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Hullabaloo


Monday, April 23, 2018

 
Two Moscow nights ...

by digby




Yes, he is a reflexive pathological liar but that doesn't mean he never has a reason for lying:

Though Trump reportedly told Comey that he didn't stay overnight in the Russian city, per the director's contemporaneous memos of their private meeting, the flight records and social media posts show that Trump stayed overnight in the city at a hotel.

This development is significant because it undermines Trump's denials that the Russian government has blackmail material on him as mentioned in the Steele dossier, in the form of a video recording of him with prostitutes. The dossier's author, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, said sources told him that Trump had been videotaped with prostitutes at a hotel while he stayed overnight during the pageant.

Comey's memos of his meetings with Trump in 2017 show that the president was preoccupied with proving these claims false. He claimed it couldnt' be true because he didn't spend the night in Moscow. He even suggested that he might ask Comey to investigate the claims to show that they were untrue, but he never officially made this request.

The records clearly show, Bloomberg reports, that Trump arrived in Moscow on a Friday and didn't leave until Sunday morning.

It's possible that Trump spent not just one but two nights in the hotel on that trip. They left pre-dawn on Sunday according to the Bloomberg report but it's quite possible that he was in the room that night before he left for the airport.

As I said, he lies about everything but it's a mistake to assume every lie is just something he says without any other motivation.

.




 
Little Donnie Trump, king of the world

by digby



This story in the New Yorker about the former national security adviser H.R. McMaster illustrates why this president is something unique in our politics. He is a symptom of the Republican descent into madness but he is something different from them as well. He brings something to their toxic stew that actually transforms it in substantial ways. It's not that they are better, per se, but the challenges they present fit into a paradigm we understand and can mitigate through our common understanding o politics. This is not that:
When Trump assumed office, N.S.C. staffers initially generated memos for him that resembled those produced for his predecessors: multi-page explications of policy and strategy. But “an edict came down,” a former staffer told me: “ ‘Thin it out.’ ” The staff dutifully trimmed the memos to a single page. “But then word comes back: ‘This is still too much.’ ” A senior Trump aide explained to the staffers that the President is “a visual person,” and asked them to express points “pictorially.” 
“By the time I left, we had these cards,” the former staffer said. They are long and narrow, made of heavy stock, and emblazoned with the words “the white house” at the top. Trump receives a thick briefing book every night, but nobody harbors the illusion that he reads it. Current and former officials told me that filling out a card is the best way to raise an issue with him in writing. Everything that needs to be conveyed to the President must be boiled down, the former staffer said, to “two or three points, with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.’ ” 
Given Trump’s avowed admiration for despots, and the curious deference that he has shown Putin, his staff was worried about the March 20th phone call. Putin had recently been elected to another six-year term, but American officials did not regard the election as legitimate. Staffers were concerned that Trump might nevertheless salute Putin on his sham victory. When briefers prepared a card for the call, one of the bullet points said, in capital letters: “do not congratulate.” 
Trump also received a five-minute oral briefing from his national-security adviser, Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond McMaster, who goes by H.R. Before McMaster delivered the briefing, one of his aides said to him, “The President is going to congratulate him no matter what you say.” 
“I know,” McMaster replied. 
Trump takes pride in being impervious to the advice of experts, and he had no personal affection for his national-security adviser. McMaster, who had learned to pick his battles, chose not to raise the matter of Putin’s election. The President took the call alone in the White House residence, but McMaster was listening in on a so-called drop line. Sure enough, Trump did not read or did not heed the briefing card, and congratulated Putin.
This is different.

 .
 
Oh God. They're going to try to re-run the 2016 campaign

by digby




I wrote about the GOP's 2018 strategery for 2018 for Salon this morning:

President Trump was forced to spend fewer hours on the Mar-a-lago golf course this past week-end due to the occasion of former First Lady Barbara Bush's funeral which he had to pretend to watch on TV. (Protocol says that presidents don't attend first lady funerals in person for some reason.) He must have stayed glued to the tube because his twitter feed was on fire. He once again insisted that Former FBI James Comey had committed a crime, even suggesting that he can retroactively make any government employee who writes down something embarrassing to the president into a criminal by making the document "confidential" months later:



He also claimed he had never heard of Mr Magoo and Mr Peepers so he couldn't possibly have given those nicknames to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and said Sylvester Stallone had recently convinced him that he should pardon the famous African American boxer Jack Johnson who was unjustly convicted of taking his white girlfriend across state lines a hundred years ago. He wished the Republicans in congress "good luck" in trying to get Sessions to criminally investigate Comey and Hillary Clinton. In light of the NY Times story which revealed that Trump is known to insult his lawyer Michael Cohen and treat him like a lackey, he tweeted that he admires Cohen and doesn't expect him to succumb to pressure and "flip" which doesn't seem like something an innocent person would say. He also condemned some "drunk, drugged up loser" for saying that Cohen would turn states evidence causing millions of people to wonder to which drunk, drugged up loser in his orbit he was referring.



And there's was this:



For the record, Kim Jong Un has not agreed to "denuclearization."

And finally another of his now classic primal tweets:



These raging tweet storms have become so commonplace that it may be time to issue a warning for the kids in our country who are growing up thinking that this is normal presidential behavior. If he were the president of the 7th grade perhaps it might be but it's unlikely most 7th grade class presidents would be quite this petulant and undignified. Kids, don't try this at home.

In fact, it's not the young people we have to worry about emulating this immature ranting. It's the other Republicans running for office. According to Jeremy Peters of The New York Times, Trump has inspired GOP candidates all over the country to adopt his puerile political style for their campaigns. They're all wearing MAGA hats and saying things like "Build the wall" and "Drain the swamp" and "Lock her up!" evidently believing that if they can get a little bit of that Trump fairy dust, they'll be big winners just like him.

Peters (one hopes with tongue buried firmly in his cheek) writes that such Republicans "are channeling Mr. Trump’s belligerent and profane style of speaking, seeking to capture that essential but elusive quality that matters so much to voters these days — "authenticity." Nothing says "authentic" better than aping the behavior of another person, a person whose main claim to authenticity is a total inability to tell the truth. But they are going for it:
In Indiana, Representative Todd Rokita, a Republican candidate for Senate, proudly slaps on a red “Make America Great Again” cap in a new ad as he promises to “proudly stand with our president and Mike Pence to drain the swamp.” 
Not to be outdone, one of Mr. Rokita’s opponents, Luke Messer, tarred Mr. Rokita as “Lyin’ Todd,” an echo of Mr. Trump’s epithet for Senator Ted Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted.” Mr. Messer’s gripe? Mr. Rokita falsely claimed to have received the president’s endorsement.
Even Republican women are rolling out female versions of Trumpism on the campaign trail. In Arizona, Rep. Martha McSally, running for the Senate seat being abandoned by Jeff Flake, keeps recounting how she tells those Washington swamp-dwellers to "grow a pair of ovaries" and quotes newspaper articles that bleep her using the f-word. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running for Bob Corker's Senate seat in Tennessee, says she "stands up when President Trump walks in the room." (It's unknown if she curtsies as well.) And she wants that wall built now.

