Friday Reads: Redecorating the Oval Office and America with that Bordello Mentality


Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I have one of those summer colds now. I can barely talk since my Thursday night lecture and my entire head feels like something is using ice picks to get out of it. The other headache I now have is what to do with the roof over the newer edition to the house. It has to be replaced and there is structural damage to some of the beams that support the roof. I have an old school style roof which means no plywood. It means sold pine beams. Needless to say, little old semi-retired lady is not in the position to deal with all of this.

But, I still feel like I’m in better shape than our country right now. I really can’t imagine what the Oval Office is going to look like when Kremlin Caligula returns to it. I’m thinking he’ll bring that Persian Whore House motif with him and that all the soldiers that enter the door will think they’ve entered one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. Same ethos.  I’ve found what other people think the redecoration job will look like.

Let’s face it. Trump has no idea what it means to be President or American. He only knows what it means to be Donald Trump and that is a very dark, shallow, and insane person. It’s time for him to go.

The Economist has an op ed up to that end.  They explain that  “U-turns, self-regard and equivocation are not what it takes.”  I think that’s way too kind but then, they’re British aren’t they?

Start with the ineptness. In last year’s presidential election Mr Trump campaigned against the political class to devastating effect. Yet this week he has bungled the simplest of political tests: finding a way to condemn Nazis. Having equivocated at his first press conference on Saturday, Mr Trump said what was needed on Monday and then undid all his good work on Tuesday—briefly uniting Fox News and Mother Jones in their criticism, surely a first. As business leaders started to resign en masse from his advisory panels (see article), the White House disbanded them. Mr Trump did, however, earn the endorsement of David Duke, a former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

The extreme right will stage more protests across America. Mr Trump has complicated the task of containing their marches and keeping the peace. The harm will spill over into the rest of his agenda, too. His latest press conference was supposed to be about his plans to improve America’s infrastructure, which will require the support of Democrats. He needlessly set back those efforts, as he has so often in the past. “Infrastructure week” in June was drowned out by an investigation into Russian meddling in the election—an investigation Mr Trump helped bring about by firing the director of the FBI in a fit of pique. Likewise, repealing Obamacare collapsed partly because he lacked the knowledge and charisma to win over rebel Republicans. He reacted to that setback by belittling the leader of the Senate Republicans, whose help he needs to pass legislation. So much for getting things done.

Mr Trump’s inept politics stem from a moral failure. Some counter-demonstrators were indeed violent, and Mr Trump could have included harsh words against them somewhere in his remarks. But to equate the protest and the counter-protest reveals his shallowness. Video footage shows marchers carrying fascist banners, waving torches, brandishing sticks and shields, chanting “Jews will not replace us”. Footage of the counter-demonstration mostly shows average citizens shouting down their opponents. And they were right to do so: white supremacists and neo-Nazis yearn for a society based on race, which America fought a world war to prevent. Mr Trump’s seemingly heartfelt defence of those marching to defend Confederate statues spoke to the degree to which white grievance and angry, sour nostalgia is part of his world view.

Trump’s infrastructure council has melted into nothing.  His Arts Commission resigned en masse.  After all, who wants to be associated with a NAZI apologist?

The remaining members of a presidential arts and humanities panel resigned on Friday in yet another sign of growing national protest of President Trump’s recent comments on the violence in Charlottesville.

Members of the President’s Committee are drawn from Broadway, Hollywood, and the broader arts and entertainment community and said in a letter to Trump that “Your words and actions push us all further away from the freedoms we are guaranteed.”

“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville,” the commissioners wrote in a letter sent to the White House on Friday morning. “The false equivalencies you push cannot stand. The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions.”

“Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values,” they added. “Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.”

Republicans are beginning to get verbal about Trump’s lack of veracity and morality. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker’s response was muted but unusual in that he has been a Trump ally.

Sen. Bob Corker slammed President Donald Trump’s handling of the racially motivated protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, charging that the President “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation.”

The Tennessee Republican told reporters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Thursday that he thinks there must be “radical changes” within the White House.

“The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Corker said, according to a video posted by local news website Nooga.com.

“He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today, and he’s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that,” Corker added.

Corker is the latest Republican senator to criticize Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville protests. Trump attacked two other Republican senators — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona — on Twitter on Thursday morning over their criticisms of him

South Carolina Senator Scott–a Republican African American—gave an interview and spoke strongly against Trump’s words and actions.

In an interview with VICE News on Thursday, he condemned the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville and questioned the president’s moral authority following the tragedy. “I’m not going to defend the indefensible…[Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that.” Scott added that  the president hasn’t reached out to him to discuss Charlottesville.

Mitt Romney’s Facebook page is catching some interest by the usual mainstream Republican suspects. Mitt still wants to believe he’s the White Horse.    (I can’t believe I’m writing about Mittens again, gawdesses help me!)

The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis–who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat–and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.

Trump’s white supremacist supporters are likely to start acts of desperation as city as states rush to remove Confederate Monuments and public buildings and roads named after Confederate traitors.  Calls are being made in Arlington, VA to rename Washington-Lee High School. Native-American lawmakers in Montana have asked for removal a a fountain in Helena memorializing the Lost Cause.  WTF is Montana doing with a Confederate memorial?  I can understand the the role the lost cause has in the south as it led to Jim Crow and forced segregation but MONTANA?   There’s very little historical or educational use of a fountain in Helena. Pull the damn thing down!

A Confederate fountain in Helena, Mont., is set for removal from a city park after Native American lawmakers petitioned the city council, according to a report on Thursday.

The Helena City Commission directed City Manager Ron Alles to remove the granite fountain from a downtown park on Tuesday, although no official vote was held on the matter, the Independence Record reported.

Helena Mayor Jim Smith was previously opposed to removing the century-old memorial, until violence during a white supremacist rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue in Virginia on Saturday claimed the life of a 32-year-old woman.

“I believe the time has come for the removal of the fountain,” Smith said, the Record reported.

The decision follows a number of other cities choosing to remove Confederate statues following the deadly Charlottesville rally, which was organized by white nationalist and white supremacist groups.

 

The ACLU has historically defended the right of all Americans to exercise Free Speech. They have now added a caveat.  They will not defend any one that protests carrying firearms.

The American Civil Liberties Union took a new stance on firearms Thursday, announcing a change in policy that it would not represent hate groups who demonstrate with firearms.

ACLU executive director Anthony Romero told The Wall Street Journal that the group would have stricter screenings and take legal requests from white supremacist groups on a case-by-case basis.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Romero told the Journal. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else.”

The ACLU has come under fire after it filed a lawsuit in defense of the organizers who planned the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., after city officials denied them a permit to hold the rally around a statue of Robert E. Lee, which is set to be removed.

Everybody is still watching Bannon and his position in the White House.  The news yesterday was about Bannon basically drunk dialing the press.  He was probably among the many surprised to read himself in print.  We’re still on Bannon Death Watch.

A decision is imminent from White House chief of staff John Kelly on whether Steve Bannon will keep his job, according to administration officials with knowledge of the situation:

  • Bannon, who has run afoul of Trump in the past, is now suspected by the president of leaking about his West Wing colleagues. And Trump resents the publicity Bannon has been getting as mastermind of the campaign.
  • Many West Wing officials are now asking “when,” not “if,” Bannon goes.
  • Chief of Staff General John Kelly has been reviewing Bannon’s position.
  • A recent deluge of media coverage of Bannon — including Bannon’s explosive conversation with the American Prospect — have not escaped either the president’s or Kelly’s attention.

One White House source twists the knife: “His departure may seem turbulent in the media, but inside it will be very smooth. He has no projects or responsibilities to hand off.”

It seems Kelly isn’t plugging the leaks.  He’s not stopping the President from doing and saying vile things spontaneously in front of the press and–as always–on Twitter.  How long before we get this hot mess moved out of the White House with his little sidekick Governor Enabler?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: The Great Unravelling

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s another one of those Mondays where there are so many things to do and dig out of that I hardly know where to start.  This has been a year where keeping up with all the unraveling threads is a mythical task.  It requires a Greek deity to find them all and knit them back together.

Countries dependent on rule of law depend on functional institutions, intelligent and skilled participants, and commitment to the many parts and pieces that solidify social bonds.  We know that many of these social bonds and contracts are under attack and that many of the institutions designed to carry out the will of the people as stated in the Constitution are being undermined.  It feels as though we’ve entered a period where many groups have grabbed a loose thread and ran off with it so as to unravel as much as possible.

Much of this has been brought to you by fanatical Republicans and spineless Democrats who rarely take on a good fight and play go along and get along way too much. Republicans are in deep denial if they think all that’s gone on with Kremlin Caligula and Trumpism is not the fruit of their poison tree.

I’m saddened to read so many false equivalencies, whiffs, and denials by Republicans that cannot see that this is what they’ve been nuturing since the implementation of the Southern Strategy.  That link goes to Ben Shapiro who rightly calls out White Supremacists for being White Supremacists but immediately denies any connection or responsibility to feeding those beasts.

