Sunday Reads: New Year 2018

Hell yes, it is time for another fucking year to roll around. So let us start the party early with this kickass artwork by surreal artist Surazica.

There is something about that poodle’s attitude that grabbed my attention.

You can scroll through some close-ups here:

Dear friends, I wish everyone a happy new year! #happynewyear #newyear #marrychristmas #dog #collage #art #newyeardog #surrealism #surrealart #graphics #winter #lovedogs

A post shared by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀S U R A Z I C A (@surazica_art) on

I don’t know what 2018 will bring, but I do feel we will have to be vigilant and aware…because it seems like a turning point is coming.

I think we all have a sense of it…

Now a few links to start you going:

Have a safe evening tonight…please take care of yourself and be aware of your surroundings.

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Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump Is Getting Boring. That Makes Him Even More Dangerous.

Good Morning!!

Maybe it just the holiday blues, but I’m bored with Trump. I’m bored with with the advance of authoritarianism and outright fascism in the United States of America. It’s ugly as all get out and I’m sick and tired of it. After one year of this shit, I just want to resign from the human race. I guess that’s how it happens. The fascists wear you down until you just want to escape into books or music or art or anything that isn’t about Trump. Is this something like what Hanna Arendt meant by “the banality of evil?”

Of course I know I can’t escape Trumpism. I will continue to wake up every day fearful of what he might have done overnight, of what idiotic tweets he may have already sent out, of what evil deeds he may be plotting. I can’t let myself sink into despair.

Michael Gruenwald writes about Trump’s first year at Politico: Donald Trump Is a Consequential President. Just Not in the Ways You Think.

On January 20, 2017, as President Donald Trump began his inaugural address, a cold rain began to fall.

A few hours later, Trump claimed the rain had not begun to fall.

“The crowd was unbelievable today,” Trump crowed to revelers at the Liberty Inaugural Ball. “I looked at the rain, which just never came. You know, we finished the speech, went inside, and it poured!”

It wasn’t a consequential falsehood. And neither was Trump’s claim that his inaugural crowd was the largest ever, a whopper he sent his press secretary out to defend the next day in the face of overwhelming photographic evidence. Neither the meteorological conditions at his swearing-in nor the size of the audience that witnessed his swearing-in altered the remarkable fact that he had just been sworn in as the president of the United States. So why would the holder of the most powerful office on Earth insist on juicing his narrative with petty embellishments, especially when his propaganda could be so easily and objectively disproved?

In retrospect, it’s obvious that Trump was starting to construct an alternative reality for his supporters, establishing himself (rather than the “enemies of the people” in the “FAKE NEWS” media) as the only reliable source of truth. Really, it was pretty obvious at the time. Trump aide Kellyanne Conway was already spinning that the administration was helpfully supplying the media with “alternative facts.”

I wrote back in the Week One edition of the Did-It-Matter-Meter that the crowd-size episode “laid down a marker about the irrelevance of facts to this White House,” and “staked out new territory in Orwellian up-is-down-ism, forcing Americans to choose whether to believe Trump or their lying eyes.” A year later, Trump is still spinning an alternative reality in which he’s achieved more than any other first-year president, he doesn’t watch much TV, the Russia investigation is nothing but a partisan witch hunt, the successive defeats of both candidates he endorsed in a Senate race in Alabama actually demonstrated his immense popularity, the coal industry is coming back, Americans are finally free to say “Merry Christmas” without fear of persecution, and legislation that would slash taxes for the rich in general and real estate developers in particular would somehow hurt his bottom line. No matter how often the fact-checkers fact-check him, he sticks with his alternative facts.

And so it has continued. Is Trump doing this to our country as part of a deliberate plan or is it just who he is? I can’t help wondering when I hear and read his garbled words in interviews like the one with the New York Times a couple of days ago. I think he’s just behaving according to his fascist instincts, but maybe it doesn’t matter; because there are people around him who seem to be just as ignorant and just as evil, and for now they are making progress. Check out this video of a Republican lawmaker, Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina.

Where do the Republicans find these people and what kinds of people vote for them?

Back to the Politico article:

The most consequential aspect of President Trump—like the most consequential aspect of Candidate Trump—has been his relentless shattering of norms: norms of honesty, decency, diversity, strategy, diplomacy and democracy, norms of what presidents are supposed to say and do when the world is and isn’t watching. As I keep arguing in these periodic Trump reviews, it’s a mistake to describe his all-caps rage-tweeting or his endorsement of an accused child molester or his threats to wipe out “Little Rocket Man” as unpresidential, because he’s the president. He’s by definition presidential. The norms he’s shattered are by definition no longer norms. His erratic behavior isn’t normal, but it’s inevitably becoming normalized, a predictably unpredictable feature of our political landscape. It’s how we live now, checking our phones in the morning to get a read on the president’s mood. The American economy is still strong, and he hasn’t started any new wars, so pundits have focused a lot of their hand-wringing on the effect his norm-shattering will have on future leaders, who will be able to cite the Trump precedent if they want to hide their tax returns or use their office to promote their businesses or fire FBI directors who investigate them. But Trump still has three years left in his term. And the norms he’s shattered can’t constrain his behavior now that he’s shattered them.

If the big story of the Trump era is Trump and his unconventional approach to the presidency, two related substories will determine how the big story ends. The first is the intense personal and institutional pushback to Trump—from the otherwise fractious Democratic Party; the independent media; independent judges; special counsel Robert Mueller; advocates for immigrants, voting rights, the poor, the disabled, the environment and other #Resistance causes; and ordinary citizens, who have made Trump the least popular first-year president in the modern era.

The second substory is the sometimes grudging but consistent support—the critics call it complicity—that Trump has enjoyed from the Republicans who control Congress. The uneasy marriage of convenience between Trump and the congressional GOP explains his two big legislative victories, the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and last month’s $1.5 trillion tax cut. It also explains Capitol Hill’s see-no-evil approach to investigating activities that would have triggered endless outrage and probable impeachment hearings in a Hillary Clinton administration.

I hope you’ll go read the rest.

Dakinikat covered the NYT interview thoroughly yesterday, but I want to share a couple of reactions that came out yesterday.

John Harwood at CNBC: Trump displays delusions in his New York Times interview.

President Donald Trump says so many things that are untrue as to complicate attempts at explaining them. Did he know better? Was he uninformed? Should he be taken literally?

What made the president’s year-end New York Times interview notable was repetition of a particular brand of untruth. Even as his administration struggles with historic unpopularity and extraordinary dysfunction, Trump ascribes to himself qualities that surpass all predecessors – even reigning Republican icon Ronald Reagan.

Call them “delusions of omnipotence.”

Over and over during the 30-minute session, Trump cast his performance in terms so grandiose and extreme as to be self-evidently false. Taken together, his comments signaled an inability to grasp conditions in the country, the limitations of his own capacities and the nature of the office he holds.