Tea Party-style candidate Chris McDaniel, who is staging a GOP primary challenge in Mississippi against newly-appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (who replaced the retiring Thad Cochran), likes to say that he was Trump before Trump was Trump. But nobody channels the president better than West Virginia's Don Blankenship, who is running to unseat Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. Blankenship truly is the most authentic Trump candidate one can imagine, and he's got a good chance to win the nomination, despite serious GOP establishment jitters. He was chairman of Massey Energy, the sixth-largest coal company in the U.S., at the time of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010, in which 29 miners were killed. He was indicted for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety and health standards, lying to authorities and securities fraud. He ended up doing a year in federal prison and was released last May. By all accounts, Blankenship is an abusive boss, a rampant polluter and a generally nasty piece of work. One of his campaign ads puts it simply:
We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary. Lock her up!
That's right: Republicans are still running against Hillary Clinton, mainly so they can thrill their voters with the prospect of putting her in an orange jumpsuit and sending her to rot in jail. That vision appears to have an electric effect on the GOP base that's even more exciting than "Build that wall!"

According to this AP article, Republican strategists are counting on the overwhelming loathing their voters still feel for Clinton and Nancy Pelosi as the key to holding their congressional majority:
“I promise you that you’ll continue to see it — Hillary Clinton starring in our paid media. She’s a very powerful motivator,” said Corry Bliss, who leads the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super political action committee ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to shape House races this fall. “It’s about what she represents. What she represents, just like what Nancy Pelosi represents, is out-of-touch far-left liberal positions.”
Sure, it's all about their "far-left" positions.

As horrifying as it sounds, it appears that the Republicans want to re-run 2016 to validate Trump's victory and endorse his political style and reckless agenda. It could be an inflection point in American history if they pull that off. Let's hope the voters prove to them once and for all that 2016 was a horrible fluke and not something that can ever be repeated.

.

 
The war  against the press

by digby



Professor Jay Rosen gave a speech this week called "The Campaign to Discredit the Press" which he shared on a long twitter thread. I thought those who don't tweet might find it interesting:
There is alive in the land an organized campaign to discredit the American press. This campaign is succeeding.

Its roots are long. For decades the Republican coalition has tried to hang together by hating on elites who claim to know things, like “what is art?” Or: “what should college students be taught?” Or: “what counts as news?”

The media wing of this history extends back to Goldwater’s campaign in 1964. It passes through Agnew’s speeches for Nixon in 1969, and winds forward to our own time through William Rusher's 1988 book, 'The Coming Battle for the Media'...

... then through the growth of conservative talk radio, and in the spectacular success of Fox, which found a lucrative business model in resentment news, culture war, and the battle cry of liberal bias.

Donald Trump is both the apotheosis of this history and its accelerant. He has advanced the proposition dramatically. From undue influence — that was Agnew’s claim — to something closer to treason: “enemy of the people.”

Instead of criticizing The Media for unfair treatment, as Agnew did, Trump whips up hatred for it. Some of his most demagogic moments have been attacks on the press, often by singling out reporters and camera crews for abuse during rallies held in an atmosphere of menace.

Nixon seethed about the press in private. Trump seethes in public, a very different act. But his transformation of right wing media complaint goes beyond these lurid performances.

It starts at the top with the President’s almost daily attacks on “the fake news,” and his description of key institutions — the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC — as both failing AND corrupt. Contempt thus has two places to settle.

At the bottom of the pyramid is an army of online trolls and alt right activists who shout down stories critical of the President, and project hatred at the journalists who report them.

Between the President at the top and the base at the bottom are the mediating institutions: Breitbart, Drudge Report, Daily Caller, Rush Limbaugh and especially Fox News.

The campaign to discredit the American press operates differently on the three major sections of the Trumpified electorate: supporters, opponents, and those who are not in either camp.

For core supporters, media hate helps frames the president as a fighter for them. “I will put these people down for you” was one of the most attractive promises Trump made during the campaign. He has delivered on that pledge.

They in turn deliver for him by categorically rejecting news reports that are critical of the President, in the belief that biased journalists are simply trying to bring their guy down.

On his committed opponents, the President’s political style “works” by inviting ridicule and attack. Their part in the script is simply to keep the culture war going via native responses to the awfulness of the Trump phenomenon.

The anger, despair and disbelief that Trump inspires in his most public doubters is felt as confirmation, and consumed as entertainment by his most committed supporters— and his trolls.

Notice how if Trump’s opponents defend the reporting of an elite institution like the New York Times — or simply make reference to it as revealed fact — that only supports his campaign to discredit the press as a merely ideological institution.

Then there’s the third group: Americans who are neither committed supporters nor determined critics of Donald Trump. On them, the campaign to discredit the press works by generating noise and confusion, raising what economists call search costs for good information.

If the neither/nors give up and are driven from the attention field, that is a win for Trump, the polarizer-in-chief. So that’s my short course in how the campaign to discredit the American press operates. Now let me turn to our subject: the risks that come with this pattern.

There is a risk that one third of the electorate — his core supporters — will be isolated in an information loop of their own, where Trump is the source of news about Trump, and independent sources are rejected on principle.

I described this as a risk, but in fact it has already happened. An authoritarian system is up and running for that portion of the polity. Another way to say it: Before journalists log on in the morning, one third of their public is already gone.

There is a risk that Republican elites will fail to push back against Trump’s attacks on democratic institutions, including the press, even though these same elites start their day by reading the New York Times and Washington Post. This too has already happened.

There is a risk that journalists could do their job brilliantly, and it won’t really matter, because Trump supporters categorically reject it, Trump opponents already believed it, and the neither-nors aren’t paying close enough attention.

In a different way, there is a risk that journalists could succeed at the production of great journalism and fail at its distribution, because the platforms created by the tech industry have overtaken the task of organizing public attention.

There is a risk that the press will lose touch with the country, fall out of contact with the culture. Newsroom diversity is supposed to prevent that, but the diversity project has been undermined by a longer and deeper project, which I have called the View from Nowhere.

The press is at risk of losing its institutional footing. For example: In the hands of Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders, the White House briefing has gone to ruin. It was always frustrating, now it’s useless and frequently counter-productive.

