Thursday, June 22, 2017

John Oliver being sued by "coal king" over segment which included threats of just such a lawsuit.

So you guys might remember that on Tuesday I posted a story about John Oliver's brilliant take on Donald Trump's inability to actually bring back coal jobs.

Part of that show also featured references to "Coal King" Bob Murray, a close friend of Donald Trump's, who threatened to sue Oliver if he included him in the segment.

Of course Oliver did just that, and even mocked a story told about Murray that suggests he once had a conversation with a talking squirrel.
Well for some reason Mr. Murray did indeed take offense, and now he is actually suing John Oliver and HBO: 

A Republican coal baron is suing John Oliver, HBO, Time Warner, and the writers for Oliver’s show over the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight. 

The suit, filed on June 21 in the circuit court of Marshall County, West Virginia, holds that Oliver and his team “executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies” by airing an episode that ripped into him. Murray runs the country’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy Corporation. 

“They did this to a man who needs a lung transplant, a man who does not expect to live to see the end of this case,” reads the complaint, which also lists Murray’s companies as plaintiffs. 

The lawsuit isn’t a surprise to Oliver. In fact, the British comic said on the episode of his show that aired on June 18 that he expected it, noting that Murray has sued several other media outlets in the past (including, in May, the New York Times). In the episode, Oliver criticized Murray’s business practices, saying he doesn’t do enough to protect his miners’ safety. Oliver also noted that his team contacted Murray’s company before the episode aired, and that the company sent a cease-and-desist letter––the first time that had ever happened to his show. 

Parts of the complaint read like it had been written by President Donald Trump. One paragraph says Murray “has built a strong reputation as one of the as one of the staunchest defenders and most ardent champions of the United States coal industry and America itself.” The complaint also claims that “[d]efendants’ broadcasts have vigorously supported and advanced Mrs. Clinton’s agenda.”

God this is going to be good!

Personally I hope that the HBO lawyers put the giant squirrel on the stand to testify.

Speaking of lawyers HBO once hired 160 of them in preparation for the lawsuits they expected from Scientologists for broadcasting the documentary, "Going Clear."

Even the Scientologists were not crazy enough to go through with any lawsuits. But then again I don't think they talk to squirrels.

By the way if you have not seen the segment which inspired this hullabaloo you really owe it to yourself to do so. It is actually very good.  I anxiously await this upcoming episode, because you KNOW that much of it will focus on this lawsuit.

Just over 150 days in office Donald Trump is going to hold a reelection fundraiser. In one of this hotels, or course.

Courtesy of the AP: 

President. Candidate. Businessman. Three of President Donald Trump’s roles converge next week as he holds his first major re-election fundraiser at his hotel in Washington. 

Trump officially kicked off his re-election campaign on Inauguration Day by filing Federal Election Commission paperwork, making it the earliest such effort by a sitting president. 

It’s paying off: The campaign raised more than $7 million by the end of March from appeals to small donors and the sale of merchandise such as the ubiquitous red “Make America Great Again” ball caps. 

The June 28 fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington is for larger donors. TheTrump campaign and the Republican National Committee will share proceeds.

So not only will Trump's campaign receive a bunch of money from donors hoping to buy favors from the current administration, but Trump's hotel will also be paid out of those campaign funds which will go right into his personal bottom line.

It is one of the most blatant and transparent political scams that we have ever seen, and for some reason it does not seem to matter to the Republicans one little bit.

But this is really the only time that Trump seems comfortable.

Not as the actual president with so many responsibilities requiring his attention.

But as a candidate with the sole focus of working toward his next political victory.

"I don't want you to get shooted." Heartbreaking video of Philando Castile's girlfriend and her daughter minutes after he was fatally shot by police.

Courtesy of Law Newz: 

In the aftermath of Officer Jeronimo Yanez‘s acquittal after fatally shooting Philando Castile, new material related to the case continues to be released. 

Just this morning, Tony Webster, an independent journalist and researcher from Minnesota, provided video obtained via a FOIA request of Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, in the back of a squad car with her four-year-old daughter in the immediate moments after Castile was gunned down. 

