Thursday Reads: Net Neutrality, Sandy Hook Anniversary, and Trump’s Megalomania

MA Sen. Ed Markey speaks at net neutrality rally outside FCC headquarters this morning.

Good Morning!!

Today the FCC will vote to kill net neutrality rules. That should set off a number of lawsuits and protests. The Commission meeting is happening right now.

NBC News: Net neutrality: FCC to vote on rules that will shape future of the internet.

Your future internet experience now rests in the hands of the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to vote on Thursday to end rules requiring internet service providers to treat all traffic as equal.

The five members are expected to vote 3-2 along party lines to scrap Obama-era net neutrality rules, returning to a “light touch”approach and ending what Chairman Ajit Pai has called the federal government’s “micromanaging” of the internet.

“Prior to 2015, before these regulations were imposed, we had a free and open internet,” Pai told NBC News. “That is the future as well under a light touch, market-based approach. Consumers benefit, entrepreneurs benefit. Everybody in the internet economy is better off with a market based approach.”

The end of net neutrality rules will mark a huge victory for the big internet service providers. Depending on how they decide to act, the vote could have massive implications for the way you use the internet.

Gizmodo: Ajit Pai Thinks You’re Stupid Enough to Buy This Crap [Update: One of the 7 Things Is Dancing With a Pizzagater]

On Thursday, the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission and its chairman, Verizon BFF Ajit Pai, will hold a vote on whether to repeal Barack Obama-era net neutrality rules. If passed, the FCC would allow ISPs to begin setting up a tiered internet designed to suck as much money from customers’ pockets as possible while screwing with their ability to access competitors’ content, or really anything that might suck up amounts of bandwidth inconvenient for their profit margins.

The plan is immensely unpopular, even with Republicans. This type of situation would typically call for a charm offensive, though Pai has apparently decided to resort to his time-honored tactic of being incredibly condescending instead. In a video with the conservative site Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson—the dude who got fired from BuzzFeed for plagiarizing Yahoo Answers—Pai urged the country to understand that even if he succeeds in his plan to let ISPs strangle the rest of the internet to death, they’ll let us continue to take selfies and other stupid bullshit.

Gif source: Daily Caller

“There’s been quite a bit of conversation about my plan to restore Internet freedom,” Pai says in the cringe-inducing clip. “Here are just a few of the things you will still be able to do on the Internet after these Obama-era regulations are repealed.”

Pai then pantomimed things users will supposedly still be able to do, like being able to “gram your food,” “post photos of cute animals, like puppies,” “shop for all your Christmas presents online,” “binge watch your favorite shows,” and “stay part of your favorite fan community.”

“You can still drive memes right into the ground,” Pai added before breaking into a literal Harlem Shake segment. Astute viewers may remember that this was an intolerable meme from all the way back in 2013 which has not grown any less intolerable in the intervening four years.

Please click on the link to read the rest and watch the clips.

The LA Times editorializes: The FCC sacrifices the free and open Internet on the altar of deregulation.

In defending his proposed rollback of federal net neutrality rules, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has repeatedly said that he’s merely trying to return to the “light touch” regulation that helped make the internet what it is today.

That’s transparently false, and Pai knows it. The deregulation of AT&T, Comcast and other broadband providers that Pai and the commission’s other Republican appointees are expected to approve Thursday is a dramatic abdication of authority that could usher in an ugly new era for individuals and companies that offer content and services online, and for the people who rely on them.

It’s hard to know at this point how altered the internet will be after the dominant local providers of high-speed internet access services are freed to meddle with the traffic on their networks. But merely giving them that freedom could discourage innovation and investment online by creating potential new obstacles to start-ups and others that would compete with deep-pocketed sites and services….

The obvious problem there is that broadband providers could pick winners and losers online and stay out of trouble for it simply by disclosing that they are, in fact, prioritizing traffic for any online site or service that can afford the fee. No deception and no unfairness, but no neutrality, either. There’s also a realistic fear that broadband providers would favor their own sites and services because some are doing it already — for example, AT&T effectively exempts video streams from its DirecTV subsidiary from its wireless data caps.

Read the rest at the LA Times.

Today is also the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre.

David Frum at The Atlantic on Oct. 3, 2017: Mass Shootings Don’t Lead to Inaction—They Lead to Loosening Gun Restrictions.

“After Newtown, nothing changed, so don’t expect anything to change after Las Vegas.”

How often have you heard that said? Yet it’s not true. The five years since a gunman killed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, have seen one of the most intense bursts of gun legislation in U.S. history—almost all of it intended to ensure that more guns can be carried into more places.

In the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, gun-rights activists assertively carried openly displayed weapons into more and more places. Many national chain stores banned weapons, but at least one—Starbucks—did not. In August 2013, gun-rights activists declared a “Starbucks Appreciation Day.” They made a special point that day of carrying weapons in Starbucks outlets nationwide, including the Starbucks in Newtown itself. (The store closed for the day to avert the demonstration.)

Since Newtown, more than two dozen states have expanded the right to carry into previously unknown places: bars, churches, schools, college campuses, and so on. The most ambitious of these laws was adopted in Georgia in April 2014. Among other provisions, it allowed guns to be carried into airports right up to the federal TSA checkpoint.

Read more at the link.

The Washington Post has an important investigative article today on the consequences of Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and continues to interfere in our politics: Doubting the intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russian threat unchecked.

