New Years Eve 2018 Reads: Welcoming the Year of Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Les Fêtes Galantes de Paul Verlaine, illustrations de Georges Barbier, Piazza, 1928

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We made it through another year of KKKremlin Caligula! This upcoming year may have a lot of surprises and we’re looking forward to them!

Senator Elizabeth Warren officially entered the 2020 Presidential race and joins Beto O’Rouke on Bernie’s Enemy list. How long before he starts his narcissistic zombie sashay to bring down Democratic Candidates all over the country?   Annie LInskey and Matt Viser of WAPO follwed Warren’s announcement of an ‘exploratory committee’.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren jumped into the 2020 presidential campaign Monday, offering a message of economic populism as she became the best-known Democratic candidate yet to enter what is expected to be a crowded race.

Warren’s announcement that she was establishing an exploratory committee — the legal precursor to a run — came as other candidates, including several of her fellow senators, made final preparations for their own announcements, some of which are expected in days.

“America’s middle class is under attack,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a four-minute, 30-second video emailed to supporters Monday. “How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie. And they enlisted politicians to cut them a bigger slice.”

The video is part biographical, showing her hardscrabble Oklahoma upbringing; part economics lesson, replete with charts illustrating how the middle class is losing economic ground; and part red meat for the Democratic base, with images of President Trump and others disliked by liberals: presidential aides Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller and former adviser Stephen K. Bannon.

KASAMATSU — “Night in Summer (Fireworks)”,1957,Nagashima/Saji
(Note: Correct carver’s name should be Okura.)

While I share hard scrabble Oklahoma roots with the candidate, I’m doing my usual thing of waiting until the first debate performance to start winnowing my field.  Here’s an August, 2018 article from The Atlantic you may want to check out by Franklin Foer: ” Elizabeth Warren’s Theory of Capitalism. A conversation with the Democratic senator about why she’s doubling down on market competition at a moment when her party is flirting with socialism.”

 

Franklin Foer: All the investment bankers who have voodoo dolls of you might be a bit surprised that you recently described yourself as “capitalist to the bone.” What did you mean?

Elizabeth Warren: I believe in markets and the benefits they can produce when they work. Markets with rules can produce enormous value. So much of the work I have done—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, my hearing-aid bill—are about making markets work for people, not making markets work for a handful of companies that scrape all the value off to themselves. I believe in competition.

Foer: To what end?

Warren: Markets create wealth. Okay, so I used to teach contract law, and if you really want to go back to first principles: On the first day, I used to take my watch off and I would sell it to someone in class. We’d agree on a price, $20. Then the question I always asked the students was: What did the buyer value the watch at? Much of the class would say $20.

That’s not the right answer. All we know is that the person would rather have the watch than have the $20 bill. What did you know about the value I placed on it? Exactly the inverse. I’d rather have the $20 bill than have the watch. Now, most people think the benefit of markets is: I walked away with a $20 bill, great, which I valued more highly than the watch, and you walked away with the watch that you valued more highly than the $20, but look at all the excess value there.

Maybe you wanted that watch because it completed your fabulous watch collection or you desperately needed a watch or it was so attractive to you that the value you placed on it would be in the hundreds of dollars. You got all that surplus value, and me, I really needed that $20. I had an investment opportunity over here for that $20 that has yielded a manyfold return for me. That’s how markets create additional value.

Foer: But markets right now are doing a good job of producing wealth. Yes?

Warren: Right.

Foer: In your description, that’s markets working.

Warren: The problem is that when the rules are not enforced, when the markets are not level playing fields, all that wealth is scraped in one direction. For example, leading up to the financial crash, there were a lot of mortgage brokers out there selling mortgages. Wow, did they get rich doing it. Families thought they were buying a product they could afford, whose payments they understood. Many of them lost everything. That’s a market that clearly was not working. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, after it passed, the first thing we did there at the bureau was to put new rules in place about mortgages. Not so that you could control the mortgage market, but so that the market would work.

Takehisa Yumeji fireworks over the Sumida river 1910-20s

Interesting things are running amok among Berniebots who are featured in this Politico article: “Bernie alumni seek meeting to address ‘sexual violence’ on ‘16 campaign. The signees are looking to change what they call a pervasive culture of toxic masculinity in the campaign world.”

More than two dozen women and men who worked on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign are seeking a meeting with the senator and his top political advisers to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle,” according to a copy of letter obtained by POLITICO.

“In recent weeks there has been an ongoing conversation on social media, in texts, and in person, about the untenable and dangerous dynamic that developed during our campaign,” they wrote.

More than two dozen women and men who worked on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign are seeking a meeting with the senator and his top political advisers to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle,” according to a copy of letter obtained by POLITICO.

“In recent weeks there has been an ongoing conversation on social media, in texts, and in person, about the untenable and dangerous dynamic that developed during our campaign,” they wrote.

Organizers of the effort said they did not intend for the letter to become public, but they confirmed that they sent it to senior Sanders officials on Sunday afternoon.

You can read the letter at the link.

