Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Chinese New Year was on Saturday and nothing starts a new year off right like a twist in the prevailing media narrative! It’s the year of the rat and I’m pretty sure that’s what the mob boss in the oval office will be calling former Ambassador John Bolton in tweet after tweet after tweet as Capos Moscow Mitch and Boom Boom Barr and Senate bag men–like Lady Lindsey– fight to keep Bolton from testifying in the Senate impeachment trials. Trump is already tweeting denials. But, then, maybe we also need to hear from Boom Boom ?
I really love this emphatic lede from AXIOS: “Republicans fear “floodgates” if Bolton testifies”. We’re all waiting for those floodgates to open!
There may be enough new pressure on Senate Republicans to allow witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial, after the leak from a forthcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton that contradicts what the White House has been telling the country.
Why it matters: This is a dramatic, 11th-hour inflection point for the trial, with an eyewitness rebuttal to Trump’s claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to investigations into Joe Biden.
- GOP sources say the revelation could be enough to sway the four Republican senators needed for witnesses — especially since Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine have already strongly signaled they’d vote for witnesses.
What happened: Bolton alleges in his book — “The Room Where It Happened,” out March 17 — that Trump explicitly told him “he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens,” the N.Y. Times reported.
- Trump strongly denied Bolton’s claims on Twitter early today: “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. … If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
The state of play: Republican sources tell Axios that party leaders and the White House will still try to resist witnesses because, as one top aide put it, “there is a sense in the Senate that if one witness is allowed, the floodgates are open.”
- “If [Bolton] says stuff that implicates, say Mick [Mulvaney] or [Mike] Pompeo, then calls for them will intensify,” the aide said.
What we can expect Trump’s defense lawyers to say as they make their case at the trial, beginning at 1 p.m. today and continuing tomorrow:
- They’ll say Bolton’s account doesn’t change any key facts, and reiterate that the aid, which was only briefly paused, was released without the announcement of any investigations.
- They’ll emphasize that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was no pressure, the call record shows no linkage between the two, and Zelensky got his meeting with Trump at the UN.
- They’ll also argue that Trump’s concerns about corruption in Ukraine were well-known: He questioned giving aid to the country for a number of reasons, just as he has done with other countries.
The intrigue: Bolton submitted the book to the White House on Dec. 30 for a standard prepublication security review for classified information.
- The Times notes: “The submission … may have given Mr. Trump’s aides and lawyers direct insight into what Mr. Bolton would say if he were called to testify.”
- “It also intensified concerns among some of his advisers that they needed to block Mr. Bolton from testifying.”
So, there’s the highlights. Here’s some analysis from Aaron Blake at WAPO:. “John Bolton’s bombshell gives the GOP a glimpse of its nightmare scenario”.
The nightmare scenario for the GOP is that they give Trump the quick and witness-free acquittal that he apparently desires, but then information like Bolton’s keeps coming out. Bolton now suggests Trump was indeed telling people privately that the withheld military aid was part of a quid pro quo — a quid pro quo that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified that he communicated to the Ukrainians. This is something Trump’s team has strenuously denied, including at the impeachment trial. What if Bolton isn’t the only person Trump told this to who might suddenly contradict them? However closely this has already been tied to Trump, it can always be tied more closely. Bolton’s upcoming book — slated for March 17 — is a great example of how the hastily assembled walls the Trump team have built around its defense can quickly crumble and, in some cases, already have.
The evidence, after all, is pretty compelling that Trump wasn’t truly concerned about corruption in Ukraine. Giuliani actually said publicly that these investigations weren’t about foreign policy but were instead about helping “my client.” There are also several confirmations that these were quid pro quos — including both military aid and a White House meeting — and that the quid pro quos were communicated to the Ukrainians, even if previous witnesses couldn’t say whether Trump explicitly signed off on them. Indeed, both Bolton and Mulvaney — two very high-ranking White House aides — have now offered confirmation of the quid pro quos, even though Mulvaney recanted his.
Here’s from the NYT Noah Weiland: “5 Takeaways on Trump and Ukraine From John Bolton’s Book. New revelations from the former White House national security adviser could complicate President Trump’s impeachment trial.”
Mr. Bolton wrote that Mr. Pompeo privately acknowledged to him last spring that Mr. Giuliani’s claims about Marie L. Yovanovitch, then the American ambassador to Ukraine, had no basis, including allegations that she was bad-mouthing Mr. Trump. Mr. Pompeo suggested to Mr. Bolton that Mr. Giuliani may have wanted Ms. Yovanovitch out because she might have been targeting his business clients in her anti-corruption efforts. Yet Mr. Pompeo still went through with Mr. Trump’s order to recall Ms. Yovanovitch last May.
Mr. Pompeo lashed out at a National Public Radio host on Friday and Saturday after she asked him in an interview about Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal.
Mr. Bolton also wrote that he had concerns about Mr. Giuliani. He said he warned White House lawyers last year that Mr. Giuliani might have been using his work representing the president as leverage to help his private clients.
Among other names Mr. Bolton referenced in the manuscript: Attorney General William P. Barr. Mr. Bolton wrote that he raised concerns with Mr. Barr about Mr. Giuliani’s influence on the president after Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. That call was a critical piece of the whistle-blower complaint that prompted the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Barr on Sunday denied Mr. Bolton’s account through a spokeswoman.
Sarah K Burris–writing for Raw Story–writes: “John Bolton went to Bill Barr with concerns about Giuliani’s ‘shadow foreign policy’ in Ukraine: report”. Well, Barr’s in it deep now and I can’t want to see Giuliani in an orange jumpsuit.
Attorney General Bill Barr was cited recently by Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas as being part of the “team” of people workign to create a conspiracy to help get President Donald Trump reelected.
“Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,” said Parnas in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “Mr. Barr had to know about everything.”
Parnas’ lawyer, Joseph Bondy, has demanded that Barr recuse himself from overseeing the Parnas trial and investigation.
In his recently submitted manuscript, former national security adviser John Bolton revealed that he went to Barr with concerns about Giuliani after the notorious July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Mr. Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William P. Barr his concerns about Mr. Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Mr. Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call,” the New York Times reported.
According to Barr’s spokesperson, however, Barr didn’t learn about the call from Bolton and didn’t find out about it until mid-August.
Bad news on the Democratic Primary front. Bernie Sanders is surging and David Leonhardt (NYT) argues this: “Iowa Should Never Go First Again. The current system is a form of white privilege that warps the process.”
The strongest part of the case for change, of course, is the racial aspect of the current calendar. Iowa and New Hampshire are among the country’s whitest states. About 6 percent of their combined population is black or Asian-American. Almost 87 percent is non-Hispanic white, compared with 60 percent for the country as a whole. Demographically, Iowa and New Hampshire look roughly like the America of 1870.
Julián Castro, the former presidential candidate, was right when he called out the Democratic Party’s hypocritical support for the status quo. “Iowa and New Hampshire are wonderful states with wonderful people,” Castro said. But Democrats can’t “complain about Republicans suppressing the votes of people of color, and then begin our nominating contest in two states that hardly have people of color.”
The typical defense from Iowa officials is that their state can be trusted because it once voted for a black man (Barack Obama) — which is a pretty stark bit of paternalism.
In truth, the whiteness of Iowa and New Hampshire matters. Consider that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were doing as well as Amy Klobuchar in early polls of more diverse states; they led Pete Buttigieg in some polls. But Booker and Harris are finished, in no small part because of their struggles in Iowa and New Hampshire. Klobuchar and Buttigieg still might break out.
Or consider that a candidate with strong white support (like Bernie Sanders) could win both Iowa and New Hampshire this year. That result would create a media narrative about Joe Biden’s campaign being badly wounded, even though Biden leads among two large groups of Democratic voters: African Americans and Latinos. Those voters, however, are told to wait their turn.
Politico looks at the potential of record turnout in Iowa.
“The national conversation seems to be moving past Pete, past Elizabeth, to Bernie and Biden. That’s where I think everything’s heading, or returning,” said Doug Herman, who was a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. “It’s kind of a reset back to the beginning of the race.”
But if there is high turnout in Iowa, he said, “It may help the other candidates: It may be what they need to stay viable.”
The Iowa Democratic Party has been preparing for record-breaking turnout for more than a year, driven both by Democrats’ angst about President Donald Trump and by an unusually large field of candidates — many of them with their own significant, independent turnout operations. The state party chairman, Troy Price, said the party is anticipating more caucus-goers than in 2008, which set a record when 239,000 Democratic voters participated, lifting Obama to victory.