The Alt-Right Is Not Conservative. One of the hottest takes from the Left is that the alt-right represents the entire right — that what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia represented conservatives broadly. That’s factually incorrect, and intellectually dishonest. The alt-right is not just conservatives who like memes or who dislike Paul Ryan. The alt-right is a philosophy of white supremacy and white nationalism espoused by the likes of Vox Day, Richard Spencer, and Jared Taylor.

Then, we arrive at this:

6. The Left’s Malfeasance And Support For Violent Groups Like Antifa Grow The Alt-Right. Antifa was violent in Charlottesville.

And so it’s every one that’s not a conservative’s fault for not calling down and pushing out the usual group of anarchists–now designer labelled “antifa” akin to “alt-right”–and not the fault of the Republican Party that’s fed the Alt Right subgroups for decades.

I’m glad to see some one call white supremacists out for what they are.  ‘Alt-Right’ is a squishy mush of nothing. I equally wish we’d drop the new designer label of ‘antifa’  and just call the other nutters there what they are which is the usual assortment of anarchists who show up at everything to create chaos because that’s what anarchists do and want. However, as some one whose pre-defined political life was to identify with Republicans, libertarians and conservatives (forgive me I was a swimming in privilege as a white teen in a red state backwater) I have to remind you that none of this can be disowned by Republicans or movement conservatives.

I understand Ben is more “libertarian” than movement conservative but now that  I’ve decided labels are for cans let me say this.  The Republican Party owns this because they own the Southern Strategy and self-identified conservatives developed and exploited it. That’s something started in the Nixon years and played to the hilt with Ronnie Raygun and his welfare queens meme. It continues with a war against an inner city drug problem –crack–while sympathizing with what is mostly a white, rural phenomenon of meth/opiate addiction. It also includes the party’s take over by crazy religious extremists which are anything but conservative unless you consider theocracy preferable to a republic. We all need to call out the goofs on all sides. I’ve been as vocal in my criticism of kooky Jill Stein and positively worthless and whacky Bernie Sanders as I’ve been all along of Kremlin Caligula. But really, where are the adult Republicans and conservatives in the room when they allow Bannon, Gorka, and Miller into the West Wing?

You think a few folks would be uncomfortable if we’d have seen Jeremiah Wright as a strategist with an office in the West WIng next to the last president? You think Reid what let that happen? Seriously, you cannot dog whistle and appease the kooks and then expect to just brush them off when convenient. Every single Republican Strategist since the Nixon bunch has worked hard on that Damned Southern Strategy. I bailed in the early 90s because none of that damn stuff is what any of us in this country should be about. The Bernie appeasement going on with the DNC is just about as crazy but not quite as evil compared to having spent like 40 decades thinking you can convince a bunch of backwoods Hitlers and Christofascists that you’re going to do their bidding if they just vote for the guys that want to deregulate the government.  That’ a Faustian bargain and if you lay down with devils then you can’t complain when the world points out the horns you’ve sprouted.

Trump talks about his ‘good genes’ constantly. His father was arrested in a KKK rally. He supposedly had a copy of Hitler’s tome next to his bed. His first real support and new AG is the World’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow who has a history of being a walking example of what the Southern Strategy was designed to attract.

So, Trump belatedly gave a speech today on the weekend violence that killed a young woman that was supposed to quell the negative comments about the “on all sides” comments on Saturday.  I’ve never really bought in to the old saying better late than never.  I still don’t.  

President Donald Trump directly condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis in a statement from the White House Monday afternoon.

“Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in response to the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

“Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” Trump said.

“As a candidate I promised to restore law and order to our country and our federal law enforcement agencies are following through on that pledge,” Trump said. “We will spare no resource in fighting so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear. We will defend and protect the sacred rights of all Americans and we will work together so that every citizen in this blessed land is free to follow their dreams, in their hearts, and to express the love and joy in our souls.”

Democrats and Republicans have excoriated Trump for his unwillingness to condemn the groups behind the violent protests that left one woman dead who was allegedly hit by a car driven by a man with ties to white supremacy groups.

After blaming the violence “on many sides” Saturday, Trump stayed silent for close to 48 hours, letting his trademark bluntness and campaign pledges to call terrorism what it is succumb to silence and vagueness.

Trump was asked by reporters after he spoke why he waited so long to condemn these hate groups by name and did not respond.

Feeling comforted yet?  I didn’t think so. The FBI and the DHS have repeatedly warned against the ongoing and escalating threat to our country from domestic terrorists of this ilk. Trump has ignored it and defunded the law enforcement agency studying it and charged with corralling it.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in May warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy.

Even as President Donald Trump continues to resist calling out white supremacists for violence, federal law enforcement has made clear that it sees these types of domestic extremists as a severe threat. The report, dated May 10, says the FBI and DHS believe that members of the white supremacist movement “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.”

The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which attracted hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other members of the so-called alt-right, sparked violent clashes over the weekend. A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by a car that drove into a crowd of people protesting the rally.

James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the vehicle that struck Heyer, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Since the outbreak of violence over the weekend, President Trump has been heavily criticized for not condemning racist groups. “We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” he tweeted.

The FBI, on the other hand, has already concluded that white supremacists, including neo-Nazi supporters and members of the Ku Klux Klan, are in fact responsible for the lion’s share of violent attacks among domestic extremist groups. White supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 … more than any other domestic extremist movement,” reads the joint intelligence bulletin.

The report, titled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence,” was prepared by the FBI and DHS.

The bulletin’s numbers appear to correspond with outside estimates. An independent database compiled by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute found that between 2008 and 2016, far-right plots and attacks outnumbered Islamist incidents by almost 2 to 1.

So, Republicans can distance themselves from the overt racism of the Alt Right but their policies say something else.  They pass and support voter suppression laws deemed racist by Courts.  They refuse to recognize the complaints on use of force by Police against persons of color and are looking to pass laws to make police brutality less actionable.  They violate the Constitution by trying to punish so-called Sanctuary Cities who refuse to help the Federal Government enforce racist and unnecessary deportation measures.

You undoubtedly can list more.  We keep having to cover this and many other racist and fascist Republican measures that are undoubtedly supported by the Alt Right.  Lawmakers are now trying to make it legal to run over protesters in many states and municipalities.  This is from The Miami Herald.  

The shutdown of highways by protestors prompted several arrests, and lawmakers – most of them Republican – in many states introduced legislation with various levels of protection for drivers who hit protestors that were blocking streets. Some first responders have been fired for making jokes about running over Black Lives Matter protestors.

Miami has experienced roadway-blocking protests of its own: both the election of President Donald Trump and his inauguration prompted significant traffic snarls.

Florida Sen. George Gainer introduced a bill that would ensure drivers who “unintentionally” hit protestors who are obstructing traffic would not be held liable. It failed in committee.

Gainer told WUFT that he was motivated to file the bill due to protests in Miami and Tampa and anti-Trump protests across the country.

“They should have every right in the world to protest the things they disagree with,” Gainer said. “But they don’t have the right to randomly go out into the interstates and attack the cars, beat on the windshields, jump up on the hoods and act like they’ve been hit. In some cases, they set themselves up to be hit.”

In North Carolina, a similar bill passed the House on a 67-48 vote but died in the Senate. Other states that considered similar legislation include Virginia – where 32-year-old Heyer was killed – Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington, according to the Washington Post. Some states took the route of removing liability from drivers, while some simply increased penalties for blocking roadways.

Flowers and other mementos are left at a makeshift memorial for the victims after a car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally earlier in the day in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

These bills are in response to BLM protests so don’t tell me the Republicans don’t own a huge role in today’s institutional racism. Here’s an old piece from The Atlantic with the right headline by Jeet Heer.  “How the Southern Strategy Made Donald Trump Possible.  In states like South Carolina, the mogul reaps the benefits of the GOP’s longstanding appeal to racism.”

It’s essential to remember that the Southern Strategy did not originate with cynical GOP pols and right-wing extremists, but was—ironically enough—first hammered out in the pages of National Review, the very publication that now excoriates Trump “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP.” National Review can disavow Trump as loudly as it wants, but it was the magazine—and the conservative establishment that drew its political ideas and strategies from it—that created the politics that have now morphed into Trumpism.

Republicans own all of this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Nuclear Don and the Duck and Cover Edition

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

A year ago seems like eons ago in the new accelerated march to no hope what so ever we have in our ongoing National Nightmare of Atomic Don.  I’ve written several ledes to the effect of “Do you know where your nearest bombshelter is” with more of a dramatic, click bait kind’ve style than a serious one.  Omens being what they are right now,  we’re seeing stuff I haven’t seen since 1962 when I spent a week with my fellow second graders practicing duck and cover in the halls of Herbert Hoover Grade School in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Fortunately, neither President Kennedy or Premier Krushchev were insane.  Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump both belong in asylums (preferably together).

His ultimate motives, like many details of his life, are uncertain. Since taking power, Mr. Kim has yet to travel abroad or host a visit from another head of state. Only a few people outside North Korea have been allowed to meet him, among them the former basketball star Dennis Rodman, a Japanese sushi chef and the vice presidents of Cuba and China.

