Thursday Reads: America’s Ongoing Crisis Has Reached Emergency Levels

Good Morning!!

The media is finally waking up to the fact that the “president” of the U.S. is not just a pathological liar, not just a sociopath and a malignant narcissist–he is actually suffering from a serious thought disorder with delusions.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional.

The Washington Post and New York Times have accounts from insiders suggesting Trump habitually insists upon the impossible in private. He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell. He still questions the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birthplace, despite the birth certificate. He insists voter fraud may have denied him a popular-vote triumph. He tells people Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation, with a total vindication of the president, by the end of the year.

He questions whether the Access Hollywood tape, on which he was recorded boasting of sexual assault, is even him. (Both the Post and the Times report Trump repeatedly has denied the validity of the tape in private, “stunning his advisers,” as the Times puts it.)

It is of course entirely possible that Trump is lying to everybody, including his own staff. But the lies in these articles do not always fit into any pattern of rational self-aggrandizement. Trump tells senators or his aides the Access Hollywood tape is not him, but they don’t believe him. He has no reason to bring up the birther fabrication in private.

His apparent belief that Mueller will complete his sprawling investigation by the end of the year is not only pointless but self-defeating — rather than prepare allies for a long defense, he is preparing them for a fantastical scenario. (It is also further evidence that, when Mueller fails to vindicate him by the new year, Trump will lash out wildly, firing him, Jeff Sessions, or others.)

If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental-health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us have expected.

Gee, no kidding. It was obvious during the campaign that Trump was nuts, to use a technical term. Now people in the media are waking up to the reality of the situation when it may well be too late. BTW, a person can be a liar and delusional at the same time.

Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker at The Washington Post: Trump veers past guardrails, feeling impervious to the uproar he causes.

President Trump this week disseminated on social media three inflammatory and unverified ­anti-Muslim videos, took glee in the firing of a news anchor for sexual harassment allegations despite facing more than a dozen of his own accusers and used a ceremony honoring Navajo war heroes to malign a senator with a derogatory nickname, “Pocahontas.”

Again and again, Trump veered far past the guardrails of presidential behavior. But despite the now-routine condemnations, the president is acting emboldened, as if he were impervious to the uproar he causes.

If there are consequences for his actions, Trump does not seem to feel their burden personally. The Republican tax bill appears on track for passage, putting the president on the cusp of his first major legislative achievement. Trump himself remains the ­highest-profile man accused of sexual improprieties to keep his job with no repercussions.

Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president.

Rucker and Parker quote from Trump’s speech in Missouri last night:

In Missouri, he was talking about taxes, but he might as well been describing his mind-set.

“Hey, look, I’m president,” Trump said. “I don’t care. I don’t care anymore.”

The Hill: Scarborough: Trump allies told me he has dementia.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on Thursday that people close to President Trump told him during the campaign that Trump has “early stages of dementia.”

During MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Scarborough said Trump is “completely detached from reality.”

“You have somebody inside the White House that the New York Daily News says is mentally unfit,” Scarborough said.

“That people close to him say is mentally unfit, that people close to him during the campaign told me had early stages of dementia.”

Scarborough said the country is closer to war on the Korean Peninsula than most Americans know.

“We heard this months ago, that we are going to have a ground war in Korea, they believe that inside the White House for a very long time,” Scarborough said.

“If this is not what the 25th Amendment was drafted for,” he added, referring to the amendment that covers presidential succession and the response to a president with disabilities.

Hey Joe, why didn’t you say this during the campaign??

Last night during his speech in Missouri, Trump gave a clear demonstration of how jumbled his thought process is. Someone put the words “rocket fuel” on the teleprompter and he veered off into an attack on Kim Jong Un.

The Hill: ‘Art of the Deal’ co-author: Trump ‘losing his grip on reality.’

“But what it means in simple terms is he’s losing his grip on reality,” Schwartz told MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber” when asked about Trump’s reported suggestion that the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape may not be real.

“His reality testing is really poor and I believe that’s exactly what’s going on,” Schwartz added.

Schwartz described “a dramatic change” in Trump from when he co-authored the book with him to how the president speaks now.

“He is more limited in his vocabulary. He is further from as I say- this connection to what is factual and real. He is more impulsive. He is more reactive. This is a guy in deep trouble,” said Schwartz.

He also said that many employees at the White House are “hostages to a cult leader.”

“When you watch Sarah Huckabee Sanders right now, you really feel as if you’re watching somebody who is being brainwashed, or has been brainwashed,” Schwartz said, referencing the White House press secretary.

Mike Allen at Axios: The White House expects Trump to get even more outrageous.

What we’re hearing: Officials tell us Trump seems more self-assured, more prone to confidently indulging wild conspiracies and fantasies, more quick-triggered to fight than he was during the Wild West of the first 100 days in office.

   .  Imagine Trump if he signs a huge tax cut into law, which seems likely, amid soaring stocks and rising economic growth.
  .  Imagine if Roy Moore wins in Alabama, which seems likely, too. It surely won’t humble Trump — or hem him in.
  .  He’s like the Incredible Hulk, after the media and Mueller made him mad.

I could go on and on posting articles from members of the media who are finally waking up to reality, but is it too late?

Even Ezra Klein is writing about impeachment: The case for normalizing impeachment.