“The winner is always who’s bringing a bunch of new [voters], said Sue Dvorsky, a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman who backed Sen. Kamala Harris before she dropped out of the race.
The difficulty this year, she said, is that new voters could go to any number of different candidates. “There literally is no historical analogy here,” she said.
Every candidate could see potential advantages in a high-turnout caucus. And the weekend saw each of them working furiously to swell their lanes of support.
These are certainly interesting times we live in. Some times, I wish they weren’t so heart stopping. Maybe it’s just something we can blame on the year of the Rat!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
These are surely weird times we live in and they can be very frightening. Is it just me or are we getting a big lesson in impermanence?
There was a huge explosion last night in a Houston suburb that has killed two people in the plant experiencing the explosion. Here’s the latest on that from the NYT.
At least two people were killed in a large explosion at an industrial site in Houston on Friday, and the authorities have started a criminal investigation to try to determine whether the cause of the blast was arson, the police chief said.
The blast jolted residents from their beds in the early hours of the morning, blowing out windows and scattering debris across roughly half a mile.
The Houston police chief, Art Acevedo, said it was part of the department’s protocol to investigate a possible criminal cause but added that “we have no reason to believe, we have no evidence at this point, that terrorism is involved.”
He said it was not clear whether the two people killed were employees at the industrial site.
Professor Anita Hill reminds us that she never got an apology from Joe Biden for his heinous treatment of her while she testified of her experience of sexual harassment by Uncle Clarence Thomas. She told an Iowa crowd this week that the statue of limitations was up on it. Was that the boom of a mic drop I heard?
Hill, a law professor, accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings. Biden, then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided over the hearings and has faced persistent criticism since for how he and the all-white, all-male panel treated Hill during her nationally televised testimony.
Her appearance was part of the school’s MLK Human Rights Week program, but also came 11 days before Iowa holds the nation’s first presidential caucuses. Biden is among the frontrunners.
“I know you all are getting ready to caucus,” Hill said as she opened her remarks.
A question submitted later for the Q&A came from someone who said they were considering caucusing for Biden but could not forget his role in the 1991 confirmation hearings. How hard, the questioner wondered, could it be for Biden to simply say he was wrong?
“The statute of limitations for his apology is up,” Hill said to applause. “Here is what I want now … What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do today? Will you promise as leader of this country … would you promise to use all of your energy to address the problem as it happened and to prevent it from happening to another generation? That’s what I want to hear. And I not only want to hear from him, I want to hear from every one of them who want to be the leader of this country.”
Hill made a similar “statute of limitations” comment in late 2018, but in the months between then and Biden’s launch of his 2020 presidential campaign, the former senator and vice president reached out to her directly to express his regrets. Hill said at the time the call became public that she found his words insufficient.
Later, in an appearance on The View, Biden was grilled for his passive statements — “I’m sorry for the way she got treated” — and the story lingered for days. It had faded in the subsequent months as Biden’s campaign accelerated. Last June, Hill told NBC News she was open to voting for Biden.
“I was criticized because I didn’t immediately open my arms and embrace him [and say], ‘OK, I forgive you,’” Hill told her Iowa audience Thursday night. “One of the reasons I didn’t was because I didn’t think it was enough.” The other, she said, was that she didn’t want “every young woman” to “feel like they had to follow” her lead.
We have a weird, macabre twist to the Hard Rock Hotel Collapse story here in New Orleans. This is from Jules Bentley writing for Antigravity Magazine: “BUILT TO KILL,The Hard Rock Collapse is Simply Business as Usual for Louisiana”.
Have you ever encountered a really termite-eaten beam? It looks kind of like wood, but when you touch it, your finger sinks into papery crud; it’s comprised entirely of putrescence. That’s the case for all parties involved in the Hard Rock Hotel; anywhere you poke, you find nothing but rot. Because the Kailas family is one of metro New Orleans’ biggest landowners and developers, almost everyone’s in bed with them, including former Governor Jindal, whose various campaigns they provided with tens of thousands of dollars of donations, monetary and in-kind.
In just one year under Jindal’s tenure (2011-2012), the Kailas-owned Lago Construction firm got more than $1.5 million of taxpayer money through state contracts—contracts which, thanks to the hard work of WWL’s investigative team and David Hammer, we now know were variously improper and fraudulent. On dates they charged taxpayers for long days of public service work, Lago employees were instead laboring on the Kailas family’s multi-million dollar Bayou St. John mansion. You won’t find them there now, alas. In 2016, they sold that property to Metro Disposal CEO Jimmie Woods for ten dollars.
Lago has a history of being cozy with the state. In much the same way Louisiana politicians slide seamlessly between public office and oil-and-gas industry lobbying gigs, a gentleman named Mark Maier was simultaneously the head of a private consultancy firm that partnered with the Kailas family and the head of a Louisiana state government office, the Small Rental Recovery Program, that the Kailas family was defrauding.
Longtime Louisiana journalist Tom Aswell, writing in his “Louisiana Voice” blog, details the case of Tony Pelicano, a Metairie landlord whose building on North Turnbull Street had been damaged by the 2005 failure of the federal levees. In 2009, Pelicano was personally contacted by Maier and invited to become the first test applicant for a “forgivable loan” program for small rental property owners that would pay a contractor up to $75,000 to bring the building back into livability.
Pelicano was not allowed to choose the contractor who did the work, and when he met with Maier in 2012 to complain about problems with the work—construction change orders made behind his back, including substituting cheaper, non-pressure-treated lumber—he says he was threatened that “his bank note would be accelerated” and he’d be sued. After a third-party firm Pelicano hired verified the disastrous quality of the workmanship, Maier’s office contacted Lago, the Kailas company that Maier’s consultancy partnered with, to do its own inspection. Lago then issued a contradictory report dismissing Pelicano and the third-party firm’s findings.
Maier returned the favor a few years later. When Lago Construction was initially accused of stealing money from the Small Rental Property Program, Maier wrote a note absolving them of any wrongdoing, and the state’s investigation was dropped.
Alas for the forces of progress, the feds weren’t convinced by Maier’s note. HUD continued to investigate, and the U.S. Attorney’s office eventually filed charges. When Praveen Kailas admitted to filing fraudulent invoices worth $236,000, the judge agreed to go below the recommended sentencing range since, in her words, Praveen was taking “the fall for family members involved and not charged.” This slightly delayed development of the Hard Rock Hotel, but only slightly. Praveen just handed it off to his dad.
And now for the story connected to picture further up from WWLTV: “Worker’s dead body exposed after tarp falls from Hard Rock collapse site/ The City asked residents not to take photos of the remains, which are clearly visible from the street.” Yes, Mardi Gras Routes–like that of Zulu–are being changed because a dead man’s leg’s are dangling over Canal Street.
A tarp has fallen from the Hard Rock Hotel collapse site, exposing the remains of one of the workers killed in the collapse.
The City of New Orleans says they may not be able to cover the body again any time soon.
“A tarp put in place to conceal the remains of one of the victims of the Hard Rock collapse has been shifted by the wind,” a statement from City Spokesperson LaTonya Norton said. “The condition of the building and the altitude above street level complicate efforts to replace the tarp, as they have prevented recovery thus far.”
Photos of two legs sticking out from the rubble started to circulate on social media Tuesday afternoon. Below them, the red tarp that has covered the remains for months dangles in the wind.
Photos of two legs sticking out from the rubble started to circulate on social media Tuesday afternoon. Below them, the red tarp that has covered the remains for months dangles in the wind.
The implosion of the site is scheduled for some time in late March but guess who is still in charge of the site? Go back up to that AG and read about the wonderful developers again. It’s still in their hands to blow the thing up but the City does have some say also.
At least four council members are now backing council hearings into the collapse.
“I believe it is the role of this legislative body to ensure and demand a proper investigation and seek the truth behind this tragedy,” Councilwoman Helena Moreno said in a press release Thursday afternoon. “While we have been patient as the official investigation is still ongoing, ultimately, those responsible must be held to account — both for the victims and for the city as well so that we see to it that this never happens again.”
Those calls, however, ran into quick opposition from Cantrell and her administration.
“Investigation into this incident will be handled by the appropriate law enforcement authorities within the judicial system,” Cantrell spokesman Beau Tidwell said in a statement. “City legislators have no role in that process.”
That is unlikely to deter the council members, however.
“This is a public safety hazard, this is a matter of commerce, and this is also a matter of closure for the families that still have their loved ones inside that building. And this needs to come to a resolution and this building needs to come down like yesterday,” Councilman Jared Brossett said.
I would also like to remind you that a whistle blowing construction worker was scooped up by ICE and sent out of the country quite quickly.
Two separate letters from a state agency investigating the collapse and Ramirez Palma’s attorney say he was very vocal about alleged faulty work conditions on the Hard Rock site, which they believe are connected to Ramirez Palma’s deportation back to Honduras.
So, speaking of Crooked Real Estate Developers building things that collapse and kill people, the Poseurdent is being put on trial to do for the Obstruction part of the Impeachment articles. If you watch one thing today, make it this from last night:
Or you can listen to this: “‘Take her out’: Recording appears to capture Trump at private dinner saying he wants Ukraine ambassador fired. Trump apparently heard discussing firing Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.”via ABC News
A recording reviewed by ABC News appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired while speaking at a small gathering that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — two former business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York.
The recording appears to contradict statements by President Trump and support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days. Sources familiar with the recording said the recording was made during an intimate April 30, 2018, dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“Get rid of her!” is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”
So, let’s see what blows up today on us.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation—and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
—Martin Luther King Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Apr 16, 1963
Let us celebrate the man and his legacy today.
From Charles Blow:
I had been taught only the “Dream” King. That is what America wants King to remain: Frozen in perpetual optimism, urging more than demanding, appealing to America’s better angels rather than ruthlessly calling out its persistent demons.
But, that must not be done. That must not be done.
As King said in a 1967 interview when asked about the “Dream” speech, after much soul-searching he had come to see that “some of the old optimism was a little superficial, and now it must be tempered with a solid realism.”
That evolution, toward a more “solid realism,” toward the more rational King, toward the more radical King, is why I happen to believe that one of King’s most consequential speeches is a little-discussed address he gave in 1967 at Stanford University. It was called “The Other America.”
In it, King blasted “large segments of white society” for being “more concerned about tranquillity and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity.”
He slammed what he called the “white backlash” for being the cause of black discontent and demands for black power, rather than the result of it, calling it “merely a new name for an old phenomenon.”
And he declared that true integration “is not merely a romantic or aesthetic something where you merely add color to a still predominantly white power structure.”
This speech was delivered after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As King put it in the 1967 interview, passage of those acts came at “bargained rates.”
He explained: “It didn’t cost the nation anything. In fact, it helped the economic side of the nation to integrate lunch counters and public accommodations. It didn’t cost the nation anything to get the right to vote established. And, now we are confronting issues that cannot be solved without costing the nation.”
Collectively, the 101 black teens participating in the study reported more than 5,600 experiences of racial discrimination over two weeks. That boils down to an average of more than five instances per day for each teenager. That’s more than 70 over two weeks.
Those findings may not be surprising to those who face routine discrimination, but they reflect a higher frequency of racism than has previously been reported.
What caused the increase? Researchers say that the study was the first to include so many expressions of racial bias, 58 in all, and to ask participants to record them daily. Previous studies have typically asked participants to recall experiences from the past, which researchers say is not as accurate.
Although there has been an increase in hate crimes during the Trump administration, this study measures incidents that occurred when Barack Obama was in the White House.
From Michelle Alexander:
“We are now living in an era not of post-racialism but of unabashed racialism, a time when many white Americans feel free to speak openly of their nostalgia for an age when their cultural, political and economic dominance could be taken for granted — no apologies required. Racial bigotry, fearmongering and scapegoating are no longer subterranean in our political discourse; the dog whistles have been replaced by bullhorns. White nationalist movements are operating openly online and in many of our communities; they’re celebrating mass killings and recruiting thousands into their ranks.”
Have a blessed day. The struggle continues. March on.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
There’s a lot going on! I spent some time yesterday watching the ceremonial parts of the Impeachment articles trek over to the Senate. I don’t recall watching any of these during the Clinton impeachment. However, impeaching a cad is far different than impeaching a crook.
Then, I sadly saw the Orange Snot Blob use the champion LSU Tigers football team to prop his ego up today and promptly turned the TV off. Some of those players did not look happy to be there and others looked kinda giddy as he talked about himself in that odd third person way. As usual, he just had to make it all about him.
“You got a good [POTUS] now – even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a bitch! Can you believe that?… we took out those terrorists like your football team would’ve taken out those terrorists!”
How icky is that?
However, in keeping with why I called this a Feisty Friday I would like to wish the feisty Betty White a most happy and auspicious 98th birthday! She’s a national treasure!
White’s volunteer work goes beyond just the zoo in Los Angeles. Since the 1970s, she’s also been working with the Morris Animal Foundation, which “advances animal health by funding only research that meets the highest scientific standards” according to their site.
She was drawn to the organization because of her approach to animals. “I’m not into animal rights. I’m only into animal welfare and health,” she told TV Guide, adding that the Morris Animal Foundation funds “health studies for dogs, cats, lizards and wildlife.”
As a president emeritus, she’s seen the organization through much of its breakthrough work, which includes developing the feline leukemia vaccine, the parvovirus vaccine and Potomac horse fever vaccine.
White works closely with the Los Angeles ASPCA, as well as the guide dog school, The Seeing Eye. “The Seeing Eye takes training these dogs quite seriously,” White told Parade. “By providing well-trained guide dogs and training recipients to work with these dogs, The Seeing Eye empowers and changes people’s lives for the better.”
White has also been made an honorary forest ranger by the Forest Service and tries to help out when her schedule allows.
Another feisty woman is back in the news because of the MSNBC confessions of Lev Parnas to Rachel Maddow. Was the envoy to the Ukraine–Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch– actually stalked by fellow Americans because she stood in the way of Trump’s drug deal? Today, the worst secretary of state we’ve likely ever had spoke out.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday broke nearly 72 hours of silence over alleged surveillance and threats to the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, saying he believed the allegations would prove to be wrong but that he had an obligation to evaluate and investigate the matter.
In interviews with conservative radio hosts, Pompeo said he had no knowledge of the allegations until earlier this week when congressional Democrats released documents from an associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney suggesting that Marie Yovanovitch was being watched. He also said he did know and had never met Lev Parnas, the associate of Rudy Giuliani who made the claims.
Pompeo, who was traveling in California when the documents were released, had been harshly criticized by lawmakers and current and former diplomats for not addressing the matter. The documents provided by Parnas suggested there may have been a threat to Yovanovitch shortly before she was abruptly recalled last spring.
“We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there,” he said in a radio interview with Tony Katz, an Indianapolis-based broadcaster. “I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate. Any time there is someone who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we’ll obviously do that.”
“It is always the case at the Department of State that we do everything we can to ensure that our officers, not only our ambassadors but our entire team, has the security level that’s appropriate,” Pompeo said.
“We do our best to make sure that no harm will come to anyone, whether that was what was going on in our embassy in Baghdad last week or the work that was going on in Kyiv up and through the spring of last year when Ambassador Yovanovitch was there, and in our embassy in Kyiv even today,” he said.
Sort’ve Feisty mostly frightened Lev Parnas pointed out that he’s afraid of William Barr who he seems to think is more dangerous than the usual thuggish Trumpists. This is via Betsy Swan: “Lev Parnas Reveals Why He Turned on Trumpworld”. I have to admit that after watching his TV interview two nights in row on Maddow that this shrek is not what I expected.
In another portion of the interview with Maddow that aired late Thursday, Parnas likened Trump to a “cult leader” and said he was “more scared of our own Justice Department” than criminals.
He went on to claim that he’d “fired” lawyers connected to Trump after getting the feeling that they “tried to keep me quiet.”
Parnas told The Daily Beast that his former friends’ reaction to his arrest has strengthened his resolve to speak out. Parnas said that after he and his associate Igor Fruman were arrested at Dulles Airport on Oct. 9 and charged with campaign-finance violations, he was disappointed with Giuliani’s silence. He said Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing—a Trump-friendly husband-and-wife legal team with deep and longstanding ties in Washington’s conservative legal world—also kept mum about their relationship with him. That silence, he said, left him feeling betrayed.
“I felt like my family left me,” he said.
He noted that the trio rarely shy away from defending controversial clients and allies on TV. But in his case, Parnas said, they were silent.
“Knowing everything about me, knowing that this was probably a hit job, they all just clammed up,” he said.
