Open Thread: “Sensible Centrists” of the GOP, An Invertebrate Clade

From the hometown Philadelphia Inquirer:

Dent, regularly sought out by national media outlets as one of Congress’ leading centrist voices and a frequent critic of President Trump, had already said he was not seeking reelection this year. A busy primary was already underway to replace him in his Allentown-based district. But his departure next month will open up a congressional seat and remove his voice from the daily fray even sooner.

The vacancy could also trigger another special election — though it’s unclear whether it would occur before November’s general election.

By law, Gov. Wolf must decide within 10 days of Dent’s departure when to hold a special election. It would have to be at least 60 days after Dent’s departure. That would mean any vote to fill the seat would happen well after Pennsylvania’s May primary, and in July at the earliest. At that point, there would be less than six months left in the term, with Congress planning to be in recess for much of that time. One option that would spare the state added expense – but leave the district without a representative – would be to hold the special election concurrently with November’s general election…

The Washington Post adds:
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Open Thread: Sean to Be Wilde

Heavy metal thunder… (giant) head out onna highway…

Have said it before, will say it again: Murphy the Trickster God is *not* a subtle scripter.

For context, Margaret Sullivan, just the day before Hannity lost it on-air, had a smart piece in the Washington Post warning us not to get too invested in dreams of a Trump impeachment:

Nixon didn’t have Fox News in his corner.

President Trump does — and that might make all the difference if he were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein or even special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The pro-Trump media, led by Fox, would give cover, and huge swaths of Americans would be encouraged to believe that the action was not only justified but absolutely necessary.

Night after night — for many months — Trump’s sycophant-in-chief, Sean Hannity, has been softening the ground. And his message is sinking in.

In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, three of four Republicans said they believed the Justice Department and the FBI are actively working to undermine Trump…

And now Sean Hannity, Galactic Brain, has taken his own mooted credibility, torn it to pieces on-air, set his feet on fire, and pissed on himself to douse the flames. Good job, Sean!

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Popcorn Futures…Looking g

Yo, Donald…

This is what happens when you use as your fixer some thug/schmoe who went to the worst law school in the country:

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.

“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? . . . Did they find his recordings?” [Via The Washington Post]

So. On one side you have an A-Team-led set of investigators.  On the other you have Michael D. Cohen, Esq.

Damn straight I’d be worried if I were one of the Trumpenvolk.

As I’m not…

Moah popcorn, plz.

Thread for the threadbare!

Image:  Lucas Cranach the Elder, Ill-Matched Lovers/The Old Fool, 1530s

Open Thread: It’s the Ducks That Make It Art…


Pigs being intelligent and cleanly animals, would not be fair to snark about comment trolls showing up after the parade is over…

Explanation, per the Irish Examiner:

The show is called Pet Shenanigans based in Busch Gardens amusement park in Williamsburg, Virginia in the US.

The trained animals were once shelter animals who were rescued by their now-trainers and have become the new-born stars of the popular show…

Schadenfreude. It’s what’s for breakfast*

Which is to say that there are few people in American politics I loathe so much as the wholly owned Koch subsidiary operating under the name Scott Walker.  There are plenty of folks doing more national damage, but few, if any, with the utter, total, almost heroic lack of redeeming qualities as the man Charlie Pierce epithets** as the goggle-eyed homunculus.

So his pain is the sugar in my coffee this a.m.:

“The Far Left” — thanks for the proper nouning** there, btw; I didn’t know we were a franchise operation — as in a decisive majority of Wisconsin voters. “Anger and hatred” — nothing like the mild mannered folks on the right,*** amirite? “Outside special interest money.” Child, please.

But, if it’s all projection with these guys, well we knew that. That subterranean pleasure you feel this morning is that all the faffing in the world can’t hide the genuine panic flowing through Walker like you-know-what through a goose.

And because we need something pretty to wash the memory of Walker’s pallid, grasping mug from our brains, here’s a bird that one-ups that poor goose:

And w/that…open thread.

*That or coke on your Wheaties.

**I verb sometimes. Sue me.

***Very, VERY far from the worst, as we all know, but selected for its exceptional combination of absurdity and cowardice.

Image: John James Audubon, Cygnus buccinator, Trumpeter Swan1838.

I Don’t Know Who This Guy Is, But He Has Won The Internets!

Erin Burnett has now accused him of being drunk (h/t to Cheryl for finding the tweet with the embedded video):

And in other news, the following also happened today:

BANGKOK — A Belarusian escort with close ties to a powerful Russian oligarch said from behind bars in Bangkok on Monday that she had more than 16 hours of audio recordings that could help shed light on Russian meddling in United States elections.

The escort, Anastasia Vashukevich, said she would hand over the recordings if the United States granted her asylum. She faces criminal charges and deportation to Belarus after coming under suspicion of working in Thailand without a visa at a sex-training seminar in the city of Pattaya.

Ms. Vashukevich, who described herself as close to the Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg V. Deripaska, said that audio recordings she made in August 2016 included discussions he had about the United States presidential election with people she declined to identify.

“If America gives me protection, I will tell everything I know,” Ms. Vashukevich said on Monday. “I am afraid to go back to Russia. Some strange things can happen.”

Her assertion could be easy to disregard were it not for a 25-minute video investigation posted last month on YouTube by the Russian opposition figure Aleksei A. Navalny, which relies heavily on videos and photographs from Ms. Vashukevich.

