scharrison's blog

Bumbling towards war: U.S. airstrike targets Syrian government-backed militia

Bringing us that much closer to a clash with Russian forces:

The Russian military says a U.S. strike on government-backed troops in eastern Syria reflects Washington's efforts to make a grab for the nation's economic assets. The overnight attack, which killed about 100 according to a U.S. military, came when hundreds of attackers launched an assault on U.S.-backed forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces who were accompanied by U.S. advisers in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday the U.S. strike wounded 25 pro-government Syrian volunteers. It noted that the government-backed Syrian forces had failed to coordinate their action with the Russian military prior to launching the mission.

On the plus side, that last sentence is a tacit admission by the Russians those Syrian troops made a mistake in attacking a group with U.S. advisors in it. But that's not much of a plus. It still leaves two wildly different conclusions that could be drawn, neither of them good: a) The Russians are not exerting a level of control over Syrian forces that might prevent catastrophe, or b) They are lying about that prior coordination and maybe even engineered the attack knowing there were Americans present. You might be tempted to dismiss that second possibility because of its recklessness, but take it from an old Cold Warrior: Russian strategy can be very complex. They might view the deaths of a handful of American military advisors as the best way to get the U.S. *out* of that theater of conflict, especially if it appears to be an unfortunate "accident." And filed under the category, "Sounds great but may be dangerous as hell":

Berger's GenX "fix" earmarks $1 million for newly created Collaboratory

While refusing to fund the purchase of a Mass Spectrometer for DEQ:

The bill contains similar funding to the House version, which Senate leadership rejected outright last month. But instead of directing the state Department of Environmental Quality to buy a high-resolution mass spectrometer, the Senate version tells DEQ to use spectrometers already in place on public university campuses.

In addition to $2.4 million in new, one-time money, the Senate bill would re-direct $1 million a year in university system funding to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is run by Jeffrey Warren, a former science adviser to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

And as a glaring example of Berger's failure to grasp irony, the bill also directs DEQ to cooperate with an EPA investigation that a) Doesn't exist yet because Trudy Wade and her Three Mouseketeers just asked for it, and b) Is based on DEQ's alleged inability to perform tasks the NCGA has seriously cut funding for. But irony aside for the moment, let's talk about that Collaboratory. Warren is actually the Research Director now and not the Director/Director, and he does have some serious scientific creds. That being said, it's all about the mission he's been given by Berger, and that mission focuses way too heavily on economics and not nearly enough on actual scientific solutions to water quality issues. From the Collaboratory's project on Jordan Lake:

Dallas Woodhouse files complaint against Indivisible Flip NC

Alternate headline: Pot Calls Kettle Black:

A complaint filed with the state Board of Elections on Tuesday alleges that Indivisible - Flip NC has been raising money and improperly coordinating efforts with the state Democratic Party without filing paperwork with the elections board and disclosing its donors. The complaint was filed by Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

Republicans in suburban areas tend to be the most vulnerable. And Flip NC appears to specifically target at least one suburban Republican: Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary. “If we are going to have rules they have to apply equally to all,” Woodhouse said in an email.

Oh, that's just rich as hell. Over the last 6-8 years, Woodhouse has controlled so much dark money he could have easily launched his own fucking rocket, with that Americans For the Prosperous bus perched on its nose. If (and it's a big "if") the organizers of Indivisible Flip NC have failed to file the proper paperwork, it's due to inexperience, not an effort to conceal the identity (and thus motives) of billionaires and other uber-wealthy anti-democratic potentates. More whining:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Weird (bad) news on the gerrymandering front:

This may be happening in Pennsylvania, but I wouldn't put it past NC's Republicans to try it also. Hopefully no film at eleven.

Civil Rights Commission convenes exactly where it should

Raleigh is ground zero for unconstitutional voter suppression tactics:

Some people say it was fitting for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to take testimony about the state of voting across the country in the capital city of a state that has been the target of many recent lawsuits in which voters have accused lawmakers of disenfranchising them.

In North Carolina, many of the speakers noted, lawmakers have been accused of drawing election districts to weaken the influence of African-American voters and creating new election laws that with near “surgical precision” were targeted to limit black voters’ access to the ballot.

Unfortunately, regardless of the findings produced by this Committee, those reports will be submitted to a (Federal) Legislative and Executive Branch, neither of which has shown any interest lately on preserving Civil Rights, whether in the form of voting or anything else. And their decision to listen to the twisted ramblings of Hans von Spakovsky is not a good sign, either:

The magic number is five: Precinct organizing begins Monday

Regardless of how top-heavy it may seem, the North Carolina Democratic Party is structured from the ground up. Voting precincts are apportioned by population, and there are several thousand scattered across the state. Your precinct is named (and coded) on your voter registration card, and it can also be found by doing a NCSBE Voter Search (Even if you already know this information, you should periodically do the online search, just to make sure your registration is still active).

As referenced in the title, a precinct must have at least five (5) members to be considered "organized." If you have never taken part, that qualification may seem easily achieved. It is not. It takes communication and coordination, and sometimes desperation, just to get that many folks from each precinct to the organization meeting. And it's not uncommon for several precincts in a county to fall short, leaving a whole lot of Democrats with no (official) vote in how the Party operates. From the NCDP Plan Of Organization:

* Editor's note: BlueNC is not affiliated with the North Carolina Democratic Party or any of its committees or divisions, but many of our readers are, or are strong supporters.

Russia's top spy chiefs meet with US officials days before sanctions (were supposed to be) enforced

Sanctions? We're not worried about any stinking sanctions:

Russia's U.S. ambassador said Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, was in the United States to discuss counterterrorism with his American counterparts. Naryshkin was accompanied at the meeting in Washington by Alexander Bortnikov, who directs the top KGB successor agency known as the Federal Security Service.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the timing of the meeting is suspicious because it came just days before the Trump administration decided not to issue new sanctions against Russian politicians and oligarchs over Russian interference in the election. He released a letter early Thursday demanding that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats disclose details of the meeting by Feb. 9. Schumer said sanctions against Naryshkin impose severe financial penalties and prohibit his entry into the U.S. without a waiver.

Allowing these two (supposedly) sanctioned Russian spies into the country, not to mention meeting with them, is a message on its own. But what was discussed/conveyed at this meeting is of critical importance, as Schumer said. Keep in mind, even if Trump wasn't immediately informed of the proceedings (I'm sure he was), he gets a daily intelligence briefing after he finishes his cranky Twitter ablutions and crawls out of bed. We'll let Vladimir Putin fill in the missing information in his own words:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Fact-checking Trump's "Clean Coal" nonsense

coalsmoke.jpg

Proving my decision to not watch this trainwreck was a wise one:

TRUMP: "We have ended the war on beautiful clean coal."

THE FACTS: Coal is not clean. According to the Energy Department, more than 83 percent of all major air pollutants — sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, toxic mercury and dangerous soot particles — from power plants are from coal, even though coal makes up only 43 percent of the power generation. Power plants are the No. 1 source of those pollutants. Coal produces nearly twice as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide per energy created as natural gas, the department says. In 2011, coal burning emitted more than 6 million tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides versus 430,000 tons from other energy sources combined.

I don't expect an answer to the following question, because logic dictates there can't be one, but: WTF does "beautiful" have to do with coal? I consider myself an artist of sorts, and I've done numerous charcoal sketches. But I've never finished a drawing, looked at my darkened fingertips and said, "Beautiful." It's just not a word that anybody would automatically associate with coal, is what I'm saying. Until now.

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