February 17, 2018

Internet Research Agency, butt-hurt #Hillbots
the #FirstAmendment and Russophobia

A few thoughts, based on the federal indictment (also here) and expanded from Twitter, even as places like the Bezos Post glad-hand special counsel Robert Mueller. (For thumbnails on the 13 indictees, go here.)

I waited until today to blog, because I wanted to see how many MSMers, and Hillbots on Twitter, etc., claimed this meant there was a "there" there not only on Putin Did It but Putin-Trump collusion.

And Tweeterers? Never assume that just because someone disagrees with you, he/she/it/they are on the "other side." Once again, Idries Shah:

“To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.” 
Also, never assume, let alone be presumptuous enough to assume, that just because a person is on a third or fourth side of an issue that they don't understand the issue.

First, Internet Research Agency allegedly started work "in or around 2014" or "beginning as early as 2014." That's before Trump announced his candidacy. That right there undercuts the collusion angle, which Mueller's indictment never hints at anyway. Sorry, Hillbots. Ron Chusid at Liberal Values Blog largely agrees.

Second, §4-6 of "Introduction" focus on social media hucksterism discussed elsewhere. Nothing illegal about this that I know of unless Mueller has unplayed cards, or unless he's throwing a broad dragnet on what counts as a campaign endorsement ad. I think he is, and that's where my First Amendment concerns start. I'm sure I'm in a minority of Americans there.

Third, §7 of "Introduction" appears to claim illegal campaign contributions by foreign nationals. None of the spoof FB groups donated money OR "a thing of value" to Trump campaign, AFAIK. Telling people there's a pro-Trump group holding a rally, and buying an ad to tell them that? NOT a political endorsement ad in my book. More 1A concerns; more of me being in a minority.

Fourth, §12b of "Defendants" claims one used "false pretenses" to stand in front of the White House with a sign. WHAT? Is there a Federal Department of White House Standing In Front Of that one must register with, a la Monty Python?

Fifth, per the "Federal Regulatory Agencies" section and my points 2-3, we're coming close to criminalizing everyday lying when it's connected to politics. The FEC may adopt new standards for online political ad identification, but it hasn't yet, other than requiring explicit identifications on Facebook political ads, and besides, we don't have ex post facto laws. If, per §48 of "defendants," what expressly counts as advertising for the election of a candidate today is involved, that's one thing. But, this was posted way below the talk about fake social media groups.

Usually, on an indictment, you lead with your best punch. That makes this look weak for that reason, too.

Also, can advocating AGAINST a candidate be construed as a call to vote FOR another? I did my #DuopolyExit long ago, and would have voted for Jill Stein no matter what. This charge seems weak on those grounds as well.

Sixth, if there was actual identity theft? Stuff like fake driver's licenses is state-level crime. Were it not for points 1-5 above, it would not be Eff Bee Eye purview. (Wiki explains what types of identity theft in the US is considered federal; fake DLs count as federal if used to commit another crime. That then said, most of what I've noted above, and do more below, is not IMO a crime.)

And, that all said, the ID thefts, if real, were certainly stupid. And illegal at some level of government, of course.

As for Richard Pinedo? Likely nothing more than the bagman/middleman/cut-out for purchasing false IDs. Likely NOT a separate activity, as, from what I see here, he'd done similar work, shady if not illegal, but at least some of it illegal, for other folks going back to 2012.

Seventh, §43 of "Defendants" claims that they "engaged in operations to ... support Bernie Sanders" as well as Trump. And even Jill Stein! So, we got butt-hurt #Hillbots inside #MuellerTime? (The indictment doesn't say what "support" involves.

Related to this is bad optics. Mueller's already had to remove people from his team for this. I'm talking Peter Strzok, of course.

Whoever on Mueller's team, if not the man himself editing if not writing, presented this indictment to the grand jury for approval should be taken out and flogged.

Eighth, from what I see above, civil liberties orgs like the ACLU and CCR should be squawking loudly. This all comes off as #FirstAmendment-chilling. And foreign nationals are entitled to most constitutional protections not restricted to citizens.

==

Updates beyond original Twitter thread.

The "Destruction of Evidence" on §58 ff is also thin soup. Deleting an email account because of a media story long before any criminal probe started is destruction of evidence?

Buying ads for promoting a pro-Trump rally is certainly not direct endorsement of a candidate in my book. It's also getting close to violating the spirit of the freedom of assembly clause of the First Amendment.

