Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Every day releases a new barrage of evidence and reasons to throw every thing we’ve got into the arsenal of removing this unfit and clearly illegitimate president. The latest Dumped Trump appointment went on Sixty Minutes to discuss the many ways he experienced an unsuitable personality for any serious job actively chip away at American law, constitutional values, and norms. I’m not sure if I’ll actually read former FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s book since it just verifies what we know. However, it is certainly yet another Tell-All that shows us how deeply in trouble the we are because the Republican Party refuses to act on its sins. We clearly are reaching the point where ridding the country of this parasite is our only way to a decent future.
I spent Saturday night at the Krewe de Vieux parade in my first chance to do Carnival Season where I could avoid the news but not politics. I’m going to share some photos of the floats and krewes which are clearly political. This is not exactly a G rated krewe so be care viewing some of the videos if you’re sensitive to crass stuff.
And this was clearly my favorite. My friend Grace snapped a pic of her in the den.
Back to the Paley interview and this link that will let you watch it if you missed it.
McCabe is a lifelong Republican who had a sterling 21-year career at the FBI; serving as head of counter-terrorism and number two under Comey. But he was fired last year for allegedly lying to his own agents about a story he leaked to a newspaper. Not since Watergate has the FBI been drawn so deeply into presidential politics. Andrew McCabe was pulled into the center of the tempest on May 9, 2017 when he was summoned by the president hours after Comey was fired.
This is probably the best look we’ve had to date of what started the Mueller probe. It seems to have come directly from the number of Trump Campaign-Russian interactions that we’ve heard about for the past 3 years. This is from Carrie Johnson at NPR.
“I don’t know that we have ever seen in all of history an example of the number, the volume and the significance of the contacts between people in and around the president, his campaign, with our most serious, our existential international enemy: the government of Russia,” McCabe told NPR’s Morning Edition. “That’s just remarkable to me.”
While he declined to conclude that Trump or his advisers colluded with Russia, McCabe said the evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has made public to date — including new disclosures about an August 2016 meeting between former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the FBI has linked to Russian intelligence — “is incredibly persuasive.”
Trump worried McCabe from the outset with what CBS characterizes as a “bizarre” interview.
Before he was fired from the FBI, Andrew McCabe was summoned to the Oval Office to interview for the position of FBI director. “It was a bit of a bizarre experience,” says McCabe, recalling his meeting with President Trump.
“He began by talking to me about his Electoral College results in the state of North Carolina, which I didn’t really know about or understand how that related to the position of FBI director,” says McCabe.
Mr. Trump also talked about “the support that he enjoyed within the FBI,” says McCabe. “He estimated that 80% of FBI employees must have voted for him, and he asked me if I thought that was true. I said, ‘I have no idea who people in the FBI voted for. It’s not something that we discuss at work.'”
There are more really strange anectdotes including Trump indicating that he wanted McCabe to say that every one in the FBI supported the Comey firing which was clearly not true. But meanwhile, we have bigger fish to fry at the DOJ in its current state. From Morgan Chalfani at The Hill: “Five things to watch as Barr takes the reins of Justice, Mueller probe.”
Barr is expected to make major changes at the Justice Department, beginning with his choice for deputy.
Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Mueller’s investigation, is expected to depart in the coming weeks after two years on the job. Barr told lawmakers last month that Rosenstein had informed him of those plans and that he had agreed to stay on for the transition.
Various names have been floated as potential candidates for the role, which is subject to Senate confirmation. The New York Times reported that Barr intends to name Jeffrey Rosen, the current deputy secretary of Transportation, to serve as his No. 2.
It is unclear whether Barr will keep on Matthew Whitaker, the controversial figure whom Trump appointed acting attorney general following Sessions’s ouster. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa who worked as Sessions’s chief of staff, quickly emerged as a top target of Democrats as a result of statements he made criticizing Mueller’s investigation before joining the Justice Department.
Whitaker tangled with House Democrats in a testy hearing earlier this month, during which he defended his decision not to recuse himself from Mueller’s investigation and insisted he had done nothing to interfere with the probe. Whitaker also frustrated lawmakers by refusing to answer various questions about the investigation and his conversations with Trump.
Even if Barr does not decide to keep Whitaker, some say it’s possible he could find a new home in the White House.
“He had to navigate some pretty treacherous waters and he did that very skillfully and if the president is looking for someone else to serve the administration that brings some excellent experience under fire, then I think Matt would be somebody that would fit that description,” said Ian Prior, who worked with Whitaker as a department spokesman under Sessions.
Even though real evil is resident in the White House, Republicans clearly want to put and keep Democratic politicians on the defensive. From Cheryl Gay Stolberg at the NYT: “Republicans Hope to Sway Voters With Labels That Demonize Democrats”.
In the 116th Congress, if you’re a Democrat, you’re either a socialist, a baby killer or an anti-Semite.
That, at least, is what Republicans want voters to think, as they seek to demonize Democrats well in advance of the 2020 elections by painting them as left-wing crazies who will destroy the American economy, murder newborn babies and turn a blind eye to bigotry against Jews.
The unusually aggressive assault, which Republican officials and strategists outlined in interviews last week, is meant to strangle the new Democratic majority in its infancy. It was set in motion this month by President Trump, who used his State of the Union address to rail against “new calls to adopt socialism in our country” and mischaracterize legislation backed by Democrats in New York and Virginia as allowing “a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”
Then last week, Republicans amped it up, seizing on a Twitter post by a freshman representative, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, which even some Democrats condemned as anti-Semitic, and ridiculing the “Green New Deal,” an ambitious economic stimulus plan unveiled by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist. Suddenly even Jewish Democrats were abetting anti-Semitism and moderate Democrats in Republican districts were Trotskyites and Stalinists.
“Socialism is the greatest vulnerability by far that the House Democrats have,” Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview, adding that he had also instructed his team to spotlight “all the extreme wild ideas” that Democrats espouse, “on a daily basis, on an hourly basis if it’s available.”
House Republicans have identified 55 Democrats they regard as vulnerable, including many freshmen. Some flipped Republican seats last year, some represent districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, and some are in districts held by Republicans until recently. Bruised by their losses last year, Republicans are determined to start earlier and be more aggressive on the offense in 2020, and are hoping to exploit the Democratic presidential candidates’ courtship of the left.
An advertising offensive is already underway. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee affiliated with House Republican leaders, began running digital ads last week that link two freshmen who flipped Republican districts, Representatives Colin Allred of Texas and Antonio Delgado of New York, to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her “radical Green New Deal assault on the American economy.”
But, they have the crazy to deal with all the same and the latest bit sinking Republican Policy is the obvious failure of the tax cuts to deliver to any one but the very rich among us.
Jonathan Swan–writing for Axios–characterizes it like this: “Governing on the edge.” My stomach frankly can’t take any more of this. I’m an old lady that wants a peaceful retirement and a stable social security income.
A senior government official who was involved in the spending negotiations over the past few weeks told me the experience taught them something disturbing.
“We’re going to go to the edge on everything,” the official said on Friday, shortly after Trump signed the bill to fund the 25% of the government that had shut down for 35 days on his watch.
Why it matters: The White House has just gotten through a spending fight that pushed Congress — and the federal workforce affected by the shutdown — to the brink. But even uglier skirmishes are imminent, including whether to raise the federal government’s debt limit and break Congress’ self-imposed budget caps.
What’s next? In a phone conversation this morning, I asked a senior White House official if he thought the shutdown had any benefit for the Trump administration.
I certainly hope Marcie can make sense of all of this for me. Here’s her take on the McCabe interview. Check out her latest dissection of the four big Trump turncoats or three if you want to dump Manafort.
Four times so far in this investigation, Trump’s aides have started the sentencing process for their crimes designed to obstruction Robert Mueller’s investigation. All four times, before four different judges, their misplaced loyalty to Trump above country has come up. And with both Flynn and Manafort — where the judges have seen significant amounts of non-public information about the crimes they lied to cover-up — two very reasonable judges have raised explicit questions about whether Trump’s aides had betrayed their country.
Trump wants this to be a case of contested claims of betrayal. But the judges who have reviewed the record have used striking language about who betrayed their country.
I doubt we’re going to get any resolution of anything soon but I will say that I hope the Democratic committee chairs in Congress get the lead out! For some more video and fun on Krewe du View you can check this out!
If you haven’t read this from The Atlantic with the lede “When James Comey Was Fired” please do so.
I wrote memos about my interactions with President Trump for the same reason that Comey did: to have a contemporaneous record of conversations with a person who cannot be trusted.
People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them. Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants. If he were “on the box” at Quantico, he would break the machine.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
It’s Friday Sky Dancers!