Russian foreign relations resemble a cold war spy novel. This is breaking news from Newsweek:  “AMERICAN PAUL WHELAN ARRESTED IN RUSSIA ON SPY CHARGES AS POTENTIAL RETRIBUTION FOR MARIA BUTINA”.

Russia has arrested an American citizen in Moscow for alleged espionage, according to the country’s security services, the FSB.

“On December 28, 2018, staff members of the Russian Federal Security Service detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow while on a spy mission,” the FSB’s public relations center said in a statement. The statement implied that Whelan had been caught “during an act of espionage.”

Russian officials said they had launched an investigation and that Whelan could spend 10 to 20 years in prison if he is found guilty of violating Article 276 of Russia’s penal code. It is unclear what activities Whelan was allegedly engaged in. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow directed questions to the State Department.

“We are aware of the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities. We have been formally notified of the detention by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Russia’s obligations under the Vienna Convention require them to provide consular access.  We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it.”

The State Department declined to provide additional information about Whelan, citing privacy concerns.

On December 26, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow posted a message on its Facebook page claiming that passport and visa services at the embassy would continue through the government shutdown. The message implied that the embassy was not working at full capacity, noting that “we will not update this account until full operations resume, with the exception of urgent safety and security information.”

Whelan’s arrest took place shortly after a Russian woman named Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States for attempting to infiltrate Republican political circles on behalf of the Russian government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and spokespeople for the Russian government have attempted to portray Butina as a victim, and some analysts speculated that the arrest of Whelan could be retribution for Butina’s case.

Despite President Donald Trump’s openness to talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin and having closer ties with Russia, the U.S. relationship with Moscow has deteriorated amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign collaborated with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

Numerous Russian citizens and companies were indicted by the Justice Department as a result of the investigation. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously concluded that Russia attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump.

“Fireworks at Ikenohata Pond”
(“Ikenohata Hanabi”), KOBAYASHI, Kiyochika,1881

The Trump administration is in completely disarray and will likely be caught up in the LA Times interview with out going General Kelly.   I doubt they have time for all the chaos they’ve created abroad.   There’s basically chaos in every policy aspect these days so why not with Trumpski’s puppet master?

 

 

 

Unlike Kelly’s friend James N. Mattis, the retired Marine general who resigned as secretary of Defense with a public letter rebuking the president for abandoning allies and undermining alliances, Kelly kept his counsel.

But his impending departure from the eye of the storm created an embarrassing void at the White House as one candidate after another publicly pulled out or declined the chief of staff job.

On Dec. 14, Trump named Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, as acting chief of staff.

Even administration critics see Kelly’s departure as worrisome, saying he brought hard-edged national security experience and the integrity and ability to stand up to the president.

“It’s a loss, there’s no question,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif).

“Now, it just seems to be a free-for-all,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I). “There’s no real consistent figure that’s going to stand there and just make sure literally the trains run on time. I think that was one of Kelly’s major contributions.”

Kelly leaves as Trump has been cocooned in the White House as a partial government shutdown moves into a second week over his demands for $5 billion for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The president has responded by firing off angry tweets at Democrats, who refuse to provide more than $1.3 billion for border security, rather than seeking to negotiate a solution.

The stalemate also highlights the distance, at least in language, between Kelly and Trump over the president’s signature promise — to build a wall.

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly said.

When Kelly led Homeland Security in early 2017, one of his first steps was to seek advice from those who “actually secure the border,” Customs and Border Protection agents who Kelly calls “salt-of-the-earth, Joe-Six-Pack folks.”

“They said, ‘Well we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people,’” he said.

“The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”

Asked if there is a security crisis at the Southern border, or whether Trump has drummed up fears of a migrant “invasion” for political reasons, Kelly did not answer directly, but said, “We do have an immigration problem.”

So this is the weirdest–but highly believable story– from Raw Story last night: “Sarah Sanders has ‘struggled’ to find a new job as the White House press office becomes ‘Night of the living dead’: report”.

Back in June, CBS reported that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and her deputy Raj Shah were already planning to leave the administration by the end of the year. Sanders never denied the report. But with January just around the corner, no official announcements of their departures have been made, even as other top officials are shown the door or scramble for the exits of their own accord.

So why are they hanging on? According to Yahoo News, Sanders and Shah are struggling to find work elsewhere.

A stunning development, given the low unemployment rate.

Sanders reportedly declined to respond to specific questions about her plans but said she is currently “traveling.”

Yahoo News pointed out that Sarah has all but stopped delivering press briefings. What were once called “daily” briefings have now essentially become “monthly” briefings — with emphasis on the “brief.”

The outlet also observed that Shah has removed the title “deputy white house press secretary” from his Twitter bio.

Meanwhile, it seems the press shop itself has been nearly abandoned. This is not much of surprise — Trump has long considered himself to be his best spokesperson, and he has proven incapable of sticking to any coherent media strategy. And part of the problem, an anonymous source told Yahoo News, is that no one credible wants to work for the White House press office.

“No professional in good standing will even interview for a job,” the source said. “It’s a zombie comms shop. Night of the living dead.”

