning a meeting that present Zelensky wanted and needed to establish that relationship for the most powerful patron of Ukraine, the United States of America.

"The fact that they failed in this solicitation of bribery, does that make it any less bribery. It doesn't make it any less immoral or corrupt, it just means it was unsuccessful. And [for] that we owe other dedicated public servants who blew the whistle. Had they not blown the whistle, we wouldn't be here. And I think it is appalling that my colleagues continue to want to 'out' this whistleblower so that he or she can be punished by this president.

"But let's underscore once again, while you are the beginning of the story, you're not the end of it. Nonetheless, the beginning is important. Because the beginning of the story is an effort to get you out of the way. An effort by Rudy Giuliani, and Fruman, Parnas, and corrupt Ukrainians like Lutsenko. To get you out of the way, because they felt that you were an impediment to these political investigations the president so desparately wanted.

"Giuliani has made it abundantly clear that he was in Ukraine on a mission for his client, for the president, to investigate the Bidens. And you were viewed as an obstacle that had to go. Not just by Giuliani, but by the President of the United States and if people had any doubt about it, they should do what the president asks: Read the Transcript. And what they'll see in that transcript is that the president praises the corrupt, he praises the corrupt Lutsenko. He condemns the just. You. And then he asks for an investigation of the Bidens. There is no camouflaging that corrupt intent.

"We are adjourned."

Rep. Conaway (R-TX) complained that that closing statement "disparaged those members on this side of the aisle, we should have a chance to respond to your disparaging remarks!" That while the crowd in the hearing room gave Ambassador Yovanovitch a standing ovation.

If it's not too boring, re-read, or re-watch the closing remarks from Nunes, and Schiff. There is ample disparagement from the ranking member. There is only disparagement from him. From Chairman Schiff, the only thing about members on the other side of the aisle was this:

"I think it is appalling that my colleagues continue to want to 'out' this whistleblower so that he or she can be punished by this president."

Jennifer Weiner, contribution opinion writer for the NYT countered the mocking complaint the GOP is working as one of its talking points: I’m Sorry, Is Impeachment Not Entertaining Enough for You? The next step beyond "never happened; sort of happened; happened, but so what." It's boring. Plus, they had to stay in town on a Friday, and they so hate that.

"[I]s it that after three years of almost daily revelations about porn-star payoffs, murdered Washington Post columnists, Russian back channels, WikiLeaks dumps, Charlottesville news conferences, mass shootings and Rudy Giuliani, the bar for what makes us pay attention has been ratcheted so high that something has to be absolutely bananas to clear it? And that we the people need daily plot twists and weekly cliffhangers in order to care?"

You know what else is boring? The Constitution, and the rule of law. Here's University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck with some boring stuff about the specious "6th Amendment" complaints from the president, currently being echoed tirelessly by his GOP enablers. Shorter: we're not having a criminal trial, just now. Not yet. One thing at a time: impeachment, if it's warranted. (It is.) The trial in the Senate, in which the GOP will decide the fate of the lawless president, and perhaps our Republic.

If the president is removed from an office he has shown himself incapable of manning, then we can discuss the considerable backlog of criminal matters, and Trump's 6th amendment protections.

15.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Real-time self-impeachment Permalink to this item

Day two of the public impeachment hearings the GOP pretended to demand, and now you have to wonder. We did not see it end-to-end, but we did happen to be watching live when THIS JUST IN, the President of the United States of America, POUTS, used his magic twitter matchine to

try his stubby fingers at smearing Marie Yovanovitch some more, which is super-weird, because aside from the fact that she was reporting on how Trump's associates Rudy Giuliani and what-not had worked a smear to get her recalled from Kyiv, there was pretty much no reason to criticize her.

Also, she was testifying just then in Donald J. Trump's impeachment hearing. Somebody let the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee know, while he was running the hearing, and when he had a turn at the mic, he asked the witness more or less rhetorically, "it's designed to intimidate, is it not?" We can only assume so.