The section seven of my comments? If we extend that, then theoretically no foreign national could ever buy a Facebook (or newspaper) ad that says: "I like President Trump." Or anything like that.

Surely somebody besides me is seeing First Amendment concerns?

The Russkies should have gotten 10 real American friends of Pinedo and given them earnest money to open bank accounts with threats of omerta action if they asked questions, rather than going down the road of ID fraud.

That said, if the Concord groups actually purchased the ads, and they're American citizens, even if cutouts, there again, Mueller's dragnet may be too wide. The indictment says "defendants and their co-conspirators."

A New York Times guest columnist goes so far as to speculate the Russians WANTED to get caught as part of sowing problems. I think that's a step too far, but the fact that somebody thinks that proves that they are still sowing problems. Or that many Americans are self-sowing.

February 16, 2018

No, MSM, the current GOP deficits are nothing new

Certainly, the GOP attitude toward deficits is nothing new.

That's despite the AP, the Bezos Post and the Houston Chronicle, among other outlets, claiming the GOP acceptance of wall-to-wall deficits is a historic sea change.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Presidentially, with the exception of the brief interlude of Poppy Bush, GOP presidents haven't cared about deficits since Nixon. After all, Veep Dick Cheney said they don't matter.

In Congress, the Senate had its deficit hawks under Reagan, and Shrub Bush, but some had left the Senate and others gone mute by the time of Shrub Bush.

And, the variations of unsubstantiated supply-side economics get new makeup on their lips every couple of years and that's that.

So, MSM?

Just stop trying to normalize the national Republican Party.

February 15, 2018

#Thoughtsandprayers, #guncontrolnow and the Church of Satan

This is a cold heat anger post evolved from a cold heat snarky-yet-serious tweet of yesterday, over the Palmland, Broward County, school shooting. And trust me, I'll get all three header pieces tied in.

The picture says enough. The idea is garbage designed to pretend to really care about kids being killed by gunz, while still supporting politicians and a culture driven by fears of crime, driven by fears of the "other," and more. The "driven" isn't accidental; it's a deliberate move by the NRA and the politicians it funds, but voters aren't passive automatons.

The initial tweet?
I then tagged the Church of Satan in a second tweet as part of a mini-thread:
It then said: "Please leave us out of this."

That said, the Church of Satan isn't "Satanists." It claims to be atheist, which I already knew. But I digress, and I'll tackle that more below. 

The portion of the Religious Right that overlaps with gun nuts doesn't really want ANY thoughts and prayers beyond conservative Christian Religious Right ones. Not only would it not welcome actual Satanic ones, it would also not welcome Jewish ones, Hindu ones, Muslim ones, or Buddhist ones.

And, per the second tweet's big picture and the Church of Satan being atheist (which I already knew), the Religious Right certainly doesn't welcome liberal secular common sense. That said, I know atheist gun nutz exist too. And, given the Church of Satan's values, some of them are probably members there too, at the Church of Gun Nutz, if anything.

I digress a bit again on the Church of Satan Ayn Rand. But I'll tackle that below.

The real frauds in this issue, of course, are members of the Religious Right who offer "thoughts and prayers" while voting for gun nutz elected officials, who claim to be "pro life" while voting for gun nutz elected officials and supporting a gun nutz NRA and more.

Of course, Religious Right hypocrisy goes better when combined with priggery which has at least some connection to it:
Gee, shock me.

And, sadden me. Between the Religious Right pretending teenage kids don't have hormones, and more liberal minded helicopter parents wanting to keep their children forever pre-juvenile, even as the Religious Right gives Fox, the most anti-religious right of the TV networks on show morality, a pass just because it's kin to Fox News, this isn't surprising either.

As for the gun control issue? I've never understood why presidents who allegedly support better control don't use executive orders and other executive tools as part of actual actions. Say, refusing to let companies headquartered in states with weak gun control laws bid on executive agency contracts. Make that decision, take that action, then justify it on national security grounds. Which it would be. But, the likes of Dear Leader Obama never tried that.


But Dear Leader, after getting his hands slapped for his 2008 primary season guns and beer comment, got no more serious about gun control — even by backdoor methods like I propose — then he did about single-payer national health care.

Related?

Dems of the #Resistance faction who called out Bernie Sanders for not having a litmus test on abortion? Or Berniecrats defending him?

Let's remember his own poor relationship to gun control laws. Brains didn't like me saying he was halfway (or more) a gun nut himself. Sorry, but I stand by that. In the 2016 primaries, he engaged in a hair-splitting stubborn double-down on his previous votes, and more than once, just like Elizabeth Warren did recently with her American Indian heritage claims.

