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One guy cried wolf—it doesn’t mean that wolves don’t exist

(click to embiggen)

I don’t want this story to take over tomorrow’s Friday Five, and I have a bit to say about the Smollett story. Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God blog, has stated many times his policy that he doesn’t link to reports about hate crimes unless one of three conditions have been met: 1) there has been an arrest of a suspected perpetrator, 2) there is video of at least part of the crime available, 3) there are uninvolved eyewitness accounts. In the years since articulating the criteria, he has made exceptions to the rule only when the national mainstream media was reporting it. Which everyone was shortly after actor and singer Jussie Smollett first reported being attacked by two men three weeks ago.

My first take when I saw the story being shared on twitter was, “I guess he isn’t famous enough to have an entourage with him all the time…” And because the same people who were insistent that Brett Kavanaugh was the victim in his Senate confirmation hearings were immediately claiming it was a hoax, I thought, “I need more details, but I think this falls under the ‘believe victims until proven otherwise’ rule.”

When I found a story with details, I have to admit I was a little bit confused. I had assumed from the initial headlines, that he must have been out at a known gay nightclub, maybe on his way to his car or something. I mean, I know who he is because I watched the first few seasons of Empire and was happy they had more than one queer character in the cast, but I didn’t think that he was famous enough that the typical white Trump-supporting Fox-news-watching bigot would know who he was. Right? I mean, yeah, if guys like that saw men coming out of a gay club they might harass them, and maybe a black dude would be more likely to draw their attention, but I don’t imagine many MAGA-hat-wearing white guys are familiar with the secondary cast of a prime time melodrama that is entirely about an African-American family who own a hip hop recording studio, you know?

However… the story was linked on the Joe.My.God blog, and I knew about Joe’s policy. I had also read a story where a spokesman for the Chicago police denied that they were considering this a hoax. So I included a link in that week’s Friday Five and waited to see if there were more developments.

And, boy have there been developments! Jussie Smollett paid $3,500 to stage his attack, hoping to promote his career, Chicago police allege.

Now, I still believe that on a personal basis, ‘believe victims’ when the report these things is a good rule of thumb. Statistics indicate that less than 2% of reports of this kind of assault are later proved to be fake. Yet, the vast majority of victims who do come forward are disbelieved and often harassed and threatened for doing so.

The biggest tragedy of this is not, as some people are trying to conclude, that people in MAGA hats are being unfairly harangued. The tragedy is that this case will be held up as reason to disbelieve and impede investigations into real hate crimes. Not all hate crimes managed to get caught in viral videos, like the recent assault in Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City Police Seek Help Identifying Man Filmed In Assault After Asking If Victim Is Gay.

This is especially troubling now. Between 2006 and 2016 there had been a steady decline in hate crimes in America. There was a sudden surge right after election day 2016. The FBI described 2017’s figures as a “significant jump” over the previous year, and all indications are that 2018 continued the trend. So moving forward there will likely be more victims of real hate crimes, but people will be more skeptical of any reported hate crimes.

There’s another aspect about this that bothers me. Smollett is being charged with a felony for falsely reporting the crime and wasting police resources. But I want to know why Pool Patrol Paul wasn’t charged for falsely reporting a black family was trespassing? Why wasn’t BBQ Becky charge with making a false report when she called police on a black family using a public park? Or Golf Cart Gail, or that Starbucks manager, or the Nordstrom manager, and many, many other white people who called the cops claiming a black person had committed a crime when no crime had happened? I mean, sure the unrelated Pool Patrol Paula faced criminal charges–but she was filmed assaulting one of the black teen-agers she chased from her community’s pool and the assaulted the cops that came to question her.

But all those other white people last year made false reports to the police—but oddly, none of them were arrested and forced to put up bail.

Smollett seems to be the boy who cried wolf. And yes, he should face consequences for what he did. But there is an important part of the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf that few people think about. He keeps yelling that wolves are attacking the town flock when the aren’t, because he enjoys seeing everyone come running. In the original Greek version of the fable, when the townsfolk stop believing the boy, the wolves show up and eat all the sheep with impunity. This doesn’t just hurt the boy, it hurts the entire village, as the sheep were part of the villager’s livelihood. The moral of the fable isn’t the wolves don’t exist.

Similarly, it isn’t just Smollett that is facing consequences. Unfortunately, any other person of color or queer person who is a victim of hate crimes going forward is going to find that they’re painted with the same hoax brush.