I am now fully convinced that KKKremlin Calgulia is as insane as the Roman Emperor Caligula. He signed the bill to fund the federal government then declared a national emergency because Congress won’t fund his pandering boondoggle of a wall. Then, he turned around to say “I didn’t need to do this” but he just wanted it all done “faster”.
I’m sure that’s what President Clinton thought when he declared a state of national emergency after the Oklahoma City Bombings. That’s probably what Dubya thought too after declaring his national emergency for 9/11. Right? Oh, and if you had we flew “rocket ships” over Japan on your Trump is crazy Bingo card then you win. This presser may have been his least coherent one to date and that says a lot.
Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post sums it up quite nicely! “We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump.”
We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump, and it is a force of mindless, pointless disruption.
The president’s decision to officially declare an emergency — to pretend to build an unbuildable border wall — is not only an act of constitutional vandalism. It is also an act of cowardice, a way to avoid the wrath of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the far-right commentariat.
It is an end run around Congress and, as such, constitutes a violation of his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” — which gives Congress, not the president, the authority to decide how public money is spent. It does not give Trump the right to fund projects that Congress will not approve. Authoritarian leaders do that sort of thing. The puffed-up wannabe strongman now living in the White House is giving it a try.
Let’s be clear: There is no emergency. Arrests for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border peaked in 2000, nearly two decades ago, at more than 1.5 million a year. They declined sharply under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and, in 2017, were at their lowest point since 1971. In 2018, apprehensions ticked up slightly — but still barely climbed above 400,000.
There has indeed been an increase in families presenting themselves at legal points of entry to seek asylum — those groups of bedraggled Central Americans that Trump calls “caravans.” Under U.S. and international law, these people have an undisputed right to ask for asylum and have their cases evaluated. Again, they come to legal border crossings to seek admission. Only a handful try to navigate the forbidding rural terrain where Trump says he wants to build a wall.
What the administration really needs to do is expand and improve facilities for processing, caring for and, when necessary, housing these asylum seekers. But Trump doesn’t care about doing the right thing, or even the necessary thing. He cares only about being able to claim he is following through on his vicious anti-immigration rhetoric, which brands Mexican would-be migrants as “rapists” and Central Americans as members of the MS-13 street gang.
Facts do not matter when you’re crazy. Trump held a press conference this morning that proved once again that he’s unfit to hold the office of President of the United States and that he has mental/neurological problems that make him a clear and present danger.
But more than the president “telegraphing” that decision to Hannity, it was Hannity instructing Trump on how to emerge from his border wall mess unscathed in his eyes. The host first pushed Trump to declare a national emergency while interviewing him from the border during government shutdown that ended up lasting 35 days.
The New York Times also reported this week that the White House had reached out to Hannity directly to get him on board after his harsh criticism of the bill the day before. Their message, according to the Times: “Mr. Trump deserved support because he still forced concessions that he would never have gotten without a five-week partial government shutdown.”
HRC responded to an announcement from the Trump-Pence White House that along with signing the bipartisan spending bill, passed by Congress this week after intense negotiations, Trump would take the unprecedented and potentially unconstitutional move of declaring a national emergency to fund a border wall.
“There is no national security crisis at the border. To declare one based on the reality on the ground is an abuse of power that undercuts the rule of law,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “A solid majority of the American people reject funding for a wall on our southern border because it is a waste of money, unnecessary and ineffective. This emergency declaration is just the latest extreme step that Donald Trump and Mike Pence have taken to divide America. From revoking protections for more than a million Dreamers, including 75,000 LGBTQ young people, detaining tens of thousands of immigrants, making asylum claims almost impossible and separating thousands of children from their parents, the Trump-Pence Administration has harmed our country and violated the trust of the American people.”
The intent of emergency powers is to provide the president with a pathway for ensuring national security and other functional aspects of the federal government during a crisis in which timely action is necessary. Only in extraordinary circumstances should a president invoke emergency powers.
The Human Rights Campaign joins coalition partners, including RAICES and United We Dream, in calling for refugees and asylum seekers to be welcomed into the United States, as they flee violence and persecution in the countries they left behind.
Pelosi and Schumer have already attacked the speech and the declaration. This is via AP.
Congress’ two top Democrats say they’ll use “every remedy available” to oppose President Donald Trump’s declaration of an emergency to shift billions of federal dollars into building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (puh-LOH’-see) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday they’ll take action “in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public.”
They say Trump’s decision to declare an emergency is unlawful. They say it would “shred the Constitution” by usurping Congress’ power to control spending.
White House officials say some of the money would come from military construction projects. Pelosi and Schumer say Trump would be using money needed “for the security of our military and our nation.”
Democrats can file lawsuits and force congressional votes to block Trump’s money transfers. Trump could veto the legislation should it pass.
Trump says he expects legal challenges.
Among the notable things Trump said are that Japan is glad we’re no longer flying “rocket ships” over their heads. Ah, Godzilla can go back to retirement, I guess.
That’s just one of the crazy ass things he said this morning. He’s off wth “Angel Moms” again. He paraded them with pictures of their dead children in front of the press to shame them into his point of view. But, the “angel” status doesn’t seem to include any mother who lost her child in a school shoot up or the mother who lost her daughter to the crazed Trump supporter who ran into a crowd of people in Charlottesville.
I’ve just about had it up and over with the right wing riding this issue and these grieving parents. Again, they show no concern for parents of children lost to street violence and to those lost by white guys shooting up public places with weapons of over kill. BTW, these Angel moms want to kill the spending agreement until Trump gets what he wants. They want to cause mass suffering. And even HE made it more difficult for himself with his garbled little presser today.
Charles Pierce sums up this Constitutional Crisis and the role Mitch McConnell is playing. Either the NI or the Russians must have something horrid on both McConnell and Lindsey Graham. They’ve gone completely out of the boundaries of any kind of sense of upholding the Constitutions’ instructions and the institutions it framed.
It can be argued that this precipitous move by the White House is another bit of legerdemain through which the president* can make the Andrew McCabe revelations vanish from the news cycle. That seems less important than usual now that the Senate has decided to share the president*’s delusions and bring us along for the ride.
This is a direct assault by this president* on the Congress’s Article I powers. Usually, presidents use these powers to do things like levy sanctions on countries that are slaughtering their own people. What this president* is trying to do is to redirect money already appropriated for a project that Congress already has declined to fund—the last time only a couple of days ago. That is purely a dictatorial action. It is an abuse of power. It cannot be allowed to stand.
The argument being made by some on both the left and the right that, OK, if he can do this, then the next Democratic president can declare a national emergency on gun violence, say, or the climate crisis is sadly beside the point, and Democrats, in particular, should shut up about it. (This means you, Speaker Pelosi.) This is a clear and present danger to the constitutional order. Without the power of the purse, Congress has no power at all.
Mitch McConnell knows this. He even has been warning against this very power grab for a couple of weeks now. But he seems determined to neuter his own institution in order to curry favor with a failed president* and a bunch of idiot pundits from Fox News. He is abandoning his own responsibilities in the hopes that the courts will bail him out. And, again, there is no national emergency to be declared. Not outside of the Oval Office, anyway.
Well, you get the idea. Our President is a nutjob and sooner or later, the damage he causes will kill a huge number of people and damage our constitutional republic beyond repair.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I actually was present on a day that UCLA/MIT/Stanford and other institutions opened a computer connecting node to more than just a few places during an expansion of what was to become the world wide web.. This would eventually be the internet/world wide web beyond something than connecting a few universities and government entities. The original turn on in happened in 1969. My high school math department got a grant and one of those huge printers that came to life when they started expanding it to a few more places around 1970. They undoubtedly wanted to show us our future.
Again, it was just a big printer with huge green bar paper rolls that hooked us to an out of state university (Michigan, I think) and it printed some welcome message that didn’t impress me. We all stood there and watched it kind’ve like the first time in junior high when a guy from bell labs turned on a projector with a small red beamed called a laser. They had no idea if it would be the future of communications but that was the dream. The next time I saw that bean at university was its planetarium with Pink Floyd playing in the background. Now, both my eldest and her husband use them for operations in their respective medical practices.
I started actually using the world wide web in graduate school back in 1978 and eventually got a computer and modem around 1980 and hooked in with a phone line. Back then, all you saw were green lines of characters but it was still quite fascinating and the best thing was finding all those nerds beyond Nebraska.
I now sit here as an old lady on a small computer typing all kinds of things to you and posting pictures and knowing that my old skills at FORTRAN and BASIC are worthless. Needless to say, I think any technology developed during the Nixon administration must’ve been funded with war and political sabotage in mind.I also know that the internet and lasers have morphed from dream of benign and useful communications to a whole lot more.
