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

Good Afternoon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


34 Comments on “Friday Reads: Days as Bleak as the White House Holiday Decorations”

  1. Mary Luke says:

    I think I understand the White House decor now. It looks like a department store. Wonder if Ivanka did it.

    Prospective house sounds perfect for you Kat.

  2. Enheduanna says:

    Happy Friday to everyone. Good luck on your house Dak! It sounds wonderful.

    It’s a winter wonderland in ATL at the moment – we have 2 inches of snow and more expected later tonight. Roads are still good. I bet JJ is really socked in! By Christmas it’ll be back up to 70 probably.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    • bostonboomer says:

      I hope Franken clears his name and then runs for President.

    • bostonboomer says:

      There is also value in finding out if any of Franken’s accusers told someone in real time about the conduct, as victims usually do, and if they happened in the work setting or were a professional power play. The answers may not absolve Franken but there is an ethics committee in place where the questions could have been asked.

      Making distinctions can only strengthen the movement. Establish standards and apply a finer gauge. Turn up the pressure on Congress to clean up its dirty little secrets. Abolish the internal Office of Compliance where everyone is on the take. Strengthen the ethics committee by bringing outsiders on board. Hear every accusation in a setting where there can be justice for both sides. No more NDAs. No more payouts.

      • Enheduanna says:

        Amen and I don’t agree with Carlson too often.

        “Believe all women” sets women apart and treats women differently than men. Listening to women is vital, and has not been done in the past but blanket acceptance of charges and zero tolerance (for a hand on the waist) is a terrible policy. It’s terrible for school kids and it’s terrible for women.

        Dems should be ashamed of themselves for their squishy cave on this and their ridiculous self-righteousness. Exactly what GOP so successfully stigmatizes us with, and it’s true.

        • NW Luna says:

          Yes, it should be “Listen to women” and then do a thoughtful independent investigation.

          There’s a range of behavior as with most anything else. The penalty should fit the behavior. For example, 4 miles over the speed limit — let off with a warning. 40 miles over — slammed with the maximum penalty.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks for the story on liars, Dak!

  5. lililam says:

    I lived on the Key Peninsula when I was expecting my son. We rented a little farmette in Lakebay, overlooking a little fishing harbor inlet on the sound. When it wasn’t raining, we had a breathtaking view of Mt Rainier, across the sound. Gorgeous. Good luck with that.

  6. NW Luna says:

    Key Peninsula, Dak, the south part of Kitsap Peninsula, across the water from Tacoma? That’s probably less than 2 hrs drive from me! Though it’s not that rural compared to really rural areas in this state, lol. I hope that works out for you!

  7. NW Luna says:

    One down on the R side. His behavior is far, far worse than what Franken has alleged to have done.

    Rep. Franks, facing ethics investigation, says he will resign immediately

    Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), facing an ethics investigation over alleged sexual harassment, announced Friday that he will resign immediately following his wife’s admission to the hospital.

    Franks had said Thursday that he would resign at the end of January but said Friday that his wife’s ailment had prompted him to change his plans and immediately step down.

    “Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment,” he said in a statement. “After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today, December 8th, 2017.”

    On Thursday, the House Ethics Committee said it would create a special subcommittee to investigate Franks for conduct “that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.”

    The investigation came after House officials learned that he had asked two female employees to bear his child as a surrogate.

  8. Enheduanna says:

    A reminder for Netflix viewers – tonight is the premier of season 2 of The Crown.

    I will be enjoying my night tonight! Stunningly beautiful (and rare) 4″ snowfall, a couple (maybe more) glasses of Chardonnay and a binge-worthy program to watch!!!!

  9. quixote says:

    That area looks beautiful, Dak! I hope that works out!

    I hope JJ gets power back soon.

    In my neck of the woods — the chaparral, actually — I’ve been lucky so far. There were fires east, north, and west, but so far they haven’t gone over the top of me. I hope the same is true of socalannie!

  10. Enheduanna says:

    Just got power back after about 3 hours. I have a fire in my fireplace for the first time in years.

    I am just so grateful for the men and women who get out on nights like this and repair the lines. My power company is the BEST.

    JJ – hang in there! I am so grateful for the men and women out there repairing these outages – my electric coop is the best!