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Hate isn’t just a feeling: Attitudes and silence can cause as much harm as actions

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

It’s estimated that about 1.7 million teen-agers are homeless in America at any time. Of those, about 40% identify as queer (that’s 680,000 kids). According to research by the True Colors Fund and similar groups, the single biggest cause of those queer teens being homeless is family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The next most common reasons are abusive homophobia or transphobia in their school, church, or community, even when their parents don’t go to the extreme of kicking them out. That bullying and rejection is why queer teens and children are five times as likely to attempt suicide than their cis and heterosexual peers. Note that the first study which concluded that the high queer teen suicide numbers is due to discrimination was concluded and published by the George H.W. Bush administration. Though numerous studies since have reached the same conclusion.

Similarly, when marriage equality began being enacted, the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies found that queer teen suicides and suicide attempts decreased by 14%. Which would confirm that perceptions of societal acceptance his a significant driver of the problem.

This is why I get so angry when politicians, such as our current Vice President, scream bloody murder when anyone criticizes the anti-gay policies and teachings of any of their favorite institutions. Adult religious freedom shouldn’t be an excuse to bully children to death. Period.

The rate at which LGBT teens are thrown out of their homes, bullied, and driven to suicide is exactly why queer adults and our allies get upset when, say, the wife of the Vice President of the United States goes to work at a Christian school which rejects queer students. It isn’t about her religious freedom, it’s about the health and welfare of children. And if you don’t believe me, you can listen to a queer person who attended and that very school:

Alumnus of Karen Pence’s anti-LGBTQ school speaks out

When we talk about this sort of thing in relation to private schools, a lot of people who think of themselves as open-minded respond by pointing out that attending a private school isn’t mandatory. As if a five-year-old kid is the one deciding which school their parents are going to enroll them into. Part of the problem with these institutions is that they are part of an entire ecosystem—an anti-gay (and usually also anti-science) bubble in which kids are brought up surrounded by misinformation. More than a little bit of that misinformation being quite harmful to one’s health.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. The overwhelming scientific and medical consensus is that sexual orientation is not a choice, it can’t be changed, and whatever the cause seems to be set sometime before the age of two. It is also the overwhelming scientific and medical consensus that the differences in health outcomes and such that are sometimes cherry-picked from studies to prove that being queer is harmful are actually evidence that anti-gay discrimination is harmful.

Queer kids are born in all types of families. And even when the adults around us don’t notice or suspect us from an early age, we all notice that something is different pretty early. And the older we get in an environment where our feelings and interests don’t match what is expected by the adults around us, the more we try to hide our true selves and contort ourselves into something that will please our elders and peers.

“When you’re young and consistently told that who you are is incorrect and needs to be eradicated, you listen and start to eradicate yourself.”
—Luke Hartman, Immanuel Christian alumnus

As Luke points out, being raised in a church that taught that gays are abominations, and going to a elementary school and then middle school where everyone believed that and the curriculum assumed that non-straight people don’t even exist, stunts a queer kids emotional growth. When none of the role models match their feelings, they just go through motions without many important social developments happening. It was only when he transitioned to a public high school (because the private school didn’t cover the upper grades) that he began to get a hint that people like him even existed.

“I believe the most hurtful messages are the ones that are expressed silently. It was an unspoken truth that being gay, or deviating from a narrow definition of sexual orientation or gender identity, was a no-fly zone.”
—Luke Hartman

They don’t learn how to form healthy romantic relationships in a context that matches their orientation. They also internalize all the absence as much as the outright bigotry. If the only possible acceptable visions of your future are things that you can feel in your bones aren’t who you are, well, that must mean that something is profoundly wrong with you. It’s like one queer author once observed: in myth monsters don’t have reflections and don’t cast shadows. If people like us don’t exist in any books, movies, stories, et cetera that we see growing up—if people like us aren’t reflected in the culture, and if our accomplishments aren’t acknowledged—then the only conclusion is that we are monsters.

That leaves scars and deep trauma—trauma that studies show makes physical changes to the brain just like that seen in war zone survivors!

And that’s why it’s important to call out the people who claim they are just exercising their religious beliefs. They aren’t “merely” doing anything. They are imposing those beliefs on children. And before you let them claim that they have a right to raise their children as they like, let me remind you that children aren’t property. They are a responsibility. We impose severe penalties when parents physically brutalize and even kill their children. We need to realize that abuse and trauma isn’t limited to broken bones, contusions, and concussions.

Weekend Update 2/10/2019: Gruesome Killers and Unrepentant Ex-ex-gay Charlatans

I started this post Saturday, but there were several competing things in the news that I wanted to talk about, and so many of them are depressing, that I decided to put on cold weather gear to go out and free up the snow-covered bird feeder to give myself a mental break. Then I realized that I needed to make coffee. And that made me decide to clean the kitchen counters, unload the dishwasher, and go talk to my husband about dinner plans (since whatever we made would likely require defrosting something from the freezer)… and by the time I had done all that and got back to my computer, I decided to work on my novel instead of doing a Weekend Update post.

