Friday Reads: Double Standards

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Georgia Rooks Dwelle… Pioneering Doctor Dedicated To Black Women’s Health

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I keep noticing the distinct difference between coverage of the male and female candidates and that of the white candidates and the candidates of color. I’m just going to point the obvious blaring one today and let you follow the links to the suggested health care policies of the top three women candidates in the race for President.

LSU Professor Robert Mann asks a good question on the day Senator Elizabeth Warren offered up her plan for Universal Healthcare to answer the questions about how you’re going to pay for that. Unlike Trump, she had a real economist working on this. So, now today, it’s talk about the points of a plan while tearing up the woman. And, she’s not alone.

Today, every one is all over it. Here are some few links to read about it to include this one from Ryan Lizza ar Politico: The issue that Obama alums think could doom Elizabeth Warren .

or this one offered by Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner: Elizabeth Warren may as well have said Mexico is going to pay for ‘Medicare for all’

Okay …

in March 1915 recently qualified Dr Isabella Stenhouse took the opportunity of joining the staff of a French Red Cross hospital behind the Front

In March 1915 recently qualified Dr Isabella Stenhouse joined the staff of a French Red Cross hospital behind the Front

But, I’m going to quote from this one from the Washington Post: ” Elizabeth Warren proposes new taxes to fund Medicare-for-all but says middle class would be spared”

In her plan, Warren assumes Medicare-for-all will be a $34 trillion program, but because some of the costs can be handled through existing spending or new savings, it would require $20.5 trillion in new spending over 10 years.

After being attacked by multiple candidates for not offering voters any detail about how she would pay for the plan, Warren took the unusual step last week of announcing she would release a plan but initially did not say what it would include. That set off major speculation among policy wonks and competitors about how she could come up with the funding for such a proposal, because outlining specific payment methods for her policy ideas has been a point of pride for Warren.

Her Democratic rivals who suggest less sweeping ideas, like making a Medicare-type program optional for everyone, have jumped on the cost issue as a way to criticize Warren as unrealistic and overpromising.

“There is no one that I’ve observed who suggests any possibility of paying for Medicare-for-all without radical a increase in taxes across the board,” said Biden, talking to reporters in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Thursday, before the details of Warren’s plan were made public. “I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to seeing the plan.”
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) has also pressured Warren to explain how she would pay for the program, attacking her in the last debate with the zinger: “Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything — except this.

Some had speculated Warren would back away from key parts of Medicare-for-all and bring down the cost by offering a less generous plan. She addressed that concern head-on in her proposal.

Ann Preston 1867.jpg

Ann Preston was the first woman dean of a medical school, the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania

Senator Kamala Harris introduced her Universal Health Care Plan at the end of July and yet, the only questions she gets asked are why she decided to allow people to keep their private insurance when she originally didn’t. Plus, most of the coverage–this one from Vox– was to compare and contrast it to Bernie Sanders. Her’s is a gradual transition.

Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all proposal — has been central to the current Democratic debate over health care, though Harris’s responses have been somewhat muddled until this point. Her health care plan, importantly, helps clear a few things up.

In laying out her proposal, Harris notes that she supports the same end goal as Sanders, but draws some distinctions in how she would go about getting there.

Unlike Sanders’s, Harris’s plan would include a substantive role for private insurers, which would still be able to offer plans under a tightly regulated system, similar to the way that private insurers currently do through Medicare Advantage. Additionally, it would transition Americans from the existing system to Medicare-for-all in ten years, instead of four. And finally, it would use a slightly different payment mechanism: Harris backs several of the methods Sanders has suggested, including higher capital gains taxes, but would only impose taxes on households making $100,000 or more. Sanders’s plan, meanwhile, would impose taxes on households making $29,000 or more.

Experts say that Harris’s approach enables her to continue supporting universal coverage — a major priority for progressives — while also making the plan a bit more politically palatable to folks who are concerned by how disruptive it could be. With a longer transition period and an ongoing role for private insurers, it means more time for people to adjust and the appearance of greater choice.

“At the end of the ten-year transition, every American will be a part of this new Medicare system,” Harris writes in a Medium post. “They will get insurance either through the new public Medicare plan or a Medicare plan offered by a private insurer within that system.”

And how about Senator Amy Klobucher? Media? Media? Oh, look I found this one in Elle Magazine

While Klobuchar has not signed onto Medicare for All, CNBC reports that she does support universal health care, starting with a public option for people to opt into government-run plans. She supports expanding Medicaid and Medicare and lowering drug prices, including allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, according to PBS.

“On ‘Medicare for All,’ I think it is something we should look at, but I want to get there quicker and I don’t want to do any harm,” she said in an interview with CNBC. “There, I actually am not on that bill because I support a public option and improving the Affordable Care Act and keeping those protections in place and doing something about pharmaceuticals.”

In 2017, she also spoke about improving upon the Affordable Care Act, telling CNN, “We can do something quickly to fix the Affordable Care Act. That’s why we can’t afford to let them ram through a bill that’s going to make things worse by cutting millions off of health care, jacking up premiums, and doing nothing about skyrocketing drug costs.”

She’s released a $100 billion plan to combat drug and alcohol addiction and improve mental health care. The plan is focused on prevention, treatment and ongoing recovery. The issue is personal to Klobuchar, who has spoken openly about her own father’s alcoholism.

So, of course, Mayor Pete gets tons of Media Kudos for sniping at Warren. We get tons of stuff on Bernie’s plan despite lack of information on funding and can watch Biden tag on to Obama care, but I have a question.

Can women every get a break here?

I’m kind of struggling with life here atm so this is about all I’m up today. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: The Walls Are Closing In

Edvard Munch, Cabbage Field, 1915

Good Afternoon!!

Another psychiatrist’s tweets on Trump’s ailing brain caught the attention of Newsweek’s Shane Croucher: Trump’s “Mental Impairment Means He Cannot Think Strategically or in Abstract Terms,” Claims Professor of psychiatry.

“Trump has no policy on any issue because his mental impairment means he cannot think strategically or in abstract terms,” tweeted John M. Talmadge, MD, a physician and clinical professor of psychiatry at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center.

“He cannot weigh options, assess risk, or foresee consequences. Concepts like fairness, justice, honor, and integrity quite literally do not register. You can see this in every interview or press encounter. He never states an abstract thought or idea.

Man in a cabbage field, 1916, Edvard Munch

“Instead he falls back on simple adjectives: disgraceful, horrible, low-intelligence, perfect, innocent, nasty, stupid, fake, etc. He’s driven by negative emotion, often paranoid and often insulting, vulgar, vitriolic.”

Talmadge wrote that Trump expresses positivity in a “shallow tone” using “childish adjectives” and is non-specific when discussing plans or projects.

“The meaning of this is clear. Trump does not have a vision or a plan, because he can think only in concrete, elementary, childlike, one dimensional terms. He does not process an abstract idea like American forces stabilizing a multilateral conflict with geopolitical implications,” Talmadge wrote.

“This Trumpian brain failure is hard for normal people to understand because for normal people, abstract thought is natural, baked in, largely unnoticed. Normal people see the consequences, assess risk, make rational decisions most of the time.

“What is true today is that Trump is not normal, Trump is mentally impaired, Trump cannot think normally, and Trump is dangerous. When he is removed from office he literally will not understand what happened. He will have to make up a story, tell lies, and rant about Hillary’s DNC server.”

I’ve been following Talmadge for awhile. He refers to Trump’s cognitive deficit as “presidementia.”

Trump tweeted this morning that he was joking, but he clearly wasn’t and what he said wasn’t the least bit humorous.

What an embarrassment he is! He just opens his deformed mouth and spews out whatever his brain coughs up in the moment. And the idiots in the audience actually cheered his nonsense. This is our reality now.

To defend their cognitively impaired “president,” Republicans, led by drunk driver Matt Gaetz, staged a moronic “protest” of what they claimed are “secret” impeachment depositions that large numbers of GOP members are free to–and do–attend. One of those GOP attendees is Mike Pence’s brother! Buzzfeed:

As dozens of House members in charge of the impeachment investigations sit in on closed-door depositions about Ukraine, at least one person in the room has unusually close ties to President Donald Trump’s administration — Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother, Rep. Greg Pence.

Edvard Munch, Landscape with train smoke

The first-term member of Congress sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, one of three House committees leading the impeachment investigation (along with the House Intelligence and Oversight committees). He was assigned to the committee earlier this year by members of the Republican House Steering and Policy committees, long before the impeachment inquiry began.