Many floors below the surface of journalism there are bedrock attitudes that make the practice possible— and thinkable. There is a risk of erosion there. One example is the shared belief that there exists a common world of fact that can be established through inquiry...

When the President of the United States forcefully rejects the premise of a common world of fact, and behaves like there is no such thing, any practice resting upon that premise is in political trouble. This has happened to journalism. No one knows what to do about it.

Used to be that when the American president went abroad, the press came with. There would be a joint press conference with the foreign head of state. Under authoritarian regimes this would often be the only time the host country’s press corps got to question their own leader.

In these moments, the American government and the American press came together to show the strongmen of the world what a real democracy was. All that is now at risk. What was once described — yes, with some hyperbole — as a beacon to the world is flickering...

When Donald Trump met the president Xi Jinping of China in November of 2017 there was no joint press conference. The Chinese didn’t want it. The State Department failed to press for it.

There is a risk that established forms of journalism will be unable to handle the strain that Trump’s behavior puts upon them. For example: the form we came to call fact checking has had zero effect in preventing him from repeating falsehoods.

There is a risk that journalists will hang onto these forms way past their sell-by date because it’s what they know. They want things to be normal. Access to confusion and disinformation serves no editorial goal, but “access journalism” remains basic to White House reporting.

I will close with something Steve Bannon put to the author Michael Lewis in February of this year. "The Democrats don't matter,” Bannon said. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit."

To this kind of provocation (“The real opposition is the media...") Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post, has a succinct reply: “We’re not at war, we’re at work.”

I think our leading journalists are correct that if they become the political opposition to Trump, they will lose. And yet they have to go to war against a political style in which power gets to write its own story. There's a risk that journalists will fail to draw this distinction: between opposing Trump and opposing a political style that erodes their place in the public sphere. In my role as a critic, I have been trying to alert them to that danger. So far it is not working.
Good morning. That was uplifting wasn't it?

He's right. And none of this is to say that the media is immune to criticism or that people cannot complain about coverage. That's as American as apple pie. But this ugly, extreme hostility we see under Trump along with the propaganda and "fake news" is something different.  Maybe it will peter out. Let's hope so because if it doesn't it's going to escalate into something we don't recognize.

.
 

‘Rapture to begin TODAY.’ Or not.

by Tom Sullivan

All Donald Trump's troubles are over. And you can go back to sleep. Pray to God they don't talk it up this morning on "Fox and Friends." The end is here:

The world will cease to exist on April 23 according to a prediction that has some preparing for the worst, some yawning and others laughing.

The warning about an upcoming rapture from numerologist David Meade is the latest prophecy about the arrival of the apocalypse.

According to Meade, codes in the Bible suggest the end of the world is imminent.
Or not:
The guy who said the world as we know it would come to an end on Monday says we still have some time.

Christian conspiracy theorist David Meade sent believers into a spiral recently when he declared that the rapture was coming on Monday, April 23, but now he's calling those reports "fake news." Meade, who has wrongfully predicted the end of time before, told The Guardian that Jesus is coming to take some of us back up to heaven with him somewhere between May and December.

But it will no longer be the end of the world when this happens, he said, just seven years "tribulation," followed by 1,000 years of "peace and prosperity." Then the world will cease to exist.
Just as long as Jesus returns and catches up Trump's faithful into the air before early voting starts in October.

Fox News offers this: "Experts advise against selling all your belongings, going off your diet, ending training for that half-marathon next month, and quitting your job."

If I recall, there is/was some controversy over the timing of Jesus' return and the Rapture. There are those who say he comes back with the Rapture, followed by seven years of tribulation for those who remain. Others say he comes back in the middle of it. Still others say Jesus comes back to rescue Christians at the end of the seven years of tribulation, followed by a millennia of peace under his reign, then the end of the world.

Asked where he stood on the question of a pre-trib, mid-trib, or a post-trib Rapture, I once heard a sassy preacher declare himself a pan-millennialist because he figured it would all pan out in the end.

In evangelical circles that counts as wit.

* * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

 
A big scoop from Fake Business News:

by digby




They are ON it:

Investigators inside the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller reacted with a mixture of skepticism and laughter at Rudy Giuliani’s claim that he will negotiate a swift end to Mueller’s probe of President Donald Trump and his alleged involvement in possible Russian election meddling and obstruction of justice, FOX Business has learned.

Uuuuh, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that they just made that up. Or, if you prefer, "this is Fake News."

Mueller's office doesn't leak and they certainly don't leak this palace intrigue gossip. I think it's becoming reflexive at this point.

.

 
The Deplorable 37%

by digby





You want to see evidence of Trumpism being normalized? Here it is.

Fifty-one percent of Missourians disapprove of embattled Gov. Eric Greitens' job performance, according to a new poll, and he maintains a 37 percent approval rating.

The survey released Saturday by the Missouri Scout news service showed support for the governor riding along party lines: 57 percent of Republicans approve of the job Greitens is doing, while only 12 percent of Democrats approve.

The first-term governor received 31 percent approval among Missourians who did not cite a party preference.

The poll of 1,542 likely voters was taken Wednesday and Thursday.

On Friday, Greitens was charged with felony computer tampering after a state attorney general's investigation into the Greitens 2016 campaign's use of a donor list to a veterans charity he founded. Earlier this year, a St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens on a felony charge stemming from a photo he allegedly took of a partially nude woman with whom he was having an affair.
[The woman also claims the photo was coerced and she was blackmailed into staying quiet.]

Maintaining his innocence on both matters, Greitens on Friday accused Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner of trying to smear him.

In a Pulse Opinion Research poll released in early March, 53 percent of Missourians said they had an "unfavorable opinion" of Greitens and 46 percent said he should resign.

Fifty percent of Missourians said they approved of President Donald Trump's job performance, and 44 percent said they disapproved.

I'm sorry, there is a sizeable minority in this country who now openly prefer leaders who are racist, corrupt, sexual assaulting criminals. And it hasn't got a goddamned thing to do with economics.


.

 
Stormy's secret

by digby





I've been wondering about this from the beginning:

On March 22, mere days before his client Stormy Daniels’ hotly anticipated 60 Minutes interview was set to air, attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted out a cryptic message, accompanied by an even more puzzling photo:

"If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” how many words is this worth?????#60minutes #pleasedenyit #basta"





Daniels, of course, is a renowned porn star who was paid $130,000 by President Donald Trump’s longtime attorney/fixer Michael Cohen to stay silent about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2011, months after first lady Melania Trump gave birth to their son, Barron. In addition to the payoff, Daniels has subsequently claimed her life was threatened by a mystery man acting on behalf of Trump or Cohen. (The president has denied knowing about the payment.)