The video is harrowing, hard to watch, and contains strong language. Reynolds can be heard screaming, at whichh point her four-year-old daughter Dae’Anne then rises to the occasion to console her grieving mother, saying, “Please don’t scream because I don’t want you to get shooted … I can keep you safe … I wish this town was safer.”

That is hard to watch I don't care who you are.

Children should never be terrified of the police, but clearly in this case this little girl has every reason to fear them, and to fear for the safety of her mother.

She just watched the man who she probably thought of as her father shot to death right in front of her eyes.

Why? Because he was exercising his 2nd Amendment rights while black. 

And perhaps the worst part is that the man who murdered him, walked away scott free.

As Trevor Noah pointed out the other night, if this were a white man the NRA would be so far up that police department's ass they could watch their breakfast digest.

But not for a black man, for a black man legally carrying a firearm is a potential death sentence.  

2018 is coming.

We just need to keep up the enthusiasm, remind people of what is at stake, and perhaps we can accomplish in 2018 what the Republicans were able to accomplish in 2010.

(H/T to the Democratic Underground.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Alexandria shooter acted alone, no "nexus of terrorism" found.

Courtesy of Salon: 

The FBI announced on Wednesday that James T. Hodgkinson — the gunman who shot Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., during a Congressional baseball practice — acted alone. 

“We also assessed that there was no nexus to terrorism,” Andrew Vale, assistant director of the FBI in Washington said. 

Hodgkinson, 66, was known to have an anger management problem as well and his wife has cooperated with the investigation.

Hodgkinson was from Illinois and opened fire on Republican members of Congress last week and was shot and killed by police as they responded to the incident. The investigation is still ongoing and CNN reported that authorities found a list created by Hodgkinson with names of six members of Congress, though their names and parties were not released. Scalise who is the House Majority Whip was the only member of Congress injured during the attack.

In other words this guy was not part of some secret Leftist terrorist cell that was targeting Donald Trump or the Republicans, as has some on the Right have been suggesting.

Look I am not saying that there are not nutjobs on the Left, or even that some of the partisan talk out there did not play a part in getting this guy all worked up enough to open fire.

However I would like to mention that there are really VERY few acts of actual violence coming from the progressive community, and no I don't consider those Antifa assholes to be part of the progressive community.

As a rule those of us on the progressive side of the aisle tend to make our statements through pithy, correctly spelled protest signs, boycotts against Right Wing misogynists, and of course our votes.

ANY violence directed at even the worst example of a Republican politician, or GOP mouthpiece, is to be rejected out of hand.

Yes of course I would like to slap the orange off of Donald Trump, I am after all only human.

But I would never actually do it, nor do I, in any way, advocate such behavior.

So it appears that Donald Trump's visit to the UK is cancelled after all.

Now look I will only come if you promise there will be no booing.
You may remember that two Sundays ago we reported that Trump was refusing to travel to the United Kingdom until people started being nicer to him there.

In response both the UK and US responded that the trip was still a go.

Well as it turns out, not so much.

Courtesy of The Telegraph: 

Donald Trump's state visit to the UK appears to have been shelved for at least two years after it was not included in the Queen's speech. 

The Queen's address usually mentions planned state visits, but Wednesday's speech only contained a reference to welcoming King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain in July. 

It follows reports that the American President told the Prime Minister he will not come to the UK on a state visit if there are large-scale protests against him. 

Apparently the invitation from Prime Minister May still stands, but there is no information when the thin skinned one might deign to take her up on it.

Let's face it Trump is a giant orange panty waist who is too afraid to face crowds of people who will not kiss his ass.

That's why he likes those campaign rallies where he can have security escort out any hecklers or protesters.

However he is at some point expected to travel to places in the world where hecklers and protesters will make up the majority of the attendees.

Hell the way things are going with his poll numbers pretty soon the only place he will be able to attract a crowd of people to applaud his speech will be inside the Oval Office.

And that is only if he does NOT invite his wife.

So how do we know that the Russians did not change vote tallies in the 2016 election? We don't.

The Actind DHS Undersecretary also had this to add:

Acting DHS Undersecretary Jeanette Manfra confirmed in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing what has been previously reported: that Russian operatives tried to interfere with the U.S. electoral infrastructure itself. 

