Monday, March 19, 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Brunch

That's when I will be serving it to you.

"A kinder, gentler — sort of — South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast" by Jeremy C. Fox Globe Correspondent  March 18, 2018

The Bay State’s top elected officials seemed almost like one big happy family as they gathered Sunday for a South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast that was gentler and more intimate than in many past years, trading light jabs but aiming many shots at their own reputations.

On rare occasions when anyone landed a real zinger, an awkward silence ensued among the politicians crowded onto the dais. Like old friends, the officeholders gently needled each other about mostly safe topics, such as Governor Charlie Baker’s sky-high approval rating and a much-discussed video posted on Twitter Saturday that showed Baker drinking a shot of tequila in a South Boston bar.

At least it's legal.

See: State trooper accused of being drunk at work placed on leave

He was seen drinking at the Club Ultra before his shift and was passed out riding in to work.

Also see:

"Connecticut legislators are under pressure to revisit legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, as a growing number of New England states are allowing people to possess and use pot. There is concern among some members of the General Assembly that Connecticut could miss out on the push toward legalization. Democratic Senate President Martin Looney said "We need to ensure that Connecticut is not left behind as our neighbors move forward with common sense marijuana policy."

Just stay off the roads and forget about the tax loot (more about drugs later).

City Councilor Michael Flaherty told a joke about a Republican who died and went to heaven — “It could happen,” the Democrat quipped — and found a huge wall of clocks, each representing a single person and ticking forward any time they told a lie.

The clock for Mother Teresa, the nun canonized in 2016, had never moved, St. Peter told the Republican. “Honest Abe” Lincoln’s clock had moved only twice.

Asked about US Senator Elizabeth Warren’s clock, St. Peter replied, “Actually, her clock is down in Jesus’s office. They’re using it as a ceiling fan.”

After uproarious laughter from the audience, Flaherty added, “We know she’s going to run for president of the United States,” and asked the crowd to applaud for Warren.

Lynch and Flaherty stepped in to cohost the breakfast after former state senator Linda Dorcena Forry abruptly left Beacon Hill for the private sector in January, vacating the seat that has long held the unofficial duty of emceeing the event.

Where she go?

There were serious moments amid the comedy, as speakers paid tribute to military service members, veterans, and Gold Star families; to the resilience of the Irish people; and to the Colonists who fought in and suffered through the Revolutionary War.

There was no mention, though, of difficult issues closer to home, such as the sexual harassment scandal surrounding former Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg’s estranged husband, Bryon Hefner, or allegations made by legislators Thursday on the House floor that Speaker Robert A. DeLeo has allowed sexual misconduct on Beacon Hill to be cloaked by nondisclosure agreements.

Not a whimper, huh? WTH?

Rosenberg did not attend the breakfast. DeLeo — who has denied the allegations against him — spoke briefly, but kept his remarks to safe topics like Baker’s popularity and the appeal of corned beef and cabbage.

The president of the Boston City Council, Andrea Campbell — the first African-American woman to hold that post — told jokes that held harsh truths, as when she quipped about being mistaken at public events for fellow councilors Ayanna Pressley, Lydia Edwards, and Kim Janey. “Folks, not all black women are the same,” she said. “I am, however, confident that if we elect more women of color, it will be easier to identify each and every one of us.”

An "awkward silence ensued?"

How many are here today from Brookline?

Several speakers took aim at President Trump.....

More on him later.


I'll bet no one was joking about this:

"State revenue chief hired friends, associates" by Frank Phillips Globe Staff  March 18, 2018

Michael Heffernan’s tenure as state revenue chief proved to be a job bonanza for a half-dozen of his associates, including Wellesley residents, former co-workers, and Wellesley Country Club golfers.

A review of resumes and other documents obtained by the Globe reveals that Heffernan, whom Governor Charlie Baker made commissioner of the Department of Revenue in May 2016, provided these friends and colleagues with high-paying jobs within the agency during his 15 months in the post.

Aides to Baker would not address questions about Heffernan’s personal relationships with these hires but said in a statement that they are all qualified for their jobs, some of which were created at a time Baker had imposed a hiring freeze.

