Monday, May 22, 2017

Sober Living: How some Southern California drug rehab centers exploit addiction

Mod: A great four part series of articles from the Orange County Register on California's deeply troubled drug rehab industry called "How some Southern California drug rehab centers exploit addiction" is now available. This impressive work is a must read and can be accessed in its entirety by clicking here. In Sierra Madre the topic would specifically be sober living homes, as typified by the Dedicato Treatment Center on W. Carter Avenue. Here is the portion of that OC Register piece dealing with the problematic nature of many of these places.

Sober living?

While the state tracks licensed rehab centers, there is little oversight or regulation related to sober living homes. Experts say there are thousands of sober living homes in California, but nobody knows the exact number.

What these homes ostensibly provide sounds great – fellowship and support for people struggling to stay clean; housing for people who might otherwise be homeless; structure.

The living arrangement, in fact, is considered a family by law. And cities and counties can’t ban sober living houses because the residents – like patients in licensed rehab centers – are legally protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

But critics suggest sober living homes also are where some of the most egregious abuses of the rehab system take place.


Timmy Solomon repeatedly lapsed in sober living homes.

In 2013, Solomon, now 28, came from his hometown, Boston, to Dana Point, to get sober. Since then, the long-time addict has lived in rehab centers, sober living homes and on the streets.

Earlier this year, to get a glimpse of what happens inside rehab, the Southern California News Group followed Solomon for about 90 days. During that time he spent separate stints in a string of detox hospitals, residential rehabilitation centers and sober living homes in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The pattern for Solomon was consistent and depressingly familiar – shooting up narcotics, entering rehab, relapsing and eviction.

Solomon’s journey revealed a key point – sober living homes can be places where recovery falls apart.

One of Solomon’s relapses came after Solomon claimed he’d been drug-free, in a sober living home, for more than a month. A friend at a San Juan Capistrano recovery center gave him a bag of methamphetamine, he said, and he used it.

During another meeting with reporters, at a Whittier-area sober living home, Solomon showed up saying he’d just knocked back three beers to ease the side-effects of detoxing cold turkey.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Solomon entered Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach for detox. He spent 10 days there before leaving for a sober living home in San Clemente.

In late April, on what was supposed to be his 40th day clean, Solomon escorted reporters into a bathroom in the San Clemente home, where he shut the door, locked it and turned on the shower. As the room steamed up, he dumped a baggie of new needles on the counter, along with a bottle of 75 oxycodone pills he said a doctor had just prescribed him. “He’s trying to help me get off heroin,” Solomon said of the physician. “I haven’t slept in two nights.”

Solomon then crushed up six pills, mixed them with methamphetamine and water, and injected it all into his vein.

Sober living managers don’t need to be credentialed in any way. In some homes, they’re recovering addicts or former drug dealers. Critics say some rehab centers use sober living homes as way stations of sorts, places to store patients who can be given or encouraged to use drugs again so they can become candidates to return to lucrative in-patient rehab.

“The thing that’s causing the most problems is the sober living home environment,” said Robert Harris, a policy adviser at the California Society of Addictive Medicine.

Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican who represents south Orange County, said he’s pushing to undo what he views as overly bureaucratic protections for sober living homes.

“If you’re interested in getting (addicts) back into productive lives, (the current protections) don’t make sense.”

Another politician, California Assemblywoman Melissa A. Melendez, a Republican from Lake Elsinore, is sponsoring a bill (AB 285) that would require the state to regulate and monitor sober living homes for the first time.

She became interested in the rehab industry after a string of four deaths between 2008 and 2010 at a rehab center in Murrieta and other rehab deaths in Lake Arrowhead. She’s targeting sober living homes because they can provide a fallback for unscrupulous rehab center operators.

“What happens to these facilities when they shut down?” Melendez asked.

“Do (the operators) up and move into another California community with another name and another cast of characters doing the same thing?”

Melendez didn’t differentiate between licensed centers and sober living homes when she first learned about the industry. Prosecutors sometimes don’t either.

Experts say the case against Los Angeles-based rehab operator Chris Bathum offers a glimpse into how the industry can break down.

Bathum, whose empire included the Seasons rehab center in Malibu and who described himself as “The Rehab Mogul,” is accused of sexually assaulting nine female patients, sometimes providing them with drugs as they struggled to overcome their addictions. He denies those allegations.

Bathum also is accused of fraudulent billing to the tune of $176 million, prosecutors said. The alleged billing includes charges for services that prosecutors say were never provided.

Bathum has denied all of the fraud allegations as well, and his attorney declined to comment.

Still, regulators say the criminal case is also a case study.

The allegations against Bathum “illustrate the medical provider fraud that can and does occur,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said. “It’s egregious.”

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Philippine News: FilAm sworn in Mayor of Sierra Madre

Mod: Congratulations from all over the world have been pouring in for Sierra Madre's new mayor Rachelle Arizmendi. The following comes from the Philippine News (link).

Sierra Madre, CARachelle Sumagaysay-Pastor Arizmendi made history (again) as the first person of color to be sworn in mayor of this city, selected by the members of the Sierra Madre City Council during their April 25 meeting. An educator and veteran non-profit administrator, Arizmendi first held a city council seat here, as one of two winners and the first Asian, at the April 8, 2014 elections. The Sierra Madre City Council is comprised of five members elected to four-year terms, so Arizmendi is up for re-election next year. “It really is something to be humbled about, something to be honored about, that residents of Sierra Madre have enough faith in me to take this position,” Arizmendi stated. “It’s a badge of honor, at the same time it’s a responsibility – so I’m going to do my best to represent the Filipinos, whether it’s in our city or California or throughout the United States.”

Born in Carmel, CA, Rachelle is the daughter of Franklin Pastor from Laoag, Ilocos Norte, and Ofelia Sumagaysay-Pastor from Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. She’s a graduate of San Diego State University where she earned two Bachelor’s degrees prior to pursuing her Master’s degree at Eastern Illinois University. She continues to hold her Registered Dietitian designation and has taught Nutrition courses at Pasadena City College. She and her husband Fili, and their dog Madison, have resided in Sierra Madre, also known as ‘Village of the Foothills,’ for over 10 years.

Sierra Madre, with a population of 11,000, nine percent of whom are Asians, is located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley below the southern edge of the Angeles National Forest. Pasadena and Altadena are to its west with Arcadia to its south and east. It is known as ‘Wisteria City,’ home of a 115 year-old wisteria vine.

 “This is still a city where people say hello to each other on the streets,” she beamed with pride, “it’s still a city where you can walk at 10:30 at night and still feel safe; and still walk down to the local produce market and get food and people remember what you got the day before.” She’s determined to maintain the quality of life in their city, preserve what they have now and continue to keep her hometown safe and friendly.

