Wednesday Reads: Splat!

Demasiado miedo a la vida o Plaf (1988) Film poster by Eduardo Muñoz Bachs (Cuba)

The quick storyline of the film which this poster above is portraying is spectacular:

A superstitious middle-aged woman falls in love with a taxi driver, while trying to learn the identity of the unseen person tossing eggs at her.

Honestly the plot to, Too Afraid of Life or Splat, seems to make more sense than the reality we are experiencing now…

Tabio’s screwball soap opera takes us into the lives and loves of a family in the middle-class suburbs of Havana. It’s tacky, it’s wacky, it’s, well, serious too. Widowed Concha (Granados) distrusts the alliance of brawn and brain when her beloved baseball-player son marries a girl engineer with her own ideas (about bureaucratic impedimenta, the role of women, and Concha). Concha has problems enough: made wary of men by the philandering of her dear departed, she distrusts the charms of taxi-driver Tomas, so is forced to take comfort in the spells of a Santeria-cult priestess. When the young marrieds move in, splat! – eggs start to fly. Tabio leaves no doubt that this is farce, not so much admitting the presence of the camera as flaunting it. Every mirror reveals the camera crew, props are thrown onto the set, the film cranks to a halt for apologies about missing scenes. The sight gags, absurd histrionics and hyperbolic use of sound communicate an infectious sense of fun, but the film can’t quite hide a deathly conventional morality which, sadly, hauls it back into sanity and nauseating good faith.

If only there was a mirror to reveal the true farce behind the facade…meaning that this past year is all just some crazy ass twisted fraud of a disaster film that has been in production…simply to run out of money.

Now we are at an end, with the reality finally at hand; that it is over…sorry about the missing scenes, especially the last act that included the impeachment.

(Honestly, I still thing the asshole will get away with it.)

But, on with the cartoons:

Oh, and please…why hasn’t it happened yet!

Again, many of these cartoons above are foreign press.

CHIP RESTORED: 01/23/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - CHIP RESTORED

DEAL MAKER: 01/22/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - DEAL MAKER

The following is exactly what the GOP wants you to believe:

Untitled: 01/23/2018 Cartoon by Bob Gorrell

Cartoon by Bob Gorrell - Untitled

01/23/2018 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

01/18/2018 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

01/23/2018 Cartoon by Lisa Benson

Cartoon by Lisa Benson -

Nick Anderson cartoon: 01/23/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

Empowered Women: 01/23/2018 Cartoon by J.D. Crowe

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - Empowered Women

Monster Larry Nassar: 01/19/2018 Cartoon by J.D. Crowe

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - Monster Larry Nassar

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: Congress’ continuing resolutions: 01/23/2018 Cartoon by Gary Varvel

Cartoon by Gary Varvel - Cartoonist Gary Varvel: Congress' continuing resolutions

01/23/2018 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

01/21/2018 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 01/23/2018 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 01/21/2018 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

Hannibal Trump: 01/23/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Hannibal Trump

Great Power: 01/21/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Great Power

GOP Health: 01/19/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - GOP Health

Wretched Refuse: 01/18/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Wretched Refuse

01/23/2018 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

Applause: 01/23/2018 Cartoon by Paul Fell

Cartoon by Paul Fell - Applause

01/23/2018 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

01/23/2018 Cartoon by Joel Pett

Cartoon by Joel Pett -

01/24 Mike Luckovich: Travel ban! | Mike Luckovich

01/23 Mike Luckovich: Miller time. | Mike Luckovich

01/21 Mike Luckovich: Tummy ache. | Mike Luckovich

01/19 Mike Luckovich: Dealmaker. | Mike Luckovich

01/18 Mike Luckovich. full disclosure form. | Mike Luckovich

01/18 Mike Luckovich. Weight of the Presidency. | Mike Luckovich

I had to end it with Luckovich…fucking awesome.

This is an open thread!


Tuesday Reads

Good Day Sky Dancers!!

There’s lots of news this morning and it’s not all about the #TrumpShutdown.

Michael Schmidt at The New York Times: Sessions Is Interviewed in Mueller’s Russia Investigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel’s office as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether the president obstructed justice since taking office, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The meeting marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are known to have interviewed a member of Mr. Trump’s cabinet….

Mr. Sessions, who was accompanied by the longtime Washington lawyer Chuck Cooper to the interview, had been among a small group of senior campaign and administration officials whom Mr. Mueller had not yet interviewed. Two weeks ago, Mr. Mueller subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, to testify before a grand jury. Mr. Mueller is expected to forgo the grand jury appearance for now and will have his investigators interview Mr. Bannon in the coming weeks.

I wonder if Sessions managed to be more truthful in this interview than he was in testimony before Congress?

Meanwhile, Sessions has been busy trying to hobble the FBI for Trump.

Last night, Johnathan Swan broke this story at Axios: Scoop: FBI director threatened to resign amid Trump, Sessions pressure.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge.

  — Wray’s resignation under those circumstances would have created a media firestorm. The White House — understandably gun-shy after the Comey debacle — didn’t want that scene, so McCabe remains.

  — Sessions told White House Counsel Don McGahn about how upset Wray was about the pressure on him to fire McCabe, and McGahn told Sessions this issue wasn’t worth losing the FBI Director over, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare: Power and Integrity at the FBI: Chris Wray Stands Up to the President and the Attorney General.

Jonathan Swan of Axios  Monday night, based on “three sources with direct knowledge,” that FBI Director Chris Wray “threatened to resign” if FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe “was removed” from office. The threat apparently came in response to pressure on Wray by “Attorney General Jeff Sessions—at the public urging of President Donald Trump” to fire McCabe. Swan also reported, based on one source “familiar with the situation,” that “Sessions told White House Counsel Don McGahn about how upset Wray was about the pressure on him to fire McCabe, and McGahn told Sessions this issue wasn’t worth losing the FBI Director over.” It isn’t entirely clear from the story when these events took place—that is, whether the controversy that led to Wray’s threat of resignation is ongoing or if it occurred sometime earlier and has since subsided.

Either way, this reveals a great deal about power and integrity in Washington.

First, we should underscore what a difficult situation Wray is in. As Jack  in a related context, Wray is in the extraordinary position of “dealing with a president who is attacking the integrity of the Justice Department and the FBI in a truly unprecedented fashion at a time when many of the president’s associates, and probably the president himself, are under investigation by the Justice Department and FBI.”

As the leader of the FBI, Wray must maintain his credibility with both the White House and, more importantly, the FBI workforce. He is also supervised in an immediate sense by an attorney general who is evidently trying to placate the president’s anger at him for having recused himself from the Russia investigation—and who is doing so by facilitating the president’s demands for a house-cleaning at the bureau. In other words, Wray is wedged, on the one side, between a president who is demanding McCabe’s scalp and an attorney general who is pushing the knife into Wray’s hand, and on the other side by an FBI workforce that is demanding he defend the institution.

Read the rest at Lawfare.

The Washington Post: Tensions swell between Sessions and FBI over senior personnel from Comey era.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has been resisting pressure from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to replace the bureau’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of criticism from President Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

The tension over McCabe and other high-level FBI officials who served during James B. Comey’s tenure has reached the White House, where counsel Donald McGahn has sought to mediate the issue, these people said.

As Sessions tried to push Wray to make personnel changes, Wray conveyed his frustration to the attorney general, these people said. Sessions then discussed the matter with McGahn, who advised him to ease off, which he did, these people said.