What little is known of Mr. Kim’s record suggests ruthlessness — and some ideological flexibility.

South Korean intelligence officials say Mr. Kim has executed scores of senior officials, including his own uncle, a wily power broker who had been seen as his mentor. He is also assumed to have ordered the assassination of his half brother, who was poisoned by VX nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia in February.

Yet Mr. Kim is also credited with loosening state controls on the economy and engineering modest growth, and regaining some of the public confidence that the dynastic regime enjoyed under his grandfather and lost under his father, whose rule is remembered for a devastating famine.

“Smart, pragmatic, decisive,” Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, said of Mr. Kim. “But also capricious, moody and ready to kill easily.”

One subject on which Mr. Kim has not wavered is the nuclear program. His father held out the possibility of scrapping the program in return for economic aid and security guarantees and even struck a deal with the Clinton administration, though the North later violated it. But Mr. Kim has taken a more aggressive approach.

Three of North Korea’s five nuclear tests have come under his watch, and there are signs that the country is preparing for another one. North Korea has also conducted about 80 missile tests under Mr. Kim, more than twice as many as under his father and grandfather combined.

The nation crossed a major threshold with the last two missile tests, on July 4 and July 28, which analysts said demonstrated intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting Alaska and, in the most recent test, the mainland United States.

North Korean state media showed Mr. Kim present at both tests, wearing a suit with a Mao-style collar, surrounded by soldiers and smiling broadly.

Today, we have an eager belligerent meeting that nuclear threat challenge.  Last year’s you would not believe the headlines this morning.  This is the kind of bellicose rhetoric that buys us a front seat to war.

Peter Baker / New York Times:
Trump Says Military Is ‘Locked and Loaded, Should North Korea Act Unwisely’

Simon Denyer /Washington Post:

Shane Savitsky / Axios:
82% of Americans fear nuclear war with North Korea

The headline that got to me was that the Homeland Security is actively working with Guam on preparing for a potential nuclear attack. I just want to call all the family in Japan and apologize to them for putting them through this again. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings happened on August 6, 1945. It may have ended a war last time.  This time, it will not and no one in that region elected a madman US President.

Guam Homeland Security issued a new fact sheet Friday, which the agency says will help residents prepare for an imminent missile threat.

The information was released following this week’s threat by North Korea to launch a missile attack against Guam.

The advice includes tips such as: “Do not look at the flash or fireball – It can blind you” and “Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.”

“Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit,” the sheet states.

During a press conference at Adelup late Friday afternoon, Gov. Eddie Calvo told reporters that the threat level remains the same and that the island is “safe and sound.”

“There are no changes,” Calvo said. “Everyone should continue to live their lives.”

While the governor said there’s no imminent threat to the island, he said families should still be prepared any situation, including inclement weather, and establish a family emergency plan.

Homeland Security says residents should prepare an emergency supply kit and a family emergency plan. During an imminent missile threat, authorities recommend taking cover as quickly as possible under a concrete structure or below ground after an attack warning is issued.

People should also avoid going outside for at least 24 hours to avoid any possible radioactive material, unless otherwise told by authorities.

If possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water, shampoo but avoid using conditioner that will bind to any radioactive material in your hair, the fact sheet states.

After the explosion, people are encouraged to keep an eye and an ear out for official information so they know where to go, what to do and places to avoid.

You have to wonder if any of the Generals wandering the West Wing approved of the “locked and loaded” rhetoric. Meanwhile, South Korea and the US have a scheduled Military exercise. You also have to wonder if continuing on with that is in any one’s best interest at this point but I’m an economist not a military strategist and yet I wonder every day if you can even do strategy or game theory or even assign probabilities to the unpredictable minds of two mad men.

The annual joint exercises, named Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, have long been planned for 21-31 August, but now come at a time when both Washington and Pyongyang are on heightened alert, raising the spectre of a mishap or overreaction.

The timing is doubly concerning as it is within a timeframe in which Pyongyang says it will be ready to fire four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles toward the US-run island of Guam, an unusually specific threat against the US.

Washington and Seoul say the exercises, involving tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops, are a deterrent against North Korean aggression.

In the past, the practices are believed to have included “decapitation strikes” – trial operations for an attempt to kill Kim Jong-un and his top generals, further antagonising a paranoid leadership.

Trump kept the pressure up with a tweet on Friday morning threatening Pyongyang but indicating he wanted to avoid hostilities.

A US-led move that brought the United Nations security council to impose broad sanctions on North Korea was passed on Saturday, sparking a furious response from Kim’s regime, promising “thousands-fold” revenge.

Speaking off the cuff, Trump then added further heat by threatening to unleash “fire and fury”, to which Pyongyang responded with its plan to fire four missiles to land in waters near Guam. On Thursday, Trump suggested his comment “maybe … wasn’t tough enough.”

How could any of this play out?

It’s the no-win situation that can only be imagined by US military officials tasked with preparing for a worst-case scenario — conducting a preemptive strike on North Korea.

With little time to evacuate, millions of innocent citizens would be caught in the crossfire if the US and its regional allies were to initiate a first strike, that would almost certainly result in high casualties on both sides.

Friday morning, President Donald Trump warned on Twitter that “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded,” though he said “hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

A military operation would consist of a swift and multi-dimensional attack, as the fight would be defined by the first minute of combat, according to Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and senior fellow at the Center for New American Security.

While Hendrix has not been briefed on the specifics of a possible preemptive strike option, he told CNN that the operation would likely include several strategies aimed to neutralize North Korea’s defensive and counterstrike capabilities.

Countering North Korea’s relatively formidable surface-to-air missile defense capabilities, stealth American F-22s, F-35s and B-2 bombers would likely lead a joint air campaign with the help of Japanese and South Korean F-15 or F-16 fighters, he said.

Unmanned aircraft could also be used to limit risk to pilots.

It is surreal to think that the US would ever exercise a first strike ever again. It is naive to think that any one in South Korea or the region would not have their lives ended or upended for years to come.  The US has had a strict “No first use” policy in place for decades.  China has announced that it would fight a US first strike but not support a NK first strike.  

China will prevent the US and South Korea from carrying out strikes on North Korea and trying to overthrow the leadership there, but will remain neutral if Pyongyang launches missiles at American targets first, the state-run Global Times said.

The warning, delivered through an editorial in the Chinese state-run newspaper on Thursday, comes as both the US and North Korea continue to exchange incendiary remarks, raising the risk of overreaction or miscalculation amid the crisis.
Beijing should make it clear that “if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral,” the Global Times wrote.

But if the US and its ally South Korea take on Pyongyang and try to “overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so,” the paper stressed.

The widely-quoted newspaper, published by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, also noted that the latest developments are seen in Beijing with growing frustration and deep concern.

“If war really breaks out, the US can hardly reap any strategic harvest and North Korea will face unprecedented risks,” the paper cautioned. “North Korea aims to propel the US to negotiate with it, while the US wants to put North Korea in check.”

Beijing was unable “to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time,” the Global Times said, adding it primarily pursues peace and stability in the region. All sides involved in the crisis should understand that “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand,” the government paper explained.

China – North Korea’s long-standing economic partner and ideological ally – reiterated on Friday that all sides involved in the crisis must “speak and act with caution” as well as build up trust rather than “taking turns in shows of strength,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement quoted by Reuters.

I for one join the 82%.  Wall Street has taken notice too.  Stocks will likely fall for a 4th day in a row.   I don’t trust anything coming out of the White House because the President is insane.  It’s time Republicans stand up for sanity and our country.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Monday Reads: While you were watching the Circus Come to Town

Fotos antiguas de un circo espeluznante: Circo Antiguo Aterrador

Morning Sky Dancers!

I thought I’d remind us that there’s policy gone missing and forgotten while T-Russia and psychopaths continue to shape the American political scene and policy.  As an economist, I’m really worried about the debt ceiling and the fall budget process.  The emphasis has been on giving exorbitant tax cuts to the uber wealthy with little thought to the actual idea of what it takes to run and maintain our Federal Government.  Here is one economist– you may recognize the name Stan Collender from textbooks–whose as worried as I am.   He’s detailed 3 federal debt ceiling nightmares.

This easily got lost amid all of last week’s other Washington-related craziness: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that Democrats should provide the votes the Trump administration will need to pass the increase in the federal debt ceiling required by the end of September.

Say what?

Mnuchin’s strategy, if you can call it that, is incredibly…and almost comically…politically naive. Congressional Democrats were thoroughly vilified by Republicans during the Obama administration whenever they voted to increase the debt ceiling and those votes were used as examples of fiscal profligacy by their GOP election opponents. There’s simply no way Schumer is not going to take advantage of the opportunity to do the same to Republicans this time around.

This political version of turnabout-is-fair-play is especially likely because the White House and congressional Republicans offered Democrats less-than-nothing in return for voting for the debt limit increase. To the contrary, at around the same time Mnuchin was making his pitch to Schumer for Democratic help, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was announcing that tax reform would be done through the reconciliation process so Republicans wouldn’t have to…wait for it…work with Democrats.