A whole lot more. But, then you know that or you wouldn’t be reading this here from me down here. The fascinating science of 40 plus years ago is also highly weaponized and aimed at nearly all of country’s endeavors. This from today’s New Yorker and written by Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow.
Psy-Group stood out from many of its rivals because it didn’t just gather intelligence; it specialized in covertly spreading messages to influence what people believed and how they behaved. Its operatives took advantage of technological innovations and lax governmental oversight. “Social media allows you to reach virtually anyone and to play with their minds,” Uzi Shaya, a former senior Israeli intelligence officer, said. “You can do whatever you want. You can be whoever you want. It’s a place where wars are fought, elections are won, and terror is promoted. There are no regulations. It is a no man’s land.”
In recent years, Psy-Group has conceived of a variety of elaborate covert operations. In Amsterdam, the firm prepared a report on a religious sect called the Brunstad Christian Church, whose Norwegian leader, Psy-Group noted, claimed to have written “a more important book than the New Testament.” In Gabon, Psy-Group pitched “Operation Bentley”—an effort to “preserve” President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s hold on power by collecting and disseminating intelligence about his main political rival. (It’s unclear whether or not the operations in Amsterdam and Gabon were carried out. A spokesperson for Brunstad said that it was “plainly ridiculous” that the church considered “any book” to be more important than the Bible. Ondimba’s representatives could not be reached for comment.) In another project, targeting the South African billionaire heirs of an apartheid-era skin-lightening company, Psy-Group secretly recorded family members of the heirs describing them as greedy and, in one case, as a “piece of shit.” In New York, Psy-Group mounted a campaign on behalf of wealthy Jewish-American donors to embarrass and intimidate activists on American college campuses who support a movement to put economic pressure on Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians.
This is one fascinating story. There’s also a lurid one regarding Jeff Bezos and his totally public affair and craziness with AMI. Bezos, head of Amazon and WAPO has his own internet toils, tribulations, and amassed wealth. And now we venture forth to the land of billionaires, grudges, and honey pots. No one certainly hinted at any of this on that huge print out on green bar paper the day I met the world wide web.
The brother of Jeff Bezos’ mistress, Lauren Sanchez, supplied the couple’s racy texts to the National Enquirer, multiple sources inside AMI, the tabloid’s parent company, told The Daily Beast.
Another source who has been in extensive communication with senior leaders at AMI confirmed that Michael Sanchez first supplied Bezos’ texts to the Enquirer.
The leaked texts, published last month, included notes from Bezos like, “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight.”
AMI has previously refused to identify the source of the texts, but a lawyer for the company strongly hinted at Sanchez’s role during a Sunday morning interview on ABC.
“The story was given to the National Enquirer by a reliable source that had given information to the National Enquirer for seven years prior to this story. It was a source that was well known to both Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez,” attorney Elkan Abramowitz told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Asked directly whether Sanchez was the source, Abramowitz said, “I can’t discuss who the source was. It’s confidential within AMI.”
An AMI spokesperson declined to comment for this story. Asked directly more than a half-dozen times whether or not he supplied the texts to the Enquirer, Sanchez declined to respond.
Depending on whom you believe, the Enquirer’s exposé on Bezos’s affair was a political hit inspired by President Trump’s allies, an inside job by people seeking to protect Bezos’s marriage, or no conspiracy at all, simply a juicy gossip story.
The saga might have been easily dismissed as little more than tabloid fare, but it has taken on a more serious cast in recent days. A volley of charges and countercharges about how and why the Enquirer launched its investigation has emerged for several reasons, including the history of the Enquirer, which has acknowledged taking actions during the last presidential campaign that benefited Trump politically. Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly lodged attacks on The Post’s coverage of him and on Bezos, who bought the news company in 2013. And Bezos, the head of a retail giant that is famously loath to comment to the media, has authorized his security chief to speak about his investigation.
Bezos’s longtime private security consultant, Gavin de Becker, has concluded that the billionaire was not hacked. Rather, de Becker said in an interview, the Enquirer’s scoop about Bezos’s relationship with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez began with a “politically motivated” leak meant to embarrass the owner of The Post — an effort potentially involving several important figures in Trump’s 2016 campaign.
As the Daily Beast first reported last week, de Becker has publicly named only one subject of his investigation, Michael Sanchez, Lauren’s brother and a pro-Trump Hollywood talent manager who is also an acquaintance of provocative Trump backers Roger Stone and Carter Page.
Hit me with your laser beams. Will Bunch–writing for the Philadelphi Inquirer connects dots this way: “Bezos, the National Enquirer, the Saudis, Trump, and the blackmailing of U.S. democracy.”
And what if I told you something else: That the Bezos scandal is ripping away the curtain on a secret world that’s been hiding in plain sight: That a nation founded in the ideals of democracy has been increasingly fallen prey to a new dystopian regime that melds the new 21st century dark arts of illegal hacking and media manipulation with the oldest tricks in the book: blackmail and extortion.
Pull up a chair.
You probably know by now the basics about Bezos and the National Enquirer: In January the Amazon mogul announced that he and his longtime wife MacKenzie are divorcing, hours ahead of a report in the National Enquirer laden with the content of racy texts between the billionaire and his mistress. On Thursday, Bezos — who’d hired a well-known investigator to find out how the supermarket tabloid got his private communications — took to Medium with a post accusing the Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, whose CEO is David Pecker, of threatening to publish embarrassing photos of Bezos and his lover if he didn’t drop his investigation and state (falsely, Bezos asserts) that its coverage was not politically motivated.
Ironically, the Bezos-AMI affair sucked all the oxygen out of another big scoop published at almost exactly the same time. The New York Times reported American intelligence had learned that the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (commonly referred to as “MBS”) had railed to an associate against the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who’d moved to the United States and was writing anti-MBS op-ed columns for the Washington Post. MBS allegedly said he’d personally put “a bullet” into Khashoggi.
Then, of course, we’re learning more about the Russian interference in our elections. Today’s NYT has this: “In Closed Hearing, a Clue About ‘the Heart’ of Mueller’s Russia Inquiry”.
Comments by one of Mr. Mueller’s lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, suggest that the special counsel continues to pursue at least one theory: that starting while Russia was taking steps to bolster Mr. Trump’s candidacy, people in his orbit were discussing deals to end a dispute over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and possibly give Moscow relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
The theory was offered almost as an aside by the prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, during a discussion of contacts between Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a longtime Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom investigators have linked to Russian intelligence.
A closer look at the transcript, released late Thursday, shows that the prosecutors have been keenly focused on discussions the two men had about a plan to end the conflict that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Persuading the United States to ease or end the American-led sanctions imposed to punish Moscow for its aggression has been a primary goal of Russian foreign policy.
According to the transcript, which was heavily redacted, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik repeatedly communicated about a so-called peace plan for Ukraine starting in early August 2016, while Mr. Manafort was still running Mr. Trump’s campaign, and continuing into 2018, months after Mr. Manafort had been charged by the special counsel’s office with a litany of crimes related to his work in the country. The prosecutors claim that Mr. Manafort misled them about those talks and other interactions with Mr. Kilimnik.
All this just in time for this:
Artificial intelligence is the 60-year-old quest to make machines capable of mental or physical tasks seen as emblematic of human or animal intelligence. In the past seven years a technology called machine learning, in which algorithms gain skills by digesting example data, has allowed computers to become markedly better at understanding the world. That technology has birthed software able to read medical scans, virtual assistants that answer shouted trivia questions, and become the heart of every major tech company’s product strategy.
One element of the Trump administration plan would open some stocks of government data to academics and companies doing AI research. Tech companies such as Google parent Alphabet have plenty of 1s and 0s logging consumer habits stashed inside their data centers; but in other areas, such as health care, they struggle to amass the data needed to fuel AI projects.
The White House says it will ask agencies in areas such as health and transportation to release data that could advance AI research, using mechanisms that protect privacy. The results could resemble a project of the Veterans Administration, which developed a way to provide Alphabet temporary access to hundreds of thousands of anonymized health records to train AI software to predict kidney problems.
The plan awaiting Trump’s signature also directs federal agencies to prioritize AI when allocating their R&D budgets. It asks them to support training and fellowship programs that will help workers adjust to jobs changed by AI, and train future AI experts and researchers.
The administration strategy also acknowledges that artificial intelligence may cause unwelcome effects.
Is this another fine mess they’re getting us into?
During a conference call with press, a senior administration official noted that the order will include five “key pillars” on which agencies should focus their AI efforts.