In the final days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, members of his inner circle pleaded with him to acknowledge publicly what U.S. intelligence agencies had already concluded — that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was real.

Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers — including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and designated chief of staff, Reince Priebus — prodded the president-elect to accept the findings that the nation’s spy chiefs had personally presented to him on Jan. 6.

They sought to convince Trump that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win, according to three officials involved in the sessions. More important, they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

“This was part of the normalization process,” one participant said. “There was a big effort to get him to be a standard president.”

It didn’t work. To this day, Trump stubbornly refuses to accept reality.

The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.

Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account….

U.S. officials said that a stream of intelligence from sources inside the Russian government indicates that Putin and his lieutenants regard the 2016 “active measures” campaign — as the Russians describe such covert propaganda operations — as a resounding, if incomplete, success….

…overall, U.S. officials said, the Kremlin believes it got a staggering return on an operation that by some estimates cost less than $500,000 to execute and was organized around two main objectives — destabilizing U.S. democracy and preventing Hillary Clinton, who is despised by Putin, from reaching the White House.

This is horrifying:

U.S. officials declined to discuss whether the stream of recent intelligence on Russia has been shared with Trump. Current and former officials said that his daily intelligence update — known as the president’s daily brief, or PDB — is often structured to avoid upsetting him.

Russia-related intelligence that might draw Trump’s ire is in some cases included only in the written assessment and not raised orally, said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the matter. In other cases, Trump’s main briefer — a veteran CIA analyst — adjusts the order of his presentation and text, aiming to soften the impact.

“If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the PDB off the rails,” said a second former senior U.S. intelligence official.

I’ve quoted quite a bit, but it’s long piece. Please go read the whole thing at the WaPo.

Finally, a reaction from Greg Sargent: This new report confirms that Trump’s megalomania threatens our democracy.

We already know that President Trump’s narcissism and megalomania threaten our democracy in multiple ways. His intolerance of critical media scrutiny fuels his systematic campaign to delegitimize the free press. His inability to acknowledge that his own conduct led directly to the special counsel’s Russia probe fuels a deep grievance and rage over it, making it more likely that he can be goaded into trying to close the investigation down.

Now a blockbuster new Post report shows how these traits are coming together to expose our democracy to danger on another front. Just before Trump was sworn in as president, the report says, his advisers urged him to publicly acknowledge U.S. intelligence findings that Russia tried to sabotage our democracy. But Trump “became agitated,” the report notes. “He railed that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma.” [….]

As I’ve argued, we have done a poor job of accurately capturing the true nature of Trump’s position on Russian interference. It isn’t simply that Trump denies his campaign colluded with that interference. Rather, it’s that this interference never happened at allirrespective of whether any collusion with it took place. (We now know that collusion did happen; at this point the question is how serious the misconduct was.)

Though Trump has at times acknowledged that such sabotage did take place, he has mostly refused to do so. This has long appeared to reflect an inability to view discussion of Russian interference as about anythThing other than himself. To acknowledge Russian meddling can only be an acknowledgement that his victory may have reflected unsavory external factors along with his blinding greatness, and thus may have been in some sense tainted, and since in Trump’s mind that cannot be true, it also cannot be true that Russia meddled at all.

Those are the top stories today, IMHO; but there’s plenty more happening. What stories are you following?

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Wednesday Reads: “Ain’t it like Roy Moore to not take no for an answer.”

Best tweet of the fucking night!

Here it is in live tweet format…in case anyone wants to retweet it:

 

 

This was the second best tweet:

I am so happy Doug Jones pulled out that win, what a relief.

Of course, like the top tweet references:

However, the rules for the recount are as follows:

And just in case anyone was wondering:

 

So, now that…that is said, here are some cartoons.

12/13 Mike Luckovich: uuge crowd. | Mike Luckovich

12/12 Mike Luckovich: On patrol. | Mike Luckovich

 

12/13/2017 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

 

 

 

This next one is from the end of November…

 

 

Bad Roy Moore Picture : 12/12/2017 Cartoon by J.D. Crowe

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - Bad Roy Moore Picture

Alabama is NOT Roy Moore: 12/13/2017 Cartoon by J.D. Crowe

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - Alabama is NOT Roy Moore

ALABAMA SENATE SEAT: 12/13/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - ALABAMA SENATE SEAT

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Steve Bannon and Alabama: 12/13/2017 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: Steve Bannon and Alabama

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 12/13/2017 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 12/12/2017 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

 

12/12/2017 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

 

And then, by the same cartoonist:

12/13/2017 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

 

12/12/2017 Cartoon by Charlie Daniel

Cartoon by Charlie Daniel -

 

 

 

12/13/2017 Cartoon by Kevin Siers

Cartoon by Kevin Siers -

Dystopian gift shopping: 12/13/2017 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Dystopian gift shopping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a thought…is that tRump’s Secret Service Nickname? Idiot?

Sounds about right to me.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Trump began the day with another Twitter meltdown, attacking the Special Counsel’s investigation and then railing against Kirsten Gillibrand and Hillary Clinton.

Gillibrand “would do anything for” campaign contributions? Referring to Hillary as “Crooked,” and what’s the meaning of “USED?”

Senator Gillibrand responded:

About 90 minutes later, Trump tweeted his usual lying attack on Doug Jones and once again endorsed a man who sexually abused young women and wants to return the U.S. to the days of slavery.

This is how degraded the U.S. presidency is in 2017.

I first saw Trump’s tweets when I turned on MSNBC at about 8:30. It amazed to see Mika Brzezinski’s response. She even told men on the panel to stop interrupting her, and interrupted Joe Scarborough. Watch her rants at MSNBC. (You have to sit through remarks from other people on the panel to get all of what Mika had to say).

Tonight we’ll find out whether Mitch McConnell is going to have to deal with Roy Moore representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate. Some Republicans must be hoping that somehow Democrat Doug Jones can win. No one really knows what is going to happen. The polls are all over the place. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: What The Hell Is Happening With These Alabama Polls?

What we’re seeing in Alabama goes beyond the usual warnings about minding the margin of error, however. There’s a massive spread in results from poll to poll — with surveys on Monday morning showing everything from a 9-point lead for Moore to a 10-point advantage for Democrat Doug Jones — and they reflect two highly different approaches to polling.

Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar GroupJMC Analytics and PollingGravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.

But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.1

These differences are significant, according to Silver, because automated polls cannot call cell phones and may have less representative samples because so many people just hang up on them.

Last night a heartbroken Alabama father spoke outside Roy Moore’s final rally before the election. The Washington Post reports:

Perhaps it was the man’s strong but plain-spoken rebuke outside a Roy Moore rally on the campaign’s final night, condemning the Republican candidate’s past comments lambasting homosexuality.

Perhaps it was the admission of the man, a peanut farmer, that he too, had harbored some of the same anti-gay feelings.

Perhaps it was his sign, a photograph of his daughter, a lesbian who, he said, had killed herself when she was 23.

Whatever it was, the two-minute video of Nathan Mathis struck a nerve, traveling far and wide as a sort of emotional coda to a wrenching U.S. Senate race in Alabama that has captivated the country.

And here’s an energized Doug Jones voter speaking this morning:

Interesting tweets this morning from former Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene:

Here’s the link Alene responded to:

A couple of weird things happened during Moore’s closing argument.

New York Magazine: Roy Moore’s Wife: We’re Not Anti-Semitic, ‘One of Our Attorneys Is a Jew’

Roy Moore’s stance on Jewish people probably isn’t at the top of anyone’s list of reasons not to vote for the Alabama Senate candidate. Yet on the eve of Tuesday’s election, his wife, Kayla Moore, attempted to shoot down one of the lesser-known allegations against her husband.

“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said Monday night while introducing her husband at a rally in Midland City, Alabama.

“I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” she said, gesturing to members of the media.

“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she continued, pausing for cheers and laughter from the crowd.

“We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.”

Um . . . okay . . .

Another speaker “joked” about how he and Roy Moore “accidentally” ended up in a brothel full of underage girls in Vietnam. Think Progress:

One of the introductory speakers was Bill Staehle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Staehle told the story of a night he spent with Moore and a third man, who he did not name. According to Staehle, it was the third man’s last night in Vietnam and the man invited them to a “private club” in the city to celebrate with “a couple of beers.”

Moore and Staehle agreed. According to Staehle, they didn’t expect there was anything untoward going on at the “private club” because “there were legitimate private clubs” in Vietnam. The third man drove them to the club in his Jeep.

Staehle said that, when he and Moore arrived, they soon realized the man had taken them to a brothel. The third man, Staehle suggested, essentially tricked them. “I could tell you what I saw but I don’t want to,” Staehle said mischievously.

“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle acknowledged. But according to Staehle, Moore was shocked by what he saw. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Moore said, according to Staehle.

They asked the third man to leave with them but he didn’t want to. So Staehle and Moore took his Jeep and left him there all night with sex workers, who they agreed were underage. The man returned to base the next morning on the back of a motorcycle, Staehle said with a grin.

Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan must be so proud.

 

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, the “president’s” men are plotting against Robert Mueller.

Mike Allen at Axios: Trump lawyers want second special counsel appointed now.

President Trump’s legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session’s Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.

The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators.

Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night.

— The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: “A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump ‘dossier’ had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: … The official’s wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.”

— Jay Sekulow, a member of the President’s legal team, tells me: “The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate.”

More at the link.

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky asks: Will the Senate Still Protect Robert Mueller From Donald Trump’s Ax?

Remember the first round of gossip about whether President Trump would fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, back during the summer? Republican senators were quick to say what a grave error this would be. Susan Collins said in June it would be “an extraordinarily unwise move” back. In July, Lindsey Graham said that “any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong.”

Most of them chimed in along similar lines. Consequently we were all assured: Yes, maybe they’ve been in the tank for Trump up to now, but surely they would never tolerate that. That is the moment when they’d say enough.

Well. We may find out about that very soon.

People keep saying “we’re close to a crisis.” No we’re not. We’re in it. We have a president who already obstructed justice on national television…..

A former national security adviser copped a felony plea. Three former campaign officials are under indictment. This has never happened in the first year of a modern presidency. Probably any presidency. And that’s just the legal stuff. Then there are all the lies. Obama spied on Trump (this one still has legs among the creatures of the black-ops lagoons of the far right). Trump has no Russia ties. Hillary sold our plutonium to Putin.

And finally, there’s the madness, which is slightly different from lies. The current madness is that Russia is great and can do no wrong, while the FBI is suddenly a subversive and un-American organization. And Robert Mueller is a partisan, pro-Clinton, Never-Trump pawn of the liberal order….

