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Jeff Sessions Lawyers Up

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Julia Ainsley at Reuters: U.S. Attorney General Sessions Hires Private Attorney. "U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become the latest senior Trump administration official to hire a private attorney, a Justice Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday. Sessions has retained Washington-based lawyer Charles Cooper, whom spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores described as a long-time friend of the former senator."

They're bigot besties, reports RawStory's Bob Brigham: "Chuck Cooper has been criticized for condoning discrimination during his long legal career, from support for Bob Jones' University's ban on interracial dating to supporting job discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS. Most recently, Cooper had a prominent role pushing legal discrimination against the LGBTQ community during the legal battles over Proposition 8 and marriage equality."

What a cool lawyer with such a cool client.

Anyway.

Sessions is now the fifth high-level member of the Trump administration to secure private counsel for the ongoing Russia probe.


And, despite Donald Trump's caterwauling about "witch hunts" and "fake news," every day continues to yield another story about some peculiar ties to Russian officials, concealed contacts, or perplexing indifference to security against a foreign adversary.

To wit: The latest from Matt Apuzzo, Matthew Rosenberg, and Adam Goldman at the New York Times: Despite Concerns About Blackmail, Flynn Heard C.I.A. Secrets.
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 [Donald] 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.
Sounds like Mike Pompeo might want to consider being next on the list to lawyer up.

Bob Mueller's got a long list of people and incidents to investigate. I desperately hope that he is taking this investigation seriously and intends to move as swiftly as possible without leaving any stone unturned.

With Congressional Republicans using their investigations to run interference for Trump, and Congressional Democrats — Maude help us! — starting to sound like Trump by calling Russia a "distraction" (et tu, Chris Murphy?!), Mueller's investigation is truly our only hope of getting to bottom of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Which itself is only one part of a vast and complex strategy to destabilize the country.

The election investigation should merely be the starting point. Instead, I fear with each passing day that it will be the endpoint of investigating Russian meddling on many fronts. And then we'll find out in the worst possible way how not a "distraction" defending this nation against a foreign adversary hellbent on chaos is. Or was.
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skittone
7 hours ago
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Officer Claimed He Shot Philando Castile Because of Secondhand Smoke

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As you probably know, the officer who killed Philando Castile was acquitted of manslaughter and two other charges last week. (This was the incident where Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook.) The squad car’s dashcam video was made public yesterday for the first time, and watching that makes it even less possible (if that’s possible) to understand the jury’s decision. But even more astounding is the transcript also released yesterday showing that the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, told investigators last year that he smelled marijuana as he approached the car, and that just before he opened fire, the thought going through his mind was that Castile was a dangerous man because he had been exposing others to secondhand smoke:

That is actually something an adult human said: I was afraid this person would be willing to murder a police officer for no reason because it smelled like he had been doing something that might slightly increase the risk of disease to others if he kept it up for another decade or so. (At least according to some experts.) If this man is willing to subject others to secondhand smoke, certainly he would not hesitate to murder me.

This deep concern that Yanez had about the health of Castile’s five-year-old daughter, supposedly, is part of what led him to fire seven bullets at Castile, the driver, while the girl was sitting in the back seat in the line of fire:

Or maybe he was pulling out a pack of smokes? We shouldn’t second-guess officers when it comes to using deadly force to protect citizens from potential long-term health risks.

In fact, Castile had just volunteered the fact that he had a gun in the car (a gun he was licensed to carry), which doesn’t seem like something you’d do if you were just about to reach for it and try to shoot someone. It actually seems like something you’d do if you didn’t want anybody to get hurt, especially yourself. But according to Yanez, it was secondhand smoke, not this, that went through his mind just before opening fire.

Of course, I don’t know what other evidence was presented to the jury. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office has put the transcript, videos, and some other key evidence on its website, so you can see that if you want and decide for yourself. But I assume the jury saw the transcript of this interview, and frankly I don’t know how you hear somebody give that ridiculous explanation and not vote to convict him of something. (The jury was apparently split 10-2 in favor of acquittal, but eventually the two holdouts gave in.)