Rachelle is the Vice-President and Chief Executive Officer of PACE (Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment), a non-profit community development organization that serves over 40,000 people every year in the areas of job training and employment, business development, early childhood education, financial education and asset building, energy and weatherization.

“It’s probably, I would say, where my heart is – serving the people,” she said.

 She oversees a budget of close to $30 million and a staff of 300 employees. In her previous capacity at PACE, she held the position of Education Project Director for 16 years. She was also the Executive Director for 2-1-1 California (an affiliate organization of the United Ways of California). But Rachelle finds time to have fun – she enjoys traveling and outdoor activities, reading and country line-dancing.

At the last council meeting as Mayor Pro Tem, Rachelle thanked Mayor Gene Goss who in turn commended her for her professionalism. She also thanked her family and the community and noted that the coming year would be “challenging” as the council tackles various issues including budget cuts and water infrastructure. “I’m confident though,” assured the new mayor, “that with the leadership of our new city manager and our dedicated city staff, we will be able to persevere as they carry out the charge of the council.”

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Are California Democrats like the National GOP?

Mod: Just because they control everything doesn't mean they'll get anything done. Nationally the GOP holds majorities in both houses of Congress, plus the White House, but have apparently been incapable of repealing Obamacare or instituting their long promised tax reforms. Conversely, here in California, the Democrats run the entire show. But judging by the chaos at their state convention in Sacramento this weekend, they aren't about to get much done, either. 

California Democrats Open Convention With Eye on Trump (US News & World Report link): California Democrats meet Saturday with renewed optimism about their party's chances of adding to their huge majority among the state's 53-member congressional delegation and potentially tipping the balance of power in the U.S. House. In a state where Democrats are itching to lead the liberal resistance to Trump and the Republican Congress, the party's activists find themselves singularly united behind the goal of stunting the GOP.

But the Democrats are also a party divided, still nursing deep divisions between insurgent supporters of Bernie Sanders and the party's establishment wing.

The divide was on clear display Friday as they opened their annual three-day convention in Sacramento. Activists demanding government-funded health care for all residents stormed into the convention center and interrupted an introductory speech by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg with chants about corporate greed.

The annual meeting caps a dizzying week that saw the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into possible Russian coordination with the Trump campaign.

Some 3,000 delegates in the nation's largest state Democratic party will hear from their party's longstanding stalwarts and rising stars.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to speak Saturday, along with Sen. Kamala Harris, the former state attorney general who often mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, and all Democrats running for governor. Rep. Adam Schiff, who rose from obscurity to national prominence thanks to his perch as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee in the Trump era, will give the keynote address.

The party's path back to national relevance will likely go through California, where half of the 14 Republicans in Congress represent districts that supported Clinton over Trump. Democrats need to pick up at least 24 Republican-held seats to win the majority in the U.S. House, gaining the power to issue subpoenas and hold hearings to investigate Trump or, as a handful of lawmakers have suggested, to impeach him.

"I think it's important that we start now, so we cannot just educate people but get them engaged," said Tiffany Countryman, a 47-year-old human-resources manager from Lancaster.

Countryman said she's seen newly active in Democratic politics and is determined to defeat her Congressman, Steve Knight, the only Republican in Congress from Los Angeles County and a top target for Democrats in next year's election.

Late Saturday, Democrats will settle a hard-fought race for party chair that has highlighted the divide between longtime party activists and a new breed of progressives, many loyal to former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who won a bloc of convention seats earlier this year and is clamoring for changes in party leadership.

While both major candidates for party chair endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, Sanders supporters have rallied around Kimberly Ellis, the former head of an organization that works to elect Democratic women to office.

Ellis has called for new blood in the party, a dig at her main rival, Eric Bauman, the party's vice chair who points to Democrats' dominance in California and says the party needs a steady hand to continue that success. Bauman has lined up the support from the vast majority of elected Democrats and was the overwhelming favorite to win until agitators loyal to Sanders surged Ellis' support.

"It's just not enough for the Democratic Party to be the anti-Trump party," Bauman says in a campaign video sent to delegates this week. "We must unite around our shared progressive agenda and values."

Democrats have a tight grip on all of California's levers of power with control of all statewide offices, supermajorities in both legislative chambers and an overwhelming majority if the congressional delegation.

"We've had tremendous success in the electoral sense. We haven't always used our success to advance progressive ideas," said Naida Tushnet, a 75-year-old retired educator from Long Beach who said she's a longtime party volunteer but attending her first state convention.

Tushnet is baffled that such a strong and proudly Democratic state has not adopted universal, government-funded health care - a policy known as single-payer health care that's become a rallying cry for many liberals. It's time for the party's progressive wing to flex its muscles, she said.

"We've got a two-thirds supermajority. Why is there even a discussion about passing single-payer?" Tushnet said.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Slate: We Live in the World Roger Ailes Broke

Mod: Not everyone mourns the passing of Roger Ailes.

We Live in the World Roger Ailes Broke (Slate.com link): Roger Ailes, the former head of the Fox News Channel, passed away on Thursday at the age of 77. The news was announced via a statement from his wife, Elizabeth, who wrote that “his work in entertainment, in politics, and in news affected the lives of many millions.” This is true. Ailes leaves behind one of the largest legacies of any media figure of the past century: He made our country nastier, stupider, cruder, and more bigoted. Even as the memory of Ailes the man fades, we will always be able to look back on what he built.

When Rupert Murdoch hired Ailes to create Fox News as an "alternative" to the mainstream media, Murdoch's intention was clear. He wanted to degrade American society in precisely the way he had degraded British society. And when degradation is your goal, there is no better hire than Roger Ailes. Ailes was a political aide turned television genius who emanated anger; his crucial insight was that there was a great amount of money to be made off the resentments of others. And the more you could stoke those resentments, the more money you would earn. At the same time, you could increase the net amount of resentment, and create a coarser society, all the better for your own pocketbook.

But Ailes was not some phony elitist playing a con on the rubes. No, he really loved degrading people, and he held the same resentments as the pathetic viewers whose worlds he manipulated. Indeed, one of the special things about Ailes was the depth of his hatred, and the broad-ranging reach of his racism. Some bigots confine their disgust to a single group, or religion; Ailes, however, was never so limited. Who did the man dislike? Muslims? Yep. Black Americans? Check. Jews? Uh-huh. Hispanics? Yes. Fox, under Ailes' leadership, became a leader in spewing all these different forms of bigotry. He was a visionary.

Ailes also took a special interest in the careers of much of the female talent at Fox News. His leadership style was to sexually harass female employees and ensure a grotesque environment at the network, which nicely mimicked the misogyny Fox watchers could see on their television screens every day. Elizabeth Ailes’ statement recalling the millions of lives her husband affected calls to mind Stalin’s line about one death being a tragedy, and millions of deaths being a mere statistic. Ailes’ family and friends should never forget that their beloved Roger ruined individual lives, too.