Let's also note that for all of its pious handwringing, the MSM also has complicity. Beyond not suggesting answers even more creative than mine, when the New York Times continues to run bullshit by John Lott, even as "just" an op-ed, it's complicit.

I pick up the digressions again.

The Church of Satan Ayn Rand also says on Twitter that it mutes trolls, and arguably, atheists calling themselves Satanists are themselves trolling. And I reject its claims that people who worship a believed-to-be-actual Satan are devil-worshipers, not Satanists. Anton La Vey himself was a charlatan, a huckster and a liar. And, while he may not have believed in a literal Satan, through things like paranormal research and original Church of Satan rituals, he left the door open for the likes of Michael Aquino to proclaim a more literal Satanism of sorts, and for others to go beyond that. And, per the first link and Wiki, what it actually does believe might be called "Randianism in pretentious drag," the Randianism referring to Ayn Rand, not James Randi.

And, on the second bird I've killed with this one stone .... as of two hours after my initial Tweet, there were 20 likes of the Church of Randian Pretentiousness's response.

But my callout to Lil Marco:
Has gotten more likes than the Church of Ayn Rand's callout of me.

Finally, let's not 

February 13, 2018

TX progressives take a look at
#txpolitics hot races and endorsements

The Texas Progressives hopes readers had a good Lincoln Day and Darwin Day, and will have a good Valentine's Day.

Here's the blog post and news roundup from around the state ...

Socratic Gadfly notes that various state Democratic activist groups can't get on the same endorsements page.

Houston Justice names five things Texas Democrats could learn from the Houston Astros.

Off the Kuff emphasizes that the bathroom bill issue isn't going away any time soon.

In the Texas Senate District 10 D primary, the Texas Tribune finds the 2016 Clinton/Sanders feud still being contested.

Jonathan Tilove at the Statesman also covered the Dem primary for TX-21 and heard the same echoes of the national party debate between the liberal/progressive candidates  -- Derrick Crowe, Elliott McFadden, and Mary Wilson -- and the centrist money leader, Joseph Kopser.

Texas Leftist published two more candidate questionnaires, from CD-10 Democratic candidate Kevin Roberts, and state Senate TX-5 candidate Brian E. Cronin.

The Lion Star details CD-16 Democrat Dori Fenenbock's financial flops.

Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer drags former Channel 8 reporter and now ConservaDem CD-32 candidate Brett Shipp for some really lousy work in his old job. That’s pat of a trifecta from Schutze. He also deservedly kicks alleged 2020 presidential candidate Julian Castro, then pokes the Dallas City Council et al in the eye for the last Calatrava Bridge woes.

Houston media blogger Mike McGuff was at CD-36 candidate Dayna Steele's fundraiser that featured Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby.

DBC Green has a couple of posts about Our Revolution Texas' endorsements.

The Democratic judge in Dallas County hearing the case against 127 D primary candidates who may be disqualified from the ballot because the party's county chair did not properly sign their applications has indicated that he will not recuse himself, according to the Dallas News.

Neil at All People Have Value said it is okay not to give money to the rich. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Gilbert Garcia at the San Antonio Express News sees Greg Abbott's heavy hand and fat wallet in a few GOP primaries disguising his personal vendettas as political principle.

Stace provides some insight on the latest voter registration data from Harris County.

From the Waco Tribune-Herald: Thirteen cases in the 'Twin Peaks' biker shooting were dismissed last week, and one of the defendants' lawyers said that McLennan County DA Abel Reyna showed "moral cowardice" in extending their prosecution for so long before he gave up.

Texas Vox announces that Public Citizen is a proud sponsor of Air Alliance Houston's 2018 State of the Air Gala.

In his regular collation of criminal justice news, Grits for Breakfast notes that the full 5th Circuit will hear the case of a teenager who was framed for assault by the Brownsville police.

The Texas Standard's own roundup of state news includes Lt. Governor Dan Patrick's rant at the TPPF regarding 'Let Her Speak', the forthcoming movie about Wendy Davis' 2013 filibuster that will star Sandra Bullock.

AJ Bauer at the Texas Observer recalls the state's last liberal lion in the US Senate, Ralph Yarborough.  (Don't confuse him with Grady.)

G. Elliott Morris interprets the state of the polls.

Juanita would like to know when Rep. Blake Farenthold is going to pay us taxpayers back for that sexual harassment settlement money.