According to the article, much of the tension took place in December when Trump tweeted about McCabe’s announcement that he would retire in March. A bit more:

Wray has sought to avoid the drama and personal confrontations that sometimes flare inside the Trump administration. In public comments and private remarks to FBI personnel, Wray has signaled that staffing decisions are his to make, and that he intends to wait for an ongoing inspector general’s investigation to reach some conclusions before making major personnel decisions involving people under scrutiny — a category that includes McCabe.

Sessions, Republican lawmakers and some members of the Trump administration have argued for weeks that Wray should conduct some kind of housecleaning by demoting or reassigning senior aides to his predecessor, Comey, according to people familiar with the matter. These people added that Sessions himself is under tremendous political pressure from conservative lawmakers and White House officials who have complained that the bureaucracy of federal law enforcement is biased against the president.

More at the WaPo link.

Rep Devin Nunes is still pushing his phony memo on supposed illegal spying by the Obama administration. The latest:

Mother Jones: Devin Nunes Won’t Even Show His Infamous Memo to the Justice Department.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) won’t #releasethememo. The now infamous document was prepared by Republican staffers for the House Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Nunes, and it supposedly details how the FBI and the Justice Department improperly conducted surveillance in connection with the Trump-Russia probe. Conservatives looking to discredit the Russia investigation have embraced the classified memo, though they haven’t seen it, and have called for its release. But Nunes has so far insisted on keeping it secret—even from the Justice Department.

“We requested to see the memo and have not been given access to read it,” a Justice Department source tells Mother Jones. The FBI has also been denied access to the document, the Daily Beastrevealed on Sunday.

The memo reportedly asserts that federal officials abused their power by seeking a warrant targeting a Trump campaign adviser under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) without disclosing that evidence cited in the application relied on research by former British spy Christopher Steele. The ex-MI6 officer, who once ran the spy agency’s Russia desk, was working for a firm that was paid by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The four-page memo has become a cause célèbre on the right, with assorted Trump backers, alt-righters, and congressional Republicans taking to Twitter with demands that someone “#releasethememo.” Donald Trump Jr. and Michael Flynn Jr., who have both come under scrutiny in the course of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, have joined the online chorus calling for the memo’s release. Also helping the #releasethememo campaign reach trending status: a network of Russian bots.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Republicans launch extraordinary new tactics to protect Trump on Russia.

In an interview with me this morning, Rep. Adam Schiff — who is Nunes’ Democratic counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee — pushed back hard, alleging that the memo presents a profoundly doctored picture of what the classified information actually shows.

“It’s highly distorted spin by Nunes,” Schiff told me. “The Nunes spin memo distorts the underlying materials and has presented Members with a very misleading impression of what those materials show.”

Schiff also made a striking claim: He said that in allowing the memo to be accessed in a classified setting by House Republicans, Nunes has violated an agreement with the FBI and the Department of Justice. Schiff added that its public release would also violate that agreement. The GOP leaders on the Intel Committee have allowed Members of Congress to access the document, but Democrats charge this is merely an effort to arm them with misleading talking points to attack the FBI on Trump’s behalf.

“The release of the materials by the Chairman violated an agreement he entered into with the FBI and the Department of Justice,” Schiff told me, in a reference to the release of the memo to the membership of the House for reading. “The agreement was because of the sensitivity of the materials to limit their distribution,” Schiff also said. “There were certain conditions attached to the viewing of the materials which have been violated.”

Asked if it would violate the agreement if the memo were to be released publicly, Schiff said: “Of course.” He added that this affair was revealing that there may be “no limit” to “how far Nunes and the majority are willing to go to protect the president from the Russia investigation.”

This is interesting from CNN: Melania Trump will no longer join the President in Davos.

First lady Melania Trump, in a change of plans, will not be joining President Donald Trump on his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this week.

East Wing communications director Stephanie Grisham confirmed to CNN that the first lady’s decision to forgo the trip was based on “scheduling and logistical issues.

A week ago, Grisham told CNN the first lady would be attending the annual meeting of influential financial leaders and business titans in a show of support for her husband, who intends to give remarks during his visit.

I wonder if that has anything to do with the porn star payoff?

Finally, Trump’s attacks on CNN have borne fruit:

The Washington Post: ‘Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down’: Mich. man accused of making threatening calls to CNN.

On Jan. 9, an operator in Atlanta manning the public contact number for CNN received a phone call. According to a federal arrest affidavit unsealed Monday, the male caller launched into a threat.

“Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down. F‑‑‑ you, f‑‑‑ing n‑‑‑‑‑s.” The caller then clicked off.

Three minutes later, the same caller, dialing from the same number, again rang the CNN line. “I am on my way right now to gun the f‑‑‑in’ CNN cast down. F‑‑‑ you,” the caller said. The operator asked the caller his name. “F‑‑‑ you,” he responded. “I am coming to kill you.”

Thirty minutes later, the caller again reached the CNN public switchboard. He whispered his threats. “I’m coming for you CNN. I’m smarter than you. More powerful than you. I have more guns than you. More manpower. Your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours.”

According to federal law enforcement, the man on the other end was Brandon Griesemer of Novi, Mich.

In an arrest affidavit released Monday, FBI agent Sean Callaghan wrote that Griesemer “made approximately 22 total calls to CNN” between Jan. 9 and Jan. 10. Four of the calls resulted in threats. In the last message, the caller made disparaging remarks about Jewish individuals, before stating: “You are going down. I have a gun and I am coming to Georgia right now to go to the CNN headquarters to f‑‑‑ing gun every single last one of you. I have a team of people. It’s going to be great, man . . . You gotta get prepared for this one, buddy.”

More at the WaPo link.

Much more is happening, but I’m running out of space, time, and energy. I’m still struggling with sinusitis, but I was able to get a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow. I might have to break down and take an antibiotic.

What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: A Soundtrack and President* for the Ignorant

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’ve had a rough week trying to deal with the fall out from the extreme temperatures, snow, and ice here.  It seems my cable box went because water pooled in the connections outside.  My electrician discovered a few sockets that were acting up, we basically took them off line, and now I have my office and desk back. I also can watch news again which is something I haven’t been able to do for about a week now.  What’s that they say about ignorance is bliss? As you can see, black activist James Baldwin had some other thoughts and I’m certain he couldn’t see far enough into the future to imagine the horror show today.

An ABC/Washington Post Poll shows that “Almost half of voters question Trump’s mental stability”. The other’s can’t be paying attention or are being deliberately obtuse.

Forty-eight percent of voters think Trump is mentally stable, versus the 47 percent of voters who think he is not.

Trump’s job approval rating at his one year mark is at 36 percent, while 58 disapprove. The next lowest approval rating from a president at one year was Gerald Ford in 1975 with 45 percent.

The president earlier this month defended his mental stability and his intelligence in a series of tweets following questions about his mental stability that were sparked by journalist Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury.”

The Government has been shutdown by Trump and his xenophobic and racist cronies. Well, from the sounds of it, it is mostly because of hard lines drawn by Kelly and Miller.  The Senate will vote on the short down at noon.

Key senators are meeting ahead of a high-stakes vote at noon Monday on a bill to reopen the government and fund it for three weeks, though it remains unclear if this plan will win over enough Democrats to pass.

The vote comes several hours after the workday for hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees was supposed to have begun, and comes three days after the government officially shut down Friday at midnight. Many of the shutdown’s full effects were less visible during the weekend, when much of the federal workforce would typically be off anyway.