It is sometimes said during a period of mourning that we should focus on the life, rather than the death. Who could disagree in this case? There will be other Roger Ailes: men of low character and morals who don't care about the society they help destroy and the lives they help wreck, who don't give a second thought to the victims of their petty prejudices and vomit-inducing sexual desires. But by ensuring that his id was available on television every night for millions of viewers, Ailes helped elect a president remarkably similar to himself, thus permanently enshrining his legacy. Ailes may be resting in peace; the rest of us live in the decidedly nonpacific world he helped create.

Media Wars


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Water Bomb: Something Did Happen At The Last Sierra Madre City Council Meeting

Mod: I am not sure anyone was paying much attention to the last City Council meeting. There wasn't any comment about it here. But one resident was watching closer than most, and wrote in with the following observations.

I just caught the end of the rerun for the May 9 council meeting. They were discussing the last item of the night...the budget. Apparently, the city has been losing a lot of money to water leaks. They lost 29% of their water in 2015, and they lost another 21% in 2016. All due to leaks. This question was asked many times in the past, and only know is it being answered.

The new City Manager is recommending that money from the General Fund be used to help pay off the water bond debt. I am not sure if he meant General Fund or General Fund reserves. He said Marcie wants the money taken out of some water fund. Who is Marcie?

Here's a strange thing:  The city is NOT recommending a tax increase in 2017-2018. (Is this a trick statement? There is no election in 2017.) Or are they really going to forfeit the rumored parcel tax? Maybe they decided a water rate increase is a better idea. It's easier to pass a Prop 218 measure than it would be a parcel tax, which would require a full 2/3s of the vote to pass.

Capoccia was stressed. Arizmendi said the report was "sobering." I think she said we need to find money for infrastructure.  I realize I came in late watching this, but...isn't that what the 2011 and 2014 water rate increases were supposed to cover?  Infrastructure? How many years are they going to cry wolf and not fix the pipes??

Now that I look back, I remember seeing Barbara Leigh ask a question from the podium at this May 9 meeting. I think I was watching it live. She asked how much was left on the water debt and Arizmendi told her to stay tuned. (It would be included in the budget item later that evening.) While watching the rerun tonight, I didn't hear the magic number but I'll bet I would have if I had tuned in earlier.

Mod: There might be a silver lining to this dark cloud. It would appear that the city might actually be ready to admit that the millions of dollars in remaining water bond debt really is the reason for raising water rates here for the third time in the last seven years. I posted about this debt on May 8, and you can link to that bit of news by clicking here. And yes, the magic number is there. Actually, there is a whole lot of them.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Poll: Forty-eight percent of American voters now want the president impeached

Mod: Presidential impeachment is in the air this spring, something both invigorating and refreshing. And just so you know, this is not just another attempt at trendy fashion chasing here by The Tattler. The polls are beginning show that quite a few folks are getting on board as well. We all need to face it, the biggest political reality show ever could be just around the corner.  

Poll Finds Growing Support for Impeaching Trump (Vice.com link): Over Trump's last month in office, the government has lost an FBI director, gained a controversial new healthcare bill, and left many people wondering whether or not the current administration can be trusted to handle highly classified intelligence. Perhaps those are just some of the reasons that a majority of American voters say they want Trump impeached, according to a new poll.

The poll, released Tuesday from Public Policy Polling, surveyed 692 registered voters from around the country between May 12–14—right after former FBI director James Comey's abrupt dismissal—and asked about their approval of Trump's job so far and how long they think he'll last in the Oval Office. It found that 48 percent of American voters think Trump should be impeached, while 41 percent disagree.

Even more voters—54 percent—disapprove with the job Trump's done, while only 40 percent approve. Those numbers are slightly higher than a Quinnipiac University poll released last Wednesday that clocked Trump's approval rating at just 36 percent. According to Gallup, Trump's 36 percent approval rating is a record low for any president since the poll began in 1953.

"There is no way to spin or sugarcoat these sagging numbers," Tim Malloy, Quinnipiac University Poll's assistant director, said. "Deepening concerns about Trump's honesty, intelligence, and level headedness are red flags that the administration simply can't brush away."

The participants in the Public Policy Poll were surveyed before the Washington Post revealed Monday that Trump had disclosed highly classified intelligence during a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week. While revealing sensitive intelligence to another foreign nation may be incredibly careless, it's not illegal, so impeachment on those grounds is still a long shot.

Still, with a scandal embroiling Trump and his administration seemingly every week, voters aren't confident he'll be in office for a full term—45 percent polled said he wouldn't last four years.

Mod: Slate.com (not wanting to miss out on all of the fun), has now published a roster of what they believe could be the Articles of Impeachment for Trump. It is a first pass, but what stands out is the numbers of items on their list. See if you agree.

Articles of Impeachment for Donald J. Trump (Slate.com link): The framers of our Constitution likely never imagined a President like Donald J. Trump. And yet, they inserted impeachment provisions into the original text of the Constitution, some 230 years ago, to empower Congress to act in case a rube, tyrant, or criminal came to occupy the nation’s highest office.

It’s not crystal clear which Trump might be, but the president’s latest outrageous actions—the reported passing of highly classified intelligence to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office—should awake Republicans and Democrats in Congress to the dangers posed by Trump to the nation in case that wasn’t already obvious.

His conduct now goes far beyond mere offense or incitement to constitute actual damage to U.S. national security, the very definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” contemplated by the men who crafted the Constitution’s impeachment clauses. With this latest act, the time has come to commence the slow, deliberate process of demonstrating that Trump needs to be removed from office so he can harm the nation no more. A broad congressional inquiry should begin immediately, to inform drafters who will prepare articles of impeachment for consideration by the House and Senate.

While Republican control of Congress means that such proceedings won’t occur anytime soon, it’s clear that they are warranted. We don’t yet know for certain what precisely such an investigation would yield, but there is enough public information already available to roughly map out what such articles of impeachment might—and probably should—look like.

Article 1: Compromising the integrity of the presidency through continuing violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. From his first day in office, Trump’s continuing stake in Trump Organization businesses has violated the clause of the Constitution proscribing federal officials from receiving foreign payments. The true and full extent of Trump’s conflicts of interest remains unknown. For his part, Trump has transferred day-to-day control over these interests to his adult children and the management of the Trump Organization. However, he remains the ultimate beneficiary for these businesses, so the fundamental conflict of interest remains. These foreign business ties violate both the letter and spirit of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, and arguably provide the clearest basis for impeachment based on the facts and law.