Paradise in Hell collects a list of things Mike Pence was surprised to learn.

The TSTA Blog casts a wary eye on the latest anti-education campaign from Empower Texans.

February 12, 2018

When MSM real news sites give you #FakeNews

It's not just CNN clusterfucks.

Take the Bezos Post and a Peter Principle reporter.

It has never been the "north star" as a goal of the GOP, because PR head fakes, to eliminate the deficit. Yet a Peter Principle reporter claims it has been. Reality? Not true since Ike's day. That said, the Bezos Post never fact-checks itself, so that will still stand.

Next, the Hill, reporting that Veep Mike Pence said the US would talk to North Korea without pre-conditions. The Hill ignores the very visible snubs Pence gave to North Korea during opening ceremonies for the Olympics.

Third? The old gray lady of the New York Times, "normalizing" JoyAnn Reid, one of the dumbest fucks of #TheResistance. Here, this follows normalizing neo-Nazis, giving Bret Stephens a spot on op-eds, and handing over a whole issue's op-eds site to letters from East Trumpistan denizens.

From less than 20 years ago, there was Judith Miller, conniving with portions of the Bush Administration, to provide the drumbeats for war in Iraq.

The real issue, which the MSM and its clickbaiting show, is that, for a century or more, the media has actually been involved with the creation and dissemination of fake news. Kenan Malik discusses the Zinoviev Letter, directly relevant to today's Russophobia, and other examples.

No, it hasn't always or regularly done this. But it has done this.

That said, as Malik also notes, the alternative — the government, either by law or by brow-beating — determining what counts as fake news is even worse. (Worst of all is the Miller example — media and government working hand in hand. Malik says that's not new either.)

Hence, the two-siderism over things like the Nunes Memo from places like Consortium News is itself not a solution.

February 09, 2018

#Cardinals OK with standing pat; P-D largely gives Mo a pass

Cardinal with the eyeball
This year's Cardinals will draw stares
as much as they return them.
First, a friendly reminder to John Mozeliak that the Cardinals did not finish second in the NL Central last year.

They were THIRD — also behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Birds made a good move this offseason with trading for Marcell Ozuna (with a decent give-back to Miami of Sandy AlcantaraMagneuris SierraZac Gallen and Daniel Castano).

The Brewers countered by acquiring Christian Yelich (who I preferred) while sending a good package of prospects, Lewis BrinsonMonte HarrisonIsan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto back to Miami.

Then, later in the same day, they signed Lorenzo Cain as a free agent. While some folks at places like MLBTradeRumors and other folks like St. Louis Post-Dispatch Hall of Fame columnist Rick Hummel are wondering if it's an overpay, I don't think so. While it does take the team one year deeper into Cain's age than the Cardinals' similar contract with Dexter Fowler a year ago, it's for a bit less money, has only a partial no-trade at the end of it —

And Cain is a better player.

Hummel, who generally continues to fall lower in my estimate of P-D writers, claims the Brewers' pitching problems will keep them behind the Cards. This is even while admitting Mo is standing pat on a staff in flux in St. Louis. He then claims Cain and Fowler are "similar players." Cain has three 5-WAR years; Fowler has none. And, while Cain showed some decline in center field last year, he's still a plus defender, and Miller Field, being smaller than Kaufman, will help him extend his career there. Also, if one values consistency, he's wrong about Ozuna being better than Yelich.

Hummel then goes on to claim the Cards have the best pitcher in the division. Yes, Carlos Martinez may have better stuff than Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks, but he hasn't translated that into results yet. And, on the mental side, he now faces the baggage of being a defendant in a personal-injury lawsuit. (OTOH, Derrick Goold, reading between his lines, seems to indicate it's little more than a shakedown suit.)

It's not just Hummel on Official.Cardinals.Media.™, aka the Post-Dispatch, drinking the John Mozeliak Kool-Aid. Indeed, in Slide 12 of this slideshow, Jose de Jesus Ortiz claims that with Yelich, but not yet with Cain, the Cards of 2018 were still better than the Brew. I wouldn't have totally bought that then. Post-Cain, I don't buy it at all.

Ortize goes on to let John Mozeliak's flunky, Michael Girsch, add to the "we're good" mantra.

Goold, while not specifically saying the Cards are looking up at the Brewers, says at best they're a second wild card. That means he ranks one of three of the Brewers, Dbacks and Rockies ahead of the Cardinals at minimum. (Nobody else from last year qualifies as having moved ahead of the Cardinals.) Seeing how the two western teams have made no major additions or subtractions, I put both ahead of the Cards, barring some major player regression. And, I still put the Brewers ahead.

