So . . . it looks like the GOP tax scam has enough votes to pass the Senate next week now that Bob Corker and Marco Rubio have predictably flip flopped. You have to wonder why the Republicans are going forward with this monstrosity, since it will likely result in a Democratic wave election in 2018. Maybe they figure that’s going to happen anyway so they might as well give themselves tax cuts for when they are forced into retirement. Of course they’ll get their government pensions too.
Lawrence O’Donnell said last night that Corker’s decision was obviously based on his political ambitions. He hopes to replace Tillerson as Secretary of State and of course he’s fantasizing about running for president in either 2020 or 2024. Marco Rubio will also be running, of course. These two know they’d never be able to do that if they cross their billionaire donors on tax cuts.
The Washington Post: Why Republicans shouldn’t be so optimistic their tax bill will be a big win.
Republicans are on the verge of passing a massive tax cut for businesses that is deeply unpopular with the American public. They are doing it with no Democratic votes and at a moment when the U.S. economy looks pretty healthy (typically, tax cuts are most effective when the economy is struggling and the government wants to revive it). A surprising number of chief executives admit their top plan for the extra cash is to pay shareholders more, not grow jobs and wages. Billionaire chief executive Michael Bloomberg went so far as to declare the bill a “trillion-dollar blunder.”
So all of this begs the obvious question: Why are Republicans doing this?
Supposedly it’s about politics. If they don’t get something done before the end of the year, and they claim their voters want these destructive tax cuts.
Getting a tax cut done shows the GOP is doing something, particularly on an issue — tax cuts — that has been at the core of Republican orthodoxy since the Reagan era. The surprise victory of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama also means Republicans could have an even harder time passing a bill like this next year.
But pursuing legislation that most of the country doesn’t like is still very risky. Poll after poll shows only about a third of Americans think it’s a good idea. The vast majority feel it’s heavily skewed to the rich and big businesses.
Yet Republicans are optimistic. Why? Perhaps because most Americans are getting a tax cut under this plan, and if growth gets even hotter and unemployment gets even lower by Election Day, voters could reward the GOP.
I don’t think it’s going to work, but I guess we’re going to find out. Of course their other goal is to create massive enough deficits that they can claim they need to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; and they’re definitely going to get those deficits.
The tax cut bill will cause problems for lots of people, but we’ll have to wait for the experts to read the more than 1,000 page mess and analyze it detail. But it looks like the Republicans decided to take this opportunity to make things worse for Puerto Rico.
The final version of the Republican tax plan would end some of the tax advantages companies with operations in Puerto Rico have long enjoyed, potentially delivering an economic blow to the territory still reeling from Hurricane Maria and a record setting bankruptcy, according to an expert who reviewed the plan Friday.
Gabriel Hernandez, the head of the tax division at BDO Puerto Rico, said that under the new rules subsidiaries of U.S. companies based on the island would be treated as foreign, subject to a tax from income derived from intangible assets held offshore. Although the final plan did not include the House’s proposed 20 percent excise tax, as many local officials feared, it still likely signaled sweeping changes for the commonwealth’s economy, he said.
“All planning related to Puerto Rico essentially has changed,” Hernandez said in a telephone interview Friday evening. “It’s so complicated, it’s not even funny. And I’m a tax guy.”
The treatment of Puerto Rico as a foreign jurisdiction undercuts the central platform of Governor Ricardo Rossello, who lobbied against that status this week in Washington. Rossello wants Puerto Rico to become a state — the consideration of the island as foreign runs counter to his party’s main policy.
Hernandez, who has been a Puerto Rico tax expert for more than 25 years, said the plan released Friday seemed like deja vu for the embattled territory. In the nineties, Congress voted to end certain tax incentives then enjoyed by pharmaceutical and other companies with Puerto Rican manufacturing plants. When the rules lapsed completely in 2006, the island entered its years-long recession that culminated ultimately in its record-setting bankruptcy earlier this year. He said the changes released today could be as dramatic.
Read more details at the link.
The Washington Post has a piece about Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames and the years they worked as publishers/journalists in Russia. It’s about time someone in the mainstream media called attention to these two and their ugly history of sexually harassing and abusing women.
