Today’s big news story is likely to be the Michael Flynn sentencing at 11:00 AM ET in federal court in Washington, DC.
☭ This Russher Thing ☭
It is all coming out now and will continue to trickle out as the Special Counsel, along with various state AGs and other law enforcement, work their way through this vast and complex conspiracy. The Senate report lays out the case baldly that this Russher thing was never a made up story and yes there was collusion. Bigly collusion:
New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows the operation’s scale and sweep, Craig Timberg and Tony Romm, Washington Post, December 17, 2018.
The first report — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details of how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for interfering in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found. ✂️
“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.” ✂️
The Russians aimed particular energy at activating conservatives on issues such as gun rights and immigration, while sapping the political clout of left-leaning African American voters by undermining their faith in elections and spreading misleading information about how to vote. Many other groups — Latinos, Muslims, Christians, gay men and women, liberals, Southerners, veterans — got at least some attention from Russians operating thousands of social media accounts.
The second report — prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee by researchers for New Knowledge, Columbia University and Canfield Research — emphasized this aspect of the Russian operation, saying, “The IRA created an expansive cross-platform media mirage targeting the Black community, which shared and cross-promoted authentic Black media to create an immersive influence ecosystem.”
Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans on Social Media, Scott Shane and Sheera Frenkel, New York Times, December 17, 2018.
Creating accounts designed to pass as belonging to Americans, the Internet Research Agency spread its messages not only via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which have drawn the most attention, but also on YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and Google+, among other platforms. Its attack on the United States used almost exclusively high-tech tools created by American companies. ✂️
“Regrettably, it appears that the platforms may have misrepresented or evaded in some of their statements to Congress,” the report says, noting what it calls one false claim that specific population groups were not targeted by the influence operation and another that the campaign did not seek to discourage voting.
“It is unclear whether these answers were the result of faulty or lacking analysis, or a more deliberate evasion,” the report says.
And confirmation that the disinformation/propaganda campaign went on — and even intensified — after the election, in order to help the illegitimate POTUS stay in office:
Russian disinformation teams targeted Robert S. Mueller III, says report prepared for Senate, Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Washington Post, December 17, 2018.
✚ Study: Universal Healthcare Makes Sense ✚
Thanks to 2thanks for pointing to this study about Medicare For All:
This study by PERI researchers Robert Pollin, James Heintz, Peter Arno, Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Michael Ash presents a comprehensive analysis of the prospects for a Medicare for All health care system in the United States. The most fundamental goals of Medicare for All are to significantly improve health care outcomes for everyone living in the United States while also establishing effective cost controls throughout the health care system. These two purposes are both achievable. As of 2017, the U.S. was spending about $3.24 trillion on personal health care—about 17 percent of total U.S. GDP. Meanwhile, 9 percent of U.S. residents have no insurance and 26 percent are underinsured—they are unable to access needed care because of prohibitively high costs. Other high-income countries spend an average of about 40 percent less per person and produce better health outcomes. Medicare for All could reduce total health care spending in the U.S. by nearly 10 percent, to $2.93 trillion, while creating stable access to good care for all U.S. residents.
Now For a Little Inspiration
Mark Sumner, Abbreviated Pundit Roundup featured this wonderful video clip of FDR giving his “Second Bill of Rights” speech.
⚖ Justice ⚖
New indictments were unsealed today and Michael Flynn is cited in them (“Person A”) as an unindicted co-conspirator. Flynn must have provided a whole heap of information to the Special Counsel’s office to avoid indictment in these cases where he was clearly participating in criminal activity:
Michael Flynn’s business partner charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey, Rachel Weiner, Carol D. Leonnig and Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post, December 17, 2018.
Bijan Kian made his first appearance in Alexandria federal court Monday morning. According to the indictment, Kian, who ran a lobbying firm with Flynn, conspired with a Turkish businessman to illegally influence government officials and public opinion in the United States against Gulen.
The indictment demonstrates the extent to which Flynn was secretly working to advance the interests of his Turkish clients while publicly serving as a key surrogate to Donald Trump and auditioning for a role in his administration. According to the newly unsealed court document, Flynn was texting and emailing frequently about how to advance the Turkish agenda throughout the final weeks of the presidential campaign. ✂️
Flynn is set to be sentenced Tuesday for lying to FBI agents as part of a special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Prosecutors asked that he receive no prison time, citing his “substantial assistance.” As part his plea, Flynn agreed that he took part in this scheme. But the case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Gillis and Evan Turgeon in the Eastern District of Virginia, not the special counsel.