Having slept on it, I figured out which news items I definitely wanted to focus on. To follow up on topics that I’ve included in previous Friday Five or Weekend Update posts. And since one of these involves the sentencing of a serial killer, I’m going to put it behind a cut tag. If you aren’t in the mood for discussion of gruesome murders, please don’t click. Otherwise… Read More…

Weekend Update 2/2/2019: Self-loathing always spills out as harm to others

Time for some more news that either didn’t make the cut for yesterday’s Friday Five, or I didn’t hear about them in time to include, or have new development since I linked to them. I’m running late today, so, let’s see if I can be quick!

First up, a follow-up to a story I shared quite a while ago. Background, about two years ago Oklahoma state legislator, Ralph Shortey, was caught in a motel room with a teen-age boy he had hired for sex. There were also illegal drugs in the room. Shortey had been a typical Republican politician pushing the typical family values lines, and yes, was even more vociferiously anti-gay than the typical Republicans (who are typically anti-LGBT, but don’t bring it up as often as Shortey did). Oh, and Shortey was wearing a t-shirt with a misogynist “make me a sandwich” joke when he was arrested. Anyway, of course he resigned in disgrace and has since been making the evangelical hate-radio circuit talking about how the devil made him do it and claiming he has begged god for forgiveness and that god has supposedly taken his gay cooties away. Anyway, Former GOP State Senator Ordered to Pay $125,000 to Male Teen He Was Caught with in Motel Room.

Shortey was convicted on federal sex trafficing charges and already been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Now prosecutors have requested restitution from Shortey to cover psychiatric treatment and such for the teen-ager. And the court has ordered Shortey to pay.

Sometimes there are consequences.

Previously when I’ve posted stories about self-loathing closet cases (particularly those in politics or otherwise having positions of authority and influence), I have sometimes received messages asking why I don’t feel sorry for these guys. The closet is a horrible place, and yeah, all of us who have been closeted said stupid and sometimes shitty things in order to deflect harassment from people around us. So to pre-emptively answer that: I’ll start considering feeling sorry for Shortey if and when he admits that he’s queer (whether gay or bi or pan or whatever), apologizes for his years of promoting hate, voting against gay rights and the like, apologizes for the harm his anti-gay rhetoric and laws caused to queer people, and takes real responsibility for the harm he caused his ex-wife and children.

I do feel sorry for the former Mrs Shortey (interesting note: when she divorced him last year, she asked the court to legally change her last name and those of her children, so that they would no longer have the same name as their disgraced father). I hope that she and the children are in a better situation.

I also feel bad about the young man who was selling his body and hiding who he was.

But the self-loathing closet case politician who is still hewing to the line that his own same-sex feelings are an abomination, and therefore all of of other queer people are abominations? Nope, not one iota of sympathy for him.

Also, let me repeat my call for journalists everywhere to investigate thoroughly the personal lives of vehemently anti-gay politicians, because they always seem to have this kind of secret in their life.

In other news: Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Fayetteville’s LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Ordinance. The Republicans of Arkansas hate queers so much, that they passed a law banning cities and counties from granting equal rights to LGBT people. The city of Fayetteville had such an ordinance and for the last few years has been fighting in court to keep the law. They have now lost at the state supreme court.

How much must you hate queer people that you insist other people have to hate them too? That’s what this comes down to, after all.

There is also the incredible level of hypocrisy that the same party that screams about local control and how bad big impersonal government is for everyone, turns around and uses their control of higher levels of government to strip away local control.

But then, hypocrisy isn’t a bug in the hearts of so-called pro-family Republicans/fundamentalists, it’s a feature!

Sunday Funnies Update: Mueller indicts a cartoon villain

“I just realized that Roger Stone is the villain from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

“I just realized that Roger Stone is the villain from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

This is another story that broke on Friday, after I have already posted this week’s Friday Five, and I was going to do a Weekend Update about it, except I kept thinking, as I gathered more background information, that I couldn’t write about Roger Stone and his arrest in the same post where I was going on about the end of the government shutdown. More importantly, Roger Stone is such a strange, over-the-top, alt-right, Republican apparatchik that he appears to be a character who has literally walked out of a comic book. Reading stories about him and some of his antics makes rational people think that they are reading a parody.

So, the basic headline first: Roger Stone, Longtime Trump Associate, Arrested After Mueller Indictment. He has been indicted for one count of obstruction of proceeding (interfering with an investigation into one or more crimes), five counts of making false statements (lying to Congress under oath), and one count of witness tampering. Let’s be clear, this means that a grand jury has found that the prosecutors have established a prima facia case that he is probably guilty of these crimes.