These pillars include the creation of a set of ethical guidelines for AI development and implementation, as well as the prioritization of AI research and development. The administration also wants agencies to make it easier for AI researchers to access federal data, create fellowships and apprenticeships that will help workers prepare for automation, and find ways to collaborate with other nations without compromising U.S. “values and interests.”
Yeah, and call me when the administration does anything ‘without compromising U.S. “values and interests”‘.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I struggled yesterday and today about sharing my experience Thursday morning with you. I had to go in for labs at the clinic of the hospital I’ve used for years. It’s a regional hospital and attracts people from all over SE Louisiana. It also sits within blocks of where Orleans Parish becomes Jefferson Parish. As such, it’s part of Congressman Steve (‘David Duke without the baggage’) Scalise who appears quite cozy in today’s Republican Party. You can never crawl away from history here. It’s a lesson I relearn frequently.
Now, I had the usual orders of not eating or drinking before these tests and I was loopy from lack of coffee. The minute they were done I headed straight for coffee at the snack bar. Relieved, I sat down, drinking, snacking on a cinnamon roll, and just sort of watching people come and go. Mostly, I saw a lot of elderly people being attended by a lot of what Mr Roger’s would call “the helpers”. This quote has stayed with me a long time. It’s always wonderful watching how nurturing people can be and how many take jobs where they patiently nurture and help all day.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
You can’t help but notice that the helpers in a hospital these days are quite diverse but in a big city you get to see all of humanity. I was sitting next to a helper whose job it is to see to any one needing assistance to get their destination. She was also watching every one come in the clinic door. At one point, an elderly white woman came in the door with her daughter who was probably a bit younger than me but could’ve been a lot younger. It was hard to tell. She immediately grabbed a wheel chair and began the process of getting her mother situated.
It was then I saw the black t shirt with white lettering and an equally white image. The top of shirt displayed “Get Bent” boldly. It was easy to read. The bottom lettering I never managed to get to because the image caught my eye and I started going through the “No, it can’t be. I can’t be seeing that” exercise in my head. “It’s a spoon!” I thought! “Yup. Bent spoon ! That makes sense right?” But, no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of seeing what I was seeing I had to admit my eyes were not lying to me. There was the twine of a rope. The twisted knot. The telltale loop. It was definitely a noose.
As that woman began pushing her mother’s chair by me, I turned to the black woman beside me, the helper, mouthing “Do you see that?” Again, I was hoping she could tell me I was seeing things. She said what? By that time the woman and chair were well behind us and I fought the urge to go snap a picture just so I could tell myself over and over that my eyes weren’t lying. “There’s a noose on her t shirt. A noose”.
The woman said, “Well that’s the sort’ve thing that is looking to start something.” She could tell I was fighting my instincts to chase down that wheel chair for a reason I cannot yet figure out. She saw me and suggested I take a few deep breaths and she started actually taking me through that process. She was a professional helper in patient care who was used to calming down nervous people in a clinic. She repeated my story to two other people while I was there and they looked at me. I told them, yes that’s what I saw and I am so sorry because I really have no idea why any one could be so openly cruel. My mind silently added, so openly cruel in a place where your mother needs help from every one whose job here is to give it to her and this is how you thank them. Every one employed at a hospital clinic is in the helping profession. Every person.
Today, I woke up to doing my usual coffee and reading of the newspapers in my own bed. The NYT had that picture of Tulane that’s up top there. I immediately recognized it but again, kept trying to tell myself that I’m just seeing things. I wasn’t. The date is 1987 and that’s clearly Tulane University. Again, Tulane kicked this frat out a long time ago but the students continue to join and go to school there and some subset of “grown ups in the room” let that picture get posted to a yearbook.
“Black people in general have had to deal with a lot of these things that have happened,” said Dr. David Randolph Sr., an oncologist in Richmond, Va., who graduated from Mr. Northam’s medical school in 1983 and recalled going to a party in the early 2000s and seeing a white couple dressed in full blackface as Venus and Serena Williams. “Everybody except me and my wife kind of looked at them as a matter of course.”
The frantic apology that Dr. Randolph received from the couple underscores what seems obvious: Blackface now and from its beginnings has been known to be offensive, “the filthy scum of white society,” as Frederick Douglass called it in 1848. That did not hamper its popularity. For more than a century it was in the mainstream of American pop culture, in Broadway plays and in Bing Crosby movies, before receding as the civil rights movement ascended.
But blackface has lingered, withdrawing into certain white settings cordoned off from public view.
I’m struggling with how I can best play a role in alleviating and eliminating racism in our society. Today, I feel like I’m clueless and inept. I guess my best response right now is to just turn to the black person next to me, let them know what I see and what I feel which is basically awful. I will let them tell me how best to respond or if I should respond. I just apologize endlessly a lot which really seems empty. I need to listen more.
Here’s some news headlines. I’ve been following including the Bezo/Pecker thing.
This link is from Allyson Chiu and Kayla Epstein at The Washington Post: “Ronan Farrow says he also received ‘blackmail’ threat over reporting on the National Enquirer and Trump”.
Last April, Farrow published a story in the New Yorker about the Enquirer’s “catch and kill” practice — in which stories are buried by paying off sources — that benefited Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
AMI did not immediately return a message from The Post about Farrow’s claim.
The allegations from Bezos and Farrow have since prompted other journalists and media outlets to come forward with claims that they too had been targeted by AMI for reporting on the Enquirer.
In response to Farrow, former Associated Press editor Ted Bridis tweeted a similar story.
Bridis claimed in a separate tweet referencing Bezos’s Medium post that AMI, the Enquirer and its lawyers “tried to shut down public interest reporting on tabloid’s work on behalf of Trump.”
The Daily Beast also reported that attorneys for AMI responded aggressively to two stories published last week that detailed Bezos’s investigation into the Enquirer. In its story about Thursday’s Medium post, the Daily Beast disclosed that during the process of that reporting, the publication “and a member of its staff were threatened by AMI’s attorneys.”
From The Boston Globe Op Ed page and Margery Eagan: “Race, not abortion, was the founding issue of the religious right”.
Here are some facts that might surprise you.
In 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, the biggest white evangelical group in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, supported its legalization. The group continued that support through much of the 1970s. And the late Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, did not give his first antiabortion speech until 1978, five years after Roe.
Though opposition to abortion is what many think fueled the powerful conservative white evangelical right, 81 percent of whom voted for Donald Trump, it was really school integration, according to Randall Balmer, chairman of the religion department at Dartmouth. The US Supreme Court ruled public school segregation unconstitutional in 1954. In 1976 it ruled against segregated private schools. Then courts went after the tax exemptions of these private all-white Southern schools, or so-called segregation academies, like Falwell’s Liberty Christian Academy.
The late Paul Weyrich, whom Balmer called the organizational genius behind the religious right, had long tried to mobilize evangelical voters around some hot-button issue: feminism, school prayer, pornography, abortion. But nothing lit a fire like the federal government’s threat to all-white schools. Only in 1979, a full six years after Roe, did Weyrich urge evangelical leaders to also crusade against abortion, Balmer said in an interview. That was, after all, a far more palatable, acceptable crusade, one with a seeming high moral purpose, unlike a race-based crusade against black children.
The powers that be always work to divide us.
From the Washington Post: “‘My whole town practically lived there’: From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of illegal workers for Trump goes back years”. We continue to find out that Trump’s fascination with undocumented works seems to be purely political and purely related to race baiting.
At his home on the misty slope of Costa Rica’s tallest mountain, Dario Angulo keeps a set of photographs from the years he tended the rolling fairways and clipped greens of a faraway American golf resort.
Angulo learned to drive backhoes and bulldozers, carving water hazards and tee boxes out of former horse pastures in Bedminster, N.J., where a famous New Yorker was building a world-class course. Angulo earned $8 an hour, a fraction of what a state-licensed heavy equipment operator would make, with no benefits or overtime pay. But he stayed seven years on the grounds crew, saving enough for a small piece of land and some cattle back home.
Now the 34-year-old lives with his wife and daughters in a sturdy house built by “Trump money,” as he put it, with a porch to watch the sun go down.
It’s a common story in this small town.
Other former employees of President Trump’s company live nearby: men who once raked the sand traps and pushed mowers through thick heat on Trump’s prized golf property — the “Summer White House,” as aides have called it — where his daughter Ivanka got married and where he wants to build a family cemetery.
“Many of us helped him get what he has today,” Angulo said. “This golf course was built by illegals.”
So, if you’re really into farce, turn on the TV and watch what passes as an Acting Attorney General discuss what’s supposed to pass for a President of the United states.