In recent months, I have grown obsessed with a seemingly simple question: Does the American political system have a remedy if we elect the wrong person to be president? There are clear answers if we elect a criminal, or if the president falls into a coma. But what if we just make a hiring mistake, as companies do all the time? What if we elect someone who proves himself or herself unfit for office — impulsive, conspiratorial, undisciplined, destructive, cruel?

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are in thrall to the cult of “tax cuts” that will remake the entire U.S. economy and way of life. Unfortunately John McCain just announced that he’s voting for tax scam. It looks like we’re completely screwed.

Marco Rubio, quoted at Financial Advisor: Rubio: Offset Tax Cuts By Reducing Social Security, Medicare Benefits.

Tax reform is only one piece of the overall puzzle needed to revitalize the American economy, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told a group of Washington, D.C., lobbyists and policy analysts this morning at a Politico Playbook Interview sponsored by the Financial Services Roundtable. The other part? Reduce the deficit and offset the cost of the reform, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates at $1.3 trillion.

“I analyze this very differently than most,” Rubio told the crowd. “Many argue that you can’t cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit. But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future,” the senator said.

If lawmakers can act strategically sooner rather than later to come up with some combination of reforms to reduce benefits and raise retirement age, the pain of change and reduced benefits will be greatly mitigated, said the lawmaker who ran for president in 2016 and is once again sounding presidential.

Oh really?

“We don’t need to reduce benefits on current retirees or even near-term retirees, but we can make changes for future generations such as mine, and do so in a way that people can prepare for, so the changes will barely be felt,” Rubio said.

As much as 23 percent of Social Security benefits and 14 percent of Medicaid benefits could disappear by 2034 unless Congress acts, according to a the most recent report from trustees. Without a political fix, future retirees could experience a 23 percent reduction in benefits or a 20 percent increase in payroll taxes to fund the shortfalls, the trustee analysis found.

“Tax reform is the economic component of this equation,” said Rubio, who expressed doubts that there will be a government shutdown. “When more people are working, there are more taxpayers and more revenue, but that alone won’t be enough. You are still going to have a debt problem in the absence of spending cuts.”

The New York Times: It Started as a Tax Cut. Now It Could Change American Life.

The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements.

Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.

Click on the link to read the rest.

They are doing this without any real analysis of what the disastrous effects will be. The New York Times again: Ahead of Vote, Promised Treasury Analysis of Tax Bill Proves Elusive.

In pitching the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, has said repeatedly that the plan will pay for itself through a surge of economic growth and that over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us.”

Mr. Mnuchin has promised that Treasury will release its analysis in full. Yet, just one day before the full Senate prepares to vote on a sweeping tax rewrite, the administration has yet to produce the type of economic analysis that it is citing as a reason to pass the tax cut.

Those inside Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy, which Mr. Mnuchin has credited with running the models, say they have been largely shut out of the process and are not working on the type of detailed analysis that he has mentioned. An economist at the Office of Tax Analysis, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his job, said Treasury had not released a “dynamic” analysis showing that the tax plan would be paid for with economic growth because one did not exist.

Instead of conducting full analyses of tax proposals, staff members have been running numbers on individual provisions or policy ideas, like lowering the tax rate on so-called pass-through businesses and figuring out how many family farms would benefit from the repeal of the estate tax. Activity has picked up more recently as Treasury has sought to provide technical assistance to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office for their estimates. They are developing ways to measure business downtime cost and you can click here to see the technology


There is simply no analysis that could make this bill look like anything but a giant monstrosity designed to take money from the middle and working classes and had it over to a few rich people like Donald Trump and his pals.

Finally, from the NYT Editorial Board: The Senate Is Rushing to Pass Its Tax Bill Because It Stinks.

The Senate tax bill, a 515-page mammoth, was introduced just last week, and the chamber could vote on it as soon as Thursday. This is not how lawmakers are supposed to pass enormous pieces of legislation. It took several years to put together the last serious tax bill, passed in 1986. Congress and the Reagan administration worked across party lines, produced numerous drafts, held many hearings and struck countless compromises. This time it’s not about true reform but about speed and bowling over the opposition in hopes of claiming a partisan victory. The country ought to be dismayed by the way senators like Bob Corker, Susan Collins and Ron Johnson appear to be backing away from their principled objections based on half-measures promised by President Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that will not address its big flaws.

This rush to the Senate floor has been orchestrated by Mr. McConnell, following the same playbook he used in the failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The longer people have to study the details, the less likely the bill is to pass. People should know by now about the big stuff: the giant permanent corporate tax-rate cut, the small and temporary tax cuts for the middle class, the repeal of the A.C.A.’s individual mandate and the $1.4 trillion added to the federal deficit over 10 years. But other provisions are not as well understood and deserve to be called ou

Please go read the whole thing.

I really worked myself into a frenzy today just reading these articles. I’m going to have to relax for awhile and take some deep breaths. What stories are you following today?

Wednesday Reads: Good Morning From Hell

Good Morning…From Hell

It may be repetitive, sure…but fucking hell!

Sticking with sarcastic Tweets that have a lovely truthful bite about them:

tRump is non stop today:

I guest that explains this:

There is a desperation in the orange asshole’s tweets this morning. Something big must be about to happen…

Now, a few Cartoons:

This is an open thread.

Tuesday Reads: Some History Along With Today’s News

Navaho Code Talkers

Good Morning!!

I’ve spent this morning reading history, so that’s what I’m going to share with you today.

Yesterday, fake president Trump made a complete ass of himself once again when he hosted some Navaho Code Talkers in the Oval Office. To our eternal shame, Trump positioned them in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson. Lawrence O’Donnell talked about it on his show The Last Word last night.

Please click on that link to watch Peter MacDonald’s speech and Lawrence’s commentary. You can also watch the entire White House ceremony with Trump’s dismissive body language and racist comments if you’re interested.

From MacDonald’s speech I learned that Navaho code was first used in 1942 on Guadalcanal. I’ve written before about how my Dad was a member of the North Dakota 164th Infantry, the first Army unit to go into battle in World War II. They were sent to Guadalcanal to help the Marines who were stranded there without incoming supplies and were down to one meal a day. They landed 75 years ago on October 13, 1942.

On Oct. 13, 1942, the 164th Infantry landed on Guadalcanal to become the first US Army unit to offensively engage the enemy – in either theatre – when it reinforced the 1st Marine Division against the Japanese in World War II.

A little more history:

A regiment of North Dakota Guardsmen, the 164th was sent to New Caledonia in January 1942 and extensively trained with its sister regiments comprising the Americal. Because of the extraordinary emergency faced by the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal, the regiment was deployed to fight with the Marines along the Henderson Field perimeter.

My Dad in uniform

Arriving on Guadalcanal on October 13, 1942, the 164th deployed into the perimeter:

Arriving at Guadalcanal on October 13, 1942 ahead of its brother regiments as emergency reinforcement for the 1st Marine Division, the Regiment was the first U.S. Army unit to engage in offensive action during World War II in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Between October 24 and October 27, elements of the regiment withstood repeated assaults from Japanese battalions and inflicted some two thousand enemy casualties. The First Marine commander, Major General A. A. Vandegrift, was so impressed by the soldiers’ stand that he issued a unit commendation to the regiment for having demonstrated “an overwhelming superiority over the enemy.” In addition, the marines took the unusual step of awarding Lt. Colonel Robert Hall, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 164th, with the Navy Cross for his role in these battles.

Until the Americal division commander, Major General Alexander M. Patch, and other units of the division arrived, the 164th fought alongside the Marines in a series of encounters with Japanese units in the Point Cruz area, where they successfully dislodged enemy troops from two hilltop strong points. The action earned them the nickname “The 164th Marines.” Members of the 164th were also known as “jungle fighters” within the U.S. media because of the terrain on which they fought.

On November 23, 1942, the Navaho Code Talkers arrived on Guadalcanal.

On Guadalcanal the US Marines were still dug in fending off Japanese attacks on their positions around Henderson Field. A remarkable new asset joined them in November 1942, when a detachment of Marines recruited from the Navajo Nation arrived. It was becoming necessary to communicate urgently by wireless on the battlefield – yet the Marines had learnt that the Japanese were often listening in. The introduction of men speaking in Navajo was to transform this situation. Chester Nez was one of the men who joined the battlefield in November 1942:

A runner approached, handing me a message written in English. It was my first battlefield transmission in Navajo code. I’ll never forget it. Roy pressed the transmit button on the radio, and I positioned my microphone to repeat the information in our code. I talked while Roy cranked. Later, we would change positions.

“Beb-na-ali-trosie a-knah-as-donih ab-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi.” Enemy machine-gun nest on your right flank. Destroy.

Suddenly, just after my message was received, the Japanese gun exploded, destroyed by U.S. artillery.

Navaho Code Talkers

One of the characteristics of the Navajo language was its oral tradition. The men were accustomed to remember quite long and detailed instructions rather than writing them down. This was to be an important aspect of the Navajo Code talkers work in addition to the fact that they their communications were impenetrable to the Japanese. Under the stress of combat conditions they were able to remember and pass on detailed instructions quickly without writing them down

My father was a radio operator. Did he help transmit some of those messages? I guess I’ll never know. If only he were still alive I could ask him.

It’s so sad that Trump ruined yesterday’s important ceremony with his idiotic attack on Elizabeth Warren.

CBS News: Families of Navajo Code Talkers decry Trump’s “Pocahontas” jab.

Families of Navajo war veterans who were honored Monday at the White House say they were dumbfounded that President Donald Trump used the event to take a political jab at a Massachusetts senator, demeaning their work with an unbreakable code that helped the U.S. win World War II.

Trump turned to a nickname he often deployed for Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the 2016 presidential campaign: Pocahontas. He then told the three Navajo Code Talkers on stage that he had affection for them that he doesn’t have for Warren.

“It was uncalled for,” said Marty Thompson, whose great uncle was a Navajo Code Talker. “He can say what he wants when he’s out doing his presidential business among his people, but when it comes to honoring veterans or any kind of people, he needs to grow up and quit saying things like that.”

Lupita Holiday, daughter of a code talker from St. Geroge, Utah told CBS News’ Jacqueline Alemany on Monday that it appeared that the president “doesn’t know the history” of the Native peoples.

“Maybe he doesn’t know we’re different tribes and he might have been here a long time ago but I don’t know,” said Holiday. She added, saying the name was “a little offensive” to her, “Look at the history of Pocahontas and maybe find out what she did and then find out what the code talkers did. It’s two different things. Two different tribes.”

Pocahontas is a well-known historical figure who bridged her own Pamunkey Tribe in present-day Virginia with the British in the 1600s. But the National Congress of American Indians says Trump wrongly has flipped the name into a derogatory term, and the comment drew swift criticism from American Indians and politicians.