Pence has had access to all the closed-door testimonies of officials speaking on Trump’s actions, US–Ukraine relations, and the controversial phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, which sparked the official impeachment investigation.

Oopsie! This morning on Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano explained the morning idiots how Congressional investigations work. Trump will be furious!

Republicans keep complaining about the impeachment process, but they shy away from trying to defend Trump on the content of the testimony because, as the NYT editorial board writes, what Trump did in the Ukraine scandal is impossible to defend. The most damaging testimony so far has come from Ambassador Bill Taylor, a career diplomat and public servant who refused to be sucked into Trump’s conspiracy with the three amigos, Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Rick Perry.

From Robert Makey at The Intercept: Trump Pressed Ukraine’s President to Act Out a Fake News Script, Live on CNN.

Before agreeing to release nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine, President Donald Trump extorted a promise from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to appear on American television and act out a script prepared for him by Trump’s aides, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday.

The Road to Borre, 1905, Edvard Munch

The scene a desperate Zelensky finally agreed to perform would have been the very definition of fake news: a dramatic announcement by the Ukrainian president, during a CNN interview, that he was opening criminal investigations on Joe Biden’s family and other Democrats.

The plot, which would have duped American voters into believing that there was some substance to a debunked conspiracy theory about Biden’s work in Ukraine as vice president, came very close to working.

Taylor testified that:

until early September, Zelensky and his aides had resisted pressure from Trump to help him smear Biden. Zelensky was supposed to do this by investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company the former vice president’s son Hunter was once paid to advise, as well as claims that Ukrainian officials had revealed evidence of financial crimes by Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort in 2016 to help elect Hillary Clinton.

But once the Ukrainians became aware that the much-needed security assistance Trump had personally held up might never be delivered, Zelensky, who was an actor and comedian before entering politics this year, agreed to play his part in a ruse intended to lend credibility to baseless conspiracy theories about Biden and other Democrats.

Landscape Near Skøyen, Edvard Munch

By the first week of September, Taylor said, the “favor” Trump had alluded to in vague terms in a July phone call with Zelensky had become a very specific demand: Ukraine’s president, a former actor, would be required to deliver lines on CNN prepared for him by two American diplomats acting on orders from Trump and his shadow secretary of state, Rudy Giuliani.

Text messages released earlier this month between those two diplomats — Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union — show that they drafted language for Zelensky’s statement in August to send to the Ukrainian president’s close friend and personal aide, Andrey Yermak.

Head over to The Intercept to read the rest.

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: “The Walls Are Closing In”: Bill Taylor’s Testimony Puts Trump’s Impeachment In Overdrive.

In this story, Ukraine is an object,” Taylor told lawmakers in his opening statement Tuesday.

Over the course of more than nine hours, he meticulously outlined Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into publicly announcing investigations into Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, and an unfounded conspiracy theory that Ukraine framed Russia for election meddling in 2016. And Taylor confirmed that the White House made these investigations a precondition for the release of nearly $400 million in military aid to help Ukraine counter an ongoing Russian invasion—the quid pro quo Trump and his allies have been denying since the story broke.

“This was a game changer,” a senior Democratic congressional aide told me. “Ambassador Taylor looks like he’ll end up being the star witness for the prosecution in this impeachment trial of a mob boss president. He not only exposed the full scope of corruption in the White House, but he left no doubt that President Trump was deliberately extorting a foreign country to try and get them to interfere on his behalf in the 2020 election. The president has to know the walls are closing in.”

Another landscape with train smoke by Edvard Munch, 1900

Trump and his lackeys are attacking Taylor as “a radical,” but that won’t hold water.

Taylor, who was appointed ambassador to Ukraine by Republican President George W. Bush, kept meticulous, contemporaneous notes of his interactions with Sondland and other Trump officials as the Ukraine scandal came into focus. “He wrote it all down: This is what happened, this is what I was thinking at the time, and this is what happened next,” said a former high-ranking State Department official who knows Taylor well. “That is part of the whole deal; it is part of the job to have notes on every conversation.”

A highly credible witness, in other words. And hardly the “radical” bureaucrat that Trump officials are trying to claim. “He does have a reputation for being a very straight-up decent guy,” a second former high-ranking State Department official told me. “You can take his words seriously. He’s not prone to dramatics or exaggeration.”

Trump has led a war against long-term, non-political employees of the CIA, FBI, DOJ, and State Department beginning before his election, and now those anonymous federal employees are getting their revenge.

The New York Times: Trump’s War on the ‘Deep State’ Turns Against Him.

Nameless, faceless and voiceless, the C.I.A. officer who first triggered the greatest threat to President Trump’s tenure in office seemed to be practically the embodiment of the “deep state” that the president has long accused of trying to take him down.

But over the last three weeks, the deep state has emerged from the shadows in the form of real live government officials, past and present, who have defied a White House attempt to block cooperation with House impeachment investigators and provided evidence that largely backs up the still-anonymous whistle-blower.

Landscape By Travemünde, Edvard Munch

The parade of witnesses marching to Capitol Hill culminated this week with the dramatic testimony of William B. Taylor Jr., a military officer and diplomat who has served his country for 50 years. Undaunted by White House pressure, he came forward to accuse the same president who sent him to Ukraine a few months ago of abusing his power to advance his own political interests.

The House impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s efforts to force Ukraine to investigate Democrats is the climax of a 33-month scorched-earth struggle between a president with no record of public service and the government he inherited but never trusted. If Mr. Trump is impeached by the House, it will be in part because of some of the same career professionals he has derided as “absolute scum” or compared to Nazis.

“With all the denigration and disparagement and diminishment, I think you are seeing some payback here, not by design but by opportunity,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat from Washington’s Virginia suburbs who represents many federal employees. “It’s almost karmic justice. All of a sudden, there’s an opportunity for people who know things to speak out, speak up, testify about and against — and they’re doing so.”

Read the rest at the NYT, even though they should have at least put quotes around the term “deep state” in the story.

And soon–probably in November–the impeachment hearings will go public. The Washington Post reports:

House Democrats are preparing to move their largely private impeachment inquiry onto a more public stage as soon as mid-November and are already grappling with how best to present the complex Ukraine saga to the American people….

Moonlight, Edvard Munch

Among the witnesses Democrats hope to question in open session are the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., and his predecessor, former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Both are seasoned diplomats who, in earlier House testimony, effectively conveyed outrage over a White House plan to withhold much-needed military aid from Ukraine, a long-standing ally battling pro-Russian separatists….

Another top priority for many Democrats is John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, who made known around the White House his visceral opposition to the campaign to pressure Zelensky, a campaign directed in part by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Testimony from Bolton could be particularly devastating for the White House, though it was unclear whether Democrats would subpoena him or when. After Bolton resigned last month, he told The Washington Post that he would “have my say in due course.”’

Democrats have long been expected to shift to public hearings, which offer the opportunity to build the case against Trump while also building support among American voters.

Click on the WaPo link to read the rest.

Who knows what horrors today will bring? What are you reading and what are you doing for self-care? I’m still mostly escaping into books, but looking at paintings helps a lot too. Yesterday I explored landscapes by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Boris Kustodiev (Russian artist, 1878–1927) The Merchant’s Wife, 1918

Good Morning!!

Every day I wake up asking myself, “Can this really be happening?” We’ve been living this nightmare for years now, and it still feels so unreal. The good news is that more and more people in positions of power–government and media–are beginning to wake up to Trump’s insanity.

Peter Baker at The New York Times: On Day 1,001, Trump Made It Clear: Being ‘Presidential’ Is Boring.

DALLAS — At one point during one of his most unpresidential of days, President Trump insisted that he knew how to be presidential.

“It’s much easier being presidential, it’s easy,” he told a stadium full of more than 20,000 boisterous supporters in MAGA hats and T-shirts cheering his every word on Thursday night. “All you have to do is act like a stiff.”

By Charles Spencelayh

He buttoned his suit coat, pursed his lips, squared his shoulders and dropped his arms rigidly at his sides. “Ladies and gentlemen of Texas,” he then droned in a sleep-inducing staccato monotone the way he imagined most of the other 44 presidents had done. “It is a great honor to be with you this evening.”

The crowd loved it, roaring with laughter. Transforming back into the unpresidential president America has come to know, Mr. Trump added, “And everybody would be out of here so fast! You wouldn’t come in in the first place!” Being presidential, he was saying, is so boring. Who wants that?

