Thursday Reads

Elijah Cummings in Baltimore, 1997, Andre Chung, Baltimore Sun

Good Morning!!

I woke up this morning at 5:30 and I turned on the TV to see if there was any news. There was. Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings had died at age 68. What a heartbreaking loss for our country.

Reactions:

The Washington Post: Rep. Elijah Cummings, Democratic leader and regular Trump target, dies at 68.

Elijah E. Cummings, a Democratic congressman from Maryland who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died early Thursday morning at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate in Baltimore. He was 68.

After undergoing an unspecified medical procedure, the Democratic leader did not return to his office this week, the Baltimore Sun reported. A statement from his office said that he had passed away due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.” Mr. Cummings was chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a leading figure in the Trump impeachment inquiry.

Born to a family of Southern sharecroppers and Baptist preachers, Mr. Cummings grew up in the racially fractured Baltimore of the 1950s and 1960s. At 11, he helped integrate a local swimming pool while being attacked with bottles and rocks. “Perry Mason,” the popular TV series about a fictional defense lawyer, inspired him to enter the legal profession.

“Many young men in my neighborhood were going to reform school,” he told the East Texas Review. “Though I didn’t completely know what reform school was, I knew that Perry Mason won a lot of cases. I also thought that these young men probably needed lawyers.”

In the Maryland House of Delegates, he became the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and the first African American to serve as speaker pro tempore, the member who presides in the speaker’s absence.

In 1996, he won the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that Kweisi Mfume (D) vacated to become NAACP president. Mr. Cummings eventually served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and as ranking Democrat and then chairman of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

He drew national attention as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief defender during 2015 congressional hearings into her handling of the attack three years earlier on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The attack killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

He was “the quintessential speaking-truth-to-power representative,” said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. “Cummings has never shied from a very forceful give-and-take.”

Here is Rep. Cummings last tweet.

ABC News quotes a statement from Cummings’ wife:

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party and Cummings’ wife, said in a statement that Cummings was “an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility.”

“He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem,” Rockeymoore Cummings said. “I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”

In other news, Trump is still Trump and he’s still occupying the people’s house.

Trump lackey Gordon Sondland is testifying at the impeachment hearing today. He seems to be claiming that he was completely in the dark about Trump’s and Giuliani’s machinations in Ukraine, even while he (Sondland) was carrying out their orders.

The Daily Beast: Sondland Throws Trump Under the Bus.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, will tell Congress that he was told by President Trump that he had to help his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani with his plan on Ukraine.

In his opening statement, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, Sondland will say: “I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s2020 reelection campaign.”

“Based on the President’s direction, we were faced with a choice: We could abandon the goal of a White House meeting for President Zelensky, which we all believed was crucial to strengthening U.S.-Ukrainian ties and furthering long-held U.S. foreign policy goals in the region; or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the President’s concerns.”

Click the link to read the full statement. We’ll probably hear more details later on today.

I’m sure you’ve read Trump’s idiotic letter to Turkey’s Erdogan. This is from Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: “Is This Real?”: Trump Sends Third-Grade Reading-Level Letter to Erdogan.

Donald Trump has said or done something certifiably insane nearly every day of his presidency. And not like, “This guy’s a little kooky”-level insane, but full-on “Mr. President, put down the stapler and unhand the president of Finland”-level insane. But last week, apparently seeking to prove to the world that we ain’t seen nothing yet re: the depths of his mental instability, he wrote and reportedly proudly distributed the following letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for all the world to see:

The Turkish government was not amused. Middle East Eye: ‘We dumped it in the trash’: Trump’s letter to Erdogan gets hostile reception.

A leaked letter written by US President Donald Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning his Turkish counterpart not to be a “fool” has sent shockwaves around Turkey due to its lack of protocol and seriousness.

Dated 9 October, the day Erdogan launched an offensive in northeastern Syria against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, the letter aimed to make a deal between Turkey and the SDF and included an open economic sanctions threat.