So, I hope you have a great weekend. Remember to do something nice for the Helpers if you get a chance.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Well, it’s Monday Sky Dancers and it’s never too late to learn new things unless you’re Donald Trump.
The appalling way women have been historically treated was one of the hallmarks of the last two years. The #MeToo movement led to a very differently looking congress in 2018. The #BlackLivesMatter movement went back front and center yesterday at the Super Bowl.
It’s Black History month and it’s time to find teachers and take lessons. It’s also evidently time to relearn a few lessons some people failed to get the first million times out.
I’m fully beginning to think that the next election will be about the historically shameful way that Black people have been treated up to and way pass the Emancipation Proclamation and the enfranchisement of Black men into the voting populace in 1870 with the passing of the 15th Amendment. Virginia has once again taken center stage.
How can a man my age think that participating in any form of black face as an adult in any manner during–at the very least–the back half of the 20th century forward think that’s not an offense that should cause you to resign your position as Governor of the state that basically was ground zero for American slavery? How can a Democratic leader who relied on votes from African Americans not do the right thing? When will Virginia Governor Ralph Northram resign?
The drumbeat spread to the state’s public universities. The College of William and Mary on Monday announced that Northam would not attend Friday’s inauguration of new president Katherine Rowe, saying in a statement that “the Governor’s presence would fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event.”
University of Virginia president James Ryan issued a statement Sunday suggesting that Northam should resign, saying that if a leader’s “trust is lost, for whatever reason, it is exceedingly difficult to continue to lead. It seems we have reached that point.”
On Sunday night, the governor met with senior staffers of color to discuss his future following two days of defiance against the national clamor that he should resign. People familiar with that meeting said Northam had not reached a decision.
It was unclear who was present, but the group did not include Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who would become governor if Northam resigned, the people said. One Democratic official said the meeting was emotional in tone.
Calling the Sunday night meeting was a clear signal of Northam’s effort to weigh support within the administration as he evaluates his options. Although he pledged Saturday to stand his ground, he also said he would reconsider if he thought he could no longer be effective.
Though blackface was the No. 1 entertainment form throughout the United States in the 19th century, it has a particularly notable legacy in Virginia. The first globally famous minstrel troupe hailing from New York City rebranded itself as the Virginia Minstrels in 1843. Dan Emmett, the group’s founder, understood his minstrel troupe needed to project a sense of authentic, stereotypical blackness. Virginia, a state that imported enslaved Africans as a colony as early as 1619, embodied the complex relationship between blackface entertainment, slavery and American culture in a single word. The troupe did not just borrow Virginia’s brand, but shaped it: Its song “Dixie” became the unofficial Confederate anthem.
That legacy can be seen in the history of blackface at the University of Virginia, founded and designed by another Virginia governor: Thomas Jefferson. Virginia was a state built on enslaved labor, and U-Va. was no different. Beginning in 1830, the university would “hire out” enslaved people from the surrounding area. Eventually, U-Va. purchased humans like “Big Lewis” Commodore in 1832 at auction for $580, permanently separating him from his family.
Virginia’s slave empire ended when African American slaves fought for their freedom in the Civil War. After 1865, Lewis Commodore was free. But when slavery disappeared, fundraising with amateur blackface minstrel shows and city minstrel parades emerged. They featured fictionalized blackface slaves and their Klansman counterparts — a pairing on display in the Northam photo — to sustain Virginia’s infrastructure and segregated economy, as well as to inculcate new generations into a form of white supremacy associated with collegiality, school spirit and patriotism.
Over the weekend, BB introduced me to Dr RL Barnes and her area of research which is basically the not so subtle and the subtle ways that the Institutions of this country remind every one of what racists think is the “place” of Black Americans in their own country. It’s also about how some of us passively, stupidly, and naively go along with it and internalize it.
I remember poring over literature, laws, and popular culture in the 1970s discovering how language, pictures, stories, and culture all work together to keep women in their “place”. As a teenager and young adult, it became very freeing to be able to point these things out and to discover it wasn’t all in your head that menfolk and their enabling women were out to get you.
I knew there was similar things in place for people of color including all the stereotypes of Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans that culture, the law, and society can feed you. I’m beginning to read stories of friends much the same way I read stories of friends screaming Me Too.
Over the weekend, I learned that decorating with recently picked cotton bolls was and is a thing. Oh, this is not making faking spider webs with synthetic batting and its use isn’t the innocent thing that Way Fair, Hobby Lobby and others are making it out to be.
There was also a history of casually tossing bags of them on to the lawns of “inconvenient” neighbors which seems a bit like something the KKK would do. How is this a thing?
Bridging that gap requires unpacking why, for many black people and people of color, raw cotton is a symbol of racial terror.
Cotton represents the product of a system that required slave labor to function. More recently, perpetrators of racial intimidation have used cotton as a symbol of their hatred. Before white robes became the uniform, some KKK members wore ceremonial hornsstuffed with cotton. Two white men seeking to intimidate and unsettle members of the University of Missouri’s Black Culture Center littered the front lawn of the Center with cotton balls. The word even fills the mouths of students who bully their black peers by calling them “cotton pickers.”
Jasmine Gales, a black woman and social activist in Nashville, explains how this context translates into the contemporary mindset of many people of color:
“Black people’s association with the cotton plant is an obvious one of trauma and suffering,” she wrote for The Tennessean. “In being culturally sensitive to the history of African-Americans which includes slavery and the free labor of cotton harvesting, an institution wouldn’t choose to display it at a dinner meant to uplift the black experience.”
The individuals who reacted defensively or dismissively to the cotton complaints either ignored this context or were ignorant of it entirely. If there wasn’t an explicitly racist motive behind the design choice, they reasoned, then it wasn’t a problem.
Neither perception reflects an absolute truth. But the chorus of naysayers trying to drown out the voices of two black women reflects a power dynamic that must inform a culturally responsive interpretation.
So, I was horrified back in 1986 when the CJ Howell movie “Soul Man” came out. Haven’t seen it. Wouldn’t see it. Still can’t believe some one released and funded it and filmed it. It had obvious implications for my generation because of the Bakke Supreme Court decision in 1978 and my experience with busing and integration prior to that in and around 1973. There were mad white people every where about those decisions but I kind’ve wrote it all off to crazy white uneducated southern white trash and didn’t really explore it. Well, I’m exploring it now and finding that my assumptions were naive. Well, stupid if you really want the truth
There is, of course, no acceptable way for deeply unacceptable films to reach their merciful conclusions. But Soul Man manages to confound even one’s worst expectations. Before Mark’s big reveal to the campus, Gordon assumes the role of a pseudo-defense attorney, flipping the script on the product-of-his-environment argument. Mark, he argues, was brought up to be selfish and entitled, the product of an upper-crust white family in the suburbs. “Can you blame him for the color of his skin?”
For some reason, James Earl Jones’s character agrees with the assessment, and is even amused by Mark’s stunt. “You must have learned a great deal more than you bargained for through this experience,” he remarks, grinning. “I didn’t really know what it feels like, sir,” adding, “If I didn’t like it, I could always get out.”
That line is the movie’s nauseating coup de grâce, intended to justify the fact that Mark gets off with little more than a slap on the wrist for his deception. He tells Jones’s character that he wants to finish his law degree to “do some work that might be of use to someone.”
The deal is this. The blackface thing in that Virginia med school during the 1980s wasn’t an outlier. It was evidently another one of those “things” that I had no clue was a thing. I’m fortunate to know many New Orleans Writers and bloggers including a young black woman whose outrage at a cottonball decoration introduced me to more subtle ways that white culture continues to terrorize Black Americans.
My friend and blogger at The American Zombie reminded me this weekend that Tulane had a similar incident. One of the guys that was involved ran unsuccessfully for governor of Louisiana and now owns one of the state’s two big Newspapers.
I thought it prescient to repost this story today to remind folks that institutionalized racism is still alive and thriving behind the closed doors of collegiate fraternities throughout the South. Also to point out that the universities themselves should not be blamed. As evident in my story, Tulane struggled for years to separate the DKE’s from the school’s namesake going so far as to kick them off campus and not recognize them as an official fraternity. They existed as an independent entity living off-campus until the cancer finally died out around the late 90’s, or at least it went into remission. I would hope it’s dead but judging by the impenitent attitudes of the former DKE’s in the comment section of my post I would assume an entire new generation of kids are now carrying their fathers’ prejudices with them under alternate letters of the Greek alphabet.
