Tuesday Reads

Lady on a Sofa, Harold Gilman, c 1910

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

I’m still struggling with a bad cold. I’ve been coughing so much that I’m not getting enough sleep. I finally decided to go to a doctor yesterday, and the good news is my lungs are clear despite all the coughing and some wheezing. So I’m just resting, drinking fluids and hoping I’ll be OK by Christmas Eve.

I have to agree with Daknikat’s post yesterday. I don’t see how much longer Trump can go on with the daily revelations of his criminality. In just 17 days, the Democrats will take over the House and Trump will face investigations on another front; he is already facing 17 separate investigations that we know of.

Trump is nothing but a common criminal. It’s sickening that he’s still living in the people’s house. If you missed this essential summary on Deadline White House last week, please watch.

Before the Friday deadline, Trump will have to decide if he really wants to shut down the government over his ridiculous border wall. NBC News: Trump sounds defiant note on wall funding ahead of Friday shutdown deadline.

Days before a Friday night deadline to fund the government and prevent a partial shutdown, the workweek began Monday with no plan to resolve the impasse.

No further conversations occurred over the weekend between Democratic leaders and the White House, aides said.

“They have not responded to our offers,” said an aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who’s poised to be formally elected speaker in January….

During an Oval Office meeting last Tuesday, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York gave the president two options to keep the government open: Either Congress passes six remaining appropriations bills and a one-year spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that maintains current funding levels, or it passes a one-year spending bill extending current levels for half of the government.

A Lady Reading, Gwen John, 1909-11

The White House, however, hasn’t entertained either idea — and Democrats have made clear they don’t plan to budge. Top White House adviser Stephen Miller doubled down Sunday on Trump’s threat to shut down the government in order to secure his requested $5 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We’re going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration,” Miller said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” And asked if that means a shutdown, he replied, “If it comes to it, absolutely.”

We’ll see. Trump is about to go on a 16 day vacation in Florida, and if the government shuts down, he’ll be golfing while the Secret Service agents who protect him work without pay. HuffPost:

President Donald Trump, clad in a golf shirt and golf hat under a warm South Florida sun, hitting a drive off the tee while Secret Service agents protecting him are forced to work without paychecks, possibly for weeks, because Congress wouldn’t pay for Trump’s “Great Wall.”

Such is the nightmare public relations scenario facing the White House less than a week before the Department of Homeland Security and other key government agencies run out of money at midnight Friday while Trump is scheduled to fly that day to his Mar-a-Lago resort for a 16-day vacation.

The U.S. Secret Service is among the half-dozen agencies in the quarter-million-employee DHS, which also includes the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration. Other major agencies facing a shutdown include the departments of state, treasury and interior. Many of the affected employees would be deemed essential and be forced to work anyway. None would be paid during the shutdown and would have to get by on savings or short-term loans.

The Railway, Edouard Manet, 1873

Rick Tyler, a former aide to the man who engineered the last extended government shutdown in 2013, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, said that Trump will cave in the days to come.

“The only leverage in shutting down the government is who gets the blame for it. And he’s already taken the blame for it,” Tyler said, predicting that Trump will approve whatever Congress gives him.

My guess is he’ll cave. If not, his already weak approval ratings will suffer.

Meanwhile, news is breaking several times a day in the various investigations. Some stories to check out:

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Russia’s support for Trump’s election is no longer disputable.

TWO REPORTS prepared for the Senate on Russian disinformationunfold a now-indisputable narrative: The Kremlin engaged in a coordinated campaign to elevate Donald Trump to the presidency, and this country’s technology companies were central to its strategy.

The Russia operation is staggering in its scale, precision and deceptiveness. Pages generated by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency elicited nearly 40 million likes and more than 30 million shares on Facebook alone, reeling in susceptible users with provocative advertisements and then giving them propaganda to spread far and wide. The aim was not to toss the country into tumult, but to put the preferred candidate of a foreign adversary in the Oval Office. All the while, Americans were entirely unaware of what was happening: What seemed like local Black Lives Matter activists were actually Russian trolls well-versed in the buzzwords of social justice. Ostensible patriots for Second Amendment rights were broadcasting from St. Petersburg.

A Woman Reading a Newspaper, Norman Garstin, 1891

Republicans have protested over the past year that election interference is neither unusual nor important. This week’s reports comprehensively put both arguments to rest. Russia waged an unprecedented campaign, targeting Americans across all segments of society, on platforms large and small. The studies do not even cover the entirety of Russia’s online tampering: The hack-and-leak operation that led to the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s private emails, orchestrated by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, was another crucial salvo in a pro-Trump onslaught.

The Daily Beast: Mueller Ready to Pounce on Trumpworld Concessions to Moscow.

For more than a year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has questioned witnesses broadly about their interactions with well-connected Russians. But three sources familiar with Mueller’s probe told The Daily Beast that his team is now zeroing in on Trumpworld figures who may have attempted to shape the administration’s foreign policy by offering to ease U.S. sanctions on Russia.

The Special Counsel’s Office is preparing court filings that are expected to detail Trump associates’ conversations about sanctions relief—and spell out how those offers and counter-proposals were characterized to top figures on the campaign and in the administration, those same sources said.

The new details would not only bookend a multi-year investigation by federal prosecutors into whether and how Trump associates seriously considered requests by Moscow to ease the financial measures. The new court filings could also answer a central question of the so-called “Russia investigation”: What specific policy changes, if any, did the Kremlin hope to get in return from its political machinations?

The Short-Sighted Woman, Alfred Stevens, 1903

“During his investigation Mueller has shown little proclivity for chasing dead ends,” said Paul Pelletier, a former senior Department of Justice official. “His continued focus on the evidence that members of the Trump campaign discussed sanction relief with Russians shows that his evidence of a criminal violation continues to sharpen. This has to come as especially bad news for the President.”

Mueller’s interest in sanctions arose, at least in part, out of his team’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The Special Counsel’s Office noted in a court filing last week that Flynn had lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak concerning U.S. sanctions. But other portions of this court filing were left redacted.

Mueller’s team is looking closely at evidence—some of it provided by witnesses—from the transition period, two individuals with knowledge of the probe said.

Read the rest at the link.

At Emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler explains why documents released by Mueller’s office yesterday show that Michael Flynn “lied to protect trump.”

In response to Judge Sullivan’s order, the government filed Flynn’s 302 under seal. After Sullivan reviewed it, he deemed it pertinent to Flynn’s sentencing, and had the government release a redacted version.

And it is unbelievably damning, in part because it shows the degree to which Flynn’s lies served to protect Trump.

The 302 shows how the FBI Agents first let Flynn offer up his explanation for his conversation with Kislyak. He lied about the purpose for his call to Kislyak on December 29 (he said he had called to offer condolences about the assassination of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey) and he lied about the purpose of his call about Israel (he claimed he was, in part, doing a battle drill “to see who the administration could reach in a crisis” and in the process tried to find out how countries were voting on the Israeli motion; Flynn denied he had asked for any specific action).

Young Woman Reading an Illustrated Journal, Auguste Renoir, c. 1880

Then, after the Agents specifically asked whether he recalled any conversation about the Obama actions, Flynn doubled down and claimed he did not know about those actions because he was in Dominican Republic….

He was hiding two things with this claim: first, I believe Susan Rice had given the Trump Administration a heads up on what Obama was going to do (at the very least the Obama Admin had asked the transition not to send mixed messages, and at least one person on the transition says they agreed not to). More importantly, he was hiding that he had already talked about the actions with KT McFarland, who was at Mar-a-Lago relaying orders from Trump.

And Flynn again denied having had a heads up from Susan Rice when he claimed he didn’t know that Russia’s diplomats were being expelled.

That’s just a the gist. You’ll need to read the whole thing at the link.

One more from The Hollywood Reporter, if you can stomach it: Woody Allen’s Secret Teen Lover Speaks: Sex, Power and a Conflicted Muse Who Inspired ‘Manhattan’

Sixteen, emerald-eyed, blond, an aspiring model with a confident streak and a painful past: Babi Christina Engelhardt had just caught Woody Allen’s gaze at legendary New York City power restaurant Elaine’s. It was October 1976, and when Engelhardt returned from the ladies’ room, she dropped a note on his table with her phone number. It brazenly read: “Since you’ve signed enough autographs, here’s mine!”

