Misc. Monday Reads

I’ve spent the morning searching through a lot of things and finally decided to give in to my inner child.  There are many exciting things afoot that will feed my need to escape and dream.  These are times that require much escape.  These are times that require us to dream.

First, I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for a very long time. Tom Baker was my first doctor and will likely have that space in my heart relegated to sparking my imagination of time travel beyond a book.  I may have to make a huge amount of room for the new Dr Who, Jodie Whittaker. Not only is she a Whittaker with two ‘ts’ but she’s a she. That apparently is a bit too much for some men who can’t imagine the Doctor with a bevy of cute young male sidekicks.

Few TV casting announcements can have been as long awaited as the name of Doctor Who’s 13th Time Lord and when the revelation finally came it sent social media into a frenzy.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world joined the debate about the news that Jodie Whittaker is to star as the first female Doctor.

While some people talked about the great role model the new Doctor would be for girls and women, others wondered why it had taken so long and some were firmly in the camp that the Doctor was only ever meant to be male.

People with young girls in their families appeared to be delighted at the announcement including David Owens who wrote: “My 8-year-old daughter pumped her fist and shouted “yes!” when the new @bbcdoctorwho was revealed. Think that tells you all you need to know.”

David Owens' tweetImage copyright DAVID OWENS

Simon Tucker responded saying: It’s great mate. My nieces can grow up in a world with a good Wonder Woman, a female Jedi, female ghostbusters & a female Dr Who.”

And @BlackRyu82 wrote: “My youngest daughter loves new Ghostbusters. We watched it together almost daily at one point. Super excited to watch Dr Who with her!”

Jodie Whittaker

One user applauded the move saying: “The lack of women, and lead women, in sci fi is embarrassing. Doctor Who just made a step in the right direction”.

And the casting milestone made some people feel quite emotional like Carla Joanne who tweeted: “Wow. I don’t even watch #DrWho & this made me choke up a little. I will def be tuning in”.

Be sure to check out All the Doctors, from Hartnell to Whittaker.

The 13th Doctor will make her debut on the sci-fi show when the Doctor regenerates in the Christmas special.  It is sweet that many former Doctors are speaking up for the 13th Doctor.

Colin Baker, the former Doctor Who actor, has hit out at the “very sad” reaction from some fans to the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the lead character in the new series.

Baker, 74, who held the role between 1984 and 1986, endorsed Whittaker as the first actress to play the part. He wrote on Twitter that he was surprised by fans who opposed the casting of Whittaker, 35, because she was a woman.

“Cannot deny that I am amazed by the ‘never watch it again’ reaction by some viewers (I hesitate to call them ‘fans’),” he wrote. “Very sad. To those making ‘parking the Tardis’ jokes — name me one male Doctor that was unfailingly good at that!”

One of the first books I shared with Doctor Daughter was A Wrinkle in Time. This wonderful book is a science fantasy novel written by American writer Madeleine L’Engle. It was first published in 1963. I jumped on it immediately as an 8 year old with an avid reading appetite. I think it was on my Scholastic Book Club order in 3rd grade and I was always allowed to order one each month.  It’s now coming out as a movie and I may have to make a trip to Seattle just so we can see it together.

Young actress Storm Reid stars as Meg Murry, with an all-star cast of adult actors backing her up, including the cosmic trio of Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, and Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine play Meg’s parents, Dr. Kate Murry and the mysteriously-missing Dr. Alex Murry. Newcomer Deric McCabe plays Meg’s gifted little brother, Charles Wallace.

We’re so excited for this movie, we’re gonna overlook the fact that the trailer contains yet another use of an edgy remake of a familiar pop song as its background music. A Wrinkle in Time will be out March 9, 2018.

And if course, folks can’t just let little girls and every one else enjoy that either without having issues with its young black star 13 year old Storm Reid but fuck them all.

Women are still badasses in the 7th season of Game of Thrones which debuted last night.  I had never been so thrilled to hear a song for opening credits in my life.  Several young women make the old men look like total piles of wimp.

Game of Thrones likes to keep viewers on their toes. Ever since Ned Stark’s (Sean Bean) head went rolling at the end of the first season, we knew that none of our favorite characters were safe. And with scenes like Red Wedding [shivers] or Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and the entire Sept going up into green flames, many of us accepted that if we wanted to feel good at the conclusion of a show, we should look elsewhere. But every once in awhile, the series comes through, like with the Purple Wedding, where Joffrey met his doom. And in the season seven premiere, the show catered to the demands of viewers in a really important way. If the opener was any indication, the seventh season of Game of Thrones is all about women as important, powerful players in the fight for the Seven Kingdoms.

The cold open sees Arya (Maisie Williams), with her new face-swapping skills, parading as the deceased Walder Frey (David Bradley) and murdering all of his men with a batch of poisoned wine. This is just another item crossed off of her to-do list, which is primarily made up of killing all of her enemies. Arya has been elevated to the status of an assassin hell-bent on revenge, yet we’re still rooting for her. This falls in line with the treatment of male characters that are driven to the point of no return and start killing everyone in sight — their murderous mission becomes an epic saga. I’m glad Arya’s is given the same respect.

Here’s my favorite young woman of the North.

… fierce Lady Mormont Bella Ramsey), the youngest in the bunch, would hear no objections to girls and women also training for combat. I don’t blame her. The white walkers don’t discriminate based on gender, nor should the living.

I’m thrilled to have my weekly visit to Westeros where all the men are tormented and all the women can swing a sword with the best of them.  Plus, DRAGONS!

There’s just something about Jane Austin that’s worth celebrating even after 200 years.  I spent many a night with a flashlight, an Austin book, and a blanket fort discovering her world and characters.

Australian politics is full of well known figures that resemble characters from Jane Austen novels, notes Paul Brunton, emeritus curator of the State Library of NSW.

Be they the “pompous, the stupid, the self-serving, the snobbish, the superficial and less often the sensible and altruistic”.

It is Austen’s ability to create characters recognisable in contemporary society – to “dissect human nature with the skill of a surgeon” – that marks her genius, says Brunton, and one reason among many to observe the 200th anniversary of the author’s death this Tuesday.

While the cause of Austen’s untimely death in Winchester, July 18, 1817, is disputed, a series of public events have been planned to celebrate the life and works of the novelist who wrote three classics of English literature before the age of 25.

Austen is as beloved as her fictional heroines.

Two-hundred years ago, on July 18, 1817, Jane Austen slipped away from the world, taken by a mysterious illness when she was just 41 years old.

But could anyone be more alive?

Two centuries after her death, the beloved British novelist who gave us Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy — the timeless, feisty, perfectly mismatched lovers of Pride and Prejudice — is as vital as any author who ever lived.

Rather than fade away like some antique English rose turned to dust, Austen remains robust, revered, widely read, celebrated and reinvented by contemporary novelists, a darling of Hollywood and the BBC. You could even say she’s a global brand.

The “spinster” author who spun literary gold out of marriage, money, society, love and the foibles of human nature in a mere handful of Regency novels (including EmmaSense and Sensibility and Persuasion), is up there with Shakespeare at the top of the pantheon, says Paula Byrne, British author of the newly updated The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She Works in Hollywood.

The Handmaid’s Tale (HULU version) has been nominated for 13 Emmies.  Samira Wiley is a shining star among the dynamic cast.

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” racked up 13 Emmy nominations after its first season. The show, based on Margaret Atwood’s book “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is set in a dystopian society called Gilead, where handmaids are tasked with producing children for Commanders and their wives.