Article 2: Violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the duties of his office by disregarding U.S. interests and pursuing the interests of a hostile foreign power, to wit, Russia. L’affaire Russia began during Trump’s campaign for the presidency, during which several top aides reportedly had contacts with Russia and its intelligence service. His campaign manager also had reportedly worked either directly or indirectly for the Kremlin. These contacts continued, famously, into the presidential transition, when the president’s chosen national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had his ill-fated contacts with Russia. Beyond these contacts, Trump has substantively acted in myriad ways that benefit Russia, including dangerous diplomacy that has reportedly frayed relationships with our allies and allegedly put allied intelligence assets at risk. By offering classified information to the Russians, it was reported that Trump risked the intelligence assets of a Middle Eastern ally that already warned American officials that it would stop sharing such information with America if that information was shared too widely. In risking that relationship, Trump has opened up the possibility for the loss of that information stream for combatting terrorism, and potentially put American lives at risk from the loss of intelligence that could inform officials about future attacks on Americans at home and abroad.

Article 3: Impairment and obstruction of inquiries by the Justice Department and Congress into the extent of the Trump administration’s conflicts of interests and Russia ties. The Trump administration has systematically impeded, avoided, or obstructed the machinery of justice to obscure its business relationships, its Russia ties, and the forces acting within the Trump White House to animate policy. The most egregious and visible examples have been Trump’s firings of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey. [Update, 6:18 p.m.: The New York Times reported on Tuesday afternoon on an even more egregious case of apparent obstruction of justice, wherein Trump allegedly directly asked Comey to end the FBI's investigation of Michael Flynn.] Each termination had what appeared to be a lawful pretext; subsequent statements or admissions have indicated each had more to do with obstructing justice than holding leaders accountable. Alongside these sackings, the Trump administration has also worked to starve Justice Department inquiries of resources and refocus investigators on suspected leaks instead of the White House’s own Russia intrigues. The Trump administration also interfered with congressional inquiries through attempting to block witnesses like Yates from appearing or selective leaking of classified information to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, compromising Nunes so badly he had to recuse himself from the matter.

Article 4: Undermining of the American judicial system through felonious intimidation of potential witnesses. In his desire to continue Comey’s public humiliation, and ensure Comey remained silent about Trump’s possible sins, the president threatened Comey on Twitter with disclosure of “tapes” of their conversations. This follows a pattern of Trump roughly treating witnesses and litigation adversaries that stretches back for decades before his presidency. Since taking office, Trump has also used the bully pulpit of his office to threaten intelligence officials for purported leaks and badger former Yates before her congressional testimony. In addition to falling beneath the dignity of the presidency, these verbal assaults also constitute obstruction of justice, prohibited by federal statutes on witness intimidation, retaliation against a witness, and obstruction of federal proceedings. These attacks don’t just harm the individuals who are targeted; they assault and undermine the rule of law. As such, they constitute further grounds for impeachment of Trump and his removal from the presidency.

Article 5: Undermining of his office and the Constitution through repeated assaults on the integrity of the federal judiciary and its officers. During the presidential campaign, Trump publicly attacked federal district Judge Gonzalo Curiel on the basis of his ethnicity, saying Curiel had been “extremely hostile to (Trump),” and that the judge had ruled against Trump because of his “Mexican heritage.” Since taking office, Trump has continued his unpresidential assaults on the federal judiciary, particularly after repeatedly losing court battles over his travel bans. At one point, he described a member of the bench as a “so-called judge,” undermining the premise of an independent judiciary. These statements also undermined both the dignity and power of the presidency, and threaten the rule of law by attacking the integrity of the federal judiciary.

Article 6: Demeaning the integrity of government and its public servants, particularly the military and intelligence agencies, in contravention of his constitutional duties to serve as chief executive and commander in chief of the armed forces. Trump swept into office with considerable disdain for the government and its military. Indeed, during his campaign, he insulted former prisoners of war, Purple Heart recipients, and Gold Star families; criticized the military for its performance in Iraq; and said today’s generals and admirals had been “reduced to rubble” during the Obama administration. Trump carried this disdain into the presidency, through his attacks on the “deep state” of military and intelligence officials that he believed to be obstructing his agenda. He also demeaned the military and its apolitical ethos through use of military fora and audiences as public spectacle—first to sign his immigration order in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, and then to deliver rambling speeches at military and intelligence headquarters suggesting that pro-Trump elements in those agencies were grateful Trump had taken power. Trump has also continued to wage political war against his intelligence community, suggesting as recently as Tuesday morning that it was sabotaging his administration through leaking and other nefarious activities. In doing these things, Trump has undermined his constitutional office as president and commander in chief of the armed forces.

Article 7: Dereliction of his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the office of president by failing to timely appoint officers of the United States to administer the nation’s federal agencies. Shortly after taking office, Trump administration strategist Stephen Bannon articulated his plan for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” During its first four months in office, the Trump administration’s neglect of governance illustrates how this strategy is to be executed: delay of political appointments, failure to reach budget agreements with Congress in a timely manner, and deliberate neglect of governance and government operations. These actions and failures risk the health, welfare, and security of the nation, and represent a dereliction of Trump’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the office of the presidency.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Benedict Donald: Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador

Mod: The so-called great negotiator has turned out to be something of a sissy blabbermouth. Show him a little respect, treat him like he is a valued friend, and out pour some of our nation's most precious intelligence secrets. Here are five new articles that discuss Trump's latest bouts with weakness when hanging out with those funny smiling Russians.

Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador (Washington Post link): President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Why the latest White House crisis is a really big deal (CNN link): Donald Trump's latest crisis -- over his reported disclosure of highly classified information to Russia -- is giving voice to a question whispered privately in Washington during weeks of political turmoil: Is the President up to the job?

"This isn't really about the power of the President. He has the power to do this," former CIA Director Michael Hayden said on "CNN Tonight" Monday. "This is more about the person of the President and the performance."

The new storm engulfing an already beleaguered White House is so potentially damaging because it stretches far beyond the simple personal standing and reputation of the President.

The rumpus, first reported by The Washington Post, has national security, intelligence and international implications that White House attempts to knock down the story on Monday night conspicuously failed to address. It's even possible that lives could be at risk, considering that the information Trump reportedly shared was related to an ISIS terror plot against civil aviation -- the most urgent terrorist threat to the United States.

Donald Trump Just Betrayed America’s Intelligence Community (The Daily Beast link): We don’t know—yet—why Trump feels the need to cower before Russia. We do know that he’s sold out our allies to benefit an adversary.

When Donald Trump was elected, U.S. intelligence officials feared that allies would stop sharing critical intelligence information for fear that information might be passed on to Russia. European countries in particular rightfully worried their secrets would land in the hands of Vladimir Putin even as he meddled in their elections.

Wednesday, it appears those fears were realized.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the infamous Ambassador Sergey Kislyak must have giggled inside, maybe even smirked a little as Russia’s preferred President bragged to them about how “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day about the amazing intelligence.” Trump’s bravado allegedly revealed highly classified specifics about an Islamic State plot to bomb civilian aviation, one that has triggered months of incremental bans on laptops being carried into airplane cabins bound for the U.S.

