Floriduh Man to Ohio Man: Hold My Beer!

In a clear attempt to maintain Florida’s well earned status as the home of turning the crazy up to 11, a Florida Democratic Party Official has turned to his Ohio Man counterpart and said hold me beer!

From The Tampa Bay Times:

Stephen Bittel’s rocky tenure as Florida Democratic Party chairman ended in disgrace Friday after he resigned following accusations from women that he leered at them, made suggestive comments and created an unprofessional work environment.

Bittel said he is working with party leaders to set a date to elect his successor.
Elected in January after a contentious internal campaign, Bittel lasted less than a year on the job.  His departure marks the latest case of sexual impropriety shaking the state Capitol.

Bittel’s position became untenable after all four major Democratic candidates for Florida governor urged his ouster following a Politico Florida report late Thursday in which six women anonymously complained about Bittel’s behavior. They said he was “creepy” and “demeaning.” Bittel apologized, but it was not enough.

Bittel appears to have gone all out in his attempt to earn his Floriduh Man! card and keep Florida much, much stranger than Ohio.

Floriduh Man: offensive and educational!

Open thread!



A Deep Dive Into the Russian Active Measures Against the United States

The Guardian has published a long form, deep dive piece of investigative journalism into the Russian active measures against the US, provided what is close to the definitive context of how the Steele dossier came to be, and quickly and neatly debunked both the conspiracy theory that the FBI based its inquiry on the Steele dossier and that the Clinton campaign, and the Clintons, were really conspiring with Putin and Russia against the US.

Let’s start with that last item first:

In mid-2015, the Republican front-runner had been Jeb Bush, son of one US president and brother of another. But as the campaign got under way, Bush struggled. Trump dubbed the former Florida governor “low-energy”. During the primaries, a website funded by one of Trump’s wealthy Republican critics, Paul Singer, commissioned Fusion to investigate Trump.

After Trump became the presumptive nominee in May 2016, Singer’s involvement ended and senior Democrats seeking to elect Hillary Clinton took over the Trump contract. The new client was the Democratic National Committee. A lawyer working for Clinton’s campaign, Marc E Elias, retained Fusion and received its reports. The world of private investigation was a morally ambiguous one – a sort of open market in dirt. Information on Trump was of no further use to Republicans, but it could be of value to Democrats, Trump’s next set of opponents.

The FBI, as we know from following this story closely as it emerged across 2016, based its counterintelligence inquiry not on the Steele dossier, but on intercepts and intelligence products produced by US allies and partners. (emphasis mine)

In late 2015 the British eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, was carrying out standard “collection” against Moscow targets. These were known Kremlin operatives already on the grid. Nothing unusual here – except that the Russians were talking to people associated with Trump. The precise nature of these exchanges has not been made public, but according to sources in the US and the UK, they formed a suspicious pattern. They continued through the first half of 2016. The intelligence was handed to the US as part of a routine sharing of information.

The FBI and the CIA were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of these contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow. This was in part due to institutional squeamishness – the law prohibits US agencies from examining the private communications of US citizens without a warrant.

But the electronic intelligence suggested Steele was right. According to one account, the US agencies looked as if they were asleep. “‘Wake up! There’s something not right here!’ – the BND [German intelligence], the Dutch, the French and SIS were all saying this,” one Washington-based source told me.

That summer, GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, flew to the US to personally brief CIA chief John Brennan. The matter was deemed so important that it was handled at “director level”, face-to-face between the two agency chiefs. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, later confirmed the “sensitive” stream of intelligence from Europe. After a slow start, Brennan used the GCHQ information and other tip-offs to launch a major inter-agency investigation. Meanwhile, the FBI was receiving disturbing warnings from Steele.

As for how the Steele dossier came to be:

Before this, in early spring 2016, Simpson approached Steele, his friend and colleague. Steele began to scrutinise Paul Manafort, who would soon become Trump’s new campaign manager. From April, Steele investigated Trump on behalf of the DNC, Fusion’s anonymous client. All Steele knew at first was that the client was a law firm. He had no idea what he would find. He later told David Corn, Washington editor of the magazine Mother Jones: “It started off as a fairly general inquiry.” Trump’s organisation owned luxury hotels around the world. Trump had, as far back as 1987, sought to do real estate deals in Moscow. One obvious question for him, Steele said, was: “Are there business ties to Russia?”

Over time, Steele had built up a network of sources. He was protective of them: who they were he would never say. It could be someone well-known – a foreign government official or diplomat with access to secret material. Or it could be someone obscure – a lowly chambermaid cleaning the penthouse suite and emptying the bins in a five-star hotel.

Normally an intelligence officer would debrief sources directly, but since Steele could no longer visit Russia, this had to be done by others, or in third countries. There were intermediaries, subsources, operators – a sensitive chain. Only one of Steele’s sources on Trump knew of Steele. Steele put out his Trump-Russia query and waited for answers. His sources started reporting back. The information was astonishing; “hair-raising”. As he told friends: “For anyone who reads it, this is a life-changing experience.”