There has been a lot of buzz around the show, causing people to reflect on the state of our society in the current political climate. On Friday, NBC News caught up with Samira Wiley, who plays Moira, in the series, to celebrate her Emmy nomination for “Best Supporting Actress,” and to hear her thoughts on diversity, identity and the impact of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Image: Samira Wiley
Moira, played by Samira Wiley, is Offred’s (Elisabeth Moss) best friend from college, her fellow handmaid-in-training at the Red Center, and a connection to life before Gilead. Jill Greenberg / Hulu.

 

So, it’s hard being a woman in the Gilead version of the USA as well as the Trump Version of the USA. This is another book that I read the minute it came out.  Disturbing yet a vision of a woman who can fight through anything.  It’s a good thing we have some sheros who can help us escape. In some ways, reading so many good books was my first act of Resistance. I can only image that most of these writers hoped to influence a few folks with some very radical notions.

I hope you enjoyed a trip into fantasy and fiction for Monday.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: ру́сский Tяumpсский

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star Tribune

If you can find any kind of innocent explanation for these headlines and meetings, then I frankly will dub you the champion of Double Speak. Let’s see White House Mommy wiggle her way out of these latest headlines on relationships between the Trump Family, the campaign, and Russian election hacking.

From NBC NewsFormer Soviet Counter Intelligence Officer at Meeting With Donald Trump Jr. and Russian Lawyer .

The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others on the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned.

The lobbyist, first identified by the Associated Press as Rinat Akhmetshin, denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. He accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump campaign.

Born in Russia, Akhmetshin served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the U.S., where he holds dual citizenship. He did not respond to NBC News requests for comment Friday, but he told the AP the meeting was not substantive. “I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest,” he told the AP.

He had been working with Veselnitskaya on a campaign against the Magnitsky Act, a set of sanctions against alleged Russian human rights violators. That issue, which is also related to a ban on American adoptions of Russian children, is what Veselnitskaya told NBC News she discussed with the Trump team.

But, given the email traffic suggesting the meeting was part of a Russian effort help Trump’s candidacy, the presence at the meeting of a Russian-American with suspected intelligence ties is likely to be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate panels investigating the Russian election interference campaign.

This dude has some special skills.  This is from The Daily Beast: Trump Team Met Russian Accused of International Hacking Conspiracy. “Rinat Akhmetshin allegedly stole sensitive documents from a corporation years before he joined Natalia Veselnitskaya to meet Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner.”  Wow, he has mad hacking skills or knows folks that do. Imagine that!

The alleged former Soviet intelligence officer who attended the now-infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and other top campaign officials last June was previously accused in federal and state courts of orchestrating an international hacking conspiracy.

Rinat Akhmetshin told the Associated Press on Friday he accompanied Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to the June 9, 2016, meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. Trump’s attorney confirmed Akhmetshin’s attendance in a statement.

Akhmetshin’s presence at Trump Tower that day adds another layer of controversy to an episode that already provides the clearest indication of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. In an email in the run-up to that rendezvous, Donald Trump Jr. was promised “very high level and sensitive information” on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Akhmetshin had been hired by Veselnitskaya to help with pro-Russian lobbying efforts in Washington. He also met and lobbied Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee for Europe, in Berlin in April.

In court papers filed with the New York Supreme Court in November 2015, Akhmetshin was described as “a former Soviet military counterintelligence officer” by lawyers for International Mineral Resources (IMR), a Russian mining company that alleged it had been hacked.

Meanwhile, back in Stoogeсский Tower, Trump lawyers admit to knowing about the emails for weeks now.  (There is never a dull Friday these days.) This is from Yahoo News.

President Trump’s legal team was informed more than three weeks ago about the email chain arranging a June 2016 meeting between his son Donald Jr. and a Kremlin-connected lawyer, two sources familiar with the handling of the matter told Yahoo News.

Trump told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that he learned just “a couple of days ago” that Donald Jr. had met with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, hoping to receive information that “would incriminate Hillary” and was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” A day earlier, on Tuesday, Donald Jr. released the email exchanges himself, after learning they would be published by the New York Times

Trump repeated that assertion in a talk with reporters on Air Force One on his way to Paris Wednesday night. “I only heard about it two or three days ago,” he said, according to a transcript of his talk, when asked about the meeting with Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016 attended by Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chief, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

But the sources told Yahoo News that Marc Kasowitz, the president’s chief lawyer in the Russia investigation, and Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer of the Trump Organization, were both informed about the emails in the third week of June, after they were discovered by lawyers for Kushner, who is now a senior White House official.

The exchange apparently was initiated on June 3, 2016, when a Trump family associate, publicist Rob Goldstone, emailed Donald Jr. with an offer of something “very interesting” … “official documents and information” that “would be very useful to your father.” On June 8, 2016, Trump Jr. forwarded an email to Kushner and Manafort about the upcoming meeting with the subject line: “FW: Russia-Clinton-private & confidential.” Trump Jr. wrote back later that day, telling Goldstone “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

The discovery of the emails prompted Kushner to amend his security clearance form to reflect the meeting, which he had failed to report when he originally sought clearance for his White House job. That revision — his second — to the so-called SF-86, was done on June 21. Kushner made the change even though there were questions among his lawyers whether the meeting had to be reported, given that there was no clear evidence that Veselnitskaya was a government official. The change to the security form prompted the FBI to question Kushner on June 23, the second time he was interviewed by agents about his security clearance, the sources said.

So, this makes THREE changes to Kushner’s form with an additional 100 or so names.  Gee, that doesn’t just sound like a bad memory does it?  Democrats are trying to have his security clearance revoked by passing a law. Republicans are blocking it and his father in law controls his access atm.

President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner updated a federal disclosure form needed to obtain a security clearance three times and added more than 100 names of foreign contacts through the updates after initially providing none at all, reports CBS News’ Major Garrett.

The first form had no foreign names on it even though people applying for a security clearance need to list any contact with foreign governments. Kushner’s team said it was prematurely sent.

Then the team submitted the second one after they updated it with all of the names except for one — the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who met with Donald Trump Jr., Kushner and Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman in June 2016.

After omitting her name in the second form, that meeting was then conveyed to the FBI in the third revamping of the form before July.

This comes as some Democrats call for Kushner’s security clearance to be revoked. On Thursday, House Republicans reportedly in the Appropriations Committee blocked a Democratic amendment to a spending bill that targeted Kushner. It would have prevented the government from issuing or maintaining a security clearance for a White House employee under criminal investigation by a federal law enforcement agency for aiding a foreign government.

The Chicago Tribune has an in depth look at Peter W Smith. He’s the guy that was trying to put together a team of Russian hackers who committed suicide shortly after spilling the beans to the WSJ. This part of his suicide note alone makes me suspicious.  Can’t you just here Kremlin Caligula ordering up this?

In the note recovered by police, Smith apologized to authorities and said that “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER” was involved in his death

And, oh wait we do know what icky Campaign mommy will say about all of this.

White House aide Kellyanne Conway accused critics of the Trump administration of moving the goalposts on the ongoing investigations into possible coordination between members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals.

The goalposts have been moved,” Conway told “Fox & Friends” Friday morning. “We were promised systemic — hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion that not only interfered with our election process but indeed dictated the electoral outcome. And one of the only people who says that seriously these days is still Hillary Clinton and nobody believes it.”

However, authorities investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election have long asserted that there is no evidence votes were physically changed as part of the effort. 

Conway’s analysis came in response to coverage of Donald Trump Jr., who admitted to meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Campaign manager Paul Manafort and top aide Jared Kushner were also in attendance.

