Saturday Morning Open Thread: “Get Your Act Together. Stop Hating”

… “They tried to kill my child to shut her up,” Susan Bro told mourners last August. “Well, guess what? You just magnified her!”

Bro now spends her days in a cozy office at the law firm where her daughter worked as a paralegal. It’s the headquarters of the Heather Heyer Foundation. Near her desk is a sign with her daughter’s favorite motto — “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

“I think that’s what we have with Heather’s legacy, is a call to action,” says Bro…

Portraits of Heyer hang on the walls, and there’s a collection of posthumous civil rights awards. Bro resists the notion that her daughter is some sort of symbol. She didn’t make speeches, or lead rallies, Bro says, but tried to persuade those around her to care more about inequality and social justice issues. Bro has taken up her cause.

“Not only will I speak and speak loudly and often,” she says, “I’m going to make sure that other people speak.”

She compares it to a relay race.
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Stoking the Conspiracy Fantasists: Like A Spark to Tinder

I haven’t wanted to post about the California wildfires because, from this distance, it feels like indulging in disaster porn. “We” have seriously fvcked up another gorgeous chunk of the only planet currently available, and the locals are paying for that in some of the most dramatic footage possible, thoughts & prayers.

But there’s no “natural” tragedy that can’t be made worse… Per the Washington Post:

The arrest was made as more than 18 fires across the state continue to endanger the lives of thousands, including hundreds of firefighters and first responders working around the clock. One, the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, is the largest wildfire in California history. Yosemite National Park has been closed “indefinitely” because of smoke from another fire…

The Holy Fire, which started in the Holy Jim Canyon area, has been burning in Southern California since Monday, with more than 600 firefighters assigned to fight it. Two firefighters have been treated for heat-related injuries. The fire remains only 5 percent contained.

Mike Milligan, 71, who calls himself a volunteer fire firefighter and chief, said in an interview with The Washington Post that he has been flagging problems with suspect Forrest Gordon Clark for more than three years. He said he alerted the U.S. Forest Service that “you have to do something or he’s going to kill someone or burn this place down.”

Milligan said he received several texts from Clark last week threatening to start a fire.

“In a text, he said this place ‘is going to burn just like we planned,’ ” Milligan said, adding that he reported it to the sheriff’s office and again to the U.S. Forest Service. “Why the hell didn’t they respond? I reported this over and over again.”
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#UniteTheReich Open Thread: This Crap, Again…

Dangerously serious:


 
Seriously dangerous:

USAToday:

The mayor and police chief of Washington, D.C., on Thursday promised tight security for Sunday’s “Unite the Right” rally and counter-protests marking the first anniversary of a white nationalist rally that erupted in deadly violence a year ago.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city was activating its emergency operations center and would be on high alert for violence.

“We have people coming to our city for the sole purpose of spewing hate,” Bowser said. “We denounce hate, we denounce anti-Semitism, and we denounce the rhetoric we expect to hear this Sunday.”

Bowser, Chief Peter Newsham and other officials spoke at a news conference held at a synagogue in the city of 700,000 people, about half of whom are black.

Newsham said guns will be banned from the rallies, even for gun owners with legal permits. He said the white nationalists and the counter-protesters would be separated, even though both have permits to use a park near the White House.

Newsham was reticent to provide security details, saying he didn’t want anyone with malicious intent to be able to “plan ahead.”
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Gentleman’s C

Badger and I had puppy school last night. He’s in the middle of the class, I’d guess — better than some, worse than others.

He and I both live very cloistered lives, I realized. We’re not used to interacting with strangers, and it stresses us out.

In him, this anxiety manifests as trembling, irritability and occasional growling. Same here, I guess.

Next week, we’re working on “leave it!” Hopefully I’ll benefit from the training; “leave it” has never been my strong suit.

Open thread!

ETA: When we got home, we were so keyed up from the experience that we needed to decompress in our own ways. He ran around like a maniac, and I had a glass of bourbon. Later, he mounted sneak attacks on my husband and me while we dozed. Next week, maybe Badger will have the bourbon and I’ll run around the block…



Breaking News: The Department of Justice Has Arrested Maria Butina

From the Department of Justice:

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 16, 2018

Russian National Charged in Conspiracy to Act as an Agent of the Russian Federation Within the United States

A criminal complaint was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging a Russian national with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu, and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Mariia Butina, 29, a Russian citizen residing in Washington D.C., was arrested on July 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C., and made her initial appearance this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She was ordered held pending a hearing set for July 18, 2018.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.  This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.

The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation. The filings also describe certain actions taken by Butina to further this effort during multiple visits from Russia and, later, when she entered and resided in the United States on a student visa. The filings allege that she undertook her activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law.

The charges in criminal complaints are merely allegations and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The investigation into this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Here’s the link to the complaint and to the affidavit.

This is a huge arrest. Butina was a go between for Alexander Torshin on behalf of Putin and the National Rifle Association. As I wrote in December 2017:

In the Russian case a lot of the penetration that is being reported on and made public appears to have been focused solely on more politically, socially, economically, and religiously conservative sectors, groups, and organizations in the US. The Daily Beast first reported on Russia’s connections to the NRA back in February 2017. This was the first of three articles that delineated the creation of a Russian firearms sporting organization partially led by Marina Butina. Specifically:

Two of Butina’s friendships in particular have raised eyebrows. She started a business with Paul Erickson, a decades-long Republican Party activist. And she served as a special assistant to the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator belonging to Vladimir Putin’s political party with alleged ties to the Russian mob world.

 As chilled vodka flowed through an ice sculpture—a bottle imprinted with the Soviet hammer and sickle—she took some time to brag. She brazenly claimed that she had been part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia, two individuals who were present said. On other occasions, in one of her graduate classes, she repeated this claim.

Erickson and Butina have been seen in public frequently, at the invitation-only Freedom Ball after Trump’s inauguration; and holding court at Russia House, a Russian-themed bar in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle. At one such gathering in the fall of 2016 Erickson bragged that he was advising the Trump transition team, according to two sources who were present; he is also said to have told a story about introducing Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, to former NRA president David Keene. (Kalashnikov allegedly inspired the creation of “The Right to Bear Arms,” Butina’s gun rights group.)

The two appear to have gotten close: Erickson formed a limited liability corporation with Butina in February 2016, according to the South Dakota secretary of state. It is unclear what this organization, Bridges, LLC, actually does. (Despite living in Washington, D.C., Butina has a cellphone number with a South Dakota area code.)

In The Daily Beast‘s second report, Tim Mak expands on his reporting from February 2017 by digging into the meeting between members of the NRA and Dmitry Rogozin, one of Putin’s hard line deputies and the head of the Russian Shooting Federation, which would make him either Butina’s partner or boss. The Daily Beast‘s third article on this topic delves even deeper to who was at the meeting with Rogozin. Specifically former Milwaukee County Sheriff, Fox News analyst, extremist anti-US government Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer Association Sheriff of the Year, campaign proxy and Republican National Convention prime time speaker, and withdrawn nominee for political appointment at the Department of Homeland Security David Clarke. And former NRA President and current board member David Keene.

Here’s Rogozin’s tweet about the event. You’ll notice Clarke’s in the second photo. Keene is in the first standing next to Rogozin.

Butina, and her patron Torshin, were connected to the NRA by long time GOP operative Paul Erickson. Erickson sent the email to Trump campaign official Rick Dearborn, as well as reaching out to now Attorney General Sessions seeking a meeting between then candidate Trump and Torshin at the NRA annual meeting. That meeting was scheduled and then cancelled. Instead Torshin met briefly with Donald Trump Jr at the NRA annual meeting banquet. Erickson set up a LLC in South Dakota to, allegedly, pay for Butina’s doctoral studies in DC.

This arrest and indictment is a very big deal. It, like Friday’s indictments, is further evidence that Special Counsel Mueller’s team has complete visibility on the network around the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign even as this case was brought by the DC office, not the Special Counsel’s. Both the ongoing Russian activities and their involvement in the 2016 campaign. And as was the case with Friday’s indictments. If I was part of the NRA’s leadership or one of the NRA officials who went on the junket to Russia, let alone a host of GOP elected and appointed officials, with ties to Erickson, I’d be very, very nervous right now.

Stay weapons free!

Open thread.



By Their Works Shall Ye Know Them

With Trump and his Trumpkins — aka the entire Republican power structure — the extremes of grotesque behavior serve a purpose: in the disgust they evoke, they distract us from the point of the whole exercise.  That would be, of course, extracting as much cash as possible through the exercise of arbitrary power.

