Thursday Reads: Polar Vortex Deep Freeze and Other News

View of Chicago across a frozen Lake Michigan

Good Afternoon!!

The biggest news this morning is the weather. The Midwest is getting hit hard by the polar vortex. So far it’s not that bad in the Boston area. It’s 12 degrees this morning with a high of 18, and the temperatures will be going up after that, so I feel fortunate.

The New York Times: Polar Vortex Updates: Bitter Cold Weather Spreads East.

As the middle of the nation awoke on Thursday, the deep freeze seemed to have settled in for a long, unwanted visit, disrupting life across an entire region for much of a week, contributing to deaths and injuries, and leaving residents impatient to emerge from their homes and get back to normal.

The grim temperatures and gusty winds lingered in the Midwest, and had spread to the Northeast.

Here are the latest developments:

• Temperatures broke records in some places, and remained low, near record levels, in much of the Midwest on Thursday morning. Minneapolis was minus 23, with a wind chill of minus 38, the National Weather Service said. Chicago was at minus 21, with a wind chill of minus 41. And Milwaukee hit minus 21, with a wind chill of minus 40.

Another shot of frozen Chicago

• At least eight deaths have been connected to the Midwest’s dangerously cold weather system, according to The Associated Press, including that of a University of Iowa student who was found behind an academic hall several hours before dawn on Wednesday.

• The sustained cold taxed energy systems across the Midwest, leading to some outages and urgent calls to customers to reduce the heat in their homes.

• Many schools, businesses and restaurants remained shuttered on Thursday, though some offices were reopening and many more were expected to reopen Friday, when temperatures are expected to rise.

• Airlines have already canceled more than 2,000 flights scheduled for Thursday in the United States, according to FlightAware. On Wednesday, cancellations topped 2,700.

• The East Coast was feeling the bitter cold, too. At 6 a.m. the temperature in New York City hit 2 degrees, but with the wind it felt like 17 below zero.

Yahoo News: Live updates: Deep freeze blasts Northeast as dangerously cold temperatures are unrelenting in Midwest.

A dangerous deep freeze is blasting the Northeast and Midwest, where record-breaking cold temperatures are paralyzing cities and communities.

At least eight people have died in connection with the coldest weather in decades across the Northern Plains and Midwest.

The wind chill in Chicago plunged to minus 52 on Wednesday — the coldest wind chill since 1985. It was minus 55 in Minneapolis, also the coldest wind chill since 1985….

Emergency responders help victims after a pileup near Reading, PA

The bone-chilling temperatures are unrelenting in the Midwest, where the actual temperatures — not wind chills — were in the minus 20s and minus 30s.

Record low temperatures were recorded in Chicago: minus 21 degrees; Madison, Wisconsin: minus 26 degrees; and Milwaukee: minus 23 degrees….

On the East Coast, New York City had a temperature of 2 degrees — the coldest day in three years.

Philadelphia reached a temperature of 5 degrees with a wind chill of minus 11 — the coldest so far this winter.

Boston also fell to 5 degrees 5 with a wind chill of minus 16 — the worst so far for the year.

I’m not sure about that. We had below zero real temperatures a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, it’s cold and I don’t plan to go outside until tomorrow, when it’s supposed to go back into the 20s.

My Mom lives in an assisted living community in the Indianapolis area, and it has been really cold there. Last night her apartment was so cold that they had to giver her a space heater. They’re not prepared for temperatures like that in that part of Indiana.

You probably heard about this yesterday: Russians have been trying to spread disinformation about the Mueller investigation using discovery materials from the Concord Management case.

NBC News: Mueller says Russians are using his discovery materials in disinformation effort.

Russians are using materials obtained from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office in a disinformation campaign apparently aimed at discrediting the investigation into Moscow’s election interference, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.


Ice is seen on the side of the Great Falls National Historic Park in Patterson, NJ yesterday

One or more people associated with the special counsel’s case against Russian hackers made statements last October claiming to have stolen discovery materials that were originally provided by Mueller to Concord Management, Mueller’s team said in court documents filed on Wednesday in the Russian troll farm case.

That discovery — evidence and documents traded between both sides of a lawsuit — appears to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign apparently aimed at discrediting the ongoing investigations in Russian interference in the U.S. political system, according to the documents.

Concord Management, a company owned by a Russian oligarch known as President Vladimir Putin’s “chef,” is one of three Russian entities that were accused by the special counsel last February of helping to mastermind the social media meddling into the 2016 election. Thirteen Russian citizens were also indicted and accused of taking part in the widespread effort.

According to the documents filed Wednesday, a Twitter account called @HackingRedstone tweeted: “We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!”

Click on the link to read the rest.

Trump is infuriated because his own intelligence chiefs disagree with his ignorant, information-free pronouncements about foreign countries. The heads of intelligence agencies testified to Congress on Tuesday.

CNN: Trump singled out Dan Coats in morning rant about intelligence community.

Icicles form on a railing in Port Washington, WI yesterday

President Donald Trump seethed Wednesday morning as he watched the highlights of his intelligence chiefs testifying on Capitol Hill and singled out Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats by name during his morning rant, two people with knowledge of the outburst tell CNN.

The President didn’t see Coats’ full testimony in front of lawmakers that took place on Tuesday, but he was furious Wednesday as he watched television chyrons blare that the officials had contradicted him. The snippets of Coats saying that North Korea had “halted its provocative behavior related to its WMD program” but was unlikely to “completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities” angered him, CNN has learned.

Trump made his displeasure with the intelligence team clear on Twitter just after 6 a.m. Wednesday, but he didn’t single Coats out in his tweets like he did verbally. The President was more frustrated with the coverage than the assessments of the intelligence chiefs, who brief him on national security matters regularly.