“I don’t think this is the right way to get policy outcomes is to shut the government down. When we tried it, it didn’t work well for us,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters, appearing alongside GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona. “Here’s what I predict. Once we start talking about immigration and voting on immigration, we’ll find 60 votes to make sure these DACA recipients’ lives are not ruined by March 5.”

The Senate vote was moved from 1 a.m. ET Monday to noon after it became clear Democrats would block the spending bill over disagreements on a variety of issues, most notably what do about young people affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said he thought Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York agreed to push back the vote to give his caucus “a chance to chew” on a GOP proposal to break the impasse.

“It’s better to have a successful vote tomorrow at noon than a failed vote tonight,” Cornyn told reporters.

Stephen Miller continues to be the voice of white supremacy in the White House and appears to be one of the main obstacles to settling anything.

On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — whose doomed immigration compromise with Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) was the target of that Trump tirade in the Oval Office — blasted Miller as a primary reason for the continuing standoff over border issues.

“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere. He’s been an outlier for years,” Graham told reporters at the Capitol. “I’ve talked with the president; his heart is right on this issue. He’s got a good understanding of what will sell. And every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members.”

 The reality, though, is arguably more complicated.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said Trump has hawkish immigration views on a gut level but doesn’t necessarily understand all of the policy details and implications. He said Miller and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly — who also plays a crucial role in immigration policy — are “not so much yanking the president’s leash” as doing “the proper job of staff” by steering the president to his goals.

“There was a story line that people were developing in their own minds that Miller is the source of evil and without him everything would be great,” Krikorian said. “The truth is the president is committed to this general perspective on immigration, and Miller and Kelly are there to help him implement what he always wanted to do.”

Miller’s driving obsession is immigration, an area where he has long pushed hard-line positions going back to his days as a combative conservative activist at Duke University. In Washington, as an aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), he was instrumental in helping to kill a bipartisan effort in 2013 for a broad immigration deal. He and Sessions helped galvanize House conservatives to block the bill passed by the Senate, including distributing a handbook of talking points aimed at undercutting the compromise.

 

In an astounding, Orwellian move, the Trump Justice Department put out a completely false narrative on the source of terrorism in the US blaming those not born in the United States and inferring they were pretty much from Trump’s “shithole” countries.  This was an end run around DHS analysts which have long determined that this is not the case.

The document didn’t mince words. It claimed three-quarters of “international terrorism” convicts were immigrants, an assertion meant to bolster Donald Trump’s cherished Muslim-focused ban on entering the country. And the report put the claim in the mouths of an agency assembled to keep Americans safe after 9/11: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Working off the 549 federal international-terrorism convictions tallied by the Justice Department, the document stated: “An analysis conducted by DHS determined that approximately 73 percent (402 of these 549 individuals) were foreign-born.”

But the Department of Homeland Security did not perform that analysis. DHS’ analysts did not contribute to the highly controversial report, The Daily Beast has learned.

According to a government source familiar with the episode, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office took charge of the report’s assemblage of statistics—which some terrorism analysts consider highly misleading—and sent it to DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen for her imprimatur after it was all but finalized.

“The Trump administration is trying to turn counterterrorism into an immigration issue,” said Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina, where he tracks Muslim-American involvement in terrorism.

Career professional analysts at DHS communicated to the Justice Departmentthat the data sought for the report simply did not exist within their department. DHS, multiple sources said, does not track or correlate international terrorism data by citizenship or country of origin, and have warned the Trump administration that doing so risks a misleading portrait of both terrorism and immigration.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg adds to the voices with #MeToo stories.  You can view the interview at the link.

Long before she donned a black judge’s robe, before she led a decades-long legal fight for gender equality, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a young, studious college kid taking a chemistry class at Cornell University.

One day, as she was preparing for a test, she told her professor she felt uncomfortable with some of the material.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you a practice exam,’” Ginsburg recalled in an interview Sunday with NPR’s Nina Totenberg at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

When Ginsburg went to class the next day, she discovered that the professor had actually just slipped her an advance copy of the real test. “And I knew exactly what he wanted in return,” she said. “And that’s just one of many examples.”

Ginsburg recounted the story in a roughly 90-minute discussion with Totenberg that touched on the 84-year-old justice’s experiences with sexual misconduct and her reaction to the #MeToo movement, as well as her career as a women’s rights advocate and her future on the high court. She was in Utah for the premiere of “RBG,” a new documentary about her life that was co-produced by CNN.

Susan Glasser writes about historian Walter Russell Mead and how his influence has led to a following in the Trump White House for genocidal President Andrew Jackson.

Bannon had seized on Mead’s work as part of his war on the other factions inside Trump’s White House, and especially the hyper-entitled family members like son-in-law Jared Kushner and “globalists” like national security adviser H.R. McMaster he viewed as selling out Trump’s “America First” vision to the more conventional course preferred by the Washington establishment. In the rumpled Mead and his writings about the “Jacksonian” tradition in American foreign policy, Bannon saw a populist kindred spirit—and a suitably rabble-rousing model for the antiestablishment course he hoped Trump would follow.

Trump agreed, which is why the Jackson portrait went up and the president was visiting Old Hickory’s Tennessee home within weeks of his inauguration, never mind the instant outcry that greeted Trump’s embrace of a slaveholding, Native American-fighting early 19th century predecessor as his role model. “That’s what Steve Bannon told me,” Mead recalled in a new interview for The Global Politico, our weekly podcast on world affairs. “There was this Jacksonian moment.”

Even now, exactly a year after Trump’s inauguration, Mead says that while Bannon has been purged from the White House, Bannonism—and by extension the bowdlerized, 21st century version of Jacksonianism he was peddling—has not. If you want to understand Trump’s otherwise incomprehensible presidency, Mead argues, you need to understand America’s seventh president.

“The Steve Bannon side of the Trump presidency remains very Jacksonian. Bannon isn’t in the White House, and he’s not welcome I think, but his influence is still felt,” Mead says. “Trump’s base remains Jacksonian. And Trump knows how to play to this base. So even as Trump has kind of adjusted in some ways to the necessities of the Washington establishment and, you know, ‘Well, you can’t just completely reinvent American foreign policy,’ he continues to orient in this way.”

After all, Mead notes, Bannon may be gone, but as for the president, “He still has a portrait of Andrew Jackson hanging in the Oval Office.”

Religious Extremists in HHS are blurring the line between church and state. They’re attacking the rights of women and GLBT people. Read this sad state of affairs investigated by Politico.

A small cadre of politically prominent evangelicals inside the Department of Health and Human Services have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care — a strategy that’s taking shape in a series of policy moves that took even their own staff by surprise.

Those officials include Roger Severino, an anti-abortion lawyer who now runs the Office of Civil Rights and last week laid out new protections allowing health care workers with religious or moral objections to abortion and other procedures to opt out. Shannon Royce, the agency’s key liaison with religious and grass-roots organizations, has also emerged as a pivotal player.

“To have leaders like Roger, like Shannon, it’s so important,” said Deanna Wallace of Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group that was frequently at odds with the Obama administration. “It’s extremely encouraging to have HHS on our side this time.”

But inside HHS, staff say that those leaders are steering their offices to support evangelicals at the expense of other voices, such as a recent decision to selectively post public comments that were overwhelmingly anti-abortion. “It’s supposed to be the faith-based partnership center, not the Christian-based partnership center,” said a longtime HHS staffer, referencing the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships led by Royce.