This all sounds so Banana Republic it’s hard to know what to do with it. Actually, Rachel Maddow was pretty feisty grabbing up the Parnas interview first. The Parnas interview gave Maddow’s show an “all time high” which means it likely caught the Orange Snot Blob’s attention too.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show drew its largest audience ever Wednesday night.
Maddow’s interview with Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, a figure in the impeachment of President Donald Trump, averaged 4.47 million viewers, the program’s largest audience in its 11-year history. It surpasses the 4.13 million who tuned in to a March 2017 edition on which Maddow revealed a small portion of Trump’s 2005 tax return.
The show was the most-watched program on cable Wednesday night by a decent margin and beat the 9 p.m. averages for broadcasters ABC and Fox, as well. The Rachel Maddow Show scored its biggest margin of victory over Fox News’ Hannity (3.79 million) in months. MSNBC also had more than four times as many viewers as CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time in the hour (1.06 million).
Maddow also led Wednesday’s cable rankings in the key news demographic of adults 25-54, with 844,000 people in that age group (a 0.7 rating) tuning in. That falls short of the show’s all-time high of 1.4 million in the demo, set by the aforementioned March 2017 installment.
My guess is that Hannity is–in Trump’s words–a big Loser. But then, Trumperz is too busy calling our Generals ‘a bunch of dopes and babies’. This is from WAPO and the keyboards of and authors of a new book “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America,”which will be published on Jan. 21 by Penguin Press.
Just before 10 a.m. on a scorching summer Thursday, Trump arrived at the Pentagon. He stepped out of his motorcade, walked along a corridor with portraits honoring former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, and stepped inside the Tank. The uniformed officers greeted their commander in chief. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. sat in the seat of honor midway down the table, because this was his room, and Trump sat at the head of the table facing a projection screen. Mattis and the newly confirmed deputy defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, sat to the president’s left, with Vice President Pence and Tillerson to his right. Down the table sat the leaders of the military branches, along with Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon was in the outer ring of chairs with other staff, taking his seat just behind Mattis and directly in Trump’s line of sight.
Mattis, Cohn, and Tillerson and their aides decided to use maps, graphics, and charts to tutor the president, figuring they would help keep him from getting bored. Mattis opened with a slide show punctuated by lots of dollar signs. Mattis devised a strategy to use terms the impatient president, schooled in real estate, would appreciate to impress upon him the value of U.S. investments abroad. He sought to explain why U.S. troops were deployed in so many regions and why America’s safety hinged on a complex web of trade deals, alliances, and bases across the globe.An opening line flashed on the screen, setting the tone: “The post-war international rules-based order is the greatest gift of the greatest generation.” Mattis then gave a 20-minute briefing on the power of the NATO alliance to stabilize Europe and keep the United States safe. Bannon thought to himself, “Not good. Trump is not going to like that one bit.” The internationalist language Mattis was using was a trigger for Trump.
For the next 90 minutes, Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn took turns trying to emphasize their points, pointing to their charts and diagrams. They showed where U.S. personnel were positioned, at military bases, CIA stations, and embassies, and how U.S. deployments fended off the threats of terror cells, nuclear blasts, and destabilizing enemies in places including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Korea Peninsula, and Syria. Cohn spoke for about 20 minutes about the value of free trade with America’s allies, emphasizing how he saw each trade agreement working together as part of an overall structure to solidify U.S. economic and national security.
Trump appeared peeved by the schoolhouse vibe but also allergic to the dynamic of his advisers talking at him. His ricocheting attention span led him to repeatedly interrupt the lesson. He heard an adviser say a word or phrase and then seized on that to interject with his take. For instance, the word “base” prompted him to launch in to say how “crazy” and “stupid” it was to pay for bases in some countries.
This is where we learn how little Trump thinks of NATO and why he thinks every one should be paying us money to keep our bases and soldiers there. Frankly, the entire episode sounds nuts. Then Secretary of State Tillerson tried to explain the errors of that view and the tirade just got worse.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Trump said, cutting off the secretary of state before he could explain some of the benefits of the agreement. “They’re cheating. They’re building. We’re getting out of it. I keep telling you, I keep giving you time, and you keep delaying me. I want out of it.”
Before they could debate the Iran deal, Trump erupted to revive another frequent complaint: the war in Afghanistan, which was now America’s longest war. He demanded an explanation for why the United States hadn’t won in Afghanistan yet, now 16 years after the nation began fighting there in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Trump unleashed his disdain, calling Afghanistan a “loser war.” That phrase hung in the air and disgusted not only the military leaders at the table but also the men and women in uniform sitting along the back wall behind their principals. They all were sworn to obey their commander in chief’s commands, and here he was calling the war they had been fighting a loser war.
“You’re all losers,” Trump said. “You don’t know how to win anymore.” >Trump questioned why the United States couldn’t get some oil as payment for the troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. “We spent $7 trillion; they’re ripping us off,” Trump boomed. “Where is the f—ing oil?”
Trump seemed to be speaking up for the voters who elected him, and several attendees thought they heard Bannon in Trump’s words. Bannon had been trying to persuade Trump to withdraw forces by telling him, “The American people are saying we can’t spend a trillion dollars a year on this. We just can’t. It’s going to bankrupt us.”
“And not just that, the deplorables don’t want their kids in the South China Sea at the 38th parallel or in Syria, in Afghanistan, in perpetuity,” Bannon would add, invoking Hillary Clinton’s infamous “basket of deplorables” reference to Trump supporters.
Trump mused about removing General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in charge of troops in Afghanistan. “I don’t think he knows how to win,” the president said, impugning Nicholson, who was not present at the meeting.
So, today, we will see the feisty Democrat Senators– as well as the not so feisty ones–begin the journey to determining if the Russian Potted Plant should be removed from office. Feisty and extremely competent Congresswoman Val Demings will be there to provide the arguments including this one.
Rep Val Demings’ position, shared publicly by a just a few other Democrats, could undercut House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to frame impeachment as an exercise of constitutional duty. Republicans have argued for months that Democrats are on a partisan mission to remove Trump from office.
Yet in selecting Demings on Wednesday as one of the seven impeachment managers, Pelosi is giving a national spotlight to a Democrat who has often gone against House leaders on impeachment issues — she first called for Trump’s removal from office a year before party leadership and is now agitating for McConnell’s recusal.
Her opposition to McConnell’s participation in the Senate trial that is set to start next week stems from the Kentucky Republican boasting that he won’t be impartial in deciding whether Trump should be acquitted or convicted.
“I’m not an impartial juror,” McConnell said at a news conference in December. “This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision.”
Demings on Dec. 13 declared McConnell unfit to vote in Trump’s impeachment trial after the Senate leader went on Fox News to further detail his coordination with the White House on impeachment strategy.
Feisty Senator Kamala Harris will serve as a juror who speaks with the authority of the former AG of California.
So, today, I stand in solidarity with all those feisty people who simply will not shut up or sit down when they’re so ordered. Each one of them are my spirit animal. Each of us stand on the shoulders of those who fought the good fight before us.
I just wanted to share one piece of good news that shows the tenacity of folks out to do their job right. Well, actually two gardners sort’ve stumbled on it but it’s still good news. A much missed Klimt masterpiece has been found twenty-three years after being reported as stolen.
A painting found hidden in an Italian gallery in December is an authentic Gustav Klimt piece stolen almost 23 years ago, experts have confirmed.
The Portrait of a Lady was one of the world’s most sought-after stolen artworks before it was found concealed in a wall of the Ricci Oddi modern art gallery, the same gallery from where it went missing in the northern city of Piacenza.
Ornella Chicca, the Piacenza prosecutor, said at a press conference: “It’s with no small emotion that I can tell you that the work is authentic.”
The painting was discovered by two gardeners as they cleared ivy on an exterior wall of the gallery on 10December. The pair discovered a metal panel, which, when opened, revealed a cavity with a painting in a bag. An initial inspection indicated that the painting was the 1917 work by the Austrian art nouveau painter before two experts were appointment by the prosecutor to confirm its authenticity.
In a further twist, Ermanno Mariani, a journalist with the Piacenza newspaper La Libertà, received a letter from two people claiming to have stolen the painting before hiding it in the wall.
“A mystery upon a mystery for which the investigations are ongoing,” La Libertà reported on Friday. “The certification of its authenticity opens the door to the investigators’ work and it cannot be ruled out that the name of a suspect might soon appear.”