My favorite dodge in that comment section was the DKE alum who tried to convince me that the noose in the 1975 yearbook picture was actually a tire swing sans tire:
A “tire swing sans tire” hanging twenty-something feet in the air would lead me to believe all these guys were on the Tulane pole vaulting team. And how, exactly, did the tire disappear from the noose? The tire split before the rope did? No one thought to ask, “Hey…you know…we have a noose hanging in our yearbook picture…should we take that down?” What a load of shit.University of Oklahoma president David Boren voiced his distaste with the actions of the SAE’s but he may have a hard time eradicating the fraternity from the campus if he so chooses. Once again, I don’t want to blame the educational institution itself, the actions of these fraternities do not represent the morals of the body wh ole. Anyway, here’s the story, reposted:
You may read Jason Brad Berry’s 2010 story at this link. I was in college at the University of Nebraska at the time. I was in grad school at the time of Northram’s adventure. I personally know of no one in my circle that would’ve done anything remotely like that even though I did witness a number of horrifying angry white people during the Omaha Public Schools “busing” policy’s start.
I grew up knowing that Omaha purposefully designed its interstate system to isolate the black part of town that provided the only black representative in the state’s unicameral. His voice was powerful and pissed off that powers that be for decades which frankly thrilled me to pieces. Senator Ernie Chambers turned 80 in 2017 and his legacy will be a forever thing there. Still, finding all this stuff went on with me totally unwoke embarrasses me and made me extremely sad. Senator Chambers was my primary teacher on racism until I moved to New Orleans. I have found I need more teachers. I need to learn more about these things that I did not know were a thing.
As I delve more into Black history with so many motivations that it’s hard to unwind them all, I turn to this “How Frederick Douglass Harnessed the Power of Portraiture to Reframe Blackness in America”. Douglass knew the power of an image before nearly any one.
For Douglass, this was no happy accident. Today, he is remembered as an influential advocate of emancipation and civil rights, a legacy defined by his best-selling autobiographies and powerful speeches. But what has largely been forgotten is the way he deftly manipulated the power of images to advance his cause.To put it simply, Douglass was a photography buff. He penned four speeches expounding upon the medium throughout his life—one more than the man considered the Civil War era’s most prominent photo critic. He held Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerreotype, in great esteem for broadening photography’s appeal beyond the upper class. Because of daguerreotypes, Douglass claimed, “the humblest servant girl may now possess a picture of herself such as the wealth of kings could not purchase fifty years ago.” He viewed photography as the most democratic of the arts.He also believed deeply in its objectivity. “For Douglass, photography was the lifeblood of being able to be seen and not caricatured, to be represented and not grotesque, to be seen as fully human and not as an object or chattel to be bought and sold,” says Celeste-Marie Bernier, co-author of Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (2015).Photography was the perfect tool for a man trying to rewrite racial prejudices in the United States, and Douglass sought out every opportunity to be captured. With each portrait, he could present America with an additional image of blackness that contradicted the prevailing racist stereotypes.
The last time I really thought about the history of blackface was back when there was discussion of the role of Zulu and the incredible racist roots of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Here’s something you may want to read about the krewe and its signature looks from New Orleans investigative paper The Lens.
It’s hard to measure the scope of Zulu’s influence on what the Times-Picayune’s Doug MacCash has called the “new” Mardi Gras, and on what I have called the restoration of carnivalesque carnival, after the dark ages of the white supremacist anti-carnival ushered in by the Mystick Krewe of Comus in 1857. It’s a remarkable testament to the resilience of carnival spirit that, in the midst of the white supremacist era, when Comus, Momus, Proteus, and Rex ruled the day, the Zulu king first stepped off a banana boat in the New Basin canal wearing a lard can crown. The date: 1909.
That’s why it’s so upsetting — also a bit absurd — when people who have no understanding or appreciation for carnival aesthetics and social analysis chime in from hundreds of miles away with self-righteous finger-wagging. What they’re about is shaming traditions that are far more revolutionary than they are able to comprehend.
That’s exactly what has happened this year, when Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman went up on Facebook with a picture of herself in Mardi Gras regalia and since then, after taking flack for it, has been agonizing through a multi-part act of public contrition. Tuennerman’s sin is to have had the temerity to accept the great honor of riding in the Zulu parade on Mardi Gras morning, wearing the traditional mask of Zulu blackface.
I say “Zulu blackface” because the style of blackface worn by Zulu riders is distinct from other forms of blackface viewed as offensive due to their history as a tool of white supremacist ideology. One of the distinctive visual features of Zulu blackface is an enlarged white eye on one side of the face, which can be seen in depictions of the Zulu Big Shot as well as on Tuennerman’s face in her much-maligned social media posting. In the world of totalitarian expression — the opposite of carnivalesque expression — such nuances of signification go unnoticed.
A typically clueless (and arrogant) response to Ann Tuennerman’s posting came from Chicago’s Nikkole Palmatier: “I have a problem with the blackface entirely. As do most people outside of the New Orleans tradition. Just as those who live outside of Cleveland think the Indians logo is racist and the term ‘Redskins’ is racist.”
Yeah. Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s hard to conceive of a more egregiously false analogy than this. Are the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins actually Native American institutions, founded, owned, and staffed, at all levels, by Native Americans?
Palmatier’s argument leads us to question whether Zulu’s iconography should be practiced by anyone, not just whether Zulu should accept white riders. And that’s a whole other can of worms. It calls into question the extent to which black people should be allowed agency in representing their own experience; it also places limits on how black people themselves choose to enunciate anti-racist arguments.
There’s also the Spike Lee film “Bamboozled” for an interesting take. This film was made in 2000.
I feel this year that I need to unpack a lot more about black history and experience than reading inspirational speeches by the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. We’ve all seen the images of black stereotypes that were prevalent in the pre Civil Rights era. I’ve only used the original “Jim Crow” here but we likely all know many more. For me, it’s time to learn some of the deeper stories and to listen more about how this country continually dehumanizes our Black Americans.
I intend to fully celebrate Black History month.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Well, it’s another Friday Sky Dancers!
I would like to think we’re closer to neutering the crazy in Drumpfistan but we’re not. Each day it becomes radically clear that world order is being upended and that most third world nations have a better grasp on economic and foreign policy than our executive branch. Again, what fresh hell is this and how much longer can our country and the world tolerate this ignorant and rogue administration that lurches from the creation of one disaster to the next.
Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo–religious nutbag extraordinaire–announced that the US is withdrawing from a Cold War nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. Pompeo cited Russian violations which actually have been discussed by NATO and the UN for about 5 years. Why the hurry to leave the table now?
Pompeo first announced the U.S. intention to withdraw in December, giving Russia a 60-day window to come back into compliance, and that window runs out on Saturday. Withdrawal now requires an additional six-month window, according to the treaty’s terms. The agreement, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 310 and 3,100 miles.
While Pompeo spoke only of Russia, U.S. officials have been concerned about China’s growing military prowess as China is not a party to the Cold War pact. Officials worry that puts the U.S. at a military disadvantage, although a senior administration official denied Friday that the decision was made because of the actions of any other country besides Russia.
President Donald Trump issued a statement saying Russia had violated the INF Treaty with “impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.”
The U.S. first accused Russia of violating the pact in 2014, but Russia first denied it possessed the weapon in violation and then later said that weapon didn’t violate the treaty’s terms.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday Russia regrets the U.S. decision and accused the U.S. of being “unwilling to hold any substantial talks.”
But the top U.S. diplomat for arms control had met with Russia repeatedly in the last two months, saying after each meeting that Russia continued to deny its deployment and the U.S. had no other choice.
I frankly wonder if these actions were taken because the President wanted some action that looked like he didn’t favor the Putin Regime over American interests. There appears to be no diplomatic path to resolution. It just seems one more act of chaos on the international stage.
US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson on Thursday held last-ditch talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Beijing ahead of the expiration on Saturday of a US 60-day deadline for Moscow to return to compliance with the treaty.
Thompson and Ryabkov said afterwards that the two countries had failed to bridge their differences. They met on the sidelines of a meeting of the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain – all nuclear powers.
European officials are concerned about the treaty’s possible collapse, fearful that Europe could again become an arena for nuclear-armed, intermediate-range missile buildups by the United States and Russia.
In an interview, Thompson said she expected Washington to stop complying with the treaty as soon as this weekend, a move she said would allow the US military to immediately begin developing its own longer-range missiles if it chose to do so, raising the prospect they could be deployed in Europe.
“We’ll be able to do that (suspend our treaty obligations) on 2 February”, she told Reuters in Beijing. “We’ll have an announcement made, follow all the steps that need to be taken on the treaty to suspend our obligations with the intent to withdraw.”
Once announced, the formal withdrawal process takes six months. Halting treaty compliance would untie the US military’s hands, Thompson said.