“We have evidence of election-related systems in 21 states that were targeted,” Manfra testified, declining to disclose which specific states were targeted. 

Manfra also said she would not share which states had data “exfiltrated” from their voting systems in an open hearing.

 You know we keep learning that the Russian cyber attacks were more widespread and consequential than previously reported almost every week.

I keep waiting for the day that it is finally reported that "Yes, the Russians stole the election and made Donald Trump the president."

However perhaps the reason we have not yet heard that statement is because DHS has not bothered to really look into it.

Courtesy of The Daily Beast:  

Despite assurances from the U.S. intelligence community that Russian hacking only influenced the 2016 U.S. election—and didn’t change vote tallies—there was never actually a formal federal audit of those systems, the Department of Homeland Security said. 

And while DHS offered free security scans to any state that wanted them, many states—even ones that took up the DHS offer, like Michigan and Maine—either use audit procedures that are considered inadequate or don’t audit their election results at all. 

“I think there’s a presumption amongst both the general public and lawmakers that DHS did some sort of investigation,” said Susan Greenhalgh, who serves as Elections Specialist at Verified Voting, a nonprofit devoted to U.S. election integrity. 

“It didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean that something happened, but it also means it wasn’t investigated.”

The article goes on to say that not only has DHS not done an intensive audit to determine if any election tallies were tampered with, it may not even be able to do that.

So again, WHY exactly are we so convinced that the Russians did not change the vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected?

For weeks Michael Flynn continued to sit in on top secret intelligence briefings even after it was determined that he had been compromised.

Courtesy of the New York Times:

Senior officials across the government became convinced in January that the incoming national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, had become vulnerable to Russian blackmail. 

At the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — agencies responsible for keeping American secrets safe from foreign spies — career officials agreed that Mr. Flynn represented an urgent problem. 

Yet nearly every day for three weeks, the new C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, sat in the Oval Office and briefed President Trump on the nation’s most sensitive intelligence — with Mr. Flynn listening. Mr. Pompeo has not said whether C.I.A. officials left him in the dark about their views of Mr. Flynn, but one administration official said Mr. Pompeo did not share any concerns about Mr. Flynn with the president. 

The episode highlights a remarkable aspect of Mr. Flynn’s tumultuous, 25-day tenure in the White House: He sat atop a national security apparatus that churned ahead despite its own conclusion that he was at risk of being compromised by a hostile foreign power.

It should also be remembered that during this time Trump was actively trying to get James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn's Russian connections.

I think it is high time that CIA Director Mike Pompeo makes another appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Because either he provided classified information to a man that he knew was compromised, or he was out of the loop and did not know he was compromised. Both equally troubling.

When asked previously Pompeo dodged the question: 

Mr. Pompeo sidestepped questions from senators last month about his handling of the information about Mr. Flynn, declining to say whether he knew about his own agency’s concerns. “I can’t answer yes or no,” he said. “I regret that I’m unable to do so.” His words frustrated Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

“Either Director Pompeo had no idea what people in the C.I.A. reportedly knew about Michael Flynn, or he knew about the Justice Department’s concerns and continued to discuss America’s secrets with a man vulnerable to blackmail,” Mr. Wyden said in a statement. “I believe Director Pompeo owes the public an explanation.”

Yep, I agree.

As it stand right now we are left with two options.

Either this Administration is the most incompetent administration in the history of the country, or it is the most corrupt.

It is never good news for an administration when its Attorney General feels the need to hire his own attorney.

Courtesy of The National Law Review:

Charles Cooper, the well-known Republican lawyer, wasn't simply in attendance at U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' congressional hearing one week ago to support his friend. Cooper is Sessions' personal lawyer, he confirmed in an email Tuesday. 

Cooper didn't provide additional details on the nature of the representation—including whether it extends to the criminal inquiry into Trump campaign affiliates' involvement with Russia. 

Peter Carr, a spokesperson for the Justice Department's investigation, declined to comment because the probe is ongoing. Spokespeople for Sessions didn't immediately respond to requests Tuesday. 

Cooper's involvement isn't that surprising given his public appearance with Sessions on Capitol Hill. Lawyers typically consult counsel before testifying, so that they can prepare adequately. 