More than a dozen current and former HHS staffers, who requested anonymity to speak freely, spoke with POLITICO for this story. HHS declined to make top officials available for interviews.

Many police continue to react with violence against members of minorities.  La Mesa police violently handcuffed and slammed a 17 year old girl to the ground at her school. The incident was caught on video.

Officers were called to the school when a 17-year-old student who had been suspended refused to leave the University Avenue campus, La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez said in a statement.

A school resource officer tried to get the girl to leave voluntarily, then ordered her to do so. When she didn’t cooperate, the officer handcuffed her and began walking her to the school’s office, Vasquez said.

“As they were walking, the student became non-compliant on two separate occasions and made an attempt to free herself by pulling away from the officer,” the chief said. “To prevent the student from escaping, the officer forced the student to the ground.”

In video of the incident, the officer is seen throwing the girl over his shoulder onto the concrete sidewalk. He then used the weight of his body to pin her to the ground.

The officer forced her to the ground twice, witnesses said.

Vasquez said that after the student agreed to quit resisting or trying to escape, the officer helped her up and walked her to his patrol vehicle.

Police said that the student suffered minor abrasions during the incident and that she was evaluated by paramedics at the police station who determined she didn’t require treatment.

Aeiramique Blake, speaking on behalf of the girl’s family, said the incident has been mischaracterized by police.

Blake said the teen was assigned to in-school suspension for tardiness when the girl told an instructor she wasn’t feeling well. The student explained she was anemic and had experienced similar feelings before, but the teacher allegedly accused her of being on drugs, Blake said.

Is it really so difficult for people to see the underlying tribal hatred that’s leading to increased violence, denial of basic rights, dehumanization of so many of our citizens simply because they are not white, male, straight, and the right flavor of christian?  We have always had the stain of slavery and patriarchy follow our country on its path to the future.  How could so much ignorance come to such a place of power when we’ve made it through so much?

It’s good to be back with y’all but it’s certainly a day of highly disturbing news, policy, and stories.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  Share the knowledge.


Sunday Reads: Human Chains Bring Awareness to #EndChildMarriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

An estimated 5 million people (5 crore) came together to create a #BiharHumanChain2018 in the Indian State of Bihar to bring awareness against child marriage and dowry.

Bihar joins hands against dowry, child marriage; Dy CM thanks people

 

Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, on Sunday thanked the people of Bihar for participating and forming the largest human chain against child marriage and dowry practices.

Earlier in the day, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar shared a message on Twitter, saying that collective effort is required to eliminate practices of dowry and child marriage in the country and a human chain event will be organised to to show our commitment towards the cause.

Bihar forms world’s longest human chain against dowry | GulfNews.com

Millions of people from all walks of life, age groups and professions joined hands on the streets across Bihar on Sunday to form what officials claimed was the world’s longest human chain against dowry and child marriages — the twin social evils gripping Indian society.

Authorities said more than 40 million people came out on the streets in the bone-chilling cold and stood in queues for about 30 minutes Sunday to demonstrate their resolve against the two social evils. The participants included schoolchildren, college students, teachers, officials, social activists, common men and politicians.

 As with most things…this important issue is being overshadowed by politics.

However, two main opposition parties in the state, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, boycotted the initiative, claiming the programme was simply a ploy to help chief minister Nitish Kumar boost his image. They said they could not show solidarity with a man who had brutally “misused the people’s mandate” by going back to partner the BJP and form a new government with its support, while the mandate was given to the erstwhile ruling Grand Alliance comprising the RJD, Congress and the Janata Dal United (JD-U) headed by Nitish Kumar.

Kumar who was the man behind the idea refused to comment on the boycott by the main opposition parties, but said the programme was against social evils in which participation of everyone was solicited. “There are already laws in place yet the twin evils continue and our purpose is to make the people aware about them,” the chief minister told the media on Sunday.

Just a few more links on this human chain…

 

Bihar sets record through human chain

Bihar set a record of sorts when around five crore people joined hands to form a 13,668-km long human chain in here on Sunday.

The human chain, in which Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi also participated, was formed to spread awareness about two social evils – child marriage and dowry.

Apart from ruling party legislators and bureaucrats, lakhs of school and college students, teachers, lawyers and academicians took to the streets, where they lined up forming a human chain from 12 noon to 12.30 pm.

The entire event was captured by 40 drone cameras. A documentary film about the human chain will be shown in 127 cinema halls across Bihar.

This human chain has broken the record set in January 2017, when a human chain of 12,417 km was formed by around four crore people in support of the prohibition implemented by the Nitish regime.

RJD, Cong absent

The only stark difference this year was the absence of RJD and Congress leaders from the event. Only one leader from the parties – Congress MLC Ram Chandra Bharti – attended the event, making Nitish’s former partners in the Grand Alliance conspicuous by their absence.

“Nitish is one chief minister who spends crores in image-branding,” said RJD vice president Shivanand Tiwary.

Congress spokesperson Prem Chandra Mishra demanded a white paper on the exorbitant expenses incurred in organising such an event.

This year, the main function was organised at Gandhi Maidan in Patna, where Nitish flagged off the event.

Similar human chains were formed in the 38 districts of the state.

Bihar government’s human chain against dowry system and child marriage a ‘super flop’: Opposition | Patna News – Times of India

Bihar’s two main opposition parties -RJD and Congress – on Sunday said that the state government’s much-trumpeted human chainagainst dowry system and child marriage turned out to be “super flop” as participation of common people could not be seen anywhere across the state.
“Only school children who were called by opening their institutions despite being Sunday, their teachers and a section of state government employees were seen standing in the human chain that remained broken here and there. Common people didn’t turn up anywhere to participate in the chain. Participation of common villagers could not be seen anywhere,” RJD’s state president Ram Chandra Purbey said, adding, “The non-participation of common people shows that CM Nitish Kumar has lost peoples’ faith.”

Last year, the same chain was formed in awareness of the campaign to ban alcohol. Only there was cooperation from among all sides of government. I have not followed the situation enough to fully grasp the entire nuance of the political climate…but I wonder just how much the actual subject of this year’s campaign…being tied to an issue like child marriage and dowry, could be a reason for the lack of full support.

Bihar has it’s problems with child marriage. Human Chain 2.0: After Battling Liquor, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar Sets His Sights on Dowry – The Wire

A look at the statistics from Bihar prove just how serious and deep-rooted these issues are. According to the 2011 Census, around 3% of girls get married before the age of 14. Figures for under-age marriages from the National Family Health Survey 4 say that 39% of girls become child brides. When it comes to atrocities against women, the state ranks 26th in India, but is no. 2 in dowry-related crimes.

Between 2000 and 2015, out of total 1,15,374 dowry death cases registered in India, 17,257 cases were registered in Bihar. Beyond just cases that pertained to deaths, 18,462 cases were registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act during the same period.

The root of the problem

A complex relationship between child marriage and dowry exists in the state. Among well-to-do families, there is a growing emphasis on educating girls and letting them work. As awareness of social ills continues to grow in these circles, cases of child marriage have dropped drastically, but dowry continues to be a problem. In fact, not only is it still followed, the sums exchanging hands are astronomical at times.

Among financially weaker sections, instead of investing to educate girls, families save to pay dowry. Then, in order to not pay a heavy dowry, they opt to marry off their girls early. There is an added problem that arises from this practice: if underage brides become pregnant, there’s a heavy risk of death during the delivery of both mother and child.

More than that, there is also a market opportunity here. Every year, when the wedding season swings around, advertisements spring up everywhere indirectly indicating what would make for a good dowry present. In fact, as Geetanjali Mukherjee wrote in her book Dowry Death in India, published in 1999, advertisements even advise families on how to save on dowry. The book noted that “until recently, billboard advertisements in Bombay, for instance, made an unabashed appeal to pregnant women to take the expensive and somewhat risky amniocentesis test. It importuned them to spend 500 rupees now on the test in order to save 50,000 rupees in future on a daughter’s dowry”.

In contrast to Nitish’s earlier campaign against liquor where the administrative and legal measures worked quite well, in the case of dowry, there is not much space for the police to act proactively. Data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) tells us that approximately 60% of the dowry-related cases which reach the police are those where there has been a death. This means that most victims avoid going to the authorities, which is why despite strict laws against this practice, dowry-related crimes continue unabated, be it in Bihar or India. The number of cases of dowry deaths in India stood at 6,851 in 2001. That figure jumped to 7,634 in 2015. The same trend was observed in Bihar. During the same period, cases in Bihar increased from 859 in 2001 to 1,154 in 2015.

According to the article in The Wire, unlike the banning of alcohol…the issue of ending child marriage must deal with changing the mindset of people…

More than a law, what is required is changing personal opinions.

Nitish appears to have understood that this is the battle that matters. His campaign against dowry and child marriage will see him act more like a reformer working to swing a big changes in the opinion of the masses more than a chief minister taking the administrative route to fix the state of affairs. This is why he is personally visiting the homes of those who are getting married without the dowry angle. Along with Nitish Kumar, Sushil Kumar Modi, the deputy chief minister, used the marriage of his eldest son to set an example of a dowry-free marriage.

Nitish has undoubtedly taken on a herculean task, but there are certain doubts in the minds of the public. Is this another tactic to keep cadres busy, much like the plantation drive?

With assembly elections just a year away, there is little scope that the anti-dowry campaign will bear any electoral fruits. But if Nitish’s latest battle bears even some fruit, it’s still a step ahead in the fight for gender justice.

 

All the same, I feel that bringing awareness to the crisis of child marriage goes far in helping create a dialogue about an issue that will not go away any time soon.

Here are some tweets with images of the day, #BiharHumanChain2018 :

 

 

 

Last week Human Rights Watch came out with their  World Report 2018: Fighting for Rights Succeeds | Human Rights Watch

Abdul Kareem, a Rohingya Muslim, carries his mother, Alima Khatoon, to a refugee camp after crossing from Burma into Bangladesh on Sept. 16, 2017.

Abdul Kareem, a Rohingya Muslim, carries his mother, Alima Khatoon, to a refugee camp after crossing from Burma into Bangladesh on Sept. 16, 2017.

 © 2017 Dar Yasin/AP

 

In the 643-page World Report, its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that when leaders push back strongly against politicians who demonize minorities, attack human rights, and undermine democratic institutions, they can limit the advance of populists. But where mainstream politicians capitulate to a message of hate and exclusion, the authoritarian populists flourish.

“The past year showed the importance of pushing back against the threat posed by demagogues and their abusive policies,” Roth said. “As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2018, the best way to honor its principles is to vigorously defend them against those leaders who seek political advantage by depriving marginalized groups of the rights guaranteed for all.”

Please go to this link World Report 2018 | Status of Human Rights Around the World to read more and to look up how each of the 90 countries square up…

You may find the United States quite interesting:

World Report 2018: United States | Human Rights Watch

The strong civil society and democratic institutions of the United States were tested in the first year of the administration of President Donald Trump. Across a range of issues in 2017, the US moved backward on human rights at home and abroad.

Trump has targeted refugees and immigrants, calling them criminals and security threats; emboldened racist politics by equivocating on white nationalism; and consistently championed anti-Muslim ideas and policies. His administration has embraced policies that will roll back access to reproductive health care for women; championed health insurance changes that would leave many more Americans without access to affordable health care; and undermined police accountability for abuse. Trump has also expressed disdain for independent media and for federal courts that have blocked some of his actions. And he has repeatedly coddled autocratic leaders and showed little interest or leadership in pressing for the respect of human rights abroad.

The individuals most likely to suffer abuse in the United States—including members of racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the poor, and prisoners—are often least able to defend their rights in court or via the political process. Many vulnerable groups endured renewed attacks on their rights during the year. Other longstanding US laws and practices—particularly related to criminal and juvenile justice, immigration, and national security—continued to violate internationally recognized human rights.

Lots and lots more at the link…reading it is like going through an abbreviated list of shithole actions taken by a shithole president.

Before I end with pictures and tweets from yesterday’s marches…

After a year of Trump, women expect less from men – but demand more – The Globe and Mail

One year ago Sunday, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history took place. The Women’s March, which followed the inauguration of Donald Trump, consisted of over 650 marches of roughly five million participants. The organizers were women, most protesters were women, and the targets were the misogynists of the Trump administration and their repressive policies. Protesters warned of the new government’s autocratic tendencies and planned persecution of the marginalized. Their warnings were not heeded by pundits clinging to the illusion of “checks and balances” or the “presidential pivot,” but they were right.

One year later, women remain the backbone of the opposition to President Trump, and those opposing him comprise the majority of the electorate. You would not know this from reading many U.S. media outlets, which focus disproportionately on Trump voters, with papers like the New York Times even surrendering an op-ed page to them. On Saturday, an enormously popular second women’s march caught the country by surprise, as there was little media attention to it paid beforehand despite the massive amount of preparation and participants involved.

I wanted to show you this little bit of the anti-women’s march protest going around today:

Nazis March In Tennessee Today. Last Time That Happened, I Ended Up With Antifa In A High-Speed Car Chase | HuffPost

Heimbach’s Nazis are returning to Tennessee to protest the Women’s March taking place in Knoxville on Sunday. The Nazis plan to attach themselves to a competing anti-abortion “March for Life” rally. How this will pan out for the fascists is anyone’s guess, but back in October, things didn’t go well for them in the Volunteer State. Heimbach’s crew started a fight with a biracial couple in a Brentwood pub. And their two rallies only put a spotlight on the weakness of their movement and the strength of their opposition. The second event, in Murfreesboro, was a total flop. Heimbach’s Nazis bailed, scared off by hundreds of counter-demonstrators who descended on Murfreesboro’s main square.

It makes me sick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an open thread…what are you reading about today?

 

 

 

 

Cross-posted / Human Chains Bring Awareness to #EndChildMarriage – Empower Dialogue


Lazy Saturday Reads: #TrumpShutdown and Other News

Good Morning!!

Joan Crawford

Well, they did it. For the first time in history, the government has shut down while one party controls both the executive and legislative branches. NBC News:

The federal government entered a partial shutdown Saturday as a key vote fell far short of the support needed to pass the Senate and the midnight deadline came and went without a deal.

One year to the day since President Donald Trump took office flanked by a Republican Congress, Washington waited for word of where it goes from here as both parties sought a way out of the impasse.

The proposal that failed was the one passed by the House on Thursday. It would have funded the government until Feb. 16, extended the low-income children’s health insurance program, or CHIP, for six years and suspended some Obamacare taxes for two years.

