Loyalty: There is a difference

Joyce White Vance is a University of Alabama Law Professor who is often seen on MSNBC. Appointed by President Obama, Vance served as a U.S. attorney in Birmingham and as federal prosecutor for 25 years. She is also a wife and mother of four. In a tweet Thursday night, Vance expressed her respect for President Obama by sharing a statement he made to his newly appointed US attorneys. In his statement, Obama made it clear who he expected U.S. Attorneys to serve and where their loyalties must lie.

Joyce Alene @JoyceWhiteVance

“The first time President Obama met with US Attorneys, he told us, ‘I appointed you but you don’t serve me. You serve the American people. And I expect you to act with independence & integrity.’ None of us ever forgot that.”

December 29, 2017

Trump demanded government employees (appointed or not) give their sole loyalty and service to him. President Obama demanded loyalty and service be given to the American people. There lies the difference between self-serving—and selflessness. There lies the difference between self-importance—and greatness.

Do you or someone you know depend on Medicaid or Medicare? Don’t get too comfortable . . .

Medicaid and Medicare — and maybe Social Security — could face crucial tests in 2018 at both the federal and state levels.

Republicans in Congress failed in their attempts earlier this year to impose drastic cuts to the program as part of ObamaCare repeal, but GOP lawmakers could try again next year.

The tax bill that President Trump recently signed into law is projected to add $1 trillion to the federal deficit, making cuts to Medicaid an even more tempting target for some conservatives.

“Medicaid is front and center in any budget exercises, and now that deficits have increased, it puts Medicaid squarely in the bulls eye,” said Joan Alker, the executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has said he wants to bring down entitlement spending, saying in December that “health-care entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid are the big drivers of debt.”

Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/366728-gop-could-push-medicaid-cuts-in-2018

Virginia Republican jackass threatens to disrupt Governor Northam’s inauguration

It’s been a wild ride in Virginia over the past couple of months: First Ralph Northam wiped the floor with Ed Gillespie to take the governorship, and then Democrats took the Republican’s massive 66-34 advantage in the state House of Delegates and reduced it to a 50-49 seat advantage, with one remaining District left to be decided … by a coin toss. But of course this coin toss is only in play because of the inexplicable decision by a three-judge panel to count a ballot from hell, thereby creating a tie between Republican candidate David Yancey and Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds (who was originally declared the winner by one vote). Simonds is challenging the ruling, which brings us to the latest chapter in this story. And the latest chapter in how much Republicans hate democracy, because here’s the response to that filing from Del. M. Kirkland Cox, Virginia’s top Republican in the House,  and who, by the way, will be House speaker if Republicans manage to hang on to their majority:

If the House can’t organize, Cox said, the General Assembly won’t be able to follow through with the formalities of Northam’s Jan. 13 inauguration and outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s farewell speech because there won’t be a joint assembly of the legislature.

“Those things simply cannot happen in their current form if the General Assembly isn’t organized,” Cox said on a conference call with reporters Friday morning.

Bear in mind, this won’t prevent Northam from taking office, it’s just Cox being a jackass and making a pathetic threat in the face of a perfectly legal challenge to a ballot counting decision. It should also be noted that on this press call, where Cox sobbed about “politically motivated” tactics, Cox was identified as the “speaker-designee.” Again, jackass.

It should be noted that House District 28 is also still in dispute because 147 voters were disenfranchised after being given ballots for the wrong district. A recount has Republican Bob Thomas defeating Joshua Cole by 73 votes, but Cole, along with the Virginia elections commissioner, is calling for a new election. A U.S. District Court judge has set a hearing on the matter for January 5, 2018. Stay tuned.