He gave that information—which came from an ally as part of what the Washington Post describes as “an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government”—to an adversary, Russia. The same adversary under scrutiny for its widespread hacking of American leaders, including the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the personal emails of former Secretary of State General Colin Powell and former NATO commander General Breedlove, hacking which may have tipped the election in favor of Trump.

By releasing classified intelligence, at best, Trump created a gaffe for which any American other than the commander-in-chief might be imprisoned. At worst, he revealed and put at risk the life of an essential intelligence source of a critical foreign ally.

Above all, Trump further eroded trust in America and amongst Americans at a time when democracy has come under the intense assault of Russian Active Measures to break up the European Union and the NATO military alliance.

With White House in 'downward spiral,' there's no saying what desperate, unpredicatable Trump might do (New York Daily News link): The Trump White House is in a "downward spiral," says Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It's impossible to disagree.

Every day brings another bombshell. The roar from the firing of FBI Director James Comey had not yet died down when news came that President Trump had shared top-secret code-word intelligence concerning ISIS with the Russians, jeopardizing an intelligence sharing relationship with a close ally, potentially endangering friendly agents in the field and weakening U.S. counterterrorism efforts at a moment of peril.

On top of that — and that is hard to beat — we have a White House staff in remarkable turmoil.

When President Trump's spokespeople attempted to defend the Comey firing by attributing it to the memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Trump cut them off at their legs, saying to NBC that he had been planning to fire Comey all along, and referencing "the Russia thing" that Comey was investigating.

As the backdrop to all the disarray, we have Trump's historically dismal standing in the polls, with record high levels of disapproval.

Alone in the White House at night, absorbing an endless stream of bad news, surrounded by staffers whom he does not trust, Trump is desperately searching for ways to right his ship.

"He's frustrated, and angry at everyone," one of Trump's confidantes told the news organization Axios, which reports that Trump is planning a wholesale purge of his senior White House staff, ridding himself of Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and Stephen Bannon. But of course firing the White House staff is not likely to fix a problem that stems from Trump himself.

Screaming overheard in Cabinet Room meeting between Spicer, Bannon and Sanders after Russia intel revelation (Raw Story link): Reporters at the White House on Monday overheard yelling between White House press secretary Sean Spicer, chief White House counsel Steve Bannon, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and White House Communications Director Michale Dubke, prompting staffers to turn up TV’s to drown out the back-and-forth.

According to BuzzFeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo, the officials walked into the Cabinet Room of the White House shortly after news broke that Donald Trump revealed classified information to the Russian ambassador and Russian foreign minister during a closed-door meeting last week.

sierramadretattler.blotspot.com

Monday, May 15, 2017

No News Is Bad News: Sierra Madre Weekly RIP

It now appears that coverage of the news and events of Sierra Madre is about to take another rather nasty kick in the teeth. The Sierra Madre Weekly, which has been covering the happenings of the Foothill Village since sometime late in the previous century, will disappear from this city's news racks on June 1st. Here is how that unhappy news was first shared in a Beacon Media sister publication known as The Pasadena Independent (link).

‘Sierra Madre Weekly’ Morphs Into ‘Pasadena Independent’ (link): As part of a consolidation plan, Beacon Media News has made the decision to discontinue printing the ‘Sierra Madre Weekly’ effective June 1. The ‘Sierra Madre Weekly’ has published each and every Thursday since 1998. We decided to merge Sierra Madre News (sic) with ‘Pasadena Independent’ as the communities are in such close proximity.

Beacon Media will continue the ‘Sierra Madre Weekly’ website in perpetuity. All Sierra Madre news items / blotters etc., stories will now be found in ‘Pasadena Independent’ which will be distributed to all the usual drop sites in the city of Sierra Madre each week. We hope you’ll understand and pick up ‘Pasadena Independent’ each week. Please continue to send your news items and press releases to us and we’ll glad run these items in ‘Pasadena Independent’, space permitting.

In a time when print continues to dwindle as more and more people turn to the Internet for their information, this is understandable. The financial pressures that many newspapers face are immense, and this further indication of decline is not exactly a surprise. Obviously this is being done to save money. And let's face it, Sierra Madre is hardly a fountainhead of advertising revenue.

However, as far as Sierra Madre goes, it is unfortunate as this city will now be left with only the discredited Mountain Views News. A publication so slavishly dedicated to the viewpoints and desires of the City Hall that sustains it financially it even republishes the typographical errors of its publicity releases intact.

Seriously. The following first appeared in Sierra Madre's new City Hall newsletter, The Village View.


The typo in question is: "Containers should be 32 gallons in size of smaller." Which was reprinted exactly that same way in the Mountain Views News (link):


The Mountain Views News version of news is to reprint City Hall publicity releases as is, and without any questions whatsoever. Even to the point of keeping the typos. And without accrediting the original source of their "news," by the way. Something known to most of us as plagiarism. Your tax dollars at work, and such a fine example for our local school kids. That is, should they ever actually pick a copy of the MVN up, which I doubt happens too often.

The Sierra Madre Weekly did original journalism. They questioned authority when that needed to be done, and weren't afraid to stick their neck out and print the truth. No matter who downtown it might offend. Their excellent coverage of the Robert Matheson story, and the city's response (or utter lack thereof), being a good example.

Hopefully that kind of Sierra Madre coverage will continue in the Pasadena Independent. But no matter how you spin it, this isn't great news.

sierramadretattler.blogapot.com

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Laurence Tribe: Trump must be impeached - Here’s why

ModLaurence H. Tribe is Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. The following appears today in the Washington Post.

Trump must be impeached - Here’s why (Washington Post link): The time has come for Congress to launch an impeachment investigation of President Trump for obstruction of justice. The remedy of impeachment was designed to create a last-resort mechanism for preserving our constitutional system. It operates by removing executive-branch officials who have so abused power through what the framers called “high crimes and misdemeanors” that they cannot be trusted to continue in office.

No American president has ever been removed for such abuses, although Andrew Johnson was impeached and came within a single vote of being convicted by the Senate and removed, and Richard Nixon resigned to avoid that fate.

Now the country is faced with a president whose conduct strongly suggests that he poses a danger to our system of government.

Ample reasons existed to worry about this president, and to ponder the extraordinary remedy of impeachment, even before he fired FBI Director James B. Comey and shockingly admitted on national television that the action was provoked by the FBI’s intensifying investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia.

Even without getting to the bottom of what Trump dismissed as “this Russia thing,” impeachable offenses could theoretically have been charged from the outset of this presidency. One important example is Trump’s brazen defiance of the foreign emoluments clause, which is designed to prevent foreign powers from pressuring U.S. officials to stray from undivided loyalty to the United States. Political reality made impeachment and removal on that and other grounds seem premature.

No longer. To wait for the results of the multiple investigations underway is to risk tying our nation’s fate to the whims of an authoritarian leader.