And as I tweeted further, there is something seriously wrong with Donald J. Trump, as the mountain of evidence closes in on him. While the Congress is considering whether to impeach him, and for what, he added another impeachable offense, "live."

As if there were not enough already. The firing of the FBI Director, laughing with the Russians in the Oval Office about their attack on our election in 2016, having his lawyer free-lance with a couple of bagmen in Ukraine to play some cocked up business interest and further the corruption of Russia and its attack on the country, calling the Ambassador back based on a conspiracy theory he heard from John Solomon on Fox News, trying to bribe the president of Ukraine with $391 million of aid, and now obstructing many of the witnesses with direct knowledge from testifying to Congress.

So far, the GOP is keeping their wagons tightly circled. Taking wild shots at the whistleblower (as if they could unblow the whistle somehow), and reading a ton of news reports about Adam Schiff saying he'd have the whistleblower testify (before Trump and minions dialed up the witness intimidation on said WB), as if somehow they could discredit the committe chairman and make the whole case for impeachment go up in a puff of smoke. That is not how any of this works.

Knowing that Yovanovitch is actually a sympathetic figure, in so many ways, some of the Republicans on the committee gave mild lip-service to her, before proceeding with their clown show. Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio was working an angle to try to paint some legitimacy on Gordon Sondland's free-lance criming for a Biden investigation, put a "YES" in the witnesses mouth before she pushed back and wanted to elaborate on her response. He cut her off. "Not on my time," he said. "You're done."

The hell you say, Chairman Schiff gaveled, cutting Turner off and recognize the Ambassador to give her answer. And when he had a bunch more news stories to stuff in the record later, Schiff cut him off on that too, "the gentleman's time has expired." Turner seemed to like getting gaveled down, as if he was winning by mocking the process.

Anything else? Ah, after we'd stopped watching, there was another career diplomat, David Holmes, testifying about that phone call between Sondland and Trump on a wide-open channel, in Kyiv.

"Holmes said at the conclusion of the call, Sondland told him and other aides present that Trump does not “give a shit” about Ukraine and was primarily interested in the “Biden investigation” that was being pushed by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Guiliani. ...

"Holmes told investigators he could hear the president’s voice through the earpiece of the phone. It wasn’t on speaker phone, but Sondland held it away from his head because it was so loud."

And finally, the jury came back on friend-of-Trump, Roger Stone guilty on all 7 counts. And as a testament to white privilege, he gets to walk around free until sentencing on February 6, at which time he and we find out how much of the possible 50 years he'll be made to spend in prison.

12.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

On the record Permalink to this item

Last year, I enjoyed some time in the legal system, working as an expert witness for technology that I worked on 20 years ago. One thing made clear up front was that I'd be paid by the hour, and regardless of the outcome, so that was nice. In the course of the work, I gave the first three depositions of my life, and testified at trial before an administrative law judge in the International Trade Commission.

In the longest of my three depositions, we went on the record about 9:03 a.m. (D.C. time), and were done at 3:39 p.m. Just over 6½ hours with breaks and lunch. They could've have worked me longer; there was another hour in their 7 hour (on the record) allowance. The transcript runs 300-some pages, plus the 31 (full) pages of index. The pages are short, 22 lines, maybe 100 words, and the print copy I received had the pages arranged 4-up, for a 110 page PDF with the index.

I'd spent many hours preparing with the legal team I worked for, and all in all, it was a grueling day's work. In this case, the complexity was in the history of the intellectual property, and the legal technicalities of patents. Telling the truth wasn't hard in any way (and besides, the truth supported my client's position).

After each deposition, I'd receive a copy of the transcript, and go through it carefully to make sure that what I said was captured accurately. There were relatively few (and minor) mistakes in hours of testimony. Nevertheless, I sent in the errata before signing off on the document, and the record of my testimony. Every court reporter's work I saw in the case was impressive in its skill and accuracy.