The White House says Trump isn’t yet going to fire Coats for telling the truth.

At The Washington Post, Tim Weiner, author of books on the histories of the CIA and FBI, writes: When Trump savages his intelligence chiefs, the ‘deep state’ has reason to worry.

President Trump has compared the CIA to Nazis. Now he is attacking the sentinels of American national security as “extremely … naive” on Iran, and much else. “They are wrong!” he tweeted on Wednesday. “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

The chiefs of U.S. intelligence, an enterprise costing well north of $80 billion a year, report that Iran isn’t building nuclear weapons, North Korea isn’t dismantling them, and the Islamic State is undefeated in Syria and Iraq. Trump batted back their conclusions on ISIS and North Korea in tweets delivered before dawn, in who knows what dark night of the soul.

The Sheboygan lighthouse glows at sunrise in Wisconsin.

“The President has a dangerous habit of undermining the intelligence community to fit his alternate reality,” tweeted Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “People risk their lives for the intelligence he just tosses aside on Twitter.”

The CIA’s spies and analysts are the lead reporters on these issues. All their work contradicts the president’s assumptions. And they are almost assuredly correct. Trump says they don’t know what they’re talking about. Why is he savaging American intelligence and its leaders? He may be playing deaf, dumb and blind to their work, fending it all off as fake news, because he thinks they have something on him. He certainly sees the CIA (and the FBI) as an instrument of a “deep state” conspiring to undo his presidency. And so he denigrates their work and dismisses their leaders as fools and naifs.

Sure, the CIA has been tragically wrong in the past. The United States went to war in Iraq 15 years ago, in part, because of its supposition that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But it’s just as great a tragedy when it gets it right and the president won’t listen. We are living through that kind of tragedy right now. If Trump trashes whatever the CIA tells him — just as he ignored its solid reporting that a certain Saudi prince had a contributing Washington Post journalist murdered four months ago — who knows what will happen if we have an actual crisis.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

The Polar Vortex from space

The media has worked hard this weeks to make former Starbucks boss and billionaire Howard Schwartz into a viable presidential candidate. I don’t think it’s working, because Schultz is an unattractive man with zero charisma and no understanding of politics or government. Yesterday Schultz really stepped in it.

CNN: Howard Schultz deletes tweet about column that contained smears on Warren, Harris.

Schultz, who is weighing an independent centrist bid for president, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he was unaware the column on called Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts “Fauxcahontas” — a reference to her claim of Native American heritage — and Sen. Kamala Harris of California a “shrill … quasi-socialist.”

Asked on “Anderson Cooper 360” why he deleted the tweet, Schultz said it was “because I don’t want to get into the mud with anybody.”

“I don’t want to get into revenge politics, which has been obviously been the problem that I’m identifying,” he said. “I don’t want to be part of mudslinging. I want to speak aspirationally and positively and do everything I can to elevate the national conversation. That is what’s necessary.”

Schultz’s tweet Wednesday morning had thanked the column’s author for a “thoughtful analysis of what’s possible” as it argued the former CEO could win the White House.

So why did he recommend a column on PJ media then? Here’s what it said about Warren and Harris, from The Hill: Schultz deletes tweet of column calling Warren ‘Fauxcahontas’ and Harris ‘shrill.’

In the now-deleted tweet, Schultz linked to a piece that called Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “shrill” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “Fauxcahontas,” a reference to her claims of Native American heritage.

Melissa Seitz at Higgins Lake, Michigan, caught this sunrise halo on January 30, 2019. Halos like this are caused by ice crystals drifting in the air. She wrote: “I created the heart in the snow a few days ago by walking around in tall boots!

“Thank you @Rogerlsimon for a thoughtful analysis of what’s possible. #ReimagineUS,” Schultz tweeted, along with a link to an article on PJ Media by Roger L. Simon titled “Howard Schultz Could Actually Win the Presidency.”

“Current frontrunner Kamala Harris is far from reassuring,” Simon writes in the column. “She’s a shrill (see the Kavanaugh hearings) quasi-socialist promising pie in the sky — Medicare-for-all, debt-free college, guaranteed pre-K, minimum basic income, confiscatory taxes — and she’s just getting started. Bernie [Sanders] and others will soon be following suit. Fauxcahontas already has, competing in a game of socialist one-upmanship.”

Not a very good start for a man who claims he wants to unite the country. Oh by the way, he also wants to cut Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs and doesn’t think the rich should pay more taxes.

More stories to check out:

New York Law Journal: Hasn’t the Time Come for Rudy Giuliani to be Disciplined?

CNN: Even some Republicans balk as Trump targets US spy chiefs.

Vox: Jerome Corsi’s claims about Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and the Access Hollywood tape, explained.

The Daily Beast: NRA Heavyweight Wanted Access to Putin: Leaked Email.

Think Progress: Newly emerged photo shows Ben Carso.n with key employee of sanctioned Russian oligarch.

Lawfare: What an Old Watergate Document Can Teach the House Judiciary Committee.

SFGATE: Elephant seals took over a Pt. Reyes beach during shutdown. It won’t reopen a.nytime soon.

APNewsBreak: ICE force-feeding detainees on hunger strike.

Raw Story: How Donald Trump brought about the end of my marriage.

So . . . what stories have you been following?


Wednesday Evening Cartoons

It is after five in the evening and I am still in bed. Too cold to get out from under the covers… and it has been too horrible to look at anything news related:

The shit is constant…I can no longer watch Maddow. My aversion to everything that could potentially expose me to a disastrous tRump connected news item has become the only form of self-preservation defense I have left.

Even looking for cartoons has become extremely difficult…so let’s see if anything here makes us laugh.

Polar vortex: 01/30/2019 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Polar vortex

Climate Change: 01/30/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Climate Change

Tall order: 01/30/2019 Cartoon by Ed Hall

Cartoon by Ed Hall - Tall order

New Orleans Saints VooDoo : 01/30/2019 Cartoon by J.D. Crowe

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - New Orleans Saints VooDoo


Bruce Plante Cartoon: The hot vortex: 01/30/2019 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: The hot vortex

Bennett editorial cartoon: 01/30/2019 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Bennett editorial cartoon

Starbucks 2020: 01/30/2019 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Starbucks 2020

Billionaire Buttinsky: 01/30/2019 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Billionaire Buttinsky



This is an open thread.

Tuesday Reads: The Doddering Old Man in the White House

Good Afternoon!!

Folks, the “president” is a bewildered, doddering old man. He’s 72 years old. The last doddering old man we had as president was Ronald Reagan, who was 69 when he took office. Like Trump, Reagan made up stories out of whole cloth; and, especially in his second term, often seemed confused and sometimes couldn’t remember the names of his own cabinet members.

A couple of famous examples of Reagan’s confabulations (actually memory errors) from Dangerous Minds:

12/12/83 Addressing the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, President Reagan tells this heart-warming story: “A B‑17 coming back across the channel from a raid over Europe, badly shot up by anti‑aircraft … The young ball‑turret gunner was wounded, and they couldn’t get him out of the turret there while flying. But over the channel, the plane began to lose altitude, and the commander had to order bail out. And as the men started to leave the plane, the last one to leave – the boy, understandably, knowing he was being left behind to go down with the plane, cried out in terror – the last man to leave the plane saw the commander sit down on the floor. He took the boy’s hand and said, ‘Never mind, son, we’ll ride it down together.’ Congressional Medal of honor posthumously awarded.” [….]

12/16/83 Columnist Lars‑Erik Nelson – after checking the citations on all 434 Congressional Medals of Honor awarded during World War II – reveals that not one of them matches the story President Reagan told the other day. “It’s not true,” writes Nelson. “It didn’t happen. It’s a Reagan story … The President of the United States went before an audience of 300 real Congressional Medal of Honor winners and told them about a make‑believe Medal of Honor winner.” Responds White House spokesman Larry Speakes, “If you tell the same story five times, it’s true.”

12/20/83 At a press conference, President Reagan claims that El Salvador has “a 400‑year history of military dictatorships.” As it happens, though, the first military regime didn’t take power until way back in 1931. Okay, so he was off by a few centuries, so what?

Lars-Erik Nelson continues his quest for the source of the medal of honor story:

12/28/83 Lars‑Erik Nelson reports that a reader saw a scene very similar to President Reagan’s Medal of Honor story in the 1944 movie Wing and a Prayer. “Adding to the confusion,” writes Nelson, “Dana Andrews at one point reprimands a glory‑seeking young pilot with the words: ‘This isn’t Hollywood.’  … You could understand that some in the audience might confuse reality with fiction.”

1/11/84 Lars‑Erik Nelson suggests another source for the Medal of Honor story: an apocryphal item in the April 1944 issue of Reader’s Digest, a magazine known to be a life‑long Reagan favorite. “The bomber had been almost ripped apart by German cannon,” it read. “The ball turret gunner was badly wounded and stuck in the blister on the underside of the fuselage. Crewmen worked frantically to extricate the youngster, but there was nothing they could do. They began to jump. The terror‑stricken lad screamed in fear as he saw what was happening. The last man to jump heard the remaining crewman, a gunner, say, ‘Take it easy, kid. We’ll take this ride together.’”

And then there was the time that Reagan claimed to have been present at the liberation of Auschwitz. From Salon:

During Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s November 1983 visit to the U.S., Reagan told Shamir that during his service in the U.S. Army film corps, he and fellow members of his unit personally shot footage of the Nazis’ concentration camps as they were liberated. Reagan would tell this story again to others, including Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal. But Reagan was never present at the camps’ liberation. Instead, he spent the war in Culver City, California, where he processed footage from the liberation of the camps.

In reality, Reagan never left the U.S. during World War II. And of course there was the famous and oft-repeated “welfare queen” story:

…his campaign-trail tale of a “Chicago welfare queen” with 80 aliases, 30 addresses, and 12 Social Security cards, whom he alleged had claimed “over $150,000” in government benefits. The woman whom Reagan made infamous was convicted of using only two aliases, used to collect $8,000.

These are most likely source-monitoring memory errors, in which people recall events and information but not the the source from which they learned them. Memory errors like this happen to everyone but tend to get more severe in old age.

Now we have another “president” who is even worse than Reagan at making things up out of whole cloth. Some of his confabulations are outright lies, but some could be the result of memory errors.

In recent weeks, journalists and government officials have been trying to learn the source some very explicit claims Trump has been making about what is happening at the border withe Mexico.

The Hill, 1/25/19: Trump goes on ad-libbed riff on human trafficking.

President Trump on Friday delivered an extended, apparently ad-libbed warning about the consequences of failing to secure the southern border as he announced he would sign a short-term government funding bill that did not include money for a border wall.

At one point during his remarks, the teleprompter in the White House Rose Garden stopped as it read “Talk about Human Trafficking.”

For roughly two minutes, Trump gave a graphic description of people being brought across borders against their will in a modern form of slavery, describing women bound and with duct tape covering their mouths.

“They can’t come through the port because if they come through a port people will see four women sitting in a van with tape around face and around their mouth,” Trump said. “We can’t have it.”

“But they come through areas where they have no protection, where they have no steel barriers, where they have no walls,” he added. “And we can stop almost 100 percent of them.”

This wasn’t the first time Trump told this story. More from Monica Hesse at The Washington Post: Why does the president keep talking about women and duct tape on the border?

“Women are tied up, with duct tape on their faces, put in the backs of vans,” the president said, citing human traffickers who he alleges are the perpetrators of this violence against migrants.

But women are not tied up, experts have said. They do not have tape on their mouths. When Trump repeated this claim a few weeks ago, my colleague Katie Mettler contacted many authorities on trafficking who have spent time at the border, and none of them had seen or heard anything resembling the violence he described.

Nevertheless, there was Trump on Jan. 4, dramatizing the traffickers who “have three or four women with tape on their mouths and tied up, sitting in the back of a van or car.” There he was on Jan. 6: “They nab women, they grab them, they put tape over their mouths.” On Jan. 11: “Taping them up, wrapping tape around their mouths so they can’t shout or scream, tying their hands behind their back and even their legs.”

Sometimes the tape is explicitly duct tape, sometimes it’s electrical. Sometimes it has a specific color, as it did on Jan. 10: “Usually blue tape, as they call it. It’s powerful stuff. Not good.”

Hesse analyzes these Trump-created fantasies in the light of Trump’s history with women and his notions of Mexican men as “bad hombres.”

Vox reports that the Border Control has tried to find out where Trump got these ideas about human trafficking at the border.

It’s become a staple of President Donald Trump’s riffs on the horrors of the US-Mexico border, something he knows so well that he doesn’t even need it scripted on a teleprompter: Human traffickers gag women with tape so they can’t breathe before packing them into vans and driving them across the border illegally.

But two weeks after Trump had started talking about tape-gagged women — when a January 17 Washington Post article had questioned the claim — a top Border Patrol official had to email agents to ask if they had “any information” that the claim was actually true.

The email, shown to Vox by a source within Border Patrol, was sent as a “request for information” by an assistant Border Patrol chief, apparently on behalf of the office of Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan (referred to internally as “C-1”). It asked agents to reply within less than two hours with “any information (in any format)” regarding claims of tape-gagged women — and even linked to the Post article “for further info.”

Vox’s source indicated that they and others in their sector hadn’t heard anything that would back up Trump’s claims, but wasn’t sure if agents in other sectors had provided information. However, no one from the Trump administration has come forward to offer evidence for the claim, either before or after the internal Border Patrol email was sent.

Trump has also claimed that prayer rugs have been found abandoned near the border and that the drug smugglers and traffickers have amazing vehicles the like of which we’ve never seen before. From Charles Pierce at Esquire:

They’re driving in and they’re not coming through checkpoints, because you can’t have three or four people in the back with tape over your mouths and your hands tied and drive past someone who is checking out your van…The fact is if we don’t have barriers, walls, call them what you will, very strong barriers where people can not any longer drive right across. They have unbelievable vehicles. They make a lot of money. They have the best vehicles you can buy. They have stronger, bigger and faster vehicles than our police have and that ICE have and that Border Patrol have. [Ed. Note: And they still have to tie people up, four to a backseat? They really got snookered by some salesman, boy.] They’re pretty good at that. They have areas they go to. It’s like a highway.

If this guy weren’t the “president,” people would be telling his family members to have him evaluated for dementia.

Last night, Rachel Maddow suggested that Trump might have gotten these crazy ideas from a movie called Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Here’s the trailer:


Steven Benen writes about Trump’s violent fantasies at MSNBC: Has Trump peddled bogus claims about the border because of a movie?

First, they’re demonstrably false. There’s nothing especially amazing about smugglers’ vehicles; there’s no evidence at all of prayer rugs being found in the dirt by the border (in fact, the whole idea is kind of silly); and experts have marveled at how bizarre Trump’s claims are about women tied up with tape.

Second, each of these appeared in a recent fictional movie.

No, seriously. As Rachel noted on the show last night, there’s a movie called Sicario: 
Day of the Soldado, which was released last summer, and which included a woman being tied up with tape, smugglers driving vast vehicles, and officials finding prayer rugs in the dirt near the border.

Again, just so we’re all clear, the movie is real, but the story is fictional. The script was written by screenwriters, not documentarians. The plot of the film is made up, as are the characters and developments that unfolded on screen.

As Rachel added, “In a normal administration, it would be insane to suggest” the president of the United States saw stuff in a movie and maybe thought it reflected reality. And who knows, maybe it’s just a coincidence.

But let’s not miss the forest for the trees: Donald Trump’s observations about the border are so at odds with reality that there are reasonable questions as to how in the world he even came up with such strange ideas.

I can’t say with any certainty whether the president took a fictional movie a little too seriously, but that’s not really the point. Rather, what matters is that we’re left to wonder how and why Trump comes up with these stories, which he peddles to the public, despite being wrong.

I doubt that Trump watched this movie, but maybe one of his advisers (Stephen Miller?) did and told him about it. But regardless of where Trump got these confabulations, they likely indicate that Trump, like Reagan and his Father Fred Trump, is developing Alzheimer’s disease.

We’re stuck with another dangerous doddering old man and president. This is one reason I’m so opposed to someone as old as Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders running for president. They would both be much older then Reagan or Trump if they took office in 2020.

Monday Reads: How much more of this can Our Country Take?

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’ve found that writing our usual Monday Morning news round up has gone far far far beyond my usual gasping “What fresh hell is this?” as I search the usual sites for issues and policies that impact our daily lives.  I think we can safely say that no one left at the White House has a clue about governance, foreign policy, or economics and could care less. It’s all about their wealth and personal grievances against a secular democracy.

