Pulling Muscles From A Shell: Open Thread

I promised you a recipe thread and puppy picture for tonight, but I didn’t expect my one and only client today to take all day. So I must delay. Tomorrow is another day!

Ever since John posted about Rescuing Fish from a Flood, this song has been running through my head – I kept hearing “rescuing fish from a flood” to a tune that I suspected was a Squeeze song, but until I starting running through their library (not difficult, I love Squeeze) I wasn’t quite sure which one.  Now you may have my earworm:

Open thread…

Exactly What Is Special Counselor Mueller Investigating?

This morning Cheryl did a post laying out what James Rosen thinks are the four tracks of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation:

THERE ARE FOUR important tracks to follow in the Trump-Russia story. First, we must determine whether there is credible evidence for the underlying premise that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Second, we must figure out whether Trump or people around him worked with the Russians to try to win the election. Next, we must scrutinize the evidence to understand whether Trump and his associates have sought to obstruct justice by impeding a federal investigation into whether Trump and Russia colluded. A fourth track concerns whether Republican leaders are now engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice through their intense and ongoing efforts to discredit Mueller’s probe.

Cheryl provided appropriate caveats regarding Risen, his past reporting, and the editorial bias of The Intercept where he is now employed. Quite simply Risen is wrong. He is wrong because he fundamentally misunderstands what is actually going on with the Special Counsel’s oversight of a dual track counterintelligence and criminal investigation. There are actually five parts to what Special Counsel Mueller and his team are investigating. They are:

1) Russian interference in the election. This includes the hacking and phishing, the troll farms and the bots.  The Russian deployed human and signals and electronic intelligence. Basically the active measures and cyberwarfare campaign to influence the American electorate in order to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected president and to ensure that Donald Trump was elected president. And, perhaps, suppressing enough of the vote by various means to ensure that the Democrats couldn’t flip the Senate and/or the House.

2) What, if any, connections exist between the Trump campaign, including surrogates, as well as other campaigns such as Jill Stein’s, and any other Americans and/or American organizations with the Russians to influence the American electorate in order to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected president and to ensure that Donald Trump was elected president. And, perhaps, suppressing enough of the vote by various means to ensure that the Democrats couldn’t flip the Senate and/or the House.

3) Whether the President and/or others conspired to and/or actually tried to cover up the second item above in order to frustrate both the counterintelligence and criminal investigations.

4) The financial crimes investigation into the President’s, his children’s, his son in law’s, his son in law’s family’s, and many of the President’s associate’s (Felix Sater and Michael Cohen for instance) businesses that have been uncovered as a result of the counterintelligence and criminal investigations.

5) Any other criminality that is subsequently discovered as a result of the investigation.

These five investigatory parts are divided between the counterintelligence and criminal tracks to the investigation. And in the case of much of the counterintelligence portions, the fine line that Special Counsel Mueller and his team are walking is how to build criminal cases out of the counterintelligence investigation. Basically, they have to come up with appropriate evidence that can be used for a criminal prosecution that does not compromise American, allied, and partner nation sources and methods. What Special Counsel Mueller knows as a result of having full access to and oversight of the counterintelligence investigation versus what he thinks he can prove in a court of law are things we all have to wait to find out.

Finally, it is amazing just how well this has held up.

Open thread!

This time, it’s personal…

I sense a shift in the political wind on gun control. I know, crazy, right? Even before Newtown, but especially since that horrible event resulted in exactly ZERO congressional action on gun safety, I lost hope that Americans could ever make headway against our insane gun culture. I don’t expect the 17 deaths in a Florida school this week to spur much action in the short term. But this feels different.

I could be wrong, so if you’re gearing up to tell me that nothing will ever change and I’m a fool for thinking this latest senseless tragedy might move the needle, save your pixels; I’m already telling myself the same goddamned thing.

But here’s why I think something MAY be shifting now, and in response to a mass shooting that wasn’t a third as deadly as the worst shooting in the last six months. I think we may be at least approaching a Rubicon because more people are joining an awful club no one ever wants to join — the subset of folks whose lives have been touched by this madness. Read more

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

So today was supposed to me lots of pics from Raven, but there remain some form issues. So today we’ll have one picture and one video – enjoy and have a great weekend!  otmar will return next Friday.

Read more

Friday Morning Open Thread: Happy Year of the Dog!


Goddess knows we could use a reset. Today’s adorable Google Doodle combines the New Year animal and the Winter Olympics.

Incidentally, Dog years are not necessarily good ones for those born under the Dog star, per Quartz

In Chinese culture, it’s widely believed that people born under the same zodiac sign as the current year will face bad luck, believed to be cursed for offending the god of age. And Donald Trump, who was born 72 years ago during a “fire dog” year, is expected to see his share of challenges in the coming year of the dog, which begins on Feb. 18, three prominent Hong Kong feng shui masters tell Quartz…

All the masters are in agreement that Trump is heavily influenced by earth and fire elements, but they differ slightly in their outlook of how it will impact his coming year. Based on Trump’s birthday (June 14, 1946), they foresee relationship problems, policy failures, and possibly even being removed from office….

In general, those born on dog years will likely encounter challenging relationships at work in 2018, and Lee predicts Trump will see further upheaval in his staff, which could “affect the world.” He also suggested a power shift in the US this year, with Republicans losing ground in the midterm elections in November, and that Trump’s policies, such as his proposal to build a border wall, would fail…

Trump will continue to provoke the world, maybe even try to start a war, but because luck isn’t in his favor this year, “none of the bad plans he has will become the reality,” says Yeo Tin Ming.

Using I Ching, one of China’s most consulted books that’s believed to be the guide to everything, Yeo, who’s often featured as a feng shui expert on Hong Kong television, predicted health problems and accidents this year, especially from early October to early November. This will be a rough period for him, and “he might be removed from the office,” he adds….