Front yard photo

Over his long and checkered "business" career, Donald J. Trump had more extensive interaction with the legal system than I've had, although not in the realm of technology to speak of. His cases have been about lying, cheating, stealing, defamation, sexual adventures, hush money, that sort of thing. Outside of court, he seems challenged by stringing together true statement in complete sentences, let alone paragraphs or an essay. When many of us were anticipating him being deposed by the the Special Counsel (maybe in both senses of the word), David A. Graham's piece for The Atlantic described how Trump Under Oath Is a Different Person. In particular:

"[W]ithin the confines of conference rooms and offices, he is calmer, more restrained, and more deliberate than his public persona, and with the tether of his oath holding him back, often acknowledges when he is wrong or has misrepresented things in the past."

When asked directly about his "inflations," he has shown a "rare aptitude for honesty." That is, he can be honest, when he has to. Unlike his behavior under oath in a deposition, Trump has not shown any particular fidelity to his oath of office. Who knew that faithfully executing the office, and preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution was just one gigantic loophole for a psychopathic con-man? I mean, besides historians of the 20th century. Or any other century.

As the walls are closing in on him, he's lashing out on a daily basis, projecting every evil in his own mind and behavior onto others. Yesterday morning's tweet, before he ventured out to the Veteran's Day parade:

Shifty Adam Schiff will only release doctored transcripts. We haven’t even seen the documents and are restricted from (get this) having a lawyer. Republicans should put out their own transcripts! Schiff must testify as to why he MADE UP a statement from me, and read it to all!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2019

"Funny" he should mention doctoring a transcript, when Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that the closest thing we have to a transcript of the Zelensky call that got the impeachment ball rolling was "doctored," to coin a word.

Tomorrow, it looks like we have two blockbuster news events ready to unwrap: just like the good old days, NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS preempting regularly scheduled broadcasting in favor of LIVE from DEE CEE, IT'S THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS!, and whatever our Reality TV guy in the White House has cooked up for counter-programming. Apparently Plan A didn't pan out when we finally found what was a bridge too far for Barr: a press conference to say the president's phone call was "perfect."

11.11.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If you think education is expensive... Permalink to this item

This Idaho Ed News headline is a model of brevity in synopsis: Despite data showing otherwise, legislator says all students are ready for kindergarten.

Photo of a paper wasp nest, surface detail

The "background and context" bullet list had this remarkable fact somewhat buried: "Idaho is one of four states nationally that does not offer state-funded preschool."

Never mind that the Governor, "the State Department of Education, numerous school district administrators and other experts show that all students are not prepared for kindergarten and have gaps in reading skills," Rep. Gary Marshall insists ("obviously trying to be positive") that "the real answer [sic] is all kids are ready for kindergarten. We have to take them where they are at and do our very best."

And never mind a robust economy just now, Idaho's indefatigably anti-tax and anti-government governance has dialed up the exigency from the alpha to the omega of education in the state.

The University of Idaho is facing a shortfall of more than $20 million. The current year's budget cuts likely to be permanent, and "still might need to lay off staffers, cut salaries, impose furloughs or eliminate some academic programs."

9.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Foistered on his own putter Permalink to this item

Are you not entertained? Congressman Mark Meadows telling us "the Republicans are not struggling on anything!" It's a walk in the park. Lindsey Graham defending the administration's "policy" toward the Ukraine, as "incoherent." This is a defense, mind you. "They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo," so no crime, no foul!

The inestimable GOP diversity poster-woman Nikki Haley has served in the South Carolina legislature, been the state's Governor, and was Trump's Ambassador to the United Nations for a couple years, and here she is in the can with the "favor didn't happen" defense:

"You're gonna impeach a president for asking for a favor that didn't happen and– and giving money and it wasn't withheld? I don't know what you would impeach him on. And look, Norah, impeachment is, like, the death penalty for a public official."

Like the death penalty. Huh. John Legend, would you care to comment on that?

You seem like a very bright person. You obviously know he's not morally or intellectually fit for office. I wish you would admit it for the sake of the nation and your own credibility

— John Legend (@johnlegend) November 9, 2019

There's also the edited version from @skolanach with a laugh track added, which I can recommend.