 

So we have a lot to look forward to in 2019. First, there’s the return of Nancy Pelosi to speaker and the return of Democratic committee chairs. Second, there’s more on the Mueller front and many expect that the next group of indictments will be quite close to the Trumpski himself. Then, there’s the fact we’re still here and standing and following things and there’s still some journalism out there that matters.

Happy New Year Sky Dancers!  And, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Temple New YearHappy New Year from Temple and me!!


Sunday Reads: New Years Wish

^My New Year’s Wish ^

 

 

Now for some interesting tweets:

 

 

 

 

 

Regarding the Kelly interview this morning:

 

 

 

And I want to end with this:

Fuck Yes!

And what is with all this Beto shit! Stacy Abrams ran a hell of a campaign…and came damn close to winning, even with all the possible illegal voter suppression that Kemp succeeded in achieving while acting as Secretary of State and running for Governor. She has a future ahead of her, but like Harris…she is a black woman.

This is an open thread…


Lazy Caturday Reads

By Jackie Morris

Good Afternoon!!

The lies come thick and fast from the Trump administration. It’s not just Trump; it’s his entire gang of shameless prevaricators.

Remember those MAGA hats that Trump signed for service members in Iraq? The White House swore up and down to CNN that they didn’t distribute the campaign merchandise, but people who were there say otherwise.

Of course we can’t be sure these tweets are legit, but come on! Who actually believes these soldiers bought Trump hats and banners and had them shipped to Iraq? Give me a break. I know this is a minor scandal in the scheme of things Trump, but still…

And besides, this was supposed to be a secret, surprise visit, so are we supposed to believe these folks always carry their MAGA hats and banners around with them and to the mess hall?

OK, I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I get so tired of all the gaslighting.

Now check this out. Remember that NYT story awhile back about undocumented immigrants working at Trump’s New Jersey golf club?

The New York Daily News: New Jersey AG has obtained evidence of possible crimes at Trump’s golf club — and Mueller, FBI are involved in probe.

New Jersey prosecutors have collected evidence that supervisors at President Trump’s Garden State golf club may have committed federal immigration crimes — and the FBI as well as special counsel Robert Mueller have played part in the inquiry, the Daily News has learned.

Anibal Romero, a Newark attorney who represents several undocumented immigrants who used to work at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, said Friday he recently met with investigators from the state attorney general’s office and handed over fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers that management at the club allegedly procured and gave his clients, Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz.

Before he met with the state prosecutors, Romero said he reached out to Mueller’s office because, while he wanted to contact federal authorities, he was concerned about looping in the Justice Department, which was headed by Jeff Sessions at the time.

Mueller’s office got back to Romero and said the issue was out of their jurisdiction, but they apparently passed the information on to the FBI.

A few weeks later, an FBI agent in New Jersey called Romero.

“He said to me that he had received a referral from Robert Mueller’s office and that he already knew the specifics and that he wanted to meet with me in person,” Romero said.

By S. Telari, Deviant Art

Romero then met with two agents at a federal office in Branchburg, N.J., and outlined the same evidence he had already given the AG prosecutors. The agents said they would “coordinate” with the AG’s office, according to Romero.

Romero said he’s stayed in touch with the FBI and the attorney general’s office but declined to confirm whether either of the agencies have formally opened investigations.

“I’m confident that federal and state authorities will conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” Romero said.

How many states is Trump under investigation in now? I’ve lost count.

Here’s a funny media story from by Ashley Feinberg at HuffPost: The Thinnest Skins In Media In 2018. Their diapers runneth over. You’ll have to click on the link to read the details, but here’s the list of included media figures:

Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor And Respecter Of Troops

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine Columnist And Scab

Jim VandeHei, Axios CEO And Co-founder, Unofficial Spokesman For Zuckerberg 2020

Maggie Haberman, Nonpartisan New York Times Non-non-reporter

Jonathan Swan, Axios-Branded Dictaphone

Chris Cillizza, CNN Something-Or-Other

Glenn Greenwald, Prophet Of Civil Liberties And Ironic Capitalization

Salena Zito, Gas Station Oracle

Chris Cuomo, Famous Brother Haver

Ben Wittes, Prose Torturer

Ashley Feinberg, Professional Corncob

Now go read. You won’t be sorry.

Here in Massachusetts, the Governor just signed a new law regulation short-term rentals. The Boston Globe: Baker signs long-awaited Airbnb bill, opening new era for industry.

Governor Charlie Baker on Friday signed first-of-its-kind legislation to tax and regulate the short-term housing rental market in Massachusetts, capping years of debate over how to navigate an industry that has exploded through companies like Airbnb.

The new rules will take effect July 1 and could transform a market that spans the state, from Cape Cod summer homes to Boston apartment buildings to Western Massachusetts vacation retreats.

The bill requires every rental host to register with the state, mandates they carry insurance, and opens the potential for local taxes on top of a new state levy. A chief negotiator for the House said the goal is to register every short-term rental in the state by September, and local officials, including in Boston, say the new law will help buttress their own efforts to regulate the booming market.