“The Department of Revenue (DOR) has attracted highly talented individuals with impressive professional credentials to take on leadership roles at the Department,’’ said Sarah Finlaw, spokeswoman for the Baker administration’s budget office. “These individuals are exactly the types of people that we strive to encourage to join public service.’’

(Blog editor is absolutely speechless!!)

So who are the cronies he added to the state payroll (this as we are fed a constant stream of budget cuts to social service programs and while the corporate tax subsidies fly out the door) at your expense?

Neither the employees in question nor Heffernan, whom Baker made his top budget chief in August 2017, responded to Globe requests for comment.

They were all over at the breakfast cracking wise!

But the hires appear to be at odds with Baker’s own pledge during his 2014 gubernatorial campaign to give Beacon Hill “a strong medicine” to cure it of its insider employment practices and “root out patronage.” In fact, Heffernan was on the same ticket with Baker, running as the GOP candidate for state treasurer that year.

Yeah, well, a politician broke a promise, wow. I sure hope this doesn't hurt his highest in the nation approval ratings.

The Globe reported earlier this month that Kristen Lindquist, 53, a social friend and neighbor of Heffernan’s, was hired in 2016 for a $121,000-per-year job as the DOR’s associate deputy commissioner for administration and chief risk officer.

With pension and health benefits, I might add. This as the negotiated contracts for labor must be opened up and renegotiated.

In a written justification for the creation of Lindquist’s position, the department said a new official was needed to deal directly with managing risk, such as data security breaches, and protect the agency from threats to its digital security. It cited the rollout of two major technological systems, both of which have run into serious snags.

Related: Baker ‘extremely disappointed’ with data breach at revenue department

I'm disappointed that they lied about it three times before they "changed course."

Then we find out they were ripping off fathers and keeping child support payments!

Lindquist’s resume showed no background in that sort of digital risk management.

Before Lindquist was hired, Heffernan had tapped Christopher Harding as his chief of staff in June 2016. Harding was working at Mobiquity Inc., a Wellesley-based firm that Heffernan cofounded. He was the company’s executive vice president of sales, marketing, and business development. Heffernan expanded the duties of chief of staff and paid Harding $140,000 per year, $33,000 more than the starting salary of the previous chief of staff.

Like Lindquist and her husband, Harding, 53, and his wife — who live just over a mile away from Heffernan in Wellesley — supported Heffernan’s unsuccessful race for treasurer in 2014, donating $1,000.

When Baker elevated Heffernan last August to the Cabinet-level post of secretary of administration and finance (which oversees DOR), Heffernan chose Harding to take his place as state tax commissioner with a $158,000 annual salary.

Harding then turned to another fellow Wellesley resident, 59-year-old Philippe M. Mauldin, to serve as his chief of staff at a salary of $140,000 per year. Mauldin lives two homes away from Heffernan on Grove Street. Having left a job at Fidelity in 2017, he listed himself as “retired” on his LinkedIn business profile. He had spent 20 years at Fidelity Investments and 11 years at JP Morgan Chase.

Yeah, that "talented profe$$ional" is exactly the kind of person they are looking for!

Heffernan also pulled in another Wellesley resident, William McNamara, who — like Heffernan — plays golf at the Wellesley Country Club and lives just over 4 miles from Heffernan. His resume shows he has long experience at major financial firms, including 16 years at Fidelity Investments (overlapping with Mauldin) and its brokerage division.

And a GOLFING BUDDY to boot!

Shortly after Baker chose Heffernan to be his tax commissioner, the 55-year-old McNamara was put on the Revenue Department’s payroll as deputy commissioner for legislative affairs and policy director at a salary of $141,000 per year.

That is not where he is working now, although he is still on the DOR payroll. McNamara moved with Heffernan to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance with the title of assistant secretary — a position Heffernan created for him. He donated $350 to Heffernan’s campaign for treasurer.

I'm starting to wonder why the Globe waited until Monday to run this story. Why didn't it lead Sunday?

Suzanne Kisiday, 53, until recently lived a mile from Heffernan’s home in Wellesley. She was a member, along with Heffernan and his wife, of the Wellesley Country Club, according to a membership list, the Globe has learned. She was recently put on the DOR payroll as the agency’s marketing and digital service director, with a $90,000 annual salary.