The theft of Portrait of a Lady was discovered on the morning of 22 February 1997 but police believed it had been removed three days earlier. Investigators at the time suspected an inside job. The investigation was reopened in 2016 following the discovery of DNA traces of a thief on the painting’s abandoned frame.
Police believe the thieves used a fishing line to hook the masterpiece off the wall and haul it up through an open skylight to the roof of the gallery, where the frame was discarded.
The Klimt is considered particularly important because shortly before its disappearance an art student realised it had been painted over another work previously believed lost – a portrait of a young lady that had not been seen since 1912 – making it the only “double” Klimt known to the art world.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
So, just in case you’re not of the sportsball persuasion like me, I thought I’d mention our LSU Tigers have a big game today in the Super Dome and the Orange Snot blob has decided it might be a good place to be cheered at even though outside he will be jeered at. The Tigers are going after their 4th National Championship and, of course, I have no idea what a Clemson is other than some college with another team
Frankly, I’d rather the university my kids went to and the system for which I taught for about 10ish years would stop all the water leaks in the Library and other buildings. But, silly me, panem et circenses always keeps the desperate masses from revolution or so it’s been said.
Yes. We’re getting a visitation from the orange snot blob that either lies continually, says deluded things continually, and just makes up things of the top of his critter festooned head. He mentioned he’s going to visit his property here to the usual suspects. So, look to the left and see exactly how realistic, possible, and plausible said visitation would be.
Most of the outstate Yahoos from here included the folks that put into office do not care that he lies and some of them–Yes Senator John Kennedy I’m looking at you–just repeat the lies with a faux hillbilly vibe.
Even more startling than the sheer number of POTUS lies is how brazen many of them have been. Dig deeper into this political phenomenon and something odd and counterintuitive emerges: Many people know that Trump is lying to them and simply don’t care. This raises a fascinating question: Could the president extricate himself from the Ukraine quid-pro-quo scandal, the linchpin of the current impeachment proceedings, by spewing one lie after another?
According to the academic paperProcessing Political Misinformation: Comprehending the Trump Phenomenon, the answer is yes. Conducted prior to the 2016 presidential election, the study focuses on credibility experiments. Subjects were asked to rate their belief in eight statements (four true, four false) that Trump made during his campaign. Some were attributed to him: “Donald Trump said that vaccines cause autism.” Others had no attribution: “Vaccines cause autism.” Then came the fact checks. After false items were corrected and true items confirmed, the test subjects rerated the statements.
One of the findings confirmed what every FOX and MSNBC pundit already knows. When subjects first rated the veracity of true and false statements, Republican supporters of Trump believed the claim more when it was attributed to Trump; the opposite was true of Democrats. Republicans who were not pro Trump also believed less in statements attributed to him (but not to the same degree as Democrats), while their belief in the false statements was not influenced by attribution.
The other key finding is less obvious. There was a large bipartisan shift in belief after the fact check, suggesting that both conservatives and liberals can change their minds if they’re presented with convincing, unbiased information. But there was a catch: After a one-week delay, subjects partially “rebelieved” the false statements and partially forgot that factual information was true. Or, to quote the study: “Even if individuals update their beliefs temporarily, explanations regarding both fact and fiction seemingly have an expiration date.”
So, I’m not the psychologist on the blog so I have no idea what makes him lie so much. I do know that I have never in my life seen any one even near this level of bull shit swinging and my dad had a car dealership and used car salesmen in his employ. I can’t even imagine the pathology that would create that circumstance but it’s really so disturbing in needs a new term because pathological lying just doesn’t sound enough for how he manages to nuclearize obvious whoppers.
So, there are lies and then there are lies that cover up things that every one country needs to realize are dangerous lies. This headline and story from NBC: “Trump authorized Soleimani’s killing 7 months ago, with conditions.” So, we know the entire story of four embassies under imminent danger is basically a Lie of Mass Destruction and now we have more and more evidence thanks to Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube.
President Donald Trump authorized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials.
The presidential directive in June came with the condition that Trump would have final signoff on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said.
That decision explains why assassinating Soleimani was on the menu of options that the military presented to Trump two weeks ago for responding to an attack by Iranian proxies in Iraq, in which a U.S. contractor was killed and four U.S. service members were wounded, the officials said.
The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration’s stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped.
“There have been a number of options presented to the president over the course of time,” a senior administration official said, adding that it was “some time ago” that the president’s aides put assassinating Soleimani on the list of potential responses to Iranian aggression.
After Iran shot down a U.S. drone in June, John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser at the time, urged Trump to retaliate by signing off on an operation to kill Soleimani, officials said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also wanted Trump to authorize the assassination, officials said.
But Trump rejected the idea, saying he’d take that step only if Iran crossed his red line: killing an American. The president’s message was “that’s only on the table if they hit Americans,” according to a person briefed on the discussion.
Not even his cronies in the cabinet are supporting the stories he’s telling his cult in the Hatefests or to Hate Monger Laura Ingraham on Faux News (via WAPO).
In an interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, excerpts of which were released Friday afternoon, Trump expanded on comments from a day earlier, when he initially told reporters that Soleimani’s forces “were looking to blow up our embassy” in Baghdad. He later said at a rally in Toledo that “Soleimani was actively planning new attacks, and he was looking very seriously at our embassies, and not just the embassy in Baghdad.”
Mike Esper did not carry water for the Liar-in-Chief yesterday on Face the Nation (via Raw Story). Pompeo is still on the End Times Juice and is hanging in there with each shifting explanation
President Trump has claimed that Soleimani was plotting to “blow up” the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as well as “four” other embassies, but according to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper speaking to CBS News, the claim of four embassies being targeted wasn’t based on an intelligence analysis; it was just something Trump “believed” to be true.
Esper confirmed that there was intelligence to support the claim that Soleimani was targeting the embassy in Baghdad and that intelligence was “shared with the Gang of Eight, not the broader membership of the Congress” — a claim that was somewhat contradicted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told NBC News that the information was indeed shared with Congress. According to Blake, therein lies the contradiction.
“…Esper now says he hasn’t seen intelligence on the threat to multiple embassies, whereas Pompeo said the ‘specific information’ about imminent threats included threats to those embassies,” Blake writes, adding that “even if we’re to accept that Pompeo was speaking loosely and the intelligence was really just about the one U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Esper said that information wasn’t shared with ‘the broader membership of the Congress,’ but only with the Gang of Eight. Pompeo, in contrast, said ‘we did’ when asked if the information about attacks on embassies was shared in that wider briefing. He later deflected when asked to re-confirm, but he did confirm.”
I remembered Jeremy Scahill–writing for The Intercept--on the connections between Trump, Erick Prince, and ignorance and then a developing obsession on Suleimani. He’s updated that information and this was his headline on January 3: “WITH SULEIMANI ASSASSINATION, TRUMP IS DOING THE BIDDING OF WASHINGTON’S MOST VILE CABAL”.
On August 3, 2016 — just three months before Donald Trump would win the Electoral College vote and ascend to power — Blackwater founder Erik Prince arranged a meeting at Trump Tower. For decades, Prince had been agitating for a war with Iran and, as early as 2010, had developed a fantastical proposal for using mercenaries to wage it.
At this meeting was George Nader, an American citizen who had a long history of being a quiet emissary for the United States in the Middle East. Nader, who had also worked for Blackwater and Prince, was a convicted pedophile in the Czech Republic and is facing similar allegations in the United States. Nader worked as an adviser for the Emirati royals and has close ties to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince.
There was also an Israeli at the Trump Tower meeting: Joel Zamel. He was there supposedly pitching a multimillion-dollar social media manipulation campaign to the Trump team. Zamel’s company, Psy-Group, boasts of employing former Israeli intelligence operatives. Nader and Zamel were joined by Donald Trump Jr. According to the New York Times, the purpose of the meeting was “primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months, past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office.”
One major common goal ran through the agendas of all the participants in this Trump Tower meeting: regime change in Iran. Trump campaigned on belligerence toward Iran and trashing the Obama-led Iran nuclear deal, and he has followed through on those threats, filling his administration with the most vile, hawkish figures in the U.S. national security establishment. After appointing notorious warmonger John Bolton as national security adviser, Trump fired him last September. But despite reports that Trump had soured on Bolton because of his interventionist posture toward Iran, Bolton’s firing merely opened the door for the equally belligerent Mike Pompeo to take over the administration’s Iran policy at the State Department. Now Pompeo is the public face of the Suleimani assassination, while for his part, the fired Bolton didn’t want to be left out of the gruesome victory lap:
CNN picked up the Blackwater Back Channel. This is a good summary from Raw story on the connection between the assassination and Erik Prince. Again, the last attack by a Hezbollah proxy killed now American Soldiers but took out a “contractor”. American soldiers were injured but not killed.