“We are then also able to conduct the R&D and work on the systems we haven’t been able to use because we’ve been in compliance with the treaty,” she said. “Come 2 February, this weekend, if DoD (the US Department of Defense) chooses to do that, they’ll be able to do that.”
Washington remained open to further talks with Moscow about the treaty, she added.
Ryabkov said Moscow would continue working toward an agreement but accused Washington of ignoring Russian complaints about US missiles and of adopting what he called a destructive position.
Trump appears to be throwing all of his cards into white evangelical insanity. This Washington Monthly article appeared yesterday and rumors are that we’re going to be treated to a SOTU focused on fetus fetishes via Politico. We’ve already been told by the Huckabeast that white jesus made Trump President. These people join Trump in being a menace to the world.
We’ve already been treated to grisly rape fantasies about women seeking US asylum on the border. What horrid and particularly heinous lies will we hear on Tuesday? From the Politico article:
President Donald Trump is telling conservative allies he wants to incorporate firm anti-abortion language into his State of the Union address Tuesday, and potentially include an anti-abortion figure among his list of invitees, according to four sources familiar with his plans
Trump sees an opening to energize his evangelical supporters and capture moderate voters who administration officials believe may be turned off by widespread coverage of New York’s newest abortion law, which allows for termination of some pregnancies after the 24-week mark for health reasons.
The country continues to be regaled to the fetus fantasy fetish porn about so-called “third term abortions”. There are either successful or unsuccessful deliveries at this point but don’t expect the disingenuous religious nutters to believe or spout medicine. The unsuccessful deliveries are from something that’s gone extremely wrong and no positive outcome is ever expected so viability is central to any medical intervention at this point in the gestation cycle by both law and ethics. Kathy Tran from Virginia has proposed a similar bill to the New York bill. From The Intelligencer:
Tran’s bill wasn’t as salacious as its detractors insist. It would have reduced the number of doctors required to sign off on a third-term abortion from three to one, and it would have allowed that physician to approve a late-term abortion for any medical reason, including harm to a woman’s mental health. This provision would have altered the state’s existing statute, which currently allows a team of three physicians to approve third-term abortions for women whose health would be “substantially and irredeemably” harmed by continuing their pregnancies. The bill would have also allowed second-term abortions to be performed outside licensed hospitals, in facilities like clinics. A House subcommittee rejected the bill, but if it had become law it would not have licensed Virginia physicians to perform abortions as a fetus enters the birth canal. Tran’s bill resembles New York’s Reproductive Health Act in that it expands access to later-term abortions, but partial-birth abortion, or “born-alive abortion,” as GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called it in a tweet, is already illegal. RHA didn’t legalize it, and neither would Tran’s bill.
In other news, Cory Booker announces his candidacy for the Democratic Nomination for President.
From The Atlantic: “Cory Booker Launched His Presidential Campaign in the Most Cory Booker Way Possible”. He spent last night at his church. I’m still thinking on that one. I like deeply held beliefs guiding people’s individual choices in a sincere way and in private. It’s sort’ve like the difference between knowing you have a penis or vagina tucked away down there that influences your life and whipping either of them out for public display and commentary. I hate it when sanctimony gets on a public stage. But, we’ll see what he does.
The New Jersey senator announced his presidential campaign hours later on Friday morning, the first day of Black History Month, with a run of early-morning appearances on black and Spanish-language radio. His first big interview would be across the river in Manhattan for The View.
After a break for the Super Bowl, there will be more next week, then a swing to South Carolina and Iowa next weekend. His launch video, set to the snare drums of a high-school marching band, runs through his own family’s story of white lawyers helping his family break through a pattern of local housing discrimination in a way that changed the course of his life. It splices together clips of resistance marches and civil-rights marches, and talks about collective action and interwoven destiny, panning from shots of the homeless on a city street to a field growing corn.
Booker’s campaign will roll out big lists of staff hires and supporters in all the early-presidential-primary states, years of preparations unleashed for a show of force he and his aides think is going to pave the way for a traditional ground game, despite being built around a black man obsessed with the “conspiracy of love” who is not a traditional candidate at all. But before it began, he brought together a group of friends, supporters, and current and former aides for what the reverend described on Thursday night as an intimate prayer service. Booker’s Senate office in Washington is filled with religious books; last week he quoted the Torah in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He’s comfortable sitting for six hours in a church service, head bowed, nodding along. Even as other plans shifted, he knew he wanted this to be where he spent the night before everything became official.
It’s one thing to use a belief system to extend civil rights to all individuals. It’s completely another to use it to deny others’ humanity. I’ll personally be watching Corey’s campaign carefully.
Meanwhile, the NYT did an Oval Office interview with our abysmal *President. They sent the usual suspects to interview him (Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker) which sent up warning flags to me. Here’s about how I would sum the entire thing.
You can, of course, read it for yourself. It’s full of the usual Trump whoppers so I really don’t see the point.
Anyway, it’s warming up a bit down here in New Orleans but I still keep hearing how frigid it is up there north of me. Stay Warm if you’re still deep in the Polar Vortex.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I’ve found that writing our usual Monday Morning news round up has gone far far far beyond my usual gasping “What fresh hell is this?” as I search the usual sites for issues and policies that impact our daily lives. I think we can safely say that no one left at the White House has a clue about governance, foreign policy, or economics and could care less. It’s all about their wealth and personal grievances against a secular democracy.
The pandering to religious nutters has gotten worse and any grasp on reality outside of reaction to the usual boob tube suspects has gone way beyond the obsession stage with Unindicted Individual #1. There is clear and present danger in nearly all the headlines involving what is supposed to be our President and what he does every moment. He’s clearly incompetent, thuggish, and ignorant beyond words.
There are a number of accounts of West Wing life that continue to stun me although I’m rarely surprised by the new heights of stupidity and the new low of corruptness and personal greed. It’s just really hard to know where to start and even my morning cuppa doesn’t bring relief to the massive feeling of panic that I get thinking this is a nightmare that will never end.
There are so many nightmarish headlines today that I can’t believe I’m reading them in real newspapers and that I’m actually awake.
Trump loves him some uneducated people and this ought to rock their world: “Trump offers encouragement for state efforts to teach Bible literacy in public schools”. Great more ignorance from the iron ages! Just what we need! What’s next? The department of Inquisitors?
President Trump gave his blessing Monday to lawmakers in several states who are pushing legislation to allow Bible literacy classes in public schools.
“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible,” Trump wrote in a morning tweet. “Starting to make a turn back? Great!”
Last week, there was this in Slate: “The Trump Administration Will Let Adoption Agencies Turn Away Jews and Same-Sex Couples. Thank SCOTUS.”The Trump Administration Will Let Adoption Agencies Turn Away Jews and Same-Sex Couples. Thank SCOTUS.”
Then, there’s this from the AP: “Trump rollbacks for fossil fuel industries carry steep cost”.
As the Trump administration rolls back environmental and safety rules for the energy sector, government projections show billions of dollars in savings reaped by companies will come at a steep cost: more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, a jump in climate-warming emissions and more severe derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels.
The Associated Press analyzed 11 major rules targeted for repeal or relaxation under Trump, using the administration’s own estimates to tally how its actions would boost businesses and harm society.
The AP identified up to $11.6 billion in potential future savings for companies that extract, burn and transport fossil fuels. Industry windfalls of billions of dollars more could come from a freeze in vehicle efficiency standards that will yield an estimated 79 billion-gallon (300 million-liter) increase in fuel consumption.
On the opposite side of the government’s ledger, buried in thousands of pages of analyses, are the “social costs” of rolling back the regulations. Among them:
— Up to 1,400 additional premature deaths annually due to the pending repeal of a rule to cut coal plant pollution.
— An increase in greenhouse gas emissions by about 1 billion tons (907 million metric tons) from vehicles produced over the next decade — a figure equivalent to annual emissions of almost 200 million vehicles.
— Increased risk of water contamination from a drilling technique known as “fracking.”
— Fewer safety checks to prevent offshore oil spills.
For the Trump administration and its supporters, the rule changes examined by AP mark a much-needed pivot away from heavy regulations that threatened to hold back the Republican president’s goal of increasing U.S. energy production. But the AP’s findings also underscore the administration’s willingness to put company profits ahead of safety considerations and pollution effects.
Silly thing about all this is that we don’t need this and the world definitely is moving away from it all.
The Trump administration on Sunday lifted sanctions against the business empire of Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs.
Congressional Democrats had tried to block the move this month, assailing it as a capitulation to the Kremlin and a key ally of President Vladimir V. Putin. But they failed to win enough Republican support to enforce the sanctions.
The Treasury Department had announced the sanctionsagainst Mr. Deripaska, six other oligarchs and their companies in April as retaliation for Russia’s “malign activity” around the world.