Another golfing chum!! At least it's a woman, huh?

Kisiday’s resume shows that she has worked in marketing for several high-end real estate companies, including Coldwell Banker in Wellesley from March 2016 until she joined the Revenue Department earlier this year. She also worked as a consultant to Babson College and held a number of marketing and media promotion jobs in the 1980s and ’90s. Since 2014, she has been running a blog she created that helps women deal with issues around divorce.

No one paying me to do this. In fact, I'm losing money.

Meanwhile, before he was elevated to the Baker administration’s chief budget officer, Heffernan found room for an old colleague and 60-year-old friend, Geoffrey E. Snyder, to join his DOR team. He was hired as deputy commissioner, in part overseeing Lindquist’s work on risk management.

After 20 years working as a manager at several New York’s major financial firms, Snyder was living in Chatham, N.J., teaching as an adjunct professor of finance at two New Jersey colleges and in China when Heffernan chose him to be the DOR’s deputy commissioner for $140,000 per year in 2016. The two had worked together at CitiGroup Global Markets, having started at the same time in August 1992. Although a New Jersey resident, he donated $500 to Heffernan’s 2014 campaign for treasurer.

All these political payoffs that were rewarded. WTF? No illegalities?

Baker, as a gubernatorial candidate, vowed to put an end to cozy state hiring practices.

At the time, the scandal of patronage hiring in the Probation Department was in the headlines, and Baker talked about what he was hearing on the campaign trail when he announced a program to crack down on such job handouts and make the hiring process for state government more transparent.

All forgotten and down the memory hole

“The thing I heard over and over again is that this was that ‘inside job,’ ’’ he told a reporter, pointing to the scandal. “Who you know is more important than what you know.”


I wonder what the new IRS calculator the IRS has rolled out "under the new Trump tax regime" will work for them. What's their cut?

Look on the bright side: at least they will now be able to afford that new home and it didn't ruin the parade (although this might).

If only he had hired more women, 'eh?

"In wake of #MeToo, a growing interest in hiring and promoting female executives" by Katie Johnston Globe Staff  March 18, 2018

The #MeToo movement and resistance to President Trump have put the unequal treatment of women in the workplace in the spotlight. And as public outcry spreads, corporate America is slowly responding.

(At this point I'm pushing the plate away)

Since October, when the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal erupted, there has been a 41 percent jump in cases in which women have beat out men for executive-level jobs, according to Scout’s analysis of thousands of hires during that time period.

“The response right now is basically, holy [expletive],” said Eileen Scully, founder of the Rising Tides in Eastham, a consulting firm that works with companies to promote women in the workplace.

Even the tech industry, a bastion of male-centric culture, is stepping up to hire and promote more women. The business community is also opening up about its gender disparities and its attempts to address them.

Companies aren’t necessarily attributing their actions to recent events, and indeed, the move toward gender equality has been going on for several years. But the push for more female leadership — often cited as a way to combat sexual harassment by creating cultures that are welcoming and empowering for women — has accelerated.

Some note that the #MeToo movement could work against women. A majority of employment lawyers responding to a national poll conducted by the Employment Law Alliance said they are concerned that a backlash could prevent more women from being hired or promoted.

Many organizations are “frozen,” said Jodi Detjen, a Suffolk University management professor who runs a consulting firm and belongs to the Boston Club, which works for the advancement of female leaders. Not only are male executives nervous about how to behave around women, she said, they are unsure how to go about changing longstanding practices.

“This is a deep problem,” Detjen said. “It’s going to take time and effort to fix.”

Progress, one of the oldest software companies in New England, has hardly been progressive when it comes to women. But it just added two women to its board of directors — the first female directors in its 36-year history. CEO Yogesh Gupta said that the board intentionally sought diverse candidates and that it would do the same for future openings on the executive team, which currently has only one woman.

The events of the past year aren’t the reason for these hiring moves, Gupta said, but they may have had an indirect effect.

“Things happen around us, and I think it makes all of us more sensitive to things and makes us more aware of things,” he said. “Hopefully everyone’s thinking evolves with time.”