He’s since called the Twitter missive a “warning shot” to Trump—a sentiment he echoed on Friday night’s episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

During the “Overtime” segment, which only airs online, Avenatti was asked if he’d ever “release the contents of the warning-shot disc of evidence you tweeted about.”

“Possibly. It depends how the case progresses,” he replied.

Maher then pressed, “What’s on it?”

“Well, we took that picture and we tweeted it out and it was exactly that—it was a warning shot to Michael Cohen and the president that if they tried to claim that my client was a liar after 60 Minutes there was gonna be consequences, and it worked, and it worked perfectly because we heard nothing from them,” said Avenatti.”

I have no idea what they may have, if anything. But it is very telling that Trump apparently thinks they might have something. If I had to guess he probably thinks they have audio recordings of something incriminating. And we know his lame little fixer liked to record things.

Bu who knows? Avenatti is a canny player and it could be a bluff. But it sure seems that Trump is worried about something...

.


 
Trump's Red Line is disintegrating

by digby





This is an important op-ed from Peter Fritsch and Glenn R. Simpson, founders of the research firm Fusion GPS:

Put aside Russian collusion for a moment. Press pause on possible presidential obstruction of justice. Forget Stormy Daniels. The most significant recent development involving the president may be that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has subpoenaed Trump Organization business records as part of his inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election.

Those documents — and records recently seized by the F.B.I. from the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen — might answer a question raised by the president’s critics: Have certain real estate investors used Trump-branded properties to launder the proceeds of criminal activity around the world?

We pored over Donald Trump’s business records for well over a year, at least those records you can get without a badge or a subpoena. We also hired a former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, to look into Mr. Trump’s possible ties to Russia. In that 2015-2016 investigation, sponsored first by a Republican client and then by Democrats, we found strong indications that companies affiliated with Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, might have been entangled in foreign corruption.

string of bankruptcies in the 1990s and 2000s may have left Mr. Trump’s companies largely unable to tap traditional sources of financing. That could have forced him to look elsewhere for financing and partners at a time when money was pouring out of the former Soviet Union.

Indeed, from New York to Florida, Panama to Azerbaijan, we found that Trump projects have relied heavily on foreign cash — including from wealthy individuals from Russia and elsewhere with questionable, and even criminal, backgrounds. We saw money traveling through offshore shell companies, entities often used to obscure ownership. Many news organizations have since dug deeply into the Trump Organization’s projects and come away with similar findings.

This reporting has not uncovered conclusive evidence that the Trump Organization or its principals knowingly abetted criminal activity. And it’s not reasonable to expect the company to keep track of every condo buyer in a Trump-branded building. But Mr. Trump’s company routinely teamed up with individuals whose backgrounds should have raised red flags.

Consider the Bayrock Group, a developer that once had lavish offices in Trump Tower. The firm worked with Mr. Trump in the mid-2000s to build the Trump SoHo in Lower Manhattan, among other troubled projects. One of its principals was a Russian émigré, Felix Sater, linked to organized crime who served time for felony assault and who later pleaded guilty to racketeering involving a $40 million stock fraud scheme.

Belgian authorities accused a Kazakh financier recruited by Bayrock of carrying out a $55 million money-laundering scheme (that case was settled without an admission of guilt). Civil suits filed in Los Angeles and New York allege that a former mayor of the largest city in Kazakhstan and several of his family members laundered millions in stolen public funds, investing some of it in real estate, including units in Trump SoHo. (The family has denied wrongdoing and says it is the victim of political persecution.)

Then there is Sunny Isles Beach, where over 60 individuals with Russian passports or addresses bought nearly $100 million worth of units in Trump-branded condominium towers in a part of South Florida known as Little Moscow. Among them were Russian government officials who made million-dollar investments and a Ukrainian owner of two units who pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of stolen property in a money-laundering scheme involving a former Ukrainian prime minister.ut half of his Trump condos to Russians, including some connected to the Russian mafia.

In 2006, the sale of condos in the first international hotel venture under the Trump brand, the former Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama, fell, in large part, to a Brazilian named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira. He worked with a Colombian who was later convicted of money laundering. Mr. Nogueira told NBC News last year that he sold about half of his Trump condos to Russians, including some connected to the Russian mafia, and that some of his clients had “questionable backgrounds.”

Three years later, as Reuters has reported, Panamanian authorities arrested Mr. Nogueira on charges of fraud and forgery unrelated to the Trump project. After getting out on bail, he fled to Brazil, where he faces a separate money-laundering investigation. In 2014,he fled Brazil, too.
[...]
The Trump Organization has said that it conducted an extensive due-diligence review of Anar Mammadov and that questions about the source of his wealth surfaced after they signed the deal. Presumably, Mr. Mueller will want to see evidence of that.

In Vancouver, the Trump Organization partnered with the son of Tony Tiah Thee Kian, a Malaysian oligarch who was convicted of providing a false report to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange. That project, which was guided by Ivanka Trump and is one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Mr. Trump took office, is now the subject of an F.B.I. counterintelligence inquiry, according to CNN. Mr. Garten, the Trump chief legal officer, told CNN: “The company’s role was and is limited to licensing its brand and managing the hotel. Accordingly, the company would have had no involvement in the financing of the project or the sale of units.”

It remains unclear whether Mr. Mueller will investigate these deals, or already is. But a comprehensive investigation could raise questions about the Trump Organization’s compliance with anti-money-laundering laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which — according to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice — makes it a crime for a United States company to act with willful blindness toward the corrupt activities of a foreign business partner.

The former Donald Trump insider Steve Bannon has hinted darkly about the Trump family’s exposure to money laundering. And Mr. Mueller has already secured the indictment of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, on charges of money laundering related to his work in Ukraine. Federal prosecutors are reported to be looking into Jared Kushner’s family firm over its use of a federal program that offered wealthy Chinese investors visas in return for investments. Kushner Companies has denied any wrongdoing.

The Trump family’s business entanglements are of more than historical significance. Americans need to be sure that major foreign policy decisions are made in the national interest — not because of foreign ties forged by the president’s business ventures.
Honestly, I don't think Trump's voters care at all whether he's making foreign policy decisions on behalf of his companies. He could sell Yellowstone Park to Rodrigo Duterte to pay off a debt and they'd be fine with it. He is the state and the state is him.

These are the same people who have wrapped themselves in the flag and made a fetish of patriotism for decades.They have obviously always been phonies.

Don't be too surprised if nothing comes of this. It is hard to track and prosecute and the political pressures to be extremely cautious are immense. He may very well get away with it.

Update:

President Donald Trump’s legislative affairs director said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller has moved outside the sphere of his original investigation into election meddling — and declined to rule out the possibility of Trump firing him.