So far, all the right wing media can say is it’s either Hillary’s fault or Lorretta Lynch’s fault. SAD!  I’m still wrapping my mind around the number of right wing Republicans that actually find Putin and Russia to be respectable.  Try read this from the NYT to understand the allure. Jeremy Peters believe the ‘revere’ Putin.

Mr. Putin is no archvillain in this understanding of America-Russian relations. Rather, he personifies many of the qualities and attitudes that conservatives have desired in a president of their own: a respect for traditional Christian values, a swelling nationalist pride and an aggressive posture toward foreign adversaries.

In this view, the Russian president is a brilliant tactician, a slayer of murderous Islamic extremists — and not incidentally, a leader who outmaneuvered and emasculated President Barack Obama on the world stage. And because of that, almost any other transgression seems forgivable.

“There are conservatives here who maybe read into Russia things they wish were true in the United States,” said Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. “And they imagine Russia and Putin as the kind of strong, traditional conservative leader whom they wish they had in the United States.” To these conservatives, she added, “Russia is the true defender of Christian values. We are decadent.”

Mr. Trump’s opponents have tried repeatedly to make an issue of the mutual admiration between him and the Russian president, anticipating that Republicans would not tolerate any whiff of sympathy from one of their own toward the leader of what Ronald Reagan called the “evil empire.” But Mr. Trump has never had to wait long for conservatives to leap to his defense — and often Mr. Putin’s as well.

Mr. Putin is no archvillain in this understanding of America-Russian relations. Rather, he personifies many of the qualities and attitudes that conservatives have desired in a president of their own: a respect for traditional Christian values, a swelling nationalist pride and an aggressive posture toward foreign adversaries.

In this view, the Russian president is a brilliant tactician, a slayer of murderous Islamic extremists — and not incidentally, a leader who outmaneuvered and emasculated President Barack Obama on the world stage. And because of that, almost any other transgression seems forgivable.

“There are conservatives here who maybe read into Russia things they wish were true in the United States,” said Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. “And they imagine Russia and Putin as the kind of strong, traditional conservative leader whom they wish they had in the United States.” To these conservatives, she added, “Russia is the true defender of Christian values. We are decadent.”

Mr. Trump’s opponents have tried repeatedly to make an issue of the mutual admiration between him and the Russian president, anticipating that Republicans would not tolerate any whiff of sympathy from one of their own toward the leader of what Ronald Reagan called the “evil empire.” But Mr. Trump has never had to wait long for conservatives to leap to his defense — and often Mr. Putin’s as well.

There’s a strange connection between Russia and white xtianists. (Via BB) They were allowed to basically invade the country once the USSR failed and they haven’t forgotten it. However, this has changed. Curiously, the Xtianist right still worships Putin.

While there are parts of the world where the persecution of religious minorities, including Christians, is a real problem, the United States is not one of them. Russia, on the other hand, has enacted laws that bar Protestant groups from proselytizing on penalty of fines, and has even gone so far as to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses entirely.

At first blush, then, it might seem odd that one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s leading hierarchs, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk—who was staying at the Trump International Hotel—not only participated in BGEA’s summit yesterday, but also, as first reported by Time, met privately with the vice president. Curiously enough, a key talking point from their meeting was that America and Russia should work together to fight international terrorism, a hallmark of the Trump campaign’s election season foreign policy rhetoric.

Metropolitan Hilarion heads the ROC’s Department of External Relations, and in this capacity he has worked tirelessly in recent years to cultivate relationships with Catholic and Protestant supporters of “traditional values” abroad, in order to work with them to promote Christian supremacy at the expense of women’s and LGBTQ rights—an example of what I call “bad ecumenism.” Such efforts are coordinated with the Kremlin’s foreign policy, which seeks to foster relationships with anti-democratic forces outside Russia. While Moscow made similar efforts during Soviet times, Russian President Vladimir Putin has rebranded post-Soviet Russia into the global standard bearer for “traditional values conservatism,” and in this capacity attracts primarily right-wing fellow travelers.

On the one hand, this policy would seem to make President and CEO of BGEA Franklin Graham a natural partner for Putin and the ROC, and, indeed, Graham has warmed considerably to both in recent years. In October 2015, Graham met with both Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, after which Patriarch Kirill declared Christians of all confessions who oppose marriage equality to be “confessors of the faith.” Graham reminded his followers on social media of his connections to Russia last month

There’s a good article to read about this unholy alliance from Talk Progress.

To fully understand how some members of the Religious Right came to appreciate Putin, it’s important to asses how Putin came to appreciate the role of organized religion — particularly brands that oppose LGBTQ equality.

Russia, after all, is hardly a bastion of religious freedom. The 2016 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report listed the country as one with an increasingly “negative trajectory in terms of religious freedom,” pointing to policies that limit the activities of Muslims and other minority religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostals.

Yet Graham’s remarks are the result of a years-long international power consolidation effort by Putin, who is is well known for using faith — particularly the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), a subset of Eastern Orthodox Christianity whose reach extends beyond Russian borders — as a mechanism to expand his country’s influence and antagonize Western opponents.

According to Christopher Stroop, a visiting instructor at the University of South Florida honors college and a published expert on modern Russian history, Putin became close with the ROC after beginning his third term in 2012.

“The Orthodox church domestically shores up the [Putin] regime, but it also works internationally to push the party line in pursuit of its own goals as well — and the church hierarchs are genuinely socially conservative,” Stroop told ThinkProgress, noting that Putin’s embrace of the ROC coincided with a broader shift toward right-wing populism.

“Putin has rebranded himself [and Russia] as a Champion of traditional values,” Stroop said.

Putin and the church are technically two entities with different agendas, but Stroop said they’ve developed a codependent strategy that benefits both parties. The Russian president often grants the ROC privileges not afforded to other faith groups to help him win domestic debates, for instance. Meanwhile, Russian priests in countries like Moldova and Montenegro have pushed back against efforts to align those nations with Western powers, and a Kremlin-funded spiritual center now sits near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

And as the New York Times reported last fall, Putin lifts up the church’s moral authority as a “traditional” answer to the west’s increasing liberalism, positioning Russia as an opponent to progressive causes such as LGBTQ rights and multiculturalism. This allows Putin to perpetuate the idea that Europe and America — not Russia — are faithless nations by comparison.

So, once again, the idea is that as long as “Traditional Values” are enshrined in law somehow, they don’t care who does it.  There’s been a piety show at the White House with a gross, disgusting laying of hands (more grabby grabby) and a cuckoo Pat Robertson.  Trump’s best base is the folks who fell for the longest running conspiracy theory every so they’re easy prey.

In an interview airing Thursday, Trump sat down with Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network. The aging icon of the religious right has been outspoken in his support for Trump, calling him “God’s man for this job.” It will be Trump’s second interview with CBN since he became president.

And earlier this week, photos surfaced from an impromptu Oval Office prayer session in which two dozen evangelicals laid their hands on the President and petitioned the Almighty on his behalf.

We were praying that God would give him guidance and direction and protect him,” said Richard Land, who served on Trump’s evangelical advisory board and is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The images of hands praying over the President’s distinctive coiffure caught fire on social media. To some, the timing seemed suspicious. Though raised Presbyterian, Trump is not affiliated with a church, nor does he attend worship services most Sundays. Was he “getting religion” just as the waters were rising around his White House? Was it a repeat of President Bill Clinton conspicuously carrying a Bible and meeting with religious leaders during the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

The White House disputes that interpretation. “The idea that someone would pray only when they’re in crisis is ridiculous,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy White House press secretary.