As for those of us who are not executives:

"You know who’s building stores in America? Dollar Tree and Dollar General Stores, which are sprouting like mushrooms in Florida, Massachusetts, and everywhere else.  Why? Because America is generating poor people so fast, the dollar stores can’t keep up. The “middle class continues to go away, unfortunately, to the lower end of the economic scale vs. the higher end,” Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos explained to a retailing conference last year. “So as this economy continues to chug along and creates more of our core customer, there’s going to be more and more opportunities for us to get in and build more stores.” I couldn’t find anything to buy at the glitzoid UTC mall, but I did purchase a pair of sandals, for one dollar, at a Dollar Tree not too far away. The flip-flops fell apart after a few days, proving once again that you get what you pay for. Alas, sometimes that is all you can afford....."

Time to pack your bags!

Sexual assault suspect on the run

No, it is not Ben Affleck


Now, about the drugs and Trump:

"In visit to N.H., Trump to announce opioid plan including death penalty" by Matt Viser Globe Staff  March 19, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Trump, returning to a state he last year referred to as a “drug-infested den,” is traveling to New Hampshire Monday with plans to announce a new policy on combating the opioid epidemic.

His policy is expected to focus on cracking down on drug distribution — urging the Department of Justice to seek the death penalty for some drug traffickers — as well as on prevention and rehabilitation. His administration also aims to cut the number of opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years.

“New Hampshire is one of the hardest hit states by the opioid overdose crisis,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is overseeing the administration’s efforts on opioids, said during a briefing on Sunday. “The opioid crisis is viewed by us at the White House as a nonpartisan problem searching for bipartisan solutions.”

Trump is expected to be joined on the trip by first lady Melania Trump, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several other Cabinet members.

Trump is making the announcement during an afternoon event at Manchester Community College.....

Yeah, I was tipped off about it on Saturday.


"Trump assails Mueller, drawing rebukes from Republicans" by Peter Baker New York Times  March 19, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday abandoned a strategy of showing deference to the special counsel examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, lashing out at what he characterized as a partisan investigation and alarming Republicans who feared he might seek to shut it down.

Trump has long suggested that allegations that he or his campaign conspired with Russia to influence the election were a “hoax” and part of a “witch hunt,” but until this weekend he had largely heeded the advice of lawyers who counseled him not to directly attack Robert Mueller, the special counsel, for fear of antagonizing prosecutors.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Another Dem recently added...does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

The attack on Mueller, a longtime Republican and former FBI director appointed by a Republican president, George W. Bush, drew immediate rebukes from some members of the party who expressed concern that it might presage an effort to fire the special counsel. Such a move, they warned, would give the appearance of a corrupt attempt to short-circuit the investigation and set off a bipartisan backlash.

Yeah, Mueller was settling into office just as 9/11 hit.

“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule-of-law nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an ally of the president, said on “State of the Union” on CNN. “When it comes to Mr. Mueller, he is following the evidence where it takes him, and I think it’s very important he be allowed to do his job without interference, and there are many Republicans who share my view.”


Did he say that with a straight face? 

I mean, given the torture, the data collection, the illegal wars, and the two $y$tems of AmeriKan Ju$tU$, that's laughable.

Among them was Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a sharp critic of Trump who appeared on the same program. “People see that as a massive red line that can’t be crossed,” he said. He urged Trump’s advisers to prevail on him not to fire Mueller. “We have confidence in Mueller.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said if the president was innocent, he should “act like it” and leave Mueller alone, warning of dire repercussions if the president tried to fire the special counsel.

I thought it was innocent until proven guilty, but I guess I misread the narrativeHe should know better.

“I would just counsel the president — it’s going to be a very, very long, bad 2018, and it’s going to be distracting from other things that he wants to do and he was elected do,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Let it play out its course. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible.”

These guys are all leaving because they know the election has already been fixed for Democrats to take over the House. Beyond that, the fascist mindset shown by these guys is unnerving. Guilty until you prove your innocence.

The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., issued a statement likewise warning Trump to back off. “As the speaker has always said, Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman. His counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, had no comment, as did a number of other top Senate Republicans.

Late in the day, the White House tried to douse the furor. “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the president is not considering or discussing the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller,” Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, said in a statement. 

Oh, another nothingburger being driven by the media. 