Well, since I started writing this, Ben Frederickson, whom I consider the most honest of the paper's writers on the Cards' current situation, has weighed in and said, no the rotation is built on hope more than anything else, and even wonders if Lance Lynn might be available for a call-back. Hell, I'd pay Lynn 2/$36 instead of the Mets' alleged 3/$36. Might also exempt the Cards from being a target of a potential collusion lawsuit. I asked Goold in his Monday chat if he agreed and my Q never got out of moderation or whatever. (Maybe the next labor agreement will move at least somewhat in the direction of other leagues' caps, along with more revenue sharing, AND minimums on team spending that right now are toothless.)

So, let's look for other analysis.

Bernie Miklasz, while thinking the Crew overpaid somewhat for Yelich, also indicates he thinks the Cards may now be looking up again.

One of Bernie Miklasz's ESPN Radio compadres, Kevin Wheeler, agrees with Bernie even more strongly.

Let's look at the Milwaukee picture.

Ryan Braun still has a decent bat and is available to the Brew Crew for three more years plus a team option at $15M. In short, the Brew know what they've got out there for years to come and can build elsewhere. Or — and with his willingness — Braun can move to first base. That presumably means Eric Thames, with a relatively low contract, gets moved, presumably for pitching. Of course, that presumes Keon Broxton will improve that much in the outfield. Kevin Wheeler says that this now leaves Domingo Santana free for trading. He'd fit great in the AL, where he could DH more, given his limited range. The AL is home of the Tampa Bay Rays and pitcher Chris Archer, who reportedly continues to draw Rays interest. If they land Archer, signed through 2021, including team options, boom. (That said, it will take at least one and probably two prospects as well as Santana to land Archer for that reason. And Archer is not an "ace," just an upgrade.)

If this trade happens, contra Hummel again, the Brewers' pitching staff moves ahead of the Cardinals for sure. Or, even if BenFred's scenario pans out, Brewers + Archer are probably about even with Cardinals + Lynn on starting rotation.

One final note? Brewers manager Craig Counsell has not been under too much of a spotlight yet, but the team hasn't significantly underperformed its Pythag under him. On the other hand, Cardinals fans know just how much Mike Matheny does NOT bring.

February 08, 2018

Wall Street vs. Main Street, and also
economic robustness vs. fragility

First, a, 1,000-point drop, as in Monday's, on the Dow Jones isn't THAT big. Yeah, 4 percent.

But, I"m old enough to remember the 1987 plunge, and plunge it was. The 508-point drop on the biggest day, as a percentage of the Dow, was far larger. That drop, of 22.61 percent, was also far bigger than any single day's drop during the 2008 financial crisis, though not part of the same type of trend. See Wiki for more, including that Monday's drop didn't even make the top 20 for worst one-day declines. I suspect it doesn't even make the top 40. In fact, the whole set of drops from late last week through Mondy

Second, the market is overheated. This is the reverse of gold going through the roof shortly after Obama took office and anybody with a brain knows that.

Third, Wall Street is not Main Street. Unfortunately, all Republicans, including small-town Main Street ones, I think think that it is. So do a majority of national level Democrats.

This is doubly true when trading is all computer-driven.

Fourth, job quit rates hit a 17-year high last month. Wall Street got butt-hurt over possibly having to pay employees more money.

Fifth, I've said for more than a year now that I expect a recession, probably by the end of this year. And, it may not be bad, but it doesn't have to be bad to be bad.

Despite Republicans, and perhaps grudgingly, perhaps not, centrist as well as conservative economists touting the current economic robustness, it ain't.

Nine years after the big crash and we're just now getting the "upward pressure on wages" that Wall Street purportedly hates.

The current drop is indeed just a correction, not a bear market. But that doesn't mean the Dow will stay here. One thing that will result from the Fed moving interest rates up is that the Dow will naturally fall further as other investments gain attractiveness. Whether Dow doublers-down make the Dow's longer, larger readjustment into a recession cause celebre I don't know. If they do, it's their fault. To riff on Chris Tomlinson, traders and companies have gotten drunk on cheap money.

But, I think a recession is still headed here for other reasons. And, even if it's not bad, per two paragraphs above, we don't have a robust economy. Even a mild recession will hurt hard, given continued growth in income inequality that happened under Obama's watch.