So, did we do this because of Erik Prince? John Bolton? Mike Pompeo? Who pushed the dementia-addled Dotard to do this outsized attack at mar a lago?
New details continue to emerge about Donald Trump ordering the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani.
“Erik Prince, the Blackwater-founder-turned-unofficial-2016-Trump-campaign-adviser, advocated to the campaign years ago for the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, according to a recently disclosed memo that reveals some of the earliest thinking circulated within Donald Trump’s team regarding his approach to Iran,” CNN reported Saturday.
President Donald Trump told associates that he assassinated Iran’s top military leader last week in part to appease Republican senators who’ll play a crucial role in his Senate impeachment trial, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
In a lengthy piece detailing how the president’s top advisers coalesced behind the strike on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, The Journal reported that Trump had told associates he felt pressured to satisfy senators who were pushing for stronger US action against Soleimani and who will run defense for him on impeachment.
One of Trump’s most outspoken supporters, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, appears to be the only congressional lawmaker Trump briefed about his plan to assassinate Soleimani in the days leading up to the strike.
“I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida,” Graham told Fox News. “I appreciate being brought into the orbit.”
The South Carolina Republican, an Iran hawk, celebrated the controversial strike, which the administration did not seek congressional authorization to carry out. After Iran retaliated by hitting US-occupied Iraqi bases on Tuesday, Graham called the move “an act of war.”
The other shocking part of the Ingraham interview was this via Crooks and Liars: “Trump Blasted For Bragging About ‘Selling’ American Troops To Saudi Arabia And S. Korea. ” Trump boasted to Fox’s Laura Ingraham during an interview last Friday that Saudi Arabia deposited a billion dollars “in the bank” for US troops being sent, and that South Korea is paying $500 million for troops as well. So is this boast a truth, dare, or lie?
Attacking Nancy Pelosi and making up more threats to our embassies out of whole cloth weren’t the only crazy things to come out of Trump’s mouth during his softball interview with Fox’s Laura Ingraham Friday night. Trump also told Ingraham that both Saudi Arabia and South Korea have deposited money into a “bank account” in exchange for more U.S. troops. Who this supposed “bank account” belongs to, he did not say.
Trump was rightfully taken to task on Twitter for the exchange by former Republican Rep. Justin Amash and others, who went after Trump for treating our troops like mercenaries, and would like to know, as I would, just where this money he’s talking about was deposited.
Conservative Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) accused Donald Trump Saturday of “selling” American troops to Saudi Arabia after the president boasted that the nation has deposited $1 billion into a bank he did not identify for “more troops.”
“He sells troops,” Amash tersely noted in a tweet.
Other critics erupted on Twitter over a possible future in which U.S. soldiers could be sent as mercenaries to any high-bidding country to risk their lives, regardless of a nation’s ideology or rationale for fighting.
Others argued the country doesn’t deserve American support because of Saudi Arabia’s link to the vicious dismemberment and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was writing at the time for The Washington Post. Some pointed out that most of the hijackers in the 9/11 attack were Saudis.
And some wondered exactly where the Saudi $1 billion is.
Trump clearly saw nothing wrong with the idea. “Listen, you’re a very rich country,” he told Saudi officials, Trump recounted on Fox News. “You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”
So, did the US take oil from Syria thereby committing a war crime and did he send US troops as mercenaries to South Korea and Saudi Arabia as mercenaries? Inquiring minds want to know
Just one last item and it’s not related to the Lying Scumbag occupying the Oval Office. Corey Booker has pulled out of the 2020 Presidential Race leaving former Mass. Governor Deval Patrick as the only black candidate in the race. We clearly need a change in the way we elect president because it is truly odd that a party with a diverse base can only come up with a slate of mostly white senior citizens which is all the Republicans provide and work hard to ensure.
Mike Berbenes of Yahoo News asks this question: “Do Democrats have a diversity problem?” Why is it that everyone thinks the safest way to get Trump out of the White House is to sic a white man on him?
Many on the left have expressed concern that an all-white top tier of the Democratic field might alienate voters of color that the eventual nominee will need to defeat Donald Trump in the general election. One of the key reasons Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 was a decline in black voter turnout. Others have argued that the party has a duty to represent its base so issues that matter to the various racial and ideological constituencies are heard.
Castro echoed a popular sentiment among liberals in blaming the primary process for the lack of diversity in the field. Having the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire vote first, he argued, puts minority candidates at a disadvantage. Part of the criteria for debate qualification is how many donors a candidate has — which some argue disadvantages minority voters who are less likely to have disposable income.
Some analysts say the lack of minority representation in the Democratic field isn’t as big of a problem as it may seem. The top of the field is actually historically diverse if you look beyond race, some argue, with a woman, a Jewish man and a gay man among the top three candidates. There’s also a significant chance that the nominee will choose a person of color as their running mate.
Others have argued that it’s reductive to think black and Latino voters would only be excited about candidates of their own race. Part of the reason Castro, Harris and Booker have struggled is because the demographics they represent have given steady support to white candidates. Joe Biden has a strong advantage among black voters, and Bernie Sanders has been the top choice of Latinos.
Yeah, right. I forgot. Everything is Hillary’s fault.
So, we have a debate on Tuesday Night, impeachment articles are heading to the Senate, and I’m tired of being bullied and gaslighted by what’s supposed to pass as a leader in the USA. I’m as confused as any one on this slate of candidates including the sudden interest in Steyer. This NPR article kinda sums it up for me the kid who grew up in Iowa. The debate will be at Drake University which is my sister’s Alma mater.
Without Yang or Booker (who failed to qualify for the debate and suspended his campaign on Monday), the debate will not have even one person of color.
Those who remain will, as always, strive to differentiate themselves from each other while proving they have what it takes to defeat President Trump in November. Iowans will have their chance to weigh in on that question in three weeks during the party’s precinct-level caucuses on Feb. 3.
And that suggests something else that may seem missing Tuesday night: a clear favorite. The well-respected Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll now has Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont leading in Iowa, but the average of polls nationwide and in other early voting states still shows a modest preference for former Vice President Joe Biden.
At this point, it is possible to imagine either emerging from the early voting states as a bona fide front-runner in time for Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states will vote, including delegate-rich California and Texas.
But it is also possible to imagine neither of them doing so, and thus to imagine Super Tuesday as a hodgepodge of conflicting results.
What’s on you reading and blogging list tonight?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I continue to be gobsmacked by exactly how lawless the Trumpist regime has become. Fortunately, Iran decided to signal what it could do to US bases with a warning shot at US Troops rather than providing a full show of force. The second and third order conditions are now playing out. It appears that an Iranian missile may have accidentally taken down that Ukrainian commercial airliner killing all on board.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737–800 en route from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airpot to Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, stopped transmitting data Tuesday just minutes after takeoff and not long after Iran launched missiles at military bases housing U.S. and allied forces in neighboring Iraq. The aircraft is believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet, the three officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told Newsweek.
One Pentagon and one U.S senior intelligence official told Newsweek that the Pentagon’s assessment is that the incident was accidental. Iran’s anti-aircraft were likely active following the country’s missile attack, which came in response to the U.S. killing last week of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, sources said.
U.S. Central Command declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Newsweek. No reply was returned from the National Security Council or State Department.
Of the 176 people on board, 82 were Iranian, 63 were Canadian and 11 were Ukrainian (including nine crewmembers), along with 10 Swedish, seven Afghan and three German nationals. None survived.
The Senate is getting anxious to deal with Trump’s impeachment. Here are some of the latest headlines.
Some Democrats in the House and Senate have joined Republicans in recent days in saying it’s time for Pelosi to send the articles to the Senate.
After initially saying in an interview Thursday morning that he thought Pelosi should submit the articles, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., backtracked, tweeting that he “misspoke.”
The initial comments from Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, came as several Democratic senators this week called on Pelosi to send the articles to Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., so the impeachment trial can begin.
“I understand what the speaker is trying to do, basically trying to use the leverage of that to work with Democratic and Republican senators to try to get a reasonable trial, a trial that would actually show evidence, bring out witnesses,” Smith told CNN. “But at the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate.”