The president’s tweet followed a statement by Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, on Saturday calling on the Justice Department to end the special counsel investigation. Trump followed up that evening with a tweet arguing that “the Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.”

The two weekend tweets were the first time Trump has used Mueller’s name on Twitter, not counting a message he once retweeted, and reflected what advisers called a growing impatience fueled by anger that the investigation was now looking at his business activities.

The New York Times reported last week that Mueller has subpoenaed records from the Trump Organization. Trump’s lawyers met with Mueller’s team last week and received more details about how the special counsel is approaching the investigation, including the scope of his interest in the Trump Organization.

For months, Trump had been reassured by his lawyers that the investigation would wrap up soon — by Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year’s. But with the expansion into Trump’s business, it seems increasingly clear that Mueller is not ready to conclude his inquiry.

A top adviser to Trump said on Sunday that the White House had grown weary of the inquiry. “We have cooperated in every single way, every single paper they’ve asked for, every single interview,” Marc Short, the president’s legislative director, said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “There’s a growing frustration that after a year and millions and millions of dollars spent on this, there remains no evidence of collusion with Russia.”

Unless it is the pee-stained dossier used by the Clinton campaign and Obama administration, but you can't go there.

A president cannot directly fire a special counsel but can order his attorney general to do so. Even then, a cause has to be cited, like conflict of interest. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former campaign adviser, has recused himself from the Russia investigation — to Trump’s continuing irritation — the task would fall to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein.

But Rosenstein said as recently as last week that he sees no justification for firing Mueller, meaning that he would either have to change his mind or be removed himself. The third-ranking official at the Justice Department, Rachel Brand, knowing this issue could reach her, decided last month to step down. The next official in line would be the solicitor general, Noel Francisco, a former White House and Justice Department lawyer under Bush. (STORY CAN END HERE. OPTIONAL MATERIAL FOLLOWS.) Trump sought to have Mueller fired last June but backed down after his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, threatened to quit. The president told The Times a month later that Mueller would be crossing a red line if he looked into his family’s finances beyond any relationship with Russia.

RelatedKushner Cos. filed false NYC housing paperwork

That was buried in the Metro section of the web version and nowhere to be found in my print.

The White House made no assertion last week that the subpoena to the Trump Organization crossed that red line, but Trump evidently has grown tired of the strategy of being respectful to the special counsel. His focus on Democrats working for Mueller could be aimed at demonstrating conflict of interest that would merit dismissal.

When Mueller assembled his team, he surrounded himself with trusted former colleagues and experts on specific crimes like money laundering. As the team filled out, Republican allies of Trump noted that some members had previously contributed to Democratic candidates.

I guess it's only a problem for the Globe when Republicans do it.

In particular, Republicans pointed to Andrew Weissmann, who served as FBI general counsel under Mueller. Weissmann is a career prosecutor but, while in private law practice, donated thousands of dollars toward President Barack Obama’s election effort. 

I'm not even going to say it as the print copy ends.

In his Sunday morning Twitter blasts, Trump also renewed his attacks on James B. Comey, the former FBI director, and Andrew G. McCabe, his former deputy, both of whom, like Mueller, are longtime Republicans. Trump fired Comey last May, at first attributing the decision to the FBI director’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server but later telling an interviewer that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he made the decision.

Sessions, under intense public pressure from Trump, fired McCabe on Friday after an inspector general found that he had not been forthcoming about authorizing FBI officials to provide information about the Clinton inquiry in 2016 to a reporter.

“Wow, watch Comey lie under oath to Senator G when asked ‘have you ever been an anonymous source...or known someone else to be an anonymous source...?’” Trump wrote. “He said strongly ‘never, no.’ He lied as shown clearly on @foxandfriends.”

Trump went on to dismiss reports that McCabe kept detailed memos of his time as deputy FBI director, just as Comey did. McCabe left those memos with the FBI, which means Mueller’s team has access to them.

“Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me,” Trump wrote. “I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?”

Michael R. Bromwich, McCabe’s lawyer, fired back by accusing the president of corrupting the law enforcement system. “We will not be responding to each childish, defamatory, disgusting & false tweet by the President,” he wrote on Twitter. “The whole truth will come out in due course. But the tweets confirm that he has corrupted the entire process that led to Mr. McCabe’s termination and has rendered it illegitimate.” 