Most Americans want exactly that. We are sick of being shocked and ashamed every day by this deranged freak. We don’t want to live in his reality TV show.

After 1,000 days in office, Mr. Trump has redefined what it means to be presidential. On the 1,001st day of his tenure, which was Thursday, all pretense of normalcy went out the window. It was a day when he boasted of saving “millions of lives” by temporarily stopping a Middle East war that he effectively allowed to start in the first place, then compared the combatants to children who had to be allowed to slug each other to get it out of their system.

It was a day when he announced without any evident embarrassment that officials of the federal government that answers to him had scoured the country for a site for next year’s Group of 7 summit meeting and determined that the perfect location, the very best site in all the United States, just happened to be a property he owned in Florida.

It was a day when he sent out his top aide, an adviser who has served as “acting” White House chief of staff for nearly 10 months without ever being granted the respect of earning the title outright, to try to quell the whole impeachment furor, only to have him essentially admit the quid pro quo that the president had so adamantly denied.

It was a day that ended with a rally where one of the warm-up acts, the Texas lieutenant governor, declared that liberals “are not our opponents, they are our enemy,” and the president called the speaker of the House “crazy,” a rival candidate “very dumb,” a House committee chairman a “fraud” and the governor of another state a “crackpot.”

By Mary Cassatt (1944-1926)

This one is from Thursday. Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg: Does Trump Realize the Trouble He’s In?

Wednesday, the 1,000th day of Donald Trump’s presidency, went badly. That’s no surprise; most of the first 999 days went badly too. I have no idea if he’s going to wind up getting ousted from office, either as a result of the impeachment House Democrats are readying or the 2020 election. But things are getting worse for Trump — whether he realizes it or not.

Every once in a while, some event offers a clarifying reminder of the president’s poor judgment. On Wednesday, it was the release of a letter Trump wrote to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The letter itself was an embarrassment, in which Trump, soon after telling Erdogan on the phone that U.S. forces would move out of his way to enable Turkey’s invasion of Syria, tried to walk things back. Sort of. As Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman put it at the Monkey Cage, the president opted for “threatening rhetoric reminiscent of a Mafia boss” to “make loud threats that he may not be able to deliver on.” As soon as the letter was published, professional diplomats and historians said they had never seen something so amateurish from a U.S. president.

But what really underlined Trump’s problem for me wasn’t that he wrote an incompetent letter to follow up on what seems to have been an incompetent phone call. Or that his Syria policy, as my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Eli Lake notes, has resulted in chaos and death. Or that, on a crass political level, he’s managed to alienate his congressional allies just as he needs them most, with House Republicans voting overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn his decision.

No, what really got to me was that Trump distributed copies of this letter to congressional leaders when they showed up at the White House for a briefing. Think of it. Even if the letter had been perfectly normal, what Trump was handing them was an Oct. 9 request to Erdogan to halt his invasion — a request that Erdogan has, as we’ve seen, totally ignored. Trump was bragging about what he considered to be a sign of his own brilliance without realizing that it was instead evidence of abject failure.

Jeune-Fille-au-Chat, by Suzanne Valedon, 1919

Is it possible that Trump doesn’t understand that he’s an international laughing stock? Yes. It appears that he is that delusional. It was shortly after the meeting in which he distributed the insane letter that he tweeted the now iconic photo of Nancy Pelosi standing up and pointing at him–because he thought the photo made him look good!

Erdogan spoke about the letter to NPR. Bloomberg: Erdogan Says He Won’t Forget Trump’s ‘Devil’ Letter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he won’t forget a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump that warned him not to be a “fool,” a “tough guy” or a “devil,” and vowed a response to what he said was a missive out of line with diplomatic courtesies.

Trump penned the warnings in a letter to Erdogan dated Oct. 9 in an effort to persuade the Turkish leader not to start a military offensive in Syria. Turkey sent troops across the border to push back American-backed Kurdish fighters on the same day, and the operation was its response to Trump’s letter, Erdogan aide Gulnur Aybet told NPR in an interview….

“We don’t see this issue as our priority today,” he told press in Istanbul. But, “it should be known that when the time comes, necessary action will be taken regarding this issue.”

Trump has been dictating a lot of letters lately, like the one he had his White House Counsel send to Congressional committees claiming their impeachment inquiry is illegitimate. The latest was a missive threatening to sue CNN for their news coverage.

Jonathan Chait: Trump Writes Unhinged ‘Legal’ Letter Demanding That CNN Pay Him Money.

This week, right-wing hoaxster James O’Keefe launched the latest of his series of secretly recorded videos, which purport to prove various conservative conspiracy theories but fail. The new version involves a CNN contractor recording employees grumbling about various complaints about the network, none of which establish the plot O’Keefe set out to prove, and some of which suggest the opposite (an employee complains that CNN covers Trump rallies but not Biden ones, which are too boring).

Mimi and her cat, by Paul Gauguin

Even some of the conservative movement’s dimmest stars came away unimpressed. The project nonetheless seems to have left an impression on Donald Trump, a devoted follower and purveyor of nearly all the right’s conspiracy theories, a fanatical devotee of cable news, and, incidentally, the president of the United States. Trump has directed his lawyer to threaten a lawsuit against CNN on the basis of O’Keefe’s flimsy video.

The letter claims that O’Keefe has personally disproven CNN’s claim to be a news network dedicated to reporting facts. “In the Footage, your employees
appear to state that CNN attempts to make its reporting appear neutral and unbiased, when in fact its reporting is far from neutral and highly biased against the President.” The letter then moves on to its true complaint, stating (without any evidence whatsoever), “Never in the history of this country has a President been the subject of such a sustained barrage of unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks by so-called ‘mainstream’ news, as the current situation.”

Continuing from this extremely shaky factual foundation, Trump’s letter proceeds to a ludicrous legal argument: CNN has violated the Lanham Act, which controls truth in advertising. Therefore, by claiming to be a real news network while subjecting Trump to hours of critical coverage, it has misrepresented itself.

Read the rest at New York Magazine.

Two more reads on Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior.

Politico: Trump veterans see a presidency veering off the rails.

Former Trump White House officials and other Republicans close to the White House are increasingly worried about President Trump’s erratic behavior and say there are no longer enough safeguards around him to prevent self-inflicted disasters large and small.

Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Lechaton Minette

Just in the last two weeks, Trump precipitously withdrew U.S. troops from northern Syria and attacked America’s Kurdish allies as “no angels,” sparking outrage among GOP lawmakers; released a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose undiplomatic language was widely mocked; called his former defense secretary “the world’s most overrated general”; and blew up at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a meeting his own White House had called….

Under the strain of a metastasizing impeachment probe on Capitol Hill and helming an administration run by a diminishing number of heavyweight officials of independent stature, the president is displaying the kind of capricious behavior that once might have been contained or at least mitigated, former officials say.

“The wheels are not off the car. The situation is way worse than that. The car has been impounded and we are now waiting to figure out what the fine is and to see whether or not we’re going to get the car back,” said former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Peter Nicholas at The Atlantic: The Unraveling of Donald Trump.

The country is entering a new and precarious phase, in which the central question about President Donald Trump is not whether he is coming unstrung, but rather just how unstrung he is going to get.

Giovanni Boldini (Italian artist, 1842-1931) A Lady with a Cat

The boiling mind of Trump has spawned a cottage industry for cognitive experts who have questioned whether he is, well, all there. But as the impeachment inquiry barrels ahead on Capitol Hill, several associates of the president, including former White House aides, worry that his behavior is likely to get worse. Angered by the proceedings, unencumbered by aides willing to question his judgment, and more and more isolated in the West Wing, Trump is apt to lash out more at enemies imagined and real, these people told me. Conduct that has long been unsettling figures to deteriorate as Trump comes under mounting stress. What unfolded Wednesday inside the West Wing’s walls might be only a foretaste of what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described that day, after a meeting with Trump, as a presidential “meltdown.”

“He’s grown more comfortable in the job and less willing to assimilate new information and trust new advisers,” a former White House official told me. “He’s decided to throw caution to the wind and go it alone, especially when he’s stressed and feels under attack and threatened in various ways. Then his worst impulses and vices shine through.” [….]