According to the indictment, Stone informed members of the Trump campaign that wikileaks was illegally in possession of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, which he could make available to the campaign so that campaign may use the information in the political campaign. I want to note, here, that nothing in the hacked emails indicated that any crimes were being conducted by anyone in the Clinton campaign or the DNC. The so-called damaging information was either stuff that could easily be taken out of context to imply more unsavory things, or indications that many of the running a bunch of political campaigns were ruthless and sometimes held grudges. It can be embarrassing, but hardly illegal.

Obtaining the emails, on the other hand, is a criminal act. Using illegally obtained personal communications can also be a crime.

Anyway, Stone is charged with lying about this under oath multiple times, trying to convince at least one other witness to lie, and generally attempting to impede any legal investigation into the crime of hacking the email servers, stealing the information, and sharing it. This is serious, not just because it ties someone with long-running close ties to the Alleged President to the Russian Collusion case. It also implies that Congressional Republicans didn’t try very hard while investigation Russian interference: Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves the House Republicans’ Russia Investigation Was a Whitewash.

Stone has been an infamous figure in Republican politics for years. He’s well known for various dirty tricks. Be he is also well known for his obsession with disgraced former President Richard Nixon. Stone famously has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back (seriously, be posts pictures of the tattoo on line, himself!). When he came out of federal court on Friday after posting bail, he literally (and intentionally) posed in a manner identical to one of Nixon’s famous things: holding both hands out at an angle from his body, fingers on each handing making a V for Victory, and grinning like a madman.

Seriously, none of these photos are fake. This is how he dresses!

Seriously, none of these photos are fake. This is how he dresses!

Less pertinent to any actual crimes, but the source of many memes out there comparing Stone to the character of Judge Doom, the villain in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Look at these pictures! This is how the guy dresses when he is going to places. He looks like he’s cosplaying a a villain from the campy 1960s Batman TV show, for goodness sake! There are more, so many, many more! And I know it is silly and superficial to focus on such a thing, but there is more to his cartoon-ish personality and life choices.

And that is relevant in a few ways: Roger Stone’s Greatest Liability – The longtime Trump adviser’s attention-seeking ways made him an easy target for Robert Mueller.. An easy target, much easier than any one of the thirty-four other people who have either already pled guilty to various crimes related to the Trump campaign or have been indicted before Stone. That Mueller waited this long to get Stone tells us that he has already locked down enough to start going for big fish, as it were.

There is a bit more, though. I mentioned above that Stone is obsessed with Nixon and likes to talk up his relationship to Nixon all the time. Dozens of stories, including at least one of those I’ve already linked to, often refer to his time working on one of Nixon’s presidential campaigns. Specifically indicated that he was involved in the official Nixon campaign organization. That, it turns out, isn’t true: Nixon Foundation disowns Roger Stone.

You have to be pretty bad to have the Nixon Foundation disavow you!

The truth is that Stone was 16 years old the Nixon successfully ran for President in 1968. He was 20 years old when Nixon ran for re-election, and it is true that he volunteered for re-election activities. It is even true that his official title in that capacity was as a “junior scheduler.” But he was not working for the Nixon campaign. He wasn’t even working for one of the state-level committees to re-elect the President. He was the junior scheduler for the committee that was formed by his University’s Young Republican Club to promote Nixon on campus.

My grandpa used to like to tell the story about when I was four years old and I got into an argument with my dad because I thought that Barry Goldwater would be a better President than Lyndon B. Johnson. That didn’t make me a Goldwater campaign aide. And being a member of a campus Young Republican Club supporting the re-election of the then current Republican President doesn’t make one a Presidential Campaign Aide, either.

Stone eventually became the national president of the Young Republicans, and he became infamous for amassing dossiers on all 800 delegates to the national meeting of the club. He and his close friend Paul Manafort used information in those dossiers to blackmail other members of the organization in order to make them vote for his proposals.

Stone did work for the Nixon Administration briefly after college, but he was an extremely low-level Federal employee. As the Nixon Foundation’s official statement said, “Nowhere in the Presidential Daily Diaries from 1972 to 1974 does the name “Roger Stone” appear.” Stone later worked briefly for Senator Bob Dole, but was fired over allegations that he had been involved in various unethical campaign activities.