It's actually Obama who totally politicized it.

In suggesting that Comey lied under oath to Congress, Trump appeared to refer to a comment by McCabe that the former director had authorized the media interaction at the heart of the complaint against him. The president’s Republican allies picked up the point on Sunday and pressed for appointment of a prosecutor to look at the origin of the Russia investigation.

“So we know that McCabe has lied” because the inspector general concluded he had not been fully candid, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, said on Fox News. “Now he’s saying about Comey — Comey may have lied as well. So I don’t think this is the end of it. But that’s why we need a second special counsel.”

Other Republicans, however, suggested that the Trump administration was going too far. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida criticized the decision to fire McCabe on a Friday night shortly before his retirement took effect, jeopardizing his pension.

“I don’t like the way it happened,” Rubio said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “He should’ve been allowed to finish through the weekend.” Speaking of the president, he added: “Obviously he doesn’t like McCabe, and he’s made that pretty clear now for over a year. We need to be very careful about taking these very important entities and smearing everybody in them with a broad stroke.” 

I'm about to get to Russia.


RelatedParents, fearful of deportation, make plans for their children

The guide was produced this summer by nearly a dozen groups, including the ACLU of Massachusetts, Greater Boston Legal Services, and Catholic Charities Greater Boston. It is being used as a resource by organizations that work with immigrants as well as Boston Public Schools, which features the information on its website. The office of Massachusetts’ attorney general, Maura Healey, created a similar guide for families in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese. The 30-year-old woman and 37-year-old man, who live in Western Massachusetts, have four children together, three of whom were born in the United States. Neither parent is in the country legally.

Isn't that political interference and a violation of their privacy?

Anything to keep power, 'eh?


"Putin claims victory in Russia’s presidential election" by Anton Troianovski Washington Post  March 18, 2018

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin claimed victory Sunday after cruising to reelection, with authorities reporting high voter turnout in a race that had been widely expected to bring the Russian president a fourth term.

While he had nominal opposition from seven candidates, Putin’s main challenge in the election was to obtain a huge margin of victory in order to claim an indisputable mandate. Authorities said the turnout was about 60 percent, a little below the level in the 2012 presidential election.

From the Arctic to the International Space Station, Russia rolled out an elaborate presidential-election-day spectacle on Sunday, designed to show the breadth of Putin’s public support as he extends his tenure to 2024. 

I'm tired of the hypocritical AmeriKan pre$$ and its self-projections.

Authorities had sought to ensure a large turnout to show that Putin’s so-called ‘‘managed democracy’’ is robust and offers Russians true choices.

They are given more choices than am I. My choice is usually between two turds.

Observers and individual voters reported widespread violations including ballot-box stuffing and forced voting Sunday, the AP said.

While independent polls show that most Russians continue to approve of Putin as president, a lack of suspense or popular opposition candidates threatened to keep people home.

Russian state TV broadcast images of lines of Russian beachgoers voting in Thailand, a polling place in the mountains of Dagestan, mothers casting their ballots at a maternity ward, and a helicopter delivering ballots to remote settlements in the Arctic.

A Russian on the International Space Station was reported to have voted while in orbit. A state TV journalist reporting live from the southern city of Rostov-on-Don cast his ballot on camera — ‘‘I have done my civic duty,’’ he said.

The election was held on the fourth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea — a move core to Putin’s domestic brand as a fearless defender of Russian interests.

Yeah, except they didn't annex it. The Crimeans held a vote of secession and then voted to join Russia.

You know, you reach a point where the endless distortions and lies are a default switch. That's all your getting in an AmeriKan jew$paper.

The Ukrainian territory that Russia seized in March 2014 was voting Sunday for the Russian president for the first time after an intense propaganda campaign on the territory warning of war and same-sex marriage as the possible consequences if Putin’s power weakened.

Critics described the vote as a charade.

Hey, your back in the U.S.S.A!!!!

Election Day even brought allegations of foreign meddling. A cyberattack originating in 15 different countries hit the website of the Central Elections Commission overnight, according to Pamfilova, the Interfax news agency reported.