The pandering to religious nutters has gotten worse and any grasp on reality outside of reaction to the usual boob tube suspects has gone way beyond the obsession stage with Unindicted Individual #1.  There is clear and present danger in nearly all the headlines involving what is supposed to be our President and what he does every moment.  He’s clearly incompetent, thuggish, and ignorant beyond words.

There are a number of accounts of West Wing life that continue to stun me although I’m rarely surprised by the new heights of stupidity and the new low of corruptness and personal greed. It’s just really hard to know where to start and even my morning cuppa doesn’t bring relief to the massive feeling of panic that I get thinking this is a nightmare that will never end.

There are so many nightmarish headlines today that I can’t believe I’m reading them in real newspapers and that I’m actually awake.

Trump loves him some uneducated people and this ought to rock their world: “Trump offers encouragement for state efforts to teach Bible literacy in public schools”.  Great more ignorance from the iron ages!  Just what we need!  What’s next?  The department of Inquisitors?

President Trump gave his blessing Monday to lawmakers in several states who are pushing legislation to allow Bible literacy classes in public schools.

“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible,” Trump wrote in a morning tweet. “Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

Last week, there was this in Slate: “The Trump Administration Will Let Adoption Agencies Turn Away Jews and Same-Sex Couples. Thank SCOTUS.”The Trump Administration Will Let Adoption Agencies Turn Away Jews and Same-Sex Couples. Thank SCOTUS.”

Then, there’s this from the AP: “Trump rollbacks for fossil fuel industries carry steep cost”.

As the Trump administration rolls back environmental and safety rules for the energy sector, government projections show billions of dollars in savings reaped by companies will come at a steep cost: more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, a jump in climate-warming emissions and more severe derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels.

The Associated Press analyzed 11 major rules targeted for repeal or relaxation under Trump, using the administration’s own estimates to tally how its actions would boost businesses and harm society.

The AP identified up to $11.6 billion in potential future savings for companies that extract, burn and transport fossil fuels. Industry windfalls of billions of dollars more could come from a freeze in vehicle efficiency standards that will yield an estimated 79 billion-gallon (300 million-liter) increase in fuel consumption.

On the opposite side of the government’s ledger, buried in thousands of pages of analyses, are the “social costs” of rolling back the regulations. Among them:

— Up to 1,400 additional premature deaths annually due to the pending repeal of a rule to cut coal plant pollution.

— An increase in greenhouse gas emissions by about 1 billion tons (907 million metric tons) from vehicles produced over the next decade — a figure equivalent to annual emissions of almost 200 million vehicles.

— Increased risk of water contamination from a drilling technique known as “fracking.”

— Fewer safety checks to prevent offshore oil spills.

For the Trump administration and its supporters, the rule changes examined by AP mark a much-needed pivot away from heavy regulations that threatened to hold back the Republican president’s goal of increasing U.S. energy production. But the AP’s findings also underscore the administration’s willingness to put company profits ahead of safety considerations and pollution effects.

Silly thing about all this is that we don’t need this and the world definitely is moving away from it all.

And, as planned, The Treasury has lifted sanctions punishing Russians oligarchs for their attack on our elections. Money over country should be this administration’s chant.

The Trump administration on Sunday lifted sanctions against the business empire of Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs.

Congressional Democrats had tried to block the move this month, assailing it as a capitulation to the Kremlin and a key ally of President Vladimir V. Putin. But they failed to win enough Republican support to enforce the sanctions.

The Treasury Department had announced the sanctionsagainst Mr. Deripaska, six other oligarchs and their companies in April as retaliation for Russia’s “malign activity” around the world.

Most of the sanctions went into effect, including against Mr. Deripaska personally. But their implementation was repeatedly delayed against Mr. Deripaska’s giant aluminum company, Rusal, as well as two linked firms, including EN+, the holding company that owned much of Rusal. The companies financed a sophisticated legal and lobbying campaign arguing that the sanctions would disrupt the aluminum market and damage companies in the United States and allied countries.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, was sensitive to that argument. He clarified that the goal of the sanctions was “to change the behavior” of Mr. Deripaska, and “not to put Rusal out of business,” given the company’s pivotal role as a global supplier of aluminum.

The Treasury Department announced a deal last month to lift the sanctions in exchange for a restructuring that it said would reduce Mr. Deripaska’s control and ownership of the companies.

Yet a confidential, legally binding document detailing the agreement showed that Mr. Deripaska and his allies would retain majority ownership of EN+.

Headline after headline is just about one scam or constitutional crisis or foreign policy crisis or economic harbinger of doom after another. It’s like the entire newsfeed is filled with “Man bites Dog” headlines and the mad dog is Trump biting our entire country. Did you ever think you would see such criminal behavior so flagrantly flaunted in public? It’s not just criminal though, and it’s just not aimed at taking the country to third world status, it’s about handing what power we have over to international thug countries!

But a detailed look at the timeline of the week following the end of the Republican National Convention — from July 22 to July 27 — reveals that amid widespread skepticism of Trump’s presidential bid,  Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone embarked on a desperate push to get more information on what emails Wikileaks, which dropped its first tranche on July 22, had at its disposal.

The push, according to an indictment unveiled Friday against Stone, came after an unnamed Trump campaign official was directed by an unknown person to contact Stone “about any additional releases and what other damaging information” Wikileaks “had regarding the Clinton campaign.” Thus began a months-long backchannel between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks via Stone.

But one day after the close of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, it was a different time. Wikileaks had just begun to publish damaging emails showing the internal deliberations of Democratic National Committee staffers during the 2016 primary. The emails dropped the Friday before the Democratic convention was set to begin the following Monday.