Airbnb is fighting back.

But before Baker’s ink could dry, the law drew a sharp rebuke from Airbnb, which called it “flawed” and unnecessarily complex. Advocates who have closely followed the process — including Airbnb’s decision to sue in federal court to overturn Boston’s municipal regulations — warn a lawsuit against the state could also follow.

More details on the law:

Beyond requiring all hosts to register and carry insurance, it also subjects short-term rentals to the same 5.7 percent state levy now paid by hotels — but exempts people who rent their homes 14 or fewer nights a year. Officials have estimated that tax could raise at least $25 million annually.

It also would allow cities and towns to impose their own taxes of up to 6 percent, except in Boston, where it would be 6.5 percent, with occasional hosts also exempted.

Additional taxes would be levied on hosts who own multiple units. And an extra fee would also fall on units in Boston, Cambridge, and a handful of other cities that support the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, but only after bonds are paid off on the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.

Some cities, including New York and San Francisco, have used short-term rental registries to rein in the industry, but this law makes Massachusetts the first state to require all hosts to register. That, more than the taxes, has been the focus of debate in recent months.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Time Magazine has a new story on Paul Manafort: Exclusive: Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch.

When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.

Jackie Morris for Amnesty International

A months-long investigation by TIME, however, found that Boyarkin, a former arms dealer with a high forehead and a very low profile, was a key link between a senior member of the Trump campaign and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his only interview with the media about those connections, Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

The former Russian intelligence officer says he has been approached by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Boyarkin’s response to those investigators? “I told them to go dig a ditch,” he says. Peter Carr, the spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, declined to comment. Through his spokesman, Manafort likewise declined to comment on his alleged connections with Boyarkin.

But those connections could be potentially important to the Special Counsel’s inquiry. They would mark some of the clearest evidence of the leverage that powerful Russians had over Trump’s campaign chairman. And they may shed light on why Manafort discussed going right back to work for pro-Russian interests in Eastern Europe after he crashed out of the Trump campaign in August 2016, according to numerous sources in the TIME investigation.

Read the rest at the link. It’s a long story.

One more from Buzzfeed: These Are 50 Of The Biggest Fake News Hits On Facebook In 2018.

By Max Carlier

After spending two years launching third-party fact-checking programs, rolling out News Feed updates, and investing in other anti-misinformation initiatives, Facebook is still the home of viral fake news.

For the third year in a row, BuzzFeed News compiled a list of 50 of the most viral false stories on Facebook and measured their total engagement on the platform. And in spite of a prediction from Facebook’s top anti-misinformation product manager that these articles would see a decline in engagement in 2018, this year’s top-performing hoaxes generated almost as many shares, reactions, and comments as last year’s.

The top 50 fake stories of 2018 identified by BuzzFeed News generated roughly 22 million total shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook between Jan. 1 and Dec. 9, 2018, according to data from BuzzSumo and Trendolizer. This was only 7% fewer engagements than the 23.5 million engagements generated by to top 50 of 2017, and slightly more than the top 50 fakes identified by BuzzFeed News in 2016, when those links generated 21.5 million engagements.

Read the whole thing at Buzzfeed. How long before Facebook goes the way of AOL?

So . . . what else is happening on this long holiday weekend? Post your recommendations in the comment thread below.


Friday Reads: Scoring points with the lives of Federal Workers

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

There’s nothing more despicable in a pol than scoring political points by wrecking the lives of public servants. The Federal Budget discussion by KKKremlin Caligula has increasingly become shows of strength based on wrecking lives.  Nothing could be more true than today’s sociopathic display by Cadet Bonespurs on the government shutdown despite agreement within Congress to avoid that outcome.  Trump owns this.

Today’s headlines show the abject callousness of the Sociopath-in-Chief.  Via Truthout:  “Trump Administration Suggests Unpaid Federal Workers Do Odd Jobs to Cover Rent.”   Scoring political points from your ever shrinking base by creating stress in peoples’ lives is perhaps the most callous action by a President that only bows to pressure by despots and prefers all others just carry on. The most outrageous things recently have been his inferences that it’s workers that are democrats that have been furloughed and so, who cares?  And, that most federal workers support the wall.

With the partial government shutdown expected to extend into January with no funding agreement in sight, the Trump administration suggested on Thursday that the hundreds of thousands of unpaid federal workers who have been furloughed could do odd jobs and chores for their landlords to help cover rent.

In a tweet on Thursday, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)—led by Margaret Weichert, whom President Donald Trump picked to head the agency in October—offered a Word document featuring sample letters purportedly aimed at helping unpaid federal workers negotiate with landlords, mortgage companies, and creditors amid the government shutdown, which was caused by Trump’s demand for $5 billion in border wall funding.

“I will keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status and I would like to discuss with you the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments,” reads the sample letter to a landlord.

Thursday that there has been no progress toward reopening the government—meaning the shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of workers without pay will continue into the new year.

“There are countless stories of families’ holidays being upended by Trump’s obstinance causing the shutdown, as so many of them live paycheck-to-paycheck. Then OPM comes through with this tone-deaf tweet telling them to check with their ‘personal attorney,’” progressive activist Jordan Uhl noted, highlighting the federal workers’ personal accounts of how they have been harmed by the lapse in government funding.

“It’s shameful,” journalist Celeste Pewter wrote of the fact that workers are being forced to “appeal to the goodwill of creditors, landlords, and mortgage companies” to get by.

Illustration by Max Burbank at The Villager

Yes, Ebeneezer Trump did not get a visitation from any spirits except those from his rumored Adderall abuse.  What is the Democratic Party Strategy? This is analysis at Politico by Rachel Bade and John Bresnahan.  

House Democrats — increasingly convinced they’re winning the shutdown fight with President Donald Trump — are plotting ways to reopen the government while denying the president even a penny more for his border wall when they take power Jan. 3.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her top lieutenants are considering several options that would refuse Trump the $5 billion he’s demanded for the wall and send hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees back to work, according to senior Democratic sources.

While the strategy is fluid, House Democrats hope to pass a funding bill shortly after members are sworn in. They believe that would put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to follow suit. And they’re confident that their political leverage will only increase the longer the shutdown lasts — a notion that some GOP leaders privately agree with.

Indeed, the specter of a lengthy shutdown could hurt Trump’s already damaged image more than it would Democrats — especially because he claimed ownership of the crisis two weeks ago. Democrats believe the shutdown battle — combined with the volatility in financial markets and special counsel Robert Mueller closing in on Trump — exacerbates the appearance of a cornered president acting out of his own political self-interest instead of the needs of the American public

I kinda got a kick out of this analysis from The Villager.  This is from the pen of Max Burbank.

At this festive time of year, I find myself wondering just how certain major power players square their moral values with the widely accepted standards embodied in the Christmas classics.

Does Mitch McConnell figure Mr. Potter’s big mistake in “It’s a Wonderful Life” was not running for Senate and using raw legislative power to crush George Bailey under his boot like a Socialist roach?

Does Paul Ryan role-play King Moonracer from the Rankin/Bass version of “Rudolph,” establishing an Ayn Randian objectivist paradise on the Island of Misfit Toys, furtively pleasuring himself while imagining stripping Charlie in-the-Box and Spotted Elephant of Obamacare?

When the specter of Richard Nixon is standing right behind Trump, doing his best Marley’s Ghost imitation by rattling the chains he forged in life and moaning about how all mankind should have been his business, Trump is all, like, “Where the hell is my Diet Coke? I hadda push the button twice!”

“No, NO!” Nixon wails. “I’m Marley. You’re Scrooge! Metaphorically! Don’t you get it?”

“Not me,” says Trump. “Scrooge might have been rich, but he didn’t live rich. I got my own courses to play golf on every weekend. I get two, maybe three scoops of ice cream on the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen in a restaurant with my name in big letters on the door! I don’t need a change of heart.”

It has got be downright hard to be a Republican at Christmas. It must require a mental à la carte menu featuring choice helpings of cognitive dissonance, mental compartmentalization, deep-seated selfishness, evil, and side dish of good old American “I don’t give a crap.”

So, since he’s already basically shut down the Federal Government, he’s moving on to shutting down the Southern Border.  Notice, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with those huge number of Visa-overstaying Canadians.   But, he does have a problem with the Brown people seeking asylum to the south despite the huge numbers of Americans that don’t feel the border wall is a priority.

Is shutting down a 1,954 mile border even possible?  If so, will we start seeing boat lifts into the Gulf South ala the old Cuban days?

This is from The Hill.  And, wouldn’t that just blow up his NAFTA thingie? And just what we need, a good boat lift into Brownsville, Texas!

President Trump on Friday threatened to “close the Southern Border entirely” if Democrats do not agree to provide money to “finish” building a wall on the Mexican border.

Trump made the threat as a partial government shutdown enters its seventh day with no end in sight.

The shutdown began on Saturday after Democrats rejected demands from Trump that $5 billion be included for the wall in a measure to keep the government open.

“We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with,” the president tweeted.

He also criticized past presidents and Congresses over the nation’s current immigration laws.

“Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!”

Reuters reports in its poll that more Americans blame Trump than the Dems for the current shutdown. That usually doesn’t play well in any political cycle.

More Americans blame President Donald Trump than congressional Democrats for the partial U.S. government shutdown, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday, as the closure stretched into its sixth day with no end in sight.

Forty-seven percent of adults hold Trump responsible, while 33 percent blame Democrats in Congress, according to the Dec. 21-25 poll, conducted mostly after the shutdown began. Seven percent of Americans blamed congressional Republicans.

The shutdown was triggered by Trump’s demand, largely opposed by Democrats and some lawmakers from his own Republican Party, that taxpayers provide him with $5 billion to help pay for a wall that he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. Its total estimated cost is $23 billion.