Well, we know who didn't do it (somebody decided to shut him up, and here is Exhibit A).

As with prior elections, the election commission rolled out foreign ‘‘observers’’ to testify to the fairness of the vote.

Among them: Kline Preston IV, a Nashville lawyer who has done business in Russia and previously said he introduced a prominent Russian senator to the president of the National Rifle Association.....

Who could trust him, right?


"Britain says it has proof Russia stockpiled lethal nerve agent" by Ellen Barry New York Times  March 18, 2018

LONDON — Russian officials have strenuously suggested at different times that the Skripals had not been attacked and that Britain was behind the attack near Porton Down.

Yeah, I think the Russians have had it with the endless propaganda, false flags, Operation Gladio sh*t.

“Porton Down, as we now all know, is the largest military facility in the United Kingdom that has been dealing with chemical weapons research. And it’s actually only 8 miles from Salisbury,” Russia’s ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, suggested to a BBC reporter.

Chizhov, however, backed away when asked whether he was accusing Britain of exposing the Skripals to the lethal poison, saying: “I don’t know. I don’t have any evidence of anything having been used.”

Another senior diplomat, Alexander Shulgin, said Saturday that Russia had discontinued its chemical weapons production when the Soviet Union collapsed. Shulgin, Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands and representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said, “Back to 1992, Russia stopped all the activities in the area of military chemistry. Last year, we completed the destruction of all chemical arsenals and the completion of this program was duly certified by the OPCW. I’ve never heard about this program, about this nerve agent. That is very bellicose rhetoric.”

In an interview with “Russia Today” on Friday, meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Alexander Yakovenko, questioned whether the Skripals were sick at all.

I wouldn't put it past the western propagandists.

“All the investigation about Skripal is classified,” he said. “Nobody even saw the pictures of these people in the hospital — whether they are alive, or maybe they are just in good health. Nobody talked to the doctors. You know, there is absolutely no transparency in this case.

Sergei Skripal’s poisoning has set off an angry confrontation between Britain and Russia.....

So says Boris Johnson, 'eh?


Now the Russians have STOCKPILES like in IRAQ!

C'mon, guys, you gotta come up with something new and fresh rather than reheating the same old sh*t.


"Britain should seek to postpone its exit from the European Union if talks drag on during the next few months, an influential committee of lawmakers concluded Sunday. The panel’s recommendation split its members, some of whom disowned the document, and illustrated the growing concerns in Parliament over the pace of the negotiations. The report came before a summit meeting this week at which EU leaders are expected to agree, in principle, on a standstill transition period of slightly less than two years to prevent Britain’s economy from suffering the effects of a “cliff edge” departure from the bloc next March, when it is formally scheduled to quit, but even that transition would be conditional on the success of broader discussions on the withdrawal....."

You will be paying through the nose for nearly 50 years.

Also seeChina to name new central bank chief

At least the North Koreans are happy.

"Turkish troops take control of Kurdish enclave in Syria" by Erin Cunningham Washington Post  March 18, 2018

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Turkish forces and their rebel allies wrested a key stronghold from Kurdish militants in northern Syria on Sunday, military and government officials said, marking the potential end of a weekslong battle in which scores of civilians were killed.

Gun-toting rebels backed by Turkish troops and tanks swept through the city of Afrin early Sunday morning, with the fighters posting photos and videos from outside municipal buildings and in public squares.

The Kurdish YPG militia, which controlled Afrin, had withdrawn from the area just hours before amid fierce air and artillery strikes.

Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish militants are linked with Kurdish guerrillas attacking Turkish troops at home and has portrayed its offensive as crucial to its national security.

The offensive, however, underscored the extent to which foreign powers have come to dominate the Syrian battlefield, using proxies to wage local conflicts and gain leverage on the international stage.

The battle for Afrin comes as part of a wider struggle between Turkey and Kurdish separatists in the region. It has also ripped through the US-Turkish alliance, which has frayed since US troops began allying with Syrian Kurds to fight the Islamic State militant group.

The apparent victory for Turkey on Sunday was a stunning blow to the YPG, which has sought to consolidate control over Kurdish areas of Syria in the hopes of forging an autonomous state.