Senate Democrats, demanding progress on the fate of the young immigrants covered by the DACA program, withheld their support for the bill after the prospect of an agreement with Republicans and the White House fell apart.

But Republicans failed to assemble a simple majority for the measure as some within their own ranks, frustrated with the spate of month-long spending bills, also opposed the short-term solution.

After the vote failed, Democrats offered a measure to make sure that military salaries would be paid, but Senate Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote.

Democrats also wanted to pass short term agreements to keep the government open until today or Monday. McConnell blocked those efforts.

McConnell wants to blame the shutdown on Democrats, but it’s not going to work. Overnight, #TrumpShutdown was trending on Twitter worldwide.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy “blasted Congress on Friday as a government funding deadline approached, slamming the government as being “run by idiots.”

“Our country was founded by geniuses, but it’s being run by idiots,” Kennedy told reporters hours before the government was set to enter a shutdown.

Read more at The Hill.

What’s next? The Washington Post: Congress returns to work as lawmakers press to keep shutdown short-lived.

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis

Republican and Democratic leaders both said they would continue to talk, raising the possibility of a solution over the weekend. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday that the conflict has a “really good chance” of being resolved before government offices open Monday, suggesting that a shutdown’s impacts could be limited.

But when the House reconvened Saturday morning, the partisan finger-pointing began immediately.

“Democrats in the United States Senate are holding government funding hostage. The people protecting this country will continue to work, but won’t get a paycheck,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said in a floor speech.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) shot back from across the aisle: “It is the Trump confrontation and chaos that continues. That is why this government is shut down.” [….]

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is home in Arizona battling brain cancer, blasted both parties early Saturday, saying the shutdown “is a direct result of the breakdown of cooperation in Congress.”

“As Republicans and Democrats run to cable news to point fingers and assign blame, the hard reality is that all of us share responsibility for this failure,” McCain said in a statement.

The Trump gang announced that they would refuse to negotiate on immigration, but Trump is pretty irrelevant at this point after showing zero leadership and changing his mind multiple times over the past couple of weeks.

“We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators. When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform.”

Of course Trump himself was only worried about how the shutdown would affect his weekend plans. The Daily Beast: Trump Whines: Shutdown Fight Could Make Me Miss ‘My Party.’

Muhammad Ali

Before the federal government shutdown at midnight Saturday, President Donald Trump privately vented frustrations that the political impasse would possibly keep him from attending a glitzy inauguration anniversary bash and fundraiser set for Saturday at his Florida getaway Mar-a-Lago.

Two sources close to the president, one a White House official and the other a longtime confidant, told The Daily Beast how excited he was for the event and relayed his growing concern that the potential failure to strike a deal to keep the federal government open could keep him from “my party,” as the president has said….

The White House officially cancelled Trump’s trip to Florida that was scheduled for Friday afternoon, and he spent the day attempting to help congressional leaders reach a deal to forestall a shutdown.

Administration officials who briefed reporters on the logistics of the impending shutdown on Friday said the expiration of government funding would not necessarily impede the president’s travel plans to Mar-a-Lago or elsewhere. In particular, one official said, Trump will still be free to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos next week, though the White House did not say whether the shutdown would affect Trump’s plans to attend the glamorous gathering of globalists.

I expect Trump will end up going, although he’s not supposed to use Air Force One.

There will be women’s marches around the country today to promote voter registration and voting in November. CNN: Everything you need to know about women’s marches this weekend.

29th July 1965: Cockney tough-guy actor Michael Caine reading a copy of the Evening News. (Photo by Stephan C. Archetti/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

This weekend is the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s swearing-in. But hundreds of thousands of activists across the US also are marking the anniversary of last January’s Women’s March, and the movement it sparked in 2017.

The organizers of the movement hope to keep up the momentum from last year with a weekend of events and rallies across the country. Here’s what you need to know about Women’s March and related events this weekend.

Read more at CNN or check out the Women’s March web page for events scheduled around the country.

Politico published a must-read article on Thursday by Jennifer Mendelsohn: How Would Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Have Affected His Own Team?

After President Donald Trump called it a “total disaster, which threatens our security and our economy and provides a gateway for terrorism” at a White House meeting in early January, “chain migration” quickly became the buzzword du jour for anti-immigration voices. But chain migration, a process also known as “family reunification” that allows a legal immigrant to bring his family members to the United States—spouses and minor children when he has a green card, and parents and siblings after he becomes a citizen—is nothing new. In fact, it’s how the families of some of the most prominent anti-immigration voices in Trump’s circle—and the president himself—came to the United States.

Gloria Swanson

These ahistorical warnings about the evils of chain migration are part of a longstanding American tradition described by immigration historian Tyler Anbinder in a 2016 Chicago Sun-Timeseditorial: “From the days of the Puritans to the present, every generation of Americans has believed that the latest wave of immigrants is completely different from—and inferior to—their own immigrant ancestors and could never become true Americans.” From White House adviser Stephen Miller to Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren, many prominent anti-immigration voices advocate for immigration policies like merit-based systems and language-based preferences that would have barred their own families from coming to the United States.

But while our favorite immigration opponents may have forgotten their immigrant roots, lucky for them, I have an Ancestry.com account, and I know how to use it. In a project I call #resistancegenealogy, I’ve traced their family trees and found, not surprisingly, their own family’s stories are markedly similar to those of the immigrants they now would like to prevent from becoming Americans. (Except, of course, that today’s immigrants are less commonly white Europeans.)

Mendelsohn traced the immigrant roots of Dan Scavino of WH social media director Dan Scavino, Iowa Rep. Steve King, campaign spokeswoman Tomi Lahren, and Tucker Carlson, and found that their families had each used so-called “chain migration.” Read all the details at Politico.

I’ll end with three new articles on Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s troubles.

The New Yorker: Jared Kushner Is China’s Trump Card.

In early 2017, shortly after Jared Kushner moved into his new office in the West Wing of the White House, he began receiving guests. One visitor who came more than once was Cui Tiankai, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, a veteran diplomat with a postgraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University. When, during previous Administrations, Cui had visited the White House, his hosts received him with a retinue of China specialists and note-takers. Kushner, President Trump’s thirty-seven-year-old son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, preferred smaller gatherings….

Jimi Hendrix

In Kushner, Cui found a confident, attentive, and inexperienced counterpart. The former head of his family’s real-estate empire, which is worth more than a billion dollars, Kushner was intent on bringing a businessman’s sensibility to matters of state. He believed that fresh, confidential relationships could overcome the frustrations of traditional diplomatic bureaucracy. Henry Kissinger, who, in his role as a high-priced international consultant, maintains close relationships in the Chinese hierarchy, had introduced Kushner to Cui during the campaign, and the two met three more times during the transition. In the months after Trump was sworn in, they met more often than Kushner could recall. “Jared became Mr. China,” Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon aide on Trump’s transition team, said.

But Cui’s frequent encounters with Kushner made some people in the U.S. government uncomfortable. On at least one occasion, they met alone, which counterintelligence officials considered risky. “There’s nobody else there in the room to verify what was said and what wasn’t, so the Chinese can go back and claim anything,” a former senior U.S. official who was briefed on the meetings said. “I’m sorry, Jared—do you think your background is going to allow you to be able to outsmart the Chinese Ambassador?” Kushner, the official added, “is actually pretty smart. He just has limited life experiences. He was acting with naïveté.”