The two expat bros who terrorized women correspondents in Moscow, by Kathy Lally
There’s more than one way to harass women. A raft of men in recent weeks have paid for accusations of sexual harassment with their companies, their jobs, their plum political posts. But one point has been overlooked in the scandals: Men can be belittling, cruel and deeply damaging without demanding sex. (Try sloughing off heaps of contempt with your self-esteem intact.) We have no consensus — and hardly any discussion — about how we should treat behaviors that are misogynist and bullying but fall short of breaking the law.
Twenty years ago, when I was a Moscow correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, two Americans named Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames ran an English-language tabloid in the Russian capital called the eXile. They portrayed themselves as swashbuckling parodists, unbound by the conventions of mainstream journalism, exposing Westerners who were cynically profiting from the chaos of post-Soviet Russia.
A better description is this: The eXile was juvenile, stunt-obsessed and pornographic, titillating for high school boys. It is back in the news because Taibbi just wrote a new book, and interviewers are asking him why he and Ames acted so boorishly back then. The eXile’s distinguishing feature, more than anything else, was its blinding sexism — which often targeted me….
I remember the eXile as a mishmash of nightclub listings (rated on how easily a man could get sex), articles on lurid escapades (sex with a 15-year-old girl, an account Ames now says was a joke), political pieces (“Why Our Military Shopping Spree Has Russia Pissed Off”) and press reviews savaging mainstream Western journalists. It ridiculed one female reporter as a “star spinster columnist” and mentioned women’s “anger lines” and fat ankles. The paper even had a cartoon called the Fat Ankle News , about a woman who tweezes her nose hairs and gorges on doughnuts while editing a story. Some male reporters came in for scorn as toadies or morons or liars. But their outrages concerned their minds and not their bodies.
Please read the whole thing. I hope this high-profile exposure of Taibbi and Ames will get plenty of reaction. I’d love to see Taibbi go down in flames, although he’ll probably survive somehow.
You probably heard about this one already, but it’s too horrible not to include.
The Washington Post: CDC gets list of forbidden words: fetus, transgender, diversity.
The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.
Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
I just watched an interview Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz on Joy Reid’s show. Schwartz is convinced that Trump is working up to establishing a police state in the U.S. He argues that Trump’s attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice are part of his plan to establish a private military run by Blackwater founder Erik Prince.
I don’t want to go off the deep end with this kind of speculation, but I am fearful of the way things seem to be going and the lack of GOP opposition to anything Trump does. The only hope he have is the Mueller investigation, and Republicans are actively attacking Mueller and his team in Congress and on Trump TV AKA Fox News. Even John Cornyn, the number 2 guy in the Senate suggested on Twitter yesterday that Mueller should be fired. Check out his timeline.
I hate to end on a negative note, but I’ve got a knot in my stomach after listening to Tony Schwartz, and I can’t focus on anymore scary news this morning.
What stories are you following?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
We’re ending the second year of an annus horribilis (to borrow from HRH Elizabeth ll). It’s difficult to image that the future of our country is in the hands of an incompetent, bullying madman still but it is what it is. I’m certain that most of the population is trying to burrow itself into one holiday or another being nostalgic for a less stressful time. There exist a few glimmers of hope which put me in mind of the story behind Hanukkah. Our lives are very much under siege and we need glimmers of lasting light.
Is it really possible that Paul Ryan will retire? I’m going straight to Charles Pierce on this one because I really need words that bite.
Ring and run, you wretched cur.
Politico on Thursday that Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, may well be hanging them up at the end of the 2018 midterms. Of course, Ryan—and various People Who Are Familiar With His Thinking—has a number of deeply pious, and unquestionably phony, reasons for his departure., Tim Alberta and Rachael Cade broke the news in
On a personal level, going home at the end of next year would all0w Ryan, who turns 48 next month, to keep promises to family; his three children are in or entering their teenage years, and Ryan, whose father died at 55, wants desperately to live at home with them full time before they begin flying the nest.
Isn’t that just too fcking sweet for words? Of course, young Paul Ryan had Social Security survivor’s benefits to live on when his pappy kicked and, once again, you’re welcome, dickhead. And I’m sure that his own children have excellent health care in his magnificent Georgian Revival home back in Janesville. I tell you, I’m almost as moved as I was when Ryan washed some clean pots and pans at that soup kitchen, or those several times when he dropped by impoverished neighborhoods in order to have his picture taken there.