We have never been here. Richard Nixon and his henchmen subverted the law. They did not attempt to subvert reality itself. Nixon did not go around saying that in fact it was George McGovern who belonged in prison. A news network did not exist to scream on a daily basis that McGovern should face indictment, peddling false “scandals” about him. In the summer and fall of 1973, before Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, influential congressional Republicans and prominent former congressional Republicans did not go around saying that there wasn’t one honest investigator on Cox’s staff or that Cox was corrupt.

Please read the rest at the link.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?

 


Monday Reads: Karma catching up to Kremlin Caligula

Good Morning Sky Dancers!! 

8b7f314d00a0b415139aaadac632d43c--montgomery-clift-gene-kellyDoesn’t time fly these days!  It’s beginning to look a lot like Impeachment Season!

NBC news reports that Trump’s going to face plenty of evidence from the Mueller probe for Obstruction of Justice. 

Justice Department officials who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity said they had expected the White House to fire Flynn on Jan. 26 upon learning that he had lied to the vice president.

Instead, Trump fired Yates on Jan. 30, citing her refusal to enforce his executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the U.S. Before she left, however, she made available, at McGahn’s request, evidence she had that Flynn had not been truthful about his conversations with Kislyak, according to her congressional testimony.

Mueller is trying to determine why Flynn remained in his post for 18 days after Trump learned of Yates’ warning, according to two people familiar with the probe. He appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why, the sources said.

If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

Trump denies pressuring Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and his legal team has disputed any notion of the president obstructing justice.

Be sure to got to twitter and read all of Seth Abramson’s extended tweets.

Then, there is this from Politico: “As Russia probes progress, one name is missing: Bannon’s. People close to the probe say the former campaign and White House strategist will be a key witness for prosecutors and Hill investigators.”

Bannon was a key bystander when Trump decided to fire national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with foreign officials. He was among those Trump consulted before firing FBI Director James Comey, whose dismissal prompted Mueller’s appointment — a decision Bannon subsequently described to “60 Minutes” as the biggest mistake “in modern political history.”

And during the campaign, Bannon was the one who offered the introduction to data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO has since acknowledged trying to coordinate with WikiLeaks on the release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state.

Yet Bannon hasn’t faced anywhere near the degree of public scrutiny in connection to the probe as others in Trump’s inner circle, including son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner — who was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team — or Donald Trump Jr., who was interviewed on Capitol Hill last week about his own Russian connections.

The women accusing Trump of Sexual Assault held a joint presser and appearance this morning. They were interviewed by Megyn Kelly.

Samantha Holvey, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks all shared their past experiences with Mr. Trump jointly at Monday’s event, which was held by the organization Brave New Films, a non-profit that creates media and film campaigns surrounding social justice issues.

The president of Brave New Films Robert Greenwald said that the 16 women featured in a video that share similar stories of sexual misconduct by the president now demand action.

“We know better, we know a lot better, predators and harassers must be held accountable,” said Greenwald.

He added that Mr. Trump should be investigated and that “elected officials no matter what party affiliation should act.”

One accuser, Rachel Crooks, called for Congress to “put aside party affiliations and investigate Trump’s history of sexual misconduct.” She called the actions carried out by the president “serial misconduct and perversion.”

Accuser Jessica Leeds said she hopes with the popularity of the “Me Too” movement, it will fuel further pressure on the president.

“I am hoping that this will come forward and produce enough pressure on Congress to address it more than just for their own members but to address it with the president,” said Leeds.

Samantha Holvey echoed that sentiment, saying a “non-partisan” effort to investigate Mr. Trump was imperative.

“They’ve investigated other Congress members so I think it only stands fair he be investigated as well,” said Holvey.

She added, “A non-partisan investigation is important not just for him but for anybody that has allegations against them, this isn’t a partisan issue, this is how women are treated everyday.”

My favorite quote is this one from the Kelly interview:  ‘Let’s Try Again to Prove He’s a ‘Pervert’.

“We’re private citizens and for us to put ourselves out there to try to show America who this man is, and especially how he views women, and for them to say, ‘We don’t care,’ It hurt,” Holvey described to host Megyn Kelly. “And so, you know, now, it’s just like, all right, let’s try round two. The environment’s different. Let’s try again.”

That new “environment” Holvey described is one that, fueled by the #MeToo movement this year, has held powerful men accountable for sexual misconduct—from media moguls Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes, to actors like Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., to a bipartisan swath of elected officials like Al Franken and Trent Franks.

In the hopes that now Americans might reconsider their nonchalance toward the president’s 16-plus accusers, each woman told their stories one by one in unrelenting detail.

After listening to a soundbite of Trump bragging to Howard Stern on his radio show about how he “gets away with” going backstage at the Miss USA pageant to check out the women, Holvey told Kelly: “[It’s] just so gross… [he thinks] he owns the pageant, so he owned us.”

Trump’s accusers still cannot believe he was elected and frame election results as ‘heartbreaking’.

It was “heartbreaking” for women to go public with their claims against President Trump last year, only to see him ascend to the Oval Office, said Samantha Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant who in October 2016 said Trump inappropriately inspected pageant participants.

