Christmas Eve Reads


Good Afternoon!!

Trump completely blew up Washington over the past couple of days, and now he’s down in Florida playing golf.

I am way beyond disgusted this morning. Trump has pardoned his cronies and multiple war criminals, vetoed the Defense bill that includes money to pay U.S. troops, and refused to sign the Covid relief bill, which would have provided a paltry $600 to struggling Americans and a similarly paltry $300 unemployment supplement. And that’s just a few of the horrors Trump is visiting on our country in his final days in office.

As Trump golfs, back here in the real world the U.S. is now facing a government shutdown. The Washington Post: House Republicans block Democrats’ effort to advance $2,000 stimulus checks pushed by Trump.

House Republicans on Thursday blocked an effort by House Democrats to approve $2,000 stimulus payments for millions of Americans. Democrats were seeking to advance the measure after President Trump demanded it on Tuesday night, breaking with many of his fellow Republicans.

House Democratic leadership attempted to advance the measure by “unanimous consent,” but the effort was blocked by Republican leadership.

a60cb1bc6a670624ca382a671d6a2802Trump has hinted he will not sign a $900 billion emergency economic relief package into law unless these larger stimulus payments are approved. Many Democrats also support the higher payments, while most Republicans do not. But Trump’s late-stage intervention puts the entire package in jeopardy, and the government will shut down on Tuesday if there is not a resolution.

House Democrats also blocked a measure sought by Republicans to reevaluate U.S. spending on foreign aid, something Trump also pushed for earlier this week.

“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.”

Politico: ‘Complete clusterf—’: Trump leaves Washington in limbo.

President Donald Trump has once again thrown Washington into chaos, making uneven demands that have left lawmakers baffled and Americans coping with a global pandemic uncertain when they’ll be getting long-promised financial help.

On Tuesday night, Trump blindsided all of Washington — including his own staff — with a series of eleventh-hour demands to amend coronavirus relief and government funding legislation that his own administration had helped carefully craft and supported. Overnight and into Wednesday, senior Republicans, Hill aides and even White House officials scrambled to figure out what Trump actually wanted, just as lawmakers — and Trump — prepare to leave town for the holidays.

There’s no clear answer, though. No one on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue appears to know what Trump’s plan is — or even if there is one. House Republicans held a brief conference call Wednesday afternoon, where they received little clarity on the situation. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Republicans he spoke to Trump, but that the president hasn’t committed to anything yet, according to two people on the call.

christmas-illustration-900-vintage-christmas-cards-decorated-christmas-tree-tuscan-afternoonThe White House, meanwhile, did not respond to questions about the legislation.

“Complete clusterf—,” summarized one top Republican Hill aide….

The repercussions of inaction could be dramatic. If lawmakers and White House aides can’t convince the president to sign a funding and Covid relief package by Monday, the government will enter the fourth shutdown of Trump’s presidency. And millions of Americans had been told to expect another round of direct payments from the government shortly, while businesses across the country were expecting more financial assistance.

Kevin Liptak at CNN: Trump puts on show of erratic behavior in final days.

It turns out there are no silent nights in the Trump era.

Even in the lead-up to Christmas, even in humiliating loss, even as Americans attempt reflection on what has been, for many, the worst year of their lives, President Donald Trump seems bent on maintaining an unrelenting pace of norm-smashing as his term concludes.

No one expected him to fade quietly into retirement. And no one, at this point, is particularly obliged to pay attention — a fact Trump seems very aware of as he desperately seeks to grasp hold of the spotlight for however long it will shine, even as his staff is provided instructions for boxing up their desks and cleaning out their microwaves.

The effect is a president more erratic than ever. Though he has all but disappeared from public view, Trump is wielding what executive powers he has left to rancorous effect, ensuring his presence is felt even as he holes up in virtual isolation. Instead of off-the-cuff rallies or shouting underneath his helicopter, Trump is holding forth in pre-produced videos and, as always, tweeting.

His actions all seem designed to offer the other co-equal branches of government a taste of what he can do — and what damage he can inflict — in the days he is still President.