Comey’s summary firing will not stop the inquiry, yet it represented an obvious effort to interfere with a probe involving national security matters vastly more serious than the “third-rate burglary” that Nixon tried to cover up in Watergate. The question of Russian interference in the presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign go to the heart of our system and ability to conduct free and fair elections.

Consider, too, how Trump embroiled Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite Sessions’s recusal from involvement in the Russia investigation, in preparing admittedly phony justifications for the firing on which Trump had already decided. Consider how Trump used the vice president and White House staff to propagate a set of blatant untruths — before giving an interview to NBC’s Lester Holt that exposed his true motivation.

Trump accompanied that confession with self-serving — and manifestly false — assertions about having been assured by Comey that Trump himself was not under investigation. By Trump’s own account, he asked Comey about his investigative status even as he was conducting the equivalent of a job interview in which Comey sought to retain his position as director.

Further reporting suggests that the encounter was even more sinister, with Trump insisting that Comey pledge “loyalty” to him in order to retain his job. Publicly saying he saw nothing wrong with demanding such loyalty, the president turned to Twitter with a none-too-subtle threat that Comey would regret any decision to disseminate his version of his conversations with Trump — something that Comey has every right, and indeed a civic duty, to do.

To say that this does not in itself rise to the level of “obstruction of justice” is to empty that concept of all meaning. Obstruction of justice was the first count in the articles of impeachment against Nixon and, years later, a count against Bill Clinton. In Clinton’s case, the ostensible obstruction consisted solely in lying under oath about a sordid sexual affair that may have sullied the Oval Office but involved no abuse of presidential power.

But in Nixon’s case, the list of actions that together were deemed to constitute impeachable obstruction reads like a forecast of what Trump would do decades later — making misleading statements to, or withholding material evidence from, federal investigators or other federal employees; trying to interfere with FBI or congressional investigations; trying to break through the FBI’s shield surrounding ongoing criminal investigations; dangling carrots in front of people who might otherwise pose trouble for one’s hold on power.

It will require serious commitment to constitutional principle, and courageous willingness to put devotion to the national interest above self-interest and party loyalty, for a Congress of the president’s own party to initiate an impeachment inquiry. It would be a terrible shame if only the mounting prospect of being voted out of office in November 2018 would sufficiently concentrate the minds of representatives and senators today.

But whether it is devotion to principle or hunger for political survival that puts the prospect of impeachment and removal on the table, the crucial thing is that the prospect now be taken seriously, that the machinery of removal be reactivated, and that the need to use it become the focus of political discourse going into 2018.

Is it time for Trump staff to lawyer up? (Politico link): Veterans of past White House scandals from Watergate to Plamegate have an important message for Team Trump: It’s time to think about lawyering up.

In the past week, a Senate committee began issuing subpoenas in its investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s staff and other associates during the 2016 election campaign and transition, while the FBI continues its own criminal investigation. Trump himself fired FBI director James Comey, and then said in the aftermath of that decision that the Russia probe was “made up” and appeared to threaten Comey on Twitter.

“There’s obviously a risk here,” said Washington white-collar defense attorney Robert Luskin. “And that’s not any kind of judgment on [Trump’s] personal integrity or absence of it, but the apparent fact he doesn’t seem to be very sensitive about norms and about risks.”

It’s an axiom of Washington scandals that the cover-up tends to be worse than the crime—and it’s lower- or mid-level people who wind up getting caught in the worst legal trouble, usually for tangential offenses like perjury or obstruction of justice.

The ancillary stuff, like a forgotten meeting or a discarded document, can cause the most serious problems for staffers navigating the unfamiliar, expensive and high-stakes world of grand juries, subpoenas and congressional hearings, where the prospects of perjury or obstruction of justice charges can be filed for both unintended slip-ups or intentional attempts to cover up for a superior.

“The thing you worry about in a process like that is you just make a mistake and it appears more than it is,” said Rep. Sean Maloney, a New York Democratic lawmaker who served as staff secretary for President Bill Clinton during his final two years at the White House amid congressional impeachment proceedings. “We’re all human beings. If someone asks you questions for two or three hours it’s easy to make a mistake.”

Mod: The rest of this article is available at the link.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Sierra Madre Tattler's Russian Fanbase Is Growing

I've been trying to figure out why The Tattler gets as many hits from Russia as it does. To the left you can see some of the numbers we are getting from the Land of Putin. For a small regional politics blog that gets somewhere around 60,000 to 70,000 hits a month, it is kind of notable. It is also flattering. Do these people really think we have that much influence in this country?

A British paper called The Guardian recently published an article called "Invasion of the troll armies: from Russian Trump supporters to Turkish state stooges" (link). It is pretty interesting stuff, and it also raises a question to two. Can it be that we are actually receiving the attention of these kinds of folks? Here is how they describe this sort of Russian contribution to some of the political discourse found on US blogs and in social media.

RussiaLong before Donald Trump met Twitter, Russia was famous for its troll factories – outside Russia, anyway. Allegations of covert propagandists invading chatrooms go back as far as 2003, and in 2012 the Kremlin-backed youth movement Nashi was revealed to be paying people to comment on blogs. However most of what we know now comes from a series of leaks in 2013 and 2014, most concerning a St Petersburg company called Internet Research Agency, then just “Internet Research”. It is believed to be one of several firms where trolls are trained and paid to smear Putin’s opponents both at home and internationally.

According to internal documents released by a group of hackers in 2013, Internet Research Agency employed more than 600 people across Russia, and had an implied annual budget of $10m – half of which was paid out in cash. Employees were expected to post on news articles 50 times a day. Those who wrote blogs had to maintain six Facebook accounts and publish at least three posts daily. On Twitter, they had to have at least 10 accounts, on which they would tweet 50 times. All had targets for the number of followers and the level of engagement they had to reach.

Later, an investigator called Lyudmila Savchuk went undercover at the company and afterwards published her experiences. These included smearing the character of the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in the days following his murder, and promoting the theory that he was killed by his own friends, rather than by friends of Putin. “I felt the bullets between my own shoulders,” Savchuk said. “I was so upset that I almost gave myself away. But I was 007. I fulfilled my task.” When a Finnish reporter called Jessikka Aro wrote about Internet Research in 2014, she herself became the target of a frightening campaign of threats and smears.

As you might expect, many Russian trolls lack a certain polish when posting in English. “I think the whole world is realizing what will be with Ukraine, and only US keep on fuck around because of their great plans are doomed to failure,” one Internet Research employee wrote on a forum. Indeed the Guardian’s own moderators have begun to notice regular clues, especially on articles about Ukraine. “We can look at the suspicious tone of certain users, combined with the date they signed up, the time they post and the subjects they post on,” says one senior moderator. “Zealous pro-separatist comments in broken English claiming to be from western counties are very common.”

Estimated troops: Several thousand.

Favourite subjects Putin and Trump being great, the opposition being corrupt, the Nato conspiracy against Russia, the effeminacy of Barack Obama.