Most of the sanctions went into effect, including against Mr. Deripaska personally. But their implementation was repeatedly delayed against Mr. Deripaska’s giant aluminum company, Rusal, as well as two linked firms, including EN+, the holding company that owned much of Rusal. The companies financed a sophisticated legal and lobbying campaign arguing that the sanctions would disrupt the aluminum market and damage companies in the United States and allied countries.
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, was sensitive to that argument. He clarified that the goal of the sanctions was “to change the behavior” of Mr. Deripaska, and “not to put Rusal out of business,” given the company’s pivotal role as a global supplier of aluminum.
The Treasury Department announced a deal last month to lift the sanctions in exchange for a restructuring that it said would reduce Mr. Deripaska’s control and ownership of the companies.
Yet a confidential, legally binding document detailing the agreement showed that Mr. Deripaska and his allies would retain majority ownership of EN+.
Headline after headline is just about one scam or constitutional crisis or foreign policy crisis or economic harbinger of doom after another. It’s like the entire newsfeed is filled with “Man bites Dog” headlines and the mad dog is Trump biting our entire country. Did you ever think you would see such criminal behavior so flagrantly flaunted in public? It’s not just criminal though, and it’s just not aimed at taking the country to third world status, it’s about handing what power we have over to international thug countries!
But a detailed look at the timeline of the week following the end of the Republican National Convention — from July 22 to July 27 — reveals that amid widespread skepticism of Trump’s presidential bid, Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone embarked on a desperate push to get more information on what emails Wikileaks, which dropped its first tranche on July 22, had at its disposal.
The push, according to an indictment unveiled Friday against Stone, came after an unnamed Trump campaign official was directed by an unknown person to contact Stone “about any additional releases and what other damaging information” Wikileaks “had regarding the Clinton campaign.” Thus began a months-long backchannel between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks via Stone.
But one day after the close of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, it was a different time. Wikileaks had just begun to publish damaging emails showing the internal deliberations of Democratic National Committee staffers during the 2016 primary. The emails dropped the Friday before the Democratic convention was set to begin the following Monday.
Trump himself and those in his inner circle rushed to highlight the divisions within the Democratic Party exposed by the Wikileaks dump, just as the party headed into its national convention. The GOP nominee both scoffed at the idea that Russia was behind the leaks, while continuing to tout his warm feelings for Russian President Vladimir Putin and support for policy positions advanced by the Russian leader.
Sometime after the July 22 email release, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE” about what else Wikileaks had, according to the Stone indictment.
The number of people in a position to direct a senior campaign official — apart from the candidate — is extremely limited.
It is also not clear when exactly that direction was handed down to the official. But “thereafter,” Stone “told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material” from Wikileaks, the indictment says.
By July 25, Stone had begun via email hassling “Person 1,” as the indictment dubs the individual who appears to be far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, about establishing contact with Assange and getting “the pending” Wikileaks emails …”they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” Corsi forwarded Stone’s message to Ted Malloch, a London-based conservative writer, and Stone’s outreach to Corsi about Assange would continue through late July and August.
During that same initial weekend, Trump ramped up his promotion of the material released by Wikileaks and specifically sought to convince Bernie Sanders’ support not to support Hillary Clinton.
At times, Sims witnessed fellow staffers—Conway chief among them—take swipes at each other behind their backs. He calls Conway a “cartoon villain brought to life” who bad-mouthed colleagues to multiple reporters by the hour. He credits Stephen Miller’s survival to the speechwriter’s ability to play both sides of the “globalist/nationalist” divide in the White House. While the then–chief strategist Steve Bannon viewed Miller as his “right-wing protege,” his ideological ally against the so-called globalists, Miller was cultivating a close relationship with perhaps the globalist in chief, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Sims writes of listening in on Miller “plung[ing] the knife” into Bannon’s back and “twisting it with relish” during a conversation with the president. “Your polling numbers are actually very strong considering Steve won’t stop leaking to the press and trying to undermine Jared,” Miller said, according to Sims. “If Steve wasn’t doing that, I bet you’d be ten points higher.”
He also watched as senior officials privately laughed off many of the president’s stranger requests. In his first few days as director of the National Economic Council, Sims writes, Larry Kudlow emerged from a meeting with the president looking flustered. He told Gary Cohn, his predecessor, that Trump ordered him to “stop” a “special deal” that he believed Amazon was getting from the U.S. Postal Service. “Gary laughed loudly,” Sims writes. “‘Welcome to the White House,’ [Cohn] said, shaking Larry’s hand … ‘It’s total bulls—.’” Cohn explained that Amazon was not, in fact, getting “some special deal.” “He’s just mad at [Jeff] Bezos for owning The Washington Post.”
“‘So’ Larry replied hesitantly, ‘I shouldn’t do anything about this?’” Sims writes that Cohn told Kudlow not to bother, adding, “But now you know why I’m so happy to be leaving.”
Perhaps the liveliest pages of Sims’s book recount Anthony Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure as communications director, when he maintained a singular focus on rooting out the leakers. Sims writes of a morning that Scaramucci gathered the full communications staff. His goal was to motivate them against leaking to the press. He tried to do so using a “horrifying” technique: role-playing. He pulled a young staffer on the regional media team to the front of the room, “probably the last person in the room who would ever leak anything,” Sims writes.
“Okay, Tyler, I’ll be Reince Priebus and you be you,” Scaramucci said. The “Mooch” then assumed the role of Priebus, who was chief of staff at the time: “Tyler, I need you to leak something for me.”
After a brief silence, a distressed-looking Tyler responded robotically, “I cannot do that.” Mooch twirled his finger in a circle, Sims writes, prompting him to continue. “I cannot do that,” Tyler reiterated. “I report to Anthony Scaramucci and he reports directly to the president of the United States.” “Perfect!” said the Mooch, who was beaming.
I have no plans to even read the Christie book but if it fingers Kushner and his Daddy-in-law I will stand and applaud.
Christie wrote that Trump told him, “This Russia thing is all over now, because I fired Flynn.”
The former New Jersey governor, a close Trump ally, told the president, “’Sir … this Russia thing is far from over,” he wrote.
“What do you mean?” Trump reportedly responded. “Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.”
Kushner chimed in then, according to Christie, saying, “That’s right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing.”
Christie in the book wrote that the conversation was “naïve,” according to the Times.
Special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia has lasted for more than a year.
In that time, more than two dozen Russian nationals and entities have been charged for their alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and Mueller has indicted individuals with ties to the Trump campaign and administration.
Flynn was forced to resign early in the Trump administration over revelations about his communication with a Russian ambassador to the United States. The former national security adviser has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russians.
“Flynn was a train wreck from beginning to end,” Christie wrote in the new book, according to the Times.
Needless to say, the poll numbers showing Trump cratering amid his handling of the shutdown will not pierce that bubble. And that makes a disastrous outcome in the next round more likely.
First, let’s look at the new Post-ABC polling. Some highlights:
- 57 percent rate Trump’s handling of border security negatively, a remarkable indictment of Trump on his signature issue.
- 61 percent say Trump is not honest or trustworthy.
- 58 percent say Trump lacks the personality and temperament to serve effectively as president.
- 56 percent say Trump has not brought needed change to Washington.
- 65 percent say Trump does not understand the problems of people like them.
- 58 percent say Trump is not good at making political deals.
- 64 percent do not have a lot of confidence that Trump will make the right decisions for the country’s future.
A new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll reports similar findings across the board.
Trump has gotten so whack that he’s now going after Fox News and Anne Coulter.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to take a rare jab at Fox News.
“Never thought I’d say this but I think @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner @FoxNews have even less understanding of the Wall negotiations than the folks at FAKE NEWS CNN & NBC!” Trump wrote. “Look to final results! Don’t know how my poll numbers are so good, especially up 19% with Hispanics?”
While it is unclear exactly what prompted Trump’s tweet, on Sunday Fox News correspondent Gillian Turner joined John Roberts — who was filling for Chris Wallace — for a panel discussion on Fox News debating the winners and losers of the shutdown fight. At one point in the conversation, which included repeated reference to Trump’s wall, Turner said the president “fell on his sword on the wall issue.”
President Donald Trump slammed Ann Coulter in a new interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday.
“I hear she’s become very hostile,” Trump said about Coulter, who has taken jabs of her own recently at Trump.
The president added: “Maybe I didn’t return her phone call or something.”
On Friday, Coulter called Trump a “wimp” after learning the temporary shutdown deal did not include money for the wall.
“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” Coulter wrote on Twitter.
The big question is can we last that long?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?