At least one associate has confronted Trump recently about his judgment, specifically his decision to repeatedly attack the Biden family. Isn’t it unseemly for a president to target Joe Biden’s son Hunter? Wouldn’t it be smarter, at least, to outsource this sort of attack to someone else?

According to a person close to the president, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations, Trump’s explanation was that he acts as any normal person might, and that he won’t be moved by what he calls “political correctness.” “You don’t get it,” Trump said.

The only ones who “get it” are the wackos at his Hitler rallies. Even Republicans are beginning to wake up from their long sleep.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s happening in the news. What stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Mushrooming Ukraine Scandal

Three Kittens Sitting & Watching by Jean-Louis Klein & Marie-Luce Hubert, Cyclades, Greece

Good Afternoon!!

The Ukraine scandal is unwinding into a massive conspiracy. Rudy Giuliani is in big trouble and the mob boss in the White House is on the verge of throwing him under the bus. The White House is struggling to deal with the tsunami of bad news–they once again sent out their Ukraine talking points to Democrats, according to The Hill.

Here’s what’s happening.

The New York Times: Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his dealings in Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.

The investigators are examining Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to undermine the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, one of the people said. She was recalled in the spring as part of Mr. Trump’s broader campaign to pressure Ukraine into helping his political prospects.

The investigation into Mr. Giuliani is tied to the case against two of his associates who were arrested this week on campaign finance-related charges, the people familiar with the inquiry said. The associates were charged with funneling illegal contributions to a congressman whose help they sought in removing Ms. Yovanovitch.

Mr. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but he acknowledged that he and the associates worked with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially damaging information about Ms. Yovanovitch and other targets of Mr. Trump and his allies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his younger son, Hunter Biden. Mr. Giuliani shared that material this year with American government officials and a Trump-friendly columnist in an effort to undermine the ambassador and other Trump targets.

Trump advisers are pushing him to throw Rudy overboard, according to Politico.

Black Cat on a Windowsill, Korovin Konstantin

For weeks, prominent Republican advisers have been privately imploring President Donald Trump to sideline Rudy Giuliani after a barrage of inconsistent, combative and occasionally cringe-inducing media interviews, according to three people familiar with the conversations.

And that was before the arrest of two foreign-born businessmen who reportedly helped Giuliani try to discredit former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democrat to take on Trump in next year’s election. Several reports have indicated Giuliani himself may be caught up in the probe.

Yet Trump remains linked to Giuliani, who was initially hired to help fend of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigators, but who now may have pulled the president into another investigation — one that might lead to impeachment. While the president has long appreciated Giuliani’s pugnacious and never-back-down attitude, Trump allies fear Giuliani will damage Trump with his long-winded monologues and free-wheeling accusations.

The constant sniping from staff could ultimately force Trump to dump his long-valued fixer, as he has done with former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and countless other ousted officials, like ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

“Rudy Giuliani needs to stop talking,” said a former campaign official who remains close to Trump’s team.

Trump claims he doesn’t know Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the two Ukrainian “businessmen” who were arrested on Wednesday night as they tried to flee to Vienna on one way tickets. Unfortunately for Trump, he has been photographed with the two thugs; and Parnas actually attended Trump’s private party celebrating his 2016 election.

Politico: Indicted Giuliani associate attended private ‘16 election night party for ‘friend’ Trump.

Buster Keaton in Electric House, 1922

Lev Parnas described himself to a foreign correspondent at the cash-bar event in midtown Manhattan as a friend of the president-elect who didn’t live far from his South Florida winter home.

Parnas arrived at Trump’s November 2016 election night party, which was held in a ballroom at the Midtown Hilton, with two other men in suits and their heavily made-up wives, according to a forgotten but newly relevant dispatch from the event published at the time in Le Figaro, France’s oldest daily newspaper.

The Ukrainian-born businessman told the paper that a friend from his hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., had hosted several fundraising events for Trump and that his daughter had traveled around the state singing on the candidate’s behalf. It is not clear what friend Parnas was referring to.

“We are confident,” Parnas, told the newspaper, “America wants a change.” The newspaper described Parnas as an insurer. (Parnas co-founded a company, Fraud Guarantee, that at some point retained Giuliani as a lawyer.)

I posted this one in the comments yesterday, but it bears repeating. Reuters: Indicted Giuliani associate worked on behalf of Ukrainian oligarch Firtash.

One of the two Florida businessmen who helped U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney investigate his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, also has been working for the legal team of a Ukrainian oligarch who faces bribery charges in the United States, according to attorneys for the businessmen and the oligarch.

Lev Parnas, one of the two associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, served as a translator for lawyers representing oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Parnas was arrested on Thursday along with the other Florida businessman, Igor Fruman, on unrelated charges that included illegally funneling $325,000 to a political action committee supporting pro-Trump candidates.

The Barn Cat by Ron McGinnnis

Both men had worked in an unspecified capacity for Firtash before Parnas joined the Ukrainian’s legal team, according to a person familiar with the Florida men’s business dealings with Firtash….

Firtash, one of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen, is battling extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery charges from Vienna, where he has lived for five years.

Federal prosecutors in Illinois said in court papers in 2017 that Firtash was an “upper-echelon” associate of Russian organized crime. He was indicted in 2013 and charged with bribing Indian officials for access to titanium mines. Firtash has denied any wrongdoing.

Firtash was “financing” the activities of Parnas and Fruman, the source familiar with their business dealings said. The source did not detail their specific work for the oligarch or how much money he had paid them and over what period.

Firtash’s attorneys are Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing, who also have been working for Trump. Parnas and Fruman are being represented by former Trump attorney John Dowd.

I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to sort all these stories out. It’s kind of like reading a Russian novel–it’s difficult to keep all the names straight. I’m just sharing the latest news I’ve read.

CBS San Francisco reports on another arrest in the SDNY Ukraine/Giuliani investigation: Ukrainian Andrey Kukushkin, Linked To Giuliani Associates, Arrested In San Francisco On Campaign Finance Violations.

Andrey Kukushkin, 46, is one of four people named in a grand jury indictment announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York.

The others, all Florida residents, include two associates of presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas, 47, and Belarus-born Igor Fruman, 54, and a fourth defendant, David Correia, who was born in the United States. The four men are all U.S. citizens….

From The Circus, Merna Kennedy and Charlie Chaplin, 1928

Kukushkin was arrested in San Francisco Thursday morning, according to William Sweeney, assistant chief of the FBI’s New York field office. He made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco and was ordered to be held in custody until a detention hearing on Friday, according to court records.

He is expected to be transferred to New York at a later date to face the charges there.

All four defendants are accused of conspiring in a scheme to disguise contributions of $10,000 each to two Nevada state office candidates from an unnamed Russian businessman who wanted to obtain licenses for marijuana businesses. Federal law prohibits campaign contributions from foreign nationals.

Everyone is trying to find out who the unnamed “Russian businessman” in the SNDY indictment is. David Corn speculates at Mother Jones: Who’s the Secret Russian in the Indictment of Giuliani’s Pals? We Found Some Clues.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman—who had been helping Giuliani search for dirt on Joe Biden and the Democrats in Ukraine—and David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, who were each identified as businessmen, were charged in what seems to be overlapping capers. Parnas and Fruman allegedly made secret donations to Republicans in an effort to advance their business interests and promote the agenda of one or more Ukrainian officials (which included firing the US ambassador to Ukraine). And these two Giuliani confederates also teamed up with Correia, a business partner of Parnas, and Kukushkin and allegedly made donations secretly financed by a Russian national to Republican candidates for state offices in Nevada to buy influence they could use to set up a cannabis business there. This Russian, who would be part of their legal marijuana venture, sent $1 million from overseas accounts to Fruman that was to be used for contributions to federal and state candidates in Nevada and other states, according to the indictment. It’s illegal for a foreigner to funnel donations to US candidates.

Painting by Mischa Askenazy, 1888-1961

The mystery: Who is this wealthy Russian who allegedly tried to make illegal contributions to US politicians in pursuit of launching a cannabis venture?

The indictment does not say. It refers to this individual only as “Foreign National-1.” And the question cannot be yet answered definitively. But California state records and emails obtained by Mother Jones indicate that a Russian businessman named Andrey Muraviev had previously worked with Kukushkin to develop a cannabis enterprise.

It’s complicated so if you’re interested, head over to Mother Jones and read all about it.

NBC News has a scoop on the ousting of former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch: Lutsenko is the Ukrainian official who prosecutors say urged 2 Giuliani associates to push for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador.