Land agrees. “That’s a very cynical and negative connotation of what happened.”

Instead, Land, a Southern Baptist who has been active in presidential politics since the Reagan administration, said he and two dozen fellow evangelicals were summoned to Washington for a “work day.”

The group, many of whom advised Trump during the campaign, heard reports from administration officials and gave feedback on issues like Israel’s security, judicial nominations and the Senate’s health care bill. Jared Kushner dropped by, as did Vice President Mike Pence — a fellow evangelical — who said the President invited the group to visit the Oval Office that afternoon and say hello, Land recalled.

As evangelicals gathered around Trump’s desk, he asked how their work meeting was going, Land said, and several praised his recent speech in Warsaw, in which the President pledged to protect Western values.

Okay. I need another shower.  This all creeps me out to no end. It’s like a terrifically bad movie plot.

So, let me know what you’re reading today?


Wednesday Morning Takedown

“Tis the infirmity of his age, yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.”

JJ’s schedule is a bit full today so I thought I’d pop up with a bit of a news dump to give her some space and breathing room.  I personally see no way for the current administration to get through all this latest Russia news.  It will take time to clear the Trumps out of the White House but it will happen.

Here’s some of today’s headlines.  It’s all Russia basically. It’s not going away.

From McClatchy:  Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation.

Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.

Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks,

From Phillip Rucker and WAPO: ‘Category 5 hurricane’: White House under siege by Trump Jr.’s Russia revelations.

The White House has been thrust into chaos after days of ever-worsening revelations about a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a lawyer characterized as representing the Russian government, as the president fumes against his enemies and senior aides circle one another with suspicion, according to top White House officials and outside advisers.

President Trump — who has been hidden from public view since returning last weekend from a divisive international summit — is enraged that the Russia cloud still hangs over his presidency and is exasperated that his eldest son and namesake has become engulfed by it, said people who have spoken with him this week.

The disclosure that Trump Jr. met with a Russian attorney, believing he would receive incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as part of the Kremlin’s effort to boost his father’s candidacy, has set back the administration’s faltering agenda and rattled the senior leadership team.

On Wednesday, in his first Twitter posts since the email disclosures, Trump defended his son as “open, transparent and innocent” and repeated past claims that his administration is the subject of a “witch hunt” fueled by leakers.

Kevin Hall writing for McClatchy: Lawyer that met Don Jr. had ties to Russian government, spy agency.

The Russian lawyer at the center of Donald Trump Jr.’s scandal over possible collusion with Kremlin election meddlers has denied she has ties to the Russian government.

But she threatened action by the Russian security service, the FSB, against a rights group working to expose corruption by Russian government officials, according to information in the possession of U.S. prosecutors who had been investigating a large and complex money laundering case involving Russian funds.

The New York Times first reported over the weekend that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya met in June 2016 with Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law Jared Kushner and incoming campaign chief Paul Manafort at Trump Tower.

In emails, an acquaintance billed the meeting as an opportunity for Trump Jr. to obtain — courtesy of the Russian government — damaging material about Hillary Clinton, his father’s Democratic rival. Trump Jr. responded excitedly: “If it’s what you say I love it,” he wrote back. The emails were released Tuesday by Trump Jr. as The New York Times was about to print them.

From Politico:  White House aides feeling ‘helpless’ as Trump Jr. scandal explodes

White House aides feel blindsided by the bombshell revelations around Donald Trump Jr.’s campaign meeting with a Russian lawyer, while the president is using his relatively light schedule to watch TV and fume about the latest scandal, according to interviews with half a dozen White House officials and advisers.

Unlike prior Russia-related controversies, the White House is not minimizing the political ramifications of Trump’s eldest son’s decision to meet with the Kremlin-linked lawyer after being offered information that he was told would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

But top West Wing aides are exasperated by their limited ability to steer the damage control and the risk that more damaging news has yet to emerge.

One Trump adviser said the White House was “essentially helpless” because the conduct happened during an “anything goes” campaign that had few rules. This person said he had spoken to several people in the White House on Tuesday and that “none of them knew anything about Donald Trump Jr.’s meetings,” despite the fact that top adviser Jared Kushner was also present for the controversial Trump Tower sit-down.

Many of the White House aides had previously dismissed the Russia stories as “conspiracy bullshit,” this person said, but that this development was not being dismissed as that.

Martin Sutovec / Slovakia

Meanwhile, Jared and Ivanka want Priebus gone as reported in The Hill.

Three of the most influential figures in President Trump’s inner circle are lobbying the president to oust his Chief of Staff Reince PriebusThe Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Trump’s wife Melania, eldest daughter and senior adviser Ivanka and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner have privately pushed him to shake up his West Wing staff, most notably by replacing Priebus.

Priebus, who served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee before joining Trump’s White House, has been rumored for months to be on his way out as the president’s top assistant.

and Kremlin Caligula has reached peak catatonia. This is beginning to remind me of King Lear,

Donald Trump’s public schedule has gone blank once again, as the amorphous Republican retreats behind the walls of the White House.

His strange disappearing act comes as Trump’s family becomes deeply embroiled in the Russia collusion story, and while the Republican Party is trying to generate momentum to pass its health care bill.

Instead of having a full schedule in the wake of a multiple-day trip last week to the G20 summit in Europe, Trump has disappeared. He hasn’t had an official public, stateside appearance in more than a week.

The current vanishing act stands in stark contrast to the way Trump routinely made public appearances during his first 100 days in office, generating headlines with executive order ceremonies, fake signing ceremonies, and round table meetings with business leaders.

The events were widely covered in the press, which helped the White House project the image of a robust, hard-working president. “Top White House aides even bragged about media access to the President,” CNN once noted.

But no more.

Speaking of King Lear, this is a blog after my own heart. I’ve loved Shakespeare since Fifth Grade.

Shakespeare knew of other Trumps. In King Lear, Regan says of her father, “Tis the infirmity of his age, yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.”

Trump comes into office riding a wave of adrenaline, of enormous rallies of cheering supporters who love his brand of anarchy, his wealth, his refusal to be hemmed in by convention. He comes into office riding his wave of promises and his destruction of his adversaries. He is the master of a singular moment in American history, a President whose election received the assistance of a former KGB Lieutenant Colonel, a dictator who has ordered the murder of journalists and political opponents.

Then Trump discovers that he will be held to his words, that he has created a fervent, attentive opposition, that his actions as President will be hemmed in by precedent, by legislation, by law, by officeholders who owe him nothing, by a free press. Recently he spoke of his life before becoming President: “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.’*

He strikes out at anyone who questions or opposes him. Instead of building alliances, he destroys any possibility of them. He is not King. No one told him he would not be King

This story is breaking so fast that we should probably consider this a live blog for the day.

Love you JJ and hugs to your Mom!


Monday Reads: A Neoconfederacy of Dunces

The more we find out about the Trump Family Crime syndicate, the more we understand their distinct lack of brains.  They don’t, however, lack chutzpah. If they’ve got one foot in the grave, they’ll dig deeper with inane tweets.  The little nuts do not fall far from the big ol’ nut tree.

Dumbo Jr. has basically confessed to collusion with the Russians.

Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged Sunday that he met with a Russian lawyer who had promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton in June 2016.

The news, which was first reported by the New York Times, represents the most direct suggestion to date of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and it is the first indication that someone from President Trump’s inner circle met with Russians during the campaign. Trump Jr. also brought then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law and now-top White House adviser Jared Kushner to the meeting.