Mnuchin demonstrated an extreme lack of legislative experience and very bad political instincts. He also committed the cardinal political sin of a senior administration official not coordinating his Hill activities with the GOP’s congressional leaders.

But far more important than his political naïveté and ineptitude was what Mnuchin’s discussion with Schumer demonstrates: The debt ceiling increase is in far more trouble than the Republican congressional leadership, the Trump administration and Wall Street are admitting.

Artist Dame Laura Knight sketching chorus girls behind the scenes at a circus at Olympia. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

So who is surprised that the least experienced and able people in the world are in charge of the process?  Buehler?  Buehler? The White House is actually threatening to shut down the Federal Government over tax cuts and the damned wall.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, says the Trump administration has clear expectations for the fall: “We get tax reform and we also complete funding of the government which includes rebuilding of the military and securing our border.” (Read: the wall.)

Sources inside and close to Republican Hill leadership, however, are privately less sanguine:

  • Some say there’s a good chance of a government shutdown before the end of the year because of deep rifts over spending priorities.
  • No one sees Trump’s wall getting much more than a symbolic nod, which is sure to anger Trump and the Bannon faction, and could lead to a shutdown.
  • Tax reform in this calendar year seems increasingly unlikely. A bill and big debate? Yes. Something signed into law? Very hard given the points above and persistently deep disagreements over which loopholes to keep and how to pay for the tax cuts.

What happens next: Congress must pass bills to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government before the end of September. Top Hill sources believe the most likely scenario is that a coalition of Republican leaders, Republican moderates and Democrats cobble together a bill that extends government funding for three months, reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program and raises the debt limit.

  • Hill leaders have discussed ways to get Trump “enough” on border security so he feels they’re making enough progress to sign their funding bills. This could mean modest funding for the wall or other border security measures that moderates could live with, and/or other avenues to add funding to fight international crime gangs like MS-13.
  • But sources close to Trump say he’s dead serious about building an impressive wall and will go crazy when he realizes Congress has no plans to pay for it.
  • Even if Paul Ryan can work magic, the bill still needs 60 votes in the Senate to pass. That means leadership will have to work with a messy coalition of Republican moderates and centrist-Democrats — sure to enrage Tea Party types and fuel even more anti-Ryan vitriol.

Bottom line: The wall is no metaphor to Trump. He will accept no substitutes to a huge, long, physical wall, which he believes his voters viscerally want. He told GOP Hill leaders in June he wants it to be 40 to 50 feet high and covered with solar panels. Hill Republicans privately mocked that idea, but some of those same people now recognize that Trump’s big, beautiful — and in their minds, ridiculous — wall could be the thing that brings the U.S. government to its knees.

Rahm Emmanuel–still Mayor of Chicago–is accusing Trump of “blackmailing sanctuary cities”. What impact will withholding crime enforcement money have to American’s large cities?  This current administration’s policy on everything appears to be a Constitutional Lawyer Employment Act.  Up those donations to the ACLU!  Will there be career DOJ lawyers who want to defend this crap?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel accused the Trump administration on Sunday of trying to blackmail Chicago and other sanctuary cities by threatening to withhold crime-fighting money if police departments don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents.

Emanuel, flanked by Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, announced that Chicago will sue the Trump administration, claiming new requirements to receive federal money are unconstitutional.

The Justice Department fired back at Emanuel, pointing out the city’s growing problem with violent crimes.

“In 2016, more Chicagoans were murdered than in New York City and Los Angeles combined. So it’s especially tragic that the mayor is less concerned with that staggering figure than he is spending time and taxpayer money protecting criminal aliens and putting Chicago’s law enforcement at greater risk,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told the Sun-Times.

However, the two law firms handling the case for the city, Riley Safer and Wilmer Hale, are not charging for their services, the city said.

At issue is the Trump administration’s stepped up actions to force local governments shielding undocumented immigrants — such as Chicago and Cook County — to cooperate with federal immigration authorities who want access to local jails, information about undocumented immigrants and other accommodations.

The lawsuit will argue that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are acting unconstitutionally in threatening the city’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program funds, meant to support local policing efforts. The suit will be filed Monday in federal court in Chicago.

Here’s a fun hit piece on Kremlin Caligula from Slate by Paul Rosenberg. “Trump’s malignant pattern: He woos people, rips them off and then abandons them — and he won’t stop. Trump has followed the same manipulative script over and over again, in politics as in business. We’re the marks.”  Well, isn’t that a special lede?  The tags are a must read and include “snakes in suits”, psychopaths, and mental disorder. Hmmmmm …

It’s not just that Trump’s loyalty is only to himself, as should have been obvious given the scores of associates he’s wooed, ripped off and discarded over his long career, including his own lawyers, at times. Rather, it’s the centrality of this cycle to the way that Trump operates. It’s not a bug, or a feature, it’s the feature of his career — a window both into his abnormal psyche and into the cultural and political dynamics that have allowed him to flourish in the midst of more general ruin. As Peter Turchin argues in “Ages of Discord“ (Salon review here), the erosion of prosocial norms and increase in antisocial elite behavior are key features of historical periods like the one we’re engulfed in, when state breakdown, civil wars and revolutions occur.

There was also the matter of how Trump justifies the prospective discarding of associates, and how he lays predicates for wooing, ripping off and discarding the next crop of eager, willing victim/accomplices. (“I think it is very unfair to the president,” Trump said of Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation — the onlyethical option he had.) But the how of this intended discarding can only be appreciated in terms of the larger pattern — a pattern that has received far too little notice, given how much attention has been given to Trump’s mental health, or lack thereof.

The cycle referred to is most insightfully described in the book “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work,” by criminal psychologist Robert Hare, whose checklist has revolutionized the understanding of psychopathy, and industrial psychologist Paul Babiak, an expert on the corporate environment. Psychopathy is not the same as anti-social personality disorder (APD), the book explains. “The difference between psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder is that the former includes personality traits such as lack of empathy, grandiosity, and shallow emotion that are not necessary for a diagnosis of APD. APD is three or four times more common than psychopathy in the general population and in prisons.”

There’s been a great deal of commentary about Trump’s apparent psychological abnormalities, but “Snakes in Suits” describes a particular pattern that stands out for the combination of clarity it brings to bear and the broad scope of action it describes. This pattern consists of a three-phase game plan many psychopaths in corporate settings use a when engaging with victims, “a natural outgrowth of their personality” that is often more automatic than consciously planned:

First, they assess the value of individuals to their needs, and identify their psychological strengths and weaknesses. Second, they manipulate the individuals (now potential victims) by feeding them carefully crafted messages, while constantly using feedback from them to build and maintain control. Not only is this an effective approach to take with most people, it also allows psychopaths to talk their way around and out of any difficulty quickly and effectively if confronted or challenged. Third, they leave the drained and bewildered victims when they are bored or otherwise through with them.

Whether or not Trump qualifies as a psychopath or a malignant narcissist (they are closely related), he has a long public history of behavior patterns that fit this description, even though he has never worked in a normal corporate organization, the setting described in the book. Those qualifications, which would loom large for any therapist treating Trump, pale in comparison to the similarities that matter to us as citizens. Trump has traversed the trajectory described countless times, with customers, business associates, lawyers and wives. Why shouldn’t he do the same with everyone in the political world as well? And if he actually does deviate from the pattern for some reason — which is always a possibility — understanding his behavioral baseline will still be crucial in making sense of that departure from it.

This link is perhaps the most interesting in the article and it comes from USA Today. It’s old but germane. It lists Trump’s 3500 odd-and I do mean odd–lawsuits.  Bob Murray is a piker compared to the Malignant Orange Melanoma.

An exclusive USA TODAY analysis of legal filings across the United States finds that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his businesses have been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades. They range from skirmishes with casino patrons to million-dollar real estate suits we found thanks to Austin tenant advisors to personal defamation lawsuits.

The sheer volume of lawsuits is unprecedented for a presidential nominee. No candidate of a major party has had anything approaching the number of Trump’s courtroom entanglements.

Just since he announced his candidacy a year ago, at least 70 new cases have been filed, about evenly divided between lawsuits filed by him and his companies and those filed against them. And the records review found at least 50 civil lawsuits remain open even as he moves toward claiming the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in seven weeks. On Tuesday, court documents were released in one of the most dramatic current cases, filed in California by former students accusing Trump University of fraudulent and misleading behavior.

The legal actions provide clues to the leadership style the billionaire businessman would bring to bear as commander in chief. He sometimes responds to even small disputes with overwhelming legal force. He doesn’t hesitate to deploy his wealth and legal firepower against adversaries with limited resources, such as homeowners. He sometimes refuses to pay real estate brokers, lawyers and other vendors.

As he campaigns, Trump often touts his skills as a negotiator. The analysis shows that lawsuits are one of his primary negotiating tools. He turns to litigation to distance himself from failing projects that relied on the Trump brand to secure investments. As USA TODAY previously reported, he also uses the legal system to haggle over his property tax bills. His companies have been involved in more than 100 tax disputes, and the New York State Department of Finance has obtained liens on Trump properties for unpaid tax bills at least three dozen times.