Harwood gives a number of specific examples. Here are the first three:

– He attributed his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton to skill in overcoming the pro-Democratic tilt of the Electoral College. There is no such tilt. The electoral college system provides a path to victory for the party losing the popular vote. Republicans lost six of the last seven popular votes in presidential contests, but they won the Electoral College in two of those six instances.

– He insisted his Democratic adversaries on Capitol Hill have absolved him of “collusion” with Russia on election interference. They have not. They have said they haven’t yet seen conclusive evidence from Congressional and Justice Department investigations that remain ongoing.

– He declared, “I have absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department.” He does not. He holds executive branch authority over the Justice Department, but under America’s constitutional system, executive power is not absolute and no one is above the law.

Click on the CNBC link to read more.

Ezra Klein: Incoherent, authoritarian, uninformed: Trump’s New York Times interview is a scary read.

The president of the United States is not well. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, but it is an even worse thing to ignore.

Consider the interview Trump gave to the New York Times on Thursday. It begins with a string of falsehoods that make it difficult to tell whether the leader of the free world is lying or delusional. Remember, these are President Donald Trump’s words, after being told a recording device is on:

Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.

It almost goes without saying that literally zero congressional Democrats have said that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Zero….

Nor is Trump’s base strengthening, or even holding steady. In a detailed analysis of Trump’s poll numbers, FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten concluded that the president is losing the most ground in the reddest states:

In states where Trump won by at least 10 points, his net approval rating is down 18 percentage points, on average, compared to his margin last November. In states that were decided by 10 points or less in November, it’s down only 13 points. And it’s down 8 points in states Clinton carried by at least 10 points.

The fact that Trump has lost the greatest number of supporters in red states is perhaps the clearest indication yet that he is losing ground among some form of his base, if you think of his base as those who voted for him in November.

CNN took a different angle on the same question and also found slippage among Trump’s base. It looked at the change in Trump’s approval ratings from February to November among the demographic groups that formed the core of Trump’s electoral coalition — in every group, there’d been substantial declines. Trump’s numbers have fallen by 8 points among Republicans, by 9 points among voters over 50, by 10 points among whites with no college, by 17 points among white evangelicals. “It has become increasingly clear that even his base is not immune to the downward pressure,” CNN concluded.

Head over to Vox to read the rest.

NOTE: The cartoons in this post are by Ann Telnaes of The Washington Post.

It appears that we have a “president” who is both evil and cognitively dysfunctional. For now, it’s up to the Republicans in Congress to hold him in check and they’re not doing it. There’s a good chance the Democrats will be able to take over Congress in 2018, but can we last another year with Trump in charge? I hope we get through it, that’s all I can say.

What stories are you following?


Friday Reads: My Country has Dysfunctional Family Dynamics and one mean drunk Father in Charge

Just when you think it’s safe to turn the TV on …

Thursday night went out with another Dumpfster Fire Interview that is sure to cause us all to crawl back into our safe space.  Kremlin Caligula gave an unsupervised interview to the NYT  and it’s a doozy.  I don’t know if any of you ever grew up in a family with one parent who was almost always angry, given to spontaneous fits of temper, and generally could say something to make you feel smaller than a grain of salt but this is the only way I can describe our country’s relationship with its current placeholder in the White House.  He’s the mean drunk, angry father. We’re the family that knows the outbursts are at least daily events and they get worse. We have no idea how to make it go away we just hope some nice law enforcement official puts him away eventually before he kills some one.

Of course, the interview contained lie upon lie upon lie.  The Toronto Star counted 25 of them. That’s 1 false claim per half hour.  He’s still obsessed with the election and he is scared as shit about the Mueller investigation.

The Star is keeping track of every false claim Trump makes as president. As of Dec. 22, Trump had already made 978 false claims; adding the Times interview, the tally will pass the 1,000 mark in the next update.

Here’s every false claim Trump made in the interview:

1) “But I think it’s all worked out because frankly there is absolutely no collusion, that’s been proven by every Democrat is saying it … Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion.”

Democratic members of Congress have not said en masse that they are convinced that there was no collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Some have acknowledged that they have not seen evidence of collusion, but they have pointed out that the investigation is ongoing.

2) “And you’re talking about what Paul (Manafort) was many years ago before I ever heard of him. He worked for me for — what was it, three and a half months? … Three and a half months.” 

Manafort worked for the Trump campaign for just under five months, from March 28, 2016 to his resignation on August 19, 2016.

3) “I saw (Democratic Sen.) Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion.” 

Trump appeared to be referring, as he has in the past, to a November CNN interview with Feinstein — in which she did not declare that there is no collusion. Feinstein was specifically asked if she had seen evidence that the Trump campaign was given Democratic emails hacked by Russia. “Not so far,” she responded. She was not asked about collusion more broadly, and her specific answer made clear that she was referring only to evidence she has personally seen to date, not issuing a sweeping final judgment.

4) “She’s (Feinstein) the head of the committee.” 

Feinstein, a Democrat, is not the head of any committee: Republicans control Congress and thus lead the committees. She is the ranking member — the top Democrat — on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

5) “So, I actually think that it’s turning out — I actually think it’s turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion … starting with the dossier.” 

The word “collusion” — in common language, a “secret agreement or co-operation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose” — simply does not apply to the dossier produced by a former British spy about alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Trump’s administration, seeking to turn the “collusion” allegation around on its opponents, has argued that the dossier, which was funded in part by the Clinton campaign, amounts to the “Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence.” This is absurd on its face. Russian intelligence favoured Trump and tried to damage Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies say; the British ex-spy was simply using Russian sources — who have not been identified — to attempt to figure out how Trump’s campaign was linked to the Russian government. Such research is not illegal or deceitful, and it does not come close to qualifying as the type of possible “collusion” investigators are probing with regard to the Trump campaign: coordination with the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the election.

6) “ … it’s very hard for a Republican to win the Electoral College. O.K.? You start off with New York, California and Illinois against you. That means you have to run the East Coast, which I did, and everything else. Which I did and then won Wisconsin and Michigan. (Inaudible.) So the Democrats. … (Inaudible.) … They thought there was no way for a Republican, not me, a Republican, to win the Electoral College … The Electoral College is so much better suited to the Democrats (inaudible).” 

This claim that the Electoral College is tilted in favour of Democrats — and that “they” think it is impossible for a Republican to win the election in 2016 —- is obvious nonsense. Six of the last nine presidents, all of whom except for Gerald Ford had to win an Electoral College election, have been Republicans.

7) “They made the Russian story up as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election that in theory Democrats should always win with the Electoral College.” 

Democrats, of course, did not invent the “Russian story” for electoral purposes, nor is it a “hoax.” U.S. intelligence agencies say that the Russian government interfered in the election for the purpose of helping Trump win; that Russian interference was the original story, and Democrats were talking about it well before Election Day. Perhaps Trump is correct that there was no illegal collusion between his campaign and the Russians, but this matter is being investigated by a special prosecutor appointed by his own deputy attorney general, not “Democrats,” and many senior Republicans believe the investigation has merit.