One can but hope, she said piously. (I seem to recall at least one front pager was also born during a Dog year, but not the same dog year, so hopefully their luck will be better!)

Late-Night Straws-in-the-Wind Open Thread: They Grow Up So Fast!

Never say never in a world where Donald Trump squats in the Oval Office, but I lean towards thinking that neither Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Jerry Brown, Hillary “As IF” Clinton, or any other individual old enough to qualify for Social Security will be running for President on the Democratic ticket in 2020. At least not with the goal of winning, although there’s always the Gingrich-esque performance intended to boost a political grifter’s “brand awareness” value on the media market…

Thirty-seven-year-old Brad Peacock, an organic vegetable farmer in Shaftsbury, is an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate.

He strongly believes that health care is a right and not a privilege. He’s worried that important domestic social programs are being threatened by Republican leaders in Congress, and he’s very concerned about the global impact of climate change.

Those positions sound like Sanders’, so why is Peacock running for the U.S. Senate? Because Sanders is telling young people that the time has come for them to get directly involved in the political process if they want to help move this country in a progressive direction.

“I have listened to him closely, and it really resonated with me when he says we need more young people in politics. And, you know, I said ‘OK,'” said Peacock. “Well I think now is the time.”…

Peacock says he hopes Sanders makes another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. That’s another reason why Peacock is running this year, because he says Vermont should have a full-time senator representing the state in Congress.

“I hope that he may [run for president] and therefore, you know, I think the people of Vermont deserve a senator for six years,” said Peacock…

Peacock actually announced his candidacy back in January, and he sounds like a very worthy candidate, even if he probably won’t be Vermont’s senator next year. Per the Bennington Banner:

In the hour-long speech outlining his platform, Peacock, who is seeking political office for the first time, used personal experience to illustrate his positions on poverty, health care, climate change, and civil rights. Throughout his address, the candidate emphasized community reliance and connection in the face of adversity…

Peacock also spoke out against Republican attempts to upend the Affordable Care Act, and the lack of funding provided for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the tax bill. The candidate also voiced his support for universal health care.

“At 10 years old I was keenly aware that any extra cost to our household would mean added stress and hardship,” Peacock said. “When I started to have a sore throat I remained silent, hoping it would go away. After a week or two it eventually did, but what I didn’t realize is strep throat, left untreated, can attack other organs.”

After continually growing weaker, Peacock was in dire straits by the time he was brought to the emergency room. The virus had attacked his kidneys, he said, causing lasting damage.

“Through all this, I worried I had done something wrong; I worried I had brought hardship on my family,” he said. “I am standing here today to say: no child in America should ever have to bear the worry of healthcare costs, and no parent should have to watch their child suffer in sickness with the added stress of how they will pay for treatment.”…

Russiagate Open Thread: First Bannon, Then Gates? Or the Other Way Around?

Anybody less prone to hyperbole want to extrapolate here? From the Washington Post:

House Republican leaders are weighing “further steps” to force former top White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon to answer investigators’ questions in their probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — including potentially declaring him in contempt of Congress — after a Thursday interview they called “frustrating.”

Bannon came to speak with the House Intelligence Committee under a subpoena the panel issued on the spot last month, when he refused to answer questions related to the transition period and his tenure in the White House. The interview came after Bannon met with investigators in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe on Monday and Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the sessions…

The intelligence panel’s probe is not supposed to overlap with the objectives of Mueller’s investigation, but several events and people are common to both efforts. Bannon has not yet met with the Senate Intelligence Committee in its probe of Russian meddling in the election.

But in the House, Republicans and Democrats alike have been angered by Bannon’s repeated attempts to dismiss questions based on a claim to executive privilege that Trump never formally invoked, even when served with a subpoena.

Intelligence Committee member K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) said Thursday that he, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and a few others would decide whether to accept Bannon’s legal arguments against answering the panel’s questions or take punitive measures such as declaring him in contempt. The decision-makers will not include panel chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Conaway said…

Republican leaders are not expected to decide on a course of action until late February, after they return to Washington following a one-week recess, he said.

Schiff, however, demanded that the committee move to hold Bannon in contempt as soon as possible.

“I think contempt is the only road left open to us,” the Democrat said…

It sure sounds like the Repubs suspect Bannon is no longer loyal to La Familia GOP — but they don’t wanna risk raising his profile, either, just in case. And Rep. Schiff is needling them.

Then there’s this, per Vox:

Rick Gates — Paul Manafort’s longtime junior business partner, and a 2016 Trump campaign staffer — is “finalizing” a plea deal in which he’d cooperate with the Mueller investigation, CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Sara Murray report. Gates has been in negotiations with Mueller’s team about cooperating for over a month, their report says, citing sources familiar with the case.

Back in October, Mueller’s team indicted Gates and Manafort on a combined 12 counts that mostly focused on alleged money laundering, failure to disclose financial assets, and false statements regarding their work for the government of Ukraine and a Russia-affiliated Ukrainian political party — matters that didn’t have anything specific to do with Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. (Both pleaded not guilty.)

But apparently, Mueller didn’t intend to stop there. The special counsel’s team had prepared superseding indictments that would add to or replace the original charges against both Manafort and Gates, per an earlier CNN report. Facing an expensive legal defense with no end in sight, Gates signed a new lawyer who has been working on cutting him a plea deal.

The biggest question, though, is whether Gates’s possible flip is mainly bad news for Paul Manafort concerning those lobbying and money laundering charges … or whether it would have even bigger implications for the investigation into Russian interference as a whole, and into President Trump specifically…

We’ve all been trained by years of watching/reading police procedurals: First to flip gets best terms. Presumably Gates and Bannon are just as aware of this truism as the rest of us.