Soon, Allen rang, inviting her to his Fifth Avenue penthouse. The already-famous 41-year-old director, still hot off Sleeper and who’d release Annie Hall the following spring, never asked her age. But she told him she was still in high school, living with her family in rural New Jersey as she pursued her modeling ambitions in Manhattan. Within weeks, they’d become physically intimate at his place. She wouldn’t turn 17, legal in New York, until that December.

Young Woman Reading an Illustrated Journal, Auguste Renoir, c. 1880

The pair embarked on, by her account, a clandestine romance of eight years, the claustrophobic, controlling and yet dreamy dimensions of which she’s still processing more than four decades later. For her, the recent re-examination of gender power dynamics initiated by the #MeToo movement (and Allen’s personal scandals, including a claim of sexual abuse by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow) has turned what had been a melancholic if still sweet memory into something much more uncomfortable. Like others among her generation — she just turned 59 on Dec. 4 — Engelhardt is resistant to attempts to have the life she led then be judged by what she considers today’s newly established norms. “It’s almost as if I’m now expected to trash him,” she says.

Time, though, has transfigured what she’s long viewed as a secret, unspoken monument to their then-still-ongoing relationship: 1979’s Manhattan, in which 17-year-old Tracy (Oscar-nominated Mariel Hemingway) enthusiastically beds Allen’s 42-year-old character Isaac “Ike” Davis. The film has always “reminded me why I thought he was so interesting — his wit is magnetic,” Engelhardt says. “It was why I liked him and why I’m still impressed with him as an artist. How he played with characters in his movies, and how he played with me.”

That’s all I’ve got for today. What stories are you following?


67 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice day, everyone!

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    What is frightening to me is how far Trump and Flynn would have gone had Flynn not been under investigation.

    God knows how far they would have gone unchecked. Bad enough now to know what was on their minds but we see that it was nefarious.

    Think about Russia, the Saudis, and Turkey being in play while their intent was the money to be “earned” by their associations with these countries.

    This could have been much worse.

    Chilling.

  3. Sweet Sue says:

    BB, get back into bed. Thanks for the excellent roundup.

  4. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      And this is the outgoing AG, right? Wow Dump and his spaleen (h/t Charlie Pierce) are in a world of hurt in New York.

    • quixote says:

      Forfeiture, forfeiture, forfeiture! Of everything. They need to be working in 7-11 after they come out of Rikers Island, given the scale of their crimes. That’s if there were justice in the world.

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. NW Luna says:

    President [sic] Trump has agreed to shut down his embattled personal charity and to give away its remaining money amid allegations that he used the foundation for his personal and political benefit, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced Tuesday.

    Underwood said that the Donald J. Trump Foundation is dissolving as her office pursues its lawsuit against the charity, Trump and his three eldest children.

    The suit, filed in June, alleged “persistently illegal conduct” at the foundation and sought to have it shut down. Underwood is continuing to seek more than $2.8 million in restitution and has asked a judge to ban the Trumps temporarily from serving on the boards of other New York nonprofit organizations.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-agrees-to-shut-down-his-charity-amid-allegations-he-used-it-for-personal-and-political-benefit/2018/12/18/dd3f5030-021b-11e9-9122-82e98f91ee6f_story.html?utm_term=.71e04cc5892e

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. NW Luna says:

    This is appalling. I am furious. What has the US turned into? (endless screaming)

    U.S. alone in its opposition to parts of a U.N. draft resolution addressing violence against girls

    When it comes to certain key global issues, the world has become used to a familiar pattern over the last two years: the United States against them all. It’s the only country outside the Paris climate accord, and it is one of the only nations opposed to a recent U.N. agreement on migration, as well.

    More surprising, the United States has now taken its rebellion against the global consensus to issues not usually considered controversial.

    In July, U.S. officials forced Ecuador to refrain from backing a resolution in support of breast-feeding, opposing decades of academic consensus. Instead, the United States sided with American infant formula producers. U.S. officials dropped their opposition once Russia threw its weight behind the resolution.