8) “They (Democrats) thought it would be a one-day story, an excuse, and it just kept going and going and going.” 

This is simple nonsense. Democrats did not think that the question of Russian interference in the election on behalf of Trump, or the question of the Trump campaign’s relationship with those efforts, would be a “one-day story.”

Of course, that list goes on so go read it!

Axios presents evidence that Trump will be unchained in 2018. Heaven help all of us with PSTD!

If you ask some close to President Trump what worries them most about 2018, it’s not Robert Mueller’s probe. It’s that establishment guardrails of 2017 come down — and Trump’s actual instincts take over.

Next year will bring “full Trump,” said one person who recently talked to the president.
Trump has governed mostly as a conventional conservative — on tax cuts, his Supreme Court pick, and rolling back regulations. Most of his top advisers are fairly conventional conservatives, so that makes sense.

  • Most of those in his current decision-making circle — even if they’re not mainstream Republicans — are defending mainstream Republican principles like free trade and an internationalist view of foreign policy.
  • But top officials paint a different portrait of Trump when it comes to what he really wants on trade, immigration and North Korea — but has been tamped down by skeptical staff and Cabinet officials.

In private meetings:

  • Trump keeps asking for tariffs — on steel and aluminum, in particular. He wants a trade war, and has for many years. His economic and diplomatic advisers persuaded him to delay trade actions in 2017.
  • Those advisers recognize that the day of reckoning will come in 2018, regardless of whether economic adviser Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who advocated restraint — stay or go.
  • Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin successfully persuaded Trump not to do anything rash while tax reform was being negotiated.
  • Trump also saw the advantage of trying to use that as leverage with China to get help on North Korea. He said yesterday in an interview with the N.Y Times: “China’s hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war. O.K.?”
  • And he tweeted yesterday, in response to Chinese ships secretly delivering oil to North Korea: “Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!”
  • NEW: Look for Trump to take action on trade in the next month. It probably won’t be next week, so as not to disrupt the afterglow of the tax cut. But nothing is final.
  • Trump still wants his wall, and tighter restrictions on legal immigration. He’s a true believer on this stuff, and knows intuitively that it keeps his base stoked.
  • Trump seems most interested in discussing military options on North Korea in these meetings. He is surrounded by advisers who share his concern about the rogue state, but not his fixation on a military strike.
    • And some top officials have told us Trump’s belligerent rhetoric on the subject makes them nervous.
    • There is a reason the harshest assessments of Trump usually leak after North Korea meetings.

This interview basically let Trump be Trump.  He just wandered all over the place but always returned to the idea that Russia is a Democratic plot against his win but even if it did exist it’s no big deal and definitely not a crime.  I’ve seen toddlers with a better grasp of a logical argument.

President Trump in a new interview denied any collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, adding “even if there was, it’s not a crime.”

Speaking to The New York Times Thursday, Trump praised lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who has argued that Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey was not obstruction of justice because Trump has the right to fire the head of the bureau.

“I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion,” Trump told the newspaper. “And he said that very strongly. He said there was no collusion. And he has studied this thing very closely. I’ve seen him a number of times.”

“There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime,” he continued. “But there’s no collusion.”

Trump also blasted special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, saying it “makes the country look very bad.”

“It puts the country in a very bad position,” Trump said. “So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.”

More like the sooner he’s out of office, the better it is for the country.  Charles Pierce says it all “Trump’s New York Times Interview Is a Portrait of a Man in Cognitive Decline.”

On Thursday, El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago sat down with Michael Schmidt of The New York Times for what apparently was an open-ended, one-on-one interview. Since then, the electric Twitter machine–and most of the rest of the Intertoobz–has been alive with criticism of Schmidt for having not pushed back sufficiently against some of the more obvious barefaced non-facts presented by the president* in their chat. Some critics have been unkind enough to point out that Schmidt was the conveyor belt for some of the worst attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton emanating from both the New York FBI office and the various congressional committees staffed by people in kangaroo suits. For example, Schmidt’s name was on a shabby story the Times ran on July 23, 2015 in which it was alleged that a criminal investigation into HRC’s famous use of a private email server was being discussed within the Department of Justice. It wasn’t, and the Times’ public editor at the time, the great Margaret Sullivan, later torched the story in a brutal column.

Other people were unkind enough to point out that the interview was brokered by one Christopher Ruddy, a Trump intimate and the CEO of NewsMax, and that Ruddy made his bones as a political “journalist” by peddling the fiction that Clinton White House counsel Vince Foster had been murdered, one of the more distasteful slanders that got a shameful public airing during the Clinton frenzy of the 1990’s. Neither of those will concern us here. What Schmidt actually got out of this interview is a far more serious problem for the country. In my view, the interview is a clinical study of a man in severe cognitive decline, if not the early stages of outright dementia.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen my father and all of his siblings slide into the shadows and fog of Alzheimer’s Disease. (the president’s father developed Alzheimer’s in his 80s.) In 1984, Ronald Reagan debated Walter Mondale in Louisville and plainly had no idea where he was. (Would that someone on the panel had asked him. He’d have been stumped.) Not long afterwards, I was interviewing a prominent Alzheimer’s researcher for a book I was doing, and he said, “I saw the look on his face that I see every day in my clinic.” In the transcript of this interview, I hear in the president*’s words my late aunt’s story about how we all walked home from church in the snow one Christmas morning, an event I don’t recall, but that she remembered so vividly that she told the story every time I saw her for the last three years of her life.

In this interview, the president* is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier. To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president*’s well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart. (My father used to give a thumbs up when someone asked him a question. That was one of the strategies he used to make sense of a world that was becoming quite foreign to him.) My guess? That’s part of the reason why it’s always “the failing New York Times,” and his 2016 opponent is “Crooked Hillary.”

In addition, the president* exhibits the kind of stubbornness you see in patients when you try to relieve them of their car keys–or, as one social worker in rural North Carolina told me, their shotguns. For example, a discussion on health-care goes completely off the rails when the president* suddenly recalls that there is a widely held opinion that he knows very little about the issues confronting the nation. So we get this.

He’s obviously obsessed with Mueller too  and of course, with Hillary, always with Hillary. Aaron Blake of WAPO focuses on some of his more bizarre thoughts on the Justice Department and the Mueller Investigation.

 

1. On special counsel Robert S. Mueller III: “It doesn’t bother me, because I hope that he’s going to be fair. I think that he’s going to be fair. … There’s been no collusion. But I think he’s going to be fair.”

This might have been the newsiest bit from the interview. Trump seemingly contradicts many of his supporters by saying he thinks Mueller will be fair. Conservative media and Republicans in Congress have spent much of the past few weeks attacking the credibility of the Mueller investigation. Trump hasn’t really joined in that effort publicly, but he has attacked the FBI and the Justice Department.