By now, Americans are accustomed to reports of Russia’s efforts to influence American politics, but, in the intelligence community, China’s influence operations are a source of equal concern. In recent years, the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. have dedicated increased resources to tracking efforts by the Chinese government to spy on or to enlist Western officials in pursuit of their policy goals. (The F.B.I. and the C.I.A. declined to comment on this.) “The Chinese influence operations are more long-term, broader in scope, and are generally designed to achieve a more diffuse goal than the Russians’ are,” Christopher Johnson, a former C.I.A. analyst who specializes in China, said. “To be unkind to the Russians, you’d say they are more crass.”

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

Mother Jones: Jared Kushner’s Firm Tied to “Suspicious Transactions” at German Bank.

Judy Garland

A German business magazine is reporting that Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant which is a major lender to both President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, identified “suspicious transactions” related to Kushner family accounts, and has reported them to German banking regulators. The bank is reportedly willing to provide the information to special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s team of investigators.

Manager Magazin, a respected German business magazine, reported in its latest print edition, which hit German newsstands on Friday, that Paul Achleitner, chairman of Deutsche Bank’s board, had the bank conduct an internal investigation and the results were troubling. Those results have been turned over to the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority—Germany’s bank regulatory agency, which is commonly known as BaFin.

“Achleitner’s internal detectives were embarrassed to deliver their interim report regarding real estate tycoon [Jared] Kushner to the financial regulator BaFin,” the Manager Magazin article, translated from German, reports. “Their finding: There are indications that Donald Trump’s son-in-law or persons or companies close to him could have channeled suspicious monies through Deutsche Bank as part of their business dealings.”

Read more at Mother Jones.

Bloomberg: Kushner’s Deutsche Bank-Backed Property Stung by Tenant Troubles.

In a six-floor retail space near Times Square, the Guy Fieri restaurant has closed and construction hasn’t begun on celebrity chef Todd English’s food hall. A tourist attraction featuring a 1/87th scale model of New York City was behind on rent for two months as of December, according to loan documents.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

When Kushner Cos. bought the property for $296 million in 2015, then-Chief Executive Officer Jared Kushner had big plans to capitalize on the tens of millions of tourists who visit the area every year. Deutsche Bank AG financed the endeavor before selling most of the debt to investors across Wall Street a year ago. Those investors were shown disclosures describing the retail space as 100 percent occupied and estimating it would throw off $24 million of rent annually.

But Fieri, English and Gulliver’s Gate, the operator of the miniature Manhattan, account for $9.9 million of that rent estimate, which underpinned a market-defying appraisal boost and helped justify $370 million of loans, the disclosures show. Problems with these spaces could make the economics challenging.

Poor Jared. Click the Bloomberg link to read the rest.

What stories are you following today?


#MeToo and why sex is in no danger

The status quo is beginning to regroup after the initial onslaught of the #MeToo movement. Of course, it’s more effective to have women to make its case. Keeps everything polite. It’s just a bunch of women with different opinions, right?

Recently, for instance, Catherine Deneuve, who has been a movie star since the 1960s, and her co-signatories lamented the loss of sexual fun if men had to start paying attention to what women want. As Laura Kipnis points out at the end of her excellent article:

It’s the historical amnesia of the Deneuve document that’s so objectionable. To the extent that women’s bodies are still treated as public property by men, whether that means groping us or deciding what we can do with our uteruses, women do not have civic equality. To miss that point is to miss the political importance and the political lineage of #MeToo: the latest step in a centuries long political struggle for women to simply control our own bodies. …

The political requirement of the post-#MeToo moment is insisting that control of our bodies is the beginning of freedom. Not its terminus, but a starting point. Freedom needs to be more than notional, it also needs to be embodied.

Autonomy, freedom, civil rights are the substance of #MeToo.

But I wanted to address the silly end of the spectrum: the concept that somehow sex will become a robotic interaction requiring permission slips signed in triplicate.

The problem is that we (humans) don’t have a reality-based concept of what sex is.

No, really. Hear me out.

One school of thought imagines that it’s anything to do with sex organs. So, if sex organs are involved, rape and torture are somehow about sex. As if anyone spends their days dreaming about how to be brutalized. To paraphrase Kipnis a bit, “It sounds like an especially Catholic form of [sex], involving much mortification of the flesh.”

The intense stupidity of that definition has led to the recent refinement centering consent. Sex is still about using sex organs, but it has to be preceded by the people involved saying, “Oh, awright already.”

That means out-and-out crimes can’t hide behind sex, but it doesn’t solve the problem of jerks or of the social power they hold. Jill Filipovic wrote an insightful article pointing out that “sex in a misogynist world” has thousands of ways of giving women colorless unsatisfying experiences at best. They may not be assault, but they have the same philosophy: women don’t count.

#MeToo exploded at that attitude. The movement wants the end of the entire steaming pile of crap, and that’s what has some people so worried. They may not really see why sex crimes are crimes and not sex, but they’re learning to shut up about it. They’ve heard of the concept that the woman should be getting something she wants out of sex and they’re so broadminded they’re fine with that if it doesn’t require anything from them.

But the #MeToo movement is also objecting to, well, what can you call it but plain old rudeness? That lack of consideration you dump on worthless people because there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. Where will it all end? (Yes, of course those same men are quite capable of being polite to bosses and policemen, but women are so weird and mysterious, you know? They don’t understand jokes. They take offense at mistakes.) Nobody will be able to do anything and you’ll never get any sex again.

(In one limited respect it is a valid concern. We’re dealing with a scale that goes from criminal to socially unacceptable to rude. At the nether ends of the scale, the sorts of situations where exposure or job loss or jail are good consequences, due process is a real concern. Margaret Atwood was jumped on by the twitverse for having the temerity to point that out. Due process may not always entail the full nine legal yards. It might be less formal ways of verifying the truth of complaints. But whatever its precise form, the point is to avoid lumping the innocent in with the guilty. How can anybody, whose whole complaint is an inability to find justice for themselves, insist on depriving others of justice?)

So, to return to the worry that sex as we know it will vanish and nobody will ever get any again, that would be true. If sex is something to get, there’s no part of that spectrum that’s any use to the thing being got. Not the relatively less harmful end of intravaginal masturbation, and growing worse all the way down till it disappears into criminal types of getting. That’s why Rebecca Traister in her excellent article points out that consensual sex can still be bad and quotes Dusenbery saying that what’s needed is to “promote a specific vision of what sexual equality could entail.”

Well, here’s my version of that vision.

Have you ever been with a group of good friends, sharing jokes that just get funnier and funnier until you’re all helpless with laughter? Possibly the individual jokes aren’t even all that hilarious, but the mood catches everyone and gets stronger in the sharing. If you told yourself the same joke in an empty room, it might be funny but you’d barely smile.

You see where that analogy is headed. That’s how to view sex. It’s a feeling of play, and fun, and delight, and pleasure that’s gets stronger in the sharing. And it’s definitely not the same by yourself in an empty room. Sex organs help trigger the feeling, but the feeling is the point, not the organs. Just as breath and vocal cords enable laughter. The feeling of fun is the point, not vocal exercise.

Another way the analogy is useful is to demonstrate that sex is not and cannot be on any spectrum where sharing is impossible. If the boss tells a joke and everybody has to dutifully laugh, it’s not fun at all. And that’s analogous to the relatively benign, masturbatory end of the scale of unshared sex. There’s no equivalent for the tortured end because nobody ever terrorizes someone into immobility and chokes puffs of air out of them and tries to call that laughter.