Again, we ask in vain, “Wasn’t Mexico supposed to pay for this thing Trumplets?”.  And, they want us to pay for it given the tax break that just went to the Richies and the Corps?  We’re not doing a great job of living pay check to pay check here in the land of the indebted as it is.  We all don’t have rich, slum lord dads and Russian oligarchs to bail us out.  This is from Danielle Paquette at WAPO>

What do professors, real estate agents, farmers, business executives, computer programmers and store clerks have in common?

They’re not immune to the harsh reality of living paycheck to paycheck, according to dozens of people who responded to a Washington Post inquiry on Twitter.

They’re millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers. They work in big cities and rural towns. They’ve tried to save — but rent, child care, student loans and medical bills get in the way.

National data on the paycheck-to-paycheck experience is flimsy, but a recent report from the Federal Reserve spotlights the prevalence of extra-tight budgets: Four in 10 adults say they couldn’t produce $400 in an emergency without sliding into debt or selling something, according to the 2017 figures.

The partial government shutdown, which began last Friday and is temporarily halting pay for some 800,000 federal workers, has touched off a heated discussion on Twitter about what it means to get by in the United States. (President Trump warned this closure could “last a very long time” if Congress doesn’t meet his demands for billions of dollars for a border wall.)

Even brief income lapses can spell disaster for some households.

“My husband is a Park Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and he had to sign his furlough papers,” one woman tweeted. ”We have a 4 yr. old and a 4-month-old, and we don’t know when his next check will come. Mortgage is due, Christmas 2 days away.”

“Broke my lease to accept new fed job for which I have to attend 7 months of training in another state,” another Twitter user said. (He later deleted the tweet). “Training canceled with shutdown. Homeless. Can’t afford short(?)-term housing/have to work full-time for no pay/returning Christmas presents.”

But never fear!  There’s always taxpayer money for the ‘right cause’.  This is from The Rolling Stone: “Taxpayers Are Subsidizing Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve Party Despite Trump’s Shutdown. The president doesn’t seem to care about the 800,000 workers who won’t be receiving paychecks during the government shutdown.” Ho Ho Ho!  Whose the ho?

Though Trump’s decision to shut down the government may keep him in Washington for the holidays, it won’t keep taxpayers from footing a heavy portion of the bill for Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve party. As was noted by Quartz this week, government spending data shows that the Secret Service paid Grimes Events & Party Tents Inc. of Delray Beach, Florida, $54,020 on December 19th for “TENT RENTAL FOR MAL.” An employee of the company confirmed to Quartz that it is providing tents for the annual for-profit bash at Trump’s “Winter White House” in Palm Beach.

Americans chipping in to help Trump and the Palm Beach elite turn over their calendars isn’t unique to this year. The Secret Service spent just over $26,000 on an array of accessories for Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve party in 2017, which was attended by both Trump and Melania. Though it’s never not going to be a conflict of interest when the president has taxpayers subsidize a for-profit party at his private club, $54,000 for tents feels especially egregious given that the government is currently running under a partial shutdown that has deprived approximately 800,000 federal workersof their paychecks.

Ever feel like we get scrooged every day?  Which brings me to this.

From Dylan Scott at VOX: “Why the government shutdown is good legal news for Trump. The president’s lawyers cited the government shutdown to win a delay in the emoluments case against him.”

President Donald Trump is using the government shutdown to try to force Democrats to fund his Mexican border wall. But there is another, more personal benefit for the president that he probably won’t be mentioning anytime soon: An important appeal in the lawsuit over foreign payments to his Washington, DC, hotel and other businesses has been put on hold.

Trump is being sued by the District of Columbia and Maryland because they say he is violating the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause, which forbids federal officials from accepting emoluments, a term for gifts or payments for services or labor from foreign governments or US states.

The states have won several important procedural decisions, but federal attorneys have filed a number of appeals to slow them down, most notably seeking a freeze on any further discovery — like subpoenas the states might pursue to get information on foreign officials’ stays at the Trump International Hotel in DC.

Now the Justice Department lawyers representing Trump have secured a delay in the ongoing appeals. They cited — wait for it — the current government shutdown, now in its sixth day.

Grifters gotta grift.  Am I right?

So, let’s look forward to the New Year’s and this news from CNN: ‘House Democrats scooping up staff, lawyers to power Trump investigations.”

The House Judiciary Committee is looking for a few good lawyers.

A recent committee job posting reviewed by CNN asked for legislative counsels with a variety of expertise: “criminal law, immigration law, constitutional law, intellectual property law, commercial and administrative law (including antitrust and bankruptcy), or oversight work.”
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee needs lawyers, too, posting jobs for “executive branch investigative counsel.”
The advertisements give a window into the Democratic recruiting that’s ramped up ahead of the party gaining subpoena power for the first time in eight years when it takes over the House in January.

While Democrats publicly talk up their interest in focusing on legislative priorities like health care and voting rights — not to mention ending the ongoing partial government shutdown — they are quietly preparing for what will likely be the largest congressional investigation of a sitting president in recent memory. Party leaders and committee chairs have spent months ironing out potential targets, from President Donald Trump’s taxes and business dealings to the conduct of current and former Cabinet members.
To handle all this investigative work, House Democrats are expected to double the number of their staffers. Though they can’t officially hire anyone until the new Congress is seated, plans are well underway, with House members saying that candidates — especially those with specific investigative skills, from money laundering to contracting — are coming from all directions.