Today’s example — actually, now about a week old — comes from griftmonger supreme Scott Pruitt.  All the grandiose corruption, stiffing aids for hotel rooms, buying a Maxwell Smart cone of silence, unobtanium-infused skin cream and the rest was the sizzle. The steak was wrecking the environment at the behest of one corporate master or another.  This was true to the bitter end:

In his last act as EPA Administrator on Friday, Scott Pruitt vacated an Obama-era ruling that dramatically restricted sales of polluting “glider” trucks.

What are glider trucks, you may ask? (I did.)  Do they serve any useful social purpose?

You be the judge:

The glider trucks, led by manufacturer Fitzgerald Glider Kits, are new truck bodies and frames fitted with old, diesel engines that pre-date emissions controls.

Those engines emit as much as 43 times the carcinogenic particulate matter and 13 times as much smog-forming nitrogen oxides as modern diesel truck engines. In the presence of sunlight, nitrogen oxides form smog, which has been linked to asthma.

The whole thing was a scam, exploiting a loophole that was supposed to allow the reuse of new engines if a rig was totalled, but instead installing pre-2007, high polluting engines in new truck bodies.

Pruitt used a debunked and then retracted study that claimed the highly polluting engines were somehow magically transformed into cleaner ones in their new clothes in a move that bars the EPA from enforcing the Obama-era rules this year and next.

I’m not sure exactly what Pruitt’s profit-center is here, given that everyone — and I mean everyone — hates these things.

Manufacturers such as Virginia-based heavy-truck maker Volvo, Illinois-based Navistar, and Cummins, which makes diesel engines in Indiana, all opposed Pruitt’s efforts to keep the loophole open, as did UPS, which buys thousands of long-haul trucks. Name-brand truck and engine makers have invested millions in developing the cleaner engine technology.

“I cannot recall an issue with such a breadth of opposition,” Paul Billings, national senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association told the Washington Post.

Was this simply bidnezz–some quid pro quo between Pruitt and the one truck company making a buck of these shit-spewing rigs? Or was this just one last f**k you to liberals on the way out?

I guess it could be both, or rather, it was certainly the latter, plus whatever personal corruption Pruitt was able to extract from the deal.  But my point (and I do have one, besides generalized disgust and impotent rage) is that this his how Trump’s administration rolls, and it’s exactly as the Republican Party and its paymasters intended it to.

While the gaudy scandals dominate our attention and most of the media effort, the executive departments and agencies are keeping very busy, creating or gutting rules, making decisions, operating almost completely unexamined, in ways that transfer wealth to the chosen few, and risk and consequences to everyone else.

I’m not sure there’s a shovel big enough to clean manure pile these assholes are depositing in our stable.

Pace Adam:  I’m doing a really crappy job staying frosty these days.

Open thread.

Image: Elihu Vedder, Corrupt Legislation, mural in the main reading room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, 1896



Schadenfreude Open Thread: Getting Woodies from Their Own Hand-Crafted Crosses

The professional Trumplodytes are crappy, soulless little homunculi whose closest approach to honest emotion is sharing tales of their social martyrdom with each other — and the more gullible among the Media Village Idiots:

For as long as the White House has existed, its star occupants have inspired a voluble mix of demonstrations, insults and satire. On occasion, protesters have besieged the homes of presidential underlings such as Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s political strategist, who once looked out his living room window to find several hundred protesters on his lawn.

Yet what distinguishes the Trump era’s turbulence is the sheer number of his deputies — many of them largely anonymous before his inauguration — who have become the focus of planned and sometimes spontaneous public fury.

“Better be better!” a stranger shouted at Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser and the architect of his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, as he walked through Dupont Circle a few months ago. Miller’s visage subsequently appeared on “Wanted” posters someone placed on lampposts ringing his CityCenterDC apartment building.

One night, after Miller ordered $80 of takeout sushi from a restaurant near his apartment, a bartender followed him into the street and shouted, “Stephen!” When Miller turned around, the bartender raised both middle fingers and cursed at him, according to an account Miller has shared with White House colleagues.

Outraged, Miller threw the sushi away, afraid that someone in the restaurant had spit in or otherwise tampered with his food, he later told colleagues.

On Saturday, as Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former strategist, browsed at an antiquarian bookstore in Richmond, a woman in the shop called him a “piece of trash.” The woman left after Nick Cooke, owner of Black Swan Books, told her he would call the police…


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