2. “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.”

And here’s the other side of the coin. In this quote, Trump seems to buy into what those same supporters have been arguing about his authority to control the Justice Department. This is a rather remarkable assertion of power, even as it’s not terribly surprising from a president who clearly has some authoritarian tendencies. It seems Trump is suggesting he can do things like fire Mueller if he wants to, even as he says he thinks Mueller is being fair and as the White House denies that is even being considered.

3. “I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that — I will say this: [Eric] Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the IRS scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had — not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems — when you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest, I have great respect for that.”

Trump begins this quote by saying, “I don’t want to get into loyalty,” but then he goes on to unmistakably suggest that Attorney General Jeff Sessions hasn’t been loyal enough to him — or at least that he hasn’t been as loyal as then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was to President Barack Obama. Add this to the list of quotes showing just how upset Trump remains with Sessions.

Kremlin Caligula has a most unAmerican viewpoint of these things that it’s almost difficult to believe he was ever schooled on American soil. Where does one get such blatantly unConstitutional notions? Oh, and that’s 3 of 11.

I have to agree though, the idea that he still thinks he’s running a nationally syndicated TV show in lieu of a nation is the most curious of all the quotes.  This is a man that simply is delusional and dangerous.  This is number 4.

4. On 2020: “Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there. Because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, the New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’”

I’ve long thought Trump believed this, but it’s remarkable to hear him say it out loud. It’s almost like he’s making a case to the media for why it should help him win reelection in 2020 and/or not be too tough on him. And it’s not the first time that he’s said something that seems to misunderstand the media’s role in American governance. Reports have long suggested Trump thought his media coverage would improve once he was elected president.

There’s seven more of these too go so check them out.  It’s just really a fall down a rabbit hole.  Is he the Mad Hatter or the March Hare? As always, Twitter rules the response to the Demon God of Twitter.

Thursday evening brought a surprise New York Times interview with President Donald TrumpTimes reporter Michael Schmidt was able to speak to the president at Trump’s golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida. In an impromptu, free-wheeling, 30-minute conversation following Trump’s latest round of golf, the president insisted numerous times that there was no collusion with Russia while also maintaining that he feels Special Counsel Robert Mueller can be fair to him.

With the Timesposting excerpts from the transcript of the interview, Media Twitter had a field day posting their favorite bits from the president rambling off-the-cuff. Let’s face it — there are fewer things reporters and journalists love more than unchained Trump.

 

 

So, I really don’t want any one to lose their lunch and appetite for life because we obviously have a severely disturbed president in charge of our nuclear arsenal. But it is what it is, and he is what he is, and this is a blog that’s always been focused on policy and politics.

We are indeed a family that needs to uplift each other before this man destroys the lot of us and drives away all of our friends.  I suppose it has to be reiterated that Republicans are enabling all of this to oversee the looting of the USA by the donors. I also wonder what kind of kompromat that the Russians have on them through their hacking of the RNC and likely, other places.  I certainly think that the RNC must be worried.  I definitely think both Sessions and Graham must have dossiers filled with stuff and now I’m thinking Orin Hatch must be more of a wascally wabbit than any of us every supposed.

Try to stick to local happiness while we can.  I’m even finding that to be difficult given that the same enterprising rapers after our National Parks and Treasury have been at it with my neighborhood.  My property takes just went from an annual bill of about $750 to over $2000. I have no doubt that I have Air BnB to thank for that.  Pretty sure those idiots that still live here and are now renting rooms have had a similar experience.  There’s just something about the sound of stupid ass white people slitting their own throats that just endlessly appalls.

So, I’ll see you on New Year’s Day.  Let’s lift our prayers to all the Wisdom Energy in the Multiverse so that it sweeps over this nation like a Renaissance of Rational Thought. Resist!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

 

Good Morning!!

It was 3 degrees in my town when I woke up, and the high today will be 10 degrees with a wind chill up to 27 below 0. The previous record for the Boston area was 18 degrees in 1924. I’m not budging outside until the temperature gets up to at least 20 degrees.

In the news, the ugly old dotard is golfing again, so I thought we might have some peace for a few hours, but he found time to send out an idiotic tweet.

The moron doesn’t know that the new editor of Vanity Fair is Radhika Jones. Anna Wintour is the editor of Vogue. Daughter Ivanka probably knows that, but the moron was on the golf course and couldn’t ask her.

Meanwhile Vanity Fair is still dealing with the aftermath of their millennial editors’ insulting advice to Hillary Clinton, who was just voted the most admired woman for the 16th year in a row.

So many young “journalists” can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that Hillary got nearly 3 million more votes than the dotard or that she has stated clearly that she is not going to run for political office again.

Up in Minnesota, where it’s much colder than it is here, people don’t want Al Franken to resign.

Public Policy Polling: Minnesotans Don’t Think Franken Should Resign; Franken Remains Popular, Especially With Women.

-50% of voters think he should not resign, to only 42% who think he should go through with his planned resignation. There is little appetite from Democratic voters at the state level for Franken to go, with 71% opposing his departure. A majority of independents- 52%- as well think he should not resign, with just 41% favoring his exit.

-Franken remains well above average in popularity for a Senator, with 53% of voters approving of the job he’s doing to 42% who disapprove. PPP rarely finds Senators with majority approval in their home states. Franken’s continued popularity is being driven especially by women. 57% of them like the job he’s doing to 37% who don’t. By contrast Donald Trump stands at 40/58 with women in the state.

-Minnesotans don’t like how the process with Franken’s resignation has played out. 60% think the Senate Ethics Committee should have completed its investigation (including 79% of Democrats and 61% of independents) before any decision was made about Franken’s future, while only 35% think he should resign immediately. Beyond that 76% of Minnesota voters think their voices should have been more important in determining whether Franken stayed in the Senate or not, to only 12% who think that should have been determined more by his fellow Senators in Washington.

I said awhile back that I thought the rush equate the past inappropriate behavior of men like Franken would lead to a backlash against women that will hurt the cause of fighting sexual harassment and sexual assault. I still believe that. I want to share two articles on the subject that I read yesterday. I don’t agree with everything in them, but I think they are making important points.

Feminist psychologist Carol Tavris writes at The Skeptic: I, Too, Am Thinking About Me, Too.

Our whole country is living in a constant state of hyper-dissonance: “my political candidate/my most admired actor/a brilliant artist/my dear friend has been accused of sexual abuses and misconduct; how do I cope with this information? Do I support him/see his movies/enjoy his art/keep the friendship or must I repudiate him entirely?” Living with dissonance and complexity is not easy, but surely skeptics, of all people, must try. We hear a story that outrages us and, just like true believers and justice warriors of any kind, we’re off and running, and once we are off and running we don’t want to hear quibbles, caveats, doubts, complexities. Thus, when the Guardian (Dec. 17, 2017) reported Matt Damon’s remarks that there was “a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation. Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated,” Minnie Driver blasted him: it’s not for men to make distinctions; “there is no hierarchy of abuse”; men should just shut up for once. “If good men like Matt Damon are thinking like that then we’re in a lot of fucking trouble,” she said. “We need good intelligent men to say this is all bad across the board, condemn it all and start again.”

No hierarchy of abuse? Really? That is one of the universal symptoms of revolutionary zealotry: go for broke, ignore gradations of villainy, who cares if some innocents are thrown over the side, we are furious and we want everything at once. No wonder those of us in the boring older generation, who have lived through cycles of anger and protest, are so annoying. “Wait!” we keep saying. “Be careful! Remember the stupidity of ‘zero tolerance’ programs in schools, where a kid who brings a pocket knife for show-and- tell, or a 6-year-old boy who kisses a 6-year-old girl, got expelled?” We have also learned that while there is a time and place for revolutionary zealotry, the hardest challenge comes next, because change will not be accomplished without allies.

While many celebrate the courage of the accusers who are coming forth to tell their stories, let’s keep in mind that in today’s climate it also requires courage to raise dissonance-producing dissent.

Tavris refers to a piece by Claire Berlinski at The National Interest: The Warlock Hunt. Berlinski argues that “The #MeToo moment has now morphed into a moral panic that poses as much danger to women as it does to men.” I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

Among us, it seems, lives a class of men who call to mind Caligula and Elagabalus not only in their depravity, but in their grotesque sense of impunity. Our debauched emperors, whether enthroned in Hollywood, media front offices, or the halls of Congress, truly imagined their victims had no choice but to shut up, take it, and stay silent forever. Many of these men are so physically disgusting, too—the thought of them forcing themselves on young women fills me with heaving disgust. Enough already. Check out the latest news about satellite media tour here.

All true; yet something is troubling me. Recently I saw a friend—a man—pilloried on Facebook for asking if #metoo is going too far. “No,” said his female interlocutors. “Women have endured far too many years of harassment, humiliation, and injustice. We’ll tell you when it’s gone too far.” But I’m part of that “we,” and I say it is going too far. Mass hysteria has set in. It has become a classic moral panic, one that is ultimately as dangerous to women as to men.

If you are reading this, it means I have found an outlet that has not just fired an editor for sexual harassment. This article circulated from publication to publication, like old-fashioned samizdat, and was rejected repeatedly with a sotto voce, “Don’t tell anyone. I agree with you. But no.” Friends have urged me not to publish it under my own name, vividly describing the mob that will tear me from limb to limb and leave the dingoes to pick over my flesh. It says something, doesn’t it, that I’ve been more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin?

But speak I must. It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

Again, I want to emphasize that I disagree with some of Berlinski’s arguments; nevertheless, her article is worth reading. As I said before, I’m afraid the “Me Too” movement is going to end up backfiring on women.

In political news, Roy Moore refuses to go away. David Wiegel reports: Roy Moore asks Alabama court for a new Senate election.

Roy Moore, the Republican nominee who lost Alabama’s closely watched Senate race this month, has filed a last-minute legal complaint alleging “election fraud” and asking the state not to confirm the victory of Democrat Doug Jones.

In the complaint filed in state court, Moore’s campaign argues that Alabama “will suffer irreparable harm if the election results are certified without preserving and investigating all the evidence of potential fraud.” It cites rumors of election fraud that have already been investigated and refuted by the Alabama secretary of state, argues that high Democratic turnout in key areas was statistically unlikely, and reports that Moore himself has taken a polygraph test — an attempt to disprove allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances on teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Moore’s lawyers filed the complaint at 10:33 p.m. Wednesday night and announced it to reporters less than two hours later. At 1 p.m. Thursday, Alabama’s election officials — all Republicans — are scheduled to certify the election. Early Thursday morning, they gave no indication that they would delay that process. In Washington, leaders of both parties expect Jones to take his oath of office when the Senate returns next month.

This is the man the dotard insisted on supporting in the Alabama special Senate election.

Last night, we learned that Trump and his gang plan to paint Michael Flynn as a liar if he testifies that Trump or his gang “engaged in wrongdoing.”  A liar calling another liar a liar doesn’t sound like a very convincing defense. Plus the dotard swore again and again that Flynn was a fine man who was treated unfairly.

New York Magazine: If Flynn Is Just a Liar, Why Did Trump Keep Defending Him?

As we’ve seen with Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos, Trump’s default position is to downplay his relationship with any former associates who happen to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. However, it’s harder to distance yourself from a former top White House official who memorably led a “lock her up” chant on the first night of your nominating convention.

The leniency of Flynn’s plea agreement suggests that he’s promised Mueller’s team valuable information, so Trump’s team has come up with another strategy. The Washington Postreports: “President Trump’s legal team plans to cast former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn as a liar seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of any wrongdoing, according to three people familiar with the strategy.” As one person working on the plan put it, “He’s said it himself: He’s a liar.”

Who are you going to believe, an admitted liar or the president of the United States? sounds like a logical defense until you plug in what we know about this particular president, and his relationship with the liar in question. Aside from the hypocrisy of Trump attacking anyone for misstating the truth, the plan revives questions about why the president went out of his way to defend Flynn, even after he fired him for lying.

In the days after Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation, he said he had to go because he misled Vice-President Mike Pence about his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition. However, Trump argued that by making those calls Flynn was just “doing his job,” and stressed that he still considered him a man of fine character.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. I know there’s lots more news, but I’m ignoring it for the moment. What stories are you following?

 


Wednesday Reads: Go away, almost everybody hates you…

 

The pick slip…

If only, right?

So did you hear the latest?

The White House to cut back magnolia tree planted by Andrew Jackson – The Washington Post

The enormous magnolia tree stood watch by the South Portico of the White House for nearly two centuries. Its dark green, glossy leaves shaded politicians and heads of state. Its ivory flowers bloomed through times of peace and war. It is the oldest tree on the White House grounds, a witness to Easter egg rolls and state ceremonies, a resignation, a plane crash, all the tumult and triumph of 39 presidencies.

But the iconic magnolia is now too old and badly damaged to remain in place, the White House announced Tuesday. At the recommendation of specialists from the National Arboretum, first lady Melania Trump called for a large portion of the tree to be removed this week.

So, this decision…they dropped in her lap. Considering she has higher ratings than that rodent haired fuck…what else would you expect?

The decision, first reported by CNN, comes after decades of attempts to hold the aged tree up with a steel pole and cables. Arboretum experts said that rigging is now compromised and that the wood of the magnolia’s trunk is too delicate for further interventions. Any other tree in that condition would have been cut down years ago.

But this is not any other tree. According to White House lore, the stately evergreen was brought to Washington as a seedling by Andrew Jackson. The magnolia was a favorite tree of his wife, Rachel, who had died just days after he was elected. Jackson blamed the vicious campaign — during which his political opponents questioned the legitimacy of his marriage — for his wife’s untimely death.