 

Trump’s NYT interview shows a man in early dementia, declining rapidly

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a14516912/donald-trump-new-york-times-michael-schmidt/
Trump’s New York Times Interview Is a Portrait of a Man in Cognitive Decline

I don’t care whether Michael Schmidt was tough enough. We’ve got bigger problems.
By Charles P. Pierce
Dec 29, 2017

snip//

Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen my father and all of his siblings slide into the shadows and fog of Alzheimer’s Disease. (the president’s father developed Alzheimer’s in his 80s.) In 1984, Ronald Reagan debated Walter Mondale in Louisville and plainly had no idea where he was. (Would that someone on the panel had asked him. He’d have been stumped.) Not long afterwards, I was interviewing a prominent Alzheimer’s researcher for a book I was doing, and he said, “I saw the look on his face that I see every day in my clinic.” In the transcript of this interview, I hear in the president*’s words my late aunt’s story about how we all walked home from church in the snow one Christmas morning, an event I don’t recall, but that she remembered so vividly that she told the story every time I saw her for the last three years of her life.

In this interview, the president* is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier.To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president*’s well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart. (My father used to give a thumbs up when someone asked him a question. That was one of the strategies he used to make sense of a world that was becoming quite foreign to him.) My guess? That’s part of the reason why it’s always “the failing New York Times,” and his 2016 opponent is “Crooked Hillary.”

In addition, the president* exhibits the kind of stubbornness you see in patients when you try to relieve them of their car keys–or, as one social worker in rural North Carolina told me, their shotguns. For example, a discussion on health-care goes completely off the rails when the president* suddenly recalls that there is a widely held opinion that he knows very little about the issues confronting the nation. So we get this.

But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.

This is more than simple grandiosity. This is someone fighting something happening to him that he is losing the capacity to understand. So is this.

We’re going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we’re being respected again. But another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, “Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.” O.K.

In Ronald Reagan’s second term, we ducked a bullet. I’ve always suspected he was propped up by a lot of people who a) didn’t trust vice-president George H.W. Bush, b) found it convenient to have a forgetful president when the subpoenas began to fly, and c) found it helpful to have a “detached” president when they started running their own agendas – like, say, selling missiles to mullahs. You’re seeing much the same thing with the congressional Republicans. They’re operating an ongoing smash-and-grab on all the policy wishes they’ve fondly cultivated since 1981. Having a president* who may not be all there and, as such, is susceptible to flattery because it reassures him that he actually is makes the heist that much easier.

So, no, I don’t particularly care whether Michael Schmidt was tough enough, or asked enough follow-up questions. I care about this.

I’m always moving. I’m moving in both directions. We have to get rid of chainlike immigration, we have to get rid of the chain. The chain is the last guy that killed. … [Talking with guests.] … The last guy that killed the eight people. … [Inaudible.] … So badly wounded people. … Twenty-two people came in through chain migration. Chain migration and the lottery system. They have a lottery in these countries. They take the worst people in the country, they put ‘em into the lottery, then they have a handful of bad, worse ones, and they put them out. ‘Oh, these are the people the United States. …” … We’re gonna get rid of the lottery, and by the way, the Democrats agree with me on that. On chain migration, they pretty much agree with me.

We’ve got bigger problems.

17 of the wackiest comments from Virginia Republicans in 2017

Many thanks to lowkell at the BlueVirginia blog for this compilation of the truly wackiest, most deranged and repulsive comments from Virginia TeaPublicans throughout 2017.

QUOTING FROM BLUE VIRGINIA:

 

There’s so much craziness in the right-wing blogosphere, it’s hard to know where to begin. But just for fun, here’s an assortment of the craziest Virginia blog posts of 2017. Enjoy?