The sticking point continues to be allowing witnesses to Testify that were blocked from testifying before the House. Also, if the Republicans will be able to force the country to go down the Biden/Ukraine conspiracy theory by bringing both Bidens in and subjecting them to the Benghazi treatment
There was no pre-impeachment criminal investigation of Trump’s efforts to compel Ukraine to pursue the alleged corruption of his political opponent. There were no lawyers and FBI investigators interviewing witnesses. There was no grand jury—merely the cumbersome House-committee process. That process didn’t last nine months; it lasted less than three. Rather than produce tens of thousands of documents, the White House and the executive branch withheld almost all those subpoenaed by the House. Likewise, rather than eventually allowing executive-branch witnesses to testify, the White House stonewalled the House inquiry: President Trump successfully frustrated the House’s efforts to hear from witnesses like former White House Counsel Don McGahn and former National Security Adviser John Bolton. And of course, President Trump never told his side of the story under oath.
So, unlike with Clinton, the Trump impeachment investigation is incomplete. Far from being given an exhaustive record on which to make a determination, the Senate has received only part of the story from the House. The Senate is not in the position of wondering whether, for example, John Bolton was truthful in what he has said already. Rather, if he is called to testify, the Senate will hear what he has to say for the first time. The process now isn’t about credibility; it’s about establishing facts.
Senator McConnell’s proffered analogy to the Clinton impeachment is ill-considered, if not disingenuous. While the Senate might, with some justification, have thought that the evidence was complete and that no witnesses were necessary to decide the Clinton matter, it cannot reasonably make the same claim now. Though the analogy of a House impeachment to a grand-jury indictment is rather strained, it does carry a bit of truth: The House has found sufficient evidence to start an impeachment trial, and it is up to the Senate now to conduct a more in-depth inquiry—a trial. Trials are for hearing evidence. That task lies before the Senate.
Clearly, Speaker Pelosi is not impressed by McConnell’s posturing to date.
And, members of both Houses are not impressed with the briefing by the Trumpist regime on the assassination of Soleimani.
Greg Sargent / Washington Post:
Now, in the interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, Lee has gone into more alarming detail. Lee reiterated that officials “were unable or unwilling to identify any point” at which they’d come to Congress for authorization for the use of military force.
Trumpist Regime officials warned Congress to not ask too many questions and not to debate war powers. This is really surreal since the Constitution is clear on this. It’s just another pretzel we find ourselves in over the Constitutionality of a lawless president and the people protecting him.
On the eve of a House vote Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Congress not to debate limits to President Donald Trump’s power to strike Iran because doing so might embolden Tehran and hurt U.S. troops, multiple sources tell ABC News.
The suggestion by Esper, in a classified briefing for lawmakers on Wednesday, enraged some members, including Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who swiftly marched to the television cameras following the 75-minute briefing to declare it “insulting.” Lee said the briefing felt like being told to be “good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public.”
“I find that absolutely insane,” he said.
Pence is now justifying holding information back from even the Gang of Eight which is virtually unprecedented. The rationale? Congress might compromise methods and sources. That’s rich coming from the shadow of the man whose speech just–and once again–presented highly classified information on sonic weapons under development.
Vice President Mike Pence responded Thursday to lawmakers, including Republicans, who criticized the lack of information shared by the Trump administration during classified congressional briefings on the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying the intelligence was too sensitive to share.
On NBC’s “TODAY,” Pence told Savannah Guthrie that the administration could not provide Congress with some of the “most compelling” intelligence behind the administration’s decision to kill Soleimani because doing so “could compromise” sources and methods.
“Some of that has to do with what’s called sources and methods,” Pence said. “Some of the most compelling evidence that Qassem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American forces and American personnel also represents some of the most sensitive intelligence that we have — it could compromise those sources and methods.”
Pence said “those of us” who were made aware of the intelligence “in real time know that President Trump made the right decision to take Qassem Soleimani off the battlefield.” He added that Soleimani “was planning imminent attacks against American forces.”
In killing Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Trump administration said it launched the attack because of intelligence that showed Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks on U.S. personnel. But the administration has yet to make public the evidence behind that assertion and, according to Democratic and two Republican senators, it did not detail that intelligence in a classified setting on Wednesday.
Trump–in a scrum today–mentioned it was because of attacks on the Baghdad Embassy even though it was clear all of that was coming from Iraqi proxies and there is still no real evidence of any actual bigger plans of an attack.
This increasing looks likes Benghazi reaction formation. He doesn’t want to be seen by any one in the same light as Clinton or Obama seriously overreacts at anything that might leak up to what he perceives as their weakness. However, his January speech definitely showed his continual physical and mental decline.
So, I really am revisiting more of those things that I assumed would remain as characteristics of our nation. Clearly, we are not in the position of claiming to be the temperament and thoughtful nation. Maybe it’s because I finally got used to the No Drama Obama model where we sometimes took what seemed like ages to arrive at actions and policy. Now, it’s totally a shoot from the hip of a psychologically and neurologically challenged individual surrounded by End Times Nutters who lie the majority of the time. Fact Checking that speech gave us peek Pinocchio numbers. It’s a very long list. Sit down with a good cup of coffee.
Anyway, I have to prep for a Financial Engineering class I teaching starting next Wednesday so I need to switch from the real weapons of mass destruction to the financial ones (h/t to Warren Buffet). It is quite math and a bit like teaching physics so it’s that too. My hair will be totally gray by the end but at least it’s all good students from seniors to mbas to doctoral students so there’s that. AND, it’s back on the ground at my old University so I will have a G/A. Yippie!
What’s on your reading an blogging list today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I miss my Dad every day. I miss talking to him and the way he used to call out baseball games to me in his last days including the little league championship. He was many things but perhaps more than any thing he was defined by his service in the Army Air Corps during World War 2 where he flew missions that sped the Allies movement on the ground to Berlin and Victory and freed the French and Belgian people from German Occupation.
He never spoke about it much but when he did the stories were fascinating. My favorite was when his squad flew under Jimmy Stewart and he described how that rich voice filled the com. He had a picture of his crew that he kept by his favorite reading chair along with family pictures. He would always tell me that the solider that took that picture never came back the day after he took the photo from a mission that was particularly harrowing. The unstated truth was that Dad’s bomber and crew were fortunate to get back to England.
I suppose it’s only fitting that we are seeing the last of the so-called “greatest generation” during every patriotic event. They are aging and dying as is the fate of all humans. The dynamics of the 20th century ended with a world order established by the dynamics of both World Wars but definitely the War against Fascism. It’s odd that I always thought so much of what was dubbed the American Century would last through at least my lifetime if not my children with modifications and improvements. I still figured that the US would be firmly planted as the standard bearer as more joined those ranks. As of this weekend, I no longer believe this to be the case.
We currently have no standards to bear under the Trumpist regime and I now believe that we have fallen beyond any grace we may have earned during the American Century. The world forgave us many sins from Vietnam to even the disastrous invasion of Iraq. They may have actually had some hope for us as we signed with other nations agreements to trade, address climate change, and work with Iran to find a more stable situation with less fear of nukes.
We have lost whatever grace we earned now because we have allowed a group of aggrieved white nationalists with a twisted version of Christianity to grab power. They brought us Trump. They plotted and planned a cleansing of the Republican Party who rolled over with belly up to get their votes for policies supporting the rich and greedy. Establishment appeasement failed and now End Timers and White Nationalists have that party wholesale.
As we lose our grip on world leadership, I can only hope that its future hands are not those of Russia and China although Chinese dominance of the global economy will only grow and the multilateral agreement to keep that in check was also one of the things Trump tossed out even though it was the product of a few administrations and not solely that of Obama’s. Just as we left so many nuclear pacts, we have also left the Paris Accord and Australia is burning with no aid from us. It is likely a harbinger to what may happen in California and other of our southwestern states.
I had this realization last night as some of the inevitable things happened as a result of Trump’s desperation to become a war time president to possibly boost his re-election chances and his ego during impeachment. We–as a nation–must find a new way eventually but one that will not put us as a shining city on the hill. Let us hope we will not stay firmly in pariah nation status. I do know this. A country should NEVER put into power a group of people whose vision of redemption and heaven includes the end of the world. Iran chose that path 40 years ago. We have joined them in that same messianic, deluded vision and Fuck Pence and Pompeo and all they stand for.