By pardoning convicted liars, corrupt loyalists and war criminals, Trump has reminded the judiciary that, if he wants to, he can reverse its work. Issuing a surprise and vague attack on carefully crafted stimulus legislation lets lawmakers know he’s still a player, even if he sat out the negotiations entirely and seemed confused about what, exactly, he is opposing.

vintage-christmas-cardsAt Newsweek, national security expert William Arkin reports: Exclusive: Donald Trump’s Martial-Law Talk Has Military on Red Alert.

Pentagon and Washington-area military leaders are on red alert, wary of what President Donald Trump might do in his remaining days in office. Though far-fetched, ranking officers have discussed what they would do if the president declared martial law. And military commands responsible for Washington DC are engaged in secret contingency planning in case the armed forces are called upon to maintain or restore civil order during the inauguration and transition period. According to one officer who spoke to Newsweek on condition of anonymity, the planning is being kept out of sight of the White House and Trump loyalists in the Pentagon for fear that it would be shut down.

“I’ve been associated with the military for over 40 years and I’ve never seen the discussions that are being had right now, the need for such discussions,” says a retired flag officer, currently a defense contractor who has mentored and advised his service’s senior leaders. He was granted anonymity in order to speak without fear of reprisal.

A half-dozen officers in similar positions agree that while there is zero chance that the uniformed leadership would involve itself in any scheme to create an election-related reversal, they worry that the military could get sucked into a crisis of Trump’s making, particularly if the president tries to rally private militias and pro-Trump paramilitaries in an effort to disrupt the transition and bring violence to the capital.

“Right now, because of coronavirus,” one retired judge advocate general says, “the president actually has unprecedented emergency powers, ones that might convince him—particularly if he listens to certain of his supporters—that he has unlimited powers and is above the law.”

“But martial law,” says the lawyer, “is the wrong paradigm to think about the dangers ahead.” Though such a presidential proclamation could flow from his order as commander-in-chief, an essential missing ingredient is the martial side: the involvement and connivance of some cabal of officers who would support the president’s illegal move.

Read the rest at Newsweek.

399-2B1Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: The Triumph of Kleptocracy. With Donald Trump’s pardon of Paul Manafort, kleptocracy has successfully waited out its enemies.

Paul Manafort came of age in New Britain, Connecticut. His father, the garrulous mayor of that decaying factory town, taught him how to cobble together an electoral coalition, passing down the tricks of the trade that became the basis for the son’s lucrative career as a political consultant. But as the local hardware manufacturers fled to foreign shores, the Mafia moved into town. To hear the local papers tell the story—or to read the counts alleged in a prosecutor’s indictment—Paul’s father, the local political boss, served as a protector of the DeCavalcante family. The charges against the father never stuck, but the example of those years did. Paul Manafort received a first-rate education in omertà.

For a brief moment, nearly two years ago, that education looked like it might be wasted. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors believed that Paul Manafort—then clad in an orange jumpsuit, the dye fading from his news-anchor head of hair—would turn state’s witness against Donald Trump.

In court, Mueller’s lawyers told the judge that Manafort was the heart of their case. They had already nailed him for tax fraud and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. They had trapped him in a perjurious tangle. And as they followed the trail of evidence, they noticed that Manafort’s aide de camp was an asset of Russian intelligence. They had nabbed Manafort passing along confidential campaign data to a favored oligarch of the Kremlin, to whom he owed millions. Everything in the prosecutors’ presentation suggested that they were on the cusp of a breakthrough. Manafort would be their cooperative witness, the key to their ability to tell a more expansive narrative about what had happened in the 2016 election.

But before prosecutors could achieve that revelation, the president made his move. Trump began to tease the prospect of a pardon for Manafort. While the Mueller report is a maddening document, deadened by its steadfast unwillingness to draw conclusions, it is unambiguous about Trump’s treatment of Manafort. It describes how his tweets and statements about a pardon might have shaped Manafort’s strategic calculus.

The head of the family had sent an unambiguous signal. Just then, the instincts from Manafort’s old neighborhood kicked in.

Click the link to read the rest.

More reads, links only:

a668b3c20f577deb88b2dac6fc47b6f5Tim Miller at The Bulwark: The Treasonous Pardon of Paul Manafort.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Trump Completes Russiagate Cover-up by Pardoning Paul Manafort.