But a continuing attorney-client relationship between the attorney general and a private lawyer could signal they expect additional perilous legal questions—including from Robert Mueller III's special counsel investigation. 

We already know that Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and of course Donald Trump have all hired lawyers.

At this point it might be harder to locate a Trump campaign or Administration official who HASN'T felt the need to lawyer up.

Yes, the noose is definitely getting tighter.

The Moscow Project is dedicated to getting to the bottom of the Trump/Russia story.

Courtesy of Slate: 

With Reid no longer in the Senate, Jentleson now works full time to understand and publicize the Trump-Russia story. In February, he helped found the Moscow Project at the CAP Action Fund, an arm of the Center for American Progress. With a staff of five that will soon double to 10, the project is part clearinghouse, part think tank, and part private investigation agency; it recently hired a Russian-speaking forensic accountant from a high-profile firm. Its website keeps track of the ever-expanding story of the scandal and its key players, while its staffers brief members of Congress and compile reports on matters related to the Trump-Russia nexus. They try to coordinate experts across fields—including money laundering and counterintelligence—to get the clearest possible picture of what is happening with the scandal and the investigation. “There are so many different angles that there’s not one person who knows everything,” said Jentleson’s Moscow Project colleague Max Bergmann, a former member of the State Department’s policy planning staff.

“You don’t have to believe that Trump is a full-on agent of Russian intelligence to believe that what’s already been established about his connections is deeply troubling,” Jentleson said. “Especially when you combine them with the policy positions that he’s taking towards Russia.” Yet because there’s still so much that we don’t know about Trump and Russia, and so much deliberate misinformation floating around, it’s easy for anyone tracking all the connections to fall into paranoid rabbit holes. For Jentleson and his colleagues, part of the work of the Moscow Project is to limn a possible conspiracy without falling into conspiracy theorizing. “Everything that comes out of our project has been vetted through CAP’s team of policy experts, and frankly our legal team,” he said.

Well I think this seems like a more than worth endeavor.

And who knows, they might actually get to the truth of this story before any of the many investigations manage to bring the revelations to light.

(You can click here for more information about the Moscow Project.)

P.S. By the way Teen Vogue of all people has a really comprehensive timeline for the Russian story.

It is a good resource for keeping everything in perspective, and remembering what happened when.

Death by gunshot is the third leading cause of childhood death in the US.

Courtesy of Ars Technica:  

Nearly 1,300 children aged 0 to 17 are killed by gunshots each year in the US, and nearly 5,800 more suffer from non-lethal gunshot wounds, researchers estimate in a study published Monday in Pediatrics.

 In all, about 19 children die or are wounded each day from firearms, either by homicide, suicide, or unintentional shootings. Firearm-related deaths are now the third leading cause of death among US children and the second leading cause of injury-related deaths, behind car crashes. The grim national statistics are even more startling when considered from an international perspective: the US now accounts for 91 percent of all child firearm-related deaths (aged 0 to 14) among high-income countries. 

In addition to the broad figures compiled by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study also provides one of the most comprehensive looks yet at the factors surrounding those deaths and injuries. 

For the study, researchers tapped into national databases on firearm deaths and nonfatal injuries, including data on gunshots from handguns, rifles, and shotguns. Information was scraped from death certificates, hospital reports, medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports. The researchers also collected demographic data, such as sex, race/ethnicity, and age.

The latest annual death estimate breaks down to: 53 percent from homicide, 38 percent from suicide, six percent unintentional, and the remaining three percent were either from unknown intentions or legal intervention. Boys made up 82 percent of those fatally shot, and older children (aged 13 to 17) were 12 times more likely to die from firearms than younger children (0 to 12). 

African American children were the demographic most likely to be killed by firearms, while white and Native American children are the most likely to take their own lives with a gun of some type.

It should also be noted that while firearm homicides and accidental deaths have gone down, that gun suicides have gone up.

It is also worth mentioning that 91% of the children killed by guns in high income countries, have died in the United States of America.

If there were any terrorist organization in the world that was murdering even thirteen of our children every year, we would mobilize our entire military to wipe them out.

But this is 1,300 of our babies, killed by instruments of death that adults bring into their homes to protect them.

When do we pass some laws and spend some money to help keep them safe?