He did become a campaign strategist for a Republican gubernatorial candidate and later worked on both of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns and for the elder President Bush’s first election campaign. He was one of many founders of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. He worked on various Senatorial election campaigns. And in the 1990s he became a paid lobbyist for one of Donald Trump’s companies

He went to work for Senator Dole again while Dole was running for President, and then had to quit when it was discovered that he and his second wife had been placing ads in various “racy” publications seeking sexual partners for threesomes and more-somes. At the time, he accused a former employee with a drug problem of placing all the ads to embarrass him, but later admitted that the ads were his. And while I don’t think the ads or the private sexual practices of he and his second wife made are usually anyone’s business—remember that politicians he has worked for and promoted and raised money for have actively tried to restrict and criminalize the consensual sexual activities of other people, so it becomes relevant. And then, of course, trying to frame someone else for it is also indicative of his being an immoral, unethical liar.

So it should be no surprise that Trump has praised him: “Roger’s a good guy. He’s been so loyal and so wonderful.”

Roger Stone Made His Name as a Dirty Trickster, But the Trump-Russia Coverup May Finally Bring Him Down.

Again, he looks like a crime boss out of a comic book!

Again, he looks like a crime boss out of a comic book!

Stone was an informal advisor to Trump’s campaign. But then, Trump has claimed that one of the campaign chairman wasn’t actually involved, so we can’t lean too heavily on that word informal. It makes perfect sense why Stone and Trump get along. I mean, when you see those pictures of Trump’s living quarters and so forth with the gold furniture and other super tasteless over-the-top decorating choices, you realize that he isn’t really rich. He likes people to think he is so he lives the way that poor people think rich people would live. He tries to make his real life look like it came out of the pages of a Richie Rich comic book. And Stone, for whatever reason, likes to dress like villains from old comic books. They’re perfect for each other!

Weekend Update 1/26/2019: Trump’s losing streak continues

Things are looking up for America... relatively.

Things are looking up for America… relatively.

So, the government shutdown is over. Well, temporarily. Even though this wasn’t the only important story that happened after I cued up yesterday’s Friday Five post on Thursday night, today’s Weekend Update is going to focus entirely on Trump’s surrender on the issue of the government shutdown and the wall. Let’s get a couple of important headlines up there, first:

President Trump signs bill that ends government shutdown without wall funding, caving to Democratic demands.

Trump ends shutdown with nothing to show for damage wrought.

A senior Democratic aide told the Daily News that the deal started with a meeting between Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office Thursday evening.
McConnell proposed a short-term funding bill with a down payment on the wall, but Schumer rejected that, suggesting Democrats would commit to the path that Trump announced — an agreement for the House and Senate to work out border security in a conference committee.

And I want to get the timeline completely clear: Back in December, before the shutdown, when the Republicans still controlled both Houses of Congress, Democrats and Republicans hammered our a spending deal, Trump had agreed to sign in, and then, when presented with the actual bill that he had already agreed to, Donald changed his mind. Vice President Pence urged Trump to sign the bill and not shutdown the government. Trump, apparently being egged on by one of his slimiest advisors, Stephen Miller, vetoed the bill. A couple weeks later, Democrats officially took control of the lower House and immediately passed the exact same bill that Trump had originally agreed to. Senate Majority Piddler Mitch McConnell, despite private calls from other Republican Senators, refused to even schedule a vote of the bill. As the House passed 9 more versions of the spending bill (one unanimously), members of McConnell’s party began to publicly call for him to schedule a vote.

Pelosi informed the President that there would be no State of the Union Address while the shutdown was going on. Donald got into a snit, seeming to think that the earlier letter from Pelosi suggesting the date (back when everyone assumed the Senate Republicans were going to vote to re-open government sooner) somehow constituted a legal contract(?). Then insisted he could just show up and give the speech. At which point finally pundits on Fox News even had to admit that it doesn’t work that way. The State of the Union is defined in the Constitution as a report from the President to the Congress. And the Constitution also makes the Congress and co-equal branch of the government, and gives each House absolute control over its own chamber. The President cannot address either House without a resolution from the House inviting him. The Senate might pass such a resolution (though it was looking as if that wasn’t certain), but if the House doesn’t pass a matching resolution, and if Pelosi doesn’t approve turning the cameras on in the House Chamber, Donald isn’t going to get his big stage and those hundreds of thousands of viewers that he craves.

So that was the first surrender that Donald made this week: because it was clear that even his loyal Fox News wouldn’t call or cover any speech given anywhere else the same as a State of the Union.

I’ve been seeing a bunch of people claim that Pelosi didn’t really win the fight over the shutdown, that the Air Traffic Controllers did, as delays started to occur at major hub airports. I understand the attraction of that argument, but the timing is off. Trump already had caved, and was sending his surrogates to find a way to give in while saving face before that happened. Yes, the Air Traffic Control situation surely is what pushed a bunch of Congressional Republicans who had been holding out before, but Trump was already giving up.