“We believe the scope has gone well beyond what was intended to be Russian meddling in the election,” Marc Short said on “Meet the Press” on NBC.

Short declined to rule out Trump firing Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, saying: “We don't know how far off the investigation is going to veer.”


 
Has KellyAnne heard of Martha Mitchell?

by digby







“What is up with your husband’s tweets?” Bash asked, before reading off a few of them.

“It’s fascinating to me that CNN would go there, but it’s very good for the whole world to have just witnessed that it’s now fair game… how people’s spouses and significant others may differ with them,” Conway shot back. “That should really be fun.”

Bash informed the Trump adviser that she would have asked the same question if Conway was a man.

“No you wouldn’t,” Conway shot back

Conway then accused Bash of asking a question “meant to harass and embarrass,” and claimed it was possible for spouses have different opinions. She then took another jab at CNN, saying the network just had a “cross the Rubicon moment.”


I think this is a calibrated move by the Conways to preserve their Villager status despite her clear cut abdication of everything anyone could have ever called decency. They're signaling that they "know" he's a criminal and a cretin but she's just doing to the job because someone has to.

As for the sexism, has she heard of Martha Mitchell? They threw her into a psychiatric hospital when she went against the regime. Now that was sexism. Also courage which George and KellyAnne have very little of. They want it both ways.



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On Earth Day, just one word

by Tom Sullivan

Besides alarming data about the rapidity of melting in Greenland and Antarctica, and the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic, Vox has a rundown of some significant environmental stories, both hopeful and not, you may have missed since last year. But Vox begins with a problem thought larger now than a year ago.

Punctuating the moment is the dead sperm whale that washed ashore in southern Spain last week with 64 pounds of garbage in its stomach. Most of it plastic, but also rope, netting and other junk.

Vox explains:

The plastic crisis is a truly global one, and the numbers are staggering: A 2015 study found that between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic makes it into the ocean from land each year. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight.

Since plastic is synthetic, there are few natural processes that break it down, allowing bags, straws, and packaging to linger for decades if not centuries. And we’re not very good at containing it to landfills. About 32 percent of plastics make out into nature, where it often end up in the bellies of fish, birds, and whales. And, as it turns out, potentially in our stomachs too.
The New Republic adds:
This threat demands the type of aggressive action that only certain groups and countries are taking. After the dead sperm whale was discovered in Spain, the government launched a widespread awareness and cleanup campaign. Canada is using its presidency of the G-7 this year to push for international action on plastic pollution. In America, nearly 2,000 restaurants and organizations have banned straws or implemented a straws-only-upon-request policy, according to a July report in The Washington Post.
Cleanup will take more than banning plastic straws, staff writer Emily Atkin found at a pre-screening of the final episode of BBC’s Blue Planet II. It's focus was not about damage to undersea life:
It was about the vast damage humans are doing to the ocean. In one scene, a scientist comes upon the bloody carcass of an Albatross chick whose stomach was punctured by a toothpick. “Something as small as that has managed to kill the bird,” she said. “It’s really sad to see.” Later, the episode documented the story of a baby dolphin, discovered dead after drinking her own mother’s milk. Her milk, researchers found, was contaminated with microplastics.

Four years ago, the Guardian called microplastics "the biggest environmental problem you've never heard of." Mary Catherine O'Connor, co-founder of Climate Confidential, wrote:

Ecologist Mark Browne knew he’d found something big when, after months of tediously examining sediment along shorelines around the world, he noticed something no one had predicted: fibers. Everywhere. They were tiny and synthetic and he was finding them in the greatest concentration near sewage outflows. In other words, they were coming from us.

In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing.

It is not news that microplastic – which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines as plastic fragments 5mm or smaller – is ubiquitous in all five major ocean gyres. And numerous studies have shown that small organisms readily ingest microplastics, introducing toxic pollutants to the food chain.
They also find their way into drinking water. Browne laundered a polyester fleece jacket through the wash and filtered 1,900 fibers from the wastewater (this writer types, looking over at the one hanging on the back of the door). In 2015, Patagonia commissioned a study:
The study, performed by graduate students at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that during laundering, a single fleece jacket sheds as many as 250,000 synthetic fibers—significantly more than the 1,900 fibers Browne first recorded. Based on an estimate of consumers across the world laundering 100,000 Patagonia jackets each year, the amount of fibers being released into public waterways is equivalent to the amount of plastic in up to 11,900 grocery bags.
Keeping us all living in the style to which we have become accustomed is seriously fouling the only habitable planet we have. Vox reports that researchers have discovered a batch of seven Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of dwarf star Trappist-1. MEarth Project found another Earth-like planet, LHS1140b, orbiting a nearby star a fifth the size of our own. But, "Trappist-1 is 40 light-years (12 parsecs) away from us. LHS1140b is also about 40 light years off. It would take eons to get there." So let's not foul the planet we have in the hand for one somewhere in the cosmic bush. Humans might need it a few years longer. The wildlife, longer still.

Google's Earth Day 2018 doodle is a video featuring a well-regarded fan of wildlife, ethologist, conservationist, and activist, Jane Goodall:

"Every single individual matters. Every single individual makes some impact on the planet every single day," Goodall believes. "And we have a choice as to what kind of difference we are going to make."

We don't have an alternative planet, but we do have a few alternatives right here, including alternatives this November to the people currently misleading us.

* * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

 
Saturday Night at the Movies

Stealing the sun from the day: Top 10 Eco-Flicks

By Dennis Hartley



Come on you world, won’t you give a damn?
Turn on some lights and see this garbage can
Time is the essence if we plan to stay
Death is in stride when filth is the pride of our home


-from “Powerful People” by Gino Vanelli

It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 50th anniversary of humankind’s first collective selfie…the “Earthrise” photo from the Apollo 8 mission. It may seem “ho-hum” now, but it provided a profound moment of “cosmic perspective” (if I borrow one of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s favorite phrases) for anyone in the world who gave a damn.

The iconic portrait was taken on Christmas Eve, 1968 by Apollo 8 crew member Major William A. Anders. The story behind the photo is recounted on NASA’s official website:
Anders said their job was not to look at the Earth, but to simulate a lunar mission. It was not until things had calmed down and they were on their way to the moon that they actually got to look back and take a picture of the Earth as they had left it.

"That's when I was thinking 'that's a pretty place down there,'" Anders said. "It hadn't quite sunk in like the Earthrise picture did, because the Earthrise had the Earth contrasted with this ugly lunar surface.”