The new planting, which came from the couple’s Tennessee farm, the Hermitage, would serve as a living monument to her in the place she despised; before her death, Rachel had reportedly said, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than live in that palace at Washington.”

Long after Jackson left office, his magnolia remained. Other trees were planted to supplement it, and the tree became a fixture in White House events. Herbert Hoover reportedly took breakfast and held Cabinet meetings at a table beneath its sprawling branches. Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke with Winston Churchill in its shade. Richard Nixon strode past it as he left the White House for the last time after his resignation. In 1994, a Maryland man piloting a stolen plane clipped the tree before suffering a deadly crash against the White House wall. And for decades, the magnolia was featured on the back of the $20 bill.

“No tree on the White House grounds can reveal so many secrets of romance and history,” longtime White House butler Alonzo Fields once told the Associated Press.

So with this last presidency, the tRump presidency that has ushered in the end of democracy…we see it also bringing an end to the (cough, cough) Andrew Jackson Magnolia. A tree planted by a president who caused so much pain and heartbreak to so many people….and who, as president, would be one of the main sources of antagonization for the American Civil War.

You can find more history of the tree here:

Exclusive: Iconic White House tree to be cut down – CNNPolitics

History of the Jackson Magnolia

After a brutal presidential campaign in 1828, Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel, died just days after his election; according to historians, Jackson believed the particularly divisive campaign contributed to his wife’s untimely demise. When he took up residence in the White House as a widower following his inauguration, it is believed Jackson insisted on planting a sprout from Rachel’s favorite magnolia tree from the couple’s farm, Hermitage, in Tennessee.
That tree eventually grew into the sprawling magnolia the American public has come to know and recognize to this day. (A companion magnolia was planted on the opposite side of the South Portico years later for symmetry.)
The White House South Lawn, 1878.
That picture is from 1878.
Some highlights from the tree’s lifetime:
  • From 1928 to 1998, the tree was featured prominently on the back of the $20 bill.
  • In 1994, a single-engine plane crashed onto the South Lawn of the White House, sending debris from the wreckage into the Jackson Magnolia, cutting off one of its larger branches.
  • Laura Bush commissioned a set of White House china inspired by the tree, called “The Magnolia Residence China,” painted with magnolia leaves and blossoms.
  • Michelle Obama in 2009 took a seedling from the magnolia to the United States Department of Agriculture so that it could grow at the USDA’s community garden.
  • In 2016, Obama also clipped a seedling as a gift to the people of Cuba; it was planted during the Obamas’ visit there. Various other dignitaries and first ladies have gifted or replanted seedlings from the tree throughout history.

There is more pictures and some scientific info at that CNN link if you care to go and take a look.

Supposedly, a new clone tree of the Jackson Magnolia that has been growing for the last ten years or so, and is now 8-10 feet tall…will be planted in the originals place. As CNN notes this is so that, “for history to live on.”

I don’t know why…democracy is over in America but the fucking Andrew Jackson Magnolia will live on…just like the U.N.? And I am pronouncing that as UN, like in un-nazied the world…forever.

You do realize that, Idiocracy is no longer coming true! Because even in that world of idiots, they knew the Nazis were bad. Now…fuck no!

It’s the stupid racist Nazis running the show.

 

And on that sour note of realization, here are your cartoons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again…a lot of these cartoons are from the foreign press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the red white and blue curtain: 12/26/2017 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Behind the red white and blue curtain

12/26/2017 Cartoon by Tom Stiglich

Cartoon by Tom Stiglich -

2017 Return: 12/26/2017 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - 2017 Return

Bad Shadow: 12/25/2017 Cartoon by Ed Hall

Cartoon by Ed Hall - Bad Shadow

And believe me when I say, that shadow is lingering around for 2018.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Breton Children Reading, Emile Vernon, 1913

Good Afternoon!!

Thank goodness the “holidays” are almost over now, and soon a new year will begin. What will 2018 bring? Will Trump continue his goal of destroying democracy or will we somehow manage to keep it alive? First we have to get through the journalistic ritual of looking back over the year that is ending.

Eugene Robinson posted his evaluation of 2017 last night: Trump’s first year was even worse than feared.

Grit your teeth. Persevere. Just a few more days and this awful, rotten, no-good, ridiculous, rancorous, sordid, disgraceful year in the civic life of our nation will be over. Here’s hoping that we all — particularly special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — have a better 2018.

Many of us began 2017 with the consoling thought that the Donald Trump presidency couldn’t possibly be as bad as we feared. It turned out to be worse.

Did you ever think you would hear a president use the words “very fine people” to describe participants in a torch-lit rally organized by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan? Did you ever think you would hear a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations thuggishly threaten that she would be “taking names” of countries that did not vote on a General Assembly resolution the way she wanted? Did you ever think the government of the world’s biggest military and economic power would reject not just science but also empiricism itself, preferring to use made-up “alternative facts” as the basis for major decisions?

We knew that Trump was narcissistic and shallow, but on Inauguration Day it was possible to at least hope he was self-aware enough to understand the weight that now rested on his shoulders, and perhaps grow into the job. He did not. If anything, he has gotten worse.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

Paul Krugman still has hope: America Is Not Yet Lost.

Auguste reading to her daughter, by Mary Cassatt

Donald Trump has been every bit as horrible as one might have expected; he continues, day after day, to prove himself utterly unfit for office, morally and intellectually. And the Republican Party — including so-called moderates — turns out, if anything, to be even worse than one might have expected. At this point it’s evidently composed entirely of cynical apparatchiks, willing to sell out every principle — and every shred of their own dignity — as long as their donors get big tax cuts.

Meanwhile, conservative media have given up even the pretense of doing real reporting, and become blatant organs of ruling-party propaganda….

What we’ve seen instead is the emergence of a highly energized resistance. That resistance made itself visible literally the day after Trump took office, with the huge women’s marches that took place on Jan. 21, dwarfing the thin crowds at the inauguration. If American democracy survives this terrible episode, I vote that we make pink pussy hats the symbol of our delivery from evil….

Let’s be clear: America as we know it is still in mortal danger. Republicans still control all the levers of federal power, and never in the course of our nation’s history have we been ruled by people less trustworthy.

This obviously goes for Trump himself, who is clearly a dictator wannabe, with no respect whatsoever for democratic norms. But it also goes for Republicans in Congress, who have demonstrated again and again that they will do nothing to limit his actions. They have backed him up as he uses his office to enrich himself and his cronies, as he foments racial hatred, as he attempts a slow-motion purge of the Justice Department and the F.B.I.

I count it as a good sign that journalists are coming right out and calling Trump a wannabe dictator. Also a good sign: both Robinson and Krugman acknowledge that if we are to survive Trump, women’s leadership will be the reason. How ironic that a woman had to be excoriated and mocked by abusive male journalists for this awakening of women’s power to happen.