Here’s Navalny’s expose video:

And this too:

Update at 8:30 PM EST

Almost forgot this one:

A man who is critically ill after being exposed to an unknown substance in Wiltshire is a Russian national convicted of spying for Britain, the BBC understands.

Sergei Skripal, 66, was granted refuge in the UK following a “spy swap” between the US and Russia in 2010.

He and a woman, 33, were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday.

Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury has been closed by police “as a precaution”.

The substance has not been identified, but Public Health England said there was no known risk to the public’s health.

Wiltshire Police are investigating whether a crime has been committed. They said the pair had no visible injuries but had been found unconscious at the Maltings shopping centre.

They have declared a “major incident” and multiple agencies are investigating. They said it had not been declared as a counter-terrorism incident, but they were keeping an “open mind”.

Col Skripal, who is a retired Russian military intelligence officer, was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain.

While the British authorities are investigating, this is not the first time this type of thing has happened to Russian nationals in Britain who have gotten crosswise with Putin. Buzzfeed ran a six part series on this last year. From part 1:

The British government is suppressing explosive intelligence that Alexander Perepilichnyy, a financier who exposed a vast financial crime by Russian government officials, was likely assassinated on the direct orders of Vladimir Putin.

Perepilichnyy, who faced repeated threats after fleeing to Britain, was found dead outside his home in Surrey after returning from a mysterious trip to Paris in 2012. Despite an expert detecting signs of a fatal plant poison in his stomach, the British police have insisted there was no evidence of foul play, and Theresa May’s government has invoked national security powers to withhold evidence from the inquest into his cause of death – which is ongoing.

Across the Atlantic, five current high-ranking US intelligence officials have warned that Britain is failing to get to grips with the increased threat from an emboldened Russia – and three of them have taken the extraordinary step of chastising British law enforcement. “The Kremlin has aggressively stepped up its efforts to eliminate and silence its enemies abroad over the past couple of years – particularly in Britain,” one senior US spy told BuzzFeed News. A second serving intelligence official said the “incompetent” British police “should have to answer for their actions and be held accountable” for shutting down any investigation into Perepilichnyy’s death.

So this is likely part of the wet work program that Putin has reinvigorated in recent years.

The intelligence pointing to a campaign of targeted killings in Britain comes amid mounting international concern that the Kremlin is brazenly interfering in the West, and as the investigation into Russian ties to President Donald Trump’s advisers gathers pace.

The Russian government passed new lawsgiving its agents a licence to kill enemies of the state abroad in 2006, the same year two assassins from the FSB, Russia’s spy agency, flew to London to poison the defector and one-time KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium. Last year, a British public inquiry found that Vladimir Putin had likely approved that assassination in an act of nuclear terrorism in the British capital that was impossible for the government to ignore. But high-ranking intelligence sources said other less glaringly obvious assassinations have gone unpunished.

Russian assassins have been able to kill in Britain with impunity over the past decade, 17 current and former British and American intelligence officials told BuzzFeed News. The reasons for Britain’s reticence, they said, include fear of retaliation, police incompetence, and a desire to preserve the billions of pounds of Russian money that pour into British banks and properties each year. As a result, Russia is making what one source called increasingly “bold moves” in the UK without fear of reprisals.

Walton said Russian assassins are often extremely adept at “disguising murder”. They are expert at staging suicides by planting evidence to make victims appear to have been depressed, counter-terror officers told BuzzFeed News, or even using drugs and psychological tactics to drive them into taking their own lives. In the case of state assassinations, Putin’s government had amassed “a suite of chemical and biological agents that were developed for targeted assassinations” so killers could do their work without leaving a trace, a former top-ranking MI6 official said. And Britain’s secret service was hamstrung in its ability to share intelligence pointing to Russian complicity, sources said, because of the need to protect confidential informants.

So even when intelligence strongly pointed to an assassination, police and intelligence sources said, there was often too little evidence to make a case stand up in court. In such instances, they said it could be easier to pronounce a death unsuspicious than to stoke diplomatic tensions and public alarm over an accusation of political assassination that probably wouldn’t stick.

I highly recommend the entire series.

Consider this an open thread!

Incompetence or Disloyalty?

That always seems to be the choice with these bozos.

Mr. Tillerson has voiced skepticism that the United States is even capable of doing anything to counter the Russian threat.

“If it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that,” Mr. Tillerson said in an interview last month with Fox News. “And we can take steps we can take, but this is something that once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to pre-empt it.”

This is a man who was the CEO of Exxon. If he knew that Shell was stealing his top geological talent, would he have said something like that? Presumably he can talk to the NSA about what they would suggest? WTF is wrong with this guy?

Amazingly, there is actually a person in the relevant job of under secretary for public diplomacy, who seems to have a different view from his boss.

“This funding is critical to ensuring that we continue an aggressive response to malign influence and disinformation,” Mr. Goldstein said.

I really hate the conclusion that so many folks at the top of our government are disloyal. But they keep pushing me toward it.

It might be worthwhile to frontpage a list of all the Russia-friendly things that they’ve done. There’s this, and, only this week, Trump’s total disinterest in, and active distraction from, Vladimir Putin’s threatening speech.

If you’ll supply them, I’ll write a post in a day or so. My excuse for crowdsourcing is that it’s allergy season, and I’ve got a very busy Monday and Tuesday.