The man leaves broken lives and businesses wherever he goes.  I’m just waiting to see which country becomes his first victim.  I’m unfortunately thinking it will be us if it doesn’t involve nukes.  Oh, and speaking of CORRUPTION.

It’s really hard to believe the audacity of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. They’re not subtle. They’re not good at it. They’re obviously oblivious to laws. They’ve forgotten they’re all the targets of investigation on some operational level.

While all the xenophobic bigoted rhetoric keeps coming out of our white nationalist overlords, the truth about terrorism is more like this.  I used to work in Bloomington, Minnesota and lived in the nearby community of Edina.  This is not what one usually thinks of a quiet Minneapolis suburb but here it is.  The real face of domestic terrorism.   My guess is it’s the usual suspect; white, male, gun nut, christian, and woman beating.

The attack on a Bloomington Islamic center is “an act of terrorism” and a hate crime, Gov. Mark Dayton declared Sunday during a visit to show solidarity.

“What a terrible, dastardly, cowardly, terrible act this was that was committed,” Dayton said of the explosion early Saturday that broke a window and ignited the imam’s office. About a dozen men were praying nearby, but no one was injured.

“The destruction done to this sacred site is just unthinkable, unforgivable. I hope and pray the perpetrator will be caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Minnesotans, Dayton said, “accept one another. We support one another. We respect one another. We live together. We work together. We succeed together. We’re not going to let one bad person get in the way of all that.

“Anything I can do to put a stop to it, I would gladly do,” he said to applause. “All I can do in this situation is come here [to] express my solidarity, sympathy and determination.”

Dayton’s comments came after he and a delegation of public officials spent an hour inside the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington with about 100 community members.

Here’s some presidential leadership for you from the WATB-in-Chief.

That’s just the most dignified set of tweets we’ve seen EVAH! I’m so tired of “winning!!!” bigly.  The Democratic Senator from Conneticut may find himself on the short list for Presidential material on this alone.  He’s been outfront keeping this administration as honest as possible given Vichy Republican collaboration.

So,  it continues and as usual, it will continue from a Trump Golf Resort, a huge taxpayer bill, and a circus. Unfortunately, the clowns run the show and every one else is just at their mercy.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Friday Reads whilst my bed turns into the Family Ark

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m a little late going at this because it’s rained 3 times since about 3 in the morning and the ceiling in my bedroom came down with a thud on my bed yesterday afternoon.  We had a deluge Thursday Morning and water basically poured out of one of the late drywall seams that’s now in a bundle with its drywall in a big black trash sack ready for internment in the Crescent City Dump.  It poured for like 15 minutes filling up three separate bowls and two turkey roasters with water while sitting on my bed.

It’s almost continually raining here and it’s Friday so you can imagine how much luck I’m having getting any one to do anything.  My back wall is now the “weeping wall” and my turkey roaster has a semi-permanent place atop a thick black trash bag on my bed.  I’m sleeping on the other side because I don’t want to not be there if it overtops or leaks someplace other than its current choice.  It’s a mess. I’m a mess.  Actually, the water is backing up the streets and it’s not looking like it’s going to stop.  The animals aren’t very happy with the chime sound the emptied turkey roaster makes when it meet the first drip of a drop either.

So, the news would be comical if it wasn’t related to this disaster of an administration. I’m just going to start link dumping and leave the heavy sighs to you.  The clank of drops against a thick aluminum turkey roaster is just the right accompaniment to the cacophony of US news today.

First something about John Oliver and King Coal’s Bob Murray. You want a good laugh reading an amicus brief?  Try this one from the West Virginia ACLU on the lawsuit Murray has filed against mean John Oliver.  Here’s the ACLU Brief on behalf of John Oliver. Total Spew alert!!!

This case is about Plaintiff Robert E. (“Bob”) Murray not liking a television program and somehow believing that is a legally actionable offense. On June 18, 2017, Defendant Home Box Office, Inc. aired an episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” a satirical news program about current events. The main topic discussed in the episode was coal. Apparently because Plaintiffs’ delicate sensibilities were offended, they clutched their pearls and filed this suit. Although this brief pokes fun at the absurdity of this case, the legal issues raised by it are anything but comical. This lawsuit, and Plaintiffs’ frequent attempts to use our legal system to chill speech, threaten the fundamental right of the media to criticize public figures and speak candidly on matters of public concern. Speech on a matter of public concern “occupies the highest 2 rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to speech protection.”

The next section lists the various media outlets that have been sued by Bob and it’s pretty extensive. Then here’s Bob list of all the ways the bad Brit hury his whiddle fee fees.  Tell us where HBO touched you Bob?

Defendants attempted “to advance their biases against the coal industry and their disdain for the coal-related policies of the Trump Administration.”

Defendants “employed techniques designed solely to . . . embarrass Plaintiffs[.]”

“Defendants childishly demeaned and disparaged Bob Murray and his companies, made jokes about Bob Murray’s age, health, and appearance, [and] made light of a tragic mining accident[.]”

“Defendants are persons and organizations fundamentally opposed to any revitalization of the coal industry, having described coal as ‘environmentally catastrophic.”

Defendant Time Warner “is widely reported as a top ten donor of Hillary Clinton[.]”

“As a presidential candidate, Mrs. Clinton’s agenda was to ‘put a lotta [sic] coal miners and coal companies outta [sic] business.’”

“Defendants’ broadcasts have vigorously supported and advanced Mrs. Clinton’s agenda.”

Instead of focusing on what Plaintiffs wanted him to talk about, Defendants “ignored them and ‘doubled-down’ . . . , ending their recorded broadcast with the phrases ‘Eat Shit, Bob’ and ‘Kiss my ass, Bob.’”

In the words of George Takei “Oh Myyyyyy”.  Every body is enjoying the brief and even The New York Post supports Oliver.  This is from the Vanity Fair Link.

When John Oliver tore into coal baron Bob Murray back in June, he knew a lawsuit was likely; he even prepared for the possibility by bringing out someone in a squirrel costume, who pre-emptively told Murray to “eat shit.” And like Oliver predicted, the mogul did sue HBO, Time Warner, Oliver, and his writers—but he might live to regret his decision. The West Virginia A.C.L.U. has filed an amicus brief in Oliver’s defense—and it might actually be a harsher takedown than Oliver’s original segment.

The brief, filed on Monday, is well worth reading in full, as it features some truly colorful writing. Consider, for example, the section headings, which include “Anyone Can Legally Say, ‘Eat Shit, Bob!’” and “All of John Oliver’s Speech Was Protected by the First Amendment. You Can’t Sue People for Being Mean to You, Bob.”

“It is a basic concept of free speech that you do not get to sue media organizations because you don’t like their coverage,” Jamie Lynn Crofts writes in the brief. “However, this is apparently a difficult concept for Plaintiffs to grasp. It appears that Bob Murray’s favorite hobby is suing and/or threatening to sue people for making political statements he disagrees with.”

Another perfectly brilliant and funny read is in Newsweek where the headline declares “Trump is Lazy!!!”.  There’s a lecture the lede too!  “TRUMP, AMERICA’S BOY KING: GOLF AND TELEVISION WON’T MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”

Were he to reach the White House, Trump said, he wouldn’t make the same mistake for which he’d been lambasting Obama since 2011. “I’m going to be working for you,” he told supporters in August 2016. “I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Now that he’s president, Trump frequently departs the White House and spends the weekend golfing at either his South Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, or his country club in the New Jersey suburb of Bedminster. The promise he’d made a year before was discarded so quickly, you have to wonder if he even remembers making it. Politico did the legwork: George W. Bush didn’t golf for the first five months of his presidency, while Obama stayed away from his beloved links for four months following his inauguration. Trump held out for all of two weeks. He has visited a golf club 40 times since taking office in January, according to the self-explanatory site Trump Golf Count, which estimates the forays have cost American taxpayers $55 million. Another Trump tracker, this one by The New York Times, finds that his visits to Trump-branded properties total 56 days, nearly a third of his time in office.

Trump’s friends say golf is important to his well-being, just as cycling and rock climbing are de rigueur for the younger titans of Silicon Valley. “He is always working,” longtime confidant Roger J. Stone Jr. tells me, “even while socializing, playing golf or traveling. He is constantly asking questions, taking notes and placing phone calls.

“A better question would be, Does he ever really relax?”

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The Boston Globe has a hilarious bit up about the Orange one’s plan to vacation in the land of Spray Tans.  It’s to hot for Tacky Largo so why not just vacation in the state that pretty much exists to represent tacky?

President Trump, who delights in thumbing his nose at the country’s cosmopolitan class, is using his first presidential break, starting Friday, to send a fresh version of that message: He’s spending his 17-day summer holiday in New Jersey.

You heard that right: New Jersey.

It’s no Martha’s Vineyard or Kennebunkport. It can’t compare to Hyannis Port, to name the prominent New England playgrounds where modern presidents have gone to unwind. The closest competition for unlikeliest vacation spot is Crawford, Texas, a dusty, brush-generating ranchland where George W. Bush at least evoked the romance and rigor of the American West.