Noah Bookbinder at USA Today: The craven corruption of Trump’s pardons: Separate justice system for friends and allies.

The Texas Tribune: The Trump administration awarded border wall contracts to build on land it doesn’t own in Texas.

The Washington Post: Trump administration pushes forward on $500 million weapons deal with Saudi Arabia.

ProPublica: Inside Trump and Barr’s Last-Minute Killing Spree.

Reuters: Millions of U.S. vaccine doses sit on ice, putting 2020 goal in doubt.

Paul Campos at New York Magazine: Pence Should Remove Trump From Office on Sunday.I 

Karen Tumulty at The Washington Post: Trump is trashing the government on his way out. Biden is confident he can fix it.

Sorry about all the horrible news, but that’s where we find ourselves right now–in a hell created by the monster who has been enabled by Republicans for four long years. I hope your holiday plans will insulate you from these horrors. Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. We are going to survive the monster somehow some way.

13 Comments on “Christmas Eve Reads”

  1. NW Luna says:

    I didn’t know that about how the VP could step in and bar an unstable president* from power if given the backing of the House. Pence should remove Trump on Sunday, but of course being a poodle he won’t do that (apologies to standard poodles).

    The presidential pardon power should be substantially restricted or even abolished. Trump pardoned his son-in-law’s father, scores of corrupt politicians and soldiers who murdered civilians including children. Vile and evil.

  2. dakinikat says:

    three instances of trump voters voting twice!!

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    Happy Holidays to all the Sky Dancers who have made this place a safe haven over the years to vent!

    Hope you all stay safe and healthy and that 2021 is a better year than what we have been through!

  4. Enheduanna says:

    Manafort always looked like a cartoon-character good-fella to me – straight out of central casting. Down to his shiny suits and shifty eyes. Ugh.

    Hope everyone has a peaceful holiday. BB hope the weather isn’t too awful!

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. NW Luna says:

    The scramble for the first, limited batch of vaccines portends tensions to come as the massive distribution effort exposes inequities in the health-care system even as government officials debate who gets priority for lifesaving protection. “We live in a system structured on power and privilege,” said Glenn Ellis, a visiting scholar at the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University. “It’s baked into almost every sector of society. There’s no reason the vaccine will be any different in how it plays out.”
    A growing body of psychology experiments has tried to untangle how wealth and power can lead to feelings of entitlement and invulnerability. In one of the more surprising [sic] findings, a 2015 paper found that the rich are more likely to take candy from children. In an experiment, subjects compared their finances with others before being told they could take candy from a jar before it is sent to children in a nearby lab. Those who felt richer after seeing the finances of a poorer person took significantly more candy.

    [sic] added.

  7. NW Luna says:

    Layperson-language info on the covid-19 variants:

    Vaccines will work against new coronavirus variants spreading through U.K. and South Africa, experts believe

    Coronavirus mutations identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa may be provoking alarm, but infectious-disease experts are optimistic the new variants are still vulnerable to the powerful hammer of newly authorized vaccines. Even if the virus were to mutate further, the experts say, the vaccines could be rapidly reprogrammed to remain effective against new variants.

    Such a tweaking of the vaccines could be done “in minutes,” said Drew Weissman, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and one of the inventors of the messenger RNA technology that powers both vaccines. “It’s very easy,” Weissman added.

    The mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna do not use any coronaviruses or even segments of live or dead viruses. Instead they harness a synthesized piece of messenger RNA, fundamentally no different from what is already in our bodies. This RNA instructs cells to manufacture a protein that looks like the spike protein that studs the outside of the coronavirus. The body’s immune system then mounts antibodies against it.
    Those antibodies are diverse in shape and function and cover the whole waterfront of the spike protein. A mutation here and there, or even eight or 10 or 20 mutations changing the spike protein would still leave vulnerable areas for the antibodies to attack. In effect, the immune system floods the zone.

    Nonetheless, the experts agree: This coronavirus is a moving target and needs to be closely monitored, requiring a much greater investment in testing and genomic sequencing in the United States.