With those depressing thoughts on my mind, let’s get to my suggested reads. My Thanks to author Rabih Aalameddine (@rabinhalameddine) whose tweets those morning provided these hellish versions of war and fire.
No one knows what’s coming next. However, every one that’s every had anything to do with the markets the last four decades knows that when these things happen it will leader to higher oil prices and stock prices for defense firms. Everything else will head downwards. This is from Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance.
Oil extended its gains, briefly surpassing $70 a barrel in London for the first time since September, as Middle East tensions flared after the U.S. assassinated one of Iran’s most powerful generals.
Futures rose as much as 3.1% on Monday as the U.S. State Department warned of a “heightened risk” of missile attacks near energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. Prices later gave up some of the gains. President Donald Trump reiterated threats of retaliation should Iran “do anything” and vowed heavy sanctions against Iraq if American troops are forced to leave OPEC’s second-biggest producer.
The clash is fanning fears that a wider conflict could disrupt supply from the region, which provides almost a third of the world’s oil. Prices haven’t hit these levels since an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in September — which the U.S. blamed on Iran — briefly halted about 5% of global output.
“Crude has some more risk pricing to do,” said Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group in Bethesda, Maryland, and former White House oil official under President George W. Bush. “We are going to grind through the $70s up toward $80 Brent as Iran calibrates and executes its retaliation.”
As I just said, fuck Pompeo. a chief messianic delusionism advocate and all around horrid person. This is from WAPO: “Killing of Soleimani follows long push from Pompeo for aggressive action against Iran, but airstrike brings serious risks”.
The greenlighting of the airstrike near Baghdad airport represents a bureaucratic victory for Pompeo, but it also carries multiple serious risks: another protracted regional war in the Middle East; retaliatory assassinations of U.S. personnel stationed around the world; an interruption in the battle against the Islamic State; the closure of diplomatic pathways to containing Iran’s nuclear program; and a major backlash in Iraq, whose parliament voted on Sunday to expel all U.S. troops from the country.
For Pompeo, whose political ambitions are a source of constant speculation, the death of U.S. diplomats would be particularly damaging given his unyielding criticisms of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton following the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and other American personnel in Benghazi in 2012.
One significant factor was the “lockstep” coordination for the operation between Pompeo and Esper, both graduates in the same class at the U.S. Military Academy, who deliberated ahead of the briefing with Trump, senior U.S. officials said. Pence also endorsed the decision, but he did not attend the meeting in Florida.
So, the push to assassinate an Irani general. was made by two proponents of heaven comes if we blow up the right people and then the world and a former Defense Lobbyist. Isn’t that just ducky? So, in game theory, we frequently speak of second and third order conditions which basically occur in a game that occurs over time when one party makes a move and then there are more moves to come. “Stategery” was never a strong point for any of the Neocons who just wanted to “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”. It continues to look the same way with the Trumpists. This is from Axios that is part of the media trying to chase the next moves that have so far included expulsion of US and allied troops from Iraq and Iran annoucing it will take revenge and it will ended its nuclear pause.
The Trump administration tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade top Iraqi officials to kill a parliamentary effort to force the U.S. military out of Iraq, according to two U.S. officials and an Iraqi government official familiar with the situation.
Why it matters: The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution today calling on the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, after the U.S killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and a leader of an Iraqi militia with a drone strike near Baghdad airport.
- This resolution could ultimately lead to the U.S. military being forced out of Iraq. But the outcome remains uncertain, and the prime minister who needs to sign it recently resigned.
“I think it would be inconvenient for us, but it would be catastrophic for Iraq,” said a U.S. official familiar with the Trump administration’s effort to block the vote. “It’s our concern that Iraq would take a short-term decision that would have catastrophic long-term implications for the country and its security.”
- “But it’s also, what would happen to them financially,” the official added, “if they allowed Iran to take advantage of their economy to such an extent that they would fall under the sanctions that are on Iran?” (Countries can be subject to the sanctions if they engage in certain kinds of trade with Iran.)
- “We don’t want to see that. We’re trying very hard to work to have that not happen,” the official said.
“The United States is disappointed by the action taken today in the Iraqi Council of Representatives,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.
The NYT has more information on the Iranian decision to ends its participation in Nuclear Restrictions.
When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.
But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.
Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.
Iran did stop short of abandoning the entire deal on Sunday, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and its foreign minister held open the possibility that his nation would return to its provisions in the future — if Mr. Trump reversed course and lifted the sanctions he has imposed since withdrawing from the accord.
That, at least, appeared to hold open the possibility of a diplomatic off-ramp to the major escalation in hostilities since the United States killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the second most powerful official in Iran and head of the Quds Force.
But some leading experts declared that the effort to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomacy was over. “It’s finished,” David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview. “If there’s no limitation on production, then there is no deal.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced an initiative to address the Authorization of Use of the Military or the so-called War Powers Act today. This is from the Speaker’s web page.
Last week, the Trump Administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials. This action endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.
As Members of Congress, our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe. For this reason, we are concerned that the Administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution.
This week, the House will introduce and vote on a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran. This resolution is similar to the resolution introduced by Senator Tim Kaine in the Senate. It reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.
The House Resolution will be led by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. Congresswoman Slotkin is a former CIA and Department of Defense analyst specializing in Shia militias. She served multiple tours in the region under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.
Here’s some news on the responses from Congress at NBC News: “Pelosi announces war powers resolution as tensions with Iran escalate. Pelosi said “the Trump administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials.”
On Sunday, Iraq’s Parliament voted to ask its government to end the presence of U.S. troops in the country, while Iranian state TV reported that Iran will no longer abide by any limits of the 2015 nuclear deal — an agreement Trump withdrew from in 2018.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, D-N.J., wrote to Trump asking him to “immediately declassify in full the January 4, 2020, war powers notification you submitted to Congress following the U.S. military operation targeting” Soleimani.
“It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner,” the senators wrote. “An entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification.”
Speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said members of Congress “will be briefed, but they should also calm down” and “celebrate” Soleimani’s death.
She said it was “fine” for Trump to order an airstrike killing Soleimani without congressional authority, comparing it to former President Barack Obama ordering the mission to kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
There’s some news from the Democratic Primary Front. Former Candidate Julian Castro has endorsed Elizabeth Warren.
Mr. Castro announced his endorsement on Monday morning, just days after he ended his own bid for the White House. In a statement, Mr. Castro cast Ms. Warren as the logical extension of his campaign’s social-justice-driven message, which seeks to correct inequities through targeted policy proposals. He will campaign with Ms. Warren this week, joining her Tuesday night at a rally at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn.
David Leonhardt argues that Amy Klobucher is the candidate that can beat Trump. He likens her to Harry Truman of all people.
So where are you supposed to find a comfortably electable, qualified candidate who won’t turn 80 while in office?
Senator Amy Klobuchar has become an answer to that question in the final month before voting begins. She has outlasted more than a dozen other candidates and has two big strengths: A savvy understanding of how to campaign against President Trump and a track record of winning the sorts of swing voters Democrats will likely need this year.
Klobuchar, to be sure, is not a finished product as a presidential candidate. Too often, she sounds like a senator speaking in legislative to-do lists rather than a future president who can inspire voters. That tendency — along with too much needling of other candidates, instead of focusing on her own message — was evident in the most recent debate.
Yet she still emerged as one of the debate’s winners, and she is enjoying a burst of new attention. She raised more than twice as much money, $11.4 million, in the fourth quarter of 2019 than the third quarter. When I ask top Democrats which candidate has the best chance of beating Trump, Klobuchar is often their answer. If party leaders still chose nominees, she might now be the favorite.
In that way, she reminds me of another Midwestern senator who once seemed too ordinary to be president: Harry Truman. In the summer of 1944, an even more perilous time for global democracy than now, Democratic Party grandees chose Truman as vice president with the belief that he would soon be president, given Franklin Roosevelt’s declining health.
Truman was (as Klobuchar is) a loyal Democrat with populist leanings whom many Republicans, both senators and voters, nonetheless felt some affection for. He had a folksy manner and heartland accent. He was also a long shot for the nomination when the process began. The analogy extends to Klobuchar’s best-known weakness: Truman had a temper, too.
And it’s epiphany, you may now eat king cake!!!
I’m haunted by dreams of fire and animals. It’s been three nights in a row now and the horror of Australia is getting to me. Here are some suggestions on where you can donate funds if you feel so inclined and you are able.
And now, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?