Don’t believe me? Well, would you believe one of Donald’s most fervent fanboys from Fox News? Lou Dobbs: Nancy Pelosi “Just Whipped” The President.

“She has just whipped the president of the United States. You know I’m an animated, energetic supporter of this president, but you’ve got to call it as it is. This president said it was going to be conditional, border security, building that wall, and he just reversed himself. That’s a victory for Nancy Pelosi.”
—Lou Dobbs, Fox Business January 25, 2019

I know it’s more complicated than just one person. ‘Complete, total surrender’: Why Trump waved the white flag – The sudden erosion of support from Senate Republicans ultimately forced Trump’s hand. But that’s the way it is with these battles. There is a context.

And obviously, the fight isn’t over. The bipartisan conference committee has to meet and hammer out some kind of deal. And clearly our Alleged President is willing to throw anyone and everyone under the bus to try to get his way. But I’ll take victories when we get them.

Weekend update 1/19/2019: is there a new Deep Throat?

Woman holds sign at Trump protest: “Long after this moron is dead, history will remember the cowards who kept quiet and let this happen.”

“Long after this moron is dead, history will remember the cowards who kept quiet and let this happen.” (click to embiggen)

It is once again time to share some news that either didn’t make it into yesterday’s Friday Five or that updates something linked to previously, et cetera. Along with some amount of commentary, snark, and/or analysis by me. Before I jump into that, I was looking through some of the past Weekend Updates trying to find an particular image of that I thought I had used to illustrate it, and I was a little bit surprised to realize how seldom that last year or so that I haven’t had a Weekend Update. The first few were months apart. Not sure what that means, but I guess this is a regular part of my week, now.

One of the stories I didn’t link to yesterday was a Buzzfeed piece that only broke on Thursday, but by the time I was working on the Friday Five Thursday night, I had seen so many people link to it or re-reported it that it felt both like old news or at least something that everyone saw, so I didn’t link. Let me remedy that because late Friday a boatload of new developments happened: President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project.

I should also admit that, besides seeing so many links to it throughout Thursday, it also just feels like a headline you’ve already read, right? I mean, didn’t we already know this? Except we didn’t know this one, and if a fraction of the details are right, it’s a bigger deal than some of the other well-documented lies and corrupt acts of the Alleged President: BuzzFeed’s Trump-Cohen Story Describes Clearly Impeachable Crimes- The tale of a presidential coverup is familiar — and troubling. This is different than most of the other things we’ve heard about this case because, if the story is correct, it is talking about things Trump did after taking office. If true, it also is a serious crime (and criminal conspiracy) regardless of whether the interactions of the Trump’s campaign organization with Russian officials rise to the legal definition of collusion.

Lying to Congress is a crime. Lying to Congress under oath is a serious crime. A government official (including by not limited to the President) instructing someone else to lie to Congress under oath is a crime. Doing so for the explicit purpose of obstructing one or more criminal investigations (and remember, Mueller’s office is not the only one investigating various possible criminal activities surrounding these events) is a serious crime.

Of course, supporters of the Alleged President got what they think is vindication Friday night (and even he thinks it is, because of course he’s tweeted about it already): Special counsel office: Parts of Buzzfeed article tying Trump to Cohen’s lies to Congress are not accurate. Oh, well, in that case, never mind, right?

Well, no, because you need to both read the actual statement from the Special Counsel’s Office, and you need to think like a prosecutor when you do:

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

Parse that like a lawyer and you realize that all the Special Counsel’s Office is saying is that 1) the don’t have all the details right, and 2) there are nuances or details which the article omits or misinterprets.

It is not a repudiation of the core of the story: Here’s What Legal Experts and Former Gov’t. Officials Say Mueller’s Statement on the Buzzfeed Story Means. In other words, what the Special Counsel’s Office is saying is that parts of the story are right, parts are wrong, but they can’t tell us which parts are without revealing information that would compromise the current investigation.

Buzzfeed has since responded that they stand by their story. The speculation is that someone in one of the other prosecuting offices has leaked this information. I mentioned above that Mueller’s office isn’t the only one, right? We know that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is also investigating many of these things, because they have been filing joint motions to federal judges regarding sentencing and so forth of a bunch of the conspirators who have already either pled guilty or been indicted. We know that prosecutors in Germany are investigating some aspects because of raids they have conducted on bank offices and such over there, and the public warrants filed in conjunction with those raids. There is a strong suspicion (but less public proof) that state prosecutors in New York are also conducting a parallel investigation. There are hints in some of the other activities that numerous other state prosecutors have been given information relevant to state crimes that the Special Counsel’s Office as uncovered—this is not unusual for federal investigators, when finding evidence of crimes that they can’t pursue in federal courts to refer that information to the jurisdictions that can prosecute the crimes.