Trump himself and those in his inner circle rushed to highlight the divisions within the Democratic Party exposed by the Wikileaks dump, just as the party headed into its national convention. The GOP nominee both scoffed at the idea that Russia was behind the leaks, while continuing to tout his warm feelings for Russian President Vladimir Putin and support for policy positions advanced by the Russian leader.

Sometime after the July 22 email release, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE” about what else Wikileaks had, according to the Stone indictment.

The number of people in a position to direct a senior campaign official — apart from the candidate — is extremely limited.

It is also not clear when exactly that direction was handed down to the official. But “thereafter,” Stone “told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material” from Wikileaks, the indictment says.

By July 25, Stone had begun via email hassling “Person 1,” as the indictment dubs the individual who appears to be far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, about establishing contact with Assange and getting “the pending” Wikileaks emails …”they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” Corsi forwarded Stone’s message to Ted Malloch, a London-based conservative writer, and Stone’s outreach to Corsi about Assange would continue through late July and August.

During that same initial weekend, Trump ramped up his promotion of the material released by Wikileaks and specifically sought to convince Bernie Sanders’ support not to support Hillary Clinton.

This a truly horrifying narrative of treacherous actions met to bring a Russian Asset to the Presidency.  That’s from the legal documents standpoint. The most recent tell all stories are even more damning than we thought!  This is from this morning’s Atlantic: “An Obscure White House Staffer’s Jaw-Dropping Trump Tell-All. In Team of Vipers, Cliff Sims recounts his year and a half in a West Wing “out of control.” It’s overshadowing Chris Christie’s stories even.  The stories of Trump’s “best and brightest” are almost as horrifying as the stories on Trump himself.  These people clearly did not get anything from their vast bible literacy.

At times, Sims witnessed fellow staffers—Conway chief among them—take swipes at each other behind their backs. He calls Conway a “cartoon villain brought to life” who bad-mouthed colleagues to multiple reporters by the hour. He credits Stephen Miller’s survival to the speechwriter’s ability to play both sides of the “globalist/nationalist” divide in the White House. While the then–chief strategist Steve Bannon viewed Miller as his “right-wing protege,” his ideological ally against the so-called globalists, Miller was cultivating a close relationship with perhaps the globalist in chief, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Sims writes of listening in on Miller “plung[ing] the knife” into Bannon’s back and “twisting it with relish” during a conversation with the president. “Your polling numbers are actually very strong considering Steve won’t stop leaking to the press and trying to undermine Jared,” Miller said, according to Sims. “If Steve wasn’t doing that, I bet you’d be ten points higher.”

He also watched as senior officials privately laughed off many of the president’s stranger requests. In his first few days as director of the National Economic Council, Sims writes, Larry Kudlow emerged from a meeting with the president looking flustered. He told Gary Cohn, his predecessor, that Trump ordered him to “stop” a “special deal” that he believed Amazon was getting from the U.S. Postal Service. “Gary laughed loudly,” Sims writes. “‘Welcome to the White House,’ [Cohn] said, shaking Larry’s hand … ‘It’s total bulls—.’” Cohn explained that Amazon was not, in fact, getting “some special deal.” “He’s just mad at [Jeff] Bezos for owning The Washington Post.”

“‘So’ Larry replied hesitantly, ‘I shouldn’t do anything about this?’” Sims writes that Cohn told Kudlow not to bother, adding, “But now you know why I’m so happy to be leaving.”

Perhaps the liveliest pages of Sims’s book recount Anthony Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure as communications director, when he maintained a singular focus on rooting out the leakers. Sims writes of a morning that Scaramucci gathered the full communications staff. His goal was to motivate them against leaking to the press. He tried to do so using a “horrifying” technique: role-playing. He pulled a young staffer on the regional media team to the front of the room, “probably the last person in the room who would ever leak anything,” Sims writes.

“Okay, Tyler, I’ll be Reince Priebus and you be you,” Scaramucci said. The “Mooch” then assumed the role of Priebus, who was chief of staff at the time: “Tyler, I need you to leak something for me.”

After a brief silence, a distressed-looking Tyler responded robotically, “I cannot do that.” Mooch twirled his finger in a circle, Sims writes, prompting him to continue. “I cannot do that,” Tyler reiterated. “I report to Anthony Scaramucci and he reports directly to the president of the United States.” “Perfect!” said the Mooch, who was beaming.

I have no plans to even read the Christie book but if it fingers Kushner and his Daddy-in-law I will stand and applaud.

Christie wrote that Trump told him, “This Russia thing is all over now, because I fired Flynn.”

The former New Jersey governor, a close Trump ally, told the president, “’Sir … this Russia thing is far from over,” he wrote.

“What do you mean?” Trump reportedly responded. “Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.”

Kushner chimed in then, according to Christie, saying, “That’s right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing.”

Christie in the book wrote that the conversation was “naïve,” according to the Times.

Special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia has lasted for more than a year.

In that time, more than two dozen Russian nationals and entities have been charged for their alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and Mueller has indicted individuals with ties to the Trump campaign and administration.

Flynn was forced to resign early in the Trump administration over revelations about his communication with a Russian ambassador to the United States. The former national security adviser has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russians.

“Flynn was a train wreck from beginning to end,” Christie wrote in the new book, according to the Times.

It seems that the majority of Americans have finally realized they’re trapped in a nightmare.  The problem is if the Republicans in the beltway will end it.

Needless to say, the poll numbers showing Trump cratering amid his handling of the shutdown will not pierce that bubble. And that makes a disastrous outcome in the next round more likely.

First, let’s look at the new Post-ABC polling. Some highlights:

  • 57 percent rate Trump’s handling of border security negatively, a remarkable indictment of Trump on his signature issue.
  • 61 percent say Trump is not honest or trustworthy.
  • 58 percent say Trump lacks the personality and temperament to serve effectively as president.
  • 56 percent say Trump has not brought needed change to Washington.
  • 65 percent say Trump does not understand the problems of people like them.
  • 58 percent say Trump is not good at making political deals.
  • 64 percent do not have a lot of confidence that Trump will make the right decisions for the country’s future.

A new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll reports similar findings across the board.

Trump has gotten so whack that he’s now going after Fox News and Anne Coulter.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to take a rare jab at Fox News.

“Never thought I’d say this but I think @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner @FoxNews have even less understanding of the Wall negotiations than the folks at FAKE NEWS CNN & NBC!” Trump wrote. “Look to final results! Don’t know how my poll numbers are so good, especially up 19% with Hispanics?”

While it is unclear exactly what prompted Trump’s tweet, on Sunday Fox News correspondent Gillian Turner joined John Roberts — who was filling for Chris Wallace — for a panel discussion on Fox News debating the winners and losers of the shutdown fight. At one point in the conversation, which included repeated reference to Trump’s wall, Turner said the president “fell on his sword on the wall issue.”

The Coulter attack was even more churlish and childish. That’s a pair of sociopath headline grabbers just made for each other, isn’t it?

President Donald Trump slammed Ann Coulter in a new interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday.

“I hear she’s become very hostile,” Trump said about Coulter, who has taken jabs of her own recently at Trump.

The president added: “Maybe I didn’t return her phone call or something.”

On Friday, Coulter called Trump a “wimp” after learning the temporary shutdown deal did not include money for the wall.

“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” Coulter wrote on Twitter.

The big question is can we last that long?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Lazy Caturday Reads: Pelosi Wiped the Floor with Trump and Roger Stone is Going Down

Albrecht Durer, Hare and Cat

Good Afternoon!

The artwork in today’s post is by Svetlana Petrova of Fat Cat Art. “I insert my ginger cat into famous paintings.”

Yesterday was quite a day. We saw Trump fold like a cheap suit in the face of Nancy Pelosi’s determined refusal to give in to his childish tantrums and, thanks to CNN, we saw Roger Stone frogmarched by FBI agents who weren’t getting paid because of Trump’s government shutdown.

The word of the day was “cave,” and Merriam-Webster wondered why so many people had to look up it’s meaning.

What does cave mean?

Cave is defined as “a natural chamber or series of chambers in the earth or in the side of a hill.” But that’s of course just the noun version. The one seemingly being used by every headline writer on the Internet right now is the verb sense defined as “to cease to resist; to submit.”

Cave has been used since the early 19th century in the “submit” sense, and there is evidence of its application in political matters shortly thereafter.

The genuine Douglas Democracy will not support it, but we see that a few shilly wally politicians are caving in.
— The Shippenberg News (Shippenberg, PA), 7 May 1859

Yes, he caved.

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street Rainy Day

The Daily Beast: Trump Caves, Ends Longest Government Shutdown in History Without His Precious Wall.

President Donald Trump agreed on Friday to fund the government without money for his much-desired border wall, effectively bringing an end to the longest shutdown in American history.

The deal extends funding for the government at current levels until February 15  and include a “vehicle” for lawmakers to begin discussions between the two congressional chambers over a larger bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security and border security specifically.

The president presented the end result was a triumph for his administration, insisting that Democrats had come to his position on the need for a border barrier (they hadn’t)….

Though Trump spoke defiantly, the consensus view from officials of both parties on Capitol Hill was the Trump’s clock had been cleaned. The president had insisted to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that he would not sign any bill to open the government that did not include $5.7 billion in wall funding. But amid sagging poll numbers and partial closures of critical government functions—including, on Friday morning, flights in and out of LaGuardia Airport in New York—Trump committed on Friday to doing just that.

Please keep reading for Nancy Pelosi’s characterizations of Trump and Senate Republicans. Here’s just a sample:

Pelosi was also critical of Republican lawmakers for letting the situation get to its current point. In particular, she singled out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had insisted it was pointless to move any government funding measure through the Senate if Trump had not committed to signing it—including reintroducing a clean funding bill that the Senate had overwhelming backed in December.

“I know he is a professional,” Pelosi said of McConnell. “So It is particularly painful to see him kowtowing to the president of the United States. And I said to him, ‘Do you just want to abolish the Congress or maybe just the United States Senate? Because that is effectively what you’re doing.’”

Asked what McConnell said in response, Pelosi replied: “What does he ever say? Nothing.”

Also from The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky writes: Trump’s Zombies Applaud as He Lights Himself on Fire.

Donald Trump is in this so far above his head he’s like Danny DeVito in the Lakers’ locker room. To extend the metaphor, Nancy Pelosi is LeBron, and Chuck Schumer is, uh, whoever their second-best player is these days. But the two of them, Pelosi in particular, have just made the president of the United States look like 1) a fool and 2) a moral eunuch, which you might say shouldn’t be hard, because he is obviously both of those things, but he is the president and he has the bully pulpit and all that, along with a propaganda network that every night tells millions of Americans that he farts roses, so actually it is kind of hard, what they did.

Trump looked so terrible at that Rose Garden… well, it wasn’t a press conference. It wasn’t exactly a speech, either. Event. Of course he had his goons around, so that when he said right off the bat that there was a deal to end the shutdown, we heard applause. Applause! Can you imagine?

He just got taken to the house and forced to humiliate himself on national television, and these zombies applaud? He singlehandedly shut down the government. Cost hundreds of thousands of people their paychecks through his bluster and buffoonery. Sent air-traffic controllers who already work hellish 50- and 60-hour weeks out to find part-time work. And they applaud?