Lets kick it off with Dr. Robert Warren, “Founder and Past President of the Colonial Area Republican Men’s Association (CARMA) in Williamsburg, VA,” who posts regularly at The Bull Elephant Teapublican Virginia political blog (note: there’s some good stuff – even if right wing – at The Bull Elephant, by folks like Dave Webster, Steven Brodie Tucker and Steve Albertson, but NOT by Warren or the other authors listed below). A few examples of Dr. Warren’s faaaaaaaaaar-right oeuvre include:

1) “The Globalists,” in which he rails against the “pariah” George Soros as an evil “globalist” who has “done great damage around the world because he is ruthless in his opposition to unique national cultures.” Warren adds “Merkel, Macron, Trudeau, Obama, the Clintons” to his list of evil “globalists,” praising Donald Trump as putting “a temporary stop to the ideas of world rule by Plato’s oligarchs.”  Oh, and for good measure, he posits Hungary’s neo-fascist leader as some sort of hero. Yeah, don’t ask.

2) “Vampires,” in which he claims that “the inhumanity and soullessness of vampirism is found far too often in the beings of the left,” with “the most recent example” being “Frederica Wilson, Congresswoman from the Miami, Florida area,” who Warren writes “has sold her soul but still walks the earth.” Again, don’t ask.

3) “Pushing Psychopaths to Violence,” in which he argues that the “American Republican is under attack” by Black Lives Matter, “Antifa, a product of the European socialist and communist ideology,” “La Raza, and a wide variety of Democrat politicians.” Warren further argues that the deranged shooter of Rep. Steve Scalise was pushed by the “radical left” “to commit violence in the name of social justice.” Oh, and the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, is further evidence (don’t ask me how) “that the left is pushing psychopaths to violence – and if they do not stop there will be much more violence with ever escalating death and injury numbers.” Alrighty!

4) “Democrats and Violence,” in which he blames Democrats for the Steve Scalise shooting, as “the vitriol [against Donald Trump] is constantly reported in the biased news media and repeated in virtually every gathering of Democrat [sic] Party faithful.” He further ties this “crescendo of profanity and calls to violence on Hillary Clinton and her ‘Basket of Deplorable’ comments.” He concludes his tirade: “I do not see how Americans can be brought together when one group thinks that global socialism and the destruction of America is a good idea while the other favors pride in America and its borders, language, culture and Constitution. Add to this the Islamic terrorist situation and you have a very combustible future.”

Another frequent author at The Bull Elephant, John Massoud (“Magisterial District Chair in Shenandoah County, the head of the Freedom Caucus of the Shenandoah County GOP, and has dedicated his life to fighting the tyranny of big government at all levels, federal, state, and local”), writes stuff like:

  1. The Most Consequential Presidency in our Lifetimes,” which apparently is not Onion-style satire, claiming with a straight face that “Trump has Made America Great Again in just 11 months,” that he has personally cranked up the economy (despite no economic legislation until the tax monstrosity a few days ago), that he “pulled out of that silly Paris Climate Accord,” that Trump is a “Blue Collar Billionaire,” etc.
  2. Kaepernick is the Ultimate Race Pimp,” which writes that Kaepernick’s “Black Lives Matter squeeze, Nessa Diab… is ruining his football career to help her own flagging career of being a Muslim activist and a race pimp.” Ee gads.

Another author at The Bull Elephant, Woody Zimmerman, writes stuff like:

  1. Son of Hitler” – Starts with a warped, sick image of Hillary Clinton wearing an Iron Cross and swastika, and then…sorry, I couldn’t get past that disgusting image. Done.
  2. Gender Fright” – This one has an image of Hillary Clinton as a…bet you’ll never guess; yep, a WITCH! Ugh. Among other things, such as that the “gender-bias” is actually more of a problem for men than for women, this one writes: “Some schools are also letting homosexual activists ‘help’ boys find their true sexual orientation. Very educational, I’m sure. Not quite the 3 R’s that I grew up with. With the transgender movement gaining steam, the Nifty Fifties are clearly far behind us.”
  3. Going Green – Where are we Heading?“: Gotta have a dollop of one of the far right’s favorite topics, climate science denialism (e.g., “Climate experts declare that warming does not cause ‘extreme weather,’ and that we are not in an era of more intense storms. It only seems that way because of 24/7 news-coverage and overbuilding in hurricane-prone coastal zones. Ice-cap melting seems like a new “warming” problem because we see it happening via satellite. But it happens every spring and summer, as it has for eons.”) and demonization of environmentalists (e.g., “Radical environmentalists envision a purified planet with 300 million people living in pristine simplicity – hunting, gathering, protecting the earth, and freezing their butts off in grass huts.”).
  4. Climate-change Campaign’s Dark Side“: An even more bizarre, would-be-laughable-if-it-weren’t-so-serious example of climate science denial. This screed claims that “science is being prostituted by government-funding for climate-research which has a political agenda and a desired result,” that “the climate-crusade’s darkest aspect, by far, is its opposition to Third World industrial development,” that “electricity so generated [by solar panels and wind turbines] is unreliable and three times as expensive as electricity from coal-fired generating plants” that, “Basically, the Climate movement is anti-human,” and that — this is a classic passage right here – “If backward places like Africa are ever going to pull themselves out of their primitive past, they must be able to use all the resources at their disposal. They’ll never do that with windmills, solar panels, dirt-floor huts with rats running around, and smoky cook-fires burning buffalo shit.” You can’t make this [buffalo] shit up!

Haven’t gotten enough climate science denialism from The Bull Elephant yet?  No worries, they’ve gotcha covered! Check out the writings of Michael Giere, which include gems like “This is Real Climate Change.” This one claims that climate change “is about politics,” that stories about are driven by “the corrupt corporate media-entertainment complex, the political class, and the agenda-driven science and academic community that are enriched by the money provided by government and institutional grants” (bolding by the author), and that “remedies promoted to “stop climate change” demand the total submission of individual rights and modern lifestyles to a vague international order that would diminish both, and the transfer of trillions of dollars of wealth or potential wealth from some people, primarily Americans, to largely unidentified other people.” Again, not making this [Bull Elephant] shit up.

Then of course there’s Dominion Energy’s sponsored blog, with crazy posts like:

  1. Documenting Cville’s Left-Wing Radicalism“: Claims that “Charlottesville is a hotbed of left-wing radicalism without parallel anywhere else Virginia,” that Tom Perriello was “Virginia’s “radical chic” candidate – I know, WTF? – that was “funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, global activist organization Avaaz, and a coterie of wealthy Albemarle County gentry,” that “Charlottesville provides numerous foot soldiers of the Left,” blah blah blah.
  2. Follow the Dark Money“: this one is completely bonkers, claiming that environmental groups like the Chesapeake Climate Action Network – CCAN – is not a “true grassroots environmental organization,” quoting a loony “study” which found that a supposed “‘Billionaire’s Club,’ an exclusive group of wealthy individuals, directs the far-left environmental movement,” that “Far-left environmental activists, while benefiting from nonprofit status, essentially sell a product to wealthy foundations who are seeking to drive policy and political outcomes,” that somehow Virginia Organizing is tied to “Russian energy interests through the Bermuda-based Klein Fund to the California-based Sea Change Foundation,” and that “ Much of the anti-pipeline money in Virginia comes from wealthy out-of-state environmentalists (with a few rubles mixed in).” As I said, totally bonkers.
  3. And then there’s the instant classic, “It Takes Two to Tango,” which claimed that “Both the far Right and far Left came to Charlottesville spoiling for a fight,” that what happened there “is part of a larger struggle between far Left and far Right” (the f***?), that “This time, the rightists committed the most heinous crime. Next time, it will be the leftists,” etc. In response, Peter Galuszka – a progressive who used to write at this blog, but begged off when it became an adjunct of Dominion – commented: “You have major hate groups coming in from other states and you have local residents like Heather Heyer standing up to them. Then I have to go through your false equivalence arguments. I am getting more disgusted. Think I’ll click off.” Well said, Peter…well said.