Amid Syria’s descent into civil war, Kurds in the country have seized territory and formed their own militias and administration.....

If they were Iranian it would be a problem.



"Israel has been following Hamas’s progress for some time and that the targeted tunnels will now be impossible to rebuild. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, called it a ‘‘futile effort’’ by the Islamic militants and a waste of resources that could be used to aid Gaza residents. The coastal territory had been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took over in 2007. Israel has placed a high priority on halting the tunnel threat since Hamas infiltrated Israel during the 2014 war. This marks the fourth such tunnel Israel has destroyed over the past four months. The operation followed Israeli airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza over the weekend. In a separate development Sunday, Israeli security officers shot a Palestinian to death. On Friday, a Palestinian killed two Israeli soldiers and badly wounded two others when he drove his car into them in the West Bank. Stabbings and car-ramming have been widely used by Palestinian assailants....."


"Offshore oil and gas operators want less regulation, but inspectors find safety problems" by Eric Lipton New York Times  March 18, 2018

NEW YORK — Faced with questions about its commitment to safety, the Interior Department sent teams to the Gulf of Mexico last week to inspect giant cranes used in offshore oil and gas operations that are a significant source of accidents.

More than 50 inspectors, traveling on helicopters, conducted surprise inspections on about 40 offshore platforms and drilling rigs, said Jason Mathews, head of offshore safety management for the Gulf of Mexico at the department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The results were still being compiled, he said, but the inspectors found serious problems, including some that were potentially life-threatening. “There are still some major incidents that are occurring, and we need to figure out why,” Mathews said Friday.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had discussed plans for the inspection push this month after the safety bureau issued an alert to offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf. It warned about a series of “potentially catastrophic crane and lifting incidents” that occurred late last year on platforms and drilling rigs.

No one was killed or injured in those crane incidents, but lifting-related accidents are the second-largest cause of offshore fatalities, outnumbered only by fires and explosions, agency records show. The cranes are used to move workers and supplies from the Gulf up to the decks of the platforms.

The Interior Department and its offshore safety bureau have been under a spotlight since the agency was ordered by President Trump to reevaluate regulations enacted during the Obama administration in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010. The accident killed 11 offshore workers and created the largest marine oil spill in drilling history.

Obama never got covered with that slick.

Many offshore oil and gas operators, and other Gulf Coast businesses that serve them, complained that the regulatory response to the accident had been excessive.

The New York Times reported this month that several of the independent companies seeking the regulatory rollbacks had been cited for workplace safety violations in recent years at a rate much higher than the industry average.

One worker did die in December on a drilling ship when a pipe-moving device — not a crane — crushed him.

The rate of lift-related offshore accidents last year increased by more than 4 percent, reaching the second-highest annual level in the past decade. On average, there was one incident for every 13.5 offshore platforms or drilling rigs, according to agency data.


"There was a string of serious environmental and safety episodes in the last six months involving independent operators, including the death in February of a worker who was removing firefighting equipment from a platform about 30 miles offshore, and an oil spill in October that is considered the largest since the Deepwater Horizon episode, according to Interior Department records....." 

Haven't seen nor heard much about that last one. 

I guess I'll have to wait for the movie (starring Amy Schumer?).

Arena Offshore, Energy XXI, and Fieldwood Energy had joined with other offshore companies in 2016 to lobby the Interior Department to weaken certain offshore federal regulations, records show.

Last week’s inspections resulted in noncompliance notices for some offshore operators, which could bring fines, Mathews said.

A $lap on the wri$t.

Arena Offshore and Energy XXI did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Fieldwood, which last month filed for bankruptcy, said, “We are constantly evaluating and enhancing our safety program and culture to ensure the safety of our employees and the environment.”


Did you see what they found down there?

Also see:

Anguish, anger amid the rubble

Some officials wanted Florida suspect committed in 2016

Parkland created an uproar in contrast to the other alleged school shootings

Gunman allegedly kills ex-wife at California mall

Maybe they will give her a memorial garden after executing the man.

Another explosion reported in bomb-wary Austin

I'm standing by my strategy of tension analysis.

Portland’s bustling port sees big jump in volume

Better check the airbags as well as the emissions.

The question now is how do you create the next Tom Brady?