Steele had stumbled upon a well-advanced conspiracy that went beyond anything he had discovered with Litvinenko or Fifa. It was the boldest plot yet. It involved the Kremlin and Trump. Their relationship, Steele’s sources claimed, went back a long way. For at least the past five years, Russian intelligence had been secretly cultivating Trump. This operation had succeeded beyond Moscow’s wildest expectations. Not only had Trump upended political debate in the US – raining chaos wherever he went and winning the nomination – but it was just possible that he might become the next president. This opened all sorts of intriguing options for Putin.

I highly recommend you click across and read the whole thing. It will be well worth your time.



AG Sessions’ House Judiciary Committee Testimony Live Stream

I want to thank Cheryl for putting up her congressional hearings post as I couldn’t get to it in time, but since she’s having trouble with the video embeds, I figured I’d put up a post to resolve that problem.

Here’s the live feed for AG Sessions’ appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

And here’s the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the President’s authority to unilaterally order nuclear strikes:

Open thread!



The Follow on Effects of the Weinstein Sexual Assault Allegations

As I’ve written in comments a couple of times over the last few days, I think from early indications from reporting coming out of some state capitols, that you’re going to see allegations of sexual improprieties wash through elected and appointed officials in the states and at the Federal level. This is going to get real ugly real fast once momentum picks up. What I think we’re going to see is three different types of allegations. There will be allegations dealing with sexual predation – harassment, assault, rape. There will also be allegations dealing with infidelity leading to calls of hypocrisy, with some of the infidelity involving lobbyists leading to accusations of sex for favors. Finally, there will be allegations of officials, elites, and/or notables who are closeted LGBTQ Americans. Some will be outed for hypocrisy. Some will also be accused of engaging in predation a la Speaker Hastert or Congressman Foley or Kevin Spacey. This last type will also include just plain old infidelities just like their heterosexual colleagues. Their will also, unfortunately, be some who are likely to just get outed as it all finally comes out even though they weren’t ready to come out. Essentially they’ll be collateral damage.

There are also going to be other effects. The first is that as the floodgates get forced open this is going to spread. It won’t be contained to the entertainment industry or to elected and/or appointed officials – it is going to spread from industry to industry and a long overdue reckoning will hopefully take place. Including changes in business practices, as well as new laws, rules, regulations, and eventually prosecutions for crimes where that is still a possibility.

At the same time there will likely be attempts to weaponize allegations against one’s political or business rivals. False allegations will eventually be created to ruin business or political rivals. If this happens, and I think it’s likely, it will also be used to undercut the legitimacy of the real accusers and undermine their allegations. If this does happen it will provide the opening for pushback from the forces of reaction that never want any progress to be made on any important issue because it makes them uncomfortable or challenges their authority or their privilege. And this will likely muddy the waters enough to allow for the beginning of what will be the inevitable push back. There has never been a period of progress, especially fast progress that resulted from long suppressed calls for justice, that wasn’t immediately followed by a fast and concerted push back. Including attempts to roll back all the gains and reestablish some imagined and idealized golden age before all the unfortunate and unnecessary change was pushed through. The forces of reaction are strong and they are always waiting for a chance to try to go back to get to a better future.

One of the things we all have to be prepared to do is to specifically support those we know who decide to come forward as we are generally supportive of those who come forward that we do not know. We have to set the conditions for those women and men, and in some really terrible instances girls and boys, to feel safe and supported enough to make this stand and fight this fight. And we have to be prepared to be supportive of those who wind up as collateral damage – and there will be collateral damage here. Finally, we have to hold the line for them when the inevitable pushback begins.



Evening Open Thread: In God We Trust – Richard Spencer, However, Must Pay Cash!

I’m pretty sure that UF did NAZI see this coming:

Remember, when dealing with neo-NAZIs, white supremacists, neo-fascists, neo-nationalists, and other extremists you want cash or money orders or an electronic funds transfer and you want it up front before providing goods and/or services.

Also, obligatory:



Late Evening Open Thread

Looks like it’s time for some nice, clean commenting real estate. Since it’s too soon to have a political discussion of firearms, here’s Jethro Tull singing about them in a bonus track from 1982’s Broadsword and the Beast.

Open thread!



Mass Murder by Mass Shooting at Texas Church

A short while ago a gunman entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire. Preliminary reports are that there are multiple fatalities and casualties. The FBI is on the scene. And after a short pursuit the shooter was shot and killed by law enforcement.

Right now there’s no word on motive or much else other than the most basic details. Sutherland Springs is a small town southeast of San Antonio and San Antonia news media is scrambling to get on scene and get more and hopefully more accurate information.

As with all these types of events, the information bouncing around on 24/7 news, as well as social media is preliminary and is likely to be revised over the next 36 to 48 hours.

Stay frosty!

Update at 2:58 PM

MSNBC is reporting at least 15 dead.

Update at 3:oo PM

And now we’ve got a shooting in front of a church in Fresno, CA.

From The Fresno Bee:

A woman was gunned down and her companion was wounded in the parking lot of St. Alphonsus Church in southwest Fresno Sunday, and police were in a standoff several blocks away with someone believed to be the gunman.

Dispatch reports said the shooter got out of a vehicle, fired at the two, and got back in the car and fled.

According to dispatch and eyewitness reports, there were two victims, a woman and a man, who were shot in a small blue Toyota at the church on Kearney Boulevard, west of Fresno Street.

The shooting happened in a back parking lot of the church. Witnesses reported three gunshots were fired.