Haley's bizarre think-piece appearance is the grown-up version of Louisiana's Rep. John Kennedy's crowd-pleasing attack on the Speaker of the House. Not sure if he was before or after the Duck Dynasty, but hello projection, John, "it must suck to be that dumb." Jack Holmes notes the reminder: Every Republican is Trump Now.

"The point is not to make arguments that your policy platform is superior to the other party's in order to win majority support. It's not even to criticize your opponents based on their political choices. If you are a Republican in the Year of Our Lord 2019, you are required to bludgeon the Enemies. Whatever you must say to do so, regardless of facts or reason or basic decency, will suffice. As a reward, you get to feel the roar of the crowd.

"Oh, and remember this the next time we hear all the whining about how people booed the president at a sporting event."

Yes oh my god the Disrespect To The Office Of The Presidency outrage, I'd almost forgotten about that because it was so two weeks ago. The indignation of Frank Luntz!

"The fact is, they should hold those fans accountable. You don't boo the president. You may disagree with him, you may think that he's not what you wanted, but you don't boo him. You show respect to him."

But anyway, where were we? Law and order? Law and order. Let's have Professor Joyce White Vance, former US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and criminal prosecutor take a whack at the Ambassador's "failed attempt at a crime" defense:

"It's bribery for a public official to 'seek' a personally valuable favor in exchange for taking official action. The crime doesn't hinge on whether the criminal is lucky enough to get away with it."

Finally, I admit it's not the most admirable human impulse, but at some point, you just want to point and laugh. Otherwise known as "A Closer Look," from Seth Myers.

Updating our agreement Permalink to this item

Google's YouTube notified me they're updating their terms of service. The outline of the changes seemed... generic, so what the heck, I took a look at what all I would be agreeing to, at https://www.youtube.com/t/terms?preview=20191210#main (The in-page jump is below the overview of changes.)

What struck me is that what prints to 6 pages (if the print isn't too fine to read) is replete with hyperlinks to other documents, included by reference. Never mind the link to the Help Center and half a dozen informative (I assume) pages under "Our Service," there are six more documents (or sets of documents) referenced in the agreement.

One of those is the Policies and Safety section, with includes their Community Guidelines, branching out into specifics for Harmful or dangerous content; Violent or graphic content policies; Violent Criminal Organizations; Hate speech policy; and the Harassment and cyberbullying policy.

Looking at that last one, I see you can watch a cheery video on the subject, which... refers you to another link for more information. Hours of fun.

7.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Top to bottom Permalink to this item

The top item in the PBS Newshour's News Wrap tonight was that the Trump Foundation was ordered to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging he funneled money from his charitable foundation to his 2016 presidential campaign. (I guess that's better than buying portraits of himself to hang on the walls of his commercial property?)

And our haplessly toadying vice president got a few seconds of airtime. "The American people have the transcript of the president's call," he said. It's the MEMORANDUM OF TELEPHONE CALL with the disclaimer that it's not a verbatim transcript, but ok.  "And they can see there was no quid pro quo and the president did nothing wrong."

That's laughably false. Everyone can see the BRIBERY and EXTORTION, which is why #impeachment has been the talk of the town since that memo was made public. The president violated his oath of office. He held up $391 million of TAXPAYER MONEY, approved by Congress and the Department of Defense to be given to Ukraine, for them to use to defend themselves against Russia invading their country.

But there was one thing the Veep said we can agree on: "What's going on in Washington, D.C., today is a disgrace."

That's what the impeachment is all about! Mike Pence shouldn't feel left out; there's plenty of evidence he was in up to his elbows on this Ukraine deal too. The president's not the only one ripe for impeachment!

While the Republicans in the Senate stand by their man, it's small comfort that they're getting fleeced by him, too: paying 3x retail for rooms at a Trump hotel. No doubt they'll figure out a way to have their donors (or taxpayers) foot the bill.