But the information isn’t just troubling because it suggests the Trump campaign sought out the help of Russians to win the presidency. It also contradicts a number of claims made by the White House, the campaign and Trump Jr. himself — claims made as recently as this weekend. For an administration and campaign that have repeatedly denied contact with Russians and had their denials blow up in their faces, it’s yet another dubious chapter.

Read the rest of the article for what we’ve learned so far.  Then, think on this bit from The New Yorker.

So, unless we are grading on a curve that even the most forgiving god would discount, innocence in the matter of collusion does not bring the Trump Administration nearer to the gates of heaven. But the issue is hardly the closed matter that Trump would propose it to be. Thanks to new reporting from theTimes, we are starting to see evidence that fits the theory. Within two days of the President’s dispiritingly weak and erratic performance in Hamburg––his winsome meeting with Vladimir Putin, the disheartening spectacle of the Europeans treating the United States with suspicion on issues ranging from global security to the fate of the global environment––we learn that Trump associates, including the President’s son, met during the 2016 campaign with one Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected lawyer, on the promise that she could provide them information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The meeting took place on June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower. Trump’s emissaries included Donald Trump, Jr., who now helps to run the family businesses; Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who now helps to run the country; and his then campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who has a long history of business ties to Russia and pro-Russia Ukrainians, as well as a variety of political kleptocrats including Jonas Savimbi, Mobuto Sese Seko, and Ferdinand Marcos. The Trump team said there was nothing untoward about the meeting.

“After pleasantries were exchanged,” Trump, Jr., told the Times, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.” Trump, Jr., went on to claim that the discussion was largely about the Russian ban on foreign adoptions. Reince Priebus, the President’s chief of staff, described the meeting on “Fox News Sunday” as a “big nothing burger.” For her part, Veselnitskaya said that the meeting did not concern the campaign at all and that Manafort and Kushner left the room after ten minutes.

This follows the Wall Street Journal’s story last week that investigators have reviewed reports from intelligence agencies on Russian hackers discussing how to hack Clinton’s e-mails and get the material to Michael Flynn, the former national-security adviser, via an intermediary, and that Peter Smith, a longtime Republican operative, had undertaken an effort to obtain the Clinton e-mails and suggested to those around him that he was working with Flynn. The excuse the Trump Administration had for that one was that Smith “didn’t work for the campaign” and that if Flynn was working with him “in any way, it would have been in his capacity as a private individual.”

There has also been a great deal of solid journalism committed by Adam Davidson, of The New Yorker, Timothy O’Brien, of Bloomberg, and others on Trump’s business history and his links to disreputables in Russia and the former Soviet Union. All this begins to add up to an unlovely portrait of the President and his associates. In addition, the F.B.I. and congressional investigators are sorting through what, if any, relationship there might have been between the hundreds of Internet trolls who pumped out false, undermining stories about Clinton, Russian sponsors, and the Trump campaign. It is unlikely that the full story of the role of WikiLeaks in this saga has been told yet, either.

Representative  Adam Schiff  who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee announced his desire to question Donald Trump Jr.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said on CNN on Sunday that the meeting raises “a variety of questions” because Trump has denied having any kind of meetings like this.

“They claimed this meeting had nothing to do with the campaign, and yet the Trump campaign manager is invited to come to the meeting and there’s no reason for this Russian government advocate to be meeting with Paul Manafort or Mr. Kushner or the President’s son if it wasn’t about the campaign and Russia policy,” he said.

He said the meeting is indicative of the fact that Russia was “obviously” trying to “influence one of the candidates” and that the explanations given from the administration so far don’t “make sense.” He said his committee would like to “get to the bottom” of what happened at the meeting and he plans to question everyone who was at the meeting.

“By trying to frame this about adoptions ignores what it sounds like the meeting might have been about and that was the Magnitsky Act, which is legislation, very powerful sanctions legislation, that goes against Russian human rights abusers,” he said.

“So if this was an effort to do away with that sanctions policy, that is obviously very significant that the President’s team, then-candidate Trump’s team, that contradicts of course what the President and his people have said about whether they’ve been meeting with any members of the Russian government,” he said.

Former Ethics lawyer for the Bush Administration  Richard Painter believes the news on Don Con Jr. “borders on treason”.

An ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush blasted Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the campaign, saying it “borders on treason.”

“This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States,” Richard Painter said Sunday on MSNBC.

“We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason.”

Painter said the Bush administration would not have allowed the meeting, which was attended by Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a White House senior adviser, to happen.

“If this story is true, we’d have one of them if not both of them in custody by now, and we’d be asking them a lot of questions,” he said. “This is unacceptable. This borders on treason, if it is not itself treason.”

Painter’s comments follow a Sunday report from The New York Times that Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer, who has ties to the Kremlin, came after the lawyer promised damaging information about Clinton.

He attended the meeting with the expectation that he would receive compromising information about Clinton, three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two other sources with knowledge of the matter told the Times.

Meanwhile, we learn exactly why Republicans are such idiots.  They’ve decided that colleges have a negative impact on the country. Can there be anything more pathetic than hating education because the facts continually prove you wrong?  I’d like to add that I think it’s the Churches attended by Republicans that have the worst impact on the country. Along with Fox News, they hash out more crap than pig eating prunes.

Republicans and Democrats offer starkly different assessments of the impact of several of the nation’s leading institutions – including the news media, colleges and universities and churches and religious organizations – and in some cases, the gap in these views is significantly wider today than it was just a year ago.PP_17.06.30_institutions_lede_party

While a majority of the public (55%) continues to say that colleges and universities have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country these days, Republicans express increasingly negative views.

A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. By contrast, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years.

The national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 8-18 among 2,504 adults, finds that partisan differences in views of the national news media, already wide, have grown even wider. Democrats’ views of the effect of the national news media have grown more positive over the past year, while Republicans remain overwhelmingly negative.

About as many Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents think the news media has a positive (44%) as negative (46%) impact on the way things are going in the country. The share of Democrats holding a positive view of the news media’s impact has increased 11 percentage points since last August (33%).

Republicans, by about eight-to-one (85% to 10%), say the news media has a negative effect. These views have changed little in the past few years.

Let’s hope our media gets and stays ‘woke’.

There’s more than Watergate that makes Kremlin Caligula Nixonion.  There’s his enemies list.

Donald Trump is less than six months into his presidency, yet one of the organizing principles of his political operation is already becoming clear: payback.

In private, Trump has spoken of spending $10 million out of his own pocket to defeat an incumbent senator of his own party, Jeff Flake of Arizona, according to two sources familiar with the conversation last fall. More recently, the president celebrated the attacks orchestrated by a White House-sanctioned outside group against another Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, who has also been openly critical of him.

Fear of Trump reprisals has led one Republican congresswoman, Martha Roby of Alabama, to launch an intense campaign to win over a president who remembers every political slight — and especially those who abandoned him following the October release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women.

At the time, Roby called Trump “unacceptable” and said she wouldn’t vote for him. But the president, who is popular in Alabama, ended up carrying her district by a wide margin. And since the inauguration, she has gone to the White House four times to attend Trump-hosted events and on two other occasions to meet with his daughter Ivanka. During the Rose Garden celebration following the House’s passage of the health care bill, the four-term congresswoman offered the president a personal compliment while shaking his hand: “Good job,” she told him, according to a source close to Roby who was briefed on the exchange.