I hate Trump. In fact, hate isn’t strong enough a word. There isn’t a word in the English language that could express how much I despise him.

To continue the historical theme, today is the 75th anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove fire, November 28. 1942. The Boston Globe published a long story about it today: The deadliest disaster in Boston’s history happened 75 years ago. Some worry the city is forgetting.

It all happened in less than 15 minutes.

Just a few blocks from the Boston Common, the city witnessed the worst-ever tragedy in its long history when a rapid inferno engulfed Cocoanut Grove, a popular nightclub packed with people out on the holiday weekend, exactly 75 years ago Tuesday.

Now, even those with close ties to the 1942 disaster — the second deadliest building fire in American history — say it’s tough to locate the nightclub’s former location where rows of indistinct Bay Village apartment buildings now stand.

“The sands of time are basically covering over an event that is of huge importance historically locally, but also nationally,” said Dr. Ken Marshall, a local surgeon and chairman of the Cocoanut Grove Memorial Committee….

“This changed fire laws and safety rules and building code regulations, and monumental things in medicine,” he told, adding that “95 percent of people” don’t even know where it happened.

Four hundred and ninety-two people died within 15 minutes; 400 more were sent to hospitals. The club was packed with about 1,000 people. The legal capacity was supposed to be 450. People couldn’t escape because outside doors were locked to prevent customers from leaving with out paying their bills. The only exits were revolving doors.

The revolving doors leading to Shawmut Street became a “death trap,” according to the Globe.

The portico was a furnace, and firefighters were unable to get under the three arches of stucco, unable to penetrate nine feet to the revolving door, jammed with bodies, where they could see, through the glass, flames, smoke and men and women, succumbing and falling in a stack. Officer Elmer Brooks recalled that when rescuers tried to pull bodies from the door, arms and legs came off in their hands.

Main dining room after the fire

After this horrible disaster, many fire safety laws were passed in Massachusetts and around the country. You know those pesky regulations that Republicans hate so much? I hope you’ll read the article. It’s really interesting.

I’ll end with three political news stories.

Splinter News: Here Are Some Facts and Questions About That Nazi the New York Times Failed to Note.

The New York Times published a profile over the weekend of an Ohio man named Tony Hovater, a co-founder of the white supremacist Traditionalist Worker Party. The piece, by reporter Richard Fausset, was meant to say something profound about the banality of evil—This man shops for groceries! He has a Twin Peaks tattoo! He has both a wife and cats!—but it came across instead as an exercise in making evil sound banal.

In one of two follow-up pieces the Times ran to try to explain the story, the paper’s national editor, Marc Lacey, wrote, “We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them.”

Yet Fausset spent so much time staring at Hovater eating a turkey sandwich, he didn’t get around to shining much light on the particular corner his subject occupies. The Times managed to miss or gloss over a whole batch of facts and questions that might have lent both context and color to what purported to be a definitive profile of a white nationalist “foot soldier.”

Click on the link to learn the many facts the NYT failed to report.

Michelle Goldberg at the NYT: Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump. Goldberg has been reading that book by  Luke Harding’s I’ve been telling you about.

Three months ago, The Washington Post reported that even as Donald Trump ran for president, he pursued plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The next day, The New York Times published excerpts from emails between Felix Sater, a felon with ties to Russian organized crime, and Michael Cohen, one of Donald Trump’s lawyers and Sater’s childhood friend, about the project. Sater was apparently an intermediary between Trump and Russia, and in a Nov. 3, 2015, email to Cohen, he made the strange argument that a successful deal would lead to Trump’s becoming president. Boasting that he was close enough to Vladimir Putin to let Ivanka Trump sit in the Russian president’s desk chair, Sater wrote, “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”

These stories were, at the time, bombshells. At a minimum, they showed that Trump was lying when he said, repeatedly, that he had “nothing to do with Russia.” Further, Sater’s logic — that Putin’s buy-in on a real estate deal would result in Trump’s election — was bizarre, suggesting that some part of the proposed collaboration was left unsaid.

But three months feels like three decades in Trump years, and I mostly forgot about these reports until I read Luke Harding’s new book, “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.” One uncanny aspect of the investigations into Trump’s Russia connections is that instead of too little evidence there’s too much. It’s impossible to keep it straight without the kind of chaotic wall charts that Carrie Mathison of “Homeland” assembled during her manic episodes. Incidents that would be major scandals in a normal administration — like the mere fact of Trump’s connection to Sater — become minor subplots in this one.

That’s why “Collusion” is so essential, and why I wish everyone who is skeptical that Russia has leverage over Trump would read it. This country — at least the parts not wholly under the sway of right-wing propaganda — needs to come to terms with substantial evidence that the president is in thrall to a foreign power.

Please go read the whole piece.

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair’s The Hive: Has Mike Flynn Already Flipped on Trump?

The conspicuous lack of charges against Michael Flynn and Michael G. Flynn, despite reports that Robert Muelleralready has enough evidence to arrest the former national security adviser and his son, invites the obvious question: has the elder Flynn already turned state’s witness? The tantalizing possibility that Flynn, like George Papadopoulos, has flipped, gained new currency last week when The New York Times reported that Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, had ended an agreement to share relevant information about the ongoing Justice Department investigation with Donald Trump’s legal team—a move that could presage a new arrangement with Mueller. Jay Sekulow,an attorney for Trump, dismissed that interpretation at the time, telling the Washington Post, “No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president.” But a new report that Kelner met with members of the special counsel’s team suggests that Flynn has, in fact, cut some kind of deal.

