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Ross Judson
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Babyblogging alert. Cora skis!

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Required reading on the separation of powers crisis in the US.
Some updates on the political situation. Everything is very preliminary right now, because it's (apparently deliberately) unclear.

Several Federal judges have issued stays against the "Muslim ban" order. However, there are confirmed reports from multiple sources that Customs & Border Patrol (CBP, part of the DHS) is willfully disregarding those stays, denying access to counsel, moving the people they're holding to undisclosed locations so that nobody can get habeas corpus, and deporting people. This is very certainly not a local commander's decision; it goes up to the Sec'y of HS at least, and directly to Trump at most.

But – and here's the kicker – it's incredibly unclear what the scope of this refusal is. There's no clear news coming out, and we're getting more useful reports from the Twitter feeds of top attorneys in the field (both from groups like the ACLU, who have done heroic work tonight, and from attorneys at top firms, who have been joining this pro bono) than we are from anywhere else.

If this is a refusal of unambiguous Federal court orders, then this is serious, serious beyond the scale of anything we've seen in our lifetimes: it's DHS saying that if Trump tells them to do one thing and the courts another, they will do what Trump says and best of luck to the courts trying to enforce that. Which is to say, they're establishing a precedent that DHS actions are not subject to any sort of court review, or to anything other than the personal fiat of Trump – including their right to detain people, deport them, or hold them incommunicado.

Alternatively, this might be something else, a decision by CBP counsel that certain court orders don't apply to certain cases; this is serious too, since they're trying to create "facts on the ground" faster than the courts can react, but it doesn't mean a wholesale rejection of the system of law. I simply don't have enough information yet, and hope to update as we know more.

Separately, there was another story today: Trump reorganized the National Security Counsel. The two most prominent changes are this: Steve Bannon now has a seat on it, and the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were both demoted: they only attend meetings of the Principals Committee which "[pertain] to their responsibilities and expertise."

(The other full members of the PC, incidentally, are the secretaries of State (Tillerson), Treasury (Szubin), Defense (Mattis), and Homeland Security (Kelly), the AG (Sessions), the President's Chief of Staff (Priebus), the National Security Advisor (Flynn), and the Homeland Security Advisor (Bossert). You can read the full order here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/28/presidential-memorandum-organization-national-security-council-and)

The demotion of the DNI and CJCS is surprising and I don't yet know what it means. There currently is no DNI – Coats' nomination is yet to be confirmed. It's hard to imagine what meetings wouldn't pertain to their "responsibilities and expertise," especially given that secretaries with much more specific responsibilities (like Treasury) weren't demoted. Bannon's promotion, however, is more significant: Trump is known for not attending many meetings, and delegating those, and Bannon is likely to be his principal representative in the NSC.

My gut read is that this is something which will prove very important in the long run. Trump's rift with the existing military and intelligence establishments is well-known, and he's made numerous statements, directly and through surrogates, about his interest in constructing alternative establishments reporting directly to him. Bannon would be a logical person to manage that subchain, as his "Chief Strategist" role doesn't come with a large org to manage already, or with Congressionally mandated restrictions. That would be the skeleton of a new internal security system, with the DHS and FBI (both very loyal to Trump) in the loop, together with a new private "security force" rolling up to Keith Schiller that takes over a lot of Secret Service roles, and a hypothetical new intelligence force, with Bannon being either de facto or de jure in charge of all the new organizations, and little to no legal supervision over them.

It's not clear, again, that this is where it's going, but it's definitely the configuration I would keep my eyes open for. It would promote Bannon from a Goebbels to a Himmler, which I suspect he would be just fine with.

So: Many signs out there, but nothing clear yet. These could range from incredibly serious to passing things, depending on how the next week or so plays out.

Update (00:51 PST): The DHS has put out an official statement, and I'll be damned if I can figure out what it means. It starts out by saying that they will continue to enforce all of Trump's orders, and that the orders remain in place, but it does offer a nod (later on) to complying with judicial orders.

Text here: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/29/department-homeland-security-response-recent-litigation

Update (02:06 PST): The Washington Post's story pulls together a range of official statements, which make it clear that this is deliberate and central policy, ordered personally by Trump. The exact meaning of the DHS statement remains unclear, but most people are reading it as an intent to continue to do whatever they want; it may involve a suggestion that if they don't want to grant a waiver to someone with a green card, they may do it by simply revoking the green card on the spot.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-challenge-trumps-executive-order/2017/01/28/e69501a2-e562-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_airports-1046am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.560b5a336b45

Update (07:55 PST): Sources confirming that DHS lawyers had flagged the banning of legal permanent residents as illegal ahead of time, but were specifically overruled by Bannon. Note the implications both for the deliberacy of the act and for the extent of Bannon's power. Also, Priebus confirmed on "Meet the Press" that the omission of Jews from the Holocaust Remembrance Day statement was deliberate and is not regretted.