AGs, led by Underwood of NY, file motion to defend the ACA:
— NY AG Underwood (@NewYorkStateAG) December 18, 2018
First Step Act
Criminal justice bill clears hurdle in the Senate on strong bipartisan vote, Seung Min Kim, Washington Post, December 17, 2018.
Senators voted 82 to 12 to end debate on the First Step Act and steer the legislation to a final vote, probably scheduled for Tuesday.
The bill would revise several sentencing laws, such as reducing the “three strikes” penalty for drug felonies from life behind bars to 25 years and retroactively limiting the disparity in sentencing guidelines between crack and powder cocaine offenses. The latter would affect about 2,000 current federal inmates.
It also overhauls the federal prison system to help inmates earn reduced sentences and lower recidivism rates. A different version passed the House this year, so the House would have to pass the latest draft before it can be sent to Trump for his signature.
Pushing Back Against Republican Power Grab
Lawsuit Challenges Wisconsin Republicans’ Lame-Duck Cuts to Early Voting, Ari Berman, Mother Jones, December 17, 2018.
The lawsuit was filed by the National Redistricting Foundation, a nonprofit founded by former attorney general Eric Holder, and One Wisconsin Institute, a Madison-based progressive advocacy group. The suit charges that the new law was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature “as part of a partisan attempt to retain and regain power” and violates a 2016 ruling by a federal judge striking down previous cutbacks to early voting in 2016. In a statement, Holder called the new law “grossly partisan, deeply undemocratic, and an attack on voting rights.”
???????? Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things ????????
Reps Jimmy Gomez and Nanette Baragán have been at the border all day Monday to observe and advocate for migrant refugees. This is representation! Late last night, Rep Gomez had a little good news to report:
After 7hrs, I can now confirm:
Maria Meza & her kids — featured in this @Reuters image fleeing tear gas at the border last month — just filed for asylum.
— Rep. Jimmy Gomez (@RepJimmyGomez) December 18, 2018
And here is a heartwarming story inspired by the season:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 17, 2018
Homeless man helps Secret Santa give out $100 bills to strangers, Steve Hartman, CBS News, December 14, 2018.
This holiday season, in addition to his normal giving, (Secret Santa) came to Phoenix and recruited a most unlikely homeless elf. He gave Moses about $3,000 with the instruction to give it away to whomever he saw fit.
“I think this will be a joyful experience for him. You know, it’s a myth that the homeless just take. From my experience, the people with the least give the most of what they have,” the Secret Santa said.
“This here is a new beginning for me,” Moses said. But he said that reward pales to the joy he received from helping others.
“Today we changed a lot of people’s lives. But I believe my life was changed the most,” he said.
This is a good moment for a…
???? Musical Interlude ????
(warning: if you listen to this twice, it will dance in your head for the rest of the day ???? ???? “I make toys, but I’ve got aspirations!”????)
♀ Feminism Key to Saving Democracy From Authoritarianism ♀
Women foresaw this and have been writing about it (including yours truly) for years. Still, it’s good news that this truth has been given a big platform, even if it required a man’s word to get it out there. We can’t solve a problem until we acknowledge it:
The New Authoritarians Are Waging War on Women, Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2019 issue.
To understand global Trumpism, argues Valerie M. Hudson, a political scientist at Texas A&M, it’s vital to remember that for most of human history, leaders and their male subjects forged a social contract: “Men agreed to be ruled by other men in return for all men ruling over women.” This political hierarchy appeared natural—as natural as adults ruling children—because it mirrored the hierarchy of the home. Thus, for millennia, men, and many women, have associated male dominance with political legitimacy. Women’s empowerment ruptures this order. “Youths oppress My people, and women rule over them,” laments Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible. “My people, your leaders mislead you.”
“The first [gender] difference that individuals notice,” Valerie Hudson told me, “is the difference between sexes in one’s own home. That establishes the first political order, the nature of how things should be in the country.” It is no surprise, therefore, that authoritarians often succeed when women—especially feminist women—threaten male dominance of public life in countries where men still reign in private.
Compare the United States, the Philippines, Brazil, Hungary, and Poland with the countries of northern Europe, where women’s political power has become more normal. In 2017, women made up 48 percent of Iceland’s parliament. In Sweden, the share was 44 percent; in Finland, 42 percent; and in Norway, 40 percent. In the countries that have recently elected gender-backlash authoritarians, the rates are lower, ranging from Italy’s 31 percent to Hungary’s 10 percent. This doesn’t mean a Nordic Orbán or Bolsonaro is impossible: Northern Europe has its own far-right parties. But it’s harder for those parties to use gender to delegitimize the existing political order, because women’s political empowerment no longer appears illegitimate.