Jan Van Eyck – Madonna with the Child Reading (1433)

It’s also a good sign that journalists finally recognized the Russian threat, although this only happened after a monster was installed as POTUS. Yesterday The Washington Post published a breathtaking analysis of what the Russians accomplished last year and the danger they still pose to our democracy: Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options. Here’s a brief excerpt; please go read the whole thing if you haven’t already.

The events surrounding the FBI’s NorthernNight investigation follow a pattern that repeated for years as the Russian threat was building: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin’s ambitions. Top U.S. policymakers didn’t appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.

One previously unreported order — a sweeping presidential finding to combat global cyberthreats — prompted U.S. spy agencies to plan a half-dozen specific operations to counter the Russian threat. But one year after those instructions were given, the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act, intelligence officials said….

The miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia that left the United States vulnerable to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential electiontrace back to decisions made at the end of the Cold War, when senior policymakers assumed Moscow would be a partner and largely pulled the United States out of information warfare. When relations soured, officials dismissed Russia as a “third-rate regional power” that would limit its meddling to the fledgling democracies on its periphery.

Senior U.S. officials didn’t think Russia would dare shift its focus to the United States.

“I thought our ground was not as fertile,” said Antony J. Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state. “We believed that the truth shall set you free, that the truth would prevail. That proved a bit naive.”

Much more at the WaPo link.

From former CIA Deputy Director and Acting Director Michael Morrell: Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States.

Every first-year international-relations student learns about the importance of deterrence: It prevented a Soviet invasion of Western Europe during the height of the Cold War. It prevented North Korea from invading South Korea in the same time frame. Today, it keeps Iran from starting a hot war in the Middle East or other nations from initiating cyberattacks against our infrastructure.

The Reader, by Federico Zandomeneghi (Italian, 1841)

And yet, the United States has failed to establish deterrence in the aftermath of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. We know we failed because Russia continues to aggressively employ the most significant aspect of its 2016 tool kit: the use of social media as a platform to disseminate propaganda designed to weaken our nation.

There is a perception among the media and general public that Russia ended its social-media operations following last year’s election and that we need worry only about future elections. But that perception is wrong. Russia’s information operations in the United States continued after the election and they continue to this day.

This should alarm everyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. Foreign governments, overtly or covertly, should not be allowed to play with our democracy.

Read about the continuing threats from Russia at the WaPo link.

At the Columbia Journalism Review, Jonathan Peters reports on the work of NYT master’s student to examine Trump’s Twitter attacks on the media.

Trump’s prolificacy on Twitter is well documented, and some of his press-related tweets have captured vast public attention. For example, Trump tweeted in July a doctored video in which he wrestled a man whose head had been replaced by the CNN logo. It got hundreds of thousands of retweets.

Off Twitter, of course, Trump has waged a rhetorical war on the press, threatening to sue various newspapers and calling journalists “the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” all while characterizing as “fake news” any story he dislikes.

That’s what prompted an NYU master’s student to start tracking Trump’s tweets critical of the press. “I took it on as a labor of love and hate, and I suffered through his tweets every few days to log them,” says Stephanie Sugars, who is pursuing a joint MA in journalism and international relations. “It seemed important to maintain a record of what has appeared to be a deliberate and sustained campaign to discredit the media as an institution.”

By Zulia Gotay de Anderson

Sugars was working as a researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists last spring when she created the Trump-tweet spreadsheet that she recently shared with me. She was helping to launch a website that documents press freedom incidents in the US. (CJR is a partner.) Originally, she and others at CPJ thought it would include not only arrests and equipment seizures but also anti-press social media posts.

“That just wasn’t manageable,” Sugars says. “We decided to pare the site back and not focus on tweets. I kept up with the spreadsheet, though, and continued to add to it, even after leaving [CPJ] when my term as a researcher there ended.”

Peters then assigned his students a the University of Georgia to “review the spreadsheet and to help me identify notable items and trends in the data.” Read the rest at the CJR link to see the results.

One more interesting read: could Ivanka be in trouble with the law? GQ: Ivanka Trump’s Old Jewelry Business Is Now Caught Up in an Alleged Fraud Scheme. Author Ben Schreckenger begins by asking, “Why do people looking to launder money seem to find Trump family businesses so appealing?”

Throw a dart at a map of the world and there’s a solid chance it will land near a spot where a Trump family business has allegedly gotten caught up in a money laundering scheme.

There’s Panama, where the Trump Ocean Club is said to have washed dirty cash for Russian gangsters and South American drug cartels. There’s Azerbaijan and the Trump Baku, where the money allegedly being laundered was said to belong to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. And of course, there’s the Trump Soho in Manhattan, a magnet for money from Kazakhstan and Russia, and a property that one former executive on the project now calls “a monument to spectacularly corrupt money-laundering and tax evasion.”

In each of those cases, the Trump Organization has denied any wrongdoing and has sought to distance itself—and the Trump family—from the property, saying they merely licensed ​the Trump name. But as it turns out, it’s not just Trump-branded real estate developments that perhaps have attracted the wrong kinds of money.

Thanks to an overlooked filing made in federal court this past summer, we can now add a jewelry business to the list of Trump family enterprises that allegedly served as vehicles to fraudulently hide the assets of ultra-rich foreigners with checkered backgrounds. In late June, the Commercial Bank of Dubai sought—and later received—permission to subpoena Ivanka Trump’s now-defunct fine jewelry line, claiming its diamonds were used in a massive scheme to hide roughly $100 million that was owed to the bank, according to filings at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Read the rest at GQ.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: Looking for at least 3 wise men, must be bearing indictments

Happy Christmas Sky Dancers!

Fifty more days until Mardi Gras!

We’re careening towards a New Year with a hope that 2018 brings indictments, a new congress, and impeachments!  I have some reads for you to let you remember why this year we RESIST!

From WAPO:  ‘The U.N. finds growing numbers of Americans are living in the most impoverished circumstances. How did we get here?’

But could extreme poverty also be a feature of what is (although perhaps not for long) one of the richecoasst and most powerful nations in the world? Quite possibly. To answer the question, the United Nations launched an investigation of extreme poverty in the United States.

Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has just wrapped up a 15-day tour of the United States. His team visited Alabama, California, Puerto Rico, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The findings, released last Friday, documented homelessness, unsafe sanitation and sewage disposal practices, as well as police surveillance, criminalization and harassment of the poor. The rise in poverty, they found, disproportionately affects people of color and women, but also large swaths of white Americans. The report concluded that the pervasiveness of poverty and inequality “are shockingly at odds with [the United States’] immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights.”

To be sure, poverty in the United States is not equivalent to poverty in less developed countries. This has never been a country free of inequality and poverty, but their rapid growth over the past two decades has undermined any professed commitment to equal opportunity or the belief that the nation’s prosperity rests on the well-being of ordinary Americans.

This phenomenon will undoubtedly be exacerbated by the topic of this thoughtful piece by Heater Cox Richardson in The Guardian: ‘Bit by bit, Trump is taking apart the New Deal’s glorious legacy’. 