The unnamed Ukrainian official referenced in a federal indictment as directing a plot to oust the then-U.S. ambassador is Ukraine’s former chief prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, according to a U.S. official familiar with the events.

According to the source, Lutsenko is the Ukrainian official who prosecutors say urged two associates of Rudy Giuliani to push for the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out in May.

The associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Wednesday night as they prepared to board a one-way flight out of the country at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C.

Painting by Peter Adderley

“They sought political influence not only to advance their own financial interests, but to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official ⁠— a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine,” Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a Thursday news conference.

The indictment says the efforts by Parnas and Fruman to remove then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, a respected diplomat with deep knowledge of Ukraine, were “conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.”

Read the rest at NBC News. Lutsenko is the prosecutor that Trump urged Ukraine’s President Zelinsky not to fire in the July 25th phone call.

One more from Foreign Policy: Pompeo’s State Department Reels as Impeachment Inquiry Sinks Morale.

The fast-moving impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump has dragged the State Department into the center of the scandal and further wrecked morale at Foggy Bottom, presenting a stress test for how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will balance his relationship with America’s diplomats against his relationship with the president.

The ever-expanding probe into the Trump administration’s apparent efforts to coerce foreign governments into digging up dirt on political rivals has even lower-level State Department officials wondering if they, too, need to lawyer up, with the foreign service officers’ union starting a legal defense fund for career officials caught in the impeachment crossfire.

The latest State Department drama came on Friday as Marie Yovanovitch—a decorated career diplomat forced out of her job as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May following a pressure campaign from Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his now indicted associates—testified before Congress. The White House sought to ban her voluntary testimony, but she went ahead after a subpoena from the House of Representatives.

Some nine current and former officials said many in the State Department are shocked and angry that Pompeo did little to shield her. No senior State Department official, including Pompeo, defended Yovanovitch as she was thrust into the spotlight amid the impeachment scandal. The State Department, again at the behest of the White House, also blocked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, from testifying before Congress on Tuesday, though his lawyer said Friday that he will testify next week.

“You don’t get credit for saying something about swagger, then caving the first time you get heat,” said Daniel Fried, who served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under former President George W. Bush, referring to Pompeo’s promise last year to restore the State Department’s “swagger.”

Read more at FP.

I have no doubt there will be more news breaking this weekend and I can’t wait! What do you think?


Fractured Fairy Tale Friday Reads: Russians Hiding under the White House Beds

Wassily Kandinsky artwork

Two riders before the red, 1911, woodblock, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. (Wassily Kandinsky)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We’re beginning to see just how wrapped up Republicans are with Russians.  I ran across this from bellingcat this morning by Casey Michel.  And we thought only the NRA was awash in Russian money and influence!!!   “Money Talks: Len Blavatnik And The Council On Foreign Relations”.

Last month, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), one of America’s leading think tanks, announced that it had received a substantial donation that would help round out the organization’s upcoming budget. As a statement on the CFR’s website detailed, a CFR member had graciously decided to help facilitate funding for CFR’s intern program. The donation, as CFR’s statement detailed, would provide “paid internships to over one hundred interns each year,” and would help “cultivat[e] the next generation of leaders in government, academia, and the private sector.” CFR President Richard Haass, as he wrote on Twitter, was “[g]rateful” for the “generous gift.”

It’s easy to see why CFR’s brass would express gratitude for the gift. After all, issues surrounding paying interns have circulated among any number of American institutions over the past decade, from media to civil society to, as CFR’s announcement noted, think tanks. A CFR spokesperson told Bellingcat that the donation totaled $12 million.

There was one problem, though. As CFR noted, the donation had come from the Blavatnik Family Foundation — and was specifically facilitated by CFR member Len Blavatnik.

Blavatnik may not be a household name in the United States and has not been sanctioned by any Western governments, but the involvement of Blavatnik, born in the USSR in what is now southern Ukraine, has already sparked a firestorm of internal controversy at CFR.

CFR’s willingness to accept the donation from Blavatnik’s foundation has been a case study in the “soft enabling of kleptocracy,” Sarah Chayes, one of the leading anti-corruption voices in the U.S., told Bellingcat. It also fits into Blavatnik’s previous history of working with what she described as “image launderers,” all of whom have helped Blavatnik — who has worked closely over the years with figures now sanctioned specifically by the U.S. for their role in spreading the Kremlin’s kleptocracy — in shaping the reputation of someone who accrued substantial wealth in the mad scramble for post-Soviet resource and industry.

The pushback over the previous weeks has culminated in an unprecedented protest against CFR’s move to accept and publicize the donation from Blavatnik’s foundation. One letter, addressed to Haass and signed by dozens of the most prominent anti-corruption activists in the U.S. and Ukraine, leading experts on post-Soviet kleptocracy, and former members of the Treasury Department, State Department, and National Security Council, condemned the move as a means of helping “Blavatnik [export] Russian kleptocratic practices to the West.”

Haass and CFR, however, haven’t expressed any concern about the donation, nor about the fact that the U.S.’s leading anti-kleptocracy voices have condemned the move. There’s no indication that CFR will walk back the donation, despite the unprecedented pushback they’ve received.

Three Riders in red, blue and black 1911, woodblock, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. (Wassily Kandinsky)

Blavatnik’s donations to US institutions run a lot deeper than you’d think and the article is worth your time to read.  Follow this author.  He’s part of the Kleptocracy Initiative and keeps track of these sorts of things.

Along the way, Blavatnik kept a relatively low profile politically, and made efforts — both personal and financial in nature — to retain friends all across the political spectrum, especially in the U.S. Having gained U.S. citizenship, Blavatnik has made a concerted effort to financially back both Democratic and Republican candidates over the years. In 2016, though, Blavatnik split with his prior precedent, and poured some $6 million into Republican coffers, as well as donating  $1 million directly to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Over the past year, Blavatnik has returned to his old habits, and begun donating across the aisle, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

But in the aftermath of Russia’s 2016 interference efforts, new questions began to swirl about Blavatnik’s funding. Not only did the U.S. sanction individuals like Vekselberg, figures with whom Blavatnik had previously been close, but last year it emerged that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office had specifically investigated Blavatnik’s donations to Trump’s inauguration. Vekselberg also told the Financial Times that he attended Trump’s inauguration at a table Blavatnik paid for, although Blavatnik’s spokesperson denied this.

Mikhail Vrubel. Pearl.
1904. Cardboard, pastel, gouache, coal.

Kenneth Vogel–writing for the NYT–has the byline for this important read Giuliani’s Ukraine Team: In Search of Influence, Dirt and MoneyThe president’s lawyer was paid by Lev Parnas, who with Igor Fruman worked on behalf of President Trump in Ukraine.”

When Rudolph W. Giuliani set out to dredge up damaging information on President Trump’s rivals in Ukraine, he turned to a native of the former Soviet republic with whom he already had a lucrative business relationship.

Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman with a trail of debts and lawsuits, had known Mr. Giuliani casually for years through Republican political circles. Last year, their relationship deepened when a company he helped found retained Mr. Giuliani — associates of Mr. Parnas said he told them he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars — for what Mr. Giuliani said on Thursday was business and legal advice.

Even as he worked with Mr. Parnas’s company, Fraud Guarantee, Mr. Giuliani increasingly relied on Mr. Parnas to carry out Mr. Trump’s quest for evidence in Ukraine that would undercut the legitimacy of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference on his behalf in the 2016 election and help him heading into his 2020 re-election campaign.

Mr. Giuliani dispatched Mr. Parnas and an associate, Igor Fruman, a Belarusian-American businessman, to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where, despite fending off creditors at home, BuzzFeed reported, they ran up big charges at a strip club and the Hilton International hotel. Their mission was to find people and information that could be used to undermine the special counsel’s investigation, and also to damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a prospective Democratic challenger to Mr. Trump.

 

Image result for Alexej von Jawlensky

Girl with Red Ribbon Alexej von Jawlensy

Here’s a brief take of the Josh Chafetz piece from Common Dreams: “Law Professor’s Advice to House Democrats: Arrest Rudy Giuliani.”

Faced with an intransigent White House unwilling to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s pressuring of the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden, the House should take aggressive action including arresting Rudy Giuliani, a law professor argues in a column for The New York Times Thursday.

“The answer is unlikely to be found in a courtroom,” writes law professor Josh Chafetz.