So it is very possible that someone in one of these other offices, for whatever reason, decided to leak the information to the press. One possibility is that several of the statements made this week by the Attorney General nominee have made it seem likely that he will let Mueller complete his investigation, but then not pass the report on to Congress, instead writing his own summary report. This could make law enforcement officials believe that the information is never going to reach Congress or the public unless someone leaks some of it and gets enough people looking into it that it becomes impossible for a corrupt Attorney General to suppress.

This, by the way, was the motivation that led an FBI official named Mark Felt to start passing information about crimes committed on Nixon’s behalf to two reporters for the Washington Post. Those leaks eventually led to the Watergate investigation and created enough public furor that Nixon resigned from office before Congress could impeach him. For many years, the two reporters refused to reveal the name of their source of secret information, referring to him only as Deep Throat.

This raises the question, why would Mueller say anything at all about it, if it wasn’t his office that leaked it? My guess is two reasons. First, he probably believes that he has already set up enough contingencies against interference from a new Attorney General that the investigation’s results will reach the public. Second, he is very angry at whoever did leak it, even though he isn’t sure who did the leaking. He isn’t worried that the information he gathers won’t eventually become public (because of his contingencies) but he is worried that a spooked Alleged President will find another way to shut down the investigation before he finishes.

So, issuing this statement calms Cadet Bonespur down, giving him reason to tweet about how even Mueller agrees with him the Buzzfeed is wrong. And buys Mueller a bit more time.

Which makes me suspect that he is really, really close to nailing down irrefutable evidence on something. He’s got a lot of people who have been found or had pled guilty to all sorts of things already, which means he’s got a lot of thumbscrews being twisted to flush out more evidence.

It might be time to break out the popcorn soon!

Sunday Update 1/13/2019: This is not a sci fi movie

© World Data Center for Geomagnetism/Kyoto Univ.

This would have gone in the science links on Friday if I had been able to find an article whose headline didn’t have misleading things in it. I know, I should have just written my own. Anyway, so the magnetic field of the planet always fluctuates and wiggles around a bit, and back in the day when a compass was always a object at least big enough to fill the palm of your hand, the amount of drift didn’t matter. But modern navigation devices (and the way we use them) require a bit more precision, so scientists map the field changes and try to build mathematical models that allow the computerized navigation aids to take the changes in the field into account. Well, things have been a bit dicey than usual the last few years: Erratic motion of north magnetic pole forces experts to update model that aids global navigation.

So we desperately need to start updating the models more often, and also, we really need to update now because the drift has exceeded the previous model’s margin of error. Simple, right? Well: Scientists Can’t Fix Map of Earth’s Magnetic Field Thanks to the Government Shutdown –
The federal government was set to update the World Magnetic Model but had to delay it because of the shutdown
.

That’s right. Cadet Bonespur’s temper tantrum is messing with global navigation systems, too.

Weekend Update 1/12/2019: The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but Alex Jones, they grind on you!

“Regarding the use of 'it was just a joke' as a defense: If it was 'just a joke,' then there's no reason for you to be upset that people didn't find it funny. You just accept that the material fell flat, note it for future reference, and move on. If, however, it angers or frustrates you that people didn't find it funny or tell you that is was offensive, then it wasn't 'just a joke' to you. It was a belief that you shared in a joking manner and you're taking the rejection of it as a rejection of part of you. Be honest about that instead of asking others to pretend that they believe you were joking.”

(click to embiggen)

Once again some news stories either broke after I had finished this week’s Friday Five or new developments related to stories I’ve posted about before. And, as usual, I have a few thoughts to go along with the news links. Today we deal with a horrible person dealing with the consequences of just a small number of his horrible actions.

Families of Sandy Hook shooting victims win legal victory against InfoWars, Alex Jones. The families haven’t won their lawsuits, yet, but this is an important step in the trials: ALEX JONES MUST REVEAL INFOWARS DATA TO SANDY HOOK FAMILIES AS THEY WIN LEGAL VICTORY.

In case you don’t remember: the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred back in 2012 were 20 six- and seven-year-old children (along with six teachers) were murdered by an angry 20-year-old. Alex Jones used to be a radio host (his show is carried only on the internet now) of a thing called Info Wars where he spouts all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories, while peddling gross survivalist food and other shit to his gullible (and fearful) listeners. And one of the conspiracy theories he pushed hard on his show for years was that Sandy Hook never happened, that no children actually died, and that the grieving parents people saw on the news were all actors.