“I put myself out there for the entire world, and nobody cared,” Holvey said on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” show, appearing for an hour alongside Jessica Leeds, a New York woman who said Trump groped her on a plane, and Rachel Crooks, who said Trump kissed her on the lips after she introduced herself to him at Trump Tower.

The women also called for Congress to investigate the allegations against Trump, highlighting the dramatic shift happening nationwide in response to charges of sexual misconduct. Claims have erupted across industry after industry, against lawmakers and movie stars alike, while the country has shown a sudden, newfound willingness to take such accusations seriously.

Tomorrow is reckoning day for the state of Alabama.  A Fox Push poll shows Moore behind Jones but democrats should not be complacent.

A top newspaper group in Alabama is urging the state’s voters to write in another Republican in Tuesday’s special election rather than vote for embattled GOP nominee Roy Moore.

“Voting for Roy Moore just because he has an ‘R’ next to his name, ignoring his record of personal and official misconduct, is neither wise nor careful,” reads an editorial published Sunday on AL.com, which is home to three leading state newspapers, including The Birmingham News.

The deaths and mishaps mount as Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem continues to negatively impact the country and world. A would be suicide bomber has been taken into custody after injuring 3 NYC commuters at the Port Authority. 

The would-be suicide bomber who detonated an explosive device underground near the bustling Port Authority Bus Terminal, is a former New York City cab driver who told investigators that he carried out the attack for revenge, law enforcement sources said.

Akayed Ullah, 27, who is believed to be from Bangladesh and was living in Brooklyn, told authorities in sum and substance from his hospital bed: “They’ve been bombing in my country and I wanted to do damage here,” sources said.

Ullah, who officials say is a former city cab driver, whose license has lapsed, set off a “low-tech” homemade pipe bomb strapped to his mid-section at around 7:20 a.m. inside the subway passageway between W. 42nd Street and 8th Avenue and W. 42nd Street and 7th Avenue.

Ullah, who had the explosive device affixed to him with Velcro and zip ties, suffered burns to his hands and abdomen, along with lacerations, and injured three others who were in close proximity to him. He was quickly taken into custody and transported to Bellevue Hospita

 I frankly believe he’s been whipping up circumstances to create terrorist attacks and he’s getting them. There’s no US diplomacy any more. There is on Trump’s raw, angry id.

If ever there were a triumph of domestic politics and presidential ego over sound policy calculation, Trump’s Jerusalem decision was it. And it was indeed a fitting tribute to the end of Trump’s first year in office where politics on so many issues—pardon the pun—trumped policy (see the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the Paris climate agreement, NAFTA negotiations and even Iran decertification).

These days, all presidents are locked into the permanent campaign, which typically begins the day after an election. But rarely on foreign policy has a president—like a moth to a flame—been drawn so inexorably toward his own political needs. If you believe Sen. Bob Corker, Trump was ready to start the ball rolling on moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem within 24 hours of his inauguration. And we know his national security team barely convinced him to use his power to invoke national security considerations to avoid a congressional mandate to move the embassy last June.

With the end of the year approaching, Steve Bannon’s white board to-do list of campaign promises beckoned. And with a public approval rating in the 30s, when it came to choosing between Evangelicals, Jews and donors like Sheldon Adelson on one hand and Palestinians, Europeans and much of the world on the other, well … there really wasn’t much of a choice, was there? Eager to say, “I am delivering,” and thrilled at the prospects of once again presenting himself as the anti-Obama, President Trump took great relish in butchering yet another sacred cow, overturning decades of U.S. policy.

How much of what Trump does is related to what Putin wants?  Julie Iofe writes a great answer at The Atlantic today.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a political consultant who helped Putin win his first presidential campaign, in 2000, and served as a Kremlin adviser until 2011, simply laughed when I asked him about Putin’s role in Donald Trump’s election. “We did an amazing job in the first decade of Putin’s rule of creating the illusion that Putin controls everything in Russia,” he said. “Now it’s just funny” how much Americans attribute to him.

A businessman who is high up in Putin’s United Russia party said over an espresso at a Moscow café: “You’re telling me that everything in Russia works as poorly as it does, except our hackers? Rosneft”—the state-owned oil giant—“doesn’t work well. Our health-care system doesn’t work well. Our education system doesn’t work well. And here, all of a sudden, are our hackers, and they’re amazing?”

In the same way that Russians overestimate America, seeing it as an all-powerful orchestrator of global political developments, Americans project their own fears onto Russia, a country that is a paradox of deftness, might, and profound weakness—unshakably steady, yet somehow always teetering on the verge of collapse. Like America, it is hostage to its peculiar history, tormented by its ghosts.

None of these factors obviates the dangers Russia poses; rather, each gives them shape. Both Putin and his country are aging, declining—but the insecurities of decline present their own risks to America. The United States intelligence community is unanimous in its assessment not only that Russians interfered in the U.S. election but that, in the words of former FBI Director James Comey, “they will be back.” It is a stunning escalation of hostilities for a troubled country whose elites still have only a tenuous grasp of American politics. And it is classically Putin, and classically Russian: using daring aggression to mask weakness, to avenge deep resentments, and, at all costs, to survive.

I’d come to Russia to try to answer two key questions. The more immediate is how the Kremlin, despite its limitations, pulled off one of the greatest acts of political sabotage in modern history, turning American democracy against itself. And the more important—for Americans, anyway—is what might still be in store, and how far an emboldened Vladimir Putin is prepared to go in order to get what he wants.