Yet this wasn’t the part Turks focused on.

“It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen,” Trump wrote. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” [….]

It has now been confirmed as genuine by the White House, but soon after the leak on Wednesday, thousands of Turks asked each other on Twitter and WhatsApp whether the letter was authentic or a joke.

“If this letter is real, Trump is absolutely completely crazy,” one Turk tweeted.

Turkish officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Middle East Eye that they responded to Trump’s letter in kind and with stronger language.

“We just dumped his letter into the trash,” one of them said.

The leak comes at a particularly sensitive time, with US Vice President Mike Pence touching down in Ankara on Thursday in a bid to seek a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurdish-led SDF.

“This Trump letter to Erdogan is the most damaging correspondence that could’ve been leaked ahead of VP Pence’s visit to Ankara tomorrow,” Soner Cagaptay, a prominent Turkey expert tweeted on Wednesday.

“Now, Erdogan has no option but to delay ceasefire in Syria, less he be humiliated in front of his nation as weak and bowing to America’s threat.”

Trump was so proud of this letter that he bragged about it in the same meeting in which he attacked Nancy Pelosi as a “third-grade politician.” From the AP:

The administration called in congressional leadership to discuss the situation in Syria. The House had just voted, 354-60, to overwhelmingly oppose the president’s announced U.S. troop withdrawal, a rare bipartisan rebuke. Trump’s action has opened the door for a Turkish military attack on Syrian Kurds who have been aligned with the U.S. in fighting the country’s long-running war.

Trump kicked off the meeting bragging about his “nasty” letter to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, according to a Democrat familiar with the meeting who was granted anonymity to discuss it. In the letter, Trump warned the Turkish leader, with exclamation points, not to be “slaughtering” the Kurds. The person called Trump’s opening a lengthy, bombastic monologue.

Pelosi mentioned the House vote and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, started to read the president a quote from former Defense Secretary James Mattis on the need to keep U.S. troops in Syria to prevent a resurgent of Islamic State fighters.

But Trump cut Schumer off, complaining that Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general. You know why? He wasn’t tough enough.” Trump went on, “I captured ISIS.”

Pelosi explained to Trump that Russia has always wanted a “foothold in the Middle East,” and now it has one with the U.S. withdrawal, according to a senior Democratic aide who was also granted anonymity.

“All roads with you lead to Putin,” the speaker said.

Then it began.

Trump said to Pelosi, “I hate ISIS more than you do.”

Pelosi responded, “You don’t know that.”

Schumer intervened at one point and said, “Is your plan to rely on the Syrians and the Turks?”

Trump replied, “Our plan is to keep the American people safe.”

Pelosi said: “That’s not a plan. That’s a goal.”

Trump turned to Pelosi and complained about former President Barack Obama’s “red line” over Syria. According to Schumer, he then called her “a third-rate politician.”

At that point, the genteel Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Majority Leader, interjected, “This is not useful.”

Pelosi and Hoyer stood and left the meeting. As they did, Trump said, “Goodbye, we’ll see you at the polls.”

From the White House driveway, Pelosi told reporters Trump was having some kind of “meltdown” inside. She said they had to leave because Trump was unable to grasp the reality of the situation.

Later, she would insist he even botched the insult, calling her “third-grade” rather than “third-rate.”

The impeachment inquiry never came up, she said.

Trump insisted later on Twitter that it was Pelosi who had a “total meltdown,” calling her “a very sick person!”

He also tweeted pictures from the room. “Do you think they like me?” he asked mockingly about one, showing Pelosi and Schumer looking exhausted and glum.

“Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!” he tweeted with another.

In that photo, Pelosi can be seen, surrounded by congressional leaders and military brass around a table at the White House, finger outpointed. She is standing up, literally, to Trump.

Pelosi turned the photo into the banner on her Twitter page.

No one likes him.

Mike Pence is in Turkey right now and it’s not going well.

Who knows what horrors today may bring. This is our reality now. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


51 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice Thursday, Sky Dancers!! We will get through this somehow.