I guess if you wanted to, you could argue that now we know the risks of secondhand smoke really are substantial, because among other things it might frighten a cop into putting five bullets in your chest. You might as well give it a shot, because the risks of making stupid arguments appear to be virtually nonexistent these days.

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skittone
8 hours ago
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Ugh.
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1 public comment
acdha
11 minutes ago
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I hadn't seen this detail before…
Washington, DC

The Media Is Massively Failing on the AHCA

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Unlike email server management or people asking for diplomatic passports and being turned down, the media does not see an attempt to strip health care from 23 million people using an opaque process major news. JMM has a good explanation:

We almost certainly know the gist of the impact of this bill, when we figure the political and budgetary parameters Senate Republicans are operating in and the eventual need to pass a bill that emerges from a conference committee through both houses of Congress.

McConnell is taking shrewd advantage of the particular hang-ups and thought processes of most Democrats and many journalists, how they get tangled up in policy literalism and boxed out of being able to speak clearly about the political reality that is coming. To be more specific, even if they don’t quite get that this is happening, many Democrats think that there’s nothing to discuss or attack since we don’t know the fine print of the legislation despite the fact that its broad scope and impact are clear.

To look at this from another perspective, do you think if Democrats were on the verge of passing a bill, the outlines and impact of which were clear, but were keeping the legislative text secret that Republicans would be finding themselves hamstrung about raising a public stink about the bill? Of course not. Indeed, they’d be death paneling it on top of whatever was actually true about the legislation. Caring about policy, caring about the lives of people affected by legislative decision is a good thing – it’s critical to democratic self-government. But it has the byproduct or side-effect of policy literalism which is politically catastrophic. I say ‘politically’ both in the sense of winning political fights but also in the more general sense of allowing political debates in which citizens have concrete factual information upon which to make decisions. The first is only relevant to partisans; the second is highly relevant for journalists too.

Media norms that it’s only news is part of the explanation, but only part of it. If Obama and Reid had tried anything like this it sure as hell would have been major news even if there was no finished text to write about — Fred Hiatt would be calling for Obama’s impeachment daily. As a corollary to Murc’s dictum about how to the media only Democrats have agency, only Democrats are actually expected to adhere to norms.

Whatever the explanation, the media failed massively on health care during the campaign, and it’s failing massively again. Maybe it wouldn’t matter — but as Josh says, it was the wave of negative coverage generated by the CBO score that stopped the first House attempt. And whatever the outcome, this is a hugely important story the public should be informed about.

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skittone
1 day ago
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The Economic Violence of Morally Upright Americans

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A car dealership in Brighton, Michigan, had some strong words about a panhandler seen frequently near their building. So strong, they felt compelled to make a sign calling him out. MLive.com reports:

“Please do not give anything to this Panhandler. We offered him a full-time job at $10.00/HR,” the sign reads. “He said ‘I make more than any of you’ and he did not want a job, please donate to a more worthy cause.”

 

When the story went viral, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of the dealership. They offered this man a job! What would possess him not to take it?

Well…it could be any number of reasons, but if we’re going by the sign alone, it’s the pay. Years ago, Amanda Palmer gave a TED Talk wherein she described working as a street performer. She kept track of the amount of money she made and was surprised to realize that it was a predictable income, despite the unconventionality of the job. She didn’t have a name tag, she didn’t have a W-2 or a union, but she knew basically how much she would have made by the end of the week. It sounds like this Michigan panhandler is in the same situation. He knows what he makes, and he knows it’s more than $400 per week before taxes.

This man had sound economic reasoning not to take the job they offered, but beyond that, we have no reason to assume that the car dealership sign is giving us the entire story. Did the man react that way out of pride? Is there a reason he doesn’t feel he could accept the job, such as not wanting to be seen as the office charity case? Is there a felony that would prevent him from employment? Are there disability benefits, like health insurance, that he’ll lose if he has to report even that meager $10.00/hour income? None of these questions are answered by the sign, and all of them are within the realm of possibility.

But maybe people are right. Maybe he’s just lazy and wants free money. Which is, of course, shameful. Good people do not want free money. They only want that which is given to them as recompense for good, honest work. Oh, and whatever they might win from their weekly lottery tickets or at the casino… Clearly, there are only some kinds of free money that are morally right, and simply taking what someone willingly hands you isn’t one of those.