Anders described the view of Earth before Earthrise "kind of like the classroom globe sitting on a teacher's desk, but no country divisions. It was about 25,000 miles away where you could still recognize continents."
Yes, that is a “pretty place down there.” Be a shame if anything happened to it:
The Trump administration’s tumultuous first year has brought a flurry of changes—both realized and anticipated—to U.S. environmental policy. Many of the actions roll back Obama-era policies that aimed to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution, while others threaten to limit federal funding for science and the environment.

It’s a lot to keep track of, so National Geographic will be maintaining an abbreviated timeline of the Trump administration’s environmental actions and policy changes, as well as reactions to them. We will update this article periodically as news develops.
Needless to say, many “updates” follow that intro (the most recent one is from April 6, and there will be more to come). Bookmark the link, if you dare (sick bag on standby).

So…are you doing anything special for Earth Day (April 22)? It almost seems counter-productive to have a once-a-year Earth “day”, because when you stop to think about it for about 5 seconds, shouldn’t every day be “earth day”? It sort of devalues the importance of taking care of our planet (since we appear to have only been issued the one “pretty place”, best to my knowledge). At any rate, in honor of Earth Day, here are my picks for the Top 10 “eco-flicks”. Per usual, my list is alphabetical; no ranking order. As long as you don’t print out a hardcopy, this week’s post is 100% biodegradable (it’s a com-post!).



Chasing Ice- Jeff Orlowski’s film is glacially paced; meaning: these days, “glacial pacing” ain’t what it used to be. Glaciers are moving along (”retreating”, technically) at a pretty good clip. This does not portend well for the planet. To put it in a less flowery way…we’re fucked. After all, according to renowned nature photographer (and subject of Orlowski’s film) James Balog, “The story…is in the ice.”

Balog’s fascinating journey began in 2005, while he was on an assignment in the Arctic for National Geographic to document the effect of climate change. Up until that fateful trip, he candidly admits he “…didn’t think humans were capable” of having an effect on weather patterns in such a profound manner. His epiphany gave birth to a multi-year project utilizing specially modified time-lapse cameras to capture irrefutable proof that the tangible effects of global warming had transcended academic speculation.

The resulting images are beautiful and mesmerizing, yet troubling. Orlowski’s film itself mirrors the dichotomy, being in equal parts cautionary eco-doc and art installation. The images handily trump the squawking that emits from bloviating global climate deniers in the opening montage, and proves a picture is worth 1000 words.




Emerald Forest [Blu-ray]- Although it may give an initial impression as a heavy-handed (if well-meaning) “save the rain forest” polemic, John Boorman’s underrated 1985 adventure (a cross between The Searchers and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan) goes much deeper.

Powers Boothe plays an American construction engineer working on a dam project in Brazil. One day, while his wife and young son are visiting him at his job site on the edge of the rain forest, the boy is abducted and adopted by an indigenous tribe who call themselves “The Invisible People”, touching off an obsessive decade-long search by the father. By the time he is finally reunited with his barely recognizable, now-teenage son (Charley Boorman), the challenge becomes a matter of how he and his heartbroken wife (Meg Foster) are going to coax the reluctant young man back into “civilization”. Tautly directed, lushly photographed and well-acted.



Godzilla Vs. Hedorah-I know what you’re thinking: there’s no accounting for some people’s tastes. But who ever said an environmental “message” movie couldn’t also provide mindless, guilty fun? Let’s have a little action. Knock over a few buildings. Wreak havoc. Crash a wild party on the rim of a volcano with some Japanese flower children. Besides, Godzilla is on our side for a change. Watch him valiantly battle Hedora, a sludge-oozing toxic avenger out to make mankind collectively suck on his grody tailpipe. And you haven’t lived until you’ve heard “Save the Earth”-my vote for “best worst” song ever from a film (much less a monster movie!).



An Inconvenient Truth- I re-watched this recently; I hadn’t seen it since it opened in 2006, and it struck me how it now plays less like a warning bell and more like the nightly news. It’s the end of the world as we know it. Apocalyptic sci-fi is now scientific fact. Former VP/Nobel winner Al Gore is a Power Point-packing Rod Serling, submitting a gallery of nightmare nature scenarios for our disapproval. I’m tempted to say that Gore and director Davis Guggenheim’s chilling look at the results of unchecked global warming only reveals the tip of the iceberg…but it’s melting too fast.



The Qatsi Trilogy - In 1982, this innovative, genre-defying film quietly made its way around the art houses; it’s now a cult favorite. Directed by activist/ex-Christian monk Godfrey Reggio, with beautiful cinematography by Ron Fricke (who later directed Chronos, Baraka, and Samsara) and music by Philip Glass (who also scored Reggio’s sequels), it was considered a transcendent experience by some; New Age hokum by others (count me as a fan).

The title (from ancient Hopi) translates as “life out of balance” The narrative-free imagery, running the gamut from natural vistas to scenes of First World urban decay, is open for interpretation. Reggio followed up in 1988 with Powaqqatsi (“parasitic way of life”), focusing on the First World’s drain on Third World resources, then book-ended his trilogy with Naqoyqatsi (“life as war”).



Manufactured Landscapes -A unique eco-documentary from Jennifer Baichwal about photographer Edward Burtynsky, who is an “earth diarist” of sorts. While his photographs are striking, they don’t paint a pretty picture of our fragile planet. Burtynsky’s eye discerns a terrible beauty in the wake of the profound and irreversible human imprint incurred by accelerated modernization. As captured by Burtynsky’s camera, strip-mined vistas recall the stark desolation of NASA photos sent from the Martian surface; mountains of “e-waste” dumped in a vast Chinese landfill take on an almost gothic, cyber-punk dreamscape. The photographs play like a scroll through Google Earth images, as reinterpreted by Jackson Pollock. An eye-opener.



Princess Mononoke - Anime master Hayao Miyazaki and his cohorts at Studio Ghibli have raised the bar on the art form over the past several decades. This 1997 Ghibli production is one of their most visually resplendent. Perhaps not as “kid-friendly” as per usual, but many of the usual Miyazaki themes are present: humanism, white magic, beneficent forest gods, female empowerment, and pacifist angst in a violent world. The lovely score is by frequent Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi. For another Miyazaki film with an environmental message, check out Nausicaa Valley of the Wind..



Queen Of The Sun- I never thought that a documentary about honeybees would make me laugh and cry-but Taggart Siegel’s 2010 film did just that. Appearing at first to be a distressing examination of Colony Collapse Syndrome, a phenomenon that has puzzled and dismayed beekeepers and scientists alike with its increasing frequency over the past few decades, the film becomes a sometimes joyous, sometimes humbling meditation on how essential these tiny yet complex social creatures are to the planet’s life cycle. Humans may harbor a pretty high opinion of our own place on the evolutionary ladder, but Siegel lays out a convincing case which proves that these busy little creatures are, in fact, the boss of us.