It does explain some of the trolling we get here. It is pretty voluminous. A lot of it I do not let through because frankly it is kind of boring, and often quite repetitious. The same nonsense over and over again. Here are a few examples from the last month or so.


I don't know. Russian trolling would be one explanation, I suppose. Local native idiocy could be another. There certainly is enough of that floating around. I do get a decent amount of this stuff and like I said, I don't let all of it through. Hopefully just enough to keep things amusing.

 sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, May 12, 2017

New York Magazine: Voters Describe Trump As ‘Idiot’ and ‘Liar’ in Disastrous New Poll

Mod: Today's article discusses some of Donald Trump's disastrous recent polling results. Apparently Benedict Donald has developed something of a public image problem. These numbers do not reflect the controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey, so expect even worse results very soon. 

Voters Describe Trump As ‘Idiot’ and ‘Liar’ in Disastrous New Poll (New York Magazine link): Over the last week, Quinnipiac University asked Americans for the first word that comes to mind when they think of President Trump. The answer given more times than any other was “idiot,” followed by “incompetent” and “liar.”

Given the above sentiment, there’s little surprise that Trump is down to a 36 percent approval rating in the university’s latest national poll. The mark sits just one percentage point above the 35 percent approval rating he got on April 4, his lowest since taking office.

It’s not just the approval rating. Every number in this poll is bad. The majority of Americans say Trump is “not honest,” lacks leadership skills, doesn’t care about average Americans, is not “level-headed,” and does not share their values. On the economy, immigration, foreign policy, and terrorism, more Americans disapprove than approve of the job he’s doing.

Perhaps the most revelatory number in this poll, which shows that Trump is floundering even in the eyes of his fans, is his support among white men. Approval among this bedrock group for Trump dropped below 50 percent in the past week, with only 48 percent of white men saying the president is doing a good job. Forty-six percent disagreed.

And that’s not even the poll result that would most enrage Trump. This is: When it comes to who Americans trust to tell them the truth, 57 percent say the media wins out over Trump.

Trump Told He Would Not Be Greeted Warmly at FBI: Officials (NBC News link): The White House has abandoned the idea of President Trump visiting FBI headquarters after being told he would not be greeted warmly, administration officials told NBC News.

Amid the continuing fallout over his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, Trump was considering an appearance at the FBI's J Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, DC. The White House publicly floated the idea as recently as Thursday morning.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, asked by a reporter whether such a visit was imminent, replied, I believe that it's very likely that takes place sometime in the next few days."

But that idea was dropped later Thursday, administration officials said, after the FBI told the White House the optics would not be good. FBI officials made clear that the president would not draw many smiles and cheers, having just unceremoniously sacked a very popular director.

And FBI agents said that, while many of them voted for Trump, after the president unceremoniously fired a very popular director, few were ready to meet him at the bureau with open arms.

"My sense is most FBI employees feel a loyalty to Comey," one person who works at headquarters told NBC News. "And whether they agree or disagree with the way he handled the email case, like and respect him ... Trump would not be well-received at headquarters."

Mod: Have we ever had a president before who was afraid to visit the FBI?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Guns.com: How California’s ‘off-roster’ gun exemption for peace officers is causing problems

Mod: I ran across this one last night, and it is pretty good. The perspective is a little different from a lot of the newsier articles we have run here, but the analysis of the Vasken Gourdikian case rings realistic and true. If you are looking for an explanation of the "off roster" market, and how the latest California gun laws are affecting it, you could do far worse than what the Guns.com folks are pushing.

How California’s ‘off-roster’ gun exemption for peace officers is causing problems (Guns.com link): While a California law allows officers to buy and sell so-called ‘off-roster’ guns, a seizure of dozens of firearms from a Pasadena police lieutenant’s home earlier this year is shining a light on problems with the implementation of the law, which was recently expanded to include sworn peace officers who aren’t cops.

Of the 57 firearms seized from Pasadena Police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian’s Sierra Madre home, at least 18 of them were off-roster, according to an analysis from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

In California, there’s a roster of handguns that residents can legally buy. If you’re a police officer, you can buy guns that aren’t on that roster — thus ‘off-roster’ guns. Cops can sell off-roster weapons to civilians as long as they aren’t trying to turn a profit. They’d need a Federal Firearms License to do that. Gourdikian didn’t have one of those.

He hasn’t been charged with anything, and the ATF isn’t providing many details about the investigation. But the list of seized weapons includes duplicates of off-roster handguns, which experts say could signal intent to sell.

Expanding who can buy and sell off-roster firearms

In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that expanded the types of sworn peace officers that qualify for that off-roster exemption, so long as they pass a three-day firearms course.

Assembly Bill 2165 allows peace officers who work in 19 agencies, including officers in the Parks and Recreation Department, the Department of Motor Vehicles, state university and community college systems, and welfare fraud investigators and probation officers to buy and sell off-roster weapons exclusively to and from each other. They can’t sell to civilians the way police officers can.

Brandon Combs, the executive director of gun rights advocacy group The Calguns Foundation, said when peace officers go to sell the guns through a licensed dealer, the dealers are taking them at their word that the buyer is a peace officer who works for one of those 19 approved agencies. Without a database of such employees, dealers can’t verify whether they are following the letter of the law. That has dealers worried they could lose their license for unknowingly facilitating an illegal sale.

“The state doesn’t give any mechanism for dealers to understand … are you subjected to this exemption, are you bound to this limitation,” Combs told the San Diego Union Tribune.

A memo from the ATF

On March 31, just six weeks after Gourdikian’s home was raided, Eric Harden, the ATF’s special agent in charge in Los Angeles, issued a memo to police agencies throughout California. He warned law enforcement officers that they’d be violating federal law if they bought off-roster and crime scene guns and then tried to sell them for a profit without a license.

“In some instances, ATF has discovered officers who purchased more than 100 ‘off roster’ firearms that were subsequently transferred to non-law enforcement individuals,” Harden said, adding, “when presented with compelling evidence of flagrant violations of federal firearms laws, ATF is obligated to conduct a criminal investigation.”

Last July, former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy Ryan McGowan was sentenced to 18 months in prison and a $7,000 fine for reselling off-roster weapons at a profit. McGowan bought 41 handguns and resold 25 of them within a year for more than $6,000. His co-defendant, Robert Snellings, a federal firearms licensee, was sentenced to a year in prison.

Still, Harden said the point of his memo to officers earlier this year was to “educate, not investigate, to ensure law enforcement officials comply with federal law in order to avoid unnecessary public embarrassment” to law enforcement agencies.

For Brandon Combs, the off-roster issue is an equality issue. “Every time you create a special exemption, and you say this one over here is better than this person over here because of who they work for, that is undermining equality in our society and it is inherently wrong,” he said.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

America's new post-Comey reality

Mod: Not since the dark days of Richard Nixon, Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre, has America seen an event quite like this one. Here is what CNN is reporting.