Women looking to unseat Trump or Bolsonaro in the next election may find little comfort in the Nordic example. Family dynamics change not year by year, but generation by generation. Nonetheless, the new authoritarianism underscores the importance of an old feminist mantra: The personal is political. Foster women’s equality in the home, and you may save democracy itself.
Meanwhile, From The Schadenfreude File, These Assh*les
Republicans Are Having A ‘No Exit’ Moment On A Government Shutdown, Matt Fuller, Huffington Post, December 17, 2018.
Four days until a partial government shutdown, no one on Capitol Hill seems to know what will happen by the end of this week. Funding for a number of agencies will lapse at midnight Friday, and if Republicans can’t persuade Trump to give in on the wall ― at least temporarily ― there will be a shutdown over Christmas for many nonessential government workers.
GOP leaders seem to be preparing to ask Trump to go along with a temporary continuing resolution (CR), perhaps buying them two or three weeks. But Trump has shown a total willingness to accept a shutdown this time around. He made no qualms last week about saying he’d accept the blame during a meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and he sent one of his most hard-line advisers ― Stephen Miller ― on the Sunday news shows to further suggest that he would not be caving.
But the consensus on Capitol Hill is that this eventually ends with Republicans caving, one way or another.
“We’re not winning this fight, and he’s the only one who doesn’t know it,” one senior GOP aide told HuffPost on Monday.
this Assh*le too
Zinke’s exit won’t end scandal probes, Ben Lefebvre and Zack Colman, Politico, December 17, 2018.
Interior’s in-house watchdog said Monday that it will keep pursuing the multiple investigations it has open into Zinke. The probes by the Interior inspector general’s office include one into Zinke’s involvement in a Montana land deal — first uncovered by POLITICO — that is backed by Dave Lesar, chairman of the giant energy company Halliburton. Zinke met with Lesar at his office at Interior’s headquarters last year, then discussed the development project over dinner, as POLITICO has reported.
“At this point, everything is continuing,” Interior inspector general spokesperson Nancy DiPaolo said, though she did not elaborate on the extent of the IG’s probes.
The Justice Department declined to comment on multiple news reports that it is pursuing its own probe into the land deal. But if such a criminal probe were underway at DOJ, Zinke’s departure would be unlikely to derail it, said Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center.
“The DOJ generally wouldn’t halt an investigation just because a person had left office,” Fischer said.
And this Assh*le
Dear Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson): I'm an immigrant. Irish Spring soap cleans my skin the same way it cleans your skin. My parents were poor. They worked hard and started a successful business. Now their son is in Congress.
So take your hatred of immigrants and shove it. https://t.co/I2cOv4nlLi
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 18, 2018
⚡️ Lightning RoundUp ⚡️
Can we get an Amen? It’s high time for media to enter the No Kellyanne Zone — and stay there, Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post Opinion, December 17, 2018.
Hard to see how Donny avoids indictment: Trump Can and Should Be Indicted, Marjorie Cohn, Truthout Opinion, December 17, 2018.
Hard to see how Jared avoids prison: Boy Plunder: The Many Crimes of Jared Kushner, Greg Olear, Medium, December 17, 2018.
Iowa considers ethics complaint against Trump’s acting attorney general, Jon Swaine, The Guardian, December 11, 2018.
???? Goldman Sachs Faces Charges In Malaysia Over Massive Corruption Scandal, Camilla Domonoske, NPR News, December 17, 2018.
PA GOP worried they cannot deliver PA again: Pennsylvania meltdown triggers Republican alarms, Holly Otterbein, Politico, December 17, 2018.
Ex-Trump advisor Roger Stone admits to spreading lies online in lawsuit settlement, Tim Stelloh, NBC News, December 17, 2018.
CBS board says Les Moonves will not receive $120 million severance, Lex Haris, CBS News, December 17, 2018.
How is that even possible? Raising the steaks: An Israeli start-up just made the first slaughter-free steak, a lab-grown sirloin, Laura Brehaut, National Post (Canada), December 17, 2018.
???? RoundUp WindDown ????
That’s it from me for two weeks. Stay hopeful, my friends! Eat nutritious food, get your rest and spend a little time every day doing something that feeds your soul.
I’ve got a bunch of appointments this morning which means I can’t get back to comment until afternoon — so you know what to do, Newsies! Talk amongst yourselves until I get back ????
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.