According to ABC News, Kelner visited Mueller’s offices in Washington, D.C., on Monday—a development that could indicate the two sides are discussing a plea deal. (Keller declined to comment on the meaning of the meeting.) That could have far-reaching implications for the president and members of his campaign. Of the many Trumpworld characters ensnared in Mueller’s probe, Flynn is perhaps one of the most pivotal; not only does he lay claim to some of the most questionable Russian contacts, but he could also prove to be immeasurably valuable in revealing whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to derail Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

I can’t wait until we get the full story!

That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?

Monday Reads: The Economist is Really IN (5¢)

It’s Monday again Sky Dancers!

America has been held hostage by a Russian Potted plant with at least one severe Personality Disorder for 311 days.  Kremlin Caligula has been busy on his golden piss pot and all I can say where are those guys with the straight jackets when a country really needs them?

My guess is that something huge is about to break on the Russian Front. Kremlin Caligula even channeled Marcia Brady with an  all we ever hear is “Russia, Russia, Russia” tweet. This proximity to psychotic break and delusion has to be rooted in something more than a weekend spent bilking taxpayers for extended Golf Games at The Persian Whore House in Florida.

Meanwhile, the tax bill abomination is on the agenda which means wonky, economist kinda day for y’all. I’m actually going to focus on some stuff that may not make it to the Front page or lede first.

First off and like you didn’t know this, the measure of Income Equality for the United States is as bad as ever. This tax bill would put his so far to the right on a list of countries–which being right basically means you live in a kleptocracy–as to show we’re a not just an outlier but one that’s way outside the boundary of what should happen if it was just a random event.  Our modern tax and economic policy purposefully takes money from labor and industrial capital and transfers it to Wall Street Gambling and Treasure Isle Money Laundering Land.

Let’s break that down a bit. This is the global wealth report for 2016 put out by Allianz which does economic research.  The Gini Coefficient is the most widely used measure of income equality/inequality for countries.  There are two measures. One is for income. The other is for wealth. It shows how those things are dispersed among a country’s population.  This is from Investopedia which is a good source for simple explanations and examples of finance and economics concepts.

The Gini index or Gini coefficient is a statistical measure of distribution developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini in 1912. It is often used as a gauge of economic inequality, measuring income distribution or, less commonly, wealth distribution among a population. The coefficient ranges from 0 (or 0%) to 1 (or 100%), with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality. Values over 1 are theoretically possible due to negative income or wealth.

A country in which every resident has the same income would have an income Gini coefficient of 0. A country in one resident earned all the income, while everyone else earned nothing, would have an income Gini coefficient of 1.

The same analysis can be applied to wealth distribution (the “wealth Gini coefficient”), but because wealth is more difficult to measure than income, Gini coefficients usually refer to income and appear simply as “Gini coefficient” or “Gini index,” without specifying that they refer to income. Wealth Gini coefficients tend to be much higher than those for income.

Wealth–covered by this report–is basically financial assets.  Let’s look at a graph to get an idea of what’s going on in the US compared to the rest of the world.  The US is now number 1 on list for wealth inequality.   Fortune wrote on this in 2015.  The reason I bring this back up is that the dread tax bill–coupled with our next news item–will basically make this country’s wealth and income more third world banana republic level than it already is. We are the “richest and most unequal” country and believe me none of the benefits of that are trickling down.  This is from 2015 a year prior to the current report.

And yet, with the overall growth of wealth, inequality remains a persistent issue, especially in the United States.

For the first time in this report series, Allianz calculated each country’s wealth Gini coefficient—a measure of inequality in which 0 is perfect equality and 100 would mean perfect inequality, or one person owning all the wealth. It found that the U.S. had the most wealth inequality, with a score of 80.56, showing the most concentration of overall wealth in the hands of the proportionately fewest people.

In comparison, when the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) examined income inequality, it found that the U.S. has the fourth highest income Gini coefficient—0.40—after Turkey, Mexico, and Chile.

Ironically, the second highest Gini score overall in the Allianz report was found in Sweden, a nation long thought of as egalitarian.

I thought you might like to read this analysis from Steve Roth: ” Insanely Concentrated Wealth Is Strangling Our Prosperity. Today’s mountains of wealth throttle the very engine of wealth creation itself.”

Now of course you don’t expect 20-year-olds to have much or any wealth; there will always be households with none. But still, the environment for young households trying to build a comfortable and secure nest egg — the American dream? — has gotten wildly competitive and hostile over recent decades. (If we had a sovereign wealth fund, everyone would have a wealth share from birth.)

But here’s what’s even more egregious: that concentrated wealth is strangling our economy, our economic growth, our national prosperity. Wealth concentration drives a vicious, downward cycle, throttling the very engine of wealth creation itself.

Because: people with lots of money don’t spend it. They just sit on it, like Smaug in his cave. The more money you have, the less of it you spend every year. If you have $10,000, you might spend it this year. If you have $10 million, you’re not gonna. If you have $1,000, you’re at least somewhat likely to spend it this month.