So, there’s a lot going on and some of it makes 2018 look a bit more promising. But, let’s see what happens in Alabama and how the elections next year shape up.  Don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with the fanciful idea of a double impeachment ceremony for Pence and Trump!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Power Sunday Reads

 

No, not really on fire…don’t have no fire…no power that is…

It snowed a shitload on Friday and Saturday here in Banjoville. So much so that we have been without power since Friday morning. I am quickly writing this post Saturday evening, and making this an open thread. Please post updates and news and whatever else tickles your fancy.

Have a brilliant Sunday Sky Dancers!

 


Lazy Saturday Reads

Mostly empty area for Trump speech in Pensacola, FL last night

Good Afternoon!!

The snow has finally begun falling here, and now they say it will continue all night and into tomorrow. We expect around 6-8 inches. That still may not be as bad as what happened down where JJ lives in Georgia and other parts of the South. The LA Times reports: Snowmen in Alabama? Sledding in Mississippi? From Texas to Georgia, snow blankets the South.

Snow blanketed a vast swath of the Deep South on Friday, triggering a flurry of winter weather warnings that closed businesses and schools, canceled hundreds of flights and caused traffic gridlock. It also unleashed a flurry of snowman construction and sledding in places more accustomed to sunshine than snow.

The storm dropped a rare coating of snow as far south as Brownsville, Texas — near the border of Mexico — up through southern Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the southern Appalachians.

“This is an unusual event — to see snow falling this early in the season all the way from Texas and the Gulf Coast region to Georgia,” said Laura Pagano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Atlanta/Peachtree City office. “It has happened before, but not often.”

More than 200,000 customers across the region lost power as snow downed branches and power lines.

People walk along Shiloh Road in Kennesaw after a snowstorm hit metro Atlanta and North Georgia.

Since I can’t go out, I plan to escape into a good book. I finished reading Luke Harding’s excellent Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, and I’ve begun reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser.

Fraser is a brilliant writer, and so far the book is fascinating. She adds context to the sentimental version of Wilder’s life portrayed in the “Little House” books. Of course in many ways it’s a tragic story of the horrendous treatment of Native Americans as well as the hardships suffered by poor people like the Ingalls family who were lured west by promised of free or cheap land. Anyway, I’m glad to have a good book to help me escape from our dreadful current reality.

As the mainstream media continues to demonstrate the tremendous progress the Mueller investigation has been making, the Trump state media made up of Fox News, Breitbart, and other right wing outlets has turned up the heat with their fake news.

Please read this excellent piece by Jonathan Chait: The Mueller Investigation Is in Mortal Danger. Chait opens by describing the process by which the GOP first claims to be shocked by bad behavior (e.g. the Access Hollywood tape), but within begins denying and finally excusing that same behavior. We’ve seen this again and again, and now it’s happening with Roy Moore. Here’s the gist of Chait’s argument:

The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election.

The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.

Peter Strzok

The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s email carelessness and has also worked for Mueller.

His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions.

It’s happening, folks. Yesterday we learned that Hope Hicks was interviewed by Mueller’s team all day Thursday and Friday. Hicks knows everything that has happened. There is no way Trump is going to sit still while she either tells the truth or may get caught in a lie and have to cooperate with Mueller. The investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump and his family.

The New York Times: F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives.

F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events.

The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers….

Hope Hicks with Trump and Kushner

After he took office, senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her, and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The F.B.I. was concerned that the emails to Ms. Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation, and they urged Ms. Hicks to be cautious.

The meetings with Ms. Hicks, what the F.B.I. calls a “defensive briefing,” went beyond the standard security advice that senior White House officials routinely receive upon taking office. Defensive briefings are intended to warn government officials about specific concerns or risks.

Meanwhile, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Justice Department has announced “investigations” into fake scandals like Planned Parenthood supposedly selling fetal body parts and the Uranium One non-scandal. And the GOP Congress is going to turn the sexual harassment scandal into a Democratic problem. The Democrats pushed Al Franken out without due process for minor accusations that may have been orchestrated, and now more Democrats are going to be revealed as abusers so the public will forget about Trump and Moore.

Roll Call: Exclusive: Taxpayers Paid $220K to Settle Case Involving Rep. Alcee Hastings.

The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.

Alcee Hastings

Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.

Hastings has called Packer’s charges “ludicrous” and in documents said he never sexually harassed her.

“Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer,” the congressman said in a statement Friday night. “This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”

Hastings said that the lawsuit that Packer filed against him and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee were ultimately dismissed.

“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” he said.

Will another member of the Black Caucus be forced out now?

Sarah Kendzior issued a stark waning this morning in response to this tweet:

Here’s a Trump scandal; will it gain any traction? The New York Times: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument.

A uranium company launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Ryan Zinke

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.

“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”

But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.

In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”

There is soooo much news today. I’ll have to add some links in the comment thread, but I’ll end this post with the latest NYT gossipy insider report on Trump’s defensive maneuvers: Inside Trumps Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.

Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.

Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in bedclothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.

As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.

For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.

Read more about the madman in the White House at the NYT link.

What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: Days as Bleak as the White House Holiday Decorations

Good Afternoon!