White House officials have taken notice of Roby’s efforts to make amends and view her efforts with some skepticism. While in the Oval Office for a NASA bill signing in March, Roby sidled up next to Trump — putting her front-and-center for the photo-op. Behind her push for the president’s approval is a stark political reality: She is facing a fierce primary challenge from a Trump stalwart who has turned her past opposition to the president into the focal point of his campaign.

And now I need a shower …  but, I will leave you with a question from the brilliant Joy Reid.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Friday Reads: The Putin Poodle and the Damage Done

It’s a very hot Friday here in New Orleans.  I’d like to be doing anything but watching the most incompetent person in the world make kissy ass with a KGB trained despot but here it goes.  How much damage to the standing, democracy, and reputation of the United States will happen because a bunch of bigoted, superstitious, white throwbacks joined a Russian conspiracy to wreck our country?  Will the poster child for dementia and narcissism give away state secrets and sell out the joint goals of our NATO allies?  

trump-putin-meeting Has he offered us for membership in a Warsaw Pact yet?

Foreign ministries around the world are filled with anticipation over what will happen when Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet for the first time at the G20 summit. But veteran U.S. spies who’ve studied manipulation tactics, particularly from their Russian counterparts, are confident they know what’s going to unfold.

Putin, a former KGB operations officer, will not just be practicing interpersonal diplomacy, they say. He’ll be putting his tradecraft as a spy to work. His main asset: Trump’s massive, delicate ego.

It won’t just be the expected flattery, from the spies’ perspective, though flattery is key to dealing with the “sociopathic narcissist” tendencies one ex-CIA interrogator sees in Trump. Putin is likely to stoke Trump’s ire, encourage him against his perceived enemies and validate his inclinations – particularly the ones that move U.S. policy in the directions Putin wants.

Nowhere are the stakes higher than in Moscow. The Trump-Putin meeting, say Russian politicians and Putin’s former KGB colleagues, is an overdue opportunity to equalize the Washington-Moscow relationship.

“Putin,” one-time KGB general Oleg Kalugin told The Daily Beast, “he has been in power for so many years and, by character, he knows how to handle things and how to outsmart others, including presidents of the United States.”

While everything about this meeting is momentous, the two sides are not on equal diplomatic footing. Russia’s interference in the 2016 election – something U.S. intelligence characterizes as a certainty, while Trump, again, casts doubt on that conclusion – has created a political maelstrom for Trump. Everything resulting from the meeting will be scrutinized in Washington, particularly amongst Trump’s political opposition, for signs of a quid pro quo. Meanwhile, observers have a hard time understanding what U.S. policy toward Russia, its decades-long adversary, even is anymore.

Putin is filling that vacuum. Ahead of meeting the U.S. president in Hamburg, his foreign ministry has said the agenda will concern everything from Syria to Ukraine to returning two intelligence complexes on U.S. soil – even to gay rights in Chechnya. Meanwhile, Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster has said there won’t be a “specific agenda” for discussion, beyond “whatever the president wants to talk about.” There is confusion on the U.S. side about whether McMaster’s Russia chief, the Putin skeptic Fiona Hill, will attend the meeting.

Putin, former spies say, is well-positioned to dominate the meeting.

Russia has found a huge gap in the American psyche and is moving on in.  Just coddle those insecure and visibly lacking white christian men and their house marms.  The Russians have stepped up the spying game here.

The officials say they believe one of the biggest US adversaries feels emboldened by the lack of a significant retaliatory response from both the Trump and Obama administrations.

“Russians have maintained an aggressive collection posture in the US, and their success in election meddling has not deterred them,” said a former senior intelligence official familiar with Trump administration efforts.
Russians could also be seeking more information on Trump’s administration, which is new and still unpredictable to Moscow, according to Steve Hall, retired CIA chief of operations.

“Whenever there is a deterioration of relations between countries — the espionage and intelligence collection part becomes that much more important as they try to determine the plans and intentions of the adversarial government,” Hall said.

Since the November election, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have detected an increase in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the US under the guise of other business, according to multiple current and former senior US intelligence officials. The Russians are believed to now have nearly 150 suspected intelligence operatives in the US, these sources said. Officials who spoke to CNN say the Russians are replenishing their ranks after the US in December expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying in retaliation for election-meddling.

“The concerning point with Russia is the volume of people that are coming to the US. They have a lot more intelligence officers in the US” compared to what they have in

other countries, one of the former intelligence officials says.

Russian Hackers are alleged to be targeting US Nuclear Power Plants.

Russian hackers are the chief suspects in recent efforts to meddle with the computer networks that run various nuclear power plants and other energy facilities.

If Russia is indeed responsible, it suggests that they could attempt to forcibly shut down parts of America’s power grid like they are believed to have done to Ukraine in the past, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The hackers, regardless of nationality, are believed to be responsible for breaching the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation in Kentucky among a number of other facilities since May, according to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The New York Times confirmed the joint report with security specialists who have had to cope with the hacking attempts.

Trump actually told Putin that it was “an honor” to meet him.   WTF kind of kissy ass nonsense is that?

‘We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States,’ Trump said at opening of highly anticipated meeting.

President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that “it’s an honor to be with you” as the two leaders kicked off their much-anticipated bilateral meeting, one that was scheduled for just 30 minutes but wound up lasting nearly two-and-a-half hours.

Neither Trump nor Putin, who were accompanied by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, respectively, offered specifics of what they would discuss once reporters left the room. Trump did not respond to a shouted question as to whether or not he would raise Russia’s efforts to interfere in last year’s presidential campaign, according to reporters in the room.

“President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it’s going very well. We’ve had some very, very good talks. We are going to have a talk now and obviously that will continue,” Trump said as photographers snapped photos of the two presidents, whose meeting took place at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. “But we look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everybody concerned, and It’s an honor to be with you.”

Putin, through a translator, echoed his U.S. counterpart’s friendly welcome and said he and Trump “will really need personal meetings” in order to resolve certain policy issues.

“We have spoken on the phone with you several times before on very important bilateral and international issues. But phone conversation is never enough,” Putin said. “I’m delighted to be able to meet you personally, Mr. President. And I hope, as you have said, our meeting will yield positive result.”

It’s believed that Trump wants to “team up” with Putin in Syria. This would mean keeping brutal dictator Assad in power.

For once, Rex Tillerson is not freelancing.

Late Wednesday, ahead of the first-ever meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the secretary of state suggested that the U.S. is willing to explore “joint mechanisms” with Russia to stabilize the vicious Syrian civil war.

After a dizzying series of policy shifts on Syria, administration and congressional sources tell The Daily Beast that Team Trump is introducing the beginnings of a new strategy for Syria—one that, in the short term at least:

• leaves dictator Bashar al-Assad in power;

• acquiesces to the idea of “safe zones” proposed by Russia and its allies;

 leans on cooperation from Moscow, including the use of Russian troops to patrol parts of the country.

A knowledgeable senior administration official discussed the emerging strategy with The Daily Beast on the condition that what the official said could only be paraphrased, not quoted, as the official was not cleared to discuss the issue publicly. The account was backed up by two White House sources and a congressional source.

This is obviously an unfolding story.  So, I’d consider this a live blog thread. Share what you read and hear please!

Coverage from The Guardian: ‘G20: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin conclude lengthy meeting’.

“Putin went straight from meeting Trump to talks with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe. He apologised for his lateness due to the talks with Trump overrunning, and in opening remarks reported by Interfax, Putin said he and Trump had discussed “Ukraine, Syria, and other bilateral problems. We returned to the problems of fighting terrorism and cybersecurity”.

A lot more links are coming as reporters file their stories.