So, why turn down the job? Obviously, it’s because he’s a lazy good-for-nothing, looking to live off the backs of hardworking Americans who are barely keeping a roof over their heads. And we’ve always known that people asking for money on the street are just scammers, anyway. We’ll find “more worthy” causes, like charity organizations that spend $0.02 per dollar on easing poverty while diverting the other $0.98 to their millionaire board members’ paychecks. After all, those board members are working for a living and are therefore more noble and deserving.

If you read between the outrage and performative morality, though, the dealership’s sign highlights a major economic flaw in our country: begging for money on the streets is a better financial decision than having a steady job. A man who panhandles for a living would be downgrading if he went to work for a car dealership because the car dealership doesn’t pay a living wage. Yet we’re supposed to see the man as ungrateful because he won’t take a loss to provide discount labor for this business, rather than examine why a business is paying their employees less than they could make begging on the street in the first place.

No wonder so many people are furious at this man; he’s opted out of the system that oppresses them, leaving them no choice but to embrace economic inequality in order to place value on themselves. Because that’s the lie the working and middle classes have happily swallowed since someone figured out how to wield the Bible as a weapon. Blessed are the poor, so stop wanting money, and God forbid anyone beneath you in the social hierarchy value survival over piety when you don’t have the courage to demand better for yourself.

The dealership didn’t make this sign to right a great injustice the man is perpetrating; they’re angry because they felt entitled to this man’s time, labor, and gratitude, and he dared to give them none of it.

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JayM
5 days ago
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Interesting.
Atlanta, GA
skittone
5 days ago
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the dark side of “unlimited” vacation time

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A reader writes:

We’re thinking about implementing an unlimited paid time off program in my company, where if you need a day, or a week, you take the time and aren’t bound by a certain number of weeks you can take in a year. Certainly there are a ton of considerations in doing this. I’m interested in knowing what you think of this and whether there might be unintended consequences that we haven’t thought of.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

the dark side of “unlimited” vacation time was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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skittone
10 days ago
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how to speak up when women in your office are called “girls”

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A reader writes:

I need help with a script for speaking up in the moment when my coworkers call grown women “girls.” Full disclosure – I am a cisgender woman who was radicalized as a leftist feminist in grade school in the 70’s (by radical Catholic school nuns who also did service work in South America, by the way). I now work in an urban area that bills itself as equitable and sophisticated, and for the most part, that proves true. However, this problem persists!

I am sitting in a meeting next to a professional man in his 50’s, and he just said that we have a girl who codes our emails. The only words that come to me are unprofessional to say the least. Can you please provide some sample language I could use in this professional context?

“You mean woman, of course. Anyway, yes, Jane is great.”

“Given that Jane is an adult, let’s refer to her as a woman, please. Thank you.”

“Jane is an adult woman, of course.”

Depending on the dynamics between you and the person you’re addressing, and depending on the effect you want to produce, you can say this kindly (with the tone you’d use for any other friendly correction) or you can say it poker-faced. If the person you’re addressing is someone who’s prone to minimizing or pooh-poohing this stuff if given an opening to do so, you may want a tone that conveys “I’m being polite right now, but I don’t suggest messing with me.”

If you’re told you’re making too big a deal out of it, you can say, “If it’s not a big deal, it won’t be a  problem to use ‘woman,’ right? Thanks.”

And for anyone reading who thinks that referring to women as “girls’ in a professional context is no big deal, consider how infrequently you hear “we have a boy who codes our emails.”

Or think about women who are universally recognized as having gravitas and power – say, Angela Merkel or Marissa Mayer – and ask whether you’d refer to them as “girls.”

While referring to adult women as “girls” may not be intended to be infantilizing or patronizing, language has power, and girls are rarely taken as seriously as women. Some of the most damaging sexism is subtle because it impacts how we think without us even realizing it.

(It’s also worth noting that women can be the worst offenders on this one, which doesn’t make it any less problematic.)

how to speak up when women in your office are called “girls” was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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skittone
10 days ago
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