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/01/steve-bannon-personally-overruled-dhs-decision-not-to-include-green-card-holders-in-travel-ban-cnn/

Update (12:59 PST): Priebus announced that the order will no longer be applied to those with green cards. The rest of the order stands (including those with visas other than permanent residency), and it remains unclear who has been deported so far, who is still being held, or what exactly CBP will be doing next. Increasing evidence signals that deployment of this policy really was complete chaos, even internally, with the head of CBP not even being pre-briefed.

https://nyti.ms/2jFy45B

I am just a simple foreign socialist; your American Politics frighten and confuse me...but when I look at the electoral map, I see two pivotal groups that threw away their votes, cost Clinton the election, and who will be richly rewarded with the exact opposite of what they were looking for. If you voted for Jill Stein in Michigan or in Pennsylvania, congrats, or something. You blew it for the entire world! Pour one out for the environment, and our children's future. You've earned it.


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I plug my phone in probably twice a day to charge. I plug and unplug my headphones probably ten times a day. Who thinks a lightning connector is more mechanically reliable than the 3.5mm jack? Nobody, that's who.

This little $9 part is a cable, a DAC, and a headphone amplifier, all in one. Top quality? I think not.

You arrive at your hotel room, phone almost out of battery. Apple has decided you can't listen to music when you're charging that battery. Thanks Apple!

Your iPhone's battery will last all day, effortlessly. Your "Airpods" are only good for five hours, so you'll be stuffing the charging case for the Airpods into your back pocket, next to your phone. Or you can carry a lightning-to-3.5 adapter in your pocket, along with an extra pair of headphones.



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Useful graffiti can highlight disrepair. 
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This is why I can't enable ads for Ars Technica. A giant, pop-down, video-playing piece of crap? The other ads on the page are fine.

Things I hate: Giant pop-down pieces of crap. Video ads. Anything related to Outbrain. 
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This is an extraordinarily chilling statement:
Defense attorneys have routinely asked, and have been denied, access to examine the software's 170,000 lines of source code in a bid to challenge the authenticity of its conclusions. The courts generally have agreed with Cybergenetics, the company behind TrueAllele, that an independent examination of the code is unwarranted, that the code is a proprietary trade secret, and disclosing it could destroy the company financially.
"Destroy the company financially"? Who gives a crap about that? If it doesn't work, they should be destroyed, and should be prosecuted. 

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Keep Texas students safe by sacrificing a few of the brown ones to the volcano! That seems to be what the "principal" of this school is saying.

Every once in a while I feel a lawsuit against a public institution is warranted. This is one of those times. Handcuffing and interrogating a 14 year old? What the hell is wrong with these people?

I wonder if they called the bomb squad to deal with the device. I mean, if they genuinely thought there was a real risk, they would have done that, right? If not, then it's (sadly) exactly what it appears to be.

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Disgusting, and predictable. This "review" was performed by the same idiots whose lack of action in the past created the situation. Expecting them to do anything other than backflips to justify what they've done in the past? Foolish.

Tolls for the Greenway made it past the state commission by claiming that their expenses were high, and that they weren't making any profit. The Greenway has taken on a lot of debt (a billion dollars worth?). So...where did that money go? Who owns the debt? And what is the interest rate?

If I wanted to pretend that my highway project was massively in debt and needing additional revenue to be authorized, I'd have my $Greenway project borrow money from another part of my company (or some good friends of mine) at an exorbitant rate. I can then claim that my project is losing money because of the pain of carrying and repaying all of that debt.

Where did all that money go, again?

I'm disgusted by the blameless circularity of the SCC decision, which seems to roughly be "because we screwed up and granted these rate increases in the past, there's nothing we can do now".

And the "does not materially affect usage" clause? It's not often you have public commission officials just flat-out lying in printed decisions to save face, but there you go.
I suppose we should find it unremarkable that legitimate challenges to modern-day highway robbery are few and far between. The SCC members certainly exude awareness that the "thou shalt not attempt to enforce tolling rules" laws were written by the current attorney general of Virginia. Bet that never crossed their minds, even once.

I so wish Yelp had a "you are a fucking idiot" button, in addition to "cool" and "helpful".
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