America's new post-Comey reality (CNN link): America woke to a new, and potentially traumatic, political reality Wednesday. President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey without warning on Tuesday afternoon has unleashed a political earthquake with few parallels across the span of American history and deeply uncertain consequences. It leaves the nation confronting complicated questions about the relationship between government and independent law enforcement, the nature of Trump's use of power and possibly even the integrity of the presidency itself.

Trump already had Washington on edge three months into his term. But his sudden strike against Comey was unconventional even by his own standards, and immediately and significantly exacerbated the discord that has raged since he took office. It may also have delivered another damaging blow to his own viability and the goodwill he needs to build a successful presidency.

As a shocked Washington digested the implications of Trump's political decapitation of Comey, accusations from Trump critics began to fly, and his defenders struggled to summon effective counterattacks.

But this was not just politics as usual. Something very significant had just occurred: The President fired an FBI chief overseeing a probe into claims his own campaign colluded with Russia to meddle in last year's election.

FBI directors always serve at the pleasure of the President. But it was those circumstances that left everyone breathless.

"I think it is profoundly troubling for our democracy," CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen said. "(Trump) may not mean to, but he is giving the impression that he thinks danger is getting too close."

Whatever that turns out to be true or not, Trump's move raised several possibilities, neither of which are likely to end well for him.

First, there is the question of whether Comey firing marks a deliberate attempt to disrupt the Russia investigation -- which would potentially amount to an abuse of power.

Alternatively, Comey's dismissal made quickly on Tuesday afternoon following a Justice Department recommendation, will appear to be an impulsive swipe made with little forethought and or insight into consequences that hint at gross political negligence.

Historical precedent?

News of Trump's breathtaking decision broke just before 6 p.m. ET after a comparatively normal Tuesday in Washington, which was digging in for the GOP's long campaign to navigate an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate.

Everyone was left groping for a historical precedent and had the same thought at once: Watergate.

Trump's dismissal of Comey brought to mind President Richard Nixon's order for Attorney General Eliot Richardson to sack special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973 -- a move that unleashed political forces that would eventually bring him down in disgrace. (Richardson and a deputy refused and resigned instead.)

"The only historical parallel is the Saturday Night Massacre," CNN Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin accused Trump of a "grotesque abuse of power."

Most immediately, the firing of Comey spurs questions about the future course of the investigation into Russia election interference.

After all, the President will now have to nominate a new director changed with overseeing the investigation into his own associates -- raising immediate questions over the new FBI boss' independence.

Those who see a nefarious hand in the firing will note that every investigation into the Russia issue -- in the FBI in Congress, will now be overseen by a Trump appointee or a Republican. And any new FBI chief nominated by Trump is now guaranteed a rocky and acrimonious confirmation process.

The rationale for the firing of Comey is also set to come under intense security.

The rationale

Newly confirmed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laid out a charge sheet related to Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation which many Democrats believe cost their candidate the presidency last year.

Yet Comey's actions -- including publicly upbraiding the former secretary of state for her stewardship of classified information even though she was not charged -- were raucously backed by Trump on the campaign trail.

And Trump's team has never shown anything but contempt for Clinton's complaints about the way the email saga derailed her campaign.

So the idea that the President was suddenly motivated by a desire to clean up that episode seems far fetched.

Even if he was, critics want to know why Comey was fired on Tuesday with new questions about Russia swirling around the White House and not as soon as Trump took office.

The fate of the FBI investigation itself must also now be in question.

Despite Democratic antipathy, Comey still boasted a reputation for integrity. Amid the congressional shenanigans over the Russia matter, Comey's was easily the most authoritative voice. When he announced during a Capitol Hill hearing two months ago that his agents were probing for any links between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives, it put a much more serious cast on the entire episode.

Now that voice is silent.

Brookings Institution scholars Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey, who is also a CNN analyst, said Tuesday's events raised profound legal and ethical issues.

"There's also no question that removing the FBI director in the midst of a high-stakes investigation of Russian influence in the inner circle of the President's campaign and White House is a horrifying breach of every expectation we have of the relationship between the White House and federal law enforcement," they wrote on the Lawfare blog.

Comey's dismissal and the administration's motivation will inject a new and time consuming new element into congressional probes into the Russia affair.

Investigations in the House and Senate, struggling with a mountain of evidence and political infighting had already looked to stretch on for months. Now they seem all but inevitable to stretch into next year least before they find answers.

Political implications

Then there are the political implications unleashed by Trump's move for the White House itself.

The Russia drama has hounded this administration even before its first days in office, over claims of Moscow's interference in the election, Trump's affinity for President Vladimir Putin and ties to Moscow of aides like sacked national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Now it seems unlikely that the suspicions and accusation will ever go away and seem certain to inflict new damage on Trump's already compromised approval ratings.

At early on the White House seemed unprepared for the firestorm that quickly came its way on Tuesday evening.

Administration officials fanned out to talk to reporters outside the presidential mansion and headed to cameras to go on cable networks.

On CNN, Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway told Anderson Cooper "this has nothing to do with Russia."

"Somebody must be getting $50 every time (Russia) is said on TV ... (This) has everything to do with whether the current FBI director has the President's confidence and can faithfully execute his duties," she said.

On Wednesday, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will face a test of fire at the podium in the White House briefing room. One question she will face is whether the administration is seeking to close down the Russia probes.

After all, Comey is not the first to be shown the door for at least appearing to pose a threat to the White House.

On Monday, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified to senators about how she was fired days after warning that Flynn could be compromised by Russia. The administration insists she was dismissed for refusing to implement Trump's travel ban on residents of seven Muslim nations.

Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who had jurisdiction over the area of Trump Tower, was also fired by the President.

The White House meanwhile appears at the very least to have sought to sow distraction in the House intelligence committee investigation into Russian election meddling -- which ended with the chairman of the panel, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, having to step down with his independence besmirched.

Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly spoken and tweeted in a manner that suggests he is trying to discredit the investigations.

"The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?" Trump tweeted the day before firing Comey.

While none of these examples proves clear wrongdoing by the White House, together they add up to a pattern that is fuels suspicion among Trump critics.

Major challenge

One major challenge for the White House now will be to solidify support among Republicans and head off Democratic claims that a special prosecutor or independent probe into the Russian evidence is now inevitable.

Some Republicans, like Sens. Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, did initially take the administration's rationale for dismissing Comey at face value. But others are wavering.

Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate intelligence committee probe into alleged Russian election meddling, expressed extreme concern over Tuesday's events.

"I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee," the North Carolina Republican said in a statement.

Other Republicans struggled to make sense of the White House's behavior.

"Regardless of how you think Director Comey handled the unprecedented complexities of the 2016 election cycle, the timing of this firing is very troubling," said GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake meanwhile tweeted: "I've spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing. I just can't do it."

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com