The White House has repeatedly refused to answer subpoenas and on Tuesday afternoon, as Common Dreams reported, announced in an eight page letter that the administration will flatly refuse to cooperate in the inquiry, a move that could set up a constitutional crisis.

“There is no legal basis for Trump’s position,” NBC analyst Katie Phang said on Twitter Tuesday. “Hard stop.”

House Democrats need to think outside the box, Chafetz argues.

“The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors—as the person in violation of the order is called—especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official,” Chaftez writes.

Chafetz acknowledges that the move was extreme, but said that the net benefits of taking things to that level would outweigh the possible negatives of such an action and allow for the House to open the door to other punitive actions seen as less radical.

“The House arresting someone would be explosive and clearly should not be undertaken lightly,” says Chafetz. “But the very explosiveness of it would be a way for the House to signal the seriousness of White House obstructionism to the public.”

The Demon Seated, Mikhail Vrubel 1890

The State Department is getting into the spotlight more and more on the entire Ukrainian situation as a Senior Advisor to Pompeo resigns. This is from WAPO. And an Ambassador removed by Trump speaks out.

Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is seen as Pompeo’s failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy.

A senior officer who has held a range of diplomatic posts, including ambassador to Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru, McKinley was serving as ambassador to Brazil last year when Pompeo recruited him as a policy adviser and a conduit between his office and the career service.

Pompeo was expected to issue a statement Friday announcing the departure.

McKinley declined to comment Thursday evening.

Among the many issues in which he played a role, McKinley has been closely involved in administration policy on Venezuela, Mexico, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, where last month President Trump abruptly canceled U.S. peace negotiations with the Taliban that both sides had said were near an agreement.

There seems to be a large number of career professionals in various departments ready to testify and go to Congress as well as the press. And it’s about time.

Which also means that Trump needed a hit from a Hatefest Bong.  This time the Orange Plague went to Minneapolis home of Minnesota Nice.

Musicians from Queen to Prince’s estate are suing Trumpto quit using their music.  It probably will do as much good as trying to bill the campaign for the public safety issues surrounding every Trump Rally where attendees are none to bully press and public alike and fights frequently break out with encouragement of the Orange Snot Blob.  More people protested the visit than attended the rally.

And, as usual Trump lied his fat ass off as well as spewed the usual racist, misogynistic, bigoted crap.  He made a point of attacking Somali Refugees in a place where they are an integral part of the community and recently sent Congresswoman Ilhan Abdullahi Omar to serve as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district in 2019. The district includes all of Minneapolis and some of its suburbs.

Safe places from Trumpists in any place will always be bookstores, universities, and libraries were no Trumper dares go.  Facts and knowledge are to them what garlic and wooden stakes are to Vampires.

Image result for Alexej von Jawlensky

Portrait of the Dancer Alexander Sakharov, 1909

Here’s the AP FactCheck.

Here’s a look at his claims at a Minneapolis rally, his first since Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry of Trump’s actions as president:

TRUMP: “If our opponent had won that election, you know what would have happened? Right now, China would be the No. 1 economy anywhere in the world. And right now, I can tell you, they’re not even close.”

THE FACTS: No matter who got elected in 2016 — Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton — China’s economy could not have caught up to America’s.

Even if the U.S. economy had not grown at all since 2016, China’s gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output — would have had to have surged a fantastical 79% in three years to pull even with America’s. That comes to growth of more than 21% a year — something even China’s super-charged economy has never approached.

The Chinese economy continues to slowly narrow the gap because every year it grows much faster than America’s. In 2019, for example, the International Monetary Fund expects Chinese GDP to increase 6.2%, more than double the 2.6% growth it expects for the United States. But it’s got a long way to go to surpass the U.S.

___

TRUMP: “We have totally defeated the ISIS caliphate.”

THE FACTS: His claim of a 100% defeat is misleading as the Islamic State still poses a threat.

IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, then lost the last of its land holdings in Syria in March, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate.

Still, extremist sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria and are believed to be responsible for targeted killings against local officials and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

IS controlled large swaths of northern and eastern Syria, where they declared a caliphate in 2014 along with large parts of neighboring Iraq.

U.N. experts warned in August that IS leaders are aiming to consolidate and create conditions for an “eventual resurgence in its Iraqi and Syrian heartlands.”

Mädchen mit Zopf

Mädchen mit Zopf,Alexei Jawlensky (1864-1941)

But, most importantly, Congress heard from Marie Yovanovich today.  This is from WAPO “Ousted ambassador Marie Yovanovitch tells Congress Trump pressured State Dept. to remove her.”

The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine whose abrupt ouster in May has become a topic of interest for House impeachment investigators said Friday that her departure came as a direct result of pressure President Trump placed on the State Department to remove her, according to her prepared remarks before Congress obtained by The Washington Post.

Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she was forced to leave Kiev on “the next plane” this spring and subsequently removed from her post, with the State Department’s No. 2 official telling her that, though she had done nothing wrong, the president had lost confidence in her and the State Department had been under significant pressure to remove her since the summer of 2018.

In explaining her departure, she acknowledged months of criticisms by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had accused her of privately badmouthing the president and seeking to protect the interests of former vice president Joe Biden and his son who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Yovanovitch denied those allegations and said she was “incredulous” that her superiors decided to remove her based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” She also took direct aim at Giuliani’s associates whom she said could’ve been financially threatened by her anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine.

“Contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine,” she said.

The sweeping criticisms by a diplomat with more than 30 years in the foreign service came amid rising dissatisfaction inside the State Department at what is seen as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s failure to defend his subordinates who became targets in the Ukraine controversy. Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Pompeo, resigned from his post this week as resentment in the building has grown.

Alexej von Jawlensky - Selbstportrait - Self Portrait

Alexej von Jawlensky, self portrait, 1905

We’ve definitely gotten to a watershed here.   I’ll end with this from Jonathan Lemire  of the Associated Press: “Analysis: In impeachment fight, it’s Trump vs. Constitution

 Donald Trump has spent his time in office trying to bend the conventions of the American presidency to his will. Now he appears to be trying to override a core principle of democracy: that no one is above the law.

Faced with an impeachment inquiry, Trump has openly defied the core constructs of the Constitution. He chafes at the idea of co-equal branches of government and rejects the House’s right to investigate him.

He has deployed a convoluted logic in which he has declared that the courts can’t investigate him because as president he cannot be charged with a crime but also that Congress cannot impeach him because its inquiry is politically illegitimate.

It’s a “heads he wins, tails you lose” formulation.

“It’s anathema to his character and his life story to be checked and balanced by anything,” said presidential historian Jon Meacham, a professor at Vanderbilt University. “The Constitution was formed to contain appetite. And we now have the president who is driven entirely by appetite.”

In a scathing eight-page letter this week, the Republican president’s lawyers served notice there will be no cooperation with the impeachment inquiry.

Trump’s White House has ignored document requests and subpoenas. It readily invokes executive privilege — going so far as to argue that the privilege extends to informal presidential advisers who never held White House jobs. And his team all but dares Democrats to hold them in contempt.

The impeachment standoff follows a pattern Trump has established throughout his presidency as he has jettisoned experienced advisers and flouted conventions.

The fact that he survived the special counsel’s Russia investigation without paying much of a political penalty left him all the more emboldened.

One day after Robert Mueller’s faltering testimony brought an end to that threat, Trump unleashed a new one by asking Ukraine’s president to investigate his political foe Joe Biden. That prompted the fast-moving impeachment inquiry that Trump now resists.

After two weeks of a listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe, the White House letter to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week was a declaration of war.

While it was filled with dubious legal arguments, its intent was clear: Trump would not play ball, claiming that the game was rigged against him.

It’s time to shut the Trump Circus down and send him and the monkeys to jail.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: Breaking News Tsunami

The Artist’s Cat, Martin Leman

Good Afternoon!!

I’m late getting going today because Windows decided to lock me out of my computer until I went along with their ridiculous new plan to control our on-line lives. They tried to get me to give up my phone number so they could link all my other devices for their own devious purposes. So far I escaped that, but who knows what will happen the next time I turn on my computer?

Anyway, the news tsunami we have been experiencing the last few weeks has continued into the weekend. There are way too many important stories again this morning. I’ll post as many as I can.

This one hit the Washington Post late last night and it’s a doozy: Trump’s calls with foreign leaders have long worried aides, leaving some ‘genuinely horrified.