This guy is not an economist but totally can put the numbers to what economists do all the time.  We determine what drives economic growth.  In this country, it is the middle class spending money and saving it to buy houses, retire, and take vacations.   A middle class does this in their home town not in Panama, the Channel Islands, or any of the other places the wealthy hide their treasure and buy overpriced yachts from each other.

This leads me to the second disturbing thing.  The very laws and agency meant to protect the middle class from abuses of turning banking houses into gambling concerns are being destroyed.  This is in the ledes and rightly so.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s top lawyer sided with the Justice Department over President Donald Trump’s appointment of Mick Mulvaney to lead the CFPB as a leadership battle over the controversial watchdog agency escalated.

In a memorandum obtained by POLITICO, CFPB general counsel Mary McLeod said Trump had the legal authority to name an acting director to the bureau under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

“It is my legal opinion that the president possesses the authority to designate an acting director for the bureau,” McLeod wrote in the Nov. 25 memo to the CFPB leadership team. “I advise all bureau personnel to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB.”

Yet even as McLeod’s memo was circulating, Leandra English, former CFPB Director Richard Cordray’s choice to serve as acting director of the watchdog agency, sued the Trump administration in U.S District Court in Washington.

In her lawsuit filed late Sunday, English named Trump and Mulvaney as defendants and asked the court to establish her authority as acting director.

“Ms. English has a clear entitlement to the position of acting director of the CFPB,” the filing claims. “The President’s purported or intended appointment of defendant Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB is unlawful.”

So, here’s what this controversy is all about.

As a Republican congressman, Mick Mulvaney called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau a “joke” and said he wished it didn’t exist. On Monday, Mulvaney showed up at the agency’s D.C. offices with a bag of doughnuts and a new title: boss.

But after a frantic weekend of political and legal posturing, Mulvaney’s arrival represented a new escalation of tensions over who ultimately will lead the agency. A day earlier, Leandra English filed suit claiming she is the “rightful acting director.”

Leadership of the agency was thrown into doubt last Friday when Richard Cordray stepped down as CFPB director and said his chief of staff, English, would temporarily replace him. A few hours later, Trump named Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director and a longtime critic of the CFPB, to the job.

Both sides are pointing to the fine print in dueling federal statutes to claim authority over the job running one of the most controversial, and powerful, banking industry regulators. English filed suit late Sunday, asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent Trump from appointing Mulvaney acting director.

Here’s why the lawsuit was filed and more information from DDay at the Intercept who found Trump’s legal work is coming from a PayDay lender.  There’s a succession provision in the law itself.

The succession provision was part of Congress’s intent to keep the agency independent of the president, Frank said. “We gave the director unusual independence from the president, including a five-year term. This [provision] makes that effectual,” Frank said. “Our intention was to give a full five years of independence. This was part of it.”

The president still has the ability to appoint a successor, said Frank, but only one who would not destroy the agency, as such a nominee would not get through the Senate. “The way it works, the acting director stays in until a confirmed successor appointed. I don’t think the Senate would confirm someone like Mulvaney, who would destroy the agency. Remember, Senator Collins is in there and she voted for it. Republicans would like to get rid of the agency legislatively, but they don’t have the votes,” he said.

Former Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., the lead champion of the CFPB provision in the House, also said it was the intent of the bill’s authors to keep the acting director independent of the president. “We were very much about the task of trying to create an independent agency that would not be captured by its opponents,” he said. “The statute’s pretty clear. What happens if there’s a vacancy in the director’s spot, the deputy director steps up and serves until the Senate confirms a replacement.”

Democrats, in the past, have respected the process for other agencies that have similar succession plans, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency. “We did the same thing with the FHFA. There was a desire to get rid of [then-FHFA Acting Director Edward] DeMarco,” Miller recalled in an interview with The Intercept. “We couldn’t find a way around it because the statute was really clear. It said if there was a vacancy, the statute requires Senate confirmation. The president just can’t appoint someone to serve. It’s the same thing here, there’s a clear statutory succession.”

Laurence Tribe, a renowned constitutional scholar at Harvard Law School, agreed that the statute is clear.
The OLC, in the memo filed [over the weekend], to its credit, admits that the references to unavailability and absence encompass vacancy. They’re not trying to argue that the statute doesn’t cover this. They’re trying to have it both ways. They’re arguing that the president retains an option under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to override subsequent legislation. They’re trying to have half a loaf and make it a whole loaf. It’s an interesting position but it collapses on itself. It’s completely incoherent. Laws are not typically written that way.


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pushed back against the Mulvaney pick. “The process for succession laid out in Dodd Frank is clear: Leandra English, not Mick Mulvaney, is the acting director of the CFPB. By attempting to install Mr. Mulvaney as director, the Trump administration is ignoring the established, proper, legal order of succession that we purposefully put in place, in order to put a fox in charge of a hen house,” he said in a statement.

Our democracy is being attacked two ways.  First, our alliances and influence are being undermined through Trump’s unbound loyalty to Russia and the greed of those who are like Trump himself.  Like Trump, many are Trust Fund babies who would have never been successful without the largess of their fathers and grandfathers. Second, all social contracts which help Americans join and keep Middle Class Status are being dismantled while we sit like frogs in a pan of water set to boil.  They are going after everything in the chaos of right now and all at once. We’re pulled in many directions trying to protect everything.

In even more depressing news, the Koch Brothers–again Trust Babies for Stealing the Nation’s Wealth–have bought Time Magazine.  At a time when our free press is so under constant attack, this is really bad.

That Charles and David Koch are putting $650m into Meredith Corp’s purchase of Time would ordinarily be cause for great soul-searching in media. But these are not ordinary times.

Meredith’s Koch-backed deal with Time – which owns, in addition to Time magazine, titles including People, Fortune and Sports Illustrated – was sealed Sunday night. Meredith said in a statement announcing the deal that they are building “a premier media company serving nearly 200 million American consumers.”

Observers of Koch Industries, a longtime supporter of libertarian and conservative causes, especially generous with funding for climate denial through thinktanks and research groups, say more than business is at stake.

“It’s a very proper business decision – a cheap way to wield even more political influence,” said Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker writer and key figure in the environmental movement as founder of the group “The return on investment on their political work is off the charts, I fear.”

At first glance, the oil and gas giant’s reason for backing the bid by Meredith is not readily apparent. Sure, the Kochs have appeared on the Time 100 list – in 2011, 2014 and 2015 – and David Koch has lunched with the magazine’s former editor. But what kind of money-minded mogul would pivot to print in 2017 – and to Time, of all places?

“Time magazine doesn’t move the needle on anything any more,” said Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University. “It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Unless they want to influence the Fortune 500 rankings or something.”

As a spokesman put it to a media reporter recently, Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the US, virtually all of which is co-owned by the brothers, “has a longstanding policy of not commenting on deals” — and this latest infusion of cash to Meredith from their private equity arm, Koch Equity Development, is no exception to that rule. But at least some of what the brothers have poured money into over the years is a matter of public record.

The Kochs have, for instance, spent hundreds of millions on not-for-profit organizations, universities, advocacy groups and political campaigns. Though payback on donations is perceptible only through influence, in Time, they would also have an asset.

I’ll end with What Sarah Wrote.

The erosion of freedom of speech and assembly has always been a hallmark of dictatorship, one traditionally associated with formal decrees of censorship or dramatic acts like book burning. In Mr. Trump’s corporatized administration, overt state censorship is unnecessary and undesirable: Instead, technology can be manipulated while excessive litigation can force the media into self-censorship. The subtler gesture of removing the neutrality of the internet allows constitutional rights to remain intact on paper but demolished in practice.

The FCC’s proposed rollback of net neutrality arrives with two other measures that mark the beginning of a more abjectly fascist phase for the United States – a systemic transformation that will likely endure after Trump leaves office. Along with the loss of a free internet, we face the packing of the courts with conservative extremists who legal scholars worry will decimate constitutional rights. Many of these judicial appointments are for a lifetime, curbing civil liberties for generations to come.

Americans also face a serious threat to the integrity of elections, with gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID laws, a bogus “voter fraud” commission, insecure voting machines, and foreign interference that is not only unchallenged but is sometimes encouraged by Republicans all adding up to the likelihood that the 2018 midterm elections will not be free or fair. Voter suppression will likely be rampant, with non-white and immigrant Americans the primary targets of disenfranchisement.

And here we lie at the interconnected horror of the Trump administration’s autocratic manoeuvres. Consider this scenario for 2018: The repeal of net neutrality will stem the flow of information, making voter suppression harder to document. The packing of the courts will make the voter suppression that is documented harder to challenge. And the long-standing solution to purveyors of unpopular policies – vote them out – will be, by definition, impossible, since the election is rigged and the rigging uncontestable. This carefully constructed web of repression is how democracy dies.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Sunday Reads: GoFCCYourself!

I’ve done it, have you?

While on FB last night I came across the link below…it gives you a quick “how-to” on filing your support for Net Neutrality with the FCC:


If you believe in Net Neutrality, then go here and tell Ajit Pai and the FCC that “you support strong net neutrality by Title 2 oversight of ISPs”. (this is a URL created by John Oliver’s staff, because the new FCC request for public comment is designed to confuse you, so that you can’t give your comment).

When you get to this page, you must hit “Express” and then comment. Just cut & paste the comment above.

For further explanation, watch John Oliver:

If you cannot see the video, here is the direct link.

Here is a video about Net Neutrality, for the deaf:


Pass that information on…we have to stop these assholes.

The rest of today’s links are in dump format. My son is watching Fences, the film with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, for one of his classes in college. I sort of have gotten caught up in it and next thing I know, it is way late in the afternoon.


Seems fitting to follow that link with this little nugget:

Trump Now Claims Access Hollywood Tape Is Fake—Last Year He Apologized for It and Dismissed It as ‘Locker Room Talk’ | Alternet





STFU Susan – Balloon Juice

I honestly don’t know what got my blood pressure running higher, the aforementioned Nazi profile or this Susan Sarandon interview:

Still, I think while there was vast political error on both sides, the inability of Sarandon and her ilk to embrace the lesser of two evils permitted the greater of the two evils to rise. And yet I like Sarandon. It takes real courage to go against the mob. Her inconsistencies are a little wild, but in the age of social-media enforced conformity, I have never met anyone so uninterested in toeing the line.

Did she really say that Hillary was more dangerous than Trump?

“Not exactly, but I don’t mind that quote,” she says. “I did think she was very, very dangerous. We would still be fracking, we would be at war [if she was president]. It wouldn’t be much smoother. Look what happened under Obama that we didn’t notice.”