Election Day.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Intimately involved with Mr. Giuliani's efforts Permalink to this item

Lev Parnas has new lawyers, the New York Times story says, and he looks much better in a blue suit than in the mug shot. His previous lawyer was none other than John Dowd, formerly Donald Trump's personal lawyer. Dowd is still representing Igor Fruman, we're told, so that's nice. (As a "courtesy," Dowd checked with still-Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow, who said "the president consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Furman" [sic].)

Excerpt of Drew Angerer/Getty Images photo, for commentary

Not to get all conflicty or anything. What seems to have tipped Parnas over was having the president throw him under the bus, "very upset by President Trump's plainly false statement that he did not know him," his new lawyer said, as his client "has maintained that he has had extensive dealings with the president."

"Mr. Parnas hired Mr. Giuliani in 2018 to help with a venture called Fraud Guarantee. But as of early this year, their relationship had shifted: Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman began assisting Mr. Giuliani in efforts to unearth negative information in Ukraine about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, and his son Hunter.

"That work lies close to the center of the investigation by House Democrats into whether Mr. Trump oversaw a shadow diplomatic campaign intended to smear a political opponent.

"While it is not clear what documents or testimony Mr. Parnas might provide, he was intimately involved with Mr. Giuliani’s efforts. Along with Mr. Fruman, he traveled repeatedly to Ukraine in search of information about corruption involving the Bidens and pushed for the ouster of the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, whom Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani saw as hostile to the president."

The transcript of Ambassador Yovanovitch's testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on October 11 was in the first wave of make those hearings public! released by the HPSCI yesterday. On p. 41-2, she describes hearing from "one of the senior Ukrainian officials" that she "really needed to watch [her] back."

"Well, I mean, he basically said, and went into some detail, that there were two individuals from Florida, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, who were working with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had set up the meetings for Mr. Giuliani with Mr. Lutsenko. And that they were interested in having a different ambassador at post, I guess for -- because they wanted to have business dealings in Ukraine, or additional business dealings. I didn't understand that because nobody at the embassy had ever met those two individuals. And, you know, one of the biggest jobs of an American ambassador of the U.S. Embassy is to promote U.S. business. So, of course, if legitimate business comes to us, you know, that's what we do, we promote U.S. business. ..."

If it were legitimate business, it wouldn't have been so confusing, eh.

The other transcript that dropped was that of Michael McKinley, a top diplomat who advised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. His deposition was shorter, only a 156 page transcript. In amongst the "hours of mind-numbingly detailed questions about meetings and memos," there is the nut of the matter. McKinley said he personally urged Mr. Pompeo three times to issue a defense, another NYT story tells us. Urged. Three times. Whereas, our Secretary of State said in an interview last month that he "never heard" Mr. McKinley "say a single thing" about Ms. Yovanovitch's ouster.

Who are you going to believe? A career diplomat testifying under oath and penalty of perjury, or the demonstrated liar, Mike Pompeo? With hyperlinks in the original:

"At the same time, Mr. Pompeo is facing a revolt in the State Department. Confidence in his leadership has plummeted among career officials, who accuse him of abandoning veteran diplomats criticized by Mr. Trump and letting the president’s personal political agenda infect foreign policy.

"Many diplomats now contend that Mr. Pompeo has done more damage to the 75,000-person agency than even his predecessor Rex Tillerson, an aloof oil executive reviled by department employees."

Standard Time Permanent URL to this day's entry

A Crooked Man Permalink to this item

There was a crooked man, and he had some crooked friends,
They did some crooked things, and came to crooked ends;

He found a crooked lawyer, against a crooked fence,
He had some crooked sycophants, a crooked veep, Mike Pence;

He had some crooked leaders, one was Moscow Mitch,
He had a crooked smile, it had a crooked twitch;

He asked for crooked favors, to please a crooked czar,
He bent and broke so many rules, they had a crooked Barr;

He had some crooked kids, his son-in-law's a louse,
And they all worked together in a crooked snow White House.

(With apologies to Mother Goose, and this actual snake.)