  2. NW Luna says:

    • NW Luna says:

      I admired Rep Cummings so much. What a great heart, a great mind.

    • Enheduanna says:

      What a shock – much too young. I’m glad he was able to do as much as he did up to the end.

      What a contrast to the sniveling coward in the WH.

    • dakinikat says:

      Elijah Cummings: a righteous man who believed in a better America, a better Baltimore

      https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/columnists/dan-rodricks/bs-md-rodricks-cummings-1017-20191017-zgct7yb7cnbndp3auotwzg6nxu-story.html?fbclid=IwAR06GrBvskwAM5tIOxwfGPLdJXXStxbrrUHVXF_f0LhiqsTwLGpby8csvs8

      “We are better than this.”

      Elijah Cummings said that over and over again, urging his fellow Americans and his fellow Baltimoreans to believe it — and to be it.

      The U.S. congressman from Maryland, who died early Thursday morning at 68, was a long-time warrior for justice, truly a great man. He spoke truth to power even as a member of the power class. And the Democrat was not above pleading, with rival Republicans or constituents, for what he knew was right.

      He chose politics and public life because he wanted a better country, a better city. Immersed in the complex problems of both, he kept his eyes on the prize all through his career. As a member of Congress, with oversight of government operations at a range of levels, Cummings was in the role of examiner, and what he examined was usually bad — from incompetence by bureaucrats to price gouging by corporations to the abuses of power of the executive branch. And so his words were often aspirational, uttered while mired in mud, yet pointing us toward a mountaintop.

    • dakinikat says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. NW Luna says:

    Schumer and Pelosi look like they’re thinking “Here we are trying to talk sense to the 2 y.o. who’s set on blowing up the world, starting in the Middle East. The nightmare continues.”

  5. bostonboomer says:

    At Vanity Fair, William D. Cohan suggests that Trump and his cronies are manipulating the stock market.

    “THERE IS DEFINITE HANKY-PANKY GOING ON”: THE FANTASTICALLY PROFITABLE MYSTERY OF THE TRUMP CHAOS TRADES

    In the last 10 minutes of trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Friday, September 13, someone got very lucky. That’s when he or she, or a group of people, sold short 120,000 “S&P e-minis”—electronically traded futures contracts linked to the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index—when the index was trading around 3010. The time was 3:50 p.m. in New York; it was nearing midnight in Tehran. A few hours later, drones attacked a large swath of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, choking off production in the country and sending oil prices soaring. By the time the CME next opened, for pretrading on Sunday night, the S&P index had fallen 30 points, giving that very fortunate trader, or traders, a quick $180 million profit.

    It was not an isolated occurrence. Three days earlier, in the last 10 minutes of trading, someone bought 82,000 S&P e-minis when the index was trading at 2969. That was nearly 4 a.m. on September 11 in Beijing, where a few hours later, the Chinese government announced that it would lift tariffs on a range of American-made products. As has been the typical reaction in the U.S. stock markets as the trade war with China chugs on without any perceptible logic, when the news about a potential resolution of it seems positive, stock markets go up, and when the news about the trade war appears negative, they go down.

    The news was viewed positively. The S&P index moved swiftly on September 11 to 2996, up nearly 30 points. That same day, President Donald Trump said he would postpone tariffs on some Chinese goods, and the S&P index moved to 3016, or up 47 points since the fortunate person bought the 82,000 e-minis just before the market closed on September 10. Since a one-point movement, up or down, in an e-mini contract is worth $50, a 47-point movement up in a day was worth $2,350 per contract. If you were the lucky one who bought the 82,000 e-mini contracts, well, then you were sitting on a one-day profit of roughly $190 million.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Traders in the Chicago pits have been watching these kinds of wagers with an increasing mixture of shock and awe since the start of the Trump presidency. They are used to rapid fluctuations in the S&P 500 index; volatility is common, of course. But the precision and timing of these trades, and the vast amount of money being made as a result of them, make the traders wonder if all this is on the level. Are the people behind these trades incredibly lucky, or do they have access to information that other people don’t have about, say, Trump’s or Beijing’s latest thinking on the trade war or any other of a number of ways that Trump is able to move the markets through his tweeting or slips of the tongue? Essentially, do they have inside information?