Then he just carried on and on and on, well past the point that most Americans might actually have been listening. Okay, dude, you lost. We got it. Now you’re still going to make us listen to all this word-salad of yours about left turns and right turns and women with duct tape? Where did that come from? Probably some TV movie he watched. Or maybe James Woods told him.

Read the rest at the link.

Adam Davidson at The New Yorker: Robert Mueller Got Roger Stone.

On Friday morning, Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime political adviser and ally, who has been a fixture in Republican politics since the Nixon Administration, was arrested by the F.B.I. The office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, issued a seven-count indictment, which charges Stone with obstruction of an official proceeding, false statements, and witness tampering. It also makes the case that Stone acted as a conduit of information between the Trump campaign and Julian Assange as Assange’s organization, WikiLeaks, released e-mails that the Russian government had stolen from the Democratic Party and members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in an effort to help Trump win the Presidential election.

The charges stem not from the original acts themselves but from Stone’s alleged lies about them. In September, 2017, Stone testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that he had “no e-mails, no texts, no documents whatsoever” or any other materials that discussed hacked documents or conversations about Assange. As in the case of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager (and Stone’s former business partner), and that of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, we see that it is not wise to lie when asked, under oath, if you have any specific e-mails and texts. Once again, the government had all the incriminating receipts.

Perhaps the most surprising detail of the indictment is that Stone, a famous braggart, often downplayed the significance of his role as a conduit between the Trump campaign and Assange. He was not, as he has previously said, simply guessing and making vague predictions about the actions WikiLeaks was likely to take; he was an active participant in its attempts to cause chaos in the 2016 Presidential election. In texts sent on or about October 2, 2016, Stone expressed confusion that WikiLeaks had not released e-mails related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as he had expected. That same day, he sent an e-mail to a friend, who is identified in the indictment as Person 2 and appears to be the radio host Randy Credico, with the subject line “WTF?,” in which he asked why Assange had cancelled a press conference.

The first week of October, 2016, was a crucial one for the Trump campaign and for the country. Trump was trailing Clinton by about four points in the polls, and the conventional wisdom was that he had no chance of winning the Presidency. In the e-mails quoted in the indictment, Stone began that week by complaining that a high-ranking official on Trump’s campaign wouldn’t return his calls. By October 4th, the official—who has been identified by CNBC and in previous reporting by the Times as Steve Bannon, who was the head of Trump’s campaign at the time—had contacted Stone directly, asking when Assange planned his next e-mail release. Stone reassured him that Assange would release “a load every week going forward.” On October 7th—shortly after the Washington Post published the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women—Assange began releasing e-mails stolen from Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta. An unnamed associate of Bannon wrote, in a text to Stone, “well done.”

Read the whole thing at The New Yorker.

At The Washington Post, John Podesta gets his revenge: John Podesta: It might now be Roger Stone’s time in the barrel.

Despite my Italian roots, vengeance doesn’t run deep in my veins. But I admit I smiled when Roger Stone’s arrest was announced Friday morning.

To give some context: On Oct. 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began leaking emails from my personal inbox that had been hacked by Russian intelligence operatives. A few days earlier, Stone — a longtime Republican operative and close confidant of then-candidate Donald Trump — had mysteriously predicted that the organization would reveal damaging information about the Clinton campaign. And weeks before that, he’d even tweeted: “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.”

Stone’s connection with and boasting about WikiLeaks during the campaign has always been fishy. But thanks to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, the truth is finally coming out. Friday’s indictment alleges that a senior campaign official “was directed” (and by whom?) to contact Stone about the WikiLeaks releases even after it was widely reported that they were a Russian hacking operation.

Revenge aside, the accusations against Stone are serious. He faces a seven-count indictment: five counts of false statements, one count of obstruction and one count of witness tampering.

The details of the indictment are devastating and, characteristically of Stone, quite colorful. According to the filing, Stone emailed a confederate labeled “Person 2” (identified by the media as radio host Randy Credico) to dissuade him from testifying truthfully about WikiLeaks before the House Intelligence Committee: “You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds” and “I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die [expletive].” Stone instructs Person 2 to do a “Frank Pentangeli” — a character from “The Godfather Part II” who famously lies to congressional investigators — and, my nostalgic favorite, Stone paraphrases a quote from President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate coverup: “Stonewall it. Plead the Fifth. Anything to save the plan.”

Read more at the WaPo.

More stories to check out, links only:

The New York Times: Trump and His Associates Had More Than 100 Contacts With Russians Before the Inauguration.

The Washington Post: ‘Prisoner of his own impulse’: Inside Trump’s reversal to end shutdown without wall.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: The shutdown was proof of Trump’s stark incapacity for leadership.

Harry Enten at CNN: The numbers show Trump lost the shutdown and Pelosi won.

Jim Newell at Slate: The Pelosi Method.

Harry Cheadle at Vice: Nancy Pelosi Mopped the Floor with Trump.

Just Security: Roger Stone Indictment Implicates Trump Campaign in Election Law Violations.

Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast: ‘I Will Piss on Your Grave’: Emails Reveal Roger Stone’s Abuse of Frenemy Randy Credico.

Emptywheel: Things Not Said In Roger Stone’s Indictment: “Trump Directed” and Other More Damning Details.

Bloomberg: Roger Stone Draws the Judge Who Threw Paul Manafort in Jail.

Ben Zimmer at Politico: Roger Stone and ‘Ratf—ing’: A Short History.

Chuck Rosenberg at Lawfare: Roger Stone’s Arrest Was Appropriate, Not Heavy-Handed.

That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?