It’s cold. It’s sleeting. It’s gray. It snowed in Baton Rouge and a few places north of Lake Pontchartrain.  I’m officially in and over winter.  I can’t seem to get warm. I can’t warm up to anything going on in this country either.  I’m sending a dear friend to check out a property on Key Peninsula at least 20 miles from most forms of civilization. There’s a wine store, a dispensary, and a Japanese-owned grocery shop/cafe close with foodstuff. Other than that I’ll have tall trees, a lake, and JoEmma State Park.  This one is way doable so I’m hopeful I can head to the blue wall of safety. Oh, and a working fireplace/stove.  It’s as bleak as the White House Holiday Decorations or Siberia right now.  Take your choice.

I’ll start out with one custom made for our resident psychologist up at WAPO.  “I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump. He tells far more lies, and far more cruel ones, than ordinary people do.”

Nearly two-thirds of Trump’s lies (65 percent) were self-serving. Examples included: “They’re big tax cuts — the biggest cuts in the history of our country, actually” and, about the people who came to see him on a presidential visit to Vietnam  last month: “They were really lined up in the streets by the tens of thousands.”

Slightly less than 10 percent of Trump’s lies were kind ones, told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else. An example was his statement on Twitter that “it is a ‘miracle’ how fast the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were able to find the demented shooter and stop him from even more killing!” In the broadest sense, it is possible to interpret every lie as ultimately self-serving, but I tried to stick to how statements appeared on the surface.

Trump told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind ones. That’s a much higher ratio than we found for our study participants, who told about double the number of self-centered lies compared with kind ones. The most stunning way Trump’s lies differed from our participants’, though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump’s lies were hurtful or disparaging. For example, he proclaimed that John Brennan, James Clapper and James Comey, all career intelligence or law enforcement officials, were “political hacks.” He said that “the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close.” He insisted that other “countries, they don’t put their finest in the lottery system. They put people probably in many cases that they don’t want.” And he claimed that “Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities.”

The Trump lies that could not be coded into just one category were typically told both to belittle others and enhance himself. For example: “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for reelection in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).”

The sheer frequency of Trump’s lies appears to be having an effect, and it may not be the one he is going for. A Politico/Morning Consult poll from late October showed that only 35 percent  of voters believed that Trump was honest, while 51 percent said he was not honest. (The others said they didn’t know or had no opinion.) Results of a Quinnipiac University poll from November were similar: Thirty-seven percent of voters thought Trump was honest, compared with 58 percent who thought he was not.

There are man cruel, inhuman policies on the Republican agenda and in its budget and tax bill. Paul Krugman points out its “War on Children”. I’m not a deist so I can’t speak to how those folks feel on how they believe that they’ll be judged on how we treat the least of us, but I’d say this is a straight to eternal damnation ticket.

What’s the problem? The other day Senator Orrin Hatch, asked about the program (which he helped create), once again insisted that it will be funded — but without saying when or how (and there don’t seem to be any signs of movement on the issue). And he further declared, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.” Then he voted for an immense tax cut.

And one piece of that immense tax cut is a big giveaway to inheritors of large estates. Under current law, a married couple’s estate pays no tax unless it’s worth more than $11 million, so that only a handful of estates — around 5,500, or less than 0.2 percent of the total number of deaths a year — owe any tax at all. The number of taxable estates is also, by the way, well under one one-thousandth of the number of children covered by CHIP.

But Republicans still consider this tax an unacceptable burden on the rich. The Senate bill would double the exemption to $22 million; the House bill would eliminate the estate tax entirely.

So now let’s talk dollars. CHIP covers a lot of children, but children’s health care is relatively cheap compared with care for older Americans. In fiscal 2016 the program cost only $15 billion, a tiny share of the federal budget. Meanwhile, under current law the estate tax is expected to bring in about $20 billion, more than enough to pay for CHIP.As you see, then, my question wasn’t at all hypothetical. By their actions, Republicans are showing that they consider it more important to give extra millions to one already wealthy heir than to provide health care to a thousand children.

Justice in the USA is only available to the privileged. It can also be avoid by the donor class and most violent folks wearing blue and sporting a badge.   Russia and now, Wells Fargo, are dodging sanctions for damaging our country.

The new acting head of the U.S. consumer finance watchdog is reviewing whether Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) should pay tens of millions of dollars over alleged mortgage lending abuse, according to three sources familiar with the dispute.

The San Francisco-based bank said in October that it would refund homebuyers who were wrongly charged fees to secure low mortgage rates – a black mark against a lender which has already been roiled by scandal over its treatment of customers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had been investigating the mortgage issue since early this year, said one current and two former officials. The agency accepted an internal review from Wells Fargo and set settlement terms in early November, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak about internal discussions.

But that matter and roughly a dozen others are in question now that Mick Mulvaney, the agency chief tapped by President Donald Trump, has said he is reviewing the CFPB’s prior work.

Richard Cordray, the former CFPB director who initiated the Wells Fargo action, approved the terms of a possible settlement before stepping down, said the sources.

That proposal envisions a Wells Fargo payout of tens of millions of dollars but likely short of the record, $100 million payout the bank made to the CFPB last year over a phony accounts scandal, sources said.

The pseudo Justice Department led by the World’s oldest living Confederate Widow is going to waste money investigating Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue.  Isn’t great to be obsessed with zygotes while letting  thousands of living children die unnecessarily?

The Justice Department is taking steps to investigate Planned Parenthood, The Daily Beast has learned.