Monday Reads: President Goofus

There’s been some interesting conversation I’ve seen recently from old high school friends surrounding the old fashioned notions of mores, manners, and civility.  I laughed at the Pearl Clutching around the idea that a few choice curse words could elicit a stern mansplaining from one old coot–actually my age but more of an old coot than some of us will ever be–while on a nearby thread was some of the most bigoted, hateful stuff I’ve ever seen surrounded by ***crickets***.

Evidently, the end of Political Correctness means you still can’t use the F Bomb but you can disrespect women, GLBTs, nonXtianists, and religious, ethnic, and racial minorities.   Meanwhile,  researchers find using the F Bomb seems to be a sign of intelligence and good use of language.   Voting and supporting Trump appears to be a function of stupidity, anger, and bigotry.

I’ve seen calls for civility shouted down as being some form of oppression of ideals. We’ve seen tons of discussion of the Vulgarian-in-Chief and his propensity to puke all over people’s twitter feeds. What do you expected from an unrepentant “pussy grabber” who gave his music teacher a black eye second grade and refers to it as:

I actually gave a teacher a black eye. I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music … Even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a forceful way.

This is the dude that just recently acted out his desire to punch the news folks at CNN by retweeting your basic NAZI. Actually, I like this version better.   That’s a very muscular-looking DOJ and what better way to celebrate taking down the Malignant Melanoma Mussolini than with a can of yucky beer?

At some point, however, you have to wonder why the entire country seems to be running down the road to CrudeVille. It seems most of us think that Kremlin Caligula has created a distinct lack of civility to our interactions and a high level of distrust in our institutions.

As Americans prepare to celebrate the country’s 241st birthday, they believe the overall tone and level of civility between Democrats and Republicans in the nation’s capital has gotten worse since the election of President Trump last year, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. The same survey also shows distrust of many of the nation’s fundamental democratic institutions amongst the public.

Seven in 10 Americans say the level of civility in Washington has gotten worse since President Trump was elected, while just 6 percent say the overall tone has improved. Twenty percent say it’s stayed the same. For comparison, 35 percent in 2009 said civility in the country had declined in the U.S. following President Obama’s election, per a Gallup survey. Eight years ago, 21 percent of Americans in that poll thought civility and the tone of discourse in the country had improved.

We’re all hoping the DOJ works at the moment. However, one official has just quit saying that doing the job is nearly impossible under the Trump Family Syndicate.  

One of the Justice Department’s top corporate crime watchdogs has resigned, declaring that she cannot enforce ethics laws against companies while, she asserts, her own bosses in the Trump administration have been engaging in conduct that she said she would never tolerate in corporations.

Hui Chen — a former Pfizer and Microsoft lawyer who also was a federal prosecutor — had been the department’s compliance counsel. She left the department in June and broke her silence about her move in a recent LinkedIn post that sounded an alarm about the Trump administration’s behavior.

“Trying to hold companies to standards that our current administration is not living up to was creating a cognitive dissonance that I could not overcome,” Chen wrote. “To sit across the table from companies and question how committed they were to ethics and compliance felt not only hypocritical, but very much like shuffling the deck chair on the Titanic. Even as I engaged in those questioning and evaluations, on my mind were the numerous lawsuits pending against the President of the United States for everything from violations of the Constitution to conflict of interest, the ongoing investigations of potentially treasonous conducts, and the investigators and prosecutors fired for their pursuits of principles and facts. Those are conducts I would not tolerate seeing in a company, yet I worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conduct. I wanted no more part in it.”

Chen came to the Justice Department in 2015, after officials there created a compliance counsel position to help guide the agency’s enforcement of criminal laws against corporations.

We are getting to him.  Here’s the latest news from the Daily Paranoia.

Marches were held in dozens of city supporting Impeachment.  Support for his impeachment is still higher than presidential approval.

For a minute there, things were looking up for President Donald Trump. By late last week, his approval rating was hovering around 40 percent, which isn’t great but marked an improvement for the former reality TV star. But then Trump spent the holiday weekend railing against the press and blasting off tweetstorms—and the president’s approval rating took a plunge.

Gallup’s tracking poll pegged Trump’s approval at just 37 percent to start off July, while disapproval stood at 57 percent. Last week, Gallup found the president’s approval rating had briefly climbed to 40 percent before the fall-off back into the 30s.

The Gallup poll interviewed 1,500 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Trump’s 37 percent approval rating is dismal, especially for a president so early in his tenure, when the American people typically afford the office a grace period of sorts. Around this point in his first term, for instance, former President Barack Obama had a 60 percent approval rating.

So, most of us hate him, we really hate him. Do you think we’re being uncivil about it?

Anyway, I’m going to make this short because I have to work today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  We’d like to hear from you!

 


Friday Reads: Animal Farm

It’s difficult not to think about what the current state of affairs means in terms of the celebration of Independence Day as we head into Fourth of July Festivities.  Our country was born of the Age of Reason.  Thomas Jefferson–who wrote the document proclaiming US Independence–was an amateur scientist and philosopher.  He might be considered the ideal Renaissance man if he had also found a way to support his causes and lifestyle with employees instead of slaves.

There’s always been this dark side to the American Dream and there have been many people throughout history who have fought those inclinations. It’s been a slow climb from the idea that we all are created equal to getting to a society that actually lives that value. The climb continues.

Why is it so difficult to treat one another with the respect and dignity we each deserve?

The Republican leadership and Administration is based on the most vulgar, salacious, and base motivations we’ve witnessed since Andrew Jackson was committing mass genocide on human beings he considered “savages” and since a group of people considered the nation’s black Americans to be not wholly human.  They deemed all folks with African descent to be precisely 3/5ths human.  All of this was done in the name of the same religion that tortures our better angels today.

The cognitive dissonance is simply mind boggling.  Today, Ahvaz Iran has reached an almost unheard of temperature of 129.  It’s one of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on the planet. 

Another weather source, the Weather Underground, said Ahvaz hit 129.2 degrees Thursday afternoon. The heat index, which also takes humidity into account, hit an incredible 142 degrees.

Fortunately, the weather forecast for Ahvaz on Friday is for “cooler” weather, with a high of only 119 degrees, according to AccuWeather.

The official all-time world record temperature remains the 134-degree temperature measured at Death Valley, Calif, on July 10, 1913. However, some experts say that temperature isn’t reliable. Weather Underground weather historian Christopher Burt said in 2016 that such an extreme temperature was “not possible from a meteorological perspective.”

Scorching heat is one of the most expected outcomes of man-made climate change, according to a 2016 report from the National Academy of Sciences and a 2015 study in Nature Climate Change.

The prestigious magazine  Science published a study estimating the economic cost of climate change to the US economy.  It’s not pretty.  You can read the fully study at the link.  This is its Abstract.

Estimates of climate change damage are central to the design of climate policies. Here, we develop a flexible architecture for computing damages that integrates climate science, econometric analyses, and process models. We use this approach to construct spatially explicit, probabilistic, and empirically derived estimates of economic damage in the United States from climate change. The combined value of market and nonmarket damage across analyzed sectors—agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor—increases quadratically in global mean temperature, costing roughly 1.2% of gross domestic product per +1°C on average. Importantly, risk is distributed unequally across locations, generating a large transfer of value northward and westward that increases economic inequality. By the late 21st century, the poorest third of counties are projected to experience damages between 2 and 20% of county income (90% chance) under business-as-usual emissions (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5).

Meanwhile, the man responsible for the EPA–professional whackadoodle Scott Pruitt–launches  program to ‘critique’ climate science.

“We are in fact very excited about this initiative,” the official added. “Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.”

The disclosure follows the administration’s suggestions over several days that it supports reviewing climate science outside the normal peer-review process used by scientists. This is the first time agency officials acknowledged that Pruitt has begun that process. The source said Energy Secretary Rick Perry also favors the review.

Executives in the coal industry interpret the move as a step toward challenging the endangerment finding, the agency’s legal foundation for regulating greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and other sources. Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., said Pruitt assured him yesterday that he plans to begin reviewing the endangerment finding within months.

“We talked about that, and they’re going to start addressing it later this year,” Murray said in an interview. “They’re going to start getting a lot of scientific people in to give both sides of the issue.”

But another person attending the meeting said Pruitt resisted committing to a full-scale challenge of the 2009 finding. The administration source also said Pruitt “did not promise to try to rescind the endangerment finding.”

Climate scientists express concern that the “red team, blue team” concept could politicize scientific research and disproportionately elevate the views of a relatively small number of experts who disagree with mainstream scientists (Climatewire, June 29).

Pruitt told about 30 people attending a board meeting of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity yesterday morning that he’s establishing a “specific process” to review climate science, the administration official said. Murray and two other people in the room interpreted Pruitt as saying he would challenge the endangerment finding.

Challenging the endangerment finding would be enormously difficult, according to many lawyers. The finding is built on an array of scientific material establishing that human health and welfare is endangered by a handful of greenhouse gases emitted by industry, power plants and cars. It stems from a Supreme Court ruling in 2007.

If Pruitt somehow succeeded in rolling back the finding — an outcome that many Republicans say is far-fetched — the federal government would no longer be required to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

Other evidence that there is no sign of intelligent life in the majority of Republicans are  these doozies:

Trump Administration Appoints Anti-Transgender Activist To Gender Equality Post

“To put it simply, a boy claiming gender confusion must now be allowed in the same shower, bathroom, or locker room with my daughter,” wrote the new senior adviser for women’s empowerment at USAID.

Oh, and this one.

White House council for women and girls goes dark under Trump

The administration is evaluating whether to keep the office, created under President Barack Obama to focus on gender equality

I agree with Ezra Klein on this: “It turns out the liberal caricature of conservatism is correct. It’s depressing. But it’s true.”  These people are motivated by greed and feeding a group of religious zealots who think Eve is the root of all evil and any one not pristine white carries the stain of sin.

Marc Thiessen, the George W. Bush speechwriter who now writes a column for the Washington Post op-ed page, is aghast at the Senate GOP’s health care bill. “Paying for a massive tax cut for the wealthy with cuts to health care for the most vulnerable Americans is morally reprehensible,” he says.

“If Republicans want to confirm every liberal caricature of conservatism in a single piece of legislation, they could do no better than vote on the GOP bill in its current form.”

But at what point do we admit that this isn’t the liberal caricature of conservatism? It’s just … conservatism.

Though Republicans had long promised the country a repeal-and-replace plan that offered better coverage at lower cost, the House GOP’s health care bill cut hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes for the rich and paid for it by gutting health care spending on the poor. It was widely criticized and polled terribly.

Senate Republicans responded by releasing a revised health care bill that also cut hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes for the rich and paid for it by gutting health care spending on the poor. It has also been widely criticized, and it also is polling terribly.

Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of covering everyone with better health insurance than they get now, has endorsed both bills.

Republicans, in other words, have repeatedly broken their promises and defied public opinion in order to release health care bills that cut spending on the poorest Americans to fund massive tax cuts for the richest Americans. (The Tax Policy Center estimates that 44.6 percent of the Senate bill’s tax cuts go to households making more than $875,000.)

Fundamentalism of all sorts has always been the basis of the evil done by this country.  Republicans are feeding it.

How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only God can alter the weather? How do you make racial equality personal to someone who believes whites are naturally superior to non-whites? How do you make gender equality personal to someone who believes women are supposed to be subservient to men by God’s command? How do you get someone to view minorities as not threatening personal to people who don’t live around and never interact with them? How do you make personal the fact massive tax cuts and cutting back government hurts their economic situation when they’ve voted for these for decades? I don’t think you can without some catastrophic events. And maybe not even then. The Civil War was pretty damn catastrophic yet a large swath of the South believed and still believes they were right, had the moral high ground. They were/are also mostly Christian fundamentalists who believe they are superior because of the color of their skin and the religion they profess to follow. There is a pattern here for anyone willing to connect the dots.

“Rural, white America needs to be better understood,” is not one of the dots. “Rural, white America needs to be better understood,” is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as “too upsetting,” “too mean,” “too arrogant,” “too elite,” “too snobbish.” Pointing out Aunt Bee’s views of Mexicans, blacks, gays…is bigoted isn’t the thing one does in polite society. Too bad more people don’t think the same about the views Aunt Bee has. It’s the classic, “You’re a racist for calling me a racist,” ploy. Or, as it is more commonly known, “I know you are but what am I?”

I do think rational arguments are needed, even if they go mostly ignored and ridiculed. I believe in treating people with the respect they’ve earned but the key point here is “earned.” I’ll gladly sit down with Aunt Bee and have a nice, polite conversation about her beliefs about “the gays,” “the blacks,” “illegals,”…and do so without calling her a bigot or a racist. But, this doesn’t mean she isn’t a bigot and a racist and if I’m asked to describe her beliefs these are the only words that honestly fit. No one with cancer wants to be told they have cancer, but just because no one uses the word, “cancer,” it doesn’t mean they don’t have it. Just because the media, pundits on all sides, some Democratic leaders don’t want to call the actions of many rural, Christian, white Americans, “racist/bigoted” doesn’t make them not so.

Paul Krugman is more succinct.  He calls it Republican ‘cruelty’. It is exactly that.

The puzzle — and it is a puzzle, even for those who have long since concluded that something is terribly wrong with the modern G.O.P. — is why the party is pushing this harsh, morally indefensible agenda.

Think about it. Losing health coverage is a nightmare, especially if you’re older, have health problems and/or lack the financial resources to cope if illness strikes. And since Americans with those characteristics are precisely the people this legislation effectively targets, tens of millions would soon find themselves living this nightmare.

Meanwhile, taxes that fall mainly on a tiny, wealthy minority would be reduced or eliminated. These cuts would be big in dollar terms, but because the rich are already so rich, the savings would make very little difference to their lives.

More than 40 percent of the Senate bill’s tax cuts would go to people with annual incomes over $1 million — but even these lucky few would see their after-tax income rise only by a barely noticeable 2 percent.

So it’s vast suffering — including, according to the best estimates, around 200,000 preventable deaths — imposed on many of our fellow citizens in order to give a handful of wealthy people what amounts to some extra pocket change. And the public hates the idea: Polling shows overwhelming popular opposition, even though many voters don’t realize just how cruel the bill really is. For example, only a minority of voters are aware of the plan to make savage cuts to Medicaid.

In fact, my guess is that the bill has low approval even among those who would get a significant tax cut. Warren Buffett has denounced the Senate bill as the “Relief for the Rich Act,” and he’s surely not the only billionaire who feels that way.

Which brings me back to my question: Why would anyone want to do this?

Because they can and because they love power and money.  Their mega-rich donors will shower them in both.

I think we can forever ask ourselves the big question of why do these uneducated white people continually fall for it?  The answer is that their life basically sucks and they’re doing what ever they can to feel better about it. Religion and Republicans give them a feeling of superiority based on the only thing they have: the identity birth gave them.  Every one is paying an awful price for that.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? Tuesday is Independence Day if we can keep it.