Since January, there have been frightening signs that America is becoming an oligarchy overseen by a dictator. From the first, Donald Trump has followed an authoritarian playbook, beginning with his rejection of objective reality. Forced early on to defend the assertion that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was the biggest ever witnessed, presidential spokesperson Kellyanne Conway explained that the administration used “alternative facts”. Since then, the president has repeatedly attacked fact-based media as “fake news”. Indeed, with his insistence on an alternative reality, Trump sometimes seems like an elderly Fox News-addled neighbour suddenly given power to make his bizarrely warped view of America real.

Since Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the New Dealin the 1930s, radical conservatives have railed against the idea that the government should intervene in the economy. The New Deal responded to the Great Crash and the ensuing Depression by regulating business, providing a basic social safety net and promoting infrastructure in order to maintain a level playing field for all Americans. Opponents countered this principle by arguing that the government must not hem in America’s business leaders. In their view, government regulations and laws to benefit poorer members of society crippled leaders’ ability to prosper and, since their prosperity drove the economy by trickling down to everyone else, such laws destroyed progress.

Best and most appropriate holiday gift ever with the story via New York Daily News: ‘Gift-wrapped horse poop sends bomb squad to Steven Mnuchin’s Bel Air mansion’.

Los Angeles police got a whiff of horse manure intended for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at his Bel-Air home Saturday night.

A neighbor discovered the Christmas-themed package on the driveway of the Trump cabinet member around 5:30 p.m. local time and called police, a Los Angeles Police Department official said.

The bomb squad opened the gift-wrapped surprise and found a “pretty good quantity” of horse manure inside, LAPD Sgt. Briggs said.

fc8c55e06c80091958425f8a2cd64948And what brave man did this you may ask?   Well,  from AL.com we get this answer: ‘Man who left manure at Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s house comes forward, speaks out’.

L.A. psychologist Robby Strong provided AL.com with convincing evidence that he is the man behind the now-infamous incident, which attracted the LAPD’s bomb squad and other law enforcement personnel to Mnuchin’s home in the city’s Bel Air neighborhood.

He defended his decision to drop the box of manure – which he says he got from a horse-owning friend – off at Mnuchin’s house as a “prank” aimed at raising the awareness of Americans about the idea that “Republicans have done nothing for the American worker” and other political topics.

“The thing I live by is a rule of transparency and I was exercising my First Amendment rights,” Strong told AL.com. “A few years ago when [a Supreme Court ruling] said that corporations are persons and money equals free speech, that is so absurd and my rule of thumb is now that if corporations are free speech, then so is horses***t.”

At 12:22 p.m. PST Saturday, Strong posted three pictures to Facebook, one of which depicts himself posing with a shovel next to a gift-wrapped box, and another of which shows the box full of what appears to be fecal matter.

Festive Resistance!   How very kewl!!  Roll backs on environmental protection continue.  Oil companies continue to look for ways to drill in pristine places like the Arctic National Refuge and the Gulf.   Louisiana has to fight all kinds of issues including a proposed battery component factory in a small town surrounded by water that connects to Lake Pontchartrain.

An Australian company hoping to bring a battery components factory to a port in southern Tangipahoa Parish is running into opposition from residents concerned the plant could harm the nearby swampy waterway used for fishing and recreation.

Syrah Resources is in the permitting phase for a facility that would process graphite from Mozambique into a component for lithium ion batteries, now in high demand for electric cars. The company is touting the plant as a way for Louisiana to position itself as a player in the growing electric car industry.

Similar plants exist in China, but this would be the first in the United States, said Paul Jahn, chief operations officer for battery anode materials at Syrah Tehnologies, the company’s battery subsidiary.

The factory would be located in an existing warehouse at Port Manchac, the port and industrial complex along North Pass, a narrow waterway connecting Lake Maurepa and Lake Pontchartrain.

The company hopes to start production in the spring of 2018.

At the plant, flake graphite would be milled into a spherical shape and purified with water and acids. The final product would be shipped to battery manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad, Jahn said.

At full capacity, the plant would produce about 10,000 metric tons of spherical graphite each year, he said.

Syrah has applied to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality for air and water permits. The company proposes to release annually about 38 tons of particulate matter, .93 tons of hydrochloric acid, .52 tons of hydrogen fluoride and .004 tons of formaldehyde into the air, according to permit documents. The plant also proposes to pump 41,000 gallons of water used in the manufacturing process into North Pass on a daily basis.

Louisiana is already making plans to move it’s coastal communities as most of its coastline continues to erode and sink into the Gulf of Mexico.  This headline is from Bloomberg: Louisiana, Sinking Fast, Prepares to Empty Out Its Coastal Plain’.  There are so many things that need to be saved from this administration it’s becoming an endless list.

Louisiana is finalizing a plan to move thousands of people from areas threatened by the rising Gulf of Mexico, effectively declaring uninhabitable a coastal area larger than Delaware.

A draft of the plan, the most aggressive response to climate-linked flooding in the U.S., calls for prohibitions on building new homes in high-risk areas, buyouts of homeowners who live there now and hikes in taxes on those who won’t leave. Commercial development would still be allowed, but developers would need to put up bonds to pay for those buildings’ eventual demolition.

“Not everybody is going to live where they are now and continue their way of life,” said Mathew Sanders, the state official in charge of the program, which has the backing of Governor John Bel Edwards. “And that is an emotional, and terrible, reality to face.”

Dust off your pink or purple pussy hat!  More women’s marches are on the way for 2018 and we’re going to need them!  Here’s a jolly headline from Newsweek: ‘HOW TRUMP AND THE NAZIS STOLE CHRISTMAS TO PROMOTE WHITE NATIONALISM’.

President Donald Trump wants Americans to think he re-invented Christmas.“We can say merry Christmas again,” he has said on numerous occasions both during his campaign for president and his presidency. “Christmas is back, better and bigger than ever before,” he told supporters months before the Christmas season.

“You can say again, ‘Merry Christmas’ because Donald Trump is now the president,” said Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after Trump won the election.

But critics counter that Trump is promoting a version of the holidays that excludes members of other religions, and that his crusade to bring back Christmas is part of a larger attempt by the president to define America as a country for white Christians alone.

Wishing people “merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays,” is thus in line with Trump’s decision to ban citizens of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, critics say. It fits neatly with his refusal to condemn white supremacists when they march against diversity, and with his condemnation of athletes who protest police brutality against black men.

With this in mind, the fight to end the war on Christmas is exclusionary politics at its most flagrant.

“I see such invocations of Christmas as a kind of cypher, what some would call a dog whistle. It does not appear to be intolerant or extreme, but to attentive audiences it speaks volumes about identity and belonging—who and what are fully American,” Richard King, a professor at Washington State University who studies how white supremacists exploit culture, told Newsweek.

So, that’s it for me.  Let’s just get ready to take it all back in 2018!!  Have a great week! 

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