    • quixote says:

      If those two trades were made by the same buyer(s), that’s definitely fishy. If that buyer has even more wildly “lucky” trades, yup, insider trading.

    • dakinikat says:

      well, that’s not good …

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. dakinikat says:

    I’m gobsmacked again! How can this be legal?

    • dakinikat says:

      • bostonboomer says:

        • Sweet Sue says:

          I absolutely agree, that was my first thought. Putin will be sure to bring a security team to sweep his room for bugs (as in bed) No, I don’t think Trump will be in office too much longer; seeing Pence at his triumphant-ha-presser and it’s clear that they’re grooming him to take over, and he looked nervous as hell.

      • bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

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  9. dakinikat says:

  10. bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

      • dakinikat says:

        I couldn’t outdo this reply to that tweet you posted. Both Pitch perfect. Guess Evangelicals are kewl with killing actually living breathing babies … and old people … and women … and other christians

    • dakinikat says:

  11. dakinikat says:

    Trump’s top China adviser appears to have made up expert he regularly quoted
    CNN Digital Expansion 2017. Ben WestcottChristine Romans-Profile-Image
    By Ben Westcott and Christine Romans, CNN

    Updated 10:27 AM ET, Thu October 17, 2019
    https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/16/politics/peter-navarro-ron-vara-trump-china-intl-hnk/index.html?fbclid=IwAR1Km1zq1ms6oosy9udZQXM2UFal3aGTuOyshYyeEncRCszSKa8TmjSCZtQ

    In his 2011 book “Death by China,” President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Peter Navarro quoted a China hawk named “Ron Vara” to prove his point on the threat posed by Beijing to the American economy.

    “Only the Chinese can turn a leather sofa into an acid bath, a baby crib into a lethal weapon, and a cell phone battery into heart-piercing shrapnel,” Vara said. He appears once more in the book and is even referenced in the index.
    There’s just one problem — Vara doesn’t appear to exist, according to an investigation by an Australian academic, who determined that Vara is actually Navarro. Ron Vara is even an anagram of Navarro’s last name.

  12. dakinikat says:

    Mulvaney Confirms Trump Held Up Ukraine Aid Over DNC Server Conspiracy

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/mulvaney-confirms-trump-held-up-ukraine-aid-over-dnc-server-conspiracy?fbclid=IwAR0esD7VxqSa0mYkvJOfVEczmSrDg-ohktx7BfHwvhXS7babNzBP3gzYjoA

    White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged Wednesday that President Trump held up military aid to Ukraine over a conspiracy theory about the DNC servers hacked by Russians in 2016.

    “Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely,” Mulvaney said at a press conference Thursday. “No question about that.”

    “That’s it, and that’s why we held up the money,” Mulvaney said, citing other factors in addition to the DNC server conspiracy.

    Trump made reference to the “server” conspiracy in his July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

    In a memorandum of the call released by the White House, Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor.”

    “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike,” Trump said, adding: “I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

    It was a reference to a conspiracy theory that the cybersecurity firm that the DNC hired in 2016 to investigate the hacking of its servers actually manufactured evidence to implicate Russia. Trump appeared to think, on his call with Zelensky, that a DNC server was physically in Ukraine.

    “So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?” ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked Mulvaney Thursday.

    “The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation,” Mulvaney responded, arguing that Trump’s actions were “absolutely appropriate.”

    Karl pressed: “To be clear, what you described is a quid pro quo, it is, funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well?”

    Mulvaney didn’t deny the characterization.

    “We do that all the time with foreign policy,” he said.

    Okay, forget the hearings … Impeach the motherfucker now!

  13. bostonboomer says:

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  15. dakinikat says: