Friday Reads: America Held Hostage Day 90

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Today’s cartoons come from The.Daily.Don!  Artist Jesse Duquette is the Daily Don: “Documenting this administration each day from the Inauguration to the Election.” They’re wonderful!  Go look at his Instagram page! There’s one for every day we’ve been held hostage by Kremlin Caligula.

This compelling Op Ed written by retired Army officer Sheri Swokowski is another indication that Trump staffs every position with the wrong person. “Trump’s anti-LGBT Army secretary nominee thinks veterans like me have ‘a disease’”

Like Mark Green — President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army — I served my country in uniform. I was proud to be an infantry officer and retired honorably after 34 years. But as a transgender member of the military, I hid my authentic self for decades to continue serving the country I love. Unlike Green, I was forced to serve in silence the entire time, but I won’t be silent now.

I respect his Iraq War service as an Army flight surgeon, but the disrespect — the bigotry — he’s shown over and over toward the LGBT community, including LGBT service members, doesn’t reflect the spirit or direction of the military I know. Rather, his selection reflects poorly on the president and our armed forces. He’s the wrong choice to be Army secretary.

As a Tennessee state senator, Green has targeted the LGBT community. He introduced legislation that would enable businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals. At a town hall meeting with his constituents, he expressed support for the idea of his state’s government defying the Supreme Court’s decision upholding marriage equality in all 50 states. He argued being transgender “is a disease.”

Now that he’s been nominated, Green says “politics will have nothing to do” with how he would do the job of Army secretary. Wrong. Leading the Army requires an appreciation for every individual, without exception, and Green wouldn’t have the confidence of the thousands of LGBT soldiers proudly and openly serving today. Every soldier needs to know that those at the top, uniformed and civilian, have their back. But based on the way he has used anti-LGBT politics to advance his career, that’s not him.

The You Tubes I put here will just give you a moment of zen and peace via Scotland.  I’ve been listening to the haunting bagpipe music of my Gaelic ancestors for the last few days and finding some peace.  I thought I’d share.

We’ve always known that Fox News was a basically a nuclear reactor of hate generation. Read this on Marie Claire.

After 15 years of providing legal protection and millions of dollars to his accusers, Fox News finally fired their marquis star, Bill O’Reilly, on Wednesday. In an age when a self-proclaimed “pussy-grabber” occupies the Oval Office, any public consequences for harassing women feel particularly significant. And this move was particularly satisfying for me—just a few years ago, O’Reilly sent a tidal wave of harassment my way.

On May 31, 2009, an anti-abortion zealot murdered abortion provider George Tiller. At the time, I was 21 years old and working as a counselor at an abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Dr. Tiller’s murder drove a hot spike of fear and anxiety through my entire body. I walked through anti-abortion protestors a few times a week to get to work; I found their gruesome signs annoying, but not threatening. But Dr. Tiller’s assassination forced me to confront the terrifying reality that my co-workers and I faced more than just screams. We could actually get killed for providing people with legal, safe, and compassionate medical care.

My boyfriend walked me to work the next day, a sweet but feeble attempt to shield me from the protestors. What could he actually do if one of them had a gun? Inside, my coworkers and I gathered to talk about how we felt. As I listened to each person share why they were still so committed to this work despite the danger, I wondered what it would be like for our stories and motivations to be shared in a bigger way. One colleague made a comment about all of us being Dr. Tiller now, and I texted my boyfriend—did he know how to make a website? And how much work would it take?

We stayed up all night with him writing code and me writing content for IAmDrTiller.com. The next day, I told my coworkers to take photos with a sign that said “I Am Dr. Tiller,” and asked them to email me their own explanation of why they provide abortion care. My boss sent the website around to other abortion providers, and overnight I received dozens of submissions from abortion-clinic staff all over the country. Somehow, conservative media got wind of the website, and on June 10, Bill O’Reilly discussed the project on his show.

Read the story of how O’Reilly basically ginned up a group of crazy domestic terrorists to stalk, harass and haunt here.  I’ve been at the receiving end of attacks from those freaks.  They’re an ugly, mean, nasty, and hateful lot.

President Obama will be giving a speech in Chicago after spending a lot of time resting in the tropics. I’d personally like to hear why we didn’t get all this T-Russia information back last summer from him.  I believe we’re owed an explanation but I will take a little bit of hope and a lot of change talk.  I could use it.

Former President Barack Obama will return to Chicago on Monday to speak to young people at the University of Chicago, in what will be his first public event since leaving the White House.

Obama and young leaders will hold a conversation on civic engagement and discuss community organizing at the university’s Logan Center for the Arts, his office announced Friday.

Hundreds of people are expected to attend, chosen from area universities that were given tickets for distribution, said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for the former president. About six young people will appear on stage with him for the 11 a.m. discussion, Lewis said.

The event will be a homecoming for Obama on multiple levels. He formerly taught constitutional law at the U. of C. and his family has a home nearby in the Kenwood neighborhood. It also lets the former president, who came to Chicago to work as a young community organizer, fulfill one of the commitments he set out for his post-presidential years: to engage and work with the country’s next generation of leaders, Lewis said.

One SCOTUS decision could do serious damage to the First Amendment. Will this SCOTUS destroy Church/State Seperation?

One of the many travesties endemic in a government controlled by Republicans is that the evangelical right now has the full weight and force of the federal government to institute a theocracy. Now that religious conservatives control the Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the bench, they have an instant ally to achieve the Dominionist movement’s highest priorities: tearing down any and all constitutional barriers between church and state.

Yesterday, in a case the High Court’s conservatives postponed for 15 months wishing and hoping for an evangelical majority, they heard oral arguments in a case very few Americans are aware of. The people should be terrified because a ruling for theocracy will effectively demolish church-state separation and completely neuter the First Amendment’s religious clauses. And it will force every taxpayer to fund religious organizations; like it or not.

This one case will have far reaching effects on every American, and every facet of government, that will make the Hobby Lobby, Voting Rights, and Citizens United rulings seem petty and insignificant in comparison. Sadly, due to the media, including the cowards in the liberal media, and their resistance to reporting the rash of evangelical legislation they claim are simply born of “conservative ideology,” most Americans are clueless as to what is awaiting them; a High Court ruling establishing a veritable evangelical theocracy.

The case, “Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer,” is about forcing Missouri taxpayers to fund upgrading a church school’s playground despite a state and federal prohibition against it. Even though there is a long-standing Constitutional statute against using taxpayer money to fund religious organizations, Missouri is one several states that enshrined the same prohibition in its state Constitution. Still, the “churches” cried foul and claimed that if taxpayers fund public schools, then they damn sure better start funding religious schools and organizations.

One might think that churches earning well-over $82.5 billion annually (in 2013) from taxpayers subsidizing religious non-profits (churches) was enough welfare for the “charitable Christians.” Add to that staggering annual figure the $41.7 billion in annual payments (in 2004) in welfare from Bush’s “faith-based initiative” programs. Money well spent according to W. Bush who wanted the taxpayer’s money to “save one soul at a time.” Still, even that unconstitutional abomination didn’t satisfy their greed for more taxpayer money and more control over government. And, the sad truth is that tearing down the barrier between church and state will set a Constitutional precedent allowing evangelicals to do so much more than just force taxpayers to support their “ministries.”

Since before America was a nation, the Founding Fathers were preparing, and went to great lengths, to keep religion out of government. The concept of not funding, or legislating according to evangelicalism, is not a new idea.

I hold this near and dear as the descendant of Hugenot French who fled the Alsace Lorraine/Rhinelands area as Jews and Protestants being forcefully removed and slaughtered at the behest of the Roman Catholic Church.  The parts of my family who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution made a refuge for folks suffering from state-sanctioned religious persecution.  I’d hate to see us dump on this most important right.

Speaking of Judges, have you ever heard an AG attack one plus show his geography ignorance simultaneously?  I’m willing to bet I can find second and third graders that know Hawaii is a state and is composed of quite a few islands too.  Isn’t this a MaCaCa moment?

The ability of federal judges to strike down actions taken by Congress or the executive branch if they’re deemed unconstitutional is a hallmark of the American system of government. It’s an important part of the system of checks and balances, ensuring that the president and legislators don’t acquire too much power.

But to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, it’s “amazing” — and he means that in a bad way.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions told conservative radio host Mark Levin during an interview Tuesday (as reported by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski on Thursday). “The judges don’t get to psychoanalyze the president to see if the order he issues is lawful. It’s either lawful or it’s not.”

The “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” in question is District of Hawaii judge Derrick Watson, who ruled in March against the Trump administration’s attempt to temporarily ban residents of six majority-Muslim countries and nearly all refugees from entering the US. (Watson’s ruling is just a temporary injunction while the lawsuit against the ban, brought by states including Hawaii, gets a full hearing in court; the Trump administration is appealing Watson’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and appealing a separate ruling against the ban, issued in Maryland, to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Sessions’s remark has gotten a lot of attention as an attack on the state of Hawaii (not least because it fits a little too easily in a long tradition of racist dog-whistling about the “foreignness” of nonwhite and specifically Pacific Islander Americans), but it’s part of a broader attack from Republicans on the “liberal Ninth Circuit” as a whole — and the first indication that not only President Trump, but his chief law enforcement officer, is uneasy with the idea of judicial review itself.

Daily Don april 16.pngBut Sessions has decided to place the spying blame Julian Assange and flutter his little hands and air his squeaky little Tennessee Crackcer voice to keep the attention off his boss and off all those meetings with Russians of his own.

The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now a “priority” for the US, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has said.

Hours later it was reported by CNN that authorities have prepared charges against Assange, who is currently holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Donald Trump lavished praise on the anti-secrecy website during the presidential election campaign – “I love WikiLeaks,” he once told a rally – but his administration has struck a different tone.

Asked whether it was a priority for the justice department to arrest Assange “once and for all”, Sessions told a press conference in El Paso, Texas, on Thursday: “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious.”

He added: “So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

Citing unnamed officials, CNN reported that prosecutors have struggled with whether the Australian is protected from prosecution by the first amendment, but now believe they have found a path forward. A spokesman for the justice department declined to comment.

Barry Pollack, Assange’s lawyer, denied any knowledge of imminent prosecution. “We’ve had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr Assange,” he told CNN. “They’ve been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests, that they let us know what Mr Assange’s status is in any pending investigations. There’s no reason why WikiLeaks should be treated differently from any other publisher.”

We’re all still wondering why Jason Chaffetz is exiting stage left with intense speed. What’s he running from exactly?

Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.

In the political world, to Chaffetz means to throw a former mentor under the bus in order to get ahead, and various prominent Republicans, from former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. to House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, have experienced what it’s like to get Chaffetzed. But the five-term Utah Republican and powerful chairman of the House oversight committee shocked Washington on Wednesday when he announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 or run for any other political office that year in order to spend more time with his family.

“I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins,” he said in a statement. “I have the full support of Speaker [Paul] Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That said, I have made a personal decision to return to the private sector.”

His surprise announcement has fueled speculation of a possible scandal, though Chaffetz told Politico there’s nothing to the rumors about a skeleton in his closet: “I’ve been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine… If they had something really scandalous, it would’ve come out a long, long time ago.”

Louise Mensch thinks the Russians have Kompromat. Twitter rumors say that he’s been having multiple affairs.  (Who would fuck a man with a face like that?)

Okay, so I’m still thinking of planning an escape somewhere but meanwhile I’m here in the swamp with the Bagpipes wailing. I’m thinking I should get a set and practice at odd hours of the morning in front of the Air BnBs and the owners of my local nuisance bar. I’d be as unskilled as any of the musicians they hire for pennies there and at least as bad. One thing is certain that Scotland may look better than France if Marie LePen wins.

Have a great weekend! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  The music above is beautiful.  Give it an ear or two.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

The post World War 2 era led to the birth of a lot of new democracies as the colonial era started to wind down in earnest. European countries couldn’t rebuild and fund empires.  One of the most fascinating things to me about the current state of things in the world is that many places where democracy seemed well-rooted are plotting a path to return of autocratic forms of government. It hasn’t been that long since the USSR and its satellites broke up into many little experiments in democracy either.  What makes some countries shrug their collective shoulders and go back to strong men?

DIYARBAKIR, TURKEY – MARCH 27: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets crowd during a local election rally organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on March 27, 2014. (Photo by Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

At some point, you have to question which institutions have failed a country’s people but it’s undoubtedly an interplay of many. Turkey’s decline has many lessons for us. The similarities between Kremlin Caligula and Erdogan are eerie.  That’s why I decided to write about it today.

Modern day religious extremism ventures into politics disguised as upholding traditional culture and values. Patriotism and nationalism appeal to many. The next thing you know is there is no culture but state-approved culture. Turkey has realigned itself. It looked to the West for most of the 20th Century.  It now looks backward in time.  Many of the same warning signals are present within the US so a good look at Turkey is necessary. Foreign Policy argues that “Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t just win his constitutional referendum — he permanently closed a chapter of his country’s modern history.”

Why are the world’s democracies facing such threat to modernity?  Why place so much power in an executive branch?

Whether they understood it or not, when Turks voted “Yes”, they were registering their opposition to the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu and the version of modernity that Ataturk imagined and represented. Though the opposition is still disputing the final vote tallies, the Turkish public seems to have given Erdogan and the AKP license to reorganize the Turkish state and in the process raze the values on which it was built. Even if they are demoralized in their defeat, Erdogan’s project will arouse significant resistance among the various “No” camps. The predictable result will be the continuation of the purge that has been going on since even before last July’s failed coup including more arrests and the additional delegitimization of Erdogan’s parliamentary opposition. All of this will further destabilize Turkish politics.

Turkey’s Islamists have long venerated the Ottoman period. In doing so, they implicitly expressed thinly veiled contempt for the Turkish Republic. For Necmettin Erbakan, who led the movement from the late 1960s to the emergence of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in August 2001, the republic represented cultural abnegation and repressive secularism in service of what he believed was Ataturk’s misbegotten ideas that the country could be made Western and the West would accept it. Rather, he saw Turkey’s natural place not at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels but as a leader of the Muslim world, whose partners should be Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, and Indonesia.

When Erbakan’s protégés — among them Erdogan and former President Abdullah Gul — broke with him and created the AKP, they jettisoned the anti-Western rhetoric of the old guard, committed themselves to advancing Turkey’s European Union candidacy, and consciously crafted an image of themselves as the Muslim analogues to Europe’s Christian Democrats. Even so, they retained traditional Islamist ideas about the role of Turkey in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world.

Thinkers within the AKP — notably former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu — harbored reservations about the compatibility of Western political and social institutions with their predominantly Muslim society. But the AKP leadership never acted upon this idea, choosing instead to undermine aspects of Ataturk’s legacy within the framework of the republic. That is no longer the case.

The AKP and supporters of the “yes” vote argue that the criticism of the constitutional amendments was unfair. They point out that the changes do not undermine a popularly elected parliament and president as well as an independent (at least formally) judiciary. This is all true, but it is also an exceedingly narrow description of the political system that Erdogan envisions. Rather, the powers that would be afforded to the executive presidency are vast, including the ability to appoint judges without input from parliament, issue decrees with the force of law, and dissolve parliament. The president would also have the sole prerogative over all senior appointments in the bureaucracy and exercise exclusive control of the armed forces. The amendments obviate the need for the post of prime minister, which would be abolished. The Grand National Assembly does retain some oversight and legislative powers, but if the president and the majority are from the same political party, the power of the presidency will be unconstrained. With massive imbalances and virtually no checks on the head of state, who will now also be the head of government, the constitutional amendments render the Law on Fundamental Organization and all subsequent efforts to emulate the organizational principles of a modern state moot.

There is an uptick in groups of voters drawn to authoritarianism.  This is not what I expected when I watched the “Arab Spring” unfold on Twitter.  Donald Trump is not what I expected after Barrack Obama.  There appears to be a group of people that just love themselves better in the comfort of old school religion and backwoods bullies.  Each follower of the world’s largest religions needs to discern a difference between being a person of faith and blindly following your religion over a precipice and into slavery.  It always begins with a purge of intellectuals, scientists, and scholars.

It has been painful for me to witness the immense disappointment of Turkish intellectuals, resilient by tradition, and mainly left-leaning. All I could hear by phone or on social media was tormented despair – a crushing sense of defeat. What united all those in academia and the media or in NGOs, regardless of their political stripes, was that they had hoped for democratic change under the AKP.

Many of them had given credit to the party, and its early pledges and steps towards an order where the sharing of power would break the vicious circle of the republic. They wanted to believe in human rights, freedom and an end to the decades-long Kurdish conflict. But the deliberate reversal of democratisation left all of them feeling they had been duped.

This conclusion became undeniable when last summer’s attempted coup – the details of which are still unclear – led to an immense purge. Given this mood of despair and the sense of defeat, we should expect another exodus of fine human resources in the coming months and years.

Journalists – such as me, abroad, or at home – will find themselves challenged even more after the referendum. Coverage of corruption will be a daredevil act, severe measures against critical journalism will continue and the remaining resistance of media proprietors will vanish.

The Turkish media will begin to resemble those of the Central Asian republics, where only mouthpieces for those in power are allowed to exist. Inevitably, these conditions will shift the epicentre of independent journalism to outside the borders of Turkey. My colleagues have already realised that their dreams of a dignified fourth estate were nothing but an illusion.

“At the end of the day, Erdoğan is simply replacing one form of authoritarianism with another,” wrote Cook.

“The Turkish republic has always been flawed, but it always contained the aspiration that – against the backdrop of the principles to which successive constitutions claimed fidelity – it could become a democracy. Erdoğan’s new Turkey closes off that prospect.”

Just as in this country’s election in 2016, Erdoğan won a slim victory.  That’s not stopping him from sweeping reforms that are way out of line with progress and modernity.

An emboldened Recep Tayyip Erdogan followed his win in a referendum that ratified the supremacy of his rule by taking aim at political opponents at home and abroad.

At his victory speech late on Sunday, supporters chanted that he should bring back the death penalty — a move that would finish off Turkey’s bid to join the European Union — and Erdogan warned opponents not to bother challenging the legitimacy of his win. He told them to prepare for the biggest overhaul of Turkey’s system of governance ever, one that will result in him having even fewer checks on his already considerable power.

“Today, Turkey has made a historic decision,” he said. “We will change gears and continue along our course more quickly.” The lira surged as much as 2.5 percent against the dollar in early trading on Monday in Istanbul before gains moderated.

The success of a package of 18 changes to the constitution was narrow, with about 51.4 percent of Turks approving it. It came at the end of a divisive two-month campaign during which Erdogan accused opponents of the vote of supporting “terrorists” and denounced as Nazi-like the decision of some EU countries to bar his ministers from lobbying the diaspora.

“The referendum campaign was dominated by strongly anti-Western rhetoric and repeated promises to bring back the death penalty,” said Inan Demir, an economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in London. “One hopes that this rhetoric will be tempered now that the vote is over,” but recent steps by the Turkish government do“not bode well for the hoped-for moderation in international relations.”

I’m not the only one curious about this trend toward dilution of democracy in Western nations. There’s actually quite a bit discussion on the topic out there today.

Now that two obese men with bad hair and nuclear weapons didn’t end the world over the weekend, let’s talk about Turkey. Maybe keeping up with the former focal point of the Ottoman empire hasn’t been on the top of your to-do list. All well and good. But you may want to know they voted to weaken or even obliterate—depending on who you ask—their democracy over the weekend.

So what does this referendum of theirs mean? Only give the Turkish president hitherto unprecedented control over the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Now that the Turks have voted “Yes” to these constitutional reforms, they’re signing up for a form of government in which parliament’s monitoring of the executive branch is removed from the constitution and the judiciary is even weaker and less independent than it already was beforehand.

It’s a complex case though. Turkey’s government is different than America’s and, in some ways, they’re actually embracing a system more similar to the one US citizens are used to. The main transition is one from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential one, albeit a strongly authoritative one. Traditionally, the Turkish president is more figurehead than enforcer. They’re intended to be more Queen Elizabeth than Vladimir Putin or even Donald Trump.

As head of state, they act as the public face of the country, acting in times of emergency but largely delegating the business of lawmaking and government-running to their appointed prime minister. Until April 16, 2017, the president was mandated to cut ties from his party and maintain a largely neutral and apolitical stance, regardless of personal attachments or viewpoints. Now the office of prime minister is kaput and the president will have way more control over all branches of government. Parliament will still make laws and the judiciary will still try cases. But they’ll do little else and even those duties are capable of being bypassed by the president pretty easily.

The changes don’t go into effect until 2019 but when they do, the Turkish president can pass decrees as effective and codified as any parliamentary law, dissolve parliament, call for new elections, set the budget, declare a state of emergency, make unilateral national security decisions, appoint and remove all VPs and ministry heads at their own discretion and more. Don’t worry! If the president does something illegal, they can still be investigated if there’s a simple majority in parliament and a 60% vote to be tried then convicted by presidentially appointed judges.

And it’s so completely unconcerning the person who’ll most likely have all this unchecked executive power in 2019 is current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Just think of his inspirational and relatable backstory—he sold lemonade as a teenager in a rough part of town, played soccer for a while and wrote, and directed and starred in a play called Maskomya about how Freemasonry, Communism and Judaism are evil forces hellbent on destroying the world. Presidents: they’re just like us!

Yes, well much of this sounds eerily familiar doesn’t it?  Liz Cookman has argued that Turkey could be our future under Kremlin Caligula assuming the FBI and Eric Schneiderman don’t catch up with so many of his thugs that Congress has to act.  There are some frightening similarities.

Trump has voiced his support for the use of torture. And his similarities with the Turkish leader do not end there. Both use a rhetoric of patriotism to the point of nationalism, are vocal against abortion and are infamous for their tendency to objectify women and misunderstand feminism. They have both granted their sons-in-law important positions and both have a particularly thin skin when it comes to criticism, especially when it comes from comedians and journalists.

Erdoğan and Trump have publicly supported each other’s stance on the media in the past. Anyone who has spent time in Turkey will recognise Trump’s denouncement of negative coverage in outlets such as the New York Times as “fake news”. They will be familiar with headlines such as the one that appeared in far-right outlet Brietbart (whose founding member Steve Bannon is Trump’s chief strategist), used in relation to the protests in the US on Saturday – “Terror-tied group Cair causes chaos, promoting protests and lawsuits as Trump protects nation”. This is pure Erdoğan territory – denouncing opposition by associating it with terror while glorifying the strong leader. Turkey is the home of “alternative facts”.

A country that makes the media the enemy is a country where people are too easily manipulated by those in power. Journalists in Turkey, unless they work for organisations that toe the official government line on events, constantly wobble on a tightrope between reporting what’s going on and not reporting enough to get arrested. Even foreign journalists self-censor, double-check for unintended “insults” that could land them in trouble. They flinch when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, and wonder every time they go abroad whether they will be allowed back in the country.

We need to stand up against the vilification of the free press in the US now before it goes too far. Erdoğan is no longer good for Turkey, just like Trump is no good for America. They are changing the identities of their countries.

Not only English writers but French journalists notice the similarities.

But, back to the UK and Counterpunch.

The similarities between Erdogan and Trump are greater than they might seem, despite the very different political traditions in the US and Turkey.

The parallel lies primarily in the methods by which both men have gained power and seek to enhance it. They are populists and nationalists who demonise their enemies and see themselves as surrounded by conspiracies. Success does not sate their pursuit of more authority.

Hopes in the US that, after Trump’s election in November, he would shift from aggressive campaign mode to a more conciliatory approach have dissipated over the last two months. Towards the media his open hostility has escalated, as was shown by his abuse of reporters at his press conference this week.

Manic sensitivity to criticism is a hallmark of both men. In Trump’s case this is exemplified by his tweeted denunciation of critics such as Meryl Streep, while in Turkey 2,000 people have been charged with insulting the president. One man was tried for posting on Facebook three pictures of Gollum, the character in The Lord of the Rings, with similar facial features to pictures of Erdogan posted alongside. Of the 259 journalists in jail around the world, no less than 81 are in Turkey. American reporters may not yet face similar penalties, but they can expect intense pressure on the institutions for which they work to mute their criticisms.

Turkey and the US may have very different political landscapes, but there is a surprising degree of uniformity in the behaviour of Trump and Erdogan. The same is true of populist, nationalist, authoritarian leaders who are taking power in many different parts of the world from Hungary and Poland to the Philippines. Commentators have struggled for a phrase to describe this phenomenon, such as “the age of demagoguery”, but this refers only to one method – and that not the least important – by which such leaders gain power.

So, I’m sure this isn’t what you expected to read today.  But, it appears that my interest and concerns aren’t just wild hairs.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Friday Reads: War on Everyone

Good Afternoon!

It’s difficult to keep up.  I try to set aside interesting items and with in a few minute or hours they are dated!  It’s also challenging to keep up with the number of things being passed, signed, and appointed that are hostile to modernity,women, immigrants, civil rights, and science and knowledge in general.  Today’s list includes removing Consent Degrees that reform urban police departments, taking funds from all planned parenthood activities, and letting churches become SuperPacs. Oh, and White Nationalists have the sads about Steve Bannon.

Some of the  interesting illustrations today come from a Rev. Branford Clarke’s illustration in the 1926 book Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty and another propaganda book called Heroes of the Fiery Cross.  I thought it fitting we remind people of what kind of evil can lurk behind religious extremists.  The first set of illustrations is aimed directly at Catholicism which shows that there’s an internecine battle between Christian brands .

I’ve also included a Dr. Seuss cartoon from a similar period sending up the idea of  the “America First” movement from the WW2 period.  I think you can see today’s Deplorables are definitely throwbacks from the darkest parts of our country’s history. Notice the anti-immigrant movement at that time concentrated on sorting out right and wrong type Europeans around WW2.  It was the Chinese prior to that.  Some of these illustrations are propaganda. Others are political cartoons of the period fighting the same sentiments we see today.

Betsy DeVos is a total nutter.  So, why wouldn’t she bring on people who are just like her. This is from ProPublica.  “DeVos Pick to Head Civil Rights Office Once Said She Faced Discrimination for Being White. Candice Jackson’s intellectual journey raises questions about how actively she will investigate allegations of unfair treatment of minorities and women.”   I really have a difficult time understanding how upper middle class white people think they’re oppressed by minorities.

The new acting head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights once complained that she experienced discrimination because she is white.

As an undergraduate studying calculus at Stanford University in the mid-1990s, Candice Jackson “gravitated” toward a section of the class that provided students with extra help on challenging problems, she wrote in a student publication. Then she learned that the section was reserved for minority students.

“I am especially disappointed that the University encourages these and other discriminatory programs,” she wrote in the Stanford Review. “We need to allow each person to define his or her own achievements instead of assuming competence or incompetence based on race.”

Although her limited background in civil rights law makes it difficult to infer her positions on specific issues, Jackson’s writings during and after college suggest she’s likely to steer one of the Education Department’s most important — and controversial — branches in a different direction than her predecessors. A longtime anti-Clinton activistand an outspoken conservative-turned-libertarian, she has denounced feminism and race-based preferences. She’s also written favorably about, and helped edit a book by, an economist who decried both compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Jackson’s inexperience, along with speculation that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will roll back civil rights enforcement, lead some observers to wonder whether Jackson, like several other Trump administration appointees, lacks sympathy for the traditional mission of the office she’s been chosen to lead.

Her appointment “doesn’t leave me with a feeling of confidence with where the administration might be going,” said Theodore Shaw, director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law, who led Barack Obama’s transition team for civil rights at the Department of Justice.

The attack on Women and their Healthcare continues with abandon.

There was a stealth signing of an anti-Planned Parenthood law.  The Hyde Amendment has longed banned Federal Funds from supporting any abortion services but many in the religious nut crowd believe birth control is abortion and follow the lies of extremists who insist taxpayer money supports the procedure.

President Donald Trump privately signed a bill on Thursday that allows states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood, a group frequently targeted by Republicans.

The bill, which the usually camera-friendly President signed without any media present, reverses an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from withholding money from facilities that perform abortions, arguing that many of these facilities also provide other family planning and medical services.

The bulk of federal money Planned Parenthood receives, though, goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women’s health services. Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions and Planned Parenthood says 3% of the services it provides are abortions

The signing comes weeks after Vice President Mike Pence, a social conservative who regularly touts his anti-abortion stances, cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate after two Republicans opposed the measure.

“(Women’s) worst fears are now coming true. We are facing the worst political attack on women’s health in a generation as lawmakers have spent the past three months trading away women’s health and rights at every turn,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.

So far, we’ve seen no camera opportunities for  signings for the Planned Parenthood funding freeze, undermining gun background checks by allowing the mentally ill easy access, removing transgender protections and a Muslim Ban.  We’re also seeing a tax bill that includes a provision to let churches support political candidates. This is a move that most certainly runs afoul of the First Amendment but the religious nuts in this country don’t appear to care about anything but installing christofascism on us.

As Republicans struggle to craft a sweeping tax package — a process already rife with political land mines — they are preparing to add another volatile element to the mix: a provision that would end a six-decade-old ban on churches and other tax-exempt organizations supporting political candidates.

The repeal of the “Johnson amendment” is being written into tax legislation developed in the House of Representatives, according to aides. President Trump has vowed to “totally destroy” the provision at the behest of evangelical Christians who helped elect him.

The inclusion of the repeal in broader tax legislation could bolster its chances. A stand-alone bill would almost certainly face a filibuster in the Senate, where opponents fear the measure would effectively turn churches into super PACS.

There is some indication that Bannon and the out-of-the-linen-closet White Nationalists are despairing of Trump’s latest moves and forays into conventional NeoCon policies.

Politico has spoken with several nationalist Trump supporters who are already feeling disillusioned with what they’ve seen from the president, especially in the wake of former Breitbart editor Steve Bannon’s demotion from the National Security Council.

“It was like, here’s the chance to do something different — and that’s why people’s hopes are dashed,” Lee Stranahan, a former Breitbart News editor, tells Politico. “There was always the question of, ‘Did he really believe this stuff?’ Apparently the answer is, ‘Not as much as you’d like.’”

There is a lot of scuttlebutt and gossip around Bannon these days.  This is from the Politico bit on Bannon and his merry band of Bigots.  Remember, nutter Rebekah Mercer loves her some Bannon.  Will they go rogue?

Meanwhile, Bannon could launder more salacious hits through the tabloids. “You go National Enquirer on them,” said blogger Mike Cernovich, a self-described student of Bannon’s work who said he has discussed the eventuality of Bannon’s firing with people close to him.

“There’s sex scandals people are sitting on,” Cernovich said. “All the gossip and drama and stuff that might be a little more personal is going to get leaked.”

Trump mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, Bannon’s chief patron, spent much of Friday at the offices of Cambridge Analytica — a data firm in which her family is invested and on whose board Bannon sat before joining the White House — exploring potential gigs for Bannon should he be fired, according to The New York Times.

Cernovich speculated that Bannon could, with the help of Cambridge Analytica’s data, move from the personal to the political by identifying his enemies’ most vulnerable allies in Congress and encouraging challengers to run for their seats. “There will be big primary campaigns against them,” Cernovich said. “It will be Eric Cantor-style warfare.”

Several people familiar with Bannon’s modus operandi said he would be unlikely to take on Trump directly, preferring instead to shift blame toward others while leaving the door open to a rapprochement with the president — at least at first.

“In Steve’s dream scenario, he would depart, things would fall apart even more so, and Trump would beg him to come back to fix it,” Bardella said.

Otherwise, Trump could eventually find himself directly in Bannon’s cross hairs, some said.

“We would see House and Senate races in 2018 to, you know, go after Trump’s agenda,” said internet troll Charles Johnson, an ally of Bannon who worked for him at Breitbart. “Everything would slow down. His presidency would essentially be over. Bannon is more than just a man. He is honestly something of an idea because he represents something that both the establishment and the left-wing media hate.”

Some analysts believe that the departure of Bannon would create virtual war on Trump’s blue collar supporters. 

If Bannon leaves the White House, his departure might be viewed as the end of Trump as a defender of blue-collar Americans. In fact, though, we are dealing more in perceptions than in reality. Behind the mask, Trump never really showed serious interest in transforming the basic Republican agenda to help struggling Americans.

On Wednesday, Trump reversed himself on his tough rhetoric about China when he said that he no longer planned to get rid of the Export-Import Bank. The GOP plan to replace Obamacare, which has failed to gain enough votes to pass the House, would take away benefits from some of Trump’s lower income supporters. And his proposed budget also would have drawbacks for parts of Trump’s base.
In many of the rural areas that voted for Trump, residents would experience cuts to senior centers, after-school programs, farm services and infrastructure spending for towns and more.
Trump’s plans to weaken government regulation — although a boon to financial services and fossil fuel executives — also may not help his base. The benefits might “trickle down,” but right now the verdict is out.
Trump promised to break with traditional approaches to politics so that he could uplift the “forgotten” Americans suffering from the elimination of manufacturing jobs and rising inequality.
Trump promised to break with traditional approaches to politics so that he could uplift the “forgotten” Americans suffering from the elimination of manufacturing jobs and rising inequality. But, in fact, he’s behaving like a classic Republican politician.
Where would we be on this topic without a discussion of that sly old KKK coot AG Jeff Sessions who wants to improve police morale by removing consent degrees.  Set those downtrodden urban police officers free!!

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday that consent decrees between the federal government and local police departments on reforming police activities can lower police morale.

Sessions’ comments come after he ordered the Justice Department earlier this month to review all existing consent decrees. The decrees are formal agreements between the federal government and local police departments overseen by a federal court.

Sessions made comments on “The Howie Carr Show,” a New England-based conservative radio program.

“I do share your concern that these investigations and consent decrees have the, can turn bad. They can reduce morale of the police officers,” Sessions said. “They can push back against being out on the street in a proactive way. You know New York has proven community-based policing, this CompStat plan, the broken windows, where you’re actually arresting even people for smaller crimes — those small crimes turn into violence and death and shootings if police aren’t out there.”

“So every place these decrees, and as you’ve mentioned some of these investigations have gone forward, we’ve seen too often big crime increases,” Sessions continued. “I mean big crime increases. Murder doubling and things of that nature. It’s just, we’ve got to be careful, protect people’s Civil Rights. We can’t have police officers abusing their power. We will not have that. But there are lawful approved, constitutional policies that places — New York is — the murder rate is well below a lot of these other cities that aren’t following these tactics.”

More than twenty cities–including my home New Oreans–are under DOJ Consent decrees.  This is one of the biggest legacies of the Obama administration.

At the time, former Attorney General Eric Holder explained his department would attempt to negotiate a “consent decree” with municipal leaders and, in absence of a settlement, sue in federal court to compel action. Seeing no immediate reform–outside of several notable resignations and firings in Ferguson–and demanding an extension that covers all 90 jurisdictions in St. Louis County, social justice advocates were ho-hum when the department released its findings in Cleveland last December and, more recently, announced a similar investigation would be conducted in Baltimore.

The truth is more than 20 U.S. cities are now under a consent decree, meaning they have agreed to work with the Justice Department’s civil rights division to—in effect—reform themselves. The legally binding actions outlined are specific and stem from rigorous fact-finding. In recent days, the city of Cleveland entered a similar agreement, and current Attorney General Loretta Lynch signaled she will lead an investigation into the Baltimore police department after Freddie Gray was killed in police custody.

Cleveland has been embroiled in controversy since the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November and the acquittal of police office Michael Brelo in the fatal shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Brelo was among 13 officers who unleashed a stunning 137 rounds on the unarmed suspects as they sat in their car. The city was already under a “pattern and practice” investigation at the time of both incidents.

So the question remains: how effective are such measures?

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed in 1994, has proven to be one of the most significant pieces of justice-related legislation enacted over the last 20 odd years. It is most widely known for its problematic measures, including the so-called “three strikes” law that mandates life imprisonment for three-time offenders. Signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, that aspect has disproportionately fueled the mass incarceration of African American men.

However, the law also handed the civil rights division the ability to pursue police agencies if they demonstrate a “pattern and practice” of violating the Constitutional rights of the people they are sworn to serve and protect—including the use of excessive force, racial profiling, and policing-for-profit schemes. The extraordinary language came just three years after Rodney King was beaten by four LAPD police officers. It was a response to a national outcry that the federal government do more to hold law enforcement agencies accountable when local authorities fail.

The prevalence of third-party videotape, which grew exponentially in the years since Rodney King with the advent of smartphone technology and the ubiquitous nature of surveillance cameras, has afforded investigating agencies with a bevy of tangible evidence. Relying on an officer’s statement, as North Charleston, South Carolina police had initially done in the case of patrolman Michael Slager, is no longer the end of the inquiry. Slager, who was unaware that a bystander recorded him, made a flurry of false statements related to the death of Walter Scott. When a tape emerged of him standing calmly in a footpath and shooting Scott five times in the back, he was arrested and charged.

This is definitely a huge concern for those of us that live in urban areas where police practices have been anything but enlightened.  It’s been a major way of putting all levels of government and the communities in a place where reform is possible.

Now it’s in jeopardy along with many other things.

So, the one bit of rumors coming from left wing media that seems terrifically exciting is that there are about to be arrests in the T-Russia Spy-O-Rama. 

The claim first came from @SheWhoVotes, a Twitter user who is also a Constitutional lawyer and has a solid track record. She tweeted today that she’s “Hearing from intelligence insiders that [New York State Attorney General Eric] Scheiderman is working closely with intel. They’re going to take out the entire three ring circus” (link). This was then quickly validated with the words “Fact check: true” by Louise Mensch, a former member of British Parliament who is now a political journalist, and whose inside sources have been consistently correct about the FISA warrants in the Trump-Russia investigation going back to last fall.

My feet are doing a jig over this one:

Anyway, I decided skip the part where we open the third war front against NK in an attempt to distract the Press from the rest of this steaming hot pile of shit. Because, these are the real revolting developments …


Monday Reads: That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more.

I’m dealing with the death of my cousin Ruthie who was closest to me in age and always put in charge of me when I was little in our nearly weekly visits to Kansas City. She died yesterday of ALS which is a disease that is horrid beyond measure and requires a lot of further research to unwind. Death is natural and inevitable but we should be able to find ways of better dealing with horrifying deadly diseases. While the Trump budget is finding ways to give the extremely wealthy more tax cuts and fund more military publicity stunts, its priorities are shameful when it comes to the CDC, funding basic scientific and medical research, and anything that has to do with making medical help available to people that truly need it. 

President Donald Trump’s plan to cut billions of dollars in funding to medical and scientific research agencies would cost the country countless jobs, stall medical advances and threaten America’s status as the world leader in science and medicine, advocates said Thursday.

“Cutting the funding in this way will have devastating and generation-long effects,” said Dr. Clifford Hudis, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which represents cancer specialists.

“[Medical research] is a fundamental driver of American economic strength and it is being compromised here,” Hudis told NBC News. “It’s a jobs program.”

Multiple organizations expressed shock and disappointment at Trump’s budget proposal, which adds $54 billion in defense spending but would slash nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, which funds most basic medical research in the country, as well as eliminate entirely dozens of other agencies and programs.

It would cut the overall Health and Human Services department budget by 18 percent, including the 20 percent budget reduction at NIH, and reassign money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to states.

Most cancer drugs get their start in the basic research funded by the NIH and often done in NIH labs.

“The targeted therapies, the immunotherapies, the conventional chemotherapy drugs — all of these things have roots in the NIH,” Hudis said.

Meanwhile, Team Gleason–including some friends of mine hoping to raise funds to find an ALS cure–is running in the Crescent City Classic this weekend in a subevent called the Race for Team Gleason.  My cousin was active in events raising funds for ALS Research.  (My friends Cait and Caroline are running in Ruthie’s honor this Saturday!  You can get to the donation page here. All proceeds to go Steve Gleason’s ALS efforts!)

Why do we have to have fundraisers for everything but freaking war in this country?

So, I’ve been crying last night and today. Ruthie paved the way for lots of stuff for me.   Just as she helped me spend nights away from home in her bedroom and big girl twin beds, she introduced me to Pet Sounds and using juice cans for hair rollers. She got a great job in high school at the local mall at a dress store.  I got to visit her at work in all her blue eye shadow, page boy hair, and A-line dress glory and was totally awed.  The idea of working during school was a total scandal to my mother and she went on about it for weeks.  I’m not sure what exactly passed between then and me 5 years later but my mother had no problem with me working at the local dress store at the local mall when I hit sweet 16.

There are so many people in our lives that should’t die of ALS or many currently deadly diseases. As a country, we’ve had priorities to get rid of tuberculosis and polio, and make AIDS a chronic disease and not a death sentence.  With money and research, we get it done.  I decided to write about Ruthie and her struggle with ALS in light of many things. Least among them is this.

The Trump administration has failed to fill crucial public health positions across the government, leaving the nation ill-prepared to face one of its greatest potential threats: a pandemic outbreak of a deadly infectious disease, according to experts in health and national security.

No one knows where or when the next outbreak will occur, but health security experts say it is inevitable. Every president since Ronald Reagan has faced threats from infectious diseases, and the number of outbreaks is on the rise.

Over the past three years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has monitored more than 300 outbreaks in 160 countries, tracking 37 dangerous pathogens in 2016 alone. Infectious diseases cause about 15 percent of all deaths worldwide.

But after 11 weeks in office, the Trump administration has filled few of the senior positions critical to responding to an outbreak. There is no permanent director at the CDC or at the US Agency for International Development. At the Department of Health and Human Services, no one has been named to fill sub-Cabinet posts for health, global affairs, or preparedness and response. It’s also unclear whether the National Security Council will assume the same leadership on the issue as it did under President Barack Obama, according to public health experts.

This administration has time for golf galore.  It has time to sign executive orders decimating equal pay for women and the rights of GLBT to be free from discrimination, and to demand ways government can be shredded to bits so the planet is essentially made uninhabitable.  It has time for costly publicity stunts to remove public attention and press attention from its never growing list of scandals and conflicts of interest.  It has no time for governing or policy for American people.

In other words, showy actions that win a news cycle or two are no substitute for actual, coherent policies. Indeed, their main lasting effect can be to squander a government’s credibility. Which brings us to last week’s missile strike on Syria.

The attack instantly transformed news coverage of the Trump administration. Suddenly stories about infighting and dysfunction were replaced with screaming headlines about the president’s toughness and footage of Tomahawk launches.

But outside its effect on the news cycle, how much did the strike actually accomplish? A few hours after the attack, Syrian warplanes were taking off from the same airfield, and airstrikes resumed on the town where use of poison gas provoked Mr. Trump into action. No doubt the Assad forces took some real losses, but there’s no reason to believe that a one-time action will have any effect on the course of Syria’s civil war.

In fact, if last week’s action was the end of the story, the eventual effect may well be to strengthen the Assad regime — Look, they stood up to a superpower! — and weaken American credibility.

In fact, all Trump minions appear to have a thing against science and improving the lives of people and the justice for which we stand.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers.

In a statement Monday, Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013.

A path to meet needs of overburdened crime labs will be set by a yet-to-be named senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force, Sessions’s statement said.

I’ve long reached the “PopEye Point”.  The Senate Nuclear option just installed a terrible SCOTUS judge because Mitch McConnell.  We now have a President that lost the popular vote by a historically huge margin and a Supreme Court Judge that couldn’t muster the usual vote.

Gorsuch’s confirmation once again gives the Supreme Court a majority of Republican appointees, as it had before Scalia’s death, last February. But Ginsburg (who was appointed by Bill Clinton) is eighty-four; Anthony Kennedy (the Court’s swing vote, appointed by Reagan) is eighty; and Stephen Breyer (a Clinton appointee) is seventy-eight. If Trump has the opportunity to replace any of these three, much less all of them, the ideological balance of the Court will be transformed for at least a generation.

Gorsuch was quietly installed by Trump today with very little notice.

The confirmation of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has left shattered political conventions in its wake: the refusal to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, the first partisan filibuster of a high court nominee, and the demise of the Senate filibuster for judges altogether.

All this smashed political pottery shows not only how polarized our politics have become, but how dramatically the stakes of filling a vacant Supreme Court seat have increased. Three key factors arebehind this.

First, the average tenure of a justice is much longer now. From 1941 to 1970, justices served an average of about 12 years. But from 1971 to 2000, they served an average of 26 years.

That figure has increased only since 2000. When John Paul Stevens retired from the court in 2010, he had served 35 years. When Antonin Scalia died, he had served 30 years. Anthony M. Kennedy has served 29 years, Clarence Thomas 26 years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg 24 years, and Stephen G. Breyer 23 years. Presidents who might serve only four years can have influence decades later if they can appoint someone to the Supreme Court.

Second, precisely because justices serve so much longer, vacant seats arise less often. From 1881 to 1970, a vacancy arose on average once every 1.7 years. But since 1970, a seat has become vacant only once every three years or so. In the first era, a two-term president typically would appoint four or five justices, or more than half the court. But since 1970, a two-term president would typically appoint two or three justices.

The longer period between vacancies also means that some presidents will not appoint any Supreme Court justices at all. Jimmy Carter was the first president to complete one term without having made a single appointment. If George W. Bush had been a one-term president, the same would have happened to him.

Gorsuch has a chance to fuck us over for a very long time. He’s likely to join the other religious extremists in a Taliban-like imposition of whackadoodle presumed gawdly law aka Hobby Lobby.

The most anticipated case in the April sitting is probably Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a case about whether a state constitutional provision that prevents state funds from going to religious institutions violates the federal Constitution — both the clause protecting the free exercise of religion and the clause guaranteeing the equal protection of the laws. Here a church that contains a playground applied for a state program that helps nonprofits resurface their playgrounds. The church was denied access to the program because of its status as a church, and it argues that this is unconstitutional.

I’d say the other big cases to watch right now are the various challenges to the president’s second travel ban executive order. Both the 4th Circuit and the 9th Circuit will hear arguments in May on the constitutionality of the travel ban. Whatever happens in those cases, the losing party is virtually certain to seek Supreme Court review. Although the court doesn’t typically hear cases between April and October, it’s certainly not unheard of for it to do so — and I think it’s quite possible here, in particular if the administration loses and asks the court to act quickly. The court could also rule without hearing arguments.

So, this is about all I have room for today in me.  I’m hoping to get some work done and find some peace by leaving the TV off and walking away from the news on the internet if I can.

Please, send some money to Team Gleason or to any other group of people fighting horrible diseases.  It appears that if we don’t do it, it won’t get done unless it sends money directly to the Trump Family Syndicate.

Oh, and if you really want to be depressed about something, you can read this about predatory Student Loans or this:

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: The 1/4 Year of Living Dangerously (and surrounded by total chaos)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Or what’s left of the morning and good in the world.

Drinking my morning coffee and reading the newspaper–now PC screen–is a habit I come by naturally. It’s a ritual my family followed for years.  Then, there was the follow-up ritual of turning on the evening news and reading the evening paper after my dad and others depending on who we were staying with in Kansas City that weekend. It could also include a grandfather or an uncle. It was something my mother did too.  I loved sitting on my Grandfather’s lap, smelling his cigar, and listening to him read the funnies to me in between pointing out all kinds of happenings. He was a Vice President of the Federal Reserve and ran the War Bond programs for a few states for both Wars.  He was a huge news hound.

For many years, it’s been a comforting ritual even though much of what I saw on black and white, then color, news programs and read on newsprint now followed by the bytes of light on my computer has not been all good. There have been scary times like the Cuban Missile Crisis or watching Civil Rights Demonstrators being badly beaten and seeing Southern Sheriffs turn dogs and hoses on children my age. That was horrifying to me. I was profoundly impacted by the war porn of Vietnam with the ghastly body count numbers that came out nightly. There was Watergate, Shock and Awe, assassinations, and planes crashing into the Twin Towers.  There were also men walking on the moon. All of these happened over decades.  It did not happen over the span of just a few months.  We have a 30 second news cycle. It’s full of awful, plentiful stories. You have to search to find the good.

Those of us in our twilight years can attest to being the generation that watched it all unfurl nearly live and then very live.  Until the last two months, I thought that I’d seen enough chaos, corruption, cruelty, and stupidity that I was inured to just about anything. I watched the Nixon Watergate hearings and rantings in High School. I saw the McCarthy hearings on film in my 8th grade American History class.  I’ve witnessed crazy Republicans, believe me. But, at the time, my nice staid Republican family–of which I was one for many years–felt that the few odds and sods that showed up ever so often were odd men out.  They’re not odd men out any more. They’re very much in and it seems like the doors of bedlam were opened so they could all run for office.

Media was also part of school. We watched “Biography” frequently or any number of documentaries on the school’s collection of TVs, VCRS, films and projectors, and the early broadcasts of PBS.  We had at least one day a week where we had to bring a newspaper article to discuss. Growing up in educated, upper middle class WASP America meant being educated and informed in my household. It meant voting and volunteering.  It meant making sure that we did things that represented the basic value of “to whom much is given, much is asked”.

I may have learned the lessons of Jesus with a Presbyterian minister who drove an orange convertible fiat, spent a hell of a lot of time on the golf course at the local, very expensive and exclusive country club, and had the most jaunty outfits you could imagine to include leather driving gloves and tweed caps, but I was sent on summers to do all kinds of work in Rural New Mexico.  I was taught the Beatitudes were the basis of my beliefs even though the Sunday sermons were usually illustrated by the pronouncement to think about these things when you’re in the locker room or the bridge room of the Country Club. Of course, that was the country club with no Jewish members, a rare number of Catholics, and black Americans only as employees.

I breathed rarefied air most of my life. But, I was not raised to be ignorant, cruel, or uniformed.  Now, I have found myself in a country where ignorance, cruelty, and propaganda rule the day and it has just about turned me into something I barely recognize. I’m drained. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to be around people I don’t know extremely well.

There are a lot of headlines today. I can barely deal with one of them.  After spending the entire year dehumanizing the Syrian people and showing abject loathing of suffering Syrian families that include “beautiful babies”, the  U.S. Launches Missiles at Syrian Base After Chemical Weapons Attack.

The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria overnight in response to what it believes was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.

At least six people were killed, Syria claimed, but the Pentagon said civilians were not targeted and the strike was aimed at a military airfield in Homs.

All but one of the missiles hit their intended target, one U.S. military official told NBC News. The other missile failed.

The strike completed a policy reversal for President Donald Trump — who once warned America to stay out of the conflict — and drew angry responses from Damascus and its main ally, Russia.

Yes. Kremlin Caligulia–most likely compensating for his tiny little fingers–pulled the US’s stockpile of phallic symbols out and blew up the maintenance crews and buildings of a Syrian Military Airbase. There’s evidence that the Russians were alerted and the Syrians knew beforehand.

Syrian military officials appeared to anticipate Thursday night’s raid on Syria‘s Shayrat air base, evacuating personnel and moving equipment ahead of the strike, according to an eyewitness.

Dozens of Tomahawk missiles struck the air base near Homs, damaging runways, towers and traffic control buildings, a local resident and human rights activist living near the air base told ABC News via an interpreter.

U.S. officials believe the plane that dropped chemical weapons on civilians in Idlib Province on Tuesday, which according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights killed 86 people, took off from the Shayrat airbase.

The attack lasted approximately 35 minutes and its impact was felt across the city, shaking houses and sending those inside them fleeing from their windows. Both of the air base’s major runways were struck by missiles, and some of its 40 fortified bunkers were also damaged.

Local residents say the Russian military had used the air base in early 2016 but have since withdrawn their officers, so the base is now mainly operated by Syrian and Iranian military officers. There is also a hotel nearby where Iranian officers have been staying, though it was not clear whether it was damaged.

The eyewitness believes human casualties, at least within the civilian population, were minimal, as there was no traffic heading toward the local hospital.

So, it was mostly an empty gesture.  It was more likely another display of the decimation of Obama policy.  It was more Branding of Kremlin Caligula as tough asshole. You will notice that no Syrian children are on their way to our hospitals and the safety of our communities after that costly gesture.  There were a few crocodiles tears last night at Orange-Lago central where the Presidential announcement sounded like it came from a NAZI bunker at the end of the that long war.

The events of the past week, culminating in the decision by President Obama’s successor to launch a punitive strike on a Syrian air base in retaliation for Assad’s continued use of chemical weapons against civilians, prove a number of points, some that reflect well on Obama, and some that do not. The first is that the 2013 Obama-Putin deal to disarm Assad of his chemical weapons was a failure. It was not a complete failure, in that stockpiles were indeed removed, but Assad kept enough of these weapons to allow him to continue murdering civilians with sarin gas. The argument that Obama achieved comprehensive WMD disarmament without going to war is no longer, as they say in Washington, operative.

The events of the past week also prove that a core principle of the Obama Doctrine is dead. President Trump’s governing foreign policy doctrine is not easily discernible, of course. His recent statements about Syria—kaleidoscopic in their diversity—combined with his decision to order an attack, have half-convinced me that he is something wholly unique in the history of the presidency: an isolationist interventionist.

The Constitutionality of the action is in question since it’s an attack on the military of a foreign nation which is basically an act of war.

The first part asks whether the President has presumptive authority to use force unilaterally.  For OLC, this authority turns on whether the “national interest” vindicated by the use of force sufficiently important?  That sounds vague and easy to satisfy, but as we’ll see in a moment, OLC has (at least until the Syria strike) pointed to some objective limits.  If the president perceives that “national interest” would be vindicated by a use of force,  OLC says that he can presumptively use force abroad under his powers as “Commander in Chief and Chief Executive, for foreign and military affairs, as well as national security.”

However, OLC acknowledged “one possible constitutionally-based limit on this presidential authority to employ military force in defense of important national interests—a planned military engagement that constitutes a ‘war’ within the meaning of the Declaration of War Clause may require prior congressional authorization.”  This second part of the test turns on the “anticipated nature, scope, and duration of the planned military operations.”  The idea is that relatively short-term and small-scale operations abroad are not “war” and thus do not implicate the Declare War clause, but larger-scale, longer-term operations might be “war” and thus might implicate the clause.

Applying this test to Syria, consider the “scale of operations” prong first.  The U.S. military last night fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield in Syria.  We don’t know whether or when it might strike again, and for now, at least, there appears to be no prospect of directing U.S. boots on the ground toward Syrian forces.  From the perspective of Executive branch precedent, air campaigns—especially short-term ones, and especially ones (like those involving cruise missiles or drones) that present practically no chance of American casualties—easily satisfy the “anticipated nature, scope and duration” test for not impinging on congressional prerogatives.  (As Matt Waxman and I explained, the Obama administration’s clarification of the president’s unilateral power to engaged in “limited” war from a distance was one of its central legal legacy’s related to war powers.)  As long as the military intervention in Syria is short term and limited and does not involve ground troops against Assad forces, it breaks no new legal ground.

The same cannot be said of the other prong of the test, which asks whether the President has authority to strike in the first place.  What is the important national interest in intervening in Syria?  No U.S. persons or property are at stake.  That fact alone distinguishes most executive branch precedents.  In the Libya opinion, OLC argued that “at least two national interests that the President reasonably determined were at stake here—preserving regional stability and supporting the UNSC’s credibility and effectiveness.”  The second interest—the “credibility and effectiveness” of a Security Council Resolution—is a controversial basis for justifying presidential unilateralism because it seems to substitute international institutional approval for congressional approval.  This line of reasoning  began with Truman’s unilateral initiation of the Korean war in response to North Korea’s international aggression.  In that instance, in 1950, the State Department argued (among other things) that the President as Commander in Chief could deploy U.S. armed forces, consistent with the Constitution, for the purpose of upholding the “paramount United States interest” in the “continued existence of the United Nations as an effective international organization.”  Moreover, the Kosovo precedent arguably extends this reasoning from the Security Council to NATO, which supported (and indeed conducted) the Kosovo strikes.

The administration continues to be unpredictable, contrarian of its own spoken or twittered words, and chaotic. How can a great country be ruled under these circumstances?

Just as chaos and treason ruled the Trump campaign, the Trump Administration is already jettisoning its bad personnel choices. Most of the real work is not being done by any one because no one has appointed those ‘any ones’ yet.  But, we already have more firings of people on the horizon with in the West Wing if you believe sources at Axios.

President Trump is considering a broad shakeup of his White House that could include the replacement of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the departure of chief strategist Steve Bannon, aides and advisers tell us.

A top aide to Trump said he’s contemplating major changes, but that the situation is very fluid and the timing uncertain: “Things are happening, but it’s very unclear the president’s willing to pull that trigger.”

 Insiders tell me that the possibilities for chief of staff include:

  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who developed a bond with Trump as one of the earlier congressional leaders to support him, and remains a confidant.
  • Wayne Berman of Blackstone Group, a Washington heavy-hitter who was an Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush, and a key adviser on eight presidential campaigns.
  • David Urban of the Washington advisory firm American Continental Group, and a former chief of staff to the late Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). Urban helped Trump win an upset victory in Pennsylvania, and was in constant cellphone contact with the candidate throughout the campaign.
  • Gary Cohn, Trump’s economic adviser and the former #2 at Goldman Sachs, who has built a formidable team and internal clout.

The West Wing “Game of Thrones” has been raging ever since Trump took office. But the war between the nationalists and the moderates, led by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, burst into the open this week after Bannon was taken off the National Security Council, setting off a torrent of leaks against him.

Bannon called reports that he was ready to quit “100 percent nonsense.”

Just like no one bombed the Governor of Michigan for poisoning the children of Flint, no one will care as this President poisons the children of the Gulf for no particular reason than the greed of Tillerson and the like.  No one will likely mention that job growth is slowing.   Businesses hate uncertainty and any thing in the planning stage that can be halted likely will.

Meanwhile, Trump Princeling Jared has the highest security clearance while commiting acts of omission that would tank any one else’s credentials and clearance.

Trump isn’t keen on the first amendment as he’s gone after anonymous tweet accounts that find him disgusting.  Trump is well known for trolling then President Obama with some of the worst lies and slurs one can imagine.  He can dish it out but cannot take it.  Plus, he doesn’t realize he’s now subject to free speech rules.

Twitter Inc on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit to block an order by the U.S. government demanding that it reveal who is behind an account opposed to President Donald Trump’s tough immigration policies.

Twitter cited freedom of speech as a basis for not turning over records about the account, @ALT_uscis. The account is claimed to be the work of at least one federal immigration employee, according to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court.

The acronym U.S. CIS refers to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the account describes itself as “immigration resistance.” Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and has promised to deport millions of illegal immigrants.

Following Trump’s inauguration in January, anonymous Twitter feeds that borrowed the names and logos of more than a dozen U.S. government agencies appeared to challenge the president’s views on climate change and other issues. They called themselves “alt” accounts.

Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio declined to comment on whether the government had demanded information about other accounts critical of Trump.

Twitter, which counts Trump among its active users, has a record of litigating in favor of user privacy.

I ran across an interesting article at Fusion that I’d like to share. It suggests that the current mess we’re in is due to an industry that makes a pot lying to white men.

If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them.

It’s the basic explanation that old school Republicans thought they could radicalize their base and not expect the base to eventually turn on them.

But the complete and inarguable disaster of the Bush administration—a failure of the conservative movement itself, one undeniable even to many consumers of the parallel conservative media—and his abrupt replacement by a black man, caused a national nervous breakdown among the people who’d been told, for many years, that conservatism could not fail, and that all Real Americans agreed with them.

Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.

That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.

Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet—who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.

My father spent many of his last years swallowing what Fox dished out and it took a lot of time on my part to disabuse of him of the notion that any one on FOX  was worthy of shining the shoes of David Brinkly or Chet Huntley.

 

Please listen to the last words of Chet Huntley on his last night of broadcast in 1970 then let me close with Brian Williams. Ask yourselves when American news and news watchers went down the prime rose path straight into the rabbit hole. This headline suggests more than FOX has gone down the Rabbit Hole: “Brian Williams is ‘guided by the beauty of our weapons’ in Syria strikes”.  WAPO writer Derek Hawkins is none too kind to Williams.

As dozens of cruise missiles laid waste to a Syrian military airfield late Thursday, MSNBC’s Brian Williams took a moment to wax poetic.

All evening, MSNBC and other news networks had been playing a reel of footage of the assault, which President Trump authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed more than 70 civilians this week.

The footage, provided by the Pentagon, showed several Tomahawk missiles launching from U.S. Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, illuminating the decks of the ships and leaving long trails of smoke in the night sky.

It was a sight that seemed to dazzle Williams, who described the images as “beautiful” in a segment on his show, “The 11th Hour.”

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” Williams said. “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

“They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield,” he added, then asked his guest, “What did they hit?”

The remarks drew backlash on Twitter, where some users seemed disturbed by Williams’s flowery language.

At some point, I feel like I’ve crossed into the zone of the crazy cat lady who screams at the teenagers in the yard every time I close the screen on the latest news.  I rarely venture on to the boob tube news zone at all unless it’s really something breaking. This week I sallied forth and am retreating.

I haven’t even gotten around to elucidating all the bad things about McConnell going nuclear and that Gorsuch–a huge mistake for all of us–has just been confirmed for the benefit of the worst of the religious nuts in our country. I’m at nearly 3500 words and all I can say is

“Good night, David” – “Good night, Chet… and good night” TO(sic) NBC News!


Monday Reads: As we learn more about the MAGAs and EmoProgs that fell for the old “provokatsiya”

Good Morning!

I woke this morning at 5 am to the sound of a tornado warning going off on my smartphone. This is not exactly the most welcome sound at any early hour but particularly cruel on a Monday. Some how, it seems that our endless experience with tornadoes and the torrential rain, wind and hail are metaphorical harbingers of the state of our country.  The weather is getting more extreme and severe and yet we’re in the process of going back to denial and letting it happen.  I wonder if Alexandria and the other small communities of Louisiana will be able to get a Federal State of Emergency signed in time. I’m not hopeful.  Eastern New Orleans is still waiting for a lot of help after the destruction of the February 7 Tornado Outbreak.

This so didn’t have to happen.

I don’t know how much longer I can endure hearing or seeing either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump on TV or any place else. How did two throwbacks to the past become installed as “leaders” when they basically look to turn our national dreams into the national nightmares of the past? Headlines regale us of the antics of old, snotty white men like Bernie, Donald, and Mitch McConnell who are desperately trying to put women, minorities, immigrants, and the GLBT community back in their historical places. Alarms should be sounding constantly. Hell is being rained on our civil rights, liberties, and democracy.  Just “Gimme Some Truth”.

 

There are some incredible and powerful reads for you today. Here’s the one on my list from the LA Times. They’re running a four part series on the incredible lying Kremlin Caligula. Here’s the link to the Sunday Op Ed that kicks it off: “Our Dishonest President”.  Don the Con may soon replace Tricky Dicky in the National Hall of Shameful Presidential Crooks.

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Go savor every word of it.

Yes.  The Trumptanic is going down.   What will it take with it? This is from the keyboard of Jonathan Allen writing for Roll Call.

Dear Republican member of the House:

Run away from Donald Trump. Run hard. Run fast. And don’t look over your shoulder.

This president doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t share your values, and a dumpster fire would be envious of his reckless disregard for everything and everyone around him.

Senate Republicans have figured this out, and their distancing act is well underway. Sure, they say supportive things, but look at their actions.

When Trump’s first bill was headed toward the House floor, several Senate Republicans openly pressed their colleagues not to pass it. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t crack down on them a bit. And, when the clunky-at-best legislation was pulled from the floor, he pronounced it dead even as the White House and House GOP leaders were explaining how they might revive it

The chances that we will see impeachment are going up as quickly as Trump’s poll numbers are plummeting.  This is from Juan Williams writing for The Hill.

Last week, a new poll from the liberal outfit Public Policy Polling (PPP) asked Americans if President Trump should resign if evidence emerges that his campaign worked with Russia to help defeat Hillary Clinton. A majority, 53 percent, said he should resign.

That is important because PPP also found that 44 percent of Americans already believe that Trump’s campaign did just that.

It is no fantasy to say the drip-drip-drip of the Trump-Russia investigations is draining this presidency of political capital. The president’s historically high disapproval rating — 51 percent in the latest McClatchy poll — tells the same story.

That’s why astute Republicans are starting to look out for themselves.

The first Republican to begin to run for cover was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who decided to recuse himself from any role in the investigation. Last week Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, sought immunity in exchange for his testimony to congressional investigators.

A majority of Americans want a special prosecutor — including 39 percent of Republicans, according to one poll. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for Congress to form a bipartisan select committee to probe ties between Russia and the Trump camp.

I loved this headline from Raw Story: Trump allies in short supply as DC finds out trusting him is ‘like putting your faith in a human IED’.  It talks about Trump’s new war on the Freedom Caucus.

At heart, the Freedom Caucus agrees with the basic principle of Trumpism: that Washington doesn’t work, that its members are denizens of a corrupt and dysfunctional swamp, and that only a revolution in its operations can save the republic. The dilemma for Trump is that conservatives largely built their base of support on fierce opposition to the establishment agenda, and an ability to gum it up to the point nothing gets done. Its hardline members think it’s better to maintain gridlock rather than allow bad government to continue.

Trump may agree with that, but as president he also needs to get things done. He made promises after all: to repeal Obamacare, to reshape the tax system, to build a wall … lots of things. If he can’t follow through, what’s the point of being president

Unfortunately, Trump’s inexperience and basic lack of understanding of government – and reluctance to learn – evidently included ignorance of the fact the president lacks the power of a chief executive, and is dependent on Congress to approve major initiatives. He can’t just wave his hand and order compliance. He needs the votes. But Democrats won’t vote with him out of principle, and moderate Republicans still recall how gleefully he savaged them during his election bid. He pretty much dedicated himself to chasing their sorry asses out of Washington.

Doncha love it when you can watch Evil fight Evil?

This all will undoubtedly happen but only after the Republicans pull their prize from the National Crack Jack box.  That would be the radical and unfit Gorsuch being placed to do decades of damage on the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell wants white male supremacy so badly that he’s going to go nuclear.

Senators in both parties are speculating that a blowup over President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court could lead not only to the end of the filibuster for such nominations, but for controversial legislation as well.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the legislative filibuster is safe, lawmakers fear that pressure will grow to get rid of it if Democrats block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination this week.

McConnell has all but promised to change the Senate’s rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed in a majority vote if Democrats filibuster him.

The showdown will take place later this week after a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Monday.

Senators in both parties are worried about how the fight over Gorsuch will affect the filibuster.

“The thing I worry most about is that we become like the House of Representatives. What’s the next step? Legislation?” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“I’m convinced it’s a slippery slope.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned last week on the Senate floor that growing pressure from the right and the left will make it difficult to withstand calls to eliminate the legislative filibuster.

“If we continue on the path we’re on right now, the very next time there’s a legislative proposal that one side of the aisle feels is so important they cannot let their base down, the pressure builds, then we’re going to vote the nuclear option on the legislative piece,” he said.

“That’s what will happen. Somebody will do it.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of only three Democrats who have explicitly said they’d oppose a filibuster of Gorsuch, warns the Senate is in danger of becoming a smaller version of the House, where the minority party has few rights.

“People who have been here for a long time know that we’re going down the wrong path here. The most unique political body in the world, the United States Senate, will be no more than a six-year term in the House,” he said.

“I’m doing whatever I can to preserve he 60-vote rule,” he said.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who like Manchin says she will vote to allow Gorsuch’s nomination to move forward, said she is also concerned about the legislative filibuster.

“This erosion that seems to be happening, of course I’m worried about it,” she said.

Gorsuch picked up a third Democratic vote on Sunday when Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) said he would back him

It’s being reported (NPR here) that the Dems have to votes to filibuster.

Senate Democrats now have enough votes to block the Supreme Court nomination under current Senate rules, which require 60 votes to proceed on a nomination.

That sets up a showdown later this week that will likely lead to a reinterpretation of Senate rules, so that the nominations of Supreme Court justices can be advanced with 51-vote majorities, rather than the preliminary 60-vote threshold that has long applied to high court nominations.

“If we have to, we will change the rules,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said during Monday’s Judiciary Committee meeting. “It looks like we’re going to have to.”

Yup, right. We’ve learned that this last few years in spades. The Republican motto is “Cheat if you have to”.

So, I’ve saved the best for last.  You must read this excerpt of a book by Susan Bordo at The Guardian:  ‘The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders and the millennial feminists’.  It’s a long and cathartic read.

Many books have been written about the way racial differences among feminists both divided and pushed feminist thinking and practice forward over the past several decades. In the 2016 election, however, it was not race but generation that was the dynamic factor among left-leaning women. Women like me, who experienced many cultural battles in the “gender wars” firsthand – from the first scornful comments that journalists had heaped on “women’s libbers”, to the public shaming of Anita Hill, to the renewed threats to bodily rights that we thought we had won decades earlier – brought to the 2016 campaign a personal knowledge of the fragility of feminist accomplishments and an identification with Hillary that was deeper and longer than any current headlines.

We may have winced – as I did – when Madeleine Albright quoted a coffee-cup version of feminism or Hillary said “deal me in”. But we understood that behind every seeming appeal to “sisterhood” was the history of what was indeed a revolution – and one that was far from over. We knew the role Hillary had played in that revolution, and the price she had paid for it. Many of us, too, had followed Clinton through the course of her public career, had read her autobiography, and knew very well that the accusation that she had come to issues concerning racial and economic justice late and “for political purposes” was among the most extraordinary fabrications of the campaign.

Many younger women, on the other hand – no less feminist, no less committed to gender equality – had formed their ideas about “the Clintons”, as Savannah Barker reminds us, in the shadow of 20 years of relentless personal and political attacks. Few of them – as I know from decades of teaching courses on feminism, gender issues, and the social movements of the 60s – were aware of the “living history” (to borrow Hillary’s phrase) that shaped the woman herself.

These young women weren’t around when the GOP, appalled that liberals like the Clintons had somehow grabbed political power, began a series of witchhunts that have never ended. (Hillary was correct: it has been a “vast rightwing conspiracy”, from the Spectator magazine’s “Arkansas Project”, designed specifically to take Bill Clinton down, to Kenneth Starr’s relentless digging into Bill’s private life, to the Benghazi and email investigations.)

They hadn’t experienced a decade of culture wars in which feminists’ efforts to bring histories of gender and race struggle into the educational curriculum were reduced to a species of political correctness. They didn’t witness the complicated story of how the 1994 crime bill came to be passed or the origins of the “super-predator” label (not coined by Hillary and not referring to black youth, but rather to powerful, older drug dealers).

It isn’t necessary, of course, to have firsthand knowledge of history in order to have an informed idea of events and issues. When it came to Hillary Clinton, however, sorting out fact from politically motivated fiction was a difficult task, particularly if one’s knowledge was filtered through the medium of election-year battles.

The 2016 election was no academically rigorous history course; it was dominated by versions of Hillary Clinton constructed by her political opponents and transmitted by reporters who usually don’t see offering context as their job and don’t have the time (or, for some, the inclination) to sort fact from fiction. And then, too, after decades of harsh schooling in the ways of politics and the media, Hillary herself was no longer the outspoken feminist who chastised reporters when they questioned her life choices, but a cautious campaigner who measured her words with care.

I knew just what one of my graduate students meant when I asked her how millennial feminists saw Hillary and she said “a white lady”. A white woman herself, she wasn’t referring to the colour of Hillary’s skin, or even her racial politics, but rather what was perceived as her membership in the dominant class, all cleaned up and normalised, aligned with establishment power rather than the forces of resistance, and stylistically coded (her tightly coiffed hair; her neat, boring pantsuits; her circumspection) with her membership in that class. When I looked at Hillary, I saw someone very different – but I understood the basis for my student’s perception.

So that’s a long excerpt but I had trouble just finding one little nugget to highlight.

Which brings me to Bernie and Berning Down the House.  Bernie’s Tad Devine appears to be yet another Paul Manafort with deep ties and economic interests with Russians. Berners and Trumpsters were taken in by Russian Bots and propaganda.  Many of them are still dead enders that insist on some kind of “progressive purity”.  After I go after these ties in two links, I will return to the Bordo book.  (And I am amazed at how I want to say Bardo when I see her name.)

But Manafort was not the only American political consultant in 2016 who had a checkered history of muddying the waters of international politics. In 2009 Manafort was working to help improve the image of pro-Russian Ukranian politician Viktor Yanukovych in an effort to make the presidential nominee seem more accessible, and thus more palatable, to the American Congress. Joining Manafort in that effort was an American consultant named Tad Devine, a man who himself had a dubious history of foreign intervention. Among Devine’s highlights is having worked for exiled Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2002 as well as ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2005. Devine then worked for Yanukovych from 2006 up until he was elected president of Ukraine in 2010. Like both Lozada and Zelaya, Yanukovych has since been removed from power and he currently resides in exile in Russia and just happens to be wanted for treason in Ukraine.