In selecting New Jersey, Trump, a billionaire homebody despite his jet-setting reputation, will settle for the thwack of golf balls and the chirping of birds on his own golf course in a state that conjures spray tans, Snooki, muscle shirts, “The Sopranos,” traffic slowdowns, and toll plazas.

Oh, and those eponymous concrete barriers on the interstate.

Trump will even be able to hear the tractor-trailers from his chosen venue: the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. The seventh hole on one of the club’s two courses is a pitching wedge shot from I-78, a.k.a. the Phillipsburg-Newark Expressway

Remember, all those visits to Trump properties cost the American Taxpayers millions of dollars.

“A trip to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers approximately $3.6 million, according to a Government Accountability Office report,” the website says.

The NJ getaway won’t be cheap either.  Lucky for the Dumpster, it’s all income to the Kremlin Caligula Family Crime Syndicate.

According to The New York TimesTrump’s New Jersey getaway will technically be “his first extended vacation from Washington” as president, and Trump’s White House spokesperson claimed that the president was only leaving due to HVAC system repairs at the West Wing, and that Trump will be continuing to work while he’s away. It certainly won’t be the first time, though, that the president has taken time away from the White House: according to The Washington PostTrump has made 11 visits to his properties in Palm Beach, Florida and New Jersey since taking office, as well as a weekend at Camp David in June. And of the 28 weekends he’s spent in office, Trump has spent 13 of them away from the White House, according to The New York Times.

Earlier this year, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach are “where he goes to see his family,” and that they should be considered “part of being president,” according to NBC News. But they also come at a high cost to taxpayers: according to Fortunethe Air Force One flight alone costs roughly $200,000 an hour, and when he arrives, the city is required to cover the cost involved with providing adequate security. In Bedminister, that totals approximately $12,000 per day, while in Palm Beach, the amount is closer to $60,000 per day. Yet the fact that the president chooses to stay at his own private resorts may have created an additional financial benefit for the Trump family: according to NBC News, the membership rates at Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago doubled after Trump took office, and now costs new members $200,000.

Feel adequately milked yet?

Well, here’s some more interesting things about deals and cheating the American Taxpayer via the Kremlin Caligula Family Crime Syndicate. “This Trump real estate deal looks awfully like criminal tax fraud” via WAPO and some very good accountants/tax lawyers.

According to a recent story by ProPublica and the Real Deal, in April 2016 a limited liability company managed by Trump sold two condominium apartments to a limited liability company managed by Eric Trump. They were on the 13th and 14th floors of a 14-story, full-service, doorman building at 100 Central Park South in Manhattan. This is a prime Midtown neighborhood, yet the sale price for each condo was just $350,000. Although the condition and square footage of apartments 13G and 14G are not readily known, a popular real estate website shows that G-line apartments on both the fifth and eighth floors are one-bedroom, one-bath units of just over 500 square feet. Two years before the Trump transaction, apartment 5G sold for $690,000. Maybe the two units in question were in terrible shape, but two months before the sale to Eric Trump’s LLC, they were advertisedfor $790,000 (on the 13th floor) and $800,000 (on the 14th floor), according to ProPublica.

If a sale between a parent and child is for fair market value, it does not trigger a gift tax. But if a parent sells two expensive condominiums to his son at a highly discounted price, for example, then the parent makes a taxable gift in part. In that case, the seller must pay a gift tax of up to 40 percent. (In this case, that might have run the president somewhere in the neighborhood of $350,000.)

Each taxpayer has a $5.49 million lifetime exemption (a married couple has a combined $10.98 million exemption), meaning you can give away that much money without incurring the tax. To claim that a transaction is covered by the exemption, though, you must file a gift tax return. Well-advised wealthy individuals typically fully use their $5.49 million exemption by making gifts to family members as soon as they have the assets to do so.

So if Donald Trump sold the apartments to his son’s company for less than fair market value, he needed to file a gift tax return, even if he wanted to claim that the sale was not taxable because of the exemption. The government wants to know what gifts people make, because gifts are taken into account when determining the value of a person’s taxable estate at death. If Trump had already used his exemption, he would owe gift tax on the difference between the fair market value of the apartments and the amount paid by Eric Trump.

Yeah, no wonder he doesn’t want to show us the taxes. But something tells me the Special Council and a few lucky grand jurors have seen them. The original story is deep behind a WSJ pay wall but here’s The Guardian’s analysis.  Wonder if Bob went to the rally?

Donald Trump has sought to rally thousands of diehard supporters against the investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia – on the same day news emerged that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has convened a grand jury in the case.

“They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story,” Trump told a rally in Huntington, West Virginia.

The concerted effort could be a sign that the White House is realising the full gravity of the situation. Mueller, appointed special counsel in May following the dismissal of the former FBI director James Comey, has recruited more than a dozen investigators, including current and former justice department prosecutors with experience in international bribery, organised crime and financial fraud.

On Thursday, it was reported – first by the Wall Street Journal, but later by other outlets including the Associated Press – that Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington, meaning he could subpoena witnesses and records in the coming weeks and months.

The use of a grand jury, a standard prosecution tool in criminal investigations, suggests that Mueller and his team of investigators are likely to hear from witnesses and demand documents in the coming weeks and months.

In what might be seen as a bid to weaponise his populist base, Trump told the crowd in Huntington, a coal country stronghold where he beat Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didn’t win because of Russia. We won because of you.”

The crowd, many with “Make America great again” hats or signs, erupted in vociferous cheers. Trump continued: “We won because we totally outworked the other side. We won because of millions of patriotic Americans voted to take back their country.”

The president asked mockingly: “Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight, any Russians? They can’t beat us at the voting booths so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.”

Well, something demeans all that and that something is talking out its ass.  I personally recommending this as your go to Cliff Notes.

The Oldest Living Confederate Widow who currently serves as the country’s AG is also cracking down on free speech.  Bet he could get some hints on how to win against the ACLU from Bob.  Feeling a bit like you’re living in Vichy France yet?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday announced a government-wide crackdown on leakers, which will include a review of the Justice Department’s policies on subpoenas for media outlets that publish sensitive information.

At a press conference with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Sessions announced that the Justice Department, FBI and government intelligence agencies will direct more resources into the investigations of government leaks and would prioritize prosecuting those that pass sensitive information along to the press or foreign officials

Sessions said he had empowered his deputy director Rod Rosenstein and incoming FBI director Christopher Wray to oversee the classified leaks investigations and to monitor the progress of each case.

The national security division of the Justice Department will prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures, Sessions said, and the departments “will not hesitate to bring lawful and appropriate criminal charges against those who abuse the public trust.

Look out News Hounds!  Granny is coming for newspaper near you!

The Justice Department is considering making changes to its policies on subpoenaing news organizations as part of its crackdown on government leaks, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday.

At a news conference, Sessions said the Justice Department is cracking down on leaks coming out of the government. The department “has more than tripled the number of active leak investigations” since the end of the Obama administration in January, he said.

Much of the effort involves investigating and prosecuting leak suspects, he said, but another aspect is “reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas.” That review, he said, came at the suggestion of FBI agents, career investigators and prosecutors who have weighed in on the leak problem.

“We respect the important role that the press plays, and we’ll give them respect, but it is not unlimited,” Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance the press’s role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in the intelligence community, the armed forces and all law-abiding Americans.”

At the news conference, Sessions described the nation as having a problematic “culture of leaks” that must be stamped out. And he issued a blunt warning to “would-be leakers” of classified information: “Don’t do it,” or risk prosecution.

Most of the leaks kinda look like they are coming from Jared and Ivanka who should consider skedaddling back to NYC.  It would be a nice break for the kids before the jail terms start.  This is actually Joe Scarborough.  Don’t faint. Nobody attacks Joe’s squeeze and gets away with it!  Damn it!

Much has changed in the five years since Trump delivered that self-aware confession. The Manhattan developer is now the least popular first-year president in the history of presidential polling. His oldest son is caught up in a federal investigation involving attempts by Russia to undermine American democracy. Federal prosecutors are also reportedly investigating the finance and business dealings of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has repeatedly been forced to amend federal disclosure forms to add omitted information on his financial assets and contacts with foreign nationals, including from Russia. Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka, despite her concerted efforts to keep a low profile during the campaign and to round off her father’s roughest edges inside the White House, has become the subject of controversy.

Her decision to sit alongside foreign leaders at the recent Group of 20 summit in Hamburg was slammed as “grotesque” and “banana-republicky.” In a recent tweet, she declared that she would be “serving alongside John Kelly,” just as the retired four-star Marine general let it be known that all access to the Oval Office would go through him. The real estate heiress not only appeared to be claiming the West Wing as her territory, but she also betrayed a troubling sense of entitlement that one might expect from other billionaires’ daughters but not this one. Kelly and White House insiders know that Ivanka Trump is as ill-prepared to face the brutish realities of Washington as her father. And tragically, neither seems to know what they do not know.