Glacier NP, 2012

2.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

But in the end, this was not "ugly" Permalink to this item

In the CVI's weekly roundup (see previous item, below), "Couple spends two days in desert, man misses court hearing, goes to jail when found." With the quick take: "After walking in the desert for two days, a Boise man finally made it back to civilization to report that the woman he had been traveling with was still out in a car, where she had stayed behind after it got stuck."

This isn't the first story in Ontario, Oregon's Argus Observer to catch my eye. Sheriff: Woman safe after spending 2 days in desert with disabled car. Dateline Jordan Valley, file photo of the Malheur Co. Search and Rescue folks getting ready to go look for somebody in 2017, and a story from the vast empty corner of the intermountain west.

The dude walked in the desert for two days, "finally made it back to civilization to report that the woman he had been traveling with was still out in a car, where she had stayed behind after it got stuck." Trying to get to Jordan Craters. She didn't have "proper clothing or shoes to hike in," so it sounds like she did the right thing staying in the car, with "a little bit of water," no food, and a sleeping bag.

While her husband "walked all the way out the Owyhee Canyon" the wrong way, "then turned around and walked back," she survived, and waited. When he got out, his uncle picked him up in Jordan Valley, took him to Canyon County (Idaho, just west of us) where he was late for court, and "ended up going to jail." His estimate of where the car was was off by 20 miles. In the Owhyee desert canyonlands. The car was 4.5 miles from "the highway," "in a really rugged area," "stuck in some badger holes."

"The sheriff said the 2015 Ford Focus wasn’t even on a two-track road. At some point it had been driven off the road and out into the terrain for about a-quarter to a-half a mile."

In late October, with a cold front coming through. Ok, all that's kind of ugly. But the not-ugly part: two ranchers from Skinner Ranch flew over the area and found the car, led searchers to it, and when they got there, they found the gal just fine, a bit hungry, and thirsty.

What Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe said: "We're very happy that she was located." Even with her husband in an Idaho jail, that's good news.

Photo courtesy of Mike Allyn

Some good news and some bad news Permalink to this item

The Conservation Voters for Idaho has a weekly news roundup they label "Good, Bad and Ugly," and share stories they deem in each category. One of this week's "good" stories was that the Ada County Commissioners voted to move to clean energy; "to power county operations with 100% clean and local electric energy in 2020 and to run the county on 100% clean energy by 2045."

With Idaho Power already committed to providing 100% clean electricity by 2045, it's not clear what more the County committed to, but ok. The "clean power" list includes natural gas, so it appears that "clean" is a synonym for "not coal" (and as opposed to the mythical "clean coal" you may have heard about).

The "bad news" includes more electricity industry news, another story about Idaho Power: Rainy day for solar? Our investor-owned utility is looking to pare down how much end user-generated solar power they have to pay for, and how much they have to pay for it. There's a proposed settlement negotiated between the company, PUC staff, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association, Inc., IdaHydro, Rocky Mountain Power, Vote Solar, City of Boise, Idaho Sierra Club, Idaho Clean Energy Association, Northwest Energy Coalition, Micron Technology, Inc., Industrial Customers of Idaho Power, and Russell Schiermeier.

(Who's that last guy? Must be this Schiermeier Farms guy, in Bruneau, a fellow UI graduate in mechanical engineering, raising hay, corn, wheat straw, teff, and edible beans, and catching rays. What is teff? Eragrostis tef, aka Williams lovegrass, an annual grass with tiny, edible seeds, does well in hot, dry climates.)

Of the negotiating parties, the Idaho Conservation League, Rocky Mountain Power, Vote Solar, Northwest Energy Coalition, and Micron agreed not to oppose the agreement, but did not sign on to it, and the motion notes that the parties left a number of things for the PUC to decide: "whether existing customers taking service under [the new] Schedules 6 or 8 are covered by the terms of the Agreement, how existing customers will be defined, or whether such customers will continue to be compensated under the existing retail rate net metering structure."