It’s been a year since the Trump election, and even having seen the daily parade of horrors brought on us by the malignant orange narcissist in the WH, this fucking dolt still is proud to think Clinton would have been worse.

Oh, and on that Nazi profile: The New York Times can go F*ck Itself With its “Cute and Cuddly Nazi” Profile – The Daily Banter

This is a textbook study in normalizing right wing extremism and the New York Times should be ashamed of itself for publishing such a sloppy wet kiss to American Nazis.

From Raw Story via Reuters: Rep. Conyers steps down from committee while lawmakers probe harassment claims

Congressman John Conyers is stepping down as ranking Democratic lawmaker of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, while lawmakers investigate allegations of sexual harassment against him, Conyers said in an emailed statement Sunday.

Conyers said that while he denies the claims, his continued presence during a congressional ethics review of the allegations was a distraction. “I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the Judiciary Committee,” Conyers said.

The House of Representatives Ethics Committee said last week it was investigating allegations of sexual harassment against the Democratic congressman from Michigan, who said his office had resolved a harassment case with a payment but no admission of guilt.

Finish this up with a few links on International News:

South Ossetia in three-way prisoner swap with Tbilisi | Georgia News | Al Jazeera

A Georgian man was on Sunday handed over to the Georgian government from breakaway region South Ossetia’s prison in a three-way deal that is expected to see Tbilisi release its prisoner from Abkhazia, Georgia’s second separatist region.

Giorgi Giunashvili, a resident of Georgia’s Disevi village in Gori region, was arrested in June last year for crossing the disputed border between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia demarcated illegally by Russia after the 2008 war.

“Giorgi Giunashvili’s release is an important and positive step in the peace process,” said the office of Georgia’s state minister for reconciliation and civic equality, according to the local news agency, IPN.

The prisoner was handed over to Tbilisi on the disputed border near the village of Ergneti, according to RES, the South Ossetian news agency.

The agency said Giunashvili was imprisoned “on the charge of taking part in an act of sabotage and terrorism”.

Let’s see what comes of this…

He was pardoned by South Ossetia’s de facto leader Anatoly Bibilov and handed over to Tbilisi through the representative of Abkhazia.

“The convict’s handover is the expression of respect to Abkhazia’s President Raul Khajimba, who asked Anatoly Bibilov to pardon Giorgi Giunashvili so that later he is exchanged for Abkhaz citizen, who is imprisoned in Georgia,” said Murat Jioev, the representative of South Ossetia’s de facto leader in the post-conflict regulation issues.

He expressed his hope that Georgia and the international community will see the act as a proof that South Ossetia and Abkhazia seek good neighbourly relations with Tbilisi.

Cuba holds municipal elections on road to Castro era’s end via Reuters

Cuba took another step on Sunday toward the end of the Castro era, with millions of residents placing paper ballots in cardboard boxes for ward delegates to municipal assemblies.

The vote comes the day after the first anniversary of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s death and precedes another election early next year for provincial and national assembly deputies.

The new national assembly, where 50 percent of the deputies must be ward delegates elected on Sunday, is expected on Feb. 24 to select a new president to replace Raul Castro, Fidel’s 86-year-old younger brother, who has said he will step down after serving two five-year terms.

The Castro brothers have headed the government since the 1959 revolution.

Raul Castro will remain head of the Communist Party until 2021, the only legal party in Cuba.

Nearly 27,000 candidates are running for 12,515 ward positions in Sunday’s election, the only part of the electoral process that is contested publicly and with direct participation by ordinary Cubans.

And this last news, from Spain: Spaniards face ham shortage as Chinese market gets taste for jamón ibérico | World news | The Guardian

Having discovered the joys of French wine, caviar and truffles, China’s new rich are turning to a new gourmet delicacy to satisfy their demand for luxury goods from the west: Spain’s jamón ibérico, or Iberian ham. But demand is now threatening to outstrip supply, leaving Spaniards facing steep price rises in their most prized Christmas delicacy.

The recent lifting of import restrictions has allowed top-of-the-range ham to find its “rightful place in the market, alongside caviar and truffles”, René Lemée, the head of exports for the famous Cinco Jotas brand, told El País newspaper.

The Chinese, pork lovers par excellence, have now been seduced by jamón ibérico. The problem is that the best ham takes years to produce and, as demand outstrips supply, it is pushing up the price by as much as 10%. A 7.5kg leg sells at between €150 and €600 (£135-£540).

Spanish ham comes in many forms, but to be defined as jamón ibérico de bellota(acorn-fed Iberian ham), which is what the Chinese want, it must first come from Iberian blackfoot pigs, or from 50% crossbreeds. These pigs must then spend several months of the year roaming the dehesa, a pasture planted with oaks, feeding on grass and acorns. During the last few months before being slaughtered they must live exclusively on this diet.

Not only are there relatively small areas of dehesa – mostly in north-west and western Spain – but each pig needs about two hectares (five acres) to fulfil its needs. Once slaughtered, the animals’ legs are plunged into vats of salt and hung and dry-cured over a range of temperatures for a minimum of 36 months, with the best hams cured for about 48 months.

“It’s inevitable that the price in Spain is going to rise,” said Roberto Batres, the director of Shanghai de Delaiberia Gold, which exports ham, wine and olive oil to China. “The companies licenced to trade in China don’t have enough jamón de bellota to meet Chinese demand.”

Have a good evening, I’m going back to watch this movie.

This is an open thread.