I don’t know about Santa, but I do believe in Mueller and his lawyers.  I also am pretty sure those wise men and women on the horizon are bearing gifts of Congressional subpoenas.   Let’s all be merry about that!

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: Trump Flubs Troop Visit and Other News

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

Good Afternoon!!

So Trump was finally shamed into visiting some troops in Iraq, and naturally everything about his visit was completely inappropriate. He acted as if he was a a campaign rally, bragging about his mythical accomplishments and telling bald-faced lies as usual.

Previous presidents have used these trips to praise soldiers and let them know that they are appreciated as well as to meet with local officials. Trump did none of that; and, as JJ noted yesterday, he revealed the classified location of Seal team troops and posted their faced on-line. On top of everything else, he autographed MAGA hats for troops who are forbidden from engaging in political activities.

Iraqi leaders were not happy.

Reuters: Iraqi lawmakers criticize Trump visit as blow to Iraqi sovereignty.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi political and militia leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, and lawmakers said a meeting between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was canceled due to a disagreement over venue.

The Book Keeper, by Nicole Gustafson

Sabah al Saadi, the leader of the Islah parliamentary bloc, called for an emergency session of parliament “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The U.S. occupation of Iraq is over.”

The Bina bloc, Islah’s rival in parliament and led by Iran-backed militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, also objected to Trump’s trip to Iraq.

“Trump’s visit is a flagrant and clear violation of diplomatic norms and shows his disdain and hostility in his dealings with the Iraqi government,” said a statement from Bina.

CBS News: After Trump’s visit, Iraqi lawmakers demand U.S. withdrawal.

Baghdad — Iraqi lawmakers Thursday demanded U.S. forces leave the country in the wake of a surprise visit by President Donald Trump that politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Politicians from both blocs of Iraq’s divided Parliament called for a vote to expel U.S. troops and promised to schedule an extraordinary session to debate the matter.

“Parliament must clearly and urgently express its view about the ongoing American violations of Iraqi sovereignty,” said Salam al-Shimiri, a lawmaker loyal to the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Containing foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in a year that saw al-Sadr supporters win the largest share of votes in May elections. Al-Sadr has called for curbing U.S. and Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.

The moron-in-chief can’t get anything right.

CNN: Troops bringing Trump hats to sign may violate military rule.

Seuss-Scape, by Nicole Gusafson

Video footage and the written report of Trump’s visit with service members in Iraq showed the President signing “Make America Great Again” hats and an embroidered patch that read “Trump 2020.”

But troops’ requests for the autographs could brush up against Department of Defense guidelines for political activities.

Those guidelines say that “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.”

The Daily Beast: Trump Takes a War-Zone Victory Lap—and Trips.

This should have been a victory lap for a president hailed by the military for letting them loose to attack ISIS, unconstrained by the reluctance and micromanagement of the Obama administration. But President Donald Trump has just announced the U.S. would be leaving the job to Turkey, deserting Kurdish and Western coalition allies, and abandoning the field of battle to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran.

“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” President Donald Trump told a group of about 100 troops, most of them special operators, in an unannounced holiday visit to al-Asad Airbase, in northern Iraq. He added that other countries can no longer expect the U.S. to do their fighting, unless they are willing to pay for it. “The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world,” he said….

“In Syria, Erdogan said he wants to knock out ISIS, whatever’s left, the remnants of ISIS,” Trump told reporters on the trip.  “And Saudi Arabia just came out and said they are going to pay for some economic development, which is great; that means we don’t have to pay.”

But what of the French and British allies the U.S. has left behind in Syria to keep up the fight? Does that mean they are the suckers left holding the bag? Or the Kurdish militia groups that did most of the fighting, and dying, to drive out the so-called Islamic State, now left to the tender mercies of sworn enemy Turkey?

The president was unrepentant, explaining that he gave “the generals” multiple six-month “extensions” to get out of Syria. “They said again, recently, can we have more time? I said, ‘Nope.’ You can’t have any more time. You’ve had enough time. We’ve knocked them out. We’ve knocked them silly,” he said. “Others will do it too. Because we are in their region. They should be sharing the burden of costs and they’re not.”

But the decision hasn’t sat well with many in the special-operations community Trump was addressing, as they’ve known many of these Kurdish fighters for years, and risked life and limb on joint missions together well before the ISIS fight.

In other news, it’s looking more and more like the Trump Organization could end up being indicted in New York. Perhaps that will force Trump out even if the Republicans protect him from impeachment.

NBC News: Probe of Trump’s charity could crash ‘like a Mack Truck’ into his real estate empire.

The Trump Foundation and the Trump Organization shared much more than President Donald Trump’s last name.

And that’s why, experts said, the New York state investigations into the charity could envelop the president’s namesake business.