Finally, check out The Republican Standard (The “Virginia Republican Pravda,” as even The Bull Elephant calls it, writing: “As someone who enjoyed a friendly relationship with the senior editor of this website, it became increasingly painful to read their articles as they were not based on truth, but rather what they wanted the truth to be.  As such, I began to hate seeing new articles posted on The Republican Standard because they consistently reminded me of propaganda.”) fine (ok, not really fine) journalism (ok, not really journalism) like “Is Green Antifa Taking Russian Money To Fight Dominion Energy?“; “Jeanine Lawson is 100% Right: Every Child Has The Right To Their Mother and Father” (in fact, the woman’s simply an anti-LGBT bigot who needs to lose her seat on the County Board in 2019); Virginia Far-Left Democrat [sic] Candidate In VA-10 Bankrolled by California Extremists (this one has a nice assortment of the usual right-wing bogeymen — George Soros! California! “extreme liberals!” Norman Lear! Gloria Steinem! Kamala Harris! the Democratic Socialists of America! contributions from, gasp, “outside of Virginia!”);  plus almost every post about a poll showing Ralph Northam ahead claiming that the poll was “skewed” or “flawed” in some way (in fact, the polls showing Northam with a big lead, as he won by 9 points).

So…yeah, definitely check out the right-wing Virginia political blogosphere in 2018, if you enjoy a heaping helping of conspiracy theorizing, misogyny, science denial, false equivalency with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and of course Trump worship. Sounds like fun, eh?

 

Jailed Russian cybercriminal claims he was among the Russians who hacked US election

Courtesy of McClatchy:

A jailed Russian who says he hacked into the Democratic National Committee computers on the Kremlin’s orders to steal emails released during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign now claims he left behind a data signature to prove his assertion. 

In an interview with Russia’s RAIN television channel made public Wednesday, Konstantin Kozlovsky provided further details about what he said was a hacking operation led by the Russian intelligence agency known by its initials FSB. Among them, Kozlovsky said he worked with the FSB to develop computer viruses that were first tested on large, unsuspecting Russian companies, such as the oil giant Rosneft, later turning them loose on multinational corporations.

In written answers from jail made public Wednesday by RAIN TV, a Moscow-based independent TV station that has repeatedly run afoul of the Kremlin, Kozlovsky said he feared his minders might turn on him and planted a “poison pill” during the DNC hack. He placed a string of numbers that are his Russian passport number and the number of his visa to visit the Caribbean island of St. Martin in a hidden .dat file, which is a generic data file. 

That allegation is difficult to prove, partly because of the limited universe of people who have seen the details of the hack. The DNC initially did not share information with the FBI, instead hiring a tech firm called CrowdStrike, run by a former FBI cyber leader. That company has said it discovered the Russian hand in the hacking, but had no immediate comment on the claim by Kozlovsky that he planted an identifier. 

The newest allegations are potentially significant. If the FSB did in fact direct Kozlovsky, then it debunks Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that his government had nothing to do with hacking that all major U.S. intelligence agencies put at his feet. It also calls into question the view of a hack that was conducted as a closely held, organized FSB campaign directed from central offices. Kozlovsky says he worked largely from home, with limited knowledge of others and that the political hack was just part of larger relationship with the FSB’s top cyber officials on viruses directed at other countries and the private sector. 

“Based on my experience and understanding of professional intelligence operations, the blending of criminal activity with sanctioned intelligence operations is an old page out of the Russian intelligence-services playbook,” said Leo Taddeo, chief information security officer for Cyxtera Technologies and a former head of cyber operations in the FBI’s New York office. “What the defendant (in Russia) is describing would not be inconsistent with past Russian intelligence operations.”

I suspect US intelligence agencies can confirm (or, already have confirmed) this “data signature.”

It has already been well established that the Russian FSB ordered this attack. But finding out how they did it, and who oversaw the operation could help to prevent the next one.

Assuming of course that the Trump administration is interested in preventing the further election hacking by Russia.