Which brings us back to Kushner.

Though Donald Trump might be loath to admit it, Kushner did much to elect his father-in-law. By quietly building a successful online fundraising and targeting operation far beyond his candidate’s comprehension, Kushner gave Trump a fighting chance to keep the 2016 presidential race close, in the hope that lightning would strike at the right time. It did. And that’s when Kushner’s problems began.

The quiet diplomacy Kushner employed so effectively during the campaign gave way to the sort of stubborn arrogance that often infects the winning side of presidential campaigns. Trump’s shocking victory led his son-in-law to believe he could reinvent government like Al Gore, micromanage the White House like James Baker and restructure the Middle East like Moses. Kushner’s confidence seemed to reach its apex whenever the subject turned to Middle East peace. His bizarre belief that the world began anew the day Trump was inaugurated was exposed again this week when a leaked audiotape caught Kushner telling White House interns: “We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books.”

Americans have seen enough headlines over the past six months to better understand why nepotism does not work in the White House.

Well, the sound of rain pouring into a turkey roaster is less annoying than listening to anything coming from the (it’s a dump!) White House these days.  Would you like some ketchup on that overcooked cut of expensive meat?

Have a great weekend. Pray the rain goes where it’s needed.  That’s definitely not in my bedroom on my bed.

 


Monday Reads: Small Differences

Good Morning!

Some times we need to be reminded that behind every individual is the potential to make a small or big difference.  I’m celebrating them today.

The first picture you see is an artificial glacier that its creator–Sonam Wangchuk–has named an ice stupa.  The mechanical engineer’s name means “lord of wisdom” in Tibetan. The stupa is a traditional Himalyan Buddhist representation of Buddha Mind.  The ice stupas are turning into water giving oases in the middle of the harsh Ladakh plains and valleys. A tree farm grows in the “land of high passes”.

This is a land of extremes, where rainfall is scarce and temperatures range wildly from torrid to far below freezing.

The locals say it’s the only place in the world where a man, sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade, can suffer sunstroke and frostbite at the same time.

It’s the Ladakh region — meaning “land of high passes” — sandwiched between two of the world’s tallest mountain ranges, the Himalayas and the Kunlun.

Rainfall is rare here. Water, essential for irrigating the farmlands that are the lifeblood of the local population, mostly comes from melting snow and ice.

But climate change is making this land even drier, leaving farmers without water in the crucial planting months of April and May, right before the glaciers start to melt in the summer sun.

One man’s solution to the problem? Make more glaciers.

In 2014 a local mechanical engineer, Sonam Wangchuk, set out to solve the water crisis of the Ladakh.

The natural glaciers are shrinking due to rising global temperatures. For that reason, they provide far less water in early spring but then release a lot in the summer heat, shrinking even more.

Wangchuk had a simple idea: he wanted to balance this natural deficit by collecting water from melting snow and ice in the cold months, which would normally go to waste, and store it until spring, just when farmers need it the most.

“I once saw ice under a bridge in May and understood that it’s the sun that makes the ice melt, not ambient temperature,” he told CNN.

“I realized that ice can last a long time, even at low altitudes.”

Louisiana and Differently-abled Americans every where owe some thanks to Rock Star Rod Stewart.

Researchers trying to develop  an AI   realized two of their machines had created their own language. The code created was more efficient for the purpose of negotiating exchanges but it also creeping far from the English language the AI were supposed to use.  Their negotiations led to an entirely new language and their shut-down.

An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language. It developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient. Researchers shut the system down when they realized the AI was no longer using English.

The observations made at Facebook are the latest in a long line of similar cases. In each instance, an AI being monitored by humans has diverged from its training in English to develop its own language. The resulting phrases appear to be nonsensical gibberish to humans but contain semantic meaning when interpreted by AI “agents.”

The observations made at Facebook are the latest in a long line of similar cases. In each instance, an AI being monitored by humans has diverged from its training in English to develop its own language. The resulting phrases appear to be nonsensical gibberish to humans but contain semantic meaning when interpreted by AI “agents.”

Representative Maxine Waters continues to be a one woman show when it comes to unraveling the injustices and trespasses of Trumplandia. She skillfully shut down the mansplaing Treasuring Secretary Steve Mnuchin and went viral in the process.

When you’re, say, reading a book about politics, and suddenly interrupted by a man who “hasn’t read that one” but would like to supplement your reading with all of the information he’s heard related to it–maybe this was last week, and maybe this was a book about Russia (okay, this is a specific scenario)–do as Maxine Waters does. Look him in the eye blankly, and state, over and over:

Reclaiming my time.

Reclaiming my time.

Reclaiming my time.

Reclaiming my time.

Reclaiming my time.

Reclaiming my time.

Reclaiming my time.

Reclaiming my time.

For the record, this is a clip from the House Financial Services Committee hearing on Thursday, and Waters is referring to a group of Democrats’ formal request that the Treasury Department disclose President Trump’s financial ties to Russia. It has so far been ignored.

Yes.  “It’s Maxine Waters’ Time; We’re Just Living In It. Let “reclaiming my time” become your new power statement.”

Secretary Mnuchin began his response by thanking Rep. Waters for her service to California. Like Mikayla at the Olympics, Rep. Waters was unimpressed. She cut him off, “We don’t want to take my time up with how great I am,” effectively winning the gold medal in interrogation with a breathtaking move called The You Got The Wrong One Today, Friend.

You don’t have to tell Rep. Waters how great she is. She is aware. Are you new? This isn’t a Lifetime Achievement Award dinner, this is a congressional hearing. Rep. Waters is trying to get the president impeached by lunch time and take the rest of the afternoon off. Let’s speed this up.

Poor Secretary Mnuchin; he never stood a chance. Rep. Waters doesn’t even let bespectacled boo-thang Chris Hayes get a word in and she actually likes him. You think you can just come up in here and give your life story when she wanted a simple answer? No, you cannot. Secretary Mnuchin showed up like that person at church who gives a testimony for 45 minutes and Maxine Waters is the organist who plays him off with a quickness. “Wrap it, buddy. Save it for the Rapture.”

First of all, if Maxine Waters writes you a letter, you better pull out your good stationary with the watermark, brush up on your Mavis Beacon skills and get to replying. How you gonna leave Rep. Waters on read? You tried to ghost her like a Tinder date.

And let’s not forget the Two Republican Women Senators who stood firm in the face of Republican threats and hostility.

Cities around the country are going around the EPA.  Minneapolis is the latest city to post the climate change data deleted from the EPA website.  Want Climate Data?  Try the City of Minneapolis’ website.

The city of Minneapolis has joined cities around the country in posting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s climate data that was deleted after the Trump administration took office. The posted data is a snapshot of the EPA site before climate the change information was removed.

Back in April, the EPA announced its updated page reflected President Trump’s executive order on energy. “Language associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date,” the EPA said. “Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed.”

In addition to Minneapolis, cities including Atlanta, Boston, Houston, San Francisco and Seattle have also posted the information.

(For more local news, click here to sign up for real-time news alerts and newsletters from Minnesota Patch, click here to find your local Minnesota Patch. Also, follow us on Facebook, and if you have an iPhone, click here to get the free Patch iPhone app.)

“Recognizing that climate change is real, the City is helping make sure people have access to information on it,” the city said in a statement. “The City is committed to taking action to adapt to climate threats while reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.”

Jeff Sessions continues to go after so-called “Sanctuary Cities”.  These cities continue to resist despite threats to lose grants to their local police.

Local leaders of sanctuary jurisdictions also lashed out at the Justice Department last week.

“This is not the administration’s first attempt to unlawfully withhold funding, and it probably won’t be their last,” a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune. “But we will not be bullied into abandoning our values.”

San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera told Courthouse News that the restriction may be unconstitutional. Supervisor Jane Kim told the news organization that the city would resist federal efforts to alter its policies.

“Threatening to cut San Francisco’s criminal justice grant funding because we are a sanctuary city will not change our commitment to protect our undocumented residents,” she said in a statement provided to Courthouse News.

downloadThe Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts shows us how we basically have one functional branch of government right now actively protecting the Constitution and looking out for our Bill of Rights.

Last week the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a significant ruling concerning the enforcement of both federal immigration law and local law in the so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions. In this post I want to summarize the case, Sreynuon Lunn v. Commonwealth, and then briefly scrutinize a very peculiar legal claim advanced by the Trump-Sessions Justice Department. (Note that it is a bit unusual for the federal government to file a brief in state court when the legal issues concern state law, but the Trump administration is being aggressive, to say the least, on matters relating to immigration enforcement.)

First, by way of background, this case involves the power to arrest people. In America, the government’s power to arrest is limited by both constitutional and statutory law. The police may be able to write tickets for certain offenses (littering) but they are not arrestable offenses because that’s they way the legislature wrote the law. In places like North Korea, the police power to arrest is unlimited. The police there can arrest anyone at any time. To keep our country free, we have to be vigilant about governmental attempts to weaken the limits on the power to arrest.