    In the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, the United States found itself once again isolated on the world stage on two matters that are essential to women’s rights. It was the only country that opposed nonbinding language in a draft resolution designed to tackle violence against girls and women, as well as sexual harassment. It was also almost alone in its opposition to language used in another draft resolution against early and forced marriage — only the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru felt comfortable with being on Washington’s side this time. (Nauru is most commonly associated with an Australian offshore migrant camp, where children and other refugees are being held under inhumane conditions, according to rights groups.)

    • quixote says:

      The language these reporters use. Higher up: closing his “embattled” “charity.” No. Its cover was blown and now it’s no use to them anymore.

      and here: refugees held under inhumane conditions, “according to rights groups.” No. Not according to somebody. There are photos and reports and human rights commissioners and doctors describing conditions. Just end the sentence at “conditions.” And drop the “e” on inhumane while you’re at it.

      Anyway. About the actual topic, it’s hard to fathom what world those husks of human beings live in. As someone said, the cruelty is the point.

      How do we get these infectious soulsucking parasites off us?

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s just plain shameful.

    • Pilgrim says:

      United States of Gilead.

  10. NW Luna says:

    On the Federal shutdown:

    Many of the affected employees would be deemed essential and be forced to work anyway. None would be paid during the shutdown and would have to get by on savings or short-term loans.

    This includes the Veterans Affairs medical centers, where all the clinical staff — nurses, physicians, psychologists, physical therapists, etc. — are deemed essential and would have to work without pay. Support our Veterans indeed.

  11. dakinikat says:

    Senator Amy Klobuchar on How Democrats Can Defeat Trump in 2020
    As she mulls a run for the Presidency, the Minnesota lawmaker advises potential candidates, “You go not just where it’s comfortable but where it’s uncomfortable.”

    https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-new-yorker-interview/senator-amy-klobuchar-trump-2020-kavanaugh-presidential-run

    I think it matters when someone makes promises and then time goes on and your life hasn’t changed. So I do think it matters. And when you add disruptions in, and chaos, that makes things hard for you. So I think those things matter. But I think what you’re getting at, which is really values, and it is kind of the argument that I feel in rural—and I think helped me to get support—is that you really have to go to the core of what kind of person you want to have in the White House, that your kids watch on TV when they’re learning their civics lesson and the Pledge of Allegiance in first and second grade.

    The second thing is that Donald Trump just doesn’t talk policies and facts. In fact, he oftentimes gives statements that are completely contrary to the evidence, like what he just said on climate change, when his own Administration predicted dire consequences from climate change. So I think you not just have to meet him with facts, and you certainly don’t want to go down every rabbit hole with him. But we have to meet him with emotion. And it doesn’t have to be negative emotion. It can be positive emotion. So when he starts talking about caravans and mobs and all those things, you know what I say? I say, when I talk to our people about preëxisting conditions, I just don’t use that boring term that a lot of people don’t quite know what it means. I tell the story of a woman coming up to me in a parade with her baby carriage with a kid in it and she says, “You know what? This is my son. I’ll do anything for him in the world. He has Down syndrome. He is a preëxisting condition. This is what a preëxisting condition looks like.” So you say, “You know what, President Trump, really, your Administration is arguing to kick people off their insurance for preëxisting conditions? This is the kid you’re talking about.” So I think it’s very important to respond to him, but to not let it dominate what your own agenda is.

  12. dakinikat says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      RIP Penny. She was a very talented and funny woman.

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      I admired Penny Marshall very greatly. Ever since she was Myrna Turner on the Odd Couple.

      A League if There Own may be my favorite baseball movie and Renaissance Man is in my top five military movies.

      LaVerne and Shirley was always funnier than happy days and is still funnier than 90% of current sitcoms (except the California episodes…unwatchable, not Penny’s fault).

      I feel my childhood is being dismantled one person at a time.

      I will miss her.

      Schlmiel Schlmozzle Laverne!

  13. bostonboomer says:

    I had to shut off Sarah Sanders’ briefing. I just can’t stand to look at her or listen to her.

  14. Pilgrim says:

    I’m intrigued by this David Frum comment: “Flynn is lying to protect *someone* and it isn’t himself.”

  15. bostonboomer says:

  16. Sweet Sue says:

    Michael Flynn was a general and had an illustrious military career. So did Benedict Arnold and they’re both Traitors/

  17. NW Luna says:

  18. NW Luna says:

  19. NW Luna says:

    For BB and all of us who love the floofs.