The head of Justice’s office of legislative affairs has sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking for documents from its investigation of Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue practices. The Daily Beast reviewed the letter, which says the requested documents are “for investigative use.”

Planned Parenthood for America did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. The organization’s website says that only a few of its affiliates share fetal tissue with researchers, and that criticisms of the practice are a “smear campaign.” In October 2015, after undercover videos highlighting Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue programs generated outrage, the organization announced it would stop accepting any reimbursement from researchers for fetal tissue.

The Justice Department’s request refers to a report that the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans released last December, called “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy.” That report discusses how biomedical research corporations contracted with Planned Parenthood affiliates for fetal tissue. It mentioned contracts between those corporations and several Planned Parenthood affiliates, including Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and Planned Parenthood of Northern California. The report detailed the “specimen service fees” that biomedical researchers charged for tissue from a 20-week-old fetus –– $325 for a fetus’s brain, $650 for two eyes –– and questioned whether the biomedical research corporations ultimately profited from their disbursement of fetal tissue. It called for the Justice Department to investigate the matter.

At the time, Planned Parenthood said Grassley’s report did not demonstrate any wrongdoing.

Next up on the Republican Agenda, availability of tax dollars to train clergy and republican candidates on proper ways to stalk children and assault women.

So, the Jerusalem decision is dragging the world into Kremlin Caligula’s dark chaotic mind.  The UN has convened an emergency meeting. Republican Ptomac Fever is now a world wide plague.

The UN Security Council has convened an emergency session to discuss Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has led to deadly clashes in Palestine and strong condemnation from world leaders.

Eight countries called for the emergency meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, as Palestinians protested across the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip against the US president’s decision throughout the day.

Several countries resoundly condemned the US’ unilateral move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including Olof Skoog, Sweden’s UN ambassador, who said the decision is fuelling tension and instability in the region.

Trump’s declaration “goes against the plea of many friends of the US and Israel, however it does not affect the position of Sweden, the European Union or the wider international community” on the status of Jerusalem, said Skoog.

Violent clashes have erupted since Trump’s slurry, spit-filled speech.  A diverse number of religious leaders have begged the US to reconsider. This includes the Pope.  I think he’s hoping for massive terrorist attacks from extremists, frankly.

Clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank and over the Israeli-Gaza border, where one Palestinian was killed.

Tensions are high in the wake of Mr Trump’s announcement. His policy shift was hailed by Israel but condemned across the Arab and Islamic world.

The UN’s Middle East envoy warned of a risk the conflict would escalate.

“There is a serious risk today that we may see a chain of unilateral actions, which can only push us further away from achieving our shared goal of peace,” Nickolay Mladenov told an emergency UN Security Council meeting, by videocall from Jerusalem.

He called on all parties to engage in “constructive dialogue” and “reign in radical elements”.

While the meeting was going on, the Israeli army said it had intercepted a rocket launch from Gaza, but there had been “no casualties and no damage”.

Western allies of the US have disavowed Mr Trump’s move, which reversed decades of US neutrality on the status of Jerusalem.

Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The US became the first country to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital since the foundation of the state in 1948.

The State Department is having none of that or the threats to pull the US Team out of the Winter Olympics in in South Korea.

After the White House and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations weighed in this week on the United States’ participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the U.S. State Department joined the discussion on Friday.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert tweeted Friday morning: “We have a longstanding and successful relationship with the Republic of #Korea. We support their efforts to ensure that a safe and successful winter games will take place. We look forward to cheering on @Team USA at #PyeongChang2018.”

 Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday appeared on Fox News and said it was an “open question” as to whether U.S. Olympic athletes would compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

On Thursday, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent mixed signals, first saying at a press briefing that, “no official decision has been made” but, “I know that the goal is to do so.” Within the hour, Sanders posted an update on Twitter, writing that, “The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues.”

My guess he’s doing to be in solidarnost with his boy crush Putin.

So, this is a must read.  Maternal mortality in the US rivals Banana Republic levels. This is especially true for women of color.  “Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why” on NPR.  Racial Disparity in outcomes happens across income lines.  This is a significant finding.

In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 300 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.

That imbalance has persisted for decades, and in some places, it continues to grow. In New York City, for example, black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers, according to the most recent data; in 2001-2005, their risk of death was seven times higher. Researchers say that widening gap reflects a dramatic improvement for white women but not for blacks.

The disproportionate toll on African-Americans is the main reason the U.S. maternal mortality rate is so much higher than that of other affluent countries. Black expectant and new mothers in the U.S. die at about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, the World Health Organization estimates.

This is appalling and policy must be swift to change this.

Southern California is burning to a crisp. The Santa Anna’s are making them difficult to contain.  I have a friend who has been in a shelter for 4 days with her pets and husband.  She let us know this morning that he house was still standing but the homes 2 doors on either side of her were smoldering rubble. I have family in jeopardy also.  This is really scary.

Red flag warnings have been extended across much of Southern California through Saturday, and high wind warnings are in effect for mountain and valley areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Winds gusted to over 60 mph in Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Thursday, causing embers to spread even more. Gusts were in the 30 to 50 mph range in San Diego County. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits. Relative humidity in San Diego on Thursday afternoon was just 5 percent.

They will likely join Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as forgotten Americans.  Welcome to Dystopia! Welcome to our post-Orwellian nightmare!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?