Also, I’m sure that the fact that, in 2018, all indications are that his party will be facing a bloodbath in the midterm elections, and that the abomination of a tax bill that is his crowning achievement will be one of the party’s larger millstones, have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Paul Ryan’s giant, if remarkably delicate, intellect suddenly can no longer handle the hurly-burly of everyday politics. Good god, this man could not be a bigger fake if he were made of papier-mâché.
This may be my favorite passage in the Politico account.
As the deciding votes were cast—recorded in green on the black digital scoreboard suspended above the floor—the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, threw his head back and slammed his hands together. Soon he was engulfed in a sea of dark suits, every Republican lawmaker wanting to slap him on the shoulder and be a part of his moment.
He has tough competition from a Steel Worker Dem and Bannon has promised him a tough primary. Could he really cut and run?
The first denial leans heavily on the definition of the word “soon,” while the second only specifies Ryan is committed to the agenda for 2018. Politico isn’t reporting Ryan will resign before next year’s election — that would be highly unorthodox and potentially deadly for a party that is facing an increasingly fraught midterm — but rather he might quit afterward.
Whether that happens or not, it would be completely understandable, and perhaps even predictable.
So predictable, in fact, that The Post’s Paul Kane did predict it back in 2015 when Ryan first became speaker. “I think he’ll do this for three or four years,” Kane said in October 2015, more than three years before the 2018 election. That three-plus-year tenure would also be completely in line with other recent speakerships. Looking back, six of the last seven speakers have served fewer than five years in the job (three voluntarily and three because their party lost the majority). Ryan committing to another two-year Congress would put him over that five-year mark, which is a very long time to be in that job even for a relatively youthful 47-year-old.
Kremlin Caligula has reached historical lows in polls. Eleanor Clift–writing for The Daily Beast–suggests a tipping point.
Public opinion can take off like a runaway train once it gets going. President Donald Trump, already polling lower than any of his predecessors in his first year, might soon be hearing the hoofbeats of history.
At 32 percent in the most recent Pew and Monmouth polls, he is perilously close to what most historians and political scientists say is a tipping point of 30 percent, below which a president can no longer effectively lead.
President Nixon was at 22 percent when he resigned in August of 1974 and Republican Party affiliation had dropped to 18 percent, recalls Reagan historian Craig Shirley.
“Going below 30 percent kept Truman from seeking another term and going below 30 percent eventually drove Nixon out of office,” he says. “In the modern era, beginning with FDR, presidents get into trouble when they fall below 30.”
Nixon won a landslide re-election in 1972 with 61 percent of the vote, but it was all downhill after that. For most of the next year, his polls lingered in the mid to high 30s, a downward trajectory that began even before the White House taping system was revealed in July of 1973, exposing his legal jeopardy.
Prior to that, Watergate had taken a steep toll on his numbers, along with campus discord over the Vietnam War and an oil embargo that led to long gas lines—all of which led to “a general sense of America in decline,” says Shirley.
Trump, much earlier in a presidency predicated on his promise to “make America great again,” is facing his own challenges. The GOP’s loss of a Senate seat in ruby red Alabama thanks to the sexual misconduct allegations against Republican Roy Moore has to make President Trump uneasy about the power of today’s newly awakened movement. Over a hundred members of Congress are calling for an investigation into claims of sexual harassment brought by multiple women against Trump before he was president. While the lawmakers are all Democrats for now, public opinion doesn’t always abide by party lines.
A Financial Times Op Ed outlines how incompetent the UK and US leadership has become under their white nationalist leaders. This is no liberal rag.
In the US, when Republicans finally got their chance to abolish Obamacare, it turned out they had spent seven years not preparing an alternative. Much of their tax bill got handwritten overnight by lobbyists. And Russiagate’s key characteristic is amateurism. Mike Flynn and others didn’t declare obvious contacts with foreign officials, assuming nobody would notice. Trump appeared to incriminate himself by tweeting that he knew Flynn broke the law, but then his lawyer said he’d written the tweet. Richard Nixon’s downfall was not his crime but his cover-up; this time there’s hardly any cover-up. The only comparable folly in recent US-UK history is the Iraq war. So what explains this incompetence?
Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg trashes the Republican Tax Plan in an op-ed from his media empire. He calls it a ‘blunder’. What is amazing to me is watching dueling policy objectives between the Fed and Republicans in Congress. The Fed is putting on the breaks while the Republicans throw money at their favorite donors.