In addition to having supported corrupt politicians abroad, Devine has also supported unsuccessful presidential candidates here at home. Devine had increasing roles in the campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bob Kerry, Al Gore, and John Kerry. After having previously worked on actual successful campaigns for Bernie Sanders’ 1996 congressional run as well as his 2006 senatorial run, Devine officially joined Sanders’ presidential campaign as a senior advisor in May of 2015. Over the course of the next fourteen months, Devine not only became one of the mouthpieces of the campaign but was also able to net himself a pretty penny. According to Slate, through both his consulting work as well as his work with Old Time Media, Devine was able to net himself roughly $10 million through his work on the campaign. For a campaign that prided itself as going to fight for the little guy, Devine, an establishment political consultant and friend of Bernie Sanders, seemed perfectly content to pocket millions of dollars.

But Devine’s hefty payday might not have been paid for entirely by gullible Americans giving $27 each. Throughout the Democratic primary, the Sanders campaign was cited for FEC violations on three separate occasions including a mysterious $10 million donation from a single address in Washington, DC. Despite consistent calls for financial transparency on the campaign trail, the Sanders campaign was exceedingly secretive when it came to its own finances. After twice filing for extensions from the FEC, the Sanders campaign ultimately decided to forgo its final financial disclosure statement in June citing the fact that campaign was no longer active. This decision was accompanied by the news that Sanders himself had purchased a $575,000 home in August, much to the dismay of his loyal followers. The home would be the third residence for Sanders, someone who railed against a system that increasingly favored the millionaires and billionaires of our country.

Yet these financial gains for both Devine and Sanders would never have been possible had it not been for the millions of campaign contributions that came their way. And the only way to get campaign contributions is to convince your supporters you might actually have a chance to win. Luckily for Devine and Sanders, they had some foreign friends who were willing to step in. As reported by Rachel Maddow late on Tuesday, there existed an army of Russian bots who were weaponized to influence our election. Many of them took to various social media sites to discredit and disrupt Hillary Clinton’s campaign and thus, enegize potential Bernie Sanders supporters. Knowing that Clinton had been a target of right-wing media smears for a quarter-century, all the bots had to do was plant this seed to potential Sanders supporters, many of whom had no experience in politics, to get them onboard with the Sanders campaign. By doing this, Sanders and Devine were able to successfully pocket millions of dollars all while pretending to be champions of the common man.

Yes, those BernieBots may have been Russians.

Indeed, some estimates now say that as much as one-fifth of Twitter traffic was controlled by pro-Trump, anti-Clinton bots and troll accounts during the election. With these #MAGA account attacks, it was relatively easy to block them and move on — emotionally, at least, as the abuse they delivered was easy to deflect because “they” were not “people” with whom I believed I had values in common in the first place.

However, the rest of the abuse came from accounts purporting to be supporters of Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. And these were “people” with whom I believed I shared common values and policy interests. Almost all of the accounts presented as men — mostly young and white — and used sexist and misogynistic tones and words. I was called “mom” and “grandma” as epithets by these “young men.” I was called every vile sexualized name you can imagine. For some reason that I did not understand at the time, they liked to call me a “vagina.” (I now believe non-native English — i.e. Russian — speakers wrote the algorithms controlling these bots and perhaps imagined “vagina” to be the equivalent of the c-word when hurled at a woman.) Not being conversant in the mechanisms of Russian psychological warfare techniques at the time, it never occurred to me that, like the #MAGA bots, these “Bernie Bro” accounts were actually bots too.

And the abuse from these accounts was much harder to dismiss. It wentin further, emotionally speaking. The vitriol of the attacks felt like a painful betrayal. After all, “we” probably shared 99 percent of our political perspective; we just supported different candidates — which is something I said repeatedly in my attempts to appeal to reason with some of the attackers over the course of those long months. Nonetheless, even the mildest criticism of Sanders or comment of support for Clinton would bring out a swarm of these “Bernie Bro” accounts spouting off with abusive language and mockery.

It was not just me who experienced this — nearly every female supporter of Clinton I know who was outspoken on Twitter or Facebook received similar treatment. In addition, men of color who were vocal Clinton supporters were targeted in a similar way. The abuse was also highly targeted toward journalists, especially female journalists reporting on the primary and opinion journalists who were supportive of Clinton.

None of us knew we were being targeted for psychological warfare by a foreign power during these exchanges.

The attacks started in late 2015 and escalated through early 2016. Most of these accounts no longer exist to link to, but others on twitter noticed similar patterns.

I am now called a “pantsuiter” by progressive Dems who still think Bernie’s the future.  It’s a the same as being called a gramdma by a damned Russian Troll and they were obviously well-schooled by them. Back to the brilliant Susan Bordo.

And as much as I am in agreement with many of his ideas, Bernie Sanders splintered and ultimately sabotaged the Democratic party – not because he chose to run against Hillary Clinton, but because of how he ran against her.

Sanders often boasted about the importance of the issues rather than individuals, of not playing dirty politics or running nasty ads in his campaign. And it’s certainly true that he didn’t slime Hillary by bringing Bill’s sexual accusers forward or by recommending that she be put in jail, as Trump did. He also seemed, at the beginning of the primary season, to be refreshingly dismissive about the “email scandal”: “Enough already about the damned emails!” he shouted at the first debate, and I remember thinking “Good man, Bernie! Way to go!” But within months, taking advantage of justified frustration with politics as usual (a frustration more appropriately aimed at GOP stonewalling of Democratic legislation), Sanders was taking Hillary down in a different way: as an establishment tool and creature of Wall Street.

“I think, frankly,” he said in January, campaigning in New Hampshire, “it’s hard to be a real progressive and to take on the establishment in a way that I think [it] has to be taken on, when you come as dependent as she has through her super PAC and in other ways on Wall Street and drug-company money.”

Progressive. It’s a term with a long, twisty history. In the 19th century, it was associated with those who argued for the moral “cleansing” of the nation. A century ago, both racist Southern Democrats and the founders of the NAACP claimed it for their purposes. The Communist party has described itself as progressive. By the time Sanders argued that Clinton was “not a true progressive”, the word was not very useful descriptively – one can be progressive in some ways and not so progressive in others, and no politician that I know of has ever struck every progressive chord. Context matters, too. As Jonathan Cohn wrote, in May: “If Sanders is the standard by which you’re going to decide whether a politician is a progressive, then almost nobody from the Democratic party would qualify. Take Sanders out of the equation, and suddenly Clinton looks an awful lot like a mainstream progressive.”

For Sanders supporters, however, progressive wasn’t an ill-defined, historically malleable label, but rather a badge of honor, a magical talisman for those who considered themselves anti-establishment. It may have been “a fallback identifier for pretty much anyone The Nation and its journalistic kin smiled upon” (as Michael Kazin described it), but it was an identifier with a great deal of potency, particularly for a younger generation longing for lives organised around something other than job hunting. When Sanders denied that badge of honour to Clinton he wasn’t distinguishing his agenda from hers (their positions on most issues were, in reality, pretty similar), he was excluding her from the company of the good and pure – and in the process, limiting what counted as progressive causes, too. His list didn’t include the struggle for reproductive rights or affordable child care. Nor, at the beginning of his campaign, was there much emphasis on racial justice.

***

So which ones on the list did the Trumpsters and Berners fall for and who was duped the worst?

I’m going with this one.

First, there’s provokatsiya (provocation), which is the cornerstone of the Russian espionage worldview. This part of Kremlin spy culture is older than the Bolsheviks, dating to the late Tsarist era, when Russia invented the modern intelligence agency to fight anarchist terrorists.

Provocation is complicated, but at its most basic involves secret acts to confuse and dismay your enemy. The recent antics of Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee—positing conflicting and unsubstantiated allegations of malfeasance by our spy agencies—are a classic provocation designed to divert attention from the White House as its Russia crisis mounts. Regardless of whether anyone in Russia has a hand in this, the Kremlin surely approves.

Provokatsiya gets more complicated and nefarious from there, with the ultimate aim of turning the tables on your enemy and defeating him detail—before he realizes what’s happened. As I’ve explained, this involves a lot of shady stuff such as:

Taking control of your enemies in secret and encouraging them to do things that discredit them and help you. You plant your own agents provocateurs and flip legitimate activists, turning them to your side…While this isn’t a particularly nice technique, it works surprisingly well, particularly if you don’t care about bloody and messy consequences.

Moscow is alarmingly forward-leaning about provocation, and the Kremlin’s traditional devil-may-care attitude about these dirty tricks means it’s a safe bet that when you encounter rabid anti-Putin activists, there’s a solid chance some of them are secretly working for the Russians.

So far, it’s been a slow news day.  Deadly tornadoes, bombs in St Petersburg, and threats from North Korea, plus a boatload of hearings and a vote on a nimrod SCOTUS nomination are all up for grabs.  (Snark font on)

Let me know what’s on your mind and blogging list today. I’d like to go back to bed but I have to grade homework. I’m tired and seriously behind.  I need to go soak in some sun too while it’s out there.


Friday: All the News that’s $hit to print about all the SWAMP things in the West Wing

Well, these posts take longer to compile every day because we live in a 30 second news cycle brought on by a bunch of bigoted white yahoos that had to vote for one very sick mind. This is what bedlam looks like

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s really difficult to know exactly where to start.  There are so many scandals at the moment that it’s mind boggling.  But, I have to start some where and I’m going to emphasize what I’ve known since the tender age of about 25.  You don’t get to be a CEO by any real standard of normal achievement. You’re generally not smart. You pay people like me to be your brains. You’re not all that comfortable with people outside of your own little circle of influence–read CULT–which generally means you drag family and seriously out-of-their depth frat brothers or high school friends with you to high paid places. You expect to be treated like a god and you self-deal like a Persian brothel owner. What you excel at is velvet schmoozing other idiots like you and sending money to the right people.

With that, we move to the topic of Rex Tillerson.  Our Secretary of State is so out of his depth, league, expertise, etc. that he’s cowering in his office and demanding no one give him eye contact.  Whoever said people that are just in it for a buck can aspire to anything else is just plan full of shit.  A rare CEO actually has some kind of conscience.  They are few and far between.  They can’t have them or they couldn’t do what they do which is basically rape, pillage, and steal for money and make sure they get more than a fair share of it.  But ask me how I really feel some day.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes a private elevator to his palatial office on the seventh floor of the State Department building, where sightings of him are rare on the floors below.

On many days, he blocks out several hours on his schedule as “reading time,” when he is cloistered in his office poring over the memos he prefers ahead of in-person meetings.

Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.

On his first three foreign trips, Tillerson skipped visits with State Department employees and their families, embassy stops that were standard morale-boosters under other secretaries of state.

Eight weeks into his tenure as President Trump’s top diplomat, the former ExxonMobil chief executive is isolated, walled off from the State Department’s corps of bureaucrats in Washington and around the world. His distant management style has created growing bewilderment among foreign officials who are struggling to understand where the United States stands on key issues. It has sown mistrust among career employees at State, who swap paranoid stories about Tillerson that often turn out to be untrue. And it threatens to undermine the power and reach of the State Department, which has been targeted for a 30 percent funding cut in Trump’s budget.

Many have expressed alarm that Tillerson has not fought harder for the agency he now leads.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tillerson called him after the proposed cuts were announced. Engel said Tillerson seemed to share Engel’s concern that the cuts are “draconian” and counterproductive. But Engel said Tillerson seemed to signal his acquiescence when he called them “a glide path to what was about to happen.”

“I’m chagrined by what’s happening, or not happening,” Engel said.

“When you put it all together, it certainly seems they’re trying to downsize the State Department and make it irrelevant. I’m at a loss for words. Why would Tillerson take the job if he was not going to defend his agency?”

It’s easy.  The  CEOS are where ever they are to strip everything down to the bare bones and take the plunders. They can do so–like murderous socipaths–with no thought to all the people whose lives they ruin.  That’s why they do not deserve the pubic trust, welfare, and assets.  This Hill piece finds the most shocking bit in the WAPO piece I cited above.  Yes. it’s repeated THREE times for effect.  Let it settle in.  Do not look Rex Tillerson in the Eye. Th next question begs to be asked “Or WHAT?”.

 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has remained relatively removed from President Trump’s administration and his own department, a new report by The Washington Post says, adding that many diplomats have yet to meet him and some have been told to avoid eye contact.
The Post report reads:
Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.
Tillerson has kept a low profile since the inauguration. He has made very few remarks to the press and opted not to travel with a press pool.
Earlier this month, Tillerson stood by his decision not to allow reporters to travel with him on his trip to Asia, calling himself “not a big media press access person.”
Erin McPike of the right-leaning Independent Journal Review — the only reporter selected by State to travel with Tillerson — pressed the diplomat about his decision in an interview.
McPike noted China restricts press access and asked whether he’s concerned about the message he’s sending.
Tillerson claimed the decision not to allow more reporters had to do with a desire to save money, saying the plane “flies faster, allows me to be more efficient” with fewer people on it.