Pages 7-15 of the Motion for Settlement Agreement in the stack of Idaho PUC case IPC-E-18-15 files accumulated over the last year seems to spell out the nut of it. I'd need more personal motivation than I have to read and digest all that. It does tote up the pricing various components that amount to 4.4¢/kWh on Schedule 6 (Residential Service On-Site Generation), and just under 5¢ on Schedule 8. (We pay 8 to 8.5¢/kWh, plus charges and fees here at the house.)

But then in Attachment 3 (p.37 &ff), the details of Schedule 6, it shows the "export credit rate" is 8.68¢ (along with energy charges that are like ours, "and up," if you use more than 800kWh/mo. Similarly, for Schedule 8 ("Small General Service On-Site Generation"), Idaho Power will sell at 9.74¢ and up, and buy at 10.222¢. The Magic Valley article says:

"There are a few primary changes outlined in the settlement. The first — and possibly most important change — is a switch from monthly to hourly metering. With monthly metering, homeowners can build up energy credits for all the electricity they produce, but don’t use, throughout the course of a month. Hourly metering means that a customer can't use the credits she builds up during a sunny day during the night."

The settlement doesn't resolve whether or not existing setups will be grandfathered, or what. The ICL spokesperson said “This change could drop the value of some systems by 50%.

The question that must not be answered Permalink to this item

MoveOn has a fun project: asking members of Congress that nagging question: "Do you think it's ok for the president to pressure foreign governments to interfere in our elections?" That's it. The whole question. A "yes" or "no" answer would suffice, and you know, it's a Very Easy Question, a softball. (Spoiler alert: the answer is NO.) But oddly enough, many Republicans don't seem willing to answer the question. From the halls of Congress, here's WA-5's Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers not answering, pretending to make a phone call, and waiting for private elevator to rescue her, "going down."

Greg Walden of Oregon tries the sme MEMBERS ONLY escape hatch technique, so desperate to get away that he he uses a non-members only elevator, but it's just crowded enough to let him get away.

From MoveOn video

But it's Alaska's curmudgeonly octogenarian Don Young—first elected to Congress in 1972, when Richard Nixon was re-elected—who gets the Emmy, for putting his "no comment" in the form of a head butt to the camera. Sure it was battery, but it was playful, amirite? I watched it a second time and noticed that after the head butt, Young goes back to the elevator buttons, presses DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWNDOWNDOWN as his aide says "just asking the same question over and over again is not going to get you guys anywhere."

It's getting MoveOn a ton of well-earned attention, and it helps us all to see which party wants to deflect a legitimate question about corruption at the highest level into a partisan circus.

Meanwhile, members of the Senate are working the "I am a juror" argument to justify not answering any questions. As Idaho's junior senator Jim Risch put it, "I'm a juror and I'm comfortable not speaking." The Minority Leader used a similar line, although he did add that "we should wait until we see all the facts to make a determination," a nicety I really don't expect Risch to bother with.

While many senators are dodging out of public statements, we have to give grim corruption props to those who are totally cool with having lunch at White House ("not included on the president's public schedule") to talk over the progress of investigating the president's high crimes and misdemeanors.

Senators Josh Hawley (MO), Rick Scott (FL) John Cornyn (TX), Marsha Blackburn (TN), John Barrasso (WY), Tom Cotton (AR), Patrick J. Toomey (PA), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS) joined the president, vice president, advisor and grifter-at-large Jared Kushner, WH counsel Pat "kangaroo" Cipollone, legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, and acting chief of staff and Lt. Grifter, Mick Mulvaney at the meal, "where chicken was served," appropriately enough.

1.Nov.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Print overrun Permalink to this item

The printing business margins have to be pretty thin. Low technology barriers to entry, lots of competition, and declining demand. And as I learned early on (working in a print shop at age 15), mistakes can be costly. The contractor for Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher made a whopper with their mail-merge that crossed the line from ID-01 to ID-02. 19,000 pieces of a 120,000 item press run went the wrong way. The full-color mailer with a push poll labeled as "OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SURVEY" must've run at least a buck a copy, I'd think.