In one of his first calls with a head of state, President Trump fawned over Russian President Vladimir Putin, telling the man who ordered interference in America’s 2016 election that he was a great leader and apologizing profusely for not calling him sooner.

He pledged to Saudi officials in another call that he would help the monarchy enter the elite Group of Seven, an alliance of the world’s leading democratic economies.

Harbor Cat 1995, Martin Leman

He promised the president of Peru that he would deliver to his country a C-130 military cargo plane overnight, a logistical nightmare that set off a herculean scramble in the West Wing and Pentagon.

And in a later call with Putin, Trump asked the former KGB officer for his guidance in forging a friendship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — a fellow authoritarian hostile to the United States.

Starting long before revelations about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president rocked Washington, Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders were an anxiety-ridden set of events for his aides and members of the administration, according to former and current officials. They worried that Trump would make promises he shouldn’t keep, endorse policies the United States long opposed, commit a diplomatic blunder that jeopardized a critical alliance, or simply pressure a counterpart for a personal favor.

“There was a constant undercurrent in the Trump administration of [senior staff] who were genuinely horrified by the things they saw that were happening on these calls,” said one former White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations. “Phone calls that were embarrassing, huge mistakes he made, months and months of work that were upended by one impulsive tweet.”

Can you believe this man is the “president?” A bit more on that first call with Putin:

Peaceful Evening for cats, Martin Leman

The first call Trump made that set off alarm bells came less than two weeks after his inauguration. On Jan. 28, Trump called Putin for what should have been a routine formality: accepting a foreign leader’s congratulations. Former White House officials described Trump as “obsequious” and “fawning,” but said he also rambled off into different topics without any clear point, while Putin appeared to stick to formal talking points for a first official exchange.

“He was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my people didn’t tell me you wanted to talk to me,’ ” said one person with direct knowledge of the call….

“We couldn’t figure out early on why he was being so nice to Russia,” one former senior administration official said. H.R. McMaster, the president’s then-national security adviser, launched an internal campaign to get Trump to be more skeptical of the Russians. Officials expressed surprise in both of his early Putin calls at why he was so friendly.

And there’s more–please read the whole thing and also check out this piece at the WaPo: Trump has spoken privately with Putin at least 16 times. Here’s what we know about the conversations.

There are several new stories this morning about the Ukraine scandal.

Politico has one on Rick Perry’s involvement: Perry pressed Ukraine on corruption, energy company changes.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry urged Ukraine’s president to root out corruption and pushed the new government for changes at its state-run oil and gas company, people familiar with his work said Friday — indications that he was more deeply involved than previously known in President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure officials in Kiev.

Rabbit Eating Lettuce, Martin Leman

The people said they have no indication that Perry explicitly called on Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, the issue that has spawned a House impeachment inquiry into Trump. But at the very least, they said , Perry played an active role in the Trump administration’s efforts to shape decisions by the newly elected government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Among other changes, Perry pushed for Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to expand its board to include Americans, two people familiar with the matter said. Two long-time energy executives based in Perry’s home state of Texas were among those under consideration for that role, one source familiar with the administration’s dealings with the company said.

The Wall Street Journal on Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson role: Trump, in August Call With GOP Senator, Denied Official’s Claim on Ukraine Aid.

Sen. Ron Johnson said that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had described to him a quid pro quo involving a commitment by Kyiv to probe matters related to U.S. elections and the status of nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine that the president had ordered to be held up in July.

Alarmed by that information, Mr. Johnson, who supports aid to Ukraine and is the chairman of a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the region, said he raised the issue with Mr. Trump the next day, Aug. 31, in a phone call, days before the senator was to meet with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. In the call, Mr. Trump flatly rejected the notion that he directed aides to make military aid to Ukraine contingent on a new probe by Kyiv, Mr. Johnson said.

Big Orange Cat, Martin Lehman

“He said, ‘Expletive deleted—No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?” the Wisconsin senator recalled in an interview Friday. Mr. Johnson said he told the president he had learned of the arrangement from Mr. Sondland.

Mr. Johnson’s account, coupled with text messages among State Department officials released Thursday, show some Trump administration officials—including Mr. Sondland and a top U.S. diplomat in Kyiv—believed there was a link between Mr. Trump’s July decision to hold up the aid to Ukraine and his interest in Kyiv’s launching new probes.

Johnson needs to explain why he didn’t report this to the FBI.

Last night NBC News reported that: CIA’s top lawyer made ‘criminal referral’ on complaint about Trump Ukraine call.

Weeks before the whistleblower’s complaint became public, the CIA’s top lawyer made what she considered to be a criminal referral to the Justice Department about the whistleblower’s allegations that President Donald Trump abused his office in pressuring the Ukrainian president, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

The move by the CIA’s general counsel, Trump appointee Courtney Simmons Elwood, meant she and other senior officials had concluded a potential crime had been committed, raising more questions about why the Justice Department later declined to open an investigation.

The phone call that Elwood considered to be a criminal referral is in addition to the referral later received as a letter from the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community regarding the whistleblower complaint.

Justice Department officials said they were unclear whether Elwood was making a criminal referral and followed up with her later to seek clarification but she remained vague.

Oh really? She needs to testify to Congress and so does Bill Barr.

Bloomberg reports that in response to the whistleblower complaint, Trump is reducing the number of people who know what he’s up to: Trump Orders Cut to National Security Staff After Whistle-Blower.

Polly, Martin Leman

President Donald Trump has ordered a substantial reduction in the staff of the National Security Council, according to five people familiar with the plans, as the White House confronts an impeachment inquiry touched off by a whistle-blower complaint related to the agency’s work.

Some of the people described the staff cuts as part of a White House effort to make its foreign policy arm leaner under new National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

The request to limit the size of the NSC staff was conveyed to senior agency officials by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and O’Brien this week….

Two of the people familiar with the decision to shrink the NSC insisted it was largely rooted in both the transition to O’Brien’s leadership as well as Trump’s desire to increase efficiency at the agency, which grew under former President Barack Obama. About 310 people currently work at the NSC.

Yeah, right. Why don’t I buy these explanations?

More Ukraine stories to check out:

The Washington Post: Holding Ukraine hostage: How the president and his allies, chasing 2020 ammunition, fanned a political storm.

The New York Times: What Was Gordon Sondland’s Mission to Ukraine for Trump All About?

David Ignatious at The Washington Post: For Trump, Ukraine is a story of personal resentment and political opportunism.

The New York Times: 2nd Official Is Weighing Whether to Blow the Whistle on Trump’s Ukraine Dealings.

The Daily Beast: How Rudy Giuliani’s Bid to Discredit Mueller Played Into Impeachment Probe.

The Washington Post: U.S. ambassador to European Union to give deposition to House panels in impeachment probe.

CNBC: Pompeo says State Department will hand over documents to Congress ‘quicker than the Obama administration did.’

More Important Stories

Natasha Bertrand on Bill Barr’s efforts to disprove the Mueller Report: Justice Department hasn’t interviewed key Russia probe witnesses.

Cat with quilt, Martin Leman

For months, President Donald Trump’s allies have been raising expectations for prosecutor John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, predicting that he will uncover a deep state plot to stage a “coup” against the president.

Durham “is looking at putting people in jail,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News host Sean Hannity in July. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said Durham is about to unleash “a pile of evidence” that will “debunk” everything House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has proclaimed for “the last two years.”

“Stuff is going to hit the fan” when Durham is done “investigating the investigators,” said Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera. “If indictments are warranted, U.S. Attorney John Durham will be bringing them,” wrote conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt.

The omission raises questions about what, exactly, Durham—alongside Attorney General Bill Barr—has been investigating.

Slate: Here’s How We Know the Supreme Court Is Preparing to Devastate Abortion Rights.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear June Medical Services v. Gee, a challenge to Louisiana’s stringent abortion restrictions. There is very little doubt that the conservative majority will use this case to overrule 2016’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, allowing states to regulate abortion clinics out of existence. In the process, the Republican-appointed justices will set the stage for the formal reversal of Roe v. Wade. The court’s decision to hear June Medical Services came with the alarming announcement that it will also consider whether to strip doctors of their ability to contest abortion laws in court. These aggressive moves augur an impending demise ofthe constitutional right to abortion access.