Has any one ever stopped to define ‘efficiency’ in terms of successful diplomacy?  I guess not.

BB shared this link yesterday.  It explains exactly how awful Jared Kushner is on every level of what you need to manage anything at all.  He’s also way out of his league.

But I worked for Kushner for 18 months as he tried to infuse a much smaller institution than the U.S. government with cost-cutting impulses from the commercial real estate world. And my experience doesn’t bode well for the Office of American Innovation. Not everything that works in the private sector is transferrable to the public sector — and even if it were, Kushner isn’t the best person to transfer it.

Then there’s Carl Icahn who demonstrates a new level of corruption equal to only Kremlin Caligula himself.  I haven’t cited D-Day for awhile since he writes for The Intercept but I will for a change.  There’s all kinds of nastiness surround former TWA CEO Carl Icahn.  Rachel Maddow calls it “quite blatant corruption”.

WATCHDOG GROUP PUBLIC Citizen asked Congress on Wednesday to investigate whether billionaire investor and unofficial Trump administration adviser Carl Icahn has engaged in illegal, unregistered lobbying in conjunction with his public bid to change an ethanol rule that would save one of his affiliated businesses $200 million annually.

Icahn raised eyebrows last week for getting the Renewable Fuels Association to reverse its position on a key proposal that would benefit him personally. The association, which lobbies for ethanol producers, agreed to a proposal to shift the responsibility for ensuring that gasoline contains a minimum volume of renewable fuels — from oil refiners to gasoline wholesalers. Icahn is the majority shareholder in CVR Energy, a refiner that cannot blend ethanol on its own, and which therefore must buy over $200 million in “renewable fuel credits” each year to follow the law. By shifting the responsibility to wholesalers, CVR would no longer have to make that purchase.

Trump tapped Icahn as his deregulatory czar in December. But as an unofficial adviser to the Trump administration, Icahn was able to maintain his prodigious financial holdings. The renewable fuels proposal struck many as an example of Icahn self-dealing — recommending changes in regulation that benefit him financially.

Now, Public Citizen is accusing Icahn and CVR of violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. Any nongovernmental entity that crosses certain thresholds must register all lobbying activities with the government. Congress oversees compliance with this law.

Since the Trump administration insists that Icahn is a private citizen who receives no compensation as a government official, he would fall into the category of needing to register any lobbying work, according to a complaint sent to the clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate. Public Citizen argues that Icahn’s formal proposal to change the renewable fuel standard regulation, along with his reported assistance in vetting candidates for the Environmental Protection Agency, comprises lobbying activity.

“It is not lobbying to advise a candidate, but once Trump became president, Trump then became a covered official subject to the lobbying disclosure law,” energy program director Tyson Slocum wrote in the letter. “All of this has occurred with no record of any [Lobbying Disclosure Act] filings by or on behalf of Mr. Icahn, Icahn Enterprises or CVR Energy.”

In other words, either Icahn is a Trump administration official, and therefore profiting from his government service, or a private citizen, and therefore lobbying.

Failure to comply with the Lobbying Disclosure Act “may be subject to a civil fine of not more than $200,000,” according to the law’s text. And if an individual “knowingly and corruptly” fails to comply, they face a federal prison sentence of up to five years.


Matt Yglesias calls him  a “conflict-of-interest disaster’.  Oy.just.Oy.  

Five paragraphs into the Wall Street Journal’s article about how Carl Icahn, a legendary investor worth about $20 billion, will serve as a special advisor to Donald Trump on regulatory matters, things get interesting.

“The position isn’t an official government job,” the Journal reports. “Mr. Icahn won’t get paid and won’t have to give up his current business dealings.”

Of course, even if Icahn did get paid, the salary would be peanuts compared with his net worth. More to the point, the monetary value of getting to influence federal regulatory policy when you already have $20 billion in outstanding investments is enormous.

 Back in August, for example, Icahn was complaining to the media about a particular obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that was hurting a refining company he owns.
And that brings us to what T-Russia signed this week that made Mr. Icahn so happy that he’s been increasing his investments prior to its signing.  Gee.  I wonder what kind of insider information led to that.

Since Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was named by President Trump as a special adviser on regulatory matters, he has been busy working behind the scenes to try to revamp an obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline nationwide.

It is a campaign that fits into the charge Mr. Trump gave Mr. Icahn, to help the nation “break free of excessive regulation.” But there is an additional detail that is raising eyebrows in Washington: Mr. Icahn is a majority investor in CVR Energy, an oil refiner based in Sugar Land, Tex., that would have saved $205.9 million last year had the regulatory fix he is pushing been in place.

How’s this for savvy investing?  “Carl Icahn’s shares in CVR Energy have doubled since Trump won the election”.  Not so savvy you say?   Probably because, gee guess what happened with those regulations?  Rachel Maddow covered the “menu of scandal” of the T-Rump administration and it is so surreal.  I wanted to overwhelm you today with it because it’s almost so much you want to become desensitized.  This cannot become the new normal.  It cannot.

The Scott Pruitt stuff is so blatantly awful that the Bar of Oklahoma seeks to disbar him. Yet, he still seems to be serving safely in the T-Rump cabinet as yup, the guy in charge of the EPA.  And he single handedly took a deadly pesticide off a ban list just because … oh, nothing to do with its neurotoxicity.

Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced late Wednesday that a widely used pesticide will remain available to farmers, despite agency scientists recommending last year that it be banned due to neurotoxicity risks to farm workers and children.

The pesticide, chlorpyrifos, made by Dow Chemical, is used on tens of thousands of farms in the country to protect dozens of different crops from a variety of insects. However, decades of research following its 1965 debut has found that the pesticide can harm the human respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. Animal and human studies have linked exposure to declines in learning and memory. When chlorpyrifos was commonly used in household bug sprays, babies exposed prenatally via cord blood showed structural abnormalities in brain regions linked to attention, memory, language, and impulse control.

Then there’s VIP Pence who refuses to be alone in a room with any woman and who is likely to go down with the Trumptanic.  This is Maddow again.

Mike Pence had been the head of the Trump transition. As such, he would have been intimately involved with the selection and vetting process for a job as important as national security adviser. Nevertheless, Vice President Mike Pence has professed absolute ignorance of any of the scandals of any of the foreign payments, contacts and all the rest of it surrounding Mike Flynn. Pence was the leader of the transition. As leader of the transition, he was notified in writing by members of Congress about Flynn’s apparent financial ties to the government of Turkey. The transition was also apparently notified twice by Flynn’s own lawyers about his financial relationship with the government of Turkey, but nevertheless, Vice President Mike Pence says he has no idea about any of that.

….

Vice President Mike Pence claims he had absolutely no idea about that despite him being notified about on the record multiple times and it being a matter of considerable public discussion. Mike Pence’s role in the Mike Flynn scandal is flashing like a red beacon for anyone who sees him as the normal Republican in this setting.

 Oh, and the not dining alone with women thing is illegal.  Why woudn’t it be unless you’re a Taliban and prefer your women buried in burkas as property and you forcibly instituted a theocracy in your country?

“I don’t work with women. If they’re attractive, I’m too tempted. And if they’re not attractive, what’s the point?”

A male partner at a law firm casually made this pronouncement one day at lunch, hardly looking up from his plate. Everyone laughed and went back to eating — in the rough-and-tumble world of DC law, it wasn’t even the most obnoxious thing said that day. But this is no laughing matter for the women whose career opportunities are impeded by men who cavalierly dismiss half of the labor force and insist that they’ve behaved honorably by doing so.

This issue was thrust into the news this week when the Washington Post ran a piece on Karen Pence, the wife of our current vice president, and reminded readers of something Mike Pence said in 2002: He does not eat alone with a woman or attend an event where alcohol is being served unless his wife is present. The Twittersphere lit up like a Christmas tree with jokes and rants about Pence’s wife-rule. It’s not clear whether Pence still adheres to this practice, but there are men who do.

As the Atlantic observes, such arrangements are especially common within marriages between religious conservatives of various stripes. (It need not be only men who follow such strictures, but the emphasis is often on male temptation.) On Capitol Hill, where long days and late nights away from the family are part of the job, some Congressmen will not travel alone in a car with a female staffer, the National Journal has reported. Some politicians set gender-neutral rules that have a side effect of keeping them from being alone with women — such as excluding any staff from the office before 7 am or after 7 pm — but others clearly apply special rules to women.

To be sure, a politician’s declining to dine alone with a woman does not fall in the same category as a law partner refusing to work with women (or at least musing about refusing to work with women). Nonetheless, the practice described by Pence in that 2002 interview is clearly illegal when practiced by a boss in an employment setting, and deeply damaging to women’s employment opportunities.

Title VII, which governs workplace discrimination, does not allow employers to treat people differently on the basis of certain protected characteristics, one of which is sex. This means that an employer cannot set the terms and conditions of employment differently for one gender than for the other. This includes any aspect of the relationship between employer and employees — extending to benefits like equal access to the employer.

Why earth are we fighting ISIS if we accept this kind of behavior from our own elected officials?  What’s the difference between this and a Taliban?  Oh, and Mike Pence was the tie breaking vote on a law designed to let states defund Planned Parenthood.

The bill erases a regulation imposed by former President Barack Obama that lets states deny family planning funds to an organization only if it is incapable of providing those services.

Meanwhile, we will no longer be learning if T-Rump deploys troops to Iraq or Syria after the second military inquiry is now scheduled to determine how our military told over 200 innocent civilians in Mosul to stay in their homes to be safe just before we bombed them to death.

Even as the U.S. military takes on a greater role in the warfare in Iraq and Syria, the Trump administration has stopped disclosing significant information about the size and nature of the U.S. commitment, including the number of U.S. troops deployed in either country.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon quietly dispatched 400 Marines to northern Syria to operate artillery in support of Syrian militias that are cooperating in the fight against Islamic State, according to U.S. officials. That was the first use of U.S. Marines in that country since its long civil war began.

In Iraq, nearly 300 Army paratroopers were deployed recently to help the Iraqi military in their six-month assault on the city of Mosul, according to U.S. officials.

Neither of those deployments was announced once they had been made, a departure from the practice of the Obama administration, which announced nearly all conventional force deployments.

Here’s the link to the deadly Mosul strikes.

So, the big news of the day is that the Senate Intell Com has said no to the offer of testimony for immunity by Mike Flynn.

My biggest question is can our country survive anymore #MAGA or T-Rump style winning? Michael Gerson has an Op Ed up at WAPO about the failing Trump presidency and the free fall that characterizes the Republican Party.  Basically, these are the Swamp things that have set the nation on fire while having eliminated the Fire Fighters.

Republicans got an administration that is incompetent. The White House policy process has been erratic and disorganized. It has failed to provide expert analysis or assistance to Congress and did little to effectively advocate the president’s policy in ways that could have united the party.

Republicans got an administration that is morally small. Trump’s proposed budget would require massive cuts in disease research, global development and agricultural programs — just as a famine gathers a hideous strength. The proposed budget practices random acts of gratuitous cruelty.

This is a pretty bad combination: empty, easily distracted, vindictive, shallow, impatient, incompetent and morally small. This is not the profile of a governing party.

Some Republicans choose to comfort themselves by repeating the mantra: “Gorsuch, Gorsuch, Gorsuch.” But that does nothing to change Trump’s stunningly high disapproval ratings. Or the stunning rebuke by the FBI director concerning his claim of being wiretapped by President Barack Obama. Or the stunning rejection of his central campaign promise by elements of his own party. Or his stunning ignorance of the basics of policy and leadership.

 What we have here is a stunning set of enablers that will basically bring the country down as long as they can push their ChristoFascist and kleptocratic, science denying agenda of hate through.  Their black, crusted over souls have been sold for a SCOTUS appointment and the denial of reproductive health care to women, the maintenance of a racist police state and justice system, and bigoted hate-filled interpretation of the rantings of an angry Iron Age Sky Fairy.

Somebody better save this country before there is nothing left of it to save.

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