Silent Running - In space, no one can hear you trimming the verge! Bruce Dern is an agrarian antihero in this 1972 sci-fi adventure, directed by legendary special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull. Produced around the time “ecology” was a buzzword, its message may seem a little heavy-handed today, but the film remains a cult favorite.

Dern is the gardener on a commercial space freighter that houses several bio-domes, each dedicated to preserving a species of vegetation (in this bleak future, the Earth is barren of organic growth). While it’s a 9 to 5 drudge gig to his blue collar shipmates, Dern sees his cultivating duties as a sacred mission. When the interests of commerce demand the crew jettison the domes to make room for more lucrative cargo, Dern goes off his nut, eventually ending up alone with two salvaged bio-domes and a trio of droids (Huey, Dewey and Louie!) who play Man Friday to his Robinson Crusoe. Joan Baez contributes two songs on the soundtrack.



Soylent Green - Based on a Harry Harrison novel, Richard Fleischer’s 1973 film is set in 2022, when traditional culinary fare is but a dim memory, due to overpopulation and environmental depletion. Only the wealthy can afford the odd tomato or stalk of celery; most of the U.S. population lives on processed “Soylent Corporation” product. The government encourages the sick and the elderly to politely move out of the way by providing handy suicide assistance centers (considering the current state of our Social Security system, that doesn’t sound like much of a stretch anymore, does it?).

Oh-there is some ham served up onscreen, courtesy of Charlton Heston’s scenery-chewing turn as a NYC cop who is investigating the murder of a Soylent Corporation executive. Edward G. Robinson’s moving death scene has added poignancy; as it preceded his passing (from cancer) by less than two weeks after the production wrapped.

…and singing us out, Gino Vanelli:





Previous posts with related themes:

Bill Nye, Science Guy (Debuted on PBS this week-check your listings for rebroadcasts!)

More reviews at Den of Cinema
On Facebook
On Twitter


--Dennis Hartley
 
Dispatch from reality: no things are not normal

by digby




I keep hearing that there's nothing to worry about, that Trump and the Republicans are full of hot air and that they are really no worse than Republicans have always been, just a little bit more flamboyant and they might tweet a little too much.

Sure thing:

He has a reputation as a principled lawyer. He has worked for both Republican and Democratic attorneys general. He has a jugular instinct in courtroom battles but a distaste for political ones.

Now Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is confronting the political fight of his career. Amid sustained criticism by President Trump and rumors that he will be fired, Mr. Rosenstein is also maneuvering to defuse demands by Republicans in Congress that Democrats say are aimed at ousting him from his job — and from his role as protector of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

So far, he appears to be succeeding. But in trying to deflect those attacks, some say, Mr. Rosenstein has risked eroding the Justice Department’s historic independence from political meddling. The consequences could persist long after he and the rest of the Trump administration are out of power.

A small but influential group of House Republicans has demanded greater access to sensitive documents related to some of the F.B.I.’s most politically charged investigations into the Trump campaign and Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified emails. Should Mr. Rosenstein fail to comply, they have threatened to subpoena him, hold him in contempt of Congress or even impeach him.

The Republicans complain that Mr. Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials have slow-walked or outright stonewalled their requests for reams of documents and other information they need to conduct oversight. When they do receive documents, they say, too many are showing up with critical content blacked out.

“This is serious stuff,” said Representative Jim Jordan, a conservative Ohio Republican allied with Mr. Trump who voiced his complaints in a recent meeting with Mr. Rosenstein. “We as a separate and equal branch of government are entitled to get the information.”

If I might just take a moment to remind you who Jim Jordan is:



Mr. Rosenstein, 53, has staved off his attackers on Capitol Hill largely by appeasing them. Two weeks ago, he allowed key Republican legislators to review an almost completely unredacted F.B.I. memo on the opening of a still active investigation of the Trump campaign, a rare step. He later summoned two other Republicans, Mr. Jordan and Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, to his office to pledge that the Justice Department would be more responsive to their requests.

And on Thursday, threatened with a subpoena, he gave a relatively large group of lawmakers access to memos written by the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey about his interactions with Mr. Trump. The documents are considered to be important evidence in a potential obstruction of justice case against the president being weighed by Mr. Mueller.

But still other Republican demands remain unmet, and Democrats have warned that Mr. Rosenstein is being boxed into a corner where he has to choose between saving his job and setting disturbing precedents that chip away at the independence that the Justice Department has maintained since President Richard M. Nixon tried to thwart the Watergate investigation. “That independence keeps the country from sliding into a banana republic,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
[...]
Resolving such dilemmas is but one of the challenges Mr. Rosenstein faces. Mr. Trump claimed this month, without offering evidence, that he suffers from conflicts of interest and has criticized him for signing a warrant application to eavesdrop on a former Trump campaign aide. Every week seems to bring a new rumor that Mr. Trump plans to fire Mr. Rosenstein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr. Mueller or all three.
What could go wrong? A lot. You give them an inch they will take a mile:
In an interview this month on Fox News, Mr. Nunes threatened to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt or even impeach him if he failed to turn over the complete copy of the F.B.I. memo justifying the initiation of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. Mr. Rosenstein called him to the Justice Department and gave him and other Intelligence Committee members access the next day to a version of the memo that satisfied their concerns.

In a separate request, Mr. Goodlatte and others have issued a subpoena for hundreds of thousands of documents — an extraordinary number even for Congress — related to the Clinton inquiry, the firing of the F.B.I.’s former deputy director and other matters. When the lawmakers began complaining that the documents were coming slowly and with too much content blacked out, the Justice Department appointed a United States attorney in Illinois to oversee document review and production. The F.B.I. doubled the number of employees working on responses to a request for materials the Justice Department’s inspector general was using to 54 people working two shifts a day, from 8 a.m. to midnight.

But some Republicans are still unsatisfied and have said a contempt citation or even impeachment — exceedingly rare steps that would require votes in the House — are still possibilities. Democrats fear that, taken together, the Republican requests are meant to offer Mr. Trump cover or even cause to fire Mr. Rosenstein.

In a meeting with Mr. Rosenstein in recent days, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Meadows tried to impress upon him that they needed the documents they sought. Otherwise, Mr. Meadows said later, lawmakers would be left with no choice but to begin building a case to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt of Congress or to try to impeach him.

“Contempt is obviously still on the horizon,” Mr. Meadows said, “if there is not a substantial change.”
These are the crazies. The Freedom Caucus. And they are leading the GOP band behind that freakshow in the White House. People say that we should all relax and be happy knowing that nothing bad can come of a bunch of lunatics strong-arming the Department of Justice in order to protect their criminal president and punish his political enemies because they haven't succeeded yet in doing anything but stealing some elections. For some reason I don't find that comforting.