By Martin Leman

Perhaps the most important thing to know about this case is that it shouldn’t be at the Supreme Court at all. It revolves around a Louisiana law that compels abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. In Whole Woman’s Health, the justices addressed a virtually identical statute passed in Texas. It found that this requirement provided no health benefit to women. The court explained that an abortion law violates the Constitution if the burdens it imposes on patients outweigh the benefits. Because Texas’ admitting privileges law provided no benefits, the court struck it down as an “undue burden.”

But everything has changed since then. Now that Justice Kennedy has been replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, it looks like the Court has finally found a way to almost completely neuter Roe.

The New York Times: Trump Will Deny Immigrant Visas to Those Who Can’t Pay for Health Care.

The Trump administration will deny visas to immigrants who cannot prove they will have health insurance or the ability to pay for medical costs once they become permanent residents of the United States, the White House announced Friday in the latest move by President Trump to undermine legal immigration.

Mr. Trump issued a proclamation, effective Nov. 3, ordering consular officers to bar immigrants seeking to live in the United States unless they “will be covered by approved health insurance” or can prove that they have “the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.”

The president justified the move by saying that legal immigrants are three times as likely as American citizens to lack health insurance, making them a burden on hospitals and taxpayers in the United States. Officials cited a Kaiser Family Foundation study that said that among the nonelderly population, 23 percent of legal immigrants were likely to be uninsured, compared with about 8 percent of American citizens.

“The United States government is making the problem worse by admitting thousands of aliens who have not demonstrated any ability to pay for their health care costs,” Mr. Trump wrote, adding, “immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our health care system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”

That’s it for me. What stories have you been following?


Monday Reads: #CivilWarPotluck and other trumpist memes

Image result for images donald trump civil war  Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Well, all of you undoubtedly learned about the Shot Heard ‘Round the World that started the Battle of Concord and Revolutionary War.  There was the Assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand which was the shot that started World War 1.  Now, we have the Tweet made fun of around Twitter that’s suggestion they’ll be another Civil War due to monumental “presidential harassment (i.e. impeachment) doesn’t  stop right now.  Yeah, I bet you can guess which moron threatened that.

“If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason’s & Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on one side, & superstition, ambition, & ignorance on the other.” Pres US Grant 1876  (h/t to Malcome Nance)

And a few other of the usual morons might be taking it seriously.  No, seriously.

Image It’s Monday Morning! And, The Root has the story via Monica Judge: “Donald Trump Warns There Will Be a Civil War If He Is Impeached.”

Donald Trump is shook.

You can tell the “president” is shook because every time he is, he starts flailing on Twitter, tweeting out whatever nonsense he can think of to put up a brave front—but his words usually belie that enormous front and reveal that deep down inside, he is afraid of whatever may be coming next for him.

In this particular instance, what comes next may, in fact, be impeachment hearings that could eventually lead to his ouster from office.

Sure, impeachment should have happened a long time ago, because nothing about this man says he should be sitting in the highest office in the land, but that is neither here nor there, at this point. We currently have members of the House actively calling for him to be unseated, and as the days pass it looks like the likelihood of that happening grows, so he is once again afraid and once again tweeting nonsense to try and “scare” the American people into keeping him in place.

And so, as it goes, on Sunday, Trump tweeted a quote from an evangelical Southern Baptist preacher who thinks Trump is the best thing to happen to the United States white bread—Robert Jeffress.

“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,” Trump wrote, noting that it was a quote from a Jeffress. Jeffress made the statement during an appearance on Fox & Friends Weekend on Sunday.

Meanwhile, there’s some news from the Republicans that already left the building.  First up, Jeff Flake writing in WAPO: “Fellow Republicans, there’s still time to save your souls.”  What?  Those things were sold a long time ago to the Orange Demon..

We have learned from a whistleblower that the president has abused the power of his office to pressure a foreign government to go after a political opponent. A rough transcript of the telephone call has removed all ambiguity about the president’s intent. In light of these revelations, the House of Representatives has launched an impeachment inquiry and will likely be forwarding to the Senate at least one article of impeachment.

Compelling arguments will be made on both sides of the impeachment question. With what we now know, the president’s actions warrant impeachment. The Constitution of course does not require it, and although Article II, Section 4 is clear about remedies for abuse of office, I have grave reservations about impeachment. I fear that, given the profound division in the country, an impeachment proceeding at such a toxic moment might actually benefit a president who thrives on chaos. Disunion is the oxygen of this presidency. He is the maestro of a brand of discord that benefits only him and ravages everything else. So although impeachment now seems inevitable, I fear it all the same. I understand others who might have similar reservations. The decision to impeach or not is a difficult one indeed.

“Now for the easy decision. If the House decides against filing articles of impeachment, or the Senate fails to convict, Senate Republicans will have to decide whether, given what we now know about the president’s actions and behavior, to support his reelection. Obviously, the answer is no.

 

Image result for bad donald trump sculpture

There are also rumors of a Boltin’ Bolton from The Raw Story: “John Bolton will encourage the GOP to turn on Trump now that he’s reeling from impeachment: MSNBC panel.”

A panel discussion on the increasing fallout over Donald Trump’s Ukraine phone-call scandal led an MSNBC panel to conclude that former Trump White House insider John Bolton would likely work behind the scenes to get Republicans to turn on the president now that he is damaged goods.

Speaking with “AM Joy” host Joy Reid, journalist Gabriel Sherman noted Bolton has longtime ties to the GOP leadership who may be more sympathetic to his point of view than they are to Donald Trump’s.

“He’s a person with deep ties to the senior leadership across the Republican Party and he’s notoriously a foreign policy hawk,” Sherman explained. “The idea that Donald Trump was trading on Ukraine security to help his cause would be anathema to a person like John Bolton.”

“He has no love for this president and behind the scenes, I am certain that he is having conversations to push the Republican Party to break with Donald Trump,” he added.

Image result for cartoons Donald Trump civil war  Sounds like there’s a rebellion brewing in the party again but only among those who are not facing the electorate.   The SIXTH Republican congress critter from Texas has followed the stampeded out the door. 

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) announced his retirement Monday morning, saying that “the time has come for a change.”

“With over a year to go, I will continue to represent the people of the 13th District to the best of my ability,” he said in a statement. “Our nation faces many difficult challenges, and none of us can relax our efforts to meet and overcome them, whether at home or around the world.”

Thornberry is the sixth Republican congressman representing Texas to retire before 2020. However, whereas some, like Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), are abandoning increasingly blue districts, Thornberry is leaving a seat open in a ruby-red, safe Republican hold. The 13th district went for President Donald Trump in 2016 by a whopping 80 percent, per the Cook Political Report. 

Timothy L O’Brien–writing for Bloomberg– shows all the problems now in the Donald’s Happy Meal; “Trump Hints at Civil War But He Launched a War on Facts. It’s not just the president’s phone calls to Ukraine that are a problem. Now there’s more.”

But it’s the opaque and overtly illicit material that we now know is hidden on that system, the use of which only became known thanks to a complaint filed by a Central Intelligence Agency whistle-blower, that is the stuff of presidential impeachment proceedings. The foundational disclosure, from the whistle-blower, was that Trump called Ukraine’s president in July and offered to connect him to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr so they could jointly dig up dirt in Ukraine on a political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. That conversation, the whistle-blower said, got stashed away on the restricted NSC network – which the White House later confirmed.

On Friday night, the Washington Post disclosed that when Trump met with the Russians in the Oval Office in 2017, he went beyond slagging Comey and disclosing classified intelligence. He also told them “he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries.” That statement “alarmed White House officials” who decided a memo summarizing the meeting should be “limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly.” It wasn’t clear if that memo was secreted on the NSC’s restricted network, but Congressional investigators can go ahead and find out.

CNN reported on Friday night that transcripts of sensitive calls between Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia were also limited to a select group in the Trump administration. CNN said it wasn’t clear if those transcripts were placed on the restricted network; the New York Times reported that they were. The Kremlin, unsurprisingly, said over the weekend that it would rather not see those transcripts made public. Congressional investigators should try to get a look at those conversations, too.

Apart from Trump’s staggering abuse of presidential power, one of the more troubling and pivotal disclosures from the whistle-blower’s complaint is that the White House systematically used the NSC network to hide his misdeeds. Doing so immediately turned that system into a Pandora’s Box of current and future woes for Trump and his White House. It also made those who managed the system, or who passed judgment on or had knowledge of the material that went into it – including witnesses and possible co-conspirators – into more than fair game for the Democrats running impeachment proceedings.

Meanwhile … what coulda shoulda been …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?