Power differentials preclude sharing, and the bigger the difference the less sharing is possible.

But wait, I hear objections at the back. Men get off. They don’t care about the rest of these fancy sex feelings.

That would be like saying sneezing is the same as laughter. It is not. Laughter happens when you’re having fun. Sneezing, like orgasm without feelings, is just a reflex. It’s a release, but it’s not exactly fun. The two are not the same. One doesn’t feel like happiness. The other does.

Besides, if getting off was the only requirement, everybody would simply masturbate. Much simpler, if the result was the same. It’s not. Instead, women turn themselves inside out and their lives upside down in the hope of sharing good time with men. And men bend the whole society into making sure women need them and will be there for them. If men didn’t care about loving feelings, they wouldn’t need to try to turn women into some kind of domestic pets trained to provide them.

Trying to keep humans as sex pets requires crosslinkage between dominance and sex. That may work to justify keeping human pets, but it doesn’t change the fundamental incompatibility between sharing fun and forcing submission. You can crosslink the use of sex organs and dominance all you want, it’ll never bring happiness. It’s like crosslinking a bicycle and a sledgehammer and expecting the combination to bake a cake. None of those things work together or achieve any result. It’s a fundamental error about what sex is.

The result is an irony floating on top of the cosmic waste that is patriarchy: you’ll only get the highs it promises when you ditch it.

The thing is, love and life and laughter will always pull people like the sun pulls the earth. People will always stream toward sex that feels good and away from pain and humiliation. Sex is in no danger. The patriarchy is.

 

Crossposted from Acid Test


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’ve been struggling with a chest cold and now my sinuses are acting up. This seems to be the story of my wintertime life now. Anyway, I’m not sure how coherent this post will be.

Here are the big stories I’m seeing this morning.

Trump is doing everything he can to sabotage any bipartisan agreements in Congress that would keep the government from shutting down. He’s also hitting back at John Kelly for his remarks to Democrats and Fox News yesterday. Read a brief summary of Kelly’s crimes at Axios: John Kelly risks a Steve Bannon moment.

Late last night, a few hours after Fox News aired Bret Baier’s interview with John Kelly, a source close to the president told me Trump would explode when he saw what his chief of staff said. The source — who has spent a lot of time with Trump — predicted the president would hate the interview because Kelly came off as the mature professional who patiently educated an uninformed Trump, and helped him see the light and evolve on “The Wall.” [….]

What Kelly said that crossed Trump: 

“As we talked about things — where this president is and how much he wants to deal with this DACA issue and take it away — I told them that, you know, there’s been an evolutionary process that this president has gone through as a campaign [sic]. And I pointed out to all of the members that were in the room that they all say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed. But this president, if you’ve seen what he’s done, he has changed the way that he’s looked at a number of things. … So he has evolved in the way he’s looked at things. Campaign to governing are two different things, and this president is very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible.”

The moron’s Thursday morning tweets:

And finally, Trump doesn’t want children’s health care to be included in a continuing resolution.

Putting CHIP in the mix was the only way Republicans could hope to get any Democratic votes for the CR. It looks like the moron really wants a government shut down.

The Washington Post: Trump Upsets Republican Strategy to Avoid Shutdown.

President Trump blew up Republican strategies to keep the government open past Friday when on Thursday morning he said a long-term extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program should not be part of a stopgap spending bill pending before the House….

With a possible government shutdown looming this weekend, the House had planned to vote late Thursday on a stopgap spending bill that would keep government funding flowing to Feb. 16 as delicate negotiations continue to protect young, undocumented immigrants brought illegally as children from deportation.

Republican leaders have spent the week pressuring Democrats to vote for the spending bill, arguing that opposing it would effectively block a six-year extension of the children’s health program, attached to the spending bill as a sweetener for lawmakers in both parties.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said on Wednesday that it would be “unconscionable” for Democrats to oppose funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program with a “no” vote on the short-term spending bill.

But Mr. Trump’s tweet appeared to give Democrats a ready excuse to oppose the measure: the president wants the health program severed from the spending bill.

Blaming a shutdown on the Democrats won’t work. Republicans control the government, and the “president” can make exceptions to pay the military and other essential services.

Doctors who don’t work for Trump are pushing back on Ronny Jackson’s characterization of the moron’s health as “excellent.”

The New York Times: Trump’s Physical Revealed Serious Heart Concerns, Outside Experts Say.

Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, a rear admiral and the White House physician, said Tuesday in his report on the president’s medical condition that Mr. Trump was in “excellent” cardiac health despite having an LDL cholesterol level of 143, well above the desired level of 100 or less.

Dr. David Maron, the director of preventive cardiology at Stanford University’s medical school, said Wednesday that it was alarming that the president’s LDL levels remain above 140 even though he is taking 10 milligrams of Crestor, a powerful drug that is used to lower cholesterol levels to well below 100.

Dr. Maron said he would “definitely” be worried about Mr. Trump’s risk for having a heart attack if the president were one of his patients. Asked if Mr. Trump is in perfect health, Dr. Maron offered a blunt reply: “God, no.”

Other cardiologists also disputed Dr. Jackson’s rosy assessment of the president’s heart health. Several said Mr. Trump’s goal should be to get his LDL below 100, or even under 70. He has a real risk of having a heart attack or stroke, especially considering his weight and lack of exercise, they said.

Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripps Research Institute, said that it is impossible to ignore the dangers of the president’s elevated cholesterol levels when providing an overall assessment of Mr. Trump’s health.

“That’s a really high LDL,” Dr. Topol said. “We’re talking about a 70-plus-year-old man who is obese and doesn’t exercise. Just looking at the lab value, you would raise a big red flag.”

He added: “I would never use the words ‘excellent health.’ How you could take these indices and say excellent health? That is completely contradicted.”

Read more expert opinions at the NYT link.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Is Trump’s doctor okay?

Examining the White House physician’s briefing on President Trump’s physical, I was alarmed — not about the president’s health, but the doctor’s.

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson was so effusive in extolling the totally amazing, surpassingly marvelous, superbly stupendous and extremely awesome health of the president that the doctor sounded almost Trumpian. “The president’s overall health is excellent,” he said, repeating “excellent” eight times: “Hands down, there’s no question that he is in the excellent range. . . . I put out in the statement that the president’s health is excellent, because his overall health is excellent. . . . Overall, he has very, very good health. Excellent health.”

And just how excellent is His Excellency’s excellent health, doctor? “Incredible cardiac fitness,” was Dr. Jackson’s professional opinion. “He has incredible genes. . . . He has incredibly good genes, and it’s just the way God made him.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, making a rare house call to the White House briefing room, offered a second opinion. “He is taking a cholesterol-lowering medication, he has evidence of heart disease, and he’s borderline obese,” Gupta pointed out, citing Jackson’s own findings. “Can you characterize that as excellent health?”

Dr. Ronny must have gotten a pretty good brow-beating before he went out to face the White House press corps.

That’s probably not coming from a legit “WH senior advisor,” but it sure sounds like the moron in chief.

Here’s some interesting news on the Russia story.

McClatchy: FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump.

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

Read the rest at the link. This might be a good time to reread that big scoop by Ruth May at the Dallas Morning News in December: How Putin’s proxies helped funnel millions into GOP campaigns. Also check out this Twitter thread:

Read the rest of the thread on Twitter.

That’s all I have the strength for right now. What stories are you following today?