Our household got one, and I blogged about it on Monday. I don't know what rate Congress gets with its frank, but the print/mail-merge shop paying unexpected retail freight will be a big bite out of profits.

Fulcher's comms director blamed the vendor, said it "has taken complete responsibility for this mistake and has reimbursed the taxpayer dollars that were associated with this error." That's blame for the maldistribution anyway. Neither the Congressman or the spox took responsibility for the skeezy push poll itself.

A ripple in the advertising space-time continuum Permalink to this item

Says here, dissent has erupted within Facebook over their stance that political ads can have as many lies as the authors want. In the disgruntled group of employees' letter they mention "targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy," and I'm...

Could there really be such people? I think it's more about confirmation bias than actual belief in trustworthiness. Because, I mean, who could actually think Donald J. Trump was trustworthy? I get all the people who think they can take advantage of being part of the corruption, but that's a slightly different angle. And what is the "Election 2020 Lockdown" they reference?

"Currently, integrity teams are working hard to give users more context on the content they see, demote violating content, and more. For the Election 2020 Lockdown, these teams made hard choices on what to support and what not to support, and [the] policy [not to reject demonstrably false political statements in advertising] will undo much of that work by undermining trust in the platform."

The letter writers want the company to first of all "Hold political ads to the same standard as other ads." The fact that there's a double standard is kind of amazing.

And they want to "restrict targeting for political ads." "Advanced targeting tools" include one named "Custom Audiences." Advertisers can "upload [publicly available] voter rolls" "and then use behavioral tracking tools (such as the FB pixel) and ad engagement to refine ads further."

"These ads are often so micro-targeted that the conversations on our platforms are much more siloed than on other platforms. Currently we restrict targeting for housing and education and credit verticals due to a history of discrimination. We should extend similar restrictions to political advertising."

The NYT story says that "Federal law mandates that broadcast networks cannot censor political ads from candidates running for office." How does that work vis a vis coercing networks to run ads? They have to respond to any paying customer? Airtime is limited. They can't decide to say sorry, no space is available for sale?

While Facebook sinks deeper into the fake news business, and demurs from the idea of reining in political advertising with false claims, Jack Dorsey's going in a different direction: just just saying NO to the whole category.  Who had that on their Money In Politics bingo card?!

Of course he announced it on his own platform. ThreadReaderApp assembles the 11-tweet/paragraph thread conveniently. His pronouncement seems ideologically pure, and a truly incredible idea in our everything-driven-by-money culture:

"A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money."

Politics... should not be compromised by money.  Politics should not be compromised by money? What a concept!  Politics should not be compromised by money! Give a jingle when they make that so.

Send in the clowns Permalink to this item

Charlie Sykes knows conservatives well enough, from the inside. I keep a good supply of grains of salt for the anti-Trump right (Bill Kristol springs to mind), but it makes interesting reading anyway. Plus, if they thought they were in the party before it went crazy, they have a personal stake in the outcome. Sykes' op-ed in USA Today, The Republican Party must choose between Donald Trump and the party's fundamental values. Précis in the subhead:

"Trump aims to discredit and delegitimize the impeachment process by turning it into a circus. But circuses need clowns. Is the GOP up for that?"

Yesterday's GOP solidarity in the House vote on the impeachment inquiry said yes, they are. (They were for having the inquiry public before they were against it.) Not to put too fine a point on it:

"A party line vote to exonerate the president irretrievably bonds the GOP to Trump’s conduct, character and ethics, and risks toxifying conservatism for a generation.

"Republicans have already abandoned the notion that character matters, jettisoned fiscal conservativism and free markets, and accepted lying as simply the price of doing business with this president. They have watched as constitutional norms have been battered and the rule of law bent to partisan advantage. ...

"The impeachment process is among the gravest responsibilities granted to Congress, by the Constitution. But Trump will demand, in effect, that the process be turned into a farce. ...

"Ultimately, the choice will rest with Republican senators, who will have to decide how they want history to remember them. Do they want to be Howard Baker? Or Lindsey Graham?

"Barry Goldwater? Or Matt Gaetz?"

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007