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

“Nothing but overlap here. It all was held so tightly by he and his family members,” NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, told NBC News.

“I don’t think there will be any investigative daylight between what the New York state authorities and investigators are looking into with respect to the foundation vs. the organization vs. anything else involving business dealings that have the name ‘Trump’ attached to them,” he said, predicting that the foundation investigation will “crash through (the Trump Organization) like a Mack Truck.”

Wouldn’t that be fun to watch? A bit more:

Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor and NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst, said that because some of the same people alleged by the state attorney general of persistent illegal activity in running the charity are also involved with the president’s business, there is reasonable justification in broadening the investigation.

“It is likely that the investigation into the Trump Foundation has sufficiently overlapped with the Trump Organization that (state) investigators would be justified in extending their investigation into the Trump Organization,” he said.

The foundation itself had no employees, instead relying on Trump Organization staffers to cut its checks. Prior to taking office in 2017, Trump turned over day-to-day control of his business to his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Both sons were among the charity’s board members, while Weisselberg was listed as its treasurer.

Meanwhile Trump is trying to use the government shutdown to post pone the emoluments case against him in Virginia.

Politico: Trump lawyers, citing shutdown, ask court for delay in emoluments case.

Lawyers for President Donald Trump are invoking the government shutdown to seek a delay in a court case over claims that Trump is illegally profiting from business his Washington hotel does with foreign countries.

Illustration by Nicole Gustafson

Justice Department attorneys representing Trump asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to postpone indefinitely all further filings in an appeal related to a suit that the governments of Maryland and Washington, D.C., filed over Trump’s alleged violation of the Constitution’s ban on foreign emoluments.

The government’s brief is not due until Jan. 22, but DOJ lawyers asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., to put the appeal on ice until the shutdown ends.

“The Department does not know when funding will be restored by Congress,” Justice lawyers wrote. “Absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys and employees are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property’. … Undersigned counsel for the Department of Justice therefore requests a stay of briefing on the President’s mandamus petition until Congress has restored appropriations to the Department.”

I don’t understand why the DOJ is defending Trump for illegally profiting from his office.

If you have some extra time today here are two long reads on immigration to check out.

A long read from ProPublica: He Drew His School Mascot — and ICE Labeled Him a Gang Member. How high schools have embraced the Trump administration’s crackdown on MS-13, and destroyed immigrant students’ American dreams.

Another long read from The Washington Post: When death awaits deported asylum seekers. Ronald Acevedo waited eight months for asylum in Arizona. Days after he was deported, he was found dead in the trunk of a car.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Wednesday Reads: Cartoons after Christmas

 

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Give me your young

Give me your young: 12/26/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

 

 

 

By the way:

 

 

 

And note: this cartoon was before that fucking awful Christmas Speech…God bless ME: 12/24/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - God bless ME

 

12/26/2018 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

Bruce Plante Cartoon: General Mattis: 12/26/2018 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: General Mattis

This is an open thread….and a very late one at that!


Christmas Evening Open Thread

Good Evening!!

I hope everyone had a lovely day despite the self-absorbed asshole living in the White House and his mountain of grievances. Here’s a bit of his so-called Christmas message to the troops today. CNN reports:

In President Donald Trump’s Christmas Day telling, the drugs are flowing over the border, the Federal Reserve is imperiling the economy and the Democrats are preparing to harass him with oversight requests.

“It’s a disgrace, what’s happening in our country,” Trump fumed, seated behind the Resolute Desk on Tuesday, after decrying Democrats as hypocrites and recalling — unprompted — his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
“But other than that,” he said, his hands gesturing outward, “I wish everybody a very merry Christmas.”

Celebrating the holiday at the White House instead of his Palm Beach estate, Trump used a phone call session with American troops to advance his case for a border wall, his isolationist foreign policy views and his insistence that his campaign did not collude with Russia.
Trump acknowledged the standoff with Democrats over funding for his long-promised border wall has no foreseeable end date.

“I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it,” he said.

I’m sure the men and women serving overseas found that very edifying . . . not. Here’s mash-up of his public whining:

Remember when we had a real president? It’s hard to believe it has only been two years since the Obamas sent out their final Christmas message.

I just got home after spending the day with family. I thought I’d share a few stories that have caught my attention tonight.

NBC News: Trump becomes first president since 2002 not to visit troops at Christmastime.

Texas Tribune: ICE dumps hundreds of migrants with nowhere to go at a bus station on eve of Christmas without warning shelters.

Post and Courier: Do a ‘marginal’ number of 7-year-olds believe in Santa? That’s what Trump told a SC girl.

Raw Story: Trump bizarrely claims ‘many’ federal workers want to go without paychecks until he gets his wall.

The Washington Post: The sermon Trump heard on Christmas Eve featured a cruel emperor, migrants seeking refuge and ‘the hardest of years’

The New York Times: Trump’s King Minus Touch.

The New Yorker: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Nephew on Winning the Aunt Lottery.

Scientific American: There Is No Such Thing as Conscious Thought.

 

 

Happy Holidays, Sky Dancers!!