Last month a Wall Street Journal editor asked a room full of CEOs to raise their hands if the corporate tax cut being considered in Congress would lead them to invest more. Very few hands went up. Attending was Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s economic adviser and a friend of mine. He asked: “Why aren’t the other hands up?”
Allow me to answer that: We don’t need the money.
Corporations are sitting on a record amount of cash reserves: nearly $2.3 trillion. That figure has been climbing steadily since the recession ended in 2009, and it’s now double what it was in 2001. The reason CEOs aren’t investing more of their liquid assets has little to do with the tax rate.
CEOs aren’t waiting on a tax cut to “jump-start the economy” — a favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company — or to hand out raises. It’s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth, as Republicans have promised. Had Congress actually listened to executives, or economists who study these issues carefully, it might have realized that.
Instead, Congress did what it always does: It put politics first. After spending the first nine months of the year trying to jam through a repeal of Obamacare without holding hearings, heeding independent analysis or seeking Democratic input, Republicans took the same approach to tax “reform” — and it shows.
Only a few greedy republican donors want this bill.
A few other things today to note. Bill Moyers is calling it quits. I can imagine that he’s quite tired after the last two years.
Nikki Haley pulled a ‘Colin Powell’ on Iran yesterday with pictures supposedly showing Iran cheating on its agreements. No one was impressed at the UN.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, claimed Thursday that the international body has obtained “undeniable” evidence that Iran supplied Yemeni insurgents with missiles and other arms.
But U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres reached no such conclusion in his report this month that addresses U.S. and Saudi claims the Houthi insurgents fired Iranian short-range ballistic missiles that nearly missed Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport on Nov. 4.
A U.N. panel of experts has reviewed missile fragments from the strike that show the missile resembles the Qiam-1, an Iranian-made Scud variant that lacks the tail fins typically found in Yemen’s previously known missile arsenal. The panel noted in a confidential report, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, that the missile also contained a tail component that bore the logo of an Iranian company targeted by U.S. and U.N. sanctions.
But the panel, which reported that the missile also contained an American-made component, concluded it “has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier.
Net Neutrality removal means court challenges are up next. It could trigger the Millennial voter turnout.
The US Federal Communications Commission vote on Thursday to roll back net-neutrality rules could galvanize young voters, a move Democrats hope will send millennials to the polls in greater numbers and bolster their chances in next year’s elections.
Democrats are hoping to paint the repeal of the rules by the FCC, which is now chaired by a President Donald Trump appointee, Ajit Pai, as evidence Republicans are uninterested in young people and consumer concerns at large.
“The American public is angry,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat. She added that the actions of the Republican majority had “awoken a sleeping giant.”
Attitudes toward so-called net neutrality, or rules that prevent internet providers from limiting customers’ access to certain websites or slowing download speeds for specific content, are largely split along party lines in Congress. The heated debate has turned into the kind of election issue that Democrats think will help them.
Studies show young people disproportionately use the internet compared with older Americans, and polls have shown they feel passionately about fair and open internet access. Democrats believe the issue may resonate with younger voters who may not be politically active on other issues like taxes or foreign policy.
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, on Twitter said “young people need to take the lead on net neutrality.” He added: “It’s possible for Millennial political leadership to make a real difference here.”
The scrapping of the Obama administration’s rules is likely to set up a court battle and could redraw the digital landscape, with internet service providers possibly revising how Americans view online content. The providers could use new authority to limit or slow some websites or offer “fast lanes” for certain content.
Republicans on the FCC have sought to reassure young people that their ability to access the internet will not change after the rules take effect. People who favor the move argue that after users realize that little or nothing has changed in their internet access, it will not resonate as a political issue.
So, I’ll end here. Happy Hanukkah to all our Jewish Sky Dancers!!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
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.
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.
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.
“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 all, irrespective 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?
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.
This next one is from the end of November…
And then, by the same cartoonist:
Here is a thought…is that tRump’s Secret Service Nickname? Idiot?
Sounds about right to me.
This is an open thread.
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 Group, JMC Analytics and Polling, Gravis 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.
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.
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?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!!
Doesn’t time fly these days! It’s beginning to look a lot like Impeachment Season!
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
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.
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?
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!