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Awash in BS 24/7

by digby


Is Facebook a malevolent new force for evil in this world? Yeah, actually it is:

Past the end of a remote mountain road, down a rutted dirt track, in a concrete house that lacked running water but bristled with smartphones, 13 members of an extended family were glued to Facebook. And they were furious.

A family member, a truck driver, had died after a beating the month before. It was a traffic dispute that had turned violent, the authorities said. But on Facebook, rumors swirled that his assailants were part of a Muslim plot to wipe out the country’s Buddhist majority.

“We don’t want to look at it because it’s so painful,” H.M. Lal, a cousin of the victim, said as family members nodded. “But in our hearts there is a desire for revenge that has built.”

The rumors, they believed, were true. Still, the family, which is Buddhist, did not join in when Sinhalese-language Facebook groups, goaded on by extremists with wide followings on the platform, planned attacks on Muslims, burning a man to death.

But they had shared and could recite the viral Facebook memes constructing an alternate reality of nefarious Muslim plots. Mr. Lal called them “the embers beneath the ashes” of Sinhalese anger.

We came to this house to try to understand the forces of social disruption that have followed Facebook’s rapid expansion in the developing world, whose markets represent the company’s financial future. For months, we had been tracking riots and lynchings around the world linked to misinformation and hate speech on Facebook, which pushes whatever content keeps users on the site longest — a potentially damaging practice in countries with weak institutions.

Time and again, communal hatreds overrun the newsfeed — the primary portal for news and information for many users — unchecked as local media are displaced by Facebook and governments find themselves with little leverage over the company. Some users, energized by hate speech and misinformation, plot real-world attacks.

A reconstruction of Sri Lanka’s descent into violence, based on interviews with officials, victims and ordinary users caught up in online anger, found that Facebook’s newsfeed played a central role in nearly every step from rumor to killing. Facebook officials, they say, ignored repeated warnings of the potential for violence, resisting pressure to hire moderators or establish emergency points of contact.


I don't know why people believe everything they read on Facebook but apparently a lot of them do. I get that there's confirmation bias and information bubbles and tribalism. I get it. But there are always people who see through this stuff with strong bullshit detectors too. I think a lot of people are just looking for permission to be violent.

And it isn't just Facebook. It turns out that Youtube's algorithm guides many people inexorably to extremist videos. It gets the blood pumping. (My Youtube recommendations run to comedy, Jazz, household DIY stuff and animal videos despite the fact that I embed dozens of political videos each week. It's weird.) And we all know how pernicious twitter is.

I live in this world and I have been tracked and trolled by Russian bots and alt-right haters and probably the NSA and the NRA. But it's not all that hard to spot the bullshit. Maybe you have to have been around this stuff for a while, I don't know. But in the meantime, these platforms are creating a global upheaval, some of which is good and some of which is downright terrifying. I don't know where it all ends up.

Then again, I just came across this drivel on Fox News.com, so it's not just the social media platforms. We are awash in bullshit everywhere:
“How long will I be allowed to remain a Christian?”

That was the deeply dismaying question posed to me by a friend with four young children as we discussed the plight of the Christian faith in America and around the world.

With each passing month, that shocking question becomes more relevant and even more disturbing.

To say that Christians and Christianity are under a withering and brutal attack in certain areas of the world would be an understatement.

In various parts of the Middle East, there is a genocidal cleansing of Christians being carried out. Women, men, and their young children are being slaughtered because of their faith and world leaders and most of the media turn their backs in bored indifference.

Here in the United States, Christians and Christianity are mocked, belittled, smeared and attacked by some on a daily basis. This is a bigoted practice that is not only increasing exponentially, but is being encouraged and sanctioned by a number on the left.

Too many of those who worship at the altar of political correctness have deemed that Christianity should no longer be respected. Rather, they assail it on a regular basis in a coordinated campaign to weaken the faith and its base.

The prevailing view in much of the media is that Christianity is aligned with Republicans, conservatives, or the views of President Trump – and therefore must be diminished and made suspect.

The New Yorker just described the opening of a few Chick-fil-A restaurants in New York City as “Pervasive Christian traditionalism,” and a “Creepy infiltration of New York City.”

Christianity is an “infiltration” to some on the left.

In college, they now teach about the evils of “Christian Privilege.” On Broadway and in theaters around the world, mocking Christians has become a massively profitable money-making venture.

In name, on the crucifix, and in art, Jesus Christ is desecrated in the most twisted and obscene of ways. In movies, on television and online, Christians are portrayed in the most dishonest, prejudiced and insulting of ways.

Across the country, Christian colleges are under constant assault from “social justice warriors” seeking to strip their accreditation and put them out of business.

Christian groups on campus are at times being persecuted, their offices and handouts vandalized, with members even being physically assaulted.

In a nation that is still majority Christian, those who follow the faith have been litigated or brow-beaten into being fearful to utter the words “Merry Christmas,” or to display a Nativity scene celebrating the one and only reason there is a Christmas Day.

Want to stay true to your Christian faith in the most innocuous and giving of ways?

To do so is becoming more perilous by the minute, when you stop to ponder just a sampling of the negative consequences. For example:

A high school football coach is fired for taking a knee in prayer. A teacher is fired for giving a Bible to a student who requested it. A Marine is cursed at and then court-martialed for not removing a Bible verse from her computer. Another Bible verse posted by sailors in a military hospital is labeled “extremism.”

For me personally, I continue to be ridiculed for writing and speaking about a vision I had regarding the 40 days after the resurrection.

If you are a practicing Christian in the United States and open about it, you, your congregation and your organization will become a target of some sort. It is only a matter of time.

Ironically, in some very real and ominous ways, it’s as if we are being transported back to ancient Rome.

Will we soon have to meet with fellow Christians in secret? Will we have to whisper our beliefs from the shadows? Will those Christians with “traditional” beliefs lose their jobs and livelihoods if discovered?

As more and more of the mainstream media, entertainment, academia and the hi-tech world continue to purge or discriminate against Christians, what future job fields will be open to young Christians?

Will those Christian children eventually be forced to renounce or deny their faith in order to get a job and provide for their families?

As a Christian, I truly do have the deepest respect for every faith. The vast majority of people of every faith are beyond good and do seek to follow the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Why do so many on the left, in the media, entertainment and academia not practice that most simple, loving and humane of rules when it comes to the Christian faith?

Yeah, It's pretty much like Rome 64 AD around here.

By the way, that was written by a former Pentagon and White House official under Reagan and Bush I. Or at least he says he was.

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