And the issue is, that a bunch of people who are just as dangerous as the original shooter, believed him. They began harassing the parents, threatening them and their surviving children. They staked out the graves of the buried children and harassed anyone that visited those graves. The families have had to move and try to rebuild their lives several times because of the evil, deplorable followers of this greedy, evil, deplorable man.

And so the fact that some of the families have finally found a court that will hear their case is pretty awesome. I hope he winds up penniless and on the street.

I also wish more of the idiots who have harassed the families were sitting in jail, but I’ll settle for Jones being ruined.

Weekend Update 1/5/2019: It’s ugly, oh, so ugly…

Once again some news stories either broke after I had finished this week’s Friday Five or new developments related to stories I’ve posted about before. And these are stories I want to make a bit more commentary on than I usually do with the Friday Fives. So, let’s jump into these things…

First, the shutdown is still a thingL Pelosi and Schumer Meet With Trump – Say He Vows to Keep Government Shutdown for ‘Years’ Over Wall Funding. And later in the day Trump confirmed his words. This is bad. There are hundreds of thousands of federal employees being forced to work without pay (and they are ordinary people who need to pay rent, buy food for their kids, et cetera), and hundreds of thousands more that have been sent home without pay. ‘I feel used and insulted’: Furloughed IRS employee on CNN shames Trump for treating him like a pawn.

This isn’t just bad for them, it is bad for the economy. What makes the economy work isn’t the giant billion-dollar companies or wealthy investors: it is ordinary people spending money day to day.

And the really insane part is contained in this article: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences. Go read some of those quotes! There are a number of Republican congresspeople quoted who were cheering the shutdown a week ago, who are only now learning that government shutdown means that people who voted for them aren’t getting their foodstamps, or the social security checks, and won’t get tax refunds. There are Trump cabinet officials quoted in there who didn’t understand it.

They didn’t understand that ‘government shutdown’ means that the government shuts down!?!?

It isn’t just Trump who is ignorant and doesn’t know how things work. It’s like half the goddamn Republican party!

The thing is, they can end this. The first deal, the one Trump vetoed a couple of weeks ago, passed the Senate unanimously. The Republican-controlled Senate passed the deal with no wall funding already. Congress can override the President’s veto. Now, since new Congresspeople were sworn in and this is technically a new Congress, I believe that means that they have to first pass the deal again, let him veto it, and then if all the Senators who voted for it before, and a bunch of these Republican Reps in the House who are finally realizing what this means joins the Democrats on the reconsideration, BOOM, veto overridden and government is running again.

I’m going to repeat something that I say from time to time: the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution with the assumption that it is Congress that runs the country. Article I of the Constitution describes the Congress, its powers, its responsibilities, and its limitations. Everything that follows in the Constitution (the Presidency, the Judiciary, the Amendment process, the Bill of Rights) are in relationship to the Congress. The President isn’t supposed to run the country, Congress is. And they can. I realize it means some Republicans (not even half of them—just enough to with the Democrats—reach two-thirds) growing at least a teensy bit of a spine.

I’m not terribly hopeful at the moment, but…

There are some Republicans with spines: Bush speechwriter uses Bible to slap evangelicals for sucking up to ‘unethical and racist’ Trump. Wow, he even understands what the Bible actually says!

“In this struggle, many evangelicals believe they have found a champion in Trump. He is the enemy of their enemies. He is willing to use the hardball tactics of the secular world to defend their sacred interests. In their battle with the Philistines, evangelicals have essentially hired their own Goliath — brutal, pagan, but on their side… A hypocrisy becomes unsustainable. A seed gets planted. And a greater power emerges, revealing new leaders and shaming those who reduce Christianity to a sad and sordid game of thrones.”

I think another point he makes is the most important:

“The employment of an unethical, racist, anti-immigrant, misogynist Giant is not likely to play well with women, minorities and young people, who are likely to equate conservative religion with prejudice for decades to come.”

Honestly, polling information indicates that’s already happened. Which actually gives me a lot of hope.

“After two years of Donald Trup, I've wondered why conservative votes still support him. I thought maybe they were still angry and afraid, or just ignorant and in denial, or racist, but that's not it. I've realized the reason they support Trump and love him is not because of any of those things. They love him because they ARE him. They have the same morals, prejudices, hatreds, and insecurities that Trump has. They're the same persons he is and they've always been that way. We see it now because Trump has given them permission to come out in the open and be who they really are. And, it's ugly.”

I know it muddles the point, but it’s both: they are angry and afraid and ignorant and hateful and racist and all the rest… (click to embiggen)

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