Turning now to the case before the Massachusetts court, Sreynuon Lunn was being held in a jail cell at the Boston Municipal Court. The criminal charge against him, unarmed robbery, was dismissed.

When a criminal charge is dismissed by the court, that ordinarily means the prisoner must be freed. In this case, however, Lunn was not released. Local officials kept Lunn locked away because of a request from federal immigration police.

Hours later, federal police arrived and took Lunn into federal custody. Lunn’s attorneys filed an action in the state court that said the local officials acted unlawfully in keeping Lunn locked up when he was otherwise free to leave the jail.

The legal crux was this: What was the legal source of that power to arrest and detain?

The Massachusetts high court could not un-do what had already been done because it lost jurisdiction when Lunn was taken into federal custody, but it recognized that similar situations might arise—so it decided to go ahead and clarify its own law in this area. That is, whether local officials, going forward, should keep people like Lunn locked up at the request of federal immigration police.

The court’s analysis began with the first principles regarding the power to arrest. Depriving a person of his liberty, holding a person against his will, is an “arrest” under Massachusetts law.

July 22, 2015 Darla Lannert in Madison who served in the United States Navy in Vietnam from 1970-73. Here she sits in front of American Flag mural on VFW Day Post 7591 in Madison. She is an active member of the post. MICHAEL SEARS/MSEARS@JOURNALSENTINEL.COM

Trumps tweet on Transgender Service Members is getting a cold shoulder from both the Senate and the Pentagon.

President Trump’s announcement that he plans to ban transgender people from serving in the military made an end run around Defense Secretary James Mattis, calling into question a relationship that so far has seemed solid.

Until now, Trump has given Mattis latitude to do as he sees fit, granting the retired four-star general power to manage troop levels and other operational aspects of the United States’ wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

But on the issue of transgender troops, conservatives who worried that Mattis was steamrolling them won out, with Trump siding with them less than a month after Mattis committed to a six-month review of the issue.

“It’s never a good sign when a major policy pronouncement is made that was clearly not coordinated with senior leadership,” said a source familiar with the matter. “I can tell you, no matter how they’re spinning it, I was there that day, and everybody was caught — all the senior officers who were left there with Gen. Mattis on vacation — they were all caught totally flat footed. They were all scrambling, because they were getting killed by Congress for not giving a heads up.”

On Wednesday, Trump declared on Twitter the military would have a new policy on transgender service members.

The military, Trump said, would “not accept or allow” transgender people to serve “in any capacity.” Trump claimed he made the decision after consultation with “my generals and military experts.”

The White House said Wednesday that Trump made his decision on Tuesday and informed Mattis that day.

But on Thursday, the Pentagon made clear that it does not consider a tweet an order. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the current transgender policy will remain unchanged until Trump sends an official directive to the Pentagon.

Transgender troops have been able to serve openly since the Obama administration lifted the ban in summer 2016. New transgender recruits have not been able to enlist, which was supposed to change on July 1.

Part of life is losing people who make small differences.

Let’s hope hundreds more of these difference-making people and actions occur every nanosecond.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: McCain Does the Right Thing

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m not sure how many of you watched the late night drama on the floor of the US Senate last night on the so-called “skinny repeal” but it was the first thing that’s ended well for some time.  This was old time Senate Drama and not the kind cooked up by Kremlin Caligula and Scary Moochie. for reality TV viewers.

Senator John McCain–long time cancer survivor and usually full of empty words–stood up and did the right thing.  He stood with Murkowski and Collins and voted a resounding “no”. He did so in a way that will undoubtedly make him the target of the Orange of Wrath.  As my youngest used to say, it was Amazeballs.

Ed O’Keefe of WAPO provides the narrative.

It was the most dramatic night in the United States Senate in recent history. Just ask the senators who witnessed it.

A seven-year quest to undo the Affordable Care Act collapsed — at least for now — as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) kept his colleagues and the press corps in suspense over a little more than two hours late Thursday into early Friday.

Not since September 2008, when the House of Representatives rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program — causing the Dow Jones industrial average to plunge nearly 800 points in a single afternoon — had such an unexpected vote caused such a striking twist.

The bold move by the nation’s most famous senator stunned his colleagues and possibly put the Senate on the verge of protracted bipartisan talks that McCain is unlikely to witness as he begins treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party-line basis without a single Republican vote,” he said in a statement explaining his vote. “We should not make the mistakes of the past.”

 

Retired family physician Jay Brock of Fredericksburg, Va., joins other protesters against the Republican health care bill outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Monday, July 17, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

McCain released this statement to the press.

“From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.

“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”

Paul Krugman tries to make sense of the Republican Cruelty on display during this debacle.  The passage of any of these Republican Repeal Bills would have been the definition of winning at any cost.  I cannot even believe  Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy–a medical doctor–would throw millions of people into suffering and early death.  That’s a cost only an army of demons could love.

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

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

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

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

I won’t pretend to have a full answer, but I think there are two big drivers — actually, two big lies — behind Republican cruelty on health care and beyond.

First, the evils of the G.O.P. plan are the flip side of the virtues of Obamacare. Because Republicans spent almost the entire Obama administration railing against the imaginary horrors of the Affordable Care Act — death panels! — repealing Obamacare was bound to be their first priority.

Once the prospect of repeal became real, however, Republicans had to face the fact that Obamacare, far from being the failure they portrayed, has done what it was supposed to do: It used higher taxes on the rich to pay for a vast expansion of health coverage. Correspondingly, trying to reverse the A.C.A. means taking away health care from people who desperately need it in order to cut taxes on the rich.

So one way to understand this ugly health plan is that Republicans, through their political opportunism and dishonesty, boxed themselves into a position that makes them seem cruel and immoral — because they are.

McCain may have put on a show but the closing act was worth it and the wait.

The clerk read the Arizona senator’s surname in the microphone of the tense Senate chamber. The two words were met with silence — McCain had stepped out of the room minutes before.

But moments later, he reappeared. By then, the alphabetical roll call had reached Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan. McCain walked over to the front of the chamber, raising his right arm. He held it up in the air until he had the attention of the clerk.
“No,” he said, with a swift thumbs-down.

It was a “no” that could barely be heard on C-SPAN, and a thumbs-down that viewers would not have been able to easily make out. But the moment was crystal clear for the dozens of reporters watching from the gallery above, who let out a collective gasp and made a stampede exit for the wooden double doors behind them to report the news.

In hindsight, it seems clear: McCain had made up his mind to vote “no” well before he walked into that chamber.

There were hints in his body language, the demeanor of the colleagues who approached him and the way the senator navigated the room. As he huddled with members in a series of hushed conversations while Thursday night turned into Friday morning, there were words that could almost be heard from above and even discerned through lip-reading. The clues were all there.

But with all of the McCain show, it was Collins, Murkowski, and a lot of Democrats–including Red Staters–that held firm during the entire ordeal.  Phillip Bump of WAPO has this right.

In other words, those 50 people helped McCain be the political winner. Here are seven people in particular who he can thank for his victory lap this morning.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). It’s sort of amazing that Collins hasn’t gotten more attention for her role in opposing the health-care bill this week. She was one of two Republican senators who opposed the motion-to-proceed, the procedural vote that allowed the climactic vote on Friday morning to happen at all. She was one of the three votes against the Republican bill.

She also made headlines for bashing President Trump after a hearing when a live microphone caught her conversation with a colleague. The administration’s handling of the budget was just “incredibly irresponsible,” and she was “worried” about what might happen. She delivered bad headlines for Trump on three different days — yet somehow has escaped his Twitter wrath.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Murkowski did not escape that wrath.

She also didn’t escape a phone call from the secretary of the interior in which projects important to her state were tacitly threatened. (That’s according to her colleague from Alaska, who received a similar call. She told reporters on Thursday that she preferred not to use the word “threat.”)

Murkowski’s opposition was driven, among other things, by a desire to protect funding for Planned Parenthood, a commitment she made publicly in the state earlier this year. When McCain’s “no” became known on the floor of the Senate as voting loomed, Murkowski was swarmed by her colleagues, hoping to cajole her into flipping. As on the motion-to-proceed, which she also opposed, Murkowski didn’t budge.

I admit to running the gamut of emotions from anxiety, fear, and depression over the thought of losing my access to health care again. I’ve been on Louisiana’s Medicaid Expansion now for a year. I’m getting preventative care again. It’s something that I will likely need for three more years until I can get on Medicare given it will be there for me as it has been for all other over 65 Americans.

I hugged the soundly sleeping cat on my chest and startled her when I yelped and sprung up from bed to dance.  I have a reprieve from unnecessary suffering.  My long-gone cancer still haunts my life.

Protesters on the Hill held their own spontaneous celebration at the news.

A viral video overnight Thursday night showed protesters outside the Capitol break out into massive cheers the moment they learned the Senate GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill would fail.

The video, shared by Splinter News reporter Emma Roller, captured protesters chanting “yes we did” after news the repeal bill failed.

So, I’m just going to enjoy #FridayFeeling and hope that the usual ugly Friday night